by Bonnie ZoBell
Randall Brown, founder and managing editor of Matter Press, teaches at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008), his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and he appears in the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction (W. W. Norton, 2010). He blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net and is the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.
Bonnie ZoBell: So glad you finally had time to talk. You’ve got a lot going on over at Matter Press.
Randall Brown: Thanks for this opportunity. Matter Press has an online journal, the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, a blog that is currently publishing writers’ top five lists, and the press itself, which recently published Tara Laskowski’s book of dark etiquette Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. The journal publishes condensed fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry each Monday—and a visual arts series each Wednesday. Also, as a fundraiser for the press, we just published A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction, a 300+ page guidebook that provides various ways to make writing flash!
BZ: Does Matter Press have a philosophy?
RB: Here is Matter Press’s mission statement: Matter Press is a community-based, non-profit 501(c)(3) literary press that publishes an online literary journal (The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts), manages an annual short prose chapbook contest, and supports a regular reading series. Matter Press focuses on supporting emerging and established authors working with condensed forms of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and visual arts.
BZ: What would you say your press is looking for in the way of fiction chapbook submissions?
RB: To get the press started, Matter Press solicited some favorite writers for chapbook submissions, including Kathy Fish, Jeff Landon, Carol Guess, and Tara Laskowski. The press’s first open reading choice, Karen Dietrich’s Girl Years, was a collection of creative nonfiction flash. During the open reading period, Matter Press is looking for a prose collection (prose poetry, fiction, and/or creative nonfiction), 25–40 pages, each piece under 600 words. Individual pieces in the manuscript may have appeared in journals, both in print and online, as long as the entire collection itself is unpublished.
BZ: What mistakes do you see writers making who submit to Matter Press?
RB: As a submissions’ reader, teacher, workshop participant, editor, and lover of flash fiction, I might have read 20,000 or more flash fiction pieces. The most common mistake I see is for writers not to think about all those other flash fiction pieces that have come before a reader’s eyes. Something surprising and different and exciting (yet organic to the piece) is sometimes missing from submissions.
BZ: What’s your idea of a perfect submission for a fiction chapbook?
RB: Formatting, formatting, formatting. So many chapbooks have odd formatting, with stories appearing at the end of another story, spaces after every paragraph, font changes, and the like. Perfectly formatted chapbooks. That’s what Matter Press is looking for.
BZ: Name a few writers whose fiction chapbooks Matter Press has published and tell us a few words about their chapbooks.
RB: Kathy Fish’s Wild Life, undomesticated flash fiction; Jeff Landon’s Truck Dance, semi-short stories; Carol Guess’s Index of Placebo Effects, two women, a plane crash, and too many cameras; Karen Dietrich’s Girl Years, where memory and imagination intersect; and Tara Laskowski’s Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons, the way people conduct themselves in situations that Emily Post would never write about.
BZ: If you could put a fold-out in one of your chapbooks, who or what would it be of?
RB: Like a centerfold fold-out? I like the moment before the big bang as a metaphor for the press, so something like that. Maybe it explodes a little when you pull it out.
BZ: Talk a little about the production of your Matter Press’s fiction chapbooks.
RB: We usually publish 9 X 6, but we did do a 6 X 9, and the press has recently finished A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction (as a fundraising project) that is paperback sized. We generally have color covers but black & white interiors. They are perfect bound, unless they are too tiny and need to be stapled. The page range for the open reading period is 25-40 pages.
BZ: Do you accept manuscripts all year round, or only during certain times of the year?
RB: Just during the open reading period. The next one isn’t for awhile: September 2014.
BZ: Is Matter Press interested in in fiction chapbooks from new writers who haven’t had books or chapbooks published before?
RB: Matter Press is interested in new writers, but it sure helps sales if the writer has a network of some interested readers.
BZ: How many stories in the chapbooks submitted to you do you like to see already published?
RB: It’s not a consideration at all.
BZ: I really appreciate this, Randall! As a newish press, Matter Press is very strong with work by some great writers. Our readers will be grateful to know what you have to say.
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.