Monday, November 27, 2017

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Ashley Fortier and Oliver Fugler on Metonymy Press

Metonymy Press is based in Tio’tia:ke (Montreal), unceded Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory. We publish literary fiction and nonfiction by emerging writers.  We try to reduce barriers to publishing for authors whose perspectives are underrepresented in order to produce quality materials relevant to queer, feminist, and social justice communities. We really want to keep gay book lovers satisfied.

Metonymy Press is the project of Ashley Fortier and Oliver Fugler. They met on their first day of high school and have been writing together and editing for each other ever since. They are neighbours, too.

1 – When did Metonymy 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?
Metonymy Press started as an idea between friends Ashley Fortier and Oliver Fugler years ago. We launched the idea in August 2014, and then we got some start-up funding and put out our first book in 2015.

Our primary goal remains to publish good queer writing by underrepresented and emerging writers. One of our original goals was to publish anthologies, which we haven’t yet done, but we’re in conversation with a potential editor of a collection as we speak.

We both pursued a certificate in publishing through Ryerson University, and although we’ve been able to operate as a two-person press because of that, a lot of what we’ve since learned is about how we don’t fit industry standards (in terms of production schedules, distribution channels, promotional costs etc.), because we’re so small and queer.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
We have both been actively writing since early high school, where we met in a creative writing program. Our involvement in organizing Montreal’s longstanding annual Queer Between the Covers book fair gave us some ideas about queer publishing and about a potential readership. Finally, our formal training through Ryerson gave us some of the hard skills to go with the creative experience we both have, so it was a natural progression for two people who like organizing and directing things.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
Our focus is loosely queer content and perspectives underrepresented in the mainstream. But in general we believe the responsibility of small presses lies in undermining the status quo and offering a platform, however small, to emerging and otherwise not-household-name writers who add to conversations that are happening already but not officially.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
We’re for the most part publishing work by trans and racialized authors that’s not autobiographical but also doesn’t cater to the mainstream. We have ended up publishing this work because it’s what we’re interested in, because it’s good writing and because it’s largely otherwise unavailable.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
A lot of our book distribution until this year has been individual orders online, which works quite well. Wholesale relationships have been based on personal relationships, cold calls, and the occasional spontaneous request or reluctant university bookstore order.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
We are quite involved, but it depends on the text. For Trish Salah’s Lyric Sexology Vol. 1, a poetry collection that had been previously published, we didn’t need to edit much because it had been edited by the previous—poetry-specific—press, Roof Books. Beyond poetry, which we have otherwise avoided due to our anxiety about editing it, we are pretty deeply involved in substantive, line, and copyediting.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
Until this year, we have done all of our own distribution, via individual online sales, in-person sales at book fairs and direct wholesale relationships. This year we signed on with Small Press Distribution, so US customers may now order through them, which is great, because it is very expensive to mail books over the border.

Our print runs range from 250-800, and all of our books have moved beyond their first print run. We work with a very nice Montreal-based printer, Le Caïus du livre, that has a short turnaround and good rates for small runs.

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?
We have always hired cover designers, different ones for each book, and the process so far has been collaborative between the designers, authors, and ourselves. We do the majority of extent design and editorial ourselves, but we have hired outside editors where necessary, for example, for the Pinyin text in Small Beauty.

It’s been really great to work with people outside of Metonymy for the most part, as they can draw on themes in the work we haven’t focused on, and offer feedback and skills that support the text and also are instructive for us as editors and publishers. But ultimately we can’t afford to hire out for most steps, and also we both like a lot of control and we do things on a tight timeline, so doing a lot of the work ourselves suits us so far.

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
[Oliver]: I know you can’t be your own only editor, but I do find that I am able to edit my own writing as I go in a way that I wasn’t able to before. In general I’ve gained an appreciation for the editorial and production processes, and what a piece of writing can become with care and time.

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?
[Oliver]: I think that self-published work and work published by your own press can be so great! It’s pretty clear to us that a lot of what doesn’t get formally published is good writing with a real readership that publishers assume won’t sell. This belief is one reality that drives zine culture and a lot of small presses.

But as I said above, I also value the feedback found in more formal editorial and production processes, so I like the idea of those steps being a necessary part of publishing your own writing as well.

11– How do you see Metonymy Press evolving?
We’re a primarily print publisher, but are always considering ways to make our books accessible in multiple formats. We hope to launch ebooks for our first three titles later this fall and we’re exploring the option of audiobooks.

If we expand beyond being a two-person operation, we might develop a co-operative model of some kind, but that’s a longer-term possibility. In the meantime, we’d like to continue engaging in specific collaborations, like we did with our externally juried Gay Book Lovers Unite initiative last year.

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?
It’s been extremely rewarding to see the communities we’re a part of provide such positive feedback and ongoing support for our work. It’s energizing. The award wins and nominations for our two novels, Small Beauty and Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, were exciting too.

Often critics put a significant focus on the queer and/or trans identities of our authors and their characters, while overlooking other intersecting realities as well as the particularities of their writing craft. This is a frustrating reality in CanLit when it comes to marginalized writers and how their work gets taken up.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
We’ve been inspired by the work of Arsenal Pulp Press, Fernwood Books, and Topside Press, to name a few.

14– How does Metonymy Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Metonymy Press in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
We’re a member of the Association of English Language Publishers of Quebec (AELAQ) and Oliver sits on the organization’s board as an associate member. We participate in their events alongside other Anglo presses in Quebec, through professional development, book fairs, etc. We contributed feedback for a piece Linda Leith wrote about the organization’s role and significance for Quill and Quire a couple months ago.

In terms of the broader conversations happening in CanLit over the past couple years, from the controversy over the “Appropriation Prize” to accusations of sexual assault made against high-profile players in the industry, our mandate makes it pretty clear where we stand. We value writers and writing that actively undo the conditions that lead to such controversies.

Our longstanding role in queer literary contexts in Montreal stems from our involvement in Queer Between the Covers. We were both members of the organizing collective for years and got a good sense of what readers, writers and micro presses in this realm were producing and what they were missing, especially produced in English in Quebec. Queer and feminist publications such as GUTS, Plenitude, Autostraddle, Bitch and even Teen Vogue have featured our authors and books in the past couple years. We think these conversations are as important as those with industry publications, since our readership is just (if not more) likely to read them. We tend to prioritize dialogues with queer communities rather than literary-specific ones.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
We love hosting launches and have done so for all our titles so far, both locally and in Ontario, Nova Scotia and BC. Our ability to send authors on tour is limited by their time and our budget, but for closeby events, we often attend and we really enjoy doing so.

We hope to host other reading events in Montreal in the future, ideally in collaboration with other local artists. We see live reading events as important to community building. We also value the particularities of hearing authors read aloud from their own work and collaborate with other writers and engage with audience members in real time.

We also often meet potential new and emerging authors at public events and it’s a great way for readership to learn about our broader catalogue and the mandate behind the work we do.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
Social media, blog posts, e-newsletters and online interviews and reviews are crucial to reaching wider audiences. Our readership tends to lean young(er), so the internet plays a major role. We also do a lot of direct sales via our website. We have received rights requests from as far as Delhi and Melbourne, and this is thanks in large part to our online presence and how quickly things spread that way.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
We have an open submission policy, outlined on our website. What we’re not looking for is work that replicates—whether in form or content—queer and trans narratives already out there. We get a disproportionate number of submissions set in New York City in the 1980s. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but as a Montreal-based small press looking to do something new, it’s not really our jam.

We are primarily interested in fiction and creative nonfiction, though we put out our first poetry collection this summer, so we’re not closed to that either. We have yet to publish graphic novels or children’s lit, even though we both really love the genres.

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
We’ve only put out four books so far, total. Instead, maybe we’ll take this opportunity to talk up our next title, nîtisânak, by Lindsay Nixon.

The manuscript works with the idea of kinship that derives from the author’s Plains Ojibway, Métis and Cree kinship teachings, and also how queer kin were some of their first experiences of this reciprocal relationality and care. The book is a creative nonfiction collection chosen by our Gay Book Lovers Unite jury. Opening up our acquisitions process like this was a first for Metonymy and we’re very pleased with the result. nîtisânak is scheduled for publication in early spring 2018.

An initial statement from the jury puts it thus: “Nixon’s work blends contemporary Indigenous experience within Queer and 2 Spirit spaces to strike at the heart of colonization and Canadian identity. Along the way, they explore masculinity, patriarchal oppression, racism in Canada, poverty, and the lingering weight of colonial history within Queer spaces. Their intersectional writing merges worldviews and deftly reveals the rotting underbelly of Canadian Queer identity as a space fraught with the legacy of a colonial past. It is vital and urgent work, expanding what it means to be both an Indigenous and a Queer writer in Canada today.”

No comments: