Interview With Rose Metal Press
Authors: Abby Beckel and Kathleen Rooney
What makes Rose Metal Press a unique part of the publishing community?
Abby Beckel & Kathleen Rooney: We founded Rose Metal Press in January of 2006 as an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit publisher whose mission is to produce books in what we call hybrid genres, by which we mean short short stories, prose poetry, flash nonfiction, novels-in-verse, book-length linked narrative poems, image and text collaborations, and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction, and essay to find new forms of expression.
When we founded Rose Metal, we wanted to fill up a niche that we felt mainstream publishing and even most small-press publishing was missing out on: writing that fell between genres and was hard to categorize. We felt that a lot of amazing work was being done that was not able to find a publishing home because of the industry’s narrow focus on fitting books into genres. We wanted to open up a literary space for both writers and readers that celebrated the in-between and its possibilities. We love being part of such a vibrant national and international small press community, and have been thrilled to see so many other presses and journals begin to publish more hybrid work in recent years, flash fiction and prose poetry in particular.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?
That being said, we do not look for work that seems bizarrely structured merely for the sake of being able to call itself “hybrid.” We seek work whose hybridity feels both exciting and essential—because while the form is a big component of what a reader is supposed to be getting out of their experience of a Rose Metal Press work, so too do we want the reader to feel that the work has a heart.
Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?
AB & KR: First and foremost, we love books and authors that take chances. We are a press willing to do the same—looking beyond the market and the biggest names to find writers doing the most innovative, perceptive writing and pushing the genre envelop. We founded the press on the idea that readers want to take chances too, that they want to be challenged and excited by work that is beautiful and original and formally inventive.
In her1964 book Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag has an essay called “Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson,” and some of what she says there is kind of insightful regarding our aesthetic. Sontag claims that “Some art aims directly at arousing the feelings; some art appeals to the feelings through the route of the intelligence. There is art that invokes, that creates empathy. There is art that detaches, that provokes reflection.” She suggests that as a rule, a work of art’s situation on this emotional/intellectual and empathetic/reflective spectrum is closely related to that work’s manipulation of content and form, with intellectual/reflective art tending to be more formally experimental and aggressive—showcasing its form—and emotional/empathic art tending to privilege its content over its structure.
Important to note, though, is that she makes clear that there exists a considerable amount of overlap among these categories and their effects, and that “great reflective art is not frigid. It can exalt the spectator, it can present images that appall, it can make him weep.” Later in the piece, she says “For to the extent that we are conscious of form in a work of art, we become somewhat detached; our emotions do not respond in the same way as they do in real life. Awareness of form does two things simultaneously: it gives a sensuous pleasure independent of the ‘content,’ and it invites the use of intelligence.”
So essentially, we really love writing that showcases and makes a case for its form—in our case, its hybridity—and appeals to the reader’s intellect, but that also still appeals to the reader’s emotions. We tend to choose stories and poems that are funny/sad—that use the innate irony and absurd humor of daily life to illuminate poignant relationships and situations without sentimentality.
What is the readership like for Rose Metal Press? What do you imagine your typical reader is like?
AB & KR: We love our readers! They are a super diverse (and ever-growing) bunch, so it’s hard to categorize (this is a theme with us!) exactly what draws them to Rose Metal Press books. But as mentioned above, they are readers interested in what’s new and innovative, the kind of work that inspires them to push boundaries as readers and writers. The kind of reader who says things like “I love the way this book feels in my hands, or its shape, or its look,” or “I love how right this unusual form feels for this story,” or “This book is strange and beautiful and I can’t stop thinking about the stories/poems.” Our readers appreciate the combination of playfulness and emotional weight that many of our books offer. Our readers consistently impress us with their engagement with the works and their responsiveness in letting us know how they felt about a book—it’s a very gratifying part of running the Press.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Rose Metal Press?
AB & KR: A super-exciting thing that happened recently is that, for the first time in our seven-year history, we released a book, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore [http://rosemetalpress.com/Catalog/FGWFNF.html], simultaneously in print and e-book formats. The Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction is the third installment in our Field Guide series and our biggest launch ever, so that’s all made for an exciting fall!
We’re also getting ready for our 2013 season which will include the videogame-inspired prose poetry collection, But Our Princess Is in Another Castle by B.J. Best and the Frank Lloyd Wright/Fallingwater-inspired novella-in-flash Liliane’s Balcony by Kelcey Parker. Last but not least, our Seventh Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest is running now through December 1, and is being judged by the lovely and amazing Deb Olin Unferth. Submit! [http://rosemetalpress.com/Submit/Submit.html]