NA: Tell me about Broadstone Books.
LM: Broadstone Books is a small (microscopic) publishing company based in Frankfort, Kentucky. We’ve been in business since 2003, specializing in poetry though we have dabbled in other genres.
NA: How and why did you decide to start the press?
NA: The press is an imprint of a parent entity, Broadstone Media LLC, which was established as a “cultural promotion” company in partnership with my long-time friend Stephen Taylor, who first suggested the idea. We both became interested in culture, in a broad sense embracing literature, music, visual arts, theatre &c while we were in college. Though we both went on to careers outside of arts and letters (law in Steve’s case, public service in mine), we knew we wanted to do something to support and to participate in the arts. Thus the somewhat vague charter of our company, which allows us to pursue a variety of cultural activities. Book publishing turned out to be the first of these, though we are also engaged in gallery management and have sponsored theatrical productions.
I have no clear memory of exactly when and how I decided to take up publishing. As a sometimes poet myself I realized the challenge of getting work into print, and I wanted to be part of the solution. At some point I started researching it on-line and decided it didn’t look that hard. Which was the first of many things I got wrong along the way!
NA: What inspired the name?
LM: The name was my partner Steve’s idea. It’s an homage to our college experience of culture I alluded to before. We attended different schools in Lexington, Kentucky, Steve at the University of Kentucky (officially addressed on Limestone Street) and I at Transylvania University (on Broadway). Combining Broadway and Limestone resulted in Broadstone (so much better than Limeway!). Which turned out to be a great name, suggesting as it does both an expansive and a supportive foundation for the arts.
NA: Tell me about the first book you published and why you chose it.
LM: Our first book was Home Place and Other Poems by Sheila Bucy Potter, a Kentucky author whom I met as a co-worker before we retired from government service. As I described before, at some point I began researching the process of getting into publishing, and during this time quite by coincidence Sheila asked if I knew anything about getting poetry into print. I read her work, loved it, and told her if she would agree to be our guinea pig we would publish her collection as our first title. Of course we got a lot of things wrong along the way, but nevertheless it was a great learning experience and we’re still at it all these years later. And Sheila later joined us as an associate editor and our principle reader, so obviously she was also pleased with the result.
NA: What kind of book do you want to publish? What makes a manuscript stand out for you?
LM: In one word, language. Our publishing mantra is “Tell us something interesting, or tell it in an interesting way – or better yet, do both.” Which is a brief way of saying that we’re interested in fresh themes and imagery expressed through language that is original, engaging and stimulating. This especially applies to poetry, which is my first love, but it’s something I look for in prose as well. Dickinson’s famous adage about “feeling as if the top of my head were taken off” definitely applies.
NA: If you had one line of advice to someone submitting a book to Broadstone Press, what would it be?
LM: In a single line, see the mantra I cited above: interesting theme, interesting language. With the emphasis on language.
Of course, the conventional advice about familiarizing yourself with our previous titles and our editorial tastes is always valid. We can only publish so many books, and being human we tend to choose what we like. Submitting work blindly without researching our press first wastes our time and the author’s.
And one other thing: I’m suspicious of first-person pronouns. Telling me how you feel about something doesn’t usually interest me. Make me feel it.
NA: How many books do you publish in a year?
LM: The average right now is about four full-length books a year, with perhaps a chapbook or other smaller project thrown in from time to time. We started out doing just one or two titles a year, and I think the most we’ve done is six. I don’t see it growing much beyond the current level.
I should mention that we can receive fifty-plus submissions in a typical year, so the odds of being accepted are slender. We’re currently reading for publication about two years out from the date of acceptance.
NA: When you select a book of poetry for publication, do you worry more about its marketability or its sheer quality?
LM: Quality, absolutely. Marketability is a distant second. Since we primarily publish poetry, we know the audience is limited at the outset. We’ve had a few of our titles break even, but not most. We’re very honest with our authors that our resources for marketing and our visibility in the marketplace are quite limited. Publishing is the easy part; selling, not so much. All that said, we do have to sell a few copies along the way to keep going, so we expect our authors to be willing and able to do what they can to promote their work. Given that we have to be very selective about the new titles that we take on, the choice between two very strong submissions may be determined in part by the author’s willingness to assume much of the heavy lifting of promotion. But we never, ever, ask an author to make any direct financial commitment or to take a pre-determined number of copies.
LM: Unique is certainly the right word! Anything I could say in “a few words” would be quite inadequate to prepare the reader for the sprawling ride this book has in store.
Hmm, it’s a memoir presented through poetry transposed into myth. A “scrivener” recovering from heart surgery and near death reflects on his long-ago first encounter with the Iliad while at summer camp, where he realized that the Trojan War was being waged on a smaller scale right there, by counselors and campers at the New York Police Athletic League. This intersection of worlds opens the door for Homer to enter, and a rollicking tale ensues. Audacious, wildly inventive, hilarious, genre-defying. Joycean in the scope of its conception and the grandeur of its language. That’s more than a few words, but maybe enough to tempt the reader into picking it up.
NA: What was it about To Banquet with the Ethiopians that made you select it for publication?
LM: All the things I just said! This was simply the most exciting manuscript to come our way in a long while, and absolutely the most original. It elevated our “tell us something interesting in an interesting way” rubric to an entirely new level – on steroids. And Philip’s use of language is just breathtaking – just what you’d expect from an Irishman by lineage. We weren’t sure what it was, but we knew we had to publish it.
And to Philip’s credit, he had done his homework before submitting. He knew about our press and our editorial slant from previous titles and thought we’d make a good fit for his unconventional approach. Turns out he was right.
NA: And you are publishing it in hardback?
LM: We’re bringing it out in both hardback and perfectbound paperback simultaneously, which we almost never do with a poetry title. We thought this book deserved marquee treatment. We have the cloth version in mind for libraries, though I suspect more than a few individual readers will opt for it. The paperback will offer a high quality alternative at an attractive price.
NA: Can you give us an excerpt from To Banquet with the Ethiopians?
LM: Gladly. I’ve chosen a passage in which Homer’s manuscript of the Iliad is picked apart by a number of his fellow authors during a rather unconventional writing symposium. It’s a hilarious scene, though one that many aspiring authors and participants in workshops and MFA programs may recognize with a shudder! I think it well illustrates Philip’s sly wit and mastery of language, along with his joyously playful blending of myth and history into a heady cocktail of imagination
The symposium’s upstairs. Eight sharp.
When Homer’s profile breaches the threshold
The milling ebbs. All take seats
At the long table in conference room 2A—
Priam’s Throne—featuring authentic
Memorabilia: Treasure chest murals
And boar tusk helmet wall lamps.
Beneath the sword-blade ceiling fan,
Homer finds a tuffet at the foot.
“Tonight’s symposium subject is called—”
Professor Alighieri checks the page,
“The Iliad, I believe. A Memoir.”
Fred Nietzsche’s walrus stash pouts. His fingers
Furiously collate, staple, deal.
The symposiasts lean forward, chins in palms,
An instant’s silence stretching for eons.
“Promising. Shows promise,” chirps Al Pope,
“But such infelicitous expression.”
His purpled finger taps the mimeo.
“Bowels. Black blood. Goat cheese. Knife. A tent.”
Dick Lattimore mutters “Inconsistencies.
Here the ships are black, here tawny.
Did you ever actually see a ship?”
“The would-be laureate,” chimes Tom Eliot,
“Evinces a weak grasp of prosody.”
Simone Weil quells her strabismus
To level a fierce gaze at Tomcat.
“These women are simply forced to come and go.”
“It seems,” says Pub Virgilius,
From under his Red Sox batting helmet,
“The author ever favors the losing side.
Does he perhaps harbor a secret grudge?”
The victim bites his tongue. Shifts his gaze
From Chaucer’s eye tic to Chris Logue’s
Bronze ear wax. He’s been chided.
Don’t speak until the symposium is closed.
Ezra pounds the table, insists
“Kulchur is the work of literature.
Look how I’ve saxonified Divas here.”
Andreas Divas pretends to disappear.
“Ezraaa,” Dante drawls, “Don’t hijack.”
Pound slumps. The ceiling swords whir
But the heat climbs. “Dactylic hexameter
As heroic measure.” “Derivative
Rhythms.” “Hypotaxis.” “Verasimilitude.”
The workshop noses letters from the page.
“In privileging the moon and cup motif,”
Pipes in Mick Foucault, “the text subverts
Structuralist dialectic by juxtaposing
Materialist and psycho-sexual paradigms.”
“Who’s he when he’s at home?” asks Jimmy J.
He winks at Dante. “Carissimo Professore,
I feel a cloacal urge. Might we break?”
Chairs squeak, furtive glances dart,
And with a sigh the symposium adjourns.
Homer’s hands tremble. His brimming eyes
Follow a finger beckoning down the stairs.
He knows now after all he’s not a scrivener.
NA: Tell us about some of your happiest moments of being an editor of the press.
LM: It’s wonderful to see the excitement on the faces of my authors when they hold their books for the first time, especially when it’s a first book. At those moments I’m in the wish-fulfillment business, like a genie with a press instead of a lamp.
But oddly enough, some of my best moments have come from the opposite experience, from notes I’ve received from authors whose work I’ve had to decline. I always try to give a personal, constructive and encouraging response, and most authors are grateful that someone took their work seriously and took the time to write more than a stock rejection. Having been on the receiving end of more than a few of those typical rejection forms myself, I feel it’s the least I can do.
Otherwise, I’m happiest when I’m editing a new work, enjoying a dialogue with an author and seeing a book take shape through the collaborative process. Finding an exciting new author, like Philip Brady, in a stack of submissions is also pretty cool!
NA: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
LM: I’d like to say just a few words about the role of a small press like Broadstone versus self-publishing. And I say versus very intentionally, because I have encountered some very adversarial “authors” who feel that they have no need of a traditional publisher. Who am I to judge their work and to stand in the way of their words reaching a world just waiting to read them?! (Okay, I’m a little cynical.)
I think that self-publishing is a completely valid and useful process for authors to get niche books with limited audiences into print, and of course there are the occasional cases of great books that get their start that way and go on to reach a mass audience. Good for them.
I’ve also encountered far too many self-published books that are marred by poor (or no) editing and inferior design. That’s what I think I bring to the table as an editor and publisher, that is, the tools to make a book as good as it can be.
Some are also just badly written. Writing is a craft that requires practice and discipline to master, and acceptance of work for publication has served traditionally as a measure of success in attaining that mastery. If your work is consistently rejected by the presses that are publishing the kind and quality of work to which you aspire, that might be a sign that you’re not there yet. Opting to self-publish strikes me as bypassing that apprenticeship, and at worst can be narcissistic.
As for publishers “preying” on authors and profiting off of their work, there are very few small presses that are in it for money. Most are “non-profit” regardless of how they are chartered! We do what we do because we love books and we love the people who write them.
NA: I’d love to close with a poem from another Broadstone poet.
LM: That’s like choosing a favorite from among my children! But here’s one from the most recent book we’ve published (preceding Philip’s), The Butterfly’s Choice by Joanna Kurowska.
The Fear Parable
The African buffalos pasture
on the savanna, next to
a pair of lions.
The buffalos see the lions
but remain calm,
chewing their grass.
When one of the lions feels
hungry, and begins her
only then, the buffalo
nearest to her runs
in sudden fright.
If the buffalo could speak,
he might say, my life
was not driven
by fear—except just before
the last, culminating
moment of death.
And even as I am dying,
I can say I’ve walked
with the lions.
Larry W. Moore is a fifth-generation Kentuckian who resides in his home town of Frankfort. A magna cum laude graduate of Transylvania University with a double major in humanities and psychology, he has also done graduate work in the history of science and technology at the University of Kentucky, and received a grant from the German government supporting a year abroad researching the life and work of Hermann Hesse. He is retired from a 33-year career in Kentucky state government in management, training and policy analysis, and now devotes his time to publishing and art gallery curating as a co-founder and managing member of Broadstone Media LLC. He is a published poet, photographer and translator, and a long-time book reviewer for Choice.
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, most recently Why God Is a Woman (Boa). Others include 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. Follow Nin on Twitter here.