The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
Power in the Process
By The Editors
If you're looking for fierce and feminine chapbook made with heart, dancing girl press has the goods. We took some time to chat with the publisher of Christine Sloan Stoddard's Ova about upcoming projects and the process of making handmade chapbooks.
How has the mission and purpose of DGP evolved over the years?
dancing girl press was initially spin-off project of an online lit journal, wicked alice, I’d started about three years before. The goal of the journal, and then the chapbook series, was mostly to offer a place to publish and nourish the work of women authors. There were so many interesting online journals and micro-presses springing up in the early 2000’s that really inspired me to contribute something of my own to those growing communities. I was also, after years of just writing, beginning to make forays into book and paper arts, so it all came together nicely, the melding of these two arenas. The mission is pretty much still the same in regard to creating a space for work by women (or women identifying authors), but I’ve also definitely expanded the offerings in terms of genres and mixing medias—many books contain visual elements, or are hybrid mixes of poetry and prose. Some seek to expand on what one traditionally thinks of as a “book,” ie boxes, or decks of cards, or collections of broadsides.
What projects do you have slated for DGP in 2019?
There are about 50 regular chapbooks by new & returning authors that will be making their way into the world this year. We also have some upcoming limited edition projects with some interesting elements like accompanying music discs (Christina Kallery’s Adult Night at Skate World) and seedpaper end pages (Angela Schellenberg’s Irises). I’m also still working on pulling together a book/box anthology project devoted to mermaid inspired art & writing called swim. There are some more visual inspired zine and book art projects of my own in the works as well to round out the year.
Could you elaborate on one of this year's titles? What about the project spoke to you?
Most of our upcoming projects come from the open reading period every summer, but a little bit of Twitter serendipity led to one of the upcoming collaborative projects, MANSION, devoted to work inspired by Slender Man lore. The editors, Kristin Garth & Justin Karcher, had placed a call out for submissions but didn’t yet have a publisher. I had some Slender Man themed work, inspired by the Waukesha stabbing, I was going to merely submit, but Kristin suggested that perhaps dgp might issue the project. I was totally game and we’ll be releasing it later this month. While not a specifically women-centered project, it definitely fit in subject wise with a lot of things we publish (we definitely have a bizarre little gothic bent sometimes) and includes work by a lot of women. Much of what the press issues ties in with my own creative interests, so these strange little projects seem to find their way to me somehow.
After you commission a title, where do you typically go from there? What's the process of finalizing and publishing a DGP book?
About a month before we’ve slotted the release, I usually start by doing the layout and trying to get some ideas on what the author might be thinking about in terms of cover art. If they have something specific in mind, we’ll try to make that happen, or if they just have some general things they might like to see in terms of style, image, fonts, I mock up something from scratch. There is usually some back and forth on the design and the finalizing of the galleys and then we are ready to print. The more complicated the formatting, the longer this takes, but usually it spans about 2 weeks. At that point I work on getting the webpage up and ready for sales and getting the word out via social media and such. I usually start with a big batch of books to have enough for the author copies and the initial rush of sales, and then print smaller batches as needed. Some books do crazy well right off and then dwindle, but others are a slow build on demand. We typically do an open edition on books, which makes things always available unless they are a special limited edition project (usually this is due to materials or special covers involved that are limited in some way.)
What are some of the challenges of running a one-woman show? Are there any problems you've faced more recently than in the past?
Enough time to do all the things I want to do is always a struggle. I work a full-time, 40-hours a week library job in addition to running the press, so squeezing everything around that is sort of a weird game of schedule jenga. I usually spend about 3-4 hours in the studio, either before or after working, though this varies during semester breaks and summertime. Even in the best of times, I always feel like I’m a little behind on things (probably since around 2007 when I moved into the studio space) but this last year its been particularly harder to find a sense of balance. It started with a personal family loss last winter and has continued through a rough year where I always seem to be behind on everything. Add in library staffing changes and more responsibilities/less general bandwidth and it only gets worse. Sometimes it feels like I created a system and structure that was very sound when I was, but if I’m not functioning at 100 percent, nothing at all goes smoothly. So what used to take a week to do can turn into several weeks in terms of filling orders for some titles or finalizing galleys and I’m always so grateful to our authors and readers who realize that I am getting to things as quickly as I can. It’s a lot of work, and sometimes I feel like I’m chasing my tail, but its enjoyable work and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just need about 4 or 5 extra hours in my day…
What is it like to run an indie press under the Trump administration?
I feel like our women-centered mission has become more important than ever, and it’s made me enormously conscious of how important proliferating voices—especially women, POC, LGBTQ, is in this climate where so much wants to silence them. In a kinder world, starting a feminist press seemed like a good way to fight the bad guys in a literary arena, to fight the centering of the white male voice that occupies so much space in writing. But now, it seems greater somehow when the entire world feels hostile.
Have you more recent DGP titles responded to the current political climate in the U.S.? Which ones?
I think a number of our authors touch on political issues in collections that are about all sorts of other things, but I ‘m currently working on laying out Julie Enszer’s Pinko Commie Dyke, whose subtitle is “a compendium of poems about a leftist lesbian cabal” which melds the personal very nicely with the political. We’ve also got a few dystopian-themed books under our belts and on the horizon, including Catherine Kyle’s recent Saint: A Post Dystopian Hagiography.
What is your life like outside of DGP? Anything about your personal or day job life you'd like to share?
Lol..I read this question and asked “what life?” I recently read about how Gen X-ers are better than other generations at striking a work/life balance. But for me, it’s more like a work / fun work battle. Or a battle between the work I do to pay to shelter, clothe, and feed myself and the work I do to feed my passions. After my day job (some of which feeds my passions, but a chunk of which is just boring library stuff,) the press doings, and my own creative work, there’s not much time for anything else. I do have a longish daily bus commute I liked to spend reading, and an apartment I don’t get to spend nearly enough time in. Some cats who get more out of it than me, and a boyfriend involved in the art/life struggle who is similarly strapped for free time. I do mostly like to stay in to write or binge watch Netflix/Prime on weekends. Sometimes, you can get me out to go thrifting or drink too much tequila (the two of these combined would probably be my perfect day). But then they always say to find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, so maybe it’s not really working, but just a different sort of living.
What are some of your goals for DGP this year? What are some of your individual goals this year?
My main goals would be to keep to the publication schedule moving at a steady clip and get orders out more swiftly and expeditiously. There are things like the mermaid anthology that depend a bit more on saving enough money to make them happen, as well as things that just need some non-interrupted time devoted to them (like a new issue of wicked alice (which is currently on temp. hiatus.) My own goals are also sort of press goals, since I have a number of zine and artist book projects I want to see happen this year, as well as a couple of full-length projects I’ll be finishing up to send out into the submission wilds. While I’ve been writing a lot the past year, I am terrible at submitting, so I definitely have a plan to try to do more of that.
Anything you'd like to add?
Maybe just a shout out to all of our awesome authors. I may be a one-woman operation on the production side, but I always like to consider us this mass of amazing writers/artists making our way about in the world as an entity. The whole operation is as much them as it is me, and it’s in the collaboration where what we actually do really happens.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.