Part 7 of Flash Fiction Chronicles’ ongoing series, “Creating and Publishing a Flash Chapbook” by Bonnie ZoBell.” Click HERE to find links to the entire series which includes articles and interviews by Bonnie ZoBell and Marko Fong.
The busy Victor David Giron is with us today to talk about flash fiction chapbooks from his perspective as president, publisher, and accountant of Curbside Splendor Publishing based in Chicago and carried by Consortium Distribution based out of Minneapolis. The publishing outfit includes the imprints Curbside Splendor the journal, which looks for gritty, real, “urban” prose, poetry, and photography. And then there’s Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), which is more of a themed issue. And now Curbside Splendor also has Artifice Magazine, which seeks work that’s aware of its own artifice, and Artifice Books, which will start publishing books next year. Victor is a CPA and bar owner who says he can’t let go of his desire to be a philosopher. He started Curbside Splendor in 2009 to publish his debut coming-of-age novel Sophomoric Philosophy, but then was “like dang, publishing is fun,” and so here we are. Sophomoric Philosophy won Latino Literacy Now’s 2011 Latino Books into Movies Award. Victor’s short stories have been published in several literary journals.
BZ: Hello, Victor. Glad you had some time to talk today.
VDG: Hey, what’s up? No problem, happy to talk.
BZ: What would you say Curbside Splendor Publishing is looking for in the way of fiction chapbook submissions?
VDG: We look for stuff that’s punchy, that we’re excited about both in the writing and the fact that the author is someone who we think is writing great stuff but also has a vision, a dedication to promoting themselves.
BZ: Does Curbside Splendor have a philosophy?
VDG: We seek to play our part in supporting independent publishing and to publish work that is found interesting and entertaining by the casual urban reader. We view our authors as brands and as partners. We work hard to, and quite enjoy, promoting our authors and getting their books discussed by the press. We view ourselves as extensions of our author’s creative machine.
BZ: What mistakes do you see writers making who submit to you?
VDG: Mainly that they haven’t edited their work well enough, and also they haven’t taken the time to understand what we’re seeking by reading the work we’ve published and are just blindly submitting.
BZ: What’s your idea of a perfect submission?
VDG: I don’t know if there is such a thing. Reviewing and accepting submissions can be pretty subjective. We’re not pretending or advocating that we’re accepting only the *best* writing. We’re self-funded, not affiliated with a university or public funding, and so we’re simply accepting books that we as individuals feel we should put our time and money behind. Our staff members have regular (or irregular) jobs, some of us are parents, and we’re all writers ourselves. So Curbside is this vehicle we use to publish and promote creative writing and art we’re excited about, that we’re inspired by, and we just think tons of people should be reading it.
BZ: Name a few writers whose chapbooks you’ve published and tell us a few words about their books.
VDG: There’s Franki Elliot, or at least that’s what she calls herself. We published her first book, a small little pocketbook, Piano Rats, in 2011. It’s 44 short raunchy pieces that cross across prose and poetry. She works in the music industry and writes on the side, quite a lot, and we discovered that she had self-published a version of Piano Rats and dug the book so much that we decided to re-release it at a wider scale and have since agreed to publish her second book Kiss As Many Women As You Can in 2013. There’s Michael Czyzniejewski, the beer vendor / collegiate creative writing instructor whose chapbook Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions we published in 2012. It’s an amazing collection of 40 flash fictions each told in the persona of a famous Chicagoan and illustrated by Chicago artist Rob Funderburk. And then there’s Amber Sparks, the Washington DC-based author whose short stories have been published all over the Internet, and we put together a volume of them in a handsome book called May We Shed These Human Bodies designed by Alban Fischer. She’s a powerful writer whose work mesmerizes, drawing upon mythologies and fables for inspiration.
BZ: If you could put a fold-out in one of your chapbooks, who or what would it be of?
VDG: Um, I don’t know. Marilyn Monroe I guess, because she’s hot and I love all her quotes.
BZ: Talk a little about the production of your chapbooks. What size are they? How are they made? How much color do you use? What is the page range of most of them?
VDG: Our standard ones are 5 x 8, about 150 pages long, though the smallest Piano Rats was only 72 pages long and it’s 4 x 6, and the largest now is this huge 10 x 10, 240 page-long anthology about beds and the things that happen there called The Way We Sleep coming out soon (though I suppose that’s no longer a chapbook). TWWS will feature prose along with color comics. We have one chapbook that featured color drawings, a romance poetry book called The Chapbook: Poems by Charles Bane Jr. that came out in 2011. We’ve since started a bilingual imprint called Concepción Books under which we’ll publish another book utilizing color called Always / Siempre, a collaborative photo-poem book by Helen Vitoria and B.L. Pawelek. The book will be stunning with color pages and photographs. So we’re definitively into using color when it makes sense, but plenty of our other books feature art in black and white because that also makes sense sometimes. We like using Lightning Source to print because they’re an “on-demand” printer and allow a ton of flexibility from a print-run perspective—we can set our print runs based on demand basically. Their quality is good, but they’re limited in terms of print sizes and color, so when we want to get highly creative we us other “traditional” printers. Lightning Source is improving all the time though.
BZ: Do you accept manuscripts all year round or only during certain times of the year?
VDG: Yeah, we pretty much are always open. Check the guidelines to know what’s up. For books, it’s basically you email us a pitch, a query letter / email telling us about your book and yourself, and if we think we can get behind it, we’ll ask for more.
BZ: Are you interested in chapbooks from new writers who haven’t had books or chapbooks published before?
VDG: Yes. See Franki Elliot, who had never been published anywhere before. Some of our more recent and now planned projects are with more “established” writers or brands, but that’s because they dug us and we dug them and got to working on something. But as we work with these more established writers to bring out their projects, we’ll continue to seek out the diamonds in the rough and work to put their work out as well.
BZ: How many stories in the chapbooks submitted to you do you like to see already published?
VDG: It ranges from zero (again see Franki Elliot’s Piano Rats) to 100% (Amber Sparks and Michael Czyzniejewski). It’s good if the work has been published as it means the author has built appeal / a potential fan base, but not always necessary. In general I would say that if you are compiling a story collection, you should try as hard as you can to get them published. It only helps, plus you can get a sense as to what objective readers think of your work.
BZ: Any last advice or tips you’d like to give writers?
VDG: Keep writing, keep editing, have other objective readers like not your mom or sister read your work and give you feedback. Read your work aloud. Go to your local open-mic and throw it down, even if it scares the crap out of you. Have fun with it. Pour yourself into it. Make sure you take the time to know the publishers you’re submitting to because it pays off. Oh, yeah, and read, a lot, and go out and experience stuff.
BZ: Thanks so much for all this valuable information, Victor.
Bonnie ZoBell’s fiction chapbook THE WHACK-JOB GIRLS is forthcoming with Monkey Puzzle Press in March 2013 and her short story collection WHAT HAPPENED HERE is forthcoming with Press 53 in spring 2014. She’s received an NEA, the Capricorn Novel Award, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and a spot on Wigleaf’s Top 50. Her work has appeared in Night Train, The Greensboro Review, New Plains Review, PANK, Connotation Press, and elsewhere. She received an MFA from Columbia, currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College, and is Associate Editor of The Northville Review. More of her work can be found at www.bonniezobell.com.