Interview with Tammy Lynne Stoner, Publisher
How did Gertrude Press start?
Gertrude was started by the wonderful Eric Delohoy in 1999 as his response to anti-gay legislation. We went on hiatus in 2016, but started back up again in response to the current political climate.
Tell us a bit about Gertrude Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Gertrude exists to be sure that queer voices have a place to tell their stories. Our aesthetic is literary, and leans toward unusual tellings. While we do publish strong coming out stories and other traditional narratives, we are always looking for new ways to approach story—fresh metaphors, interesting structure, poignant dialogue.
We have no “formula” for our chapbooks, having published collections of flash fiction, linked and unlinked stories/poems, and long form pieces.
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?
We moved the journal on-line this year, but will continue to publish our chapbooks (now adding creative non-fiction to poetry and fiction). These are judged by guest judges, usually over the summer months.
What’s coming up is the project we are most thrilled about: GERTIE. . .
The literary community (critics, mostly) can tend to hoist up one “gay book” a year—though there are always dozens of terrific works out there, which few see because they have the “gay slot” filled. Soooo, we are starting GERTIE: a quarterly, queer book club. Our staff and others in the publishing world will choose new and notable LGBTQ books to send to folks four times a year in a fancy box.
This will also end the search many of us go through to locate strong, non-genre (though there is nothing wrong with genre!) books by LGBTQ authors.
Having come from Alyson Books in a time when there were queer book stores and other avenues to keep this market viable, we hope GERTIE will not only introduce people to amazing writing, but we hope it encourages the marketplace to open up a bit more.
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.
As I mentioned above, we want to see less new writers met with “I’m not sure how to market a gay book” when they are simply telling a story where someone happens to be queer.
If a rancher from Texas wants to read about a dancer from Thailand, and if a factory worker in Poland wants to read about a monk climbing a mountain, we believe there are a lot of people want to read about a boy transitioning to a woman or humorous essays from a butch lesbian or a novel about a man (who is gay) tracing back the history of his deaf, fighter pilot grandfather. The stories just need to get higher visibility and be viewed as trips into other worlds rather than “gay books.”
On a more inner-circle note, we want to send stories about our lives to ourselves. It’s one thing—an important, vital thing—to read stories from other lives and get to know them, and it’s another—also vital thing—to read stories about experiences and emotions and situations you or your friends have lived, to feel those things as deeply as it can be felt because you are linked to them.
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 Gertrude Press?
We are a 501(c)3 so we take donations. We also charge a reading fee for the chapbook contest that pays our guest judges and supports our three chapbook print runs. There is no reading charge for the journal (which, again, is on-line so it has limited costs associated).
Given the high level of interest we are already having with GERTIE, that should easily pay for itself. Hopefully it will also give us the opportunity to award higher chapbook contest purses and provide more marketing for the books we choose for GERTIE and the writers and artists we feature in Gertrude Journal.
Overall, we don’t struggle around money. It comes as it’s needed! We are just excited to be engaged in the literary world right now, when it’s coming back—more glittery than ever.