NA: You decided to start a press called Two Sylvias Press, right? Will you talk a little about the process of creating your press?
KRA/ASC: The idea for our press’s first project, Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry, came about on a ferry ride to meet a friend in Seattle for brunch. We were intrigued by eBooks and we noticed that very few poetry collections were available on electronic platforms. In talking about the anthology, we realized that if we began our own press, we could publish the eBook exactly how we envisioned it, without having to compromise and wrangle with other editors.
What’s interesting is that neither of us had ever said, “You know, I’d like to start my own press.” We are both editors at Crab Creek Review and we know how much work goes into putting together a literary journal. We are also poets ourselves, so we appreciate time for our own work. Our press organically evolved from the realization that we could publish our projects ourselves without asking permission from anyone and that we could determine our own subject matter, style, and deadlines. Once we decided to create the Fire On Her Tongue anthology, the logical next step for us was to publish it ourselves, and that’s how Two Sylvias Press came into being.
NA: How did you come up with the name, Two Sylvias Press?
KRA: We wanted to combine the editorial business savvy of Sylvia Beach (who began Shakespeare & Co. in Paris) and the literary brilliance of Sylvia Plath. We feel that these two women represent the two sides of our press and parts of ourselves. Although the two Sylvias were not contemporaries, our logo (painted by Nancy Lou Canyon) depicts them sitting at a table, editor and poet, discussing a book.
NA: Will you only publish e-books?
KRA: We plan to continue publishing eBooks and several upcoming projects will involve print books. Because we publish Crab Creek Review twice a year, we are familiar with the production of printed books and have learned the details of the process. We recently read an interesting article predicting that “bundling” eBooks with a printed copy will become popular among publishers, so we are intrigued by that possibility. We are still a new press and we are definitely open to new ideas in the publishing arena.
NA: How does your partnership work? Have you worked on other projects together?
ASC: Kelli and I have been friends for over ten years. We have co-edited Crab Creek Review for four years and have worked as co-founders of Two Sylvias Press for nearly two years, and we’re still friends! I think the success of our partnership is best illustrated by cupcakes and hard-boiled eggs: Kelli likes the frosting and I like the cake. Kelli likes the white and I like the yolk. As we began to co-edit Crab Creek Review, we soon realized that the very task one of us despised turned out to be the task that the other one enjoyed doing.
Another aspect that makes for our successful partnership is that we share a common vision in terms of the importance of poetry and art in society, a common drive to give women artists a voice, and a similar philosophy of how important it is to balance our personal lives when it comes to family, writing, editing, and alone time. We also make our work meetings fun by discussing Crab Creek Review and Two Sylvias Press over coffee at a funky café or a plastic cup of wine in the ferry galley. And, importantly, we’re both willing to take creative risks and we both have a sense of humor about everything.
NA: Your first book is a wonderful anthology called Fire on Her Tongue. Could you talk a little about Fire on Her Tongue? (Please feel free to provide links to any reviews, readings, or Amazon.)
KRA/ASC: Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry is the first electronic collection of poems by women writing today. It features over 70 extraordinary poets from a variety of backgrounds and whose ages span from thirteen to ninety-one. We showcase some of our favorite poets and their well-crafted poems, which explore the contemporary woman’s experience.
A great review of the anthology just appeared on Rattle.
We currently have the anthology available for many eReaders, but it can also be read on your laptop or personal computer. Here are some links if anyone is interested in purchasing a copy:
And coming soon to IndieBound.org
NA: Was it a huge undertaking, putting the anthology, Fire on Her Tongue together?
ASC: I’ll begin to answer this question by quoting two lines from our Editors’ Note for Fire On Her Tongue:
Could we, editors of a print journal, publish the first eBook of contemporary women’s poetry? We were innocent in our questioning, humorous in the belief that “anything is possible if you don’t know what you are doing.”
It was indeed a huge undertaking that took a year to complete from our initial call for poems to the moment we downloaded it for the first time on our Kindle and Nook. We contacted our favorite women poets and received a tremendous response and because we loved so many of the poems, we ended up publishing two to four poems for each poet—over four hundred pages in the first proof.
The technology for publishing eBooks is rapidly changing, so we researched and learned all we could about the difficult task of formatting poetry for electronic platforms. Part of the appeal of eReaders is the flexibility and choice the reader has as far as display and font size, but in terms of formatting poetry, this is a nightmare, as line breaks and spacing suddenly become fluid. This is one reason why some poets, such as Billy Collins, have been so vocal against the distribution of poetry on eReaders. We were determined to tackle this problem and part of our solution is simply to instruct our readers on the first page of the eBook as to what size font maintains the poem’s integrity. We also approached a company called Publish Green to help us in the final stages of formatting and to assist us with the distribution of the anthology so that it would be available not just on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but on the websites of independent bookstores. It was important to us to create the anthology with as little stress on the environment as possible, so we handled all submissions, correspondence, contracts, etc… electronically without the use of paper.
By far, the most time consuming part of the production process was proofing four hundred pages of poetry and maintaining our sanity as we measured each space between words and stanzas, noted every period and comma, each italic and ampersand. At times, one correction would undo a line that had previously been fine. We persisted and cried, but in the end, we are absolutely thrilled with Fire On Her Tongue and how it turned out. I’m not ready to do another four hundred page eBook of poetry in the near future, but like having a baby, I’m sure I’ll forget the pain when the next fantastic idea comes along!
NA: How did you go about finding the poems and poets you wanted to include in the anthology?
KRA: Annette and I made a huge list of women poets whose work we loved. Then one-by-one we worked on finding these poets and emailing them to see if they’d be interested in submitting to our anthology. In our email, we asked them to send their most favorite poems that they held the copyright to (this was to help us avoid reprint fees).
This was really our main way of finding poets. Some poets never responded, others missed the deadline, some emails I worry never reached the poet we had intended it to, but the internet was really our main way to access these writers. It’s a good reminder to have some sort of web-presence if you’re a writer as you never know what project is stirring in the mind of an editor and someone may be trying to get in touch with you!
NA: Would you post below a poem or two from the anthology that might entice readers to buy the book?
KRA/ASC: There are so many wonderful poems in this anthology, it was hard to choose just two, but here are two favorites:
What the Dead Fear (Kim Addonizio) On winter nights, the dead see their photographs slipped from the windows of wallets, their letters stuffed in a box with the clothes for Goodwill. No one remembers their jokes, their nervous habits, their dread of enclosed places. In these nightmares, the dead feel the soft nub of the eraser lightening their bones. They wake up in a panic, go for a glass of milk and see the moon, the fresh snow, the stripped trees. Maybe they fix a turkey sandwich, or watch the patterns on the TV. It’s all a dream anyway. In a few months they’ll turn the clocks ahead, and when they sleep they’ll know the living are grieving for them, unbearably lonely and indifferent to beauty. On these nights the dead feel better. They rise in the morning, and when the cut flowers are laid before their names they smile like shy brides. Thank you, thank you, they say. You shouldn’t have, they say, but very softly, so it sounds like the wind, like nothing human.
Rejection Letter From Gertrude Stein (Marjorie Manwaring) Dear Poet Dear Author Dear Someone: We are pleased very pleased To regret sir. Regret to inform you the list for Talents selected not you dear. So many many and many Many talents not you dear. Received many fine not you. Thank you extremely fine thank you. Keep us in mind please keep us. Please keep Your submission in mind. Entries so fine many fine Winners selected not you. Not you. Not quite What we need At this time not quite. Keep in mind best of luck next time. Editors wish you this guideline. Best of selected regret. Not chosen you were not able. We inform our regret. We reject your receive. We receive we regret. Inform you we do. We do as we do. Today: To do: Don’t forget. Difficult choice we regret. Space an issue weren’t able. Limited Space unable. Please Accept this issue. Our complimentary Gift to you. Letterpressed gift in which you Do not appear we regret you. We regret to reject with respect Please accept. Do Not not accept This reject If you do If you do With respect With respect We reject you.
NA: How did you come up with the cover art?
KRA: I had seen some artwork by Nance Van Winckel. She was doing a series of “Pho-Toems,” which she describes as: “. . .visual art pieces, crafted digital photographs, drawn from the traditions of urban landscape photography, collage, mural, and graffiti art. . .I begin with a digital photo I’ve taken. Then, via Photoshop, I add other images I have created, e.g., black & white images I’ve Xeroxed out of 1930’s sixth-grade textbooks, hand-colored, and scanned back in. Then, I add small bits of my own text— mini-poems, if you will.” They were amazing to me and since she was also a poet featured in the anthology, it was another nice way to highlight her and her creative work. Everything from title to cover art was inspired by a woman poet.
NA: How do you promote the book?
ASC: We have a lot of information about Fire On Her Tongue on our Two Sylvias Press website: twosylviaspress.com and Kelli created a book trailer for the anthology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga913Uf6HdM. We have sent out press releases as well as requests for reviewers, and so far, two outstanding reviews have appeared on the Rattle website and a wonderful one in New Book Review. Facebook and other social media sites have been a great way to promote the eBook as Two Sylvias Press has a Facebook page and I’ve seen Fire On Her Tongue make an appearance or two on Twitter. I would say that our best promotion has been by the poets themselves who appear in the anthology. The majority of these poets have mentioned the anthology on their personal websites, on their blogs, on Facebook, and several poets have graciously asked us for interviews. I recently learned that three or four of the anthology poets are creating a panel to discuss Fire On Her Tongue at an upcoming poetry festival. Overall, I think the anthology is receiving some good press because it is unique—an eBook of poems by a diverse group of women.
NA: What is the next project for Two Sylvias Press?
KRA/ASC: We’re currently working on two prose books that deal with poetry. We have also considered publishing a women’s poetry chapbook series. That’s what we love about having founded our own press—whatever we dream, we can create.
Kelli Russell Agodon is an award-winning poet, writer and editor from Seattle, Washington. Her most recent book is Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press), Winner of the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Prize in Poetry and a Finalist for the Washington State Book Award. She is also the author of Small Knots and the chapbook, Geography. Kelli is the editor of Seattle’s literary journal, Crab Creek Review. She is at work on her third book of poems. You can learn more about Kelli on her website or visit her blog, Book of Kells.
Annette Spaulding-Convy’s collection, In Broken Latin, will be published by the University of Arkansas Press (Fall 2012) as a finalist for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, In The Convent We Become Clouds, won the 2006 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Crab Orchard Review and in the International Feminist Journal of Politics, among others. She is co-editor of the literary journal, Crab Creek Review.
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.