Interview with Mia Morgan and Stephanie Meloche, Co-founders
How did Coven Editions start?
Stephanie: The concept for Coven Editions began back in late 2016 while I was living in Germany. Mia and I had often talked about starting our own small press and one day we began to seriously consider what it would mean to run our own press. As with all of our great ideas, we started with a logo and from there we quickly designed a website, and wrote out our submission guidelines and mission statement. We kept all of this (mostly) to ourselves for about a year until we felt ready to soft launch at the Ottawa Small Press Fair in 2017 where we showcased our first print run: broadsides by Conyer Clayton, Ian Martin, and Dorian Bell. Officially, we launched Coven Editions on my birthday during a party and poetry reading at Ottawa’s Bar Robo in February 2018, where we celebrated our newly published PLACES TO HIDE, a chapbook by Ian Martin, Conjuration, a collection of micropoems by various poets, and broadsides by Manahil Bandukwala and Conyer Clayton.
Tell us a bit about Coven Editions. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Mia: Today, Coven Editions is a literary small press seeking to showcase and circulate work by Canadian artists with diverse and intersecting identities, with a focus on emerging writers from Ontario’s literary community. Our aesthetic focus has always been on creating handmade, unique publications which, in their format, do justice to the writing published in them. We have committed to doing all of our production in-house, from printing to bookbinding, and are therefore able to experiment with printing methods and binding styles. In the future, we’re also looking to have an online publishing presence that will allow us to publish work consistently while producing books throughout each print season.
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?
Stephanie: Since we began, we’ve published a variety of broadsides, chapbooks and short fiction pieces. Mia and I have always pushed ourselves to try new things with every print run, which means Coven Editions is ever evolving. Since Ian Martin’s PLACES TO HIDE, one of our biggest projects has been The Sorceress Who Left Too Soon, a series of poems by Albertan novelist and poet, Erin Emily Ann Vance, who was inspired by the painted works of Remedios Varo. We worked collaboratively on that project with Manahil Bandukwala, a Pakistani-born author and artist based in Ottawa, who illustrated Erin’s chapbook. We are currently working on two new chapbooks due to release this August: INUUJUNGA, with poems and illustrations by Inuk poet Skye Corey; and The Trick to Feeling Safe at Home, a collaborative series of poems by friends Dessa Bayrock and Katie Stobbart. We’ll also be launching chapbooks by Ellen Chang-Richardson and Qurat Dar this fall, before reopening our submissions for the 2021 print season. All of our publications are currently available to purchase from our online shop at www.coveneditions.com.
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.
Mia: As with most avenues of publishing, small press in Canada has been historically dominated by white, male writers and academics, which has necessarily created something of a gap that is only being filled now. The changes that need to be made in small press communities are already underway, I think, with the dedication of emerging writers who are finding new ways to break into a fairly exclusive literary club. For our part, Steph and I are interested in publishing writers who can offer a unique voice, perspective, or style, that challenges the conventions of what we are currently seeing in Canadian 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 Coven Editions?
Stephanie: Coven Editions started purely as a passion project focused on creating something meaningful with the beautiful work that we are entrusted to publish by our authors. We don’t feel it in line with our publishing ethos to be soliciting reading fees from those interested in submitting to us, and neither do we think it appropriate to ask for authors to contribute financially to our press in exchange for a print run. We pride ourselves on being an equitable press, providing opportunities to anyone interested in sharing their voice, their story. With that said, we’ve recently begun conceptualising a more financially sustainable way for us to publish more of the amazing work that is sent to us in order to focus the majority of our spending on publishing high quality literary chapbooks.
Mia: In the past, we’ve limited ourselves to smaller print runs (40-100 copies per run) in order to minimize surplus costs. However, since transitioning to publishing fewer broadsides and more chapbooks/collections we’re able to produce more publications per year, and print more books per run. While we were previously only able to provide contributor copies by way of payment, we’re currently transitioning to a royalty-based model in order to compensate authors directly from book sales. Ultimately, we feel that as publishers we have a responsibility to ensure that our authors are published fairly and transparently, which includes responsibility for all costs of production and publication.