Interview with Minerva Laveaga and Laura Cesarco
How did Veliz Books start?
Minerva Laveaga: We began talking about the idea of having our own press many years ago when we worked together. The idea gestated for some time until the summer of 2015, when we decided that it was time to make it happen, and we began planning the launch of our first three books. That summer, Laura came to El Paso and the three of us spent days talking and thinking about it. Then one weekend, Lau and I went to Marfa and spent almost two days straight working on plans and documents. We would only go out to get food, bring it to our room, and keep working. Those were very exciting days, when everything was starting to take form! Things have been moving very quickly after that and we have been fortunate that our press has been consistently growing with every passing month.
Tell me about you two as writers and as editors.
Mine: I write mostly short stories in Spanish, but I have also published essays in English. The collection of short stories I am currently working on is inspired by my hometown, Durango (México). My essays deal with themes of identity and language, and I have also translated some of my stories into English. I worked as an editor for over seven years for the book series Memorias del silencio: Footprints of the Borderland, which is part of a community project by BorderSenses.
Laura Cesarco: I am a poet and a translator. I translate, mainly poetry, from Spanish, Portuguese, and Portuñol into English, and from English into Spanish. As a poet I feel that my work changes. My first book worked around water, my second book focuses on memory, my third book marks a different trajectory: instead of looking into a certain concern or obsession, Los brazos del saguaro explores different perspectives that are possible by standing in different places. I have been writing in English for the past three years. My latest publication is the chapbook Occasions to Call Miracles Appropriate (Lunamopolis, The Lune series, 2015), where I explore observing with not just the intellect.
How is it that you came up with the name?
Mine: Veliz means suitcase in Spanish. It is a word used a couple of generations ago in Mexico. When we first started talking about it, we visualized an old veliz, the kind of suitcase that has gone many places. In our press, it represents the idea that we want our books to travel and we want to share the work of writers from different parts of the world. We are interested in books that represent the multiculturalism of our times.
We want to publish literature that has arrived to our hands from close and far places, and we plan to then take the work of our authors to promote it everywhere we go.
Tell me a bit about Veliz Books. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Mine: Veliz Books is an independent literary press dedicated to discovering, publishing and promoting work from emerging and established authors. We offer a vehicle where contemporary literature can travel. We are invested in fostering a community of readers and writers passionate about words and language, regardless of where they live.
We publish books in English and Spanish and translations into English from Spanish and Portuguese. These languages represent the connections the founders have with their cultures and languages of origin, as well as languages and literatures we are familiar with and want to share with a wide readership.
We seek to publish translations from Spanish and/or Portuguese into English so as to promote literature from Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries in the English-speaking world. We want our books to represent an ongoing dialogue between different geographies and cultures.
We consider books works of art, both because of the artistic quality of the text, and the considerations for their production as objects. Our books are crafted to establish a holistic connection between the words and the object. Once we select a manuscript we love, we work with a variety of artists such as painters, photographers, and graphic artists to complete the publication.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog?
Mine: Early 2016 we published three books: Paul Pedroza’s collection of short stories, The Dead Will Rise and Save Us, Jeff Sirkin’s collection of poetry, Travelers Aid Society, and the bilingual anthology Touching the Light of Day: Six Uruguayan Poets, translated by Laura Chalar. We had an open reading period from May 2 to August 2, 2016.
In translation we will be publishing a bilingual edition of La parrilla by the Chilean Adolfo Pardo and translated by Scott Spanbauer. It is a transcription of an interview or a testimony of a young Chilean woman regarding her time when she was arrested and detained during the dictatorship.
We will publish a poetry collection in English, Once More with Feeling, by Tina Cane.
We will also publish a poetry collection in Spanish, La isla de tu nombre, by Gabriela Aguirre.
We are also going to publish a work of fiction. We are in the last stages of decision-making regarding this book.
What small/independent press publishing is/are particularly exciting to you right now? What lessons have you learned from it/them?
Mine: We are fond of small, independent presses. We believe that we shouldn’t look at small independent presses as “not as big” or not being able to provide the same services and advantages as big presses. Small independent presses have different relationships with their authors than the big presses do. The care of each book and author is completely different.
We have learned plenty, and continue to do so, from small independent presses. They are an inspiration to us. There is a lot of passion and dedication that goes into working in a small independent press. In some cases, many hours of volunteer work by people who have full time jobs. This passion, conviction, and commitment to the literary community is attractive to us, inspiring, and contagious. We are fond of Noemi Press, which we’ve seen grow throughout the years. Lau was even an intern and later associate editor there for a year when she lived in El Paso. We also love Ugly Duckling Presse and Bloof Books, to name just a few. One of the first things that called our attention to Ugly Duckling Presse’s books, for example, is the attention that was paid to the physicality of the book.
Recent releases from Veliz Books: