Interview with Freddy La Force, Editor
How did Vegetarian Alcoholic Press start?
Three summers ago, I was writing a lot of poetry and wanted to share it. Academia and traditional publishers seemed limited and unappealing, so I decided to make my own book, which I’ve never really finished, and in the mean time publish books for poets of whom I’m fond. I realized providing emerging writers with the physical reality of their own book is a process that makes me very happy.
Tell us a bit about Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Punk culture and DIY ethos in general cultivate the approach of this press. Everything in popular poetry seems self-referential and post-modern. VA is more interested in writers who create impressionable images with their words. So, rather than try and break into a market to which we don’t relate, we’re creating our own and shoving it in people’s faces everywhere we can from house parties to barroom readings to your more predictable bookstore settings.
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?
Kelly Sexton’s Vodka-Mountain is coming out in a couple months. Her work is very personal and centers around human relationships in a very sarcastic voice. Franklin K.R. Cline is going to release his So What collection with us in the fall and his stuff is very socially conscious in a humorous, inventive, working-class kind of way. We’re also doing Matthew Johnstone’s chapbook, Eater, of Mouths, this summer, which is much more word-art. The plan after that is to put out tons of stuff from the midwest, with the main focus on Milwaukee. The goal is to create a platform for people who have a lot of great things to write who don’t want to move to wherever the next hip city is to do it.
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.
I know that in a lot of other cities, there’s been a huge movement of everyone with a printer becoming a publisher. Sort of like how five years ago everyone with Garage Band became a DJ. Milwaukee and Wisconsin aren’t really saturated that way. I think what needs to change most is access. I’d like to see a network of smaller publishing houses working together to create their own distribution. I’ve contacted a lot of people about this idea but most of them don’t seem motivated or don’t believe that their stuff is appealing to people outside of their scenes. It would be great to see a bunch of regional presses supporting and trading with each other.
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 Vegetarian Alcoholic Press?
I personally think charging writers to submit their work is a scam. A lot of big magazines and presses are getting away with it but it’s total horseshit. The press is the vessel for the writer’s ideas to be born into the physical world. I was working in a bar and spending everything I made past my rent to put out people’s books. Now I’m focusing on the press full-time because I know it’s what I want to do with my life. If I fall into trouble, the last people I’m going to ask for money are the authors I’ve published. We don’t have any bestsellers in our catalog but that means it’s my job to create events and generate excitement about the work of the people who are trusting me with their art.