Interview with Kate Siklosi and Dani Spinosa, Founding Editors
How did Gap Riot Press start?
Gap Riot started, as the best things always do, in conversation. In the early months of 2017, we were discussing how often writers of formal or experimental poetry in Canada had to go through a man to publish a chapbook of experimental literature. We wanted to provide a space for writers to publish experimental, formal, political, feminist, or genre-blurring poetry that wasn’t governed by a dude. And then, we talked about it, a lot. We threw ideas around. And our dear, late friend Priscila Uppal, had a play being performed at the 2017 Summerworks Theatre Festival and she wanted to publish a chapbook of poems that appeared in the play and she said, basically, “Are you ever going to do that press?” And we did. We started by publishing that book, and now we’re working on our fifth season of publications.
Tell us a bit about Gap Riot. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Our influences are incredibly varied. We take a lot of influence from bill bissett and his work with Blew Ointment Press; he fought relentlessly for the right to create and sustain communities through publishing and we owe a lot of our work today to his efforts. We’ve also been influenced in the last couple years by the work of Petra Shulze-Wollgast (psw) and all her work with taking small press to the global scale like never before with her ToCall magazine.
We would describe our aesthetic as burn it down, but make it fashion. We’re interested in those works & folx that challenge us and the world and use poetry as a means of dismantling systems of oppression in multifaceted ways, through both form and ideas. We also like our books to look good while doing it.
Our mission is simple: give folx space.
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?
Season five is upon us! We’re going to be publishing four new exciting chapbooks by Terese Mason-Pierre, Ashley Hynd, Zoey Morris, and Franco Cortese.
We also recently launched a shiny new website! www.gapriotpress.com.
We’ve also started to expand on our editing capabilities. Some presses don’t edit their work a lot or at all, but because it’s a priority and a joy for us to publish first or early works for folx, we’ve begun to take on works that we see a lot of potential in and work with that author to make it awesome. We also recently took on a chapbook wherein the author requested to have a specific editor work on it because it works within a really specific genre, so we’re happy to be able to bring more people into our work by offering paid editorial work on selected chapbooks.
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.
WIMMINS RUNNING THINGS. This is a good answer to both questions. We love how many wimmins and womens and womyns and femmes and nbs and queer friends are making their own presses and publishing some really diverse voices and works. We also think that we need more of that. We can never have enough of that.
We also really like how micropresses are doing fabulous, beautiful, careful, unique, formally- and visually-innovative stuff. Right now we’re loving the lovely stuff Penrose Press is doing. And we’ve long been admiring Simulacrum Press’s beautiful textual objects and the gorgeous work coming out of The Blasted Tree. And don’t even get us started on the gorgeousity of the work coming out of Noir:Z. We’re really digging the small stuff, the unique precious objects these presses are producing. We have LOADS of beautiful poetry to read, and we can get it for free or cheap online. And we love that, don’t get us twisted. We just have magical, special places in our hearts for unique textual objects. So, let’s have more of that, too!
And then, of course, let’s keep BUYING works from these small presses. Let’s keep putting them in bookstore displays (and hey, let’s go to more indie bookstores) and let’s put them in online shops and let’s put them on syllabi and let’s use them for reading groups and let’s trade them at readings and let’s make sure there’s a Metatron for every Penguin in our libraries.
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 Gap Riot Press?
Yes, we’re tired. It is a lot of work. It is a pure labour of love. And, of course, it’s not our day job. We have busy day jobs. So, sometimes that slush pile and the orders and the administrative work seems like too much. But we really cannot imagine ourselves NOT doing this work. It is sustaining in a really challenging and yet beautiful way.
Gap Riot has obviously never been a money-making venture, but with a little help from friends and then fans (!), we’ve always been able to make enough money from sales and donations to make another season of books (at least, so far). We do not charge reading fees (but understand that some places have to), but there are a few money-related things we are quite passionate about.
Gap Riot started using an independent printer, and then for a little while we were stuck using a big corporate printer and we hated it. We are back with an EXCELLENT indie printer now: David Bernstein at Product Photo Inc. David does really excellent work, and he always has fun and neat ideas so we work on some design stuff with him as well. We love that we can help support an economy of indie people doing indie business through our press.
We like each of our books to have something special and handmade about it, whether it’s beautiful paper, tying books with ribbons, adding stickers and colour inserts and little cards filled with wildflower seeds. This means sometimes our books might cost a little more. In our experience, readers are willing to pay a smidge more for a beautiful, unique book.
We sell online a bit, but most of our sales come from events. We’re passionate about these events. We host fab launches and fun readings and we love the Toronto Indie Literary Market and the Ottawa Small Press Fair. Go to these events. Buy books at these events.
We want to shout this one from the rooftops: WE PAY OUR AUTHORS ROYALTIES. Okay, it’s never much. But we do. We also offer them excellent author discounts so they can buy and resell their books to make even more money off their work. We pay our artists for their art, too. Again, not much, but it’s there. We’re passionate about this. Even if we’re sending a $30 e-transfer, it’s still important to us.
All this to say, we believe in an open access and sharing economy, but we also believe in sustainability. And coming from the academy, we’re tired of people doing frig tons of unpaid labour. So we’ve built a press that pays authors royalties, is able to pay other people to help/collaborate with us, and of course, we try to ensure we have enough money to sustain future book production.