This is the twenty-sixth in Entropy’s small press interview series, where we ask editors about their origins, their mission, and what it’s like to run a press. Find the other interviews from this series in our Small Press Database here and under the Resources tab at the top of the page.
Submission Guidelines: By solicitation only.
Interview with Gina Abelkop, Founding Editor
How did Birds of Lace start?
BoL started during a feminist poetry class I was taking my final year of undergrad (2005) at Antioch College. My friends/other students in the class were writing these really excellent poems and I wanted to share them with the world. I’d also been following the work of Roxanne Carter, who ran a DIY press called Persephassa, for some time, and that inspired me to try my hand at chapbook making. I’d made zines in my teens, under the influence of riot grrl, and that sense of “if you can’t find it in the world, make it happen yourself!” really stuck with me. Also, I had no idea about the small press/chapbook world, outside of Persephassa, which I’d discovered on Livejournal, so at the time felt pretty loose and free in terms of what I felt I could create without having to compare it to anything else.
Tell us a bit about Birds of Lace. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Birds of Lace likes all the funny, ugly bits flitting around the world, the whipsmart face slaps that carry a sting of humor and obsessive sadgirl power anthems. BoL publishes those who self-identify as women as well as queers who like to fuck-shit-up prettily with an aftertaste of sorrow, rage, and joy. BoL is influenced by the spirit of cunty women, criminal queers, wild open waters and DIY opulence.
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?
This year we have wild, beautiful chapbooks coming from Lily Hoang (The End of Something Great), Meghan Lamb (Silk Flowers), and Jacqueline Kari (TBA). Meghan’s Silk Flowers is actually a novella. They are going to add lots of bitchy, raunchy-elegant pizzazz to 2015. In the future I’d love to publish full-length books. I wish I had the muscle/money to publish everything Anna Joy Springer has ever written/will write and make it all #1 bestsellers. I’d love to someday put June Arnold’s Applesauce back in print. I adore chapbooks and know that BoL will always make those, from writers/artists who get the blood running thick and messy.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
Oh there is so much! Publishers like Coconut and Bloof are putting out work by most of my favorite contemporary writers. Birds LLC is killing it with the double-boom of Niina Pollari and Monica McClure this year. Kristen Stone’s Unthinkable Creatures puts out these deeply-loved chapbooks that make me go MMMHHHMMM. I’m leaving a ton out here but those spring to mind as I think about all the super passionate, literature-loving folks who are running these presses with so much pure love and pleasure in reading. Everyone knows that the stakes are not monetary in poetry. There may be some side bullshit but mostly small presses are gifting the world work that moves them and that makes me feel warm and fuzzy in a world that often seems perpetually terrible. I feel very, very lucky to be alive RIGHT NOW, while so many of my favorite poets are alive and giving readings and publishing books and poems on the internet for me to wake up to.
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 Birds of Lace?
Up until 2014 I paid for everything out of pocket, and the costs were very low, because I made chapbooks more like zines. I bought cover paper from Mr. French, a family-owned paper mill, but photocopied the innards at copy shops for cheap and did layout myself with scissors and tape. Last year I decided I wanted to step up our chapbook aesthetic to letterpress covers, and knew I wouldn’t be able to afford that on my own, so I ran a Kickstarter campaign which was successful (but also very stressful!). I thought that being funded for the year would help BoL to actually make some money for 2015’s printings, but that wasn’t the case. This year we’ll be doing another Kickstarter, though for less money than last year. Promotion is still something I haven’t quite figured out; a very naive part of me always thinks, I love this work so much, everyone else will too, and they’ll buy it! And that just doesn’t seem to happen. It’s frustrating, and I wish I had a better head for it. We can’t crowdfund for the rest of eternity so I really do need another plan, but I have no idea what that plan will be. BoL has never made any money, though costs were so low for so long that I wasn’t really losing money either. I don’t care about making money—though my dream job would be doing BoL full-time—I just want BoL to pay for itself! I hope that will happen someday. I love doing BoL more than most things and would never want to give it up.
Recent Birds of Lace releases: