Tomorrow morning, early, I’ll get on a plane to go to New York. Whereas I grew up in a city, I’ve been in small town Midwest for the past five years or so, and the whole concept of New York is overwhelming. It’s a city. I mean a real city, with arts & food, etc. To add to any pre-existing anxiety, I’m supposed to go hobnob with “big” people. As it is, I can barely stumble out a few words to someone like Ben Marcus, who’s a nice as heck guy.
But that’s not my point. At the PEN “celebration,” which is titled “Crossing Over” this year, I’m slated to participate in a panel discussion with my co-winners Uwem Akpan (Oprah’s new book pick) & Juan Felipe Herrara (who’s won a NBCC poetry prize), NBCC president Jane Ciabettari, & Norton editor Brendan Curry about “crossing over” in genre & how this leads to critical & commercial success. Little, Brown published Uwem’s book, and Juan is published by university presses. I’m obviously small press. Many of the proposed discussion deals with our experiences working in these different types of presses. Jane has one question in particular about the role of small presses. Yes, I’m in the world of small press, & yes, my books are all small press & I serve as editor for two small presses, but what is the ROLE of small press? I’m proud to represent small press, don’t get me wrong, especially for an event that is bound to generate publicity, but I have to admit, I’m nothing but nerves about this. So give me some advice, Big Other. What role do YOU think small press plays? Of course, I have my own conception (both ethical & aesthetic) of the role of small press, sure sure, but I’d like to open a dialogue about this! Tell me your thoughts!
& if you’re free, please come support me & small press! The event is tomorrow at 7pm at Housing Works.