shining the spotlight on short story collections
We are delighted to have the wonderful Rose Metal Press, independent publishers of “hybrid genres specializing in the publication of short shorts, flash and microfiction; prose poetry; novels-in-verse or book-length narrative poems and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction and essay to find new forms of expression”.
They have just opened their Fourth Annual Short Short Chapbook contest to submissions, deadline Dec 1st: “25-40 pages of short short stories under 1000 words”, and if you want a reason to submit – or to make sure you buy the winner – we have reviewed the winners of the first three contests: Claudia Smith’s The Sky is a Well, Geoffrey Forsyth’s In the Land of the Free, and, most recently, Sean Lovelace’s How Some People Like Their Eggs.
Rose Metal Press is a wonderful example of two people publishing the writing they love, not for any financial gain, but just because it should be a beautiful book. They have even published The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, if you need some pointers.
Here, RMP co-founders Kathleen Rooney and Abby Beckel interview each other about what they do.
Kathleen Rooney: Hey, Abby Beckel, co-founder of Rose Metal Press, did you know that E. M. Forster says that “The work of art assumes the existence of the perfect spectator, and is indifferent to the fact that no such person exists?” Does Rose Metal Press assume the existence of such a spectator? If so how?
Abby Beckel: Well, Kathleen Rooney, co-founder of Rose Metal Press, I don’t know about the perfect spectator, but we do assume the existence of the perfect reader. More accurately, we publish our books with a sense of hopefulness about the existence of the kind of reader who likes to be challenged and take chances and have their ideas about genre stretched in unexpected ways. The good news is that it’s not just an assumption and a hope—those readers do exist! We get so much great feedback from readers and reviewers, letting us know that they are happy that Rose Metal provides an outlet for innovative hybrid genre writing.
Abby Beckel: Since you referred to what we do as creating works of art, can you elaborate on the ways Rose Metal Press views books themselves as art forms, literature as art, and what’s possible as far as combining books and literature with other arts?
Kathleen Rooney: Sure. We publish all kinds of books—novels-in-verse, anthologies, prose poetry collections, and chapbooks of short shorts—but the thing they all have in common besides being in hybrid genres is that they are all subject to the utmost in rigorous quality control. And by that, we mean not just that the contents of the books are well edited and proofread, but that the books themselves are held to exacting standards as objects. Back when we started out in 2006, you and I decided that even though we suspected we’d want to publish many more, we would limit ourselves to publishing just three books a year. Partly we stick to that limit to allow the press to stay in the black, and partly we stick to it to preserve our ability to focus on both the press and our day jobs, but we also chose that limit because we estimated that that was the amount of time we’d need—at least four solid months per book, and usually more—to not merely edit the writing and plan the promotion, but also to put together each book as an art object, kinda. And in retrospect, this limit has helped us to make our design, layout, paper, and cover art the best they can be. Way to go, past selves.
Kathleen Rooney: Speaking of books as beautiful delivery devices for literature, why does Rose Metal Press love short shorts, and why run a limited edition chapbook contest just for them each year?
Abby Beckel: When you and I were starting the press and trying to decide how best to manifest our idea to publish and promote innovative writing in the form of hybrid genres, short shorts jumped out at us as a genre ripe with potential as something of a flagship genre for us: they were and are increasing popular both for readers and writers; they appeal to audiences beyond the literary community; they provide lots of options for interesting design choices; and most importantly, despite all those things, they have very few publishing homes. Rose Metal’s first book was an anthology of short shorts by Emerson College alums titled Brevity & Echo that was the brainstorm of fiction writer and Rose Metal Press board member Pamela Painter. (Emerson College was one of the first writing programs to offer dedicated courses on writing short shorts.) That book continues to be a crowd pleaser and has been used in classes at a number of colleges and universities.
That was the beginning of our tango with flash fiction. It’s been a committed relationship ever since. By starting an annual chapbook contest for short shorts, we saw an opportunity to stretch the boundaries of not only genres, but publication form. Chapbooks have traditionally been the realm of poetry, but the brevity of short shorts makes a manuscript of them work well as a chapbook. We get lots of amazing and inventive and affecting collections each time we do the contest. The short short is growing and changing and every year we see innovations in the forms and styles and subjects that flash writers tackle.
The chapbook form also allows us to really focus on creating a literary object of beauty. Each year we letterpress the chapbook covers by hand at the Museum of Printing [link: http://www.museumofprinting.org%5D in North Andover, Mass., on an old Vandercook press. We choose specialty endpapers and have the book hand-bound, sometimes hand-sewn. Two of our chapbooks have won spots in the New England Book Show for design. It’s really gratifying work creating a chapbook package that projects the heart and talent of winning authors’ stories.
Abby Beckel: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction represents Rose Metal’s first foray into books about a genre rather than original work in hybrid genres. How do the Field Guides fit with the vision of the press and are there more plans for academic exploration of genres in the future of the press?
Kathleen Rooney: As you know because you were there, we didn’t set out to necessarily publish work for academic use, but we were open to that as a possibility, as long as the academic explorations were themselves in some way hybrid. As you also know, the Field Guides weren’t our idea, and they weren’t even ideas hatched by the same set of people. But when Tara L. Masih approached us about the flash fiction guide, and then shortly thereafter, F. Daniel Rzicznek and Gary McDowell pitched us the prose poetry one, we were impressed on both fronts by how these editors were interested in making texts that would be suitable for classroom use, but that would not have to be used in a classroom—they’re books that don’t try to define or pin down the respective genres, but just to examine and illustrate and discuss them in a creative, personal, and wide-ranging style.
To answer the second part of the question, it’s hard to say how precisely they’ll fit with what the press publishes in the future—we may publish additional academically inclined books if the right ones come our way, but then again we might not. The next couple of books we put out, including the fantastic and weird Color Plates by Adam Golaski, are going to be single-author projects, but if somebody approaches us with another anthology idea we can’t refuse, we won’t refuse it. That’s one of the many kickass things about running a very small press: nobody gets to tell us what we can or can’t do. And I can’t wait to see what else we publish next.
Neither can we! Thank you Kathleen and Abby. Find out more about Rose Metal Press and the Fourth Annual Short Short Chapbook contest and you could be clutching a beautiful, hand-bound book of your own.