NA: Silverfish Review Press has been a press since 1978. Have you always been the editor? How has the press evolved since then?
RM: I’m the founding editor. Silverfish began as a literary magazine publishing three issues a year. One of the issues was a poetry chapbook. The magazine published, poetry, prose poetry, short fiction, translations, and interviews. The last issue was released in 1997. Around 1996 Silverfish began to shift its focus to full-length poetry titles.
NA: What inspired you to become an editor of a press?
RM: When I was a graduate student at the University of Oregon (1976 - 1978) I had a work-study job at Northwest Review. My job was to pick up the daily mail, log in the submissions and distribute them to the poetry and fiction staff. I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on staff meetings and conversations between the editors. When I was about to graduate it occurred to me that starting a literary magazine would be a way to keep in touch with the writing community. I thoroughly enjoyed graduate school and was concerned about being swallowed whole by working just to pay the rent. What I really wanted to do was to learn the ins and outs of book publishing.
NA: How many books do you publish each year? How does one become a Silverfish poet?
RM: The press releases two titles a year, three if the financial support is available. Silverfish sponsors the annual Gerald Cable Book Award for a poet who has yet to publish a full-length collection and there is a second series which is generally by invitation only though Silverfish will read unsolicited manuscripts.
NA: You began as a chapbook press and then began doing full-length books. Do you still publish chapbooks?
RM: Silverfish no longer published chapbooks. I love everything about the chapbook format. I’ve hand sewn a few which is a fun learning experience. I’ve also had a few printed with spines. Selecting endpapers is challenging, and fun. But because the format is physically small, bookstore owners are reluctant to stock chapbooks. They simply get lost on the shelves. I’m also enamored of the pamphlet format.
NA: A lot of presses are funded by universities, but Silverfish is an independent press. How do you stay afloat, especially in economic times like these?
RM: Over the years I’ve learned how to network with our distributor --Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. Silverfish is a nonprofit c 3 501 tax exempt literary organization. And though fund-raising is more difficult than I had anticipated, Silverfish has been fortunate to have had generous patrons and a few donors who give small, annual donations, some year after year. Author readings and reviews help get the word out about new and backlist titles. It also helps that Garrison Keillor has read several poems by Silverfish poets on The Writer’s Almanac and that reviews have appeared in publications such as Library Journal, Booklist, and The New York Times Book Review. And the press has been fortunate to consistently receive grant support.
NA: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent press?
RM: I don’t have to hide from the department head in the hallways at school. But as I said earlier, fund-raising is a big job. I would have to say that the business side of being independent holds challenges I hadn’t anticipated. Promotion and distribution is another challenge. I have a day job in a warehouse. I like to joke with friends at work that I’m a pretend publicist at night and on the weekends. The job of promoting a book is never over, or complete.
NA: How do you promote your writers?
RM: This January there was a rotating display ad for three recent titles in the online magazine Narrative. There will be another similar ad for this year’s titles in Narrative in March. And each year Silverfish pays Small Press Distribution to display current and backlist titles on their book fair table at the annual conventions for Modern Language Association, Associated Writing Programs, BookExpo, and other regional events where librarians and the public are in attendance. Again, readings and book signings (at AWP and other events such as The LA Festival for the Book) help generate word of mouth interest that lead to sales. Silverfish titles are also available on Amazon but that is another discussion I won’t go into here -- I’m a fan of the independent bookstore.
Last year I began to announce readings and book signings on Facebook – I’m still learning how to do this job.
NA: Could you describe some of the happiest or proudest moments for the press? Feel free to provide links to reviews, events, readings, etc.
RM: I was thrilled when Paul Hunter was interviewed reading from Breaking Ground and Ripening for the Poets Profile series for the PBS Newshour (www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/.../poet_hunter.html) and when Paul’s Breaking Ground was included in an article about books about farm life by Stephen Burt that appeared in The New York Times Book Review. I’ve been delighted when Silverfish titles have been reviewed in Library Journal and Booklist.
Breaking Ground by Paul Hunter also received the 2005 Washington State Book Award from the Seattle Public Library.
Any Holy City by Mark Conway was a finalist in 2007 for The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. Though his book wasn’t selected, I thought it was an honor for his title to be short-listed as there is no application process. A PEN member must write a letter to the award committee.
A few years ago James Hoch (A Parade of Hands, 2001 GCBA winner) organized a reading for several Gerald Cable Book Award winners at the Bowery Book Club. That was cool.
What Kills What Kills Us by Kurt S. Olsson received the Peace Corps Writer’s Best Poetry Book award for 2008 and the Towson University Prize for Literature for 2008.
It is gratifying that over the years, Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon (www.literary-arts.org/) has awarded SRP several generous publishers fellowships.
Several Silverfish titles have had poems reprinted on Poetry Daily.
NA: What aspects of publishing and editing do you enjoy most? Least?
RM: Reading manuscripts is a great joy. I’m delighted by the process of helping new and established poets bring their work into the world. I revel in the book making process from beginning to end. All the steps of the process, even typos and printer errors, still hold my interest. I love all of it -- the collaboration and relationship between the poet, the editor, the cover designer, and the typesetter. I have stories to tell.
Rodger Moody is the founding editor of Silverfish Review Press. His poems and prose poems have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Caliban, and upstreet, and online at Poets Against War and Ekleksographia. Recent work has appeared in the Kerf and The Oregonian. A chapbook, Unbending Intent, was published by 26 Books. He is the recipient of the 2012 C. Hamilton Bailey Fellowship in Poetry (Literary Arts. Portland, Oregon).
Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010. Follow Nin's blog here.