Friday, September 15, 2017

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Juliet Cook on Blood Pudding Press



Blood Pudding Press initially derived from Juliet Cook being intensely passionate about poetic creative expression, but not being a fan of light-hearted, semi-normal, semi-clichéd, lightly comedic poetry, which seemed akin to vanilla snack pack pudding in her mind.

She tends to prefer more bloody, visceral, intense, emotional, personal, quirky poetic expression.
She and Blood Pudding are open to a variety of different poetic styles, as long as they're not too light-hearted, bland, dry, or plain old silly. And as long as they don't interpret human bodies as nothing but pieces of meat.

On a personal poetic level, in addition to being the editor/publisher of Blood Pudding Press (and its spooky little sister, the online blog style lit mag Thirteen Myna Birds), Juliet Cook is also a poet/writer and sometimes creates abstract painting collage art hybrid creatures. She sometimes likes to think of herself as a bloody contradictory stuck pig/female hybrid, oinking out oodles of poetry with black, silver, purple, and red explosions. You can find out more on her website at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

1 – When did Blood Pudding Press first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?
I started Blood Pudding Press in October 2006, aiming towards being a small individualistic independent poetry press. My goals have not substantially shifted, but parts of my processes have changed. At times, I have needed to apply more focus towards making sure I keep my own creative drive in the true direction it is drawn towards.

A few years ago, I had a time of feeling worried that my press wasn't getting enough attention or achieving enough success (in part, because some other small presses I was aware of seemed to have a competitive streak and enjoyed bragging about their escalating success - and their success seemed to outweigh mine, so I somewhat questioned my own approach), but then I realized that I WAS achieving what I was aiming for - semi-reasonably yet creatively managing to handle a very small, independent poetry press that publishes a few artsy, hand-designed poetry chapbooks per year, but does not allow that work to become too competitive feeling or to take total precedence over my own poetry. Instead of completely overwhelming myself, I tend to take turns shifting bits of my creative focus - my time, attention, and energy towards reading, writing, submitting, and publishing.

Over the years, I've learned some good things and some bad things about different parts of the literary community, just as there are good things and bad things in other parts of life. Sometimes when I see bad aspects of the literary community though, it can bum me out considerably more than seeing such issues elsewhere, because I prefer to think of poetry land as non-mainstream, individually expressive, truly creative, open-minded, and genuine - rather than the parts that seem overly competitive, overly confrontational, overly judgmental, mean-streaked, and wanting sides to be taken rather than individualism to be maintained.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
I realized it was mostly poets who shared the work of and published other poets and that small independent poetry presses tended towards being more focused on individuals. I was aware of a few other small independent poetry presses run by one woman, so I decided I would try to start my own. 

I'd had it in the back of my mind for a little while, but what ended up being a driving inspiration was that I'd created a chapbook length collection that I felt strongly about (a small series of poems focused on Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks) - and rather than submitting that manuscript elsewhere for years, I thought I could publish it myself, as a first attempt with my own small press.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
Being willing and able to place some of your creative focus upon more than just yourself; being willing and able to direct time, effort, and genuine creative energy towards helping to publish, promote, and share unique collections of poetry from a few other writers that you feel strongly about. Creating a small but meaningful contribution to the independent literary landscape.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
Some other small independent presses do this too, but a few of the unique aspects of Blood Pudding Press are that I hand-bind my chapbooks with ribbon or yarn binding and the entire editing, publishing, printing, and hand-designing process all happens inside my own home.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?
I don't consider myself to be a widespread expert about what is or is not most effective, but at least I invest some heart-felt energy and effort into the process of getting some new books into the world, in my own little limited way. My independent small press publishing process includes giving the author some free copies of their own book, and spending time and energy promoting the book.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
I don't think of this as a light touch, but I don't edit other people's poetic content very much. I choose to publish poetry whose style I already love the way it is, so I don't feel the need to edit lines much at all. My editing basically just involves formatting, publishing, and promoting. I also sometimes design my press's cover art by myself, with perspective and approval from the author.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
I primarily distribute them myself. My initial print run is usually less than 50 copies of a new chapbook. I print and design 13 free copies for the poet whose chapbook it is, 1 copy for me to keep, a handful of review copies, and  a handful of sale copies. Once I sell out of my initially printed/designed copies, then I can print and design more, since I do it all at home. I also print and design extra copies if I'm attending a small press event.

My main distribution source is the Blood Pudding Press etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/BloodPuddingPress

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?
I'm a one woman gig, in terms of my press's choices and the editing, printing, designing, hand-binding, mailing, and promoting of the Blood Pudding Press chapbooks.

I do let the authors offer suggestions on the cover art for their chapbooks, and check the innards of their chapbook before publication, and I sometimes have the cover art for a chapbook designed by someone else.

Ideally, the authors will help to promote their own chapbooks too.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
I don't think it's changed my point of view on my own writing very much, because ultimately my own writing is my own writing and it will fit into some presses and not fit into others, depending on various factors, primarily stylistic factors, or so I hope.

Perhaps working as an editor has caused me to view other editors as more humanistic. As regular human beings with individual strengths and weaknesses. I basically view other editors/publishers as their own unique human beings, same as me. I'm not a fan of editors/publishers who seem to over glorify themselves or act like superior experts.

The way I see it, we're all creative beings filled with different ideas and styles and experiences, but any poetry editor who comes across as some expert-like boss who acts like they should be in charge of more than their own press is not my cup of coffee. And anyone with a non-genuine agenda can shove it down someone else's drain.

To me, the type of people who like being in charge of others seem more akin to corporate bosses rather than creative individuals.

Everyone should feel free to share their own genuine creativity and their own experiences, but don't act like some sort of god or goddess about it. In my opinion, if you want to act like some export-like boss, then maybe you should do so in a more money-based, competitive, corporate realm than poetry.
 
10– How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?
Does this mean publishing my own writing ANYWHERE while I'm an editor or publishing my own writing through my own press while I'm an editor?

There's no way I'm not going to attempt to have my own work published ANYWHERE while I'm an editor. I don't understand or relate to the reasoning behind that approach.

As far as publishing one's own work through one's own press, I think that's up to each individual poet and press. When I initially started my Blood Pudding Press, I published several of my own poetry chapbooks and also included myself in some collaborative chapbooks. Also, I initially solicited most of the other authors I published. After some time elapsed, I shied away from publishing myself though my own press and started running small annual contests, in order to discover the poetry chapbooks I chose to publish each year.

Even though I haven't published myself through my own press in recent years, I will admit it's still  a turn off for me to hear other poets/editors (especially if they're poets I've published before) sarcastically jabbing at poets who have published themselves through their own small press.

To me, that sort of sarcasm comes across as an overly judgmental, snobby, snarky, superior, I'm better than you sort of approach to life and I wish that wasn't a part of poetry land.

In my opinion, poetry land should be creatively open-minded and not have a snarky right and wrong sort of approach to anything.

11– How do you see Blood Pudding Press evolving?
I'm aimed towards staying open minded to seeing what happens with the press, as long as I can keep it small, unique, genuinely creative, and non-stagnant feeling.

12– What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?
I'm most proud that I started the press to begin with and then kept it going, without becoming too overwhelmed. I'm proud that I've maintained my own personal goals, my own sort of process, and my own creative choices for the press. I'm proud of everything I've chosen to publish, whether or not a publication got the sort of attention I thought it deserved.

Since I'm such a small press and don't want to expand the press much further, I occasionally feel a tiny bit bothered that few people seem aware of how long my press has actually existed - and that I will occasionally be compared with presses that have existed for a shorter time than mine, as though I got my style from them, even though they didn't even exist when my press began.

Sometimes it frustrates me how random it seems that some of the chapbooks I publish seem to generate a decent amount of attention, whereas others do not, even though I try my best to put a similar amount of time and energy into promoting every chapbook I've chosen to publish.

Occasionally, it bums me out a bit when a writer I've chosen to publish doesn't seem to want to put much effort into helping to promote their own work.

Also occasionally, I've gotten overly frustrated at myself for feeling like I don't seem to be having quite as much success compared to other small independent presses, but then I just have to get my brain out of its competitive mode, because my competitive mode is inadvertently directing me towards an area that is not very relevant to me. I know my own slow pace and creative process and there's really no particularly good reason to compare myself to anyone else, press-wise or otherwise.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
When I first started Blood Pudding Press, I remember being given some very helpful pointers and formatting feedback from Kristy Bowen, whose Dancing Girl Press was relatively new at that time. She and I had connected via a blog site called xanga, where I had connected with quite a few poets in the earlier 2000s. Even though that was more than ten years ago now, I still very much appreciate her willingness to openly share how she published the innards of her chapbooks, because that's what got me started figuring out how to publish the innards of mine.

14– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
The internet is where the Blood Pudding Press shop exists and is also my primary promotional outlet for Blood Pudding Press.

The Blood Pudding Press shop is it at https://www.etsy.com/shop/BloodPuddingPress

The Blood Pudding Press blog is at https://bloodyooze.blogspot.com/

The Blood Pudding Press facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/BloodPuddingPOETRY/

15– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
I don't accept Blood Pudding Press submissions on a never ending, ongoing basis. In recent years, I've had a short reading period (usually a month long or less) during which I am accepting chapbook manuscript submissions, in one way or another. I do regularly accept submissions for Blood Pudding Press's spooky little sister, the online blog style lit mag, Thirteen Myna Birds.

As for what I'm NOT looking for, I'm not looking for poetry that treats women's bodies like changeable objects or poetry that indicates the writer hasn't even taken a peek at my guidelines.
           
I dislike it when authors try to randomly push their work at me, even though they've never expressed any interest in my press, other than as a possible home for their own particular writing.

16– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
The first 2017 Blood Pudding Press poetry chapbook, Cutting Eyes from Ghosts by Ariana D. Den Bleyker reveals mental and physical discrepancies and disabilities that can haunt a body and brain like dark ghosts.

It is available from the Blood Pudding Press shop here - https://www.etsy.com/listing/512469489/new-cutting-eyes-from-ghosts-by-ariana-d?ref=shop_home_feat_2

The second 2017 Blood Pudding Press poetry chapbook, Thirsty Bones by Sarah Lilius offers emotional political statements about the female body. How it can be viewed and treated like a toy, victimized, abused and then just overlooked or ignored. How it can live on, fight back, and will not be silenced and will not feel obligated to keep its own experiences or genuine feelings or individual self a secret. 

It is available from the Blood Pudding Press shop here - https://www.etsy.com/listing/522718674/new-thirsty-bones-by-sarah-lilius-2017?ref=shop_home_active_9

The third 2017 Blood Pudding Press poetry chapbook, Fuck Cancer Poems by Michael Grover is not yet published, but will be within about a month (forthcoming in September 2017) and offers its own uniquely personal emotional political statements about being a middle-aged, middle-class poet dealing with the various trials of cancer in this day and age.

That collection will be coming very soon and then there will be more...




2 comments:

Pam Hanke said...

Juliet, this is a very interesting interview. I think you have done a great job figuring out how to publish your books. Nice going!

Juliet Cook said...

Thank you very much Pam!

Thanks for reading the interview and thanks for your kind words.

Juliet