Interview with Emily Brandt, Alex Cuff, and Jen Hyde, ND/SA Chapbook Editors
How did No, Dear/Small Anchor (ND/SA) start?
In Summer 2013, Emily and Alex reached out to Jen to discuss the possibility of working together to put out a call for a first chapbook by a New York City writer. It was a merging of the sensibilities and goals of No, Dear and Small Anchor Press.
Tell us a bit about ND/SA. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
ND/SA publishes new poetry chapbook manuscripts by emerging, diverse New York City writers. We are generally excited by a unified text with a strong sense of voice and purpose and a startling use of beautiful, difficult language. Our most recent publication, Chialun Chang’s One Day We Become Whites is a perfect example of this. For example, in “I Am A Racist Dwarf,” Chang writes “Those models from Victoria’s Secret had plastic surgery, so I checked the / price to see / if I wanted to / Have a white body / Build a taller nose / Touch myself softly.”
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?
After reading proposals for our next publication, we decided to publish a series of four related chapbooks. For this last call, we were particularly interested in texts that employ translation, multilingualism, and experimentation with/disruption of “standard” English vernaculars. So far, all of our chapbooks have been English only, and as citizens of one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse cities in the world, we’re interested in more honestly reflecting and honoring the language diversity that is all around us. We are thrilled to have have a line-up of four chapbooks that address this call in unique and interrelated ways, to be published between the fall of this year and the spring of 2018. Stay tuned for new releases by Joshua Escobar, Marwa Helal, Viktoria Peitchev and Maria Rubio.
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.
Several aspects of small/independent press publishing make us happy: the community-building, the freedom in publishing any work that we believe deserves a wider audience, the process of working closely with a poet through the conception and editing stages of a chapbook, the love inherent in projects and organizations for which folks are laboring without substantial compensation, often without any at all. This process creates a special relationship to the book, the authors, and to the possibilities of writing, publishing and distributing writing. Also the fact that anyone who is excited about their friends or community members’ writing, and is able to dedicate mostly unpaid time to it, can start a press. Alex works at a high school where for the past several years students have been publishing their own chapbooks and school-wide anthologies under the imprint Raven Press (named after the school’s basketball team, The Ravens). In April they are hosting a panel and reading at CUNY featuring publishers and literary organizers including Mahogany L. Browne (Penmanship), Adjua Greaves (Wendy’s Subway), Nicole Sealy (Cave Canem), Mirene Arsanios (Makhzin) and zakia henderson (The New Press). This event exemplifies the way in which writing and publishing cultivate community and provide spaces for writers to offer support and love to one another. Another event that comes to mind is the recent launch of Leila Ortiz’s chapbook Girl Life published by Matt L Rohrer’s press Recreation League. In addition to Leila’s family, several of us audience members were part of a literary-based family who had met through events such as No, Dear launch readings. We see the small press community made up of folks with full-time jobs outside major publishing houses or the literary industry coming together to celebrate the important writing coming out of NYC right now as part of our extended family.
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 ND/SA?
From the start, we have tried to create a chapbook series that sustains itself, and our attitude has always been to put our attention on one book at a time. In the past, we’ve charged small reading fees and initially we did use those funds to pay for printing. Because of this, in subsequent years, we’ve been able to offer author and cover artist honorariums. I think much of this is possible because we keep production costs in mind when we imagine—with our authors—what their chapbook will ultimately look like, and we make design decisions to produce the best book possible for the least amount of overhead cost. A great example of this is Isabel Sobral Campos’ book, Material, which is a single sheet of 11” x 17” paper folded into a 4” x 5” rectangle. It is a simple design that came to mind when we read the poems; the unfolding of the book enhances that reading experience rather than detracts from it. We’ve also used the same printer–a wonderful small business in the Lipstick Building–and paper suppliers (French Paper Company, and Jam Paper) from the start, and this has enabled us to realistically estimate production costs. Then, of course, there is the emotional and editorial labor that goes into the production and release of the chapbooks. We acknowledge that these are unpaid, volunteer labors, and we see the time we spend as community building. We’ve recently gained non-profit status so now we can (slowly) begin to write grants in order to pay our writers and perhaps ourselves for some of the labor. However, this in itself creates more work so we’ll see how that goes. Up until now we’ve been able to keep the press going with the funds that we make from selling books. Also, it’s important to note that all three of us have full-time jobs that make the precarious marginal profits less of an issue than for folks who are hoping to run a small press as their mostly full time job.