Thu 9 May 2013
Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney (shown right and left respectively in the photo) of the highly-respected Rose Metal Press are interviewed at Flash Fiction Chronicles today.
Abigail Beckel (Cofounder and Publisher) has worked professionally in publishing for more than eleven years at publishing houses such as Pearson Education, Beacon Press, and Blackwell Publishing, and for the magazine Physicians Practice. She is a published poet and received her MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College.
Kathleen Rooney (Cofounder and Editor) is the author, most recently, of the novel-in-poems Robinson Alone, released in fall 2012 by Gold Wake Press. She is also the author of the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010) and the memoir Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object (U of Arkansas Press, 2009), as well as Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America (U of Arkansas Press, 2008). Her poetry collection, Oneiromance (an epithalamion), won the 2007 Gatewood Prize from the feminist publisher Switchback Books, and her collaborative collection with Elisa Gabbert, That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness, was published by Otoliths in 2008. Her debut novel, O, Democracy!, is forthcoming with Fifth Star Press in 2014.
Bonnie ZoBell: Hello, Abby and Kathleen. I appreciate your participating in this interview since Rose Metal Press is one of the best fiction chapbook publishers out there.
Abby Beckel and Kathleen Rooney: Thank you! We appreciate you interviewing us and appreciate the compliment about our flash fiction chapbooks.
BZ: Does Rose Metal Press have a philosophy?
AB and KR: We founded Rose Metal Press in January of 2006 as an independent, 501(c)(3), nonprofit publisher whose mission is to produce books in what we call hybrid genres, by which we mean short-short stories, prose poetry, flash nonfiction, novels-in-verse, book-length linked narrative poems, image and text collaborations and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction, and essay to find new forms of expression.
BZ: What would you say your press is looking for in the way of submissions?
AB and KR: We’re looking for work that is formally adventurous and, for lack of a better word, “experimental” because we like those two simultaneous effects: the pleasure of the form itself in addition to the content and the invitation to the reader to be challenged (and hopefully rewarded).
That being said, we do not look for work that seems bizarrely structured merely for the sake of being able to call itself “hybrid.” We seek work whose hybridity feels both exciting and essential—because while the form is a big component of what a reader is supposed to be getting out of their experience of a Rose Metal Press work, so too do we want the reader to feel that the work has an emotional impact and truth.
BZ: What mistakes do you see writers making who submit to Rose Metal Press?
AB and KR: Sometimes we get submissions from people who seem to think that “hybrid genre” means “chaotic mess” or “anything goes” or “clean out your drafts folders,” and that’s not really what we are looking for.
We also get a lot of queries and submissions from people writing traditional books of poetry and prose. That’s great, but it’s not right for us. Our advice to writers is to always take the time to read the submissions guidelines and general mission of a press or journal before submitting. It saves everyone time and the process will be much more fruitful for you!
BZ: What’s your idea of a perfect submission?
AB and KR: We want work whose hybridity, though it may be surprising and innovative, feels purposeful, considered, well crafted, and essential: in other words, we can’t imagine the work taking any other form than the hybrid form they’ve presented. We also want work that has ideas and heart.
BZ: Name a few writers whose chapbooks Rose Metal Press has published and tell us a few words about their chapbooks.
AB and KR: Our most recent chapbook, Shampoo Horns by Aaron Teel, is a collection of linked stories set in a Texas trailer park and is a meditation on boyhood, brotherhood, and the fragmented process of coming of age. The one before that, Betty Superman by Tiff Holland, is based on Holland’s relationship with her mother, a story arc all its own, only Betty isn’t her mother and Holland’s not the narrator, not completely. We like both fiction and nonfiction, and these two most recent ones have blurred the edges between those genres. The one before that, We Know What We Are by Mary Hamilton was more lyrical, and even though the pieces were decisively flash fictions, they came close, in many cases, to being prose poems.
We’ve just announced the winner of this year’s contest, chosen by judge Deb Olin Unferth: Kim Henderson’s The Kind of Girl. The stories in this chapbook explore the way girls and women are defined and confined—by themselves, someone else, or their environment. It’s a restless book, full of tragedy, beauty, and resilience. The Kind of Girl will be available this August.
AB and KR: If we were able to do foldouts, we can think of lots of cool options, like a foldout string of paper dolls representing all the kinds of girls Kim Henderson illuminates in The Kind of Girl, or French fold front covers with extra space to letterpress great dialogue lines from the book.
BZ: Talk a little about the production of Rose Metal Press’s chapbooks.
AB and KR: The page range is 25-40 pages in manuscript form, and then that varies in the finished product depending on the design and the trim size. Our longest is 64 pages, but most are around 44-52 pages. Each year, our amazing head designer Rebecca Saraceno decides on a different trim size and interior design based on the “feel and tone” of the stories. We have the interiors printed offset, but print the covers by hand on an old Vandercook letterpress at the Museum of Printing in North Andover, Massachusetts. It’s a wonderful couple of days where the 3 of us wear aprons, pull the type, set the type, and crank each cover out by hand. We usually use two colors on the chapbook covers so all 400 copies have to go through the printer twice. We then choose specialty endpapers and deliver the covers and endpapers to the interior printer (Red Sun Press in Jamaica Plain, Mass.) and they saddle-stitch and trim them for us. Because of the special, time-consuming process we use, we only print 300-400 copies for each chapbook, so they are considered a limited edition item. All of our chapbooks are now sold out on our site except for last year’s Shampoo Horns. We’ve reprinted several of them in our anthologies of 4-5 collected chapbooks, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness and They Could No Longer Contain Themselves.
BZ: Do you accept manuscripts all year round, or only during certain times of the year?
AB and KR: Only during certain times of the year. We always run our annual Short-Short Chapbook Contest from November 1 through December 1 of every year. We generally have an open reading period for hybrid genre manuscripts every other spring. We have one this year from April 1 to May 1. (Details here http://www.rosemetalpress.com/Submit/Submit.html)
AB and KR: Yes. We’re open to manuscripts by both established and emerging writers. Quality is the first consideration and all of our contest submissions are read blind.
BZ: How many stories in the chapbooks submitted to you do you like to see already published?
AB and KR: It depends. We’ve published some chapbooks where the author had only published a few stories individually before submitting the whole manuscript to us, and others where a large number of the stories had already appeared in print and online. We do like to see authors getting their work out there and building a readership, but again, quality is the first consideration.
BZ: Would you like to add any other advice or tips to writers trying to get their fiction chapbooks published?
AB and KR: Three quick tips:
Research! Try to familiarize yourself not just with the guidelines, but also with the aesthetics of the presses you submit your work to.
Put one of the best stories in the collection as the first story. During a contest reading period, the reviewers and judge are reading a lot of manuscripts, so you want a strong hook to keep them reading.
Pay attention to the overall arc of your book, even if your stories are not linked. A manuscript that is well crafted and organized feels purposeful to the reviewers and offers more of a feeling of resolution. If you just print out all your stories and clip them together, that feeling of haphazardness can carry over to the reviewers.
BZ: Thanks very much for all this information on fiction chapbooks, Abby and Kathleen. This will be a big help to a lot of writers.
Bonnie ZoBell’s fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls with Monkey Puzzle Press was released in March 2013 and her short story collection WHAT HAPPENED HERE is forthcoming with Press 53 in spring 2014. She’s received an NEA fellowship for her fiction, teaches at San Diego Mesa College, and is Associate Editor of The Northville Review. For more information, visit www.bonniezobell.com.