This is the thirty-third 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.
Interview with Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney, Founding Editors
How did Rose Metal Press start?
Shortly after our 2005 graduations from the MA and MFA programs at Emerson College, we (Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney) cofounded the press in Boston in January of 2006. In observing the literary community and deciding what kind of focus we wanted our press to take, we noticed that many writers were doing exciting, culturally important work in hybrid genres, but that they had limited opportunities to publish that work since few commercial publishers accept such submissions due to concerns over profitability and marketing.
Tell us a bit about Rose Metal Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Our namesake Rose Metal is a fusible alloy with a low melting point consisting of 50% bismuth, 25-28% lead, and 22-25% tin. Also known as “Rose’s metal” and “Rose’s alloy,” Rose Metal is typically used to solder things together. Our Rose Metal Press is an independent, not-for-profit publisher of work in hybrid genres, specializing in the publication of short short, flash, and micro-fiction; prose poetry, novels-in-verse or book-length linked narrative poems; flash nonfiction and novellas-in-flash; and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction, and essay to find new forms of expression. Just as the alloy Rose Metal joins one unlike thing to another so strongly that they cannot be separated, Rose Metal Press publishes three beautifully produced titles per year by authors who fuse unlike elements together in their writing in ways that are both surprising and seamless.
We look for work that is formally adventurous and, for lack of a better word, “experimental” because we like those two simultaneous effects: the pleasure of the form itself in addition to the content and the invitation to the reader to be challenged (and hopefully rewarded). That being said, we do not look for work that seems bizarrely structured merely for the sake of being able to call itself “hybrid.” We seek work whose hybridity feels both exciting and essential—because while the form is a big component of what a reader is supposed to be getting out of their experience of a Rose Metal Press work, so too do we want the reader to feel that the work has an emotional impact.
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?
Our latest book is In the Circus of You: An Illustrated Novel-in-Poems by poet Nicelle Davis and artist Cheryl Gross, and in that vein, one of the things we’re most looking for during our upcoming Open Reading Period in May is art-and-text works in any genre. We’re also looking for prose poetry collections, both linked and unlinked.
We are especially interested in the use of the chapbook format as a delivery device for prose. Each year, we have a contest for short short prose chapbook manuscripts, both fiction and nonfiction, and we’ve just announced Rosie Forrest as the winner of this past fall’s contest. Her book of stories, Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan, chosen by Pamela Painter, is forthcoming this summer. We’ve also just announced that Ira Sukrungruang will be the judge in fall 2015 for our Tenth Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest.
And we’re also big on trying to taxonomize and promote the hybrid genres that are our focus, and to that end, in October 2015 we’ll be publishing an exciting anthology called Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Genres edited by Jacqueline Kosolov and Marcela Sulak. Family Resemblance includes essays and excerpts by 43 well-known practitioners in the various hybrid genres highlighted.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
The literary publishing industry and scene is really thriving right now. It’s an exciting community to be a part of. There are tons of terrific small presses and literary journals and a great sense of community and cooperation rather than competition. Our hope is that the vibrancy continues and that the literary publishing community is able to work together to overcome some of the challenges posed by massive retail sellers like Amazon, fewer and fewer bookstores, and the difficulties of reaching mainstream readers.
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 Rose Metal Press?
Sustainability is a big goal for us, both short and long term. So many endeavors in this country are taught to favor the mindless capitalist pursuit of non-stop, perpetual, no-end-in-sight growth, which is unrealistic and not even desirable in a lot of cases. Each year, we publish two full-length books and one chapbook for a total of three beautifully and carefully produced books. It would be fun to do more than that, and there are certainly enough authors producing innovative, genre-pushing work for that to be viable, but we first and foremost want to be a publisher as opposed to just a printer. We don’t want to just print books and have them languish in a warehouse or sink out of sight immediately. We do our best to foster relationships with our authors and to see that every book we put out stands a chance of getting the notice and attention it deserves in terms of reviews, events, and readings, and even course adoptions.
We embrace our smallness and the high quality that our present size allows us to maintain, as well as the financial viability it affords us. Bigness for its own sake is overrated. It feels more true to our mission to be big in terms of the reputation of our books and the notice and support our authors receive than to be big in terms of how many books we produce each year.
As for reading fees, we charge them, yes, and we think it’s fair for us and other presses to do so—every dollar of our reading fees goes back into putting out more books (though the fees come nowhere near close to paying for even one book annually). We also strive to keep our fees fair and reasonable. For example, we’ve been running our chapbook contest for what will be ten years this year, and in that time, the reading fee has remained the same: $10.
You’re coming up on your tenth anniversary as a press this January. What has surprised you in your first ten years?
We’ve been thrilled, year after year, with the seemingly endless supply of high-quality hybrid genre work that people send our way. The creativity and innovation we observe in the manuscripts that we choose to publish, and, for that matter, in many that we are not (due to aforementioned constraints) able to choose to publish continues to make us feel that our mission of promoting and supporting hybrid genres continues to be a worthwhile one. We’re grateful to everyone who has submitted to us, recommended us, or reviewed us over the years, and we look forward to many more years to come.