Interview with Amber McCrary, Editor
How did Abalone Mountain Press start?
Abalone Mountain Press started in January 2021. The idea of Abalone Mountain Press started brewing in July 2020 after I received my MFA from Mills College. I was inspired by my cohort who were writers plus artists, musicians, rappers, photographers and book makers. That plus seeing all the Native women on Instagram making their dreams come true by starting business really helped me in regards to accomplishing my own dream of opening the first Diné women owned publishing press.
Tell us a bit about Abalone Mountain Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Abalone Mountain Press is a Diné woman owned press located on occupied Akimel O’odham land. The meaning behind Abalone Mountain comes from the Diné name for the so-called San Francisco peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona. Abalone Shell Mountain is one of the four sacred mountains for Diné. The owner of Abalone Mountain Press, Amber McCrary grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona therefore this sacred mountain is near and dear to her heart and among many Diné and Hopi folks.
Our mission is to create a space for Indigenous voices to be heard without having to accommodate the white gaze. We strive to create books for Native people by Native people. We hope to create a press that supports Native artistry in all forms. We hope to bring quality work to Indigenous literature and create a world for Indigenous voices to thrive as genuinely and true to form. We encourage works such as poetry, fiction, non-fiction and hybrid works.
We are an indigiqueer, trans, non-binary, Black Indigenous, Indigenous feminist friendly press. We do not accept any forms of lateral violence, Homophobia, racism or sexism in our work or in submissions.
Influences literary and aesthetic wise include Ofelia Zepeda, Tanya Tagaq, Wendy Red Star, kimiwan ‘zine, Yayoi Kusama, Layli Long Soldier, Craig Santos Perez, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, Louise Erdrich, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Joshua Whitehead, Le Tigre, Mazzy Star, Natalie Diaz, Tommy Pico, Chantal Jung, Julie Fiveash, Manny Loley, Laura Tohe, Jake Skeets, Yesika Salgado, Sandra Cisneros, Jenny Holzer, Keith Haring, James Turrell, M.I.A., Solange, Bob Dylan, Mozart, Nine Inch Nails. The list could go on for pages.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what you’re hoping to publish in the future?
I will be working with local Phoenician poet, Taté Walker on their full collection of poems. Taté is a strong force with their humor and experiences as a Two Spirit Lakota.
What I’m hoping to publish in the future is unconventional, non-western stories and poetry. I would like to publish something that resonates strongly to the Indigenous reader. One of my dream projects is to publish a hybrid memoir or a collection of poems/prose with collage work or art by the writer.
We used to ask, “What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?” We’re still interested in the answer to that, but we’re even more interested to know what you think needs to change.
I have to relate to something my friend Ryan at F*%K IF I KNOW//BOOKS said. We are creating a writer/artist community where you don’t need to be living in art hubs like New York or LA to be considered a “serious” artist or publishing press.
How do you cope? There’s been a lot of conversation lately about charging reading fees, printing costs, rising book costs, who should pay for what, etc. Do you have any opinions on this, and would you be willing to share any insights about the numbers at Abalone Mountain Press?
That’s a good question! With so much luck (isn’t that how the art and writing world exist, lol) from donations and the GoFundMe campaign this helped cover reading fees. With Abalone Mountain Press writers will not have to pay a reading fee for the next year and hopefully indefinitely.
As for printing costs, that’s always tough. For AMP, we will be covering printing costs for our writers. I’m still in the beginning process of thinking of what to charge for the books we provide. When I used to make zines I would set my cost very cheap and accessible but I know this is not the zine world. The publishing world can be very scary and grown up but we would still like to create pieces of art that can still be accessible.