1/10 Countdown: Small Presses

Yvonne Petus’s “Braced”

For many of us who write, small presses are the best thing going, and there are other reasons to support them. In a world in love with giants—or if not that, then addicted to what they provide or infatuated with the power they wield—small things often offer more heart. My experience with two little presses (and lots of literary journals) has been delightful. I got to pick the art work, for instance, which my two editors, Sena Naslund of Fleur de Lis Press and Jodie Toohey of Legacy Book Press, approved and then used their resources to design the covers. I was able to use WKU Professor and local artist Yvonne Petkus’s work for the poetry collection and my son’s digital painting for The Tree You Come Home To. That was important to me. I didn’t want some mystical figure floating in brine or reaching a hand out (I’m making this up) which is my fear of what happens when you have no say . . .

Galen Olmsted’s digital painting for the cover of The Tree You Come Home To

But further than the artwork, Sena and Jodie both made good decisions about things that needed revision or deleting. Before Jodie took my memoir, she requested I bring it down from around 275 pages to 225. That led to a fun revision process, really from my perspective the best part of revision: cutting. I have called myself the Queen of Cut, with good reason. Cutting lets you hone, helps you get rid of the indulgent. Having a goal (cut 50 pages) puts you in the shoes of a detective, in a way, as you have to find the extraneous, pay closer attention to what the words say. Then you evolve into the sculptor who chips away, smooths the edges, lets the art emerge.

Supporting small book stores and presses increases diversity, opens doors for less accomplished writers. A giant like amazon gets us with the incredible ease they offer and prices lower than anywhere else. They can sell books for less than it costs to print them, for instance, and we gobble that up. But maybe this loads our diet with sugar and fat. You can run from them but you can’t hide. So if you choose, at least some of the time, buy local! Then maybe these small book stores and presses will survive and we can hold off our dystopic future a little bit longer.