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).