Push to Publish 2020 Interview: Alison Lewis

Alison Lewis

This year’s virtual Push to Publish Conference will include all of the great tips, trends, and connections that writers have gotten from this popular, in-person event—but now from the comfort of your home. Below, we talk with Alison Lewis, the editor-in-chief and publisher of Frayed Edge Press. Alison will be participating in Push to Publish as a speed date editor.

PS: Tell us a bit about your background and what you’re doing now.

AL: I’ve always been a voracious reader and have multiple English degrees. I’ve worked professionally as a librarian and a college professor, but I’m happy to be doing all publishing-related things now. At Parlew Associates, I help provide editorial and pre-press services for authors and publishers. I find it gratifying to fill in gaps for small presses that need extra help, and to aid authors in improving and professionalizing their work. As publisher and editor for literature at Frayed Edge Press, I’m excited to work directly with authors whose work we believe in, and to see their manuscripts grow into fully-formed books that they can be proud of.

PS: How did you get into publishing?

AL: I started out in publishing by helping out a friend who founded a small academic press. My background in English and attention to detail proved to be useful and I started getting paid for my work. In 2015, I co-founded a company to expand upon what I was already doing, and to provide services to other publishers and directly to authors. Three years later, we started Frayed Edge Press in order to publish the kinds of work we were most interested in.

PS: What trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?

AL: The dual trend of consolidation and expansion: fewer “big” publishers consolidated at the top, and more small presses, “indie” publishers, and self-publishing authors expanding at the bottom. The continued dominance of Amazon as a gatekeeper for publishing, while at the same time there is an increasing number of interesting alternatives to Amazon springing up. The saturation of the market and the ubiquity of electronic tools and the internet making pirating rampant both impact the ability of publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work.

PS: How do you think the publishing industry has changed since the pandemic?

AL: We’re scrambling to find new ways of promoting books as in-person readings and author events are largely impossible right now. There has also been a negative impact in terms of bookstores and distributors losing business, or going out of business entirely. Many publishers have cut back on the number of titles published and/or slowed down their production schedules. On the more positive side, there’s still a healthy interest in reading and I’ve personally felt more of a need for reading as a means of “escape” these days. A lot of people stuck at home are in need of a good book!

PS: What do you think writers should avoid when approaching editors or agents?

AL: Avoid sending proposals for works that fall outside of our submission guidelines. When you send something that is in a genre we don’t publish, or that doesn’t meet the criteria for a particular series, you are wasting your time and ours. Avoid sending writing samples that haven’t been at least minimally proofread. No one expects a manuscript to be “perfect,” but multiple glaring errors show a lack of care and are a red flag for most editors and publishers.

PS: What other advice do you have for writers looking to get published?

AL: Be patient. Try to find the publisher that’s the right “fit” with your work. Know that rejection of your work is a necessary part of the business and often is reflective of factors other than its intrinsic merit. Keep writing, seek out helpful feedback, and continue to grow and improve as a writer.

 

Push to Publish 2020 Interview: Jackie Karneth

Jackie Karneth

This year’s virtual Push to Publish Conference will include all of the great tips, trends, and connections that writers have gotten from this popular, in-person event—but now from the comfort of your home. Below, we talk with Jackie Karneth, a literary publicist at Books Forward. Jackie will be speaking at the panel Marketing & Promotion for Authors.

PS: Tell us a bit about your background and what you’re doing now.

JK: I began working as a publicity assistant at JKS Communications, which has since rebranded as Books Forward to better reflect our company’s mission of elevating voices from a diverse community of authors. Now I’m working as a publicist, partnering directly with publishers and authors to promote books of all genres, including short stories and poetry.

PS: How did you get into publishing?

JK: I started my publishing journey early on, while in college. Originally, I’m from New Hampshire, and I always imagined going to a university in the Northeast before I discovered a unique publishing program for undergraduates being offered in Nashville. I joined the program and had the valuable opportunity to learn from industry professionals about every step in the publishing process, from writing a book to promoting it.

PS: What trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?

JK: Certain genres will of course have their moment in the spotlight with libraries and readers each year, with some genres peaking in popularity at unlikely times. Library Journal recently reported how, interestingly, horror and dark fiction is in very high demand at the moment. Some Barnes & Noble stores that had ditched their “Horror” sections reported that they plan on bringing them back, and new genre-specific imprints are being created to fill the demand. And as someone who just finished reading Carmen Maria Machado’s horror-memoir mashup “In the Dream House,” I definitely agree that the genre seems oddly appropriate for the time, as we’re all coping with, and learning from, our sense of fear.

PS: How do you think the publishing industry has changed since the pandemic?

JK: Some challenges lie in the fact that this fall will be a fully-booked publishing season, and large, traditional media outlets won’t be able to cover more books in light of the exceptional number of releases. While the competition is strong in that regard, there are also a lot of opportunities unique to this moment that are exciting and worth pursuing! Now is a good time to promote ebooks and audiobooks especially. Working on your social media presence, and focusing on interaction is also key. Launch celebrations are taking place virtually, of course, and virtual events with two authors in conversation are quite popular. Libraries have also been making the shift to virtual, and many now offer readers’ advisory programs, book clubs, and special events with authors through Facebook Live and other platforms.

PS: What other advice do you have for writers looking to get published?

JK: My advice would be to begin thinking about publicity early on in your publishing process. Every book is unique, and I believe that every book requires a unique publicity plan. In order to determine which approach will work best for you, take the time to weigh out your options and goals – both short term for this release and long term for your author brand. You should aim to set yourself up with a strong foundation to grow your brand and readership not only for your book’s release, but also for the months (and years!) to come.

 

Push to Publish 2020 Interview: Kelly Andrews

Kelly Andrews

This year’s virtual Push to Publish Conference will include all of the great tips, trends, and connections that writers have gotten from this popular, in-person event—but now from the comfort of your home. Below, we talk with Kelly Andrews, the editor-in-chief of Pretty Owl Poetry. Kelly will be participating in Push to Publish as a speed date editor.

PS: Tell us a bit about your background and what you’re doing now.

KA: I’ve worked in academic publishing for the last 10 years in various roles, including as an Assistant Managing Editor, a freelance copy editor, and a writing coach. I founded Pretty Owl Poetry in 2013 with two other editors who have since left the journal, and in the years since then we’ve grown to a staff of 8. My role for Pretty Owl is that of Editor in Chief and I oversee all aspects of the journal production and staff. In 2016, I received my MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. I currently work as a consulting editor for a nonpartisan public policy research firm.

PS: How did you get into publishing?

KA: For my undergrad, I studied Journalism, and I was very interested in working for the media as a reporter or editor. I thought this was the most practical way I could use my writing and editing skills. Before college, though, I had been studying poetry with Susanna Fry, a writer who was based in Philly for many years. With her encouragement, I took creative writing classes and really started to identify as a poet. After college, I took the first publishing job I was offered as an editorial assistant for a nonprofit and continued pursuing poetry in my spare time. This led to me pursuing an MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh and starting Pretty Owl Poetry. I love the publishing industry and hope to continue working in it for as long as possible.

PS: What trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?

KA: There seems to be more acknowledgment of the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the publishing industry and a lot of journals and presses are taking the right steps to make this happen. We’re constantly evaluating our practices and thinking about the need for change within our own publication and hope this trend continues in others.

PS: How do you think the publishing industry has changed since the pandemic?

KA: The obvious change is the move to online platforms for things like poetry readings and workshops that would traditionally take place in person. I welcome this change as it’s allowed us to have more opportunities to feature writers all over the U.S. in online readings and I’ve had the personal opportunity to take classes with writers who I wouldn’t otherwise.

PS: What do you think writers should avoid when approaching editors or agents?

KA: The quality and fit of a person’s work will be the most important factor when an editor decides to accept or reject your submission. I would avoid trying to sell yourself when approaching an editor. Focus on the quality of the work you’re creating and this will be what leads you to successful publication.

PS: What other advice do you have for writers looking to get published?

KA: Read past issues of a journal before submitting your work. So many journals vary in style in what they accept. You want to make sure your work would fit in with that style before taking the time to prepare and send your submission.

 

Push to Publish 2020 Interview: K.L. Walther

K.L. Walther

This year’s virtual Push to Publish Conference will include all of the great tips, trends, and connections that writers have gotten from this popular, in-person event—but now from the comfort of your home. Below, we talk with K.L. Walther, the author of If We Were Us. Walther will be speaking at the panel The Publishing Journey of a Debut Author.

PS: Tell us a bit about your background and what you’re doing now.

KLW: I grew up in an old (but not haunted) farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and am the oldest of three children. I played ice hockey from elementary school through college, and graduated from the University of Virginia. Right now, I am revising my second young adult novel and drafting my third!

PS: How did you get into publishing?

KLW: I have always loved to read, and took a creative writing class in college on a whim and discovered I had a passion for creating characters and telling their stories.

PS: What trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?

KLW: In the young adult genre, there is a true call for diverse characters and stories, and that makes it exciting for both writers and readers! Romantic comedies are also on the rise, since everyone loves a hopeful and feel- good story.

PS: How do you think the publishing industry has changed since the pandemic?

KLW: I know most editors are currently working remotely, along with book conferences and events being moved to virtual formats, so reaching readers has changed. Social media is now more important than ever. My own publisher does a wonderful job hosting Instagram takeovers and book clubs to spotlight our work.

PS: What do you think writers should avoid when approaching editors or agents?

KLW: Don’t immediately pitch your book when approaching an agent or editor in person at a conference. Play it cool. If you follow them on social media, or if you read an article about them, or read a book by one of their clients, those are great icebreakers. Pitch them your book when you are scheduled to pitch! If you weren’t able to get a slot, you can always query them later and then use your conversation as a way to personalize your letter. If you do have a pitch appointment, be prepared to talk about your book, and if you need a script, that’s okay! Agents and editors understand it can be nerve wracking. They will ask questions, but you can also use the opportunity to ask them your burning publishing questions too. They love talking about books and the industry, so take advantage of the face time.

PS: What other advice do you have for writers looking to get published?

KLW: You need discipline, tenacity, and a thick skin, since chances are, you will receive more rejections than requests. Be open to other viewpoints, directions, and perspectives. Don’t lose sight or be deterred from your goal! I know that sounds cliché, but if you really love your writing and believe in it, the hard work is worth it.

 

Push to Publish 2020 Interview: Gabriel Cleveland

Gabriel Cleveland

This year’s virtual Push to Publish Conference will include all of the great tips, trends, and connections that writers have gotten from this popular, in-person event—but now from the comfort of your home. Below, we talk with Gabriel Cleveland, the managing editor of CavanKerry Press. Gabriel will be speaking at the panel Publishing Opportunities for Poets.

PS: Tell us a bit about your background and what you’re doing now.

GC: I am a poet with an MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College with years of service in the field of caregiving for people with increased physical and/or psychological needs and the current Managing Editor of CavanKerry Press.

PS: How did you get into publishing?

GC: After 5 post-grad years of trying and toiling in unrelated and aforementioned fields, I joined CavanKerry during a period of transition with a referral from the head of my MFA alma mater, working as an assistant to the other staff, especially Publisher Joan Cusack Handler. It has long been my pursuit to apply my studies practically, and I adopted the role with a fervency that allowed me to quickly take on more responsibilities, and… here we are!

PS: What trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?

GC: I don’t have a thorough answer for this. We are a tiny, independent, nonprofit press, so our scope is limited, but within our own organization, we have consistently pushed for community involvement and equity among readers, writers, and industry as a whole. With a mission of publishing work that is accessible and understandable to all adult readers, as well as a requirement that our authors give back to their community with multiple free outreach programs a year, we have been setting the bar higher and hoping to establish that trend in the wider publishing world.

PS: How do you think the publishing industry has changed since the pandemic?

GC: During the pandemic, obviously a lot has transitioned to digital and, where possible, publishers are pushing more virtual editions of their books, but it seems that physical books haven’t received the death knell that some expected. Rather, the pandemic has highlighted the resilience and innovation of the industry as a whole to serve their clientele with the emergence of new online retail outlets and more remote events.

PS: What do you think writers should avoid when approaching editors or agents?

GC: I can’t really speak to the agent side of things, but when approaching editors, I think writers should pay close attention to meeting the needs of the editor/publisher they are seeking to work with, while retaining their own voice. The English language is nothing if not full of cracks and made of rubber, and there’s a lot that can be accomplished within a publisher’s constraints to craft a work that presents the individual’s world in a genuine, tangible way. When working with an editor on a project that’s slated for publication, especially if that editor is established with the publisher who will be releasing the work, the writer should keep an open mind when receiving feedback. A good editor will sharpen the blade rather than seeking to replace it, and while the process can be a challenge, having the patience to consider the guidance of an editor as valid and possible for improving the work as a whole can really draw more poignancy out of a manuscript while remaining true to its initial intent.

PS: What other advice do you have for writers looking to get published?

GC: It’s trite, but read from a variety of presses to learn their aesthetics, as there’s no hard and fast rule for what the publishing world as a whole is looking for. That said, contrast in your manuscript is important. Sparks of light, hope, or humanity can make a bleak collection of work more palatable, while also making the depths of that collection that much more impactful. Likewise, a narrative devoid of struggle, pain, or obstacles will at the very least come off as unrealistic and at worst be seen as nothing more than fluff.

 

Push to Publish 2020 Interview: Lawrence Knorr

Lawrence Knorr

This year’s virtual Push to Publish Conference will include all of the great tips, trends, and connections that writers have gotten from this popular, in-person event—but now from the comfort of your home. Below, we talk with Lawrence Knorr, the founder and CEO of Sunbury Press. Lawrence will be participating in Push to Publish as a speed date editor and speaking at the panel Querying Your Book Without an Agent.

PS: Tell us a bit about your background and what you’re doing now.

LK: I am the founder and CEO of Sunbury Press, Inc. We have been in business for 16 years and have over 400 authors and 800 titles under managements. We publish in a variety of categories under 10 different imprints, producing paperback, hardcover, electronic, and audio books. Our books are sold worldwide.

PS: How did you get into publishing?

LK: I wanted to publish a family history and didn’t want to pay someone else to do it. I learned a lot of lessons along the way including that I loved publishing books.

PS: What trends are you seeing in the publishing industry?

LK: Audio is on the rise. Amazon is dominating more than ever.

PS: How do you think the publishing industry has changed since the pandemic?

LK: Independent bookstores are really struggling under COVID. EBooks have made a rebound, but Amazon is getting more of than revenue.

PS: What do you think writers should avoid when approaching editors or agents?

LK: Avoid being shy—get right to the point—have your elevator speech ready to go. Avoid presses or agents who do not represent your category. Avoid being disappointed when being rejected. Keep plugging away!

PS: What other advice do you have for writers looking to get published?

LK: Publishers have to perceive the book will sell well enough to cover costs and make a profit—though they sometimes invest in emerging authors whose second or third books might be the moneymakers. Authors remain at a disadvantage because of the sheer number of authors they are competing against. Try to limit that field by knowing how you fit in—find a way to stand out and be unique—or be like someone who sells really well.

 

Philadelphia Stories Names the Winners of the 2020 Marguerite McGlinn Fiction Contest

August 2020, Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Stories, a non-profit literary magazine serving the Delaware Valley and beyond, has named Colorado author A.C. Koch as this year’s winner of the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction for his story, “Young Americans.” Koch will receive a $2500 prize for “Young Americans.”

Editorial board members read through hundreds of submissions to narrow the list to seven finalists, which were then reviewed by the 2020 judge, Karen Dionne, the bestselling author of The Marsh King’s Daughter and The Wicked Sister. Dionne described “Young Americans” as “…[a] short story [that] ticked all the boxes for me. A nuanced, pitch-perfect father-daughter road trip told with an economy of language and an easy rhythm and flow that sucked me right in.” She went on to say, “Clearly plotted, well-drawn characters, along with just the right mix of atmosphere and insight make this story a winner!”

This year’s second place goes to Arkansas author Allie Mariano for her story, “Dead Women.” About this story Dionne says, “A character at a crossroads is always intriguing; how did they come to this place and what will they do going forward? I love stories that focus on undoing the consequences of bad choices. That this story is also beautifully written is a bonus.” The second-place prize is $750.

Third place goes to Philadelphia author David Updike for “Feral Wives.” Dionne writes, “This short story begins with an irresistible premise: women all over the country are leaving their families to live in groups in the forest, constantly on the move, building temporary shelters while they hunt and fish and forage. An engaging and thoughtful commentary on what it means to shed the labels of ‘wife’ and ‘mother.’” The third-place prize is $500.

2020 Finalists:
Charlie Watts, “Almost Happy,” Freedom, NH
Holly Pekowsky, “Almost There, ” New York, NY
P. Jo Anne Burgh “The Women in the Club” Glastonbury, CT
Shanteé Felix, “Magic Hair,” Baltimore, MD

Koch, Mariano, and Updike will be honored at special virtual reception and reading on Saturday, October 10, 2020 immediately following the conclusion of Philadelphia Stories’ annual Push to Publish Conference, which will also be held online this year. Author Karen Dionne will be the keynote speaker. The annual conference is held in partnership with Rosemont College, which offers an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Publishing and actively supports the writing community through such literary events.

Letter from the Editor: PS Junior Released Despite Obstacles

By Eric-Ross McLaren

I’m a rising senior at the Friends’ Central School, and I worked on Philadelphia Stories and Mighty Writer’s most recent issue, PS Junior 2020, as the Lead Editor!

I’ve been working with Philadelphia Stories and Mighty Writers since my freshman year of high school. In my two years working with both organizations, I’ve learned that they’re home to a very creative and unique group of students and mentors. They have a very special place in my heart, and I am grateful to the program directors for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

I’ve gotta say, these past few months have been beyond abnormal. Who knew that we would be told to stay in our homes, and if otherwise, be victim to a nasty this wicked virus.

I remember chatting with a couple of friends a few days before New Year’s eve (2019), talking about how “2020 is going to be the year” and how “it better kick 2019’s butt!” We had yet to learn about a global pandemic sweeping through not only the states, but the world itself. This most definitely caught my friends at Mighty Writers and myself off-guard.

We were working on the PS Junior 2020 issue when Governor Wolf sent out an order to quarantine. It was a very scary and uncertain time, and the mentoring editors and I had to come together to come up with a new gameplan: “What should we do?” The team and I had to follow a new and unfamiliar format when finalizing the issue. We had to hold many “ZOOM calls”, a term everyone had become accustomed to a few weeks into quarantine. Schools were going virtual, and many people’s schedules were running rampant, frazzled with uncertainty.

The editing process of PS Junior follows a carefully planned procedure: gather student-submitted creative pieces, organize editors into teams and assign stories, select and edit the stories, send all creative pieces to our designer, then have the actual issue printed. It’s a very tedious process, especially when we fall back on deadlines. Yet, I am still surprised to this day how cooperative and hard-working the team was during the height of the pandemic. They stayed connected with me throughout the whole “virtual” editorial process, which was very difficult. Many of our editors either had family disruptions, or they had to take care of a younger sibling while also juggling tasks for the issue. I am so proud of every single one of them.

During this whole process — having to transition to a virtual platform while also managing a team of student editors — there’s one very important skill I learned and developed: how to take immediate action as a leader, and how to uplift and embrace those who work alongside you. You are nothing without a team of like-minded, hard-working individuals, and I saw this amongst my team at Mighty Writers West.

I am proud that, despite the pandemic, this team was still able to produce a collection of stories, poems, and artwork that you can read in the latest issue of PS Junior. I look forward to working with the Mighty Writers editorial team on the next issue, PS Teen, for writers aged 13-18. The deadline is October 9. If you’d like to submit, you can submit through this link — we’d like to read your work!

Poetry Prompt: Using Anaphora as Your Guide

by Grant Clauser

I was watching a movie that took place where snowfalls are measured in feet and the world goes dark for months at a time. The people in this movie still needed to get around their farm, so they built rope guides from the back door to the barn and from the barn to the feed shed, etc. This way each time they ventured outside into a blank canvas of snow and darkness they still had something to hold onto, a guide to keep them going in one direction.

Some poetry techniques are like that, a thing to grab onto and follow. One of my favorites is anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase, usually at the beginning of a line or beginning of a sentence. For the writer, it’s a kind of handrail to get you started and keep you going in the same direction. Or think of it as steppingstones. Each repeat of the key word is another stone along the path of your poem. For the reader, it triggers our attraction to pattern recognition—we respond to things we’ve heard before and get caught up in the regularity of it.

One of the most famous practitioners of anaphora was Walt Whitman. See how he used the repeated phrase “Just as you” in this section of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”

 

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,

Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,

Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,

Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

 

There’s a chant-like feeling to the repetition, like an incantation or a prayer.

In the next example, Gregory Pardlo uses repetition of the phrase “I was born” to allow a sort-of story to unfold.

 

Written by Himself

By Gregory Pardlo

I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet

whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;

I was born across the river where I

was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,

broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though

it please you, through no fault of my own,

pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.

I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.

I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.

I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,

air drifting like spirits and old windows.

I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;

I was an index of first lines when I was born.

I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying

ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born

to this hall of mirrors, this horror story I was

born with a prologue of references, pursued

by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing

off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.

I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;

I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born

 

Notice how with each repeat of the phrase he reveals a little more, as if each use opens a new window onto the same person.

When I’m stuck in a writing rut I’ll turn to anaphora as my guide rope. Sometimes I’ll just randomly grab a key word or phrase out of the air, or sometimes I’ll use some tried and true simple ones—single starter words like “If,” Look,” or “Because” can work well. Or you can be more inventive and come up with a phrase like “In grandma’s yard…” or “After the flood.”

Try one of each, an anaphora poem beginning with a single word and one beginning with a repeated phrase. To make it extra interesting, try varying the phrase slightly halfway through the poem and see where that takes you.

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Grant Clauser is the author of five books including Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven (winner of the Codhill Press Poetry Prize), Reckless Constellations, and The Magicians Handbook. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, The Literary Review and others. He works as an editor and teaches at Rosemont College.