Interview With Paycock Press and Gargoyle Magazine
What makes Paycock Press a unique part of the publishing community?
Longevity for one thing. I’ve been doing this now for almost 37 years. We’re an entirely independent indie press not beholden to a university, a board of directors, or the NEA. Over the past decade we’ve printed a number of anthologies that St. Martin’s Press refused to do after the initial success of the quartet of books I edited with Lucinda Ebersole—Mondo Barbie, Mondo Elvis, Mondo Marilyn, and Mondo James Dean. Last summer we printed GQ critic Tom Carson’s outrageous 638-page.
Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter, the success of which almost destroyed us. Be careful what you wish for. All we have on our plates for 2013-2014 are two more issues of Gargoyle Magazine, plus the 6th volume of an anthology series featuring fiction by DC area women writers. The new volume is entitled “Defying Gravity” and features works by 40 local women.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?
Well, I guess we’re like most editors, in that we’re looking for something astonishing. We all want to discover somebody. I crave that “I have to get this into print” need. That yearning that keeps me going. (Sounds like I’m looking for the equivalent of Literary Viagra. But you get what I mean.) I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve pretty much seen it all. And yet, as I tell my students, there are always three basic piles during our month-long submission period—The Got to Have It pile, the Maybe Pile, and the Reject Pile. Of the three, the Maybe Pile is always the biggest. If you’ve been sending out work and the markets have been sitting on it for 3-6 months (or, shudder, longer) then you’re in the Maybe Pile. Not a bad thing. Solid competent work. But like we all learned from dating in high school, the editor is just waiting for a better offer. If something comes in from a name poet or writer they’ll give the Maybe Pile the sack. If not, they’ll run a few from the stack.
I guess Lucinda and I are always looking for something that will rock our world. Something new, something that’s been done to death but delivered now in a witty new way, something I can read over and over again through the long galley and desktopping process that won’t bore me, something that reveals new zips and zaps.
Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?
LOL. Not really. We both like realism and experimental writing. We write both, we read both, we teach both, and we publish both. That’s surprisingly unusual. Most litmags and MFA programs prescribe to one or the other. Some like George Mason University surprise by having a more realism-based fiction staff that contrasts with a more avant-garde poetry bent.
And we very much like things bent. Experimental in language or experimental in design—both are welcome at Gargoyle. Does that mean anything goes? Of course not. Yet I think our mix tape of work is a lot more interesting and entertaining than work in a number of household name magazines.
What is the readership like for Paycock Press? What do you imagine your typical reader is like?
We don’t have a lot of delusions about reaching a national or international market. We know that we’re a niche mag read mostly by our peers–other writers and editors in the indie tribe. We never set out to be LARGE. We’re satisfied with a small but loyal cult following. A thousand to two thousand readers. I know that we’ve been consistently publishing work that garners attention. And that’s pretty satisfying. Do I ever wish we were distributed by Ingram? Sure. But we’ve kept doing it without a huge distributor for eons now. We’ll keep doing it until it’s no longer fun.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Paycock Press?
We’ve begun layout on Gargoyle #60. Should have it to the printer by late spring for publication in late summer. Here are some of the folks in those pages.
Kristina Marie Darling
Sean Thomas Dougherty
Mary Claire Mahaney
Leslie F. Miller
Edgar Gabriel Silex
D. E. Steward
Sue Ellen Thompson
I hope it’s not another 500 pager like #59, but no way of knowing. We have been printing a lot more Creative Nonfiction. (That shiny new flavor of the month.) I also like to have at least 100 pages of poetry in every issue. We’ve seen a lot of great fiction this past year. I don’t know if that means there’s more talented writers out there, that we’re attracting more of them, or if I’m just loathe to reject anything I find remotely interesting.
We have seven interns at this point who mostly read submissions. I’ve enjoyed their insights, their energy, and it’s freed me up time wise to pay more attention to my own writing. And since we were seeing 100 submissions a day the first two weeks of June 2013, they also kept me sane.