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three years

MIEL
When I told Laressa Dickey that I, too, was tired of her work being passed over in contests and open reading periods, and that I thought it was worth publishing, and hey, what if published it (in December 2011), I knew almost nothing about publishing. I knew almost nothing about book design. I set off, as with most things I do, backwards: first committing to making the books, and then figuring out what I needed to do to become a press.

MIEL promotional items

When I think back on the four months between telling Laressa I’d make the press that would publish her work—why not; lots of writers have done this, I said—and launching the first two of her chapbooks alongside Neele Dellschaft’s first chapbook, I remember scrambling to get ISBNs and a business address. I remember watching lots of videos on YouTube in order to figure out how InDesign worked. I remember getting the first batch of covers and it being a real lesson in measure thirty-six times, send the files to the printer once. Oops. I remember folding and binding on the red table in our workroom with Jonathan and Neele. I remember getting those tiny broadsides in the mail from Andrew Schroeder (for Josh Wallaert’s chapbook and Laressa’s third and fourth chapbooks).

it's our birthday | a MIEL books giveaway

As with lots of things I do, and for better or for worse, MIEL began as a piece of play. A game. Let’s imagine what could be, and then let’s do it. That’s a manifestation of my impatience but also of my belief that things are possible and that individual people can make objects and spaces (that we don’t have to wait for the ‘professionals’ to do it, and that we don’t have to make things that act, look, or feel the way ‘real things’ do—we can make our own, in our own way, with the terroir of our individual capabilities and experiences). The incredible thing I learned is that once you start the game, people believe it’s real. And they say yes to things like you publishing their books, even in different formats (like the postcard edition of Nancy Campbell’s How To Say I Love You in Greenlandic, which sold out within a year of publication). And then reviewers say yes to reviewing them. And people, incredibly, show up to buy them.

Lisa Solomon's HAND/MADE

Designing and publishing Lisa Solomon’s book was in many ways a turning point for MIEL. Prior to this I had used my own savings to pay for book printing (our books generally cost between €200 and €400 to print; at that time I had some work and cheap rent, and I used what was left over to print books). But Lisa’s book is full-color and bound in signatures. It was going to be impossible to publish without assistance. I applied for an Arts Council England grant (thanks, ACE!), which paid for the printing and my time designing the book. Working with Lisa on this was such a gift—her trust in my work really made me aware of the relationship between me as a book designer and editor and the writers and artists whose work I want to support. The money from the Arts Council, and Lisa’s trust—and the book itself, which is the most ‘real’ book we’ve published in design terms (it has a spine, I mean)—made me realize that MIEL could be play, but it was also and simultaneously serious.

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One constant in the press work has been the pleasure I take in all aspects of book shows and small press fairs. Everything from designing and building displays, to interacting with visitors: although it can be draining (long days, lots of people, sometimes I forget to eat enough), it is so great to get to talk to people in real time about these books, and to watch them enjoy them, pick them up, read them. As a micropress, lots of book work—like lots of writing—is isolated, quiet, uncompensated. Being in rooms with people, seeing and participating in the life of small presses and of books, is an unmitigated joy.

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When I think back now, I’m amazed at how much has happened in the past three years. (MIEL launched its first three titles on March 16, 2012). There are books now that didn’t exist then. I know how to do things (use InDesign and other parts of Adobe CS, market books, manage inventory, offer editorial guidance, work with printers) that I didn’t before. I’ve gotten to meet and correspond with so many great writers and artists, have hosted readings, have helped make connections between writers and other presses when the work wasn’t a fit for MIEL. Not trying to toot my own horn. Just kind of incredible to me how at one point there wasn’t and now, despite the ways in which I still struggle (managing the workload without getting overwhelmed) or worry (the panic of oh my god did I send the proofed version of the manuscript to the printers?!), there is. And the is includes books like Kristen Case’s Temple and Shana Youngdahl’s winter/windows and Megan Garr’s Terrane and Bethany Carlson’s Diadem Me and Jonterri Gadson’s Interruptions and Rachel Moritz’s how absence. And more are coming. (!!!! Although I tend to get bogged down in worry—will the books do justice to the texts? Will they please the writers? Where will the money come from, oh god, the money?—when I step back from my worry I realize how thrilling, really, in a physical way thrilling, it is to be able to make these books.)

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So thanks, writers and artists, for trusting me to put your writing and art into the world. And thanks, customers, for buying the books and other things, and allowing me to continue. Thanks also to my parents, who, despite my protestations, order every book (don’t do that! I will send you copies for free!). Thanks to the Arts Council, and to Writing East Midlands, and to the Small Publishers’ Fair and to Free Verse and to States of Independence, who made it possible for the books to exist and provided venues where people could encounter them in real time. Thanks to the reviewers who’ve taken time to read and think about the writing. Thanks to the people who sent work to read during the open reading periods each year. Thanks to Richard of Tompkin Press in Nottingham and Tom Jessen of Foxglove Press in Maine for working with me, producing the books, and tolerating my beginner’s mistakes. And special thanks to my friends, especially Jon, Neele, Matt W., Carol, and Laressa, who have supported me and believed in the press all along. Thanks to Jonathan who as usual made things possible (and always talks me down when I think I’m being silly to try things like this). Three years! Let’s have a few more.

111O/5!

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London! November 14-15!

smallpublishers2014

We’re so so so so so excited to bring fresh-from-the-press copies of Diadem Me and Uncle Zoltán (along with new broadsides, prints, our 2015 calendar, lots of greeting cards, and of course our other books) to the London Small Publishers’ Fair. November 14 and 15, 11-7 (but we’ll be leaving early on the Saturday; need to catch the last train back to Belgium). As usual, it’s in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, and admission is free. We’d love to see you there.

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The Material Word: Saison Poetry Library Open Day

nancy campbell arctic alphabet miel Our edition of Nancy Campbell’s How To Say I Love You in Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet is part of the Saison Poetry Library’s Material Word exhibit. The edition itself is nearly sold out: we have ten remaining copies! We’ll be bringing Nancy’s book and many others to the Small Publishers’ fair in London, November 14-15 (Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, from 11-7 both days—although on Saturday we’ll be leaving early to get the last train back to Belgium).

How To Say I Love You in Greenlandic Nancy Campbell MIEL

All our 2014 and 2015 books have been acquired/will be acquired by the Saison Poetry Library. From the Saison’s website: “[the] Library, whose holdings go back to 1912, was established by the Arts Council in 1953 and speakers at the opening included TS Eliot and Herbert Read. After having homes across London the Library moved to Southbank Centre in 1988. Over the years the focus on poetry from around the world translated into English has increased, as has the children’s collections, poetry on audio and the collection of poetry magazines. The Library now holds over 200,000 items and is the largest collection of modernnancy campbell arctic alphabet miel and contemporary poetry in the UK.” We are pleased and proud that MIEL books will be held in this collection!

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Call for Submissions: Caesarean Birth Anthology

From Rachel Moritz, author of a forthcoming MIEL chapbook, this call for essays on Caesarean births. (Note that this will not be published by MIEL—just signal-boosting.)

Call for submissions

We seek personal essays from individuals who have had C-Section births for an anthology that will be submitted to publishers in spring 2015.

While birth stories will likely be an important component of many essays, the anthology will focus on reflections during the months or years following a C-section. For instance, how has Caesarean birth, whether planned or unplanned, influenced your perspective on motherhood/parenthood, the body, the medical establishment, or natural birth stories? As three mothers who have noted a dearth in literature about the post C-Section experience after the first six weeks, we are looking for essays that articulate multifaceted perspectives not widely represented in popular or medical writing. We seek fresh conversations across identifications of race and ethnicity, age, class, gender, sexuality, and ability.

Essays should be no more than 15 double-spaced pages and submitted as a Word document to Birthessay@gmail.com. Please include e-mail contact information and a short bio. Questions should also be directed to this email address.

Deadline: February 28, 2015.

Our role as editors will be to discern connections and intriguing dissonance among the essays, as well as to converse with writers about their pieces. Submissions, however, should be polished and in final form. Any revisions we request will be minor.

Editors:

Amanda Fields is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose work has been published in Indiana Review, Brevity, Superstition Review, and others. She co-edited Toward, Around, and Away from Tahrir: Tracking Expressions of Emerging Egyptian Identity (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014). She gave birth to her daughter via C-Section in 2013.

Kathleen Glasgow‘s work has appeared in The Cimarron Review, Bellingham Review and many other journals. She writes for The Writer’s Almanac and lives in Saint Paul, MN. Her daughter was born in November, 2012; her son was born in June, 2008. Both children were delivered via C-section.

Rachel Moritz is the author of the poetry collection Borrowed Wave, forthcoming from Kore Press. Her work has appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Colorado Review, Iowa Review, Verse Daily, and other journals. She edits poetry for Konundrum Engine Literary Review. Her son was born via C-Section in 2010.

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Dickinson House

Flowers and gardens at Dickinson House

There is a story I want to tell. The story is about togetherness: that’s its short version. The longer version could go back to the pine table in my family’s kitchen where my brothers and I did homework while my parents cooked or washed dishes. It definitely encompasses the year I lived as a stranger in France and the multilingual education I’ve been fortunate to have. And it is directly related to my five years in England and the way that, in that place, I was part of an intense and sustaining community. It’s certainly a story that comes out of a magical—there’s no other word for it—five days in 2010 when some poets whose work I love came to Nottingham, spending four of those days teaching and talking and reading and walking and eating with forty writers from all over Europe and the UK. (Those days! Where together we built something! I got up to read and couldn’t read because I was in tears over the belief of all these people who’d come to be together and write.) And the story I want to tell comes out of MIEL, too—this press, which itself developed out of the desire to make spaces for writers like the one we’d made together in Nottingham that July. Being at the Vermont Studio Center this summer only made me more sure of the desire I have for spaces where writers and artists can be together, not only on the page but in the flesh.

Dickinson House: Writers' Residency | Literary B&B

For a very long time, nearly ten years, I carried the idea of making such a space in my pocket. But for most of that time I never believed it was realistic or possible. It was bigger than what I could do alone: it required things like money and land, neither of which I have. The story I want to tell is the story of that idea, which is now real, against what I believed were the odds. The story is Dickinson House.

I wanted to make a space where writers and artists could come to make work, to build community, to be taken care of without guilt, with openness and generosity. And about two years ago Jonathan’s mother offered us her house to rent and renovate and use for just that. And as of about two weeks ago we are officially licensed by the Flemish Tourist Board as a guesthouse, so I can say that Dickinson House truly is real. We’re doing a soft launch this fall, and will open for 2015 applications (and applications for fellowships!) in December.

Dickinson House: Writers' Residency | Literary B&B

None of this would be possible without a ton of hard work and help from Jonathan, without the kindness (and below-market-rate rent) his mother extended, without the support of our families, or without the belief, good cheer, and help of friends all over. I want to emphasize this. None of this came from thin air. It is the result of generosity and privilege. It is also the result of penny-pinching and elbow grease and borrowing against hope and filling spare time with more work, even (especially) when we just wanted to rest. The house is full of beautiful old things that were given to us by friends and family, or found in second-hand shops here. The beds have quilts made by hand by three talented friends. I want the house to be for you, writer, reader, maker. I want there to be—there is—space here for you. If you need it, ask for it. If there are obstacles, tell me about them. We will find a way to get you here. You are welcome.

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in case of Paris

paris guide

Someone on Twitter was looking for recommendations for Paris, and I remembered that about four years ago I made a guidebook full of the things I loved (places I went often when I lived in France) for J. We went to Paris together and had a huge argument about Foucault while walking through the 14th arrondissement, which is the main thing I remember about that trip. However, he does still have the little book, so I can tell you precisely what I recommended. Most of these recommendations reflect the fact that I rarely have any money.

Food:

Pâtes Vivantes (46 r.d. Faubourg Montmartre/9th/métro Le Peletier; 22 Bld. St Germaine/5th/near Pont de Sully). Chinese food, very good, mostly noodles. Long wait times; definitely make a reservation.

La Boutique Jaune (in the Marais). Jewish deli. Good sandwiches.

Rue Ste. Anne (near the Louvre). Lots and lots of Japanese restaurants, ranging in price, mostly high quality.

L’As du Fallafel (34 r. des Rosiers, Marais). Excellent falafel/etc. Often busy. Closed Saturdays.

La Pizzetta (22 ave. Trudaine/9th/métro Anvers). Slightly upscale Italian. Good.

Pho Dong-Huang (14 r. Louis Bonnet/11th). Vietnamese food. Good prices!

Le petit prince de Paris (5th). Gay-friendly restaurant, prices are reasonable.

Rose Bakery (9th/3rd). British-style, slightly rustic-crunchy breakfast/brunch/lunch.

Sweets:

Macarons at Pierre Hermé (72 rue Bonaparte in the 6th; 185 rue du Vaugirard in the 15th; 4 rue Cambon in the 1st) or at La Durée (21 rue Bonaparte in the 6th; 16 rue Royale in the 8th). Aki Boulanger (on rue Ste. Anne) is a Japanese-French bakery; there’s a write-up here. Sadaharu Aoki has four boutiques in Paris and although I have never eaten his pastries I have it on good authority that one ought to. Berthillon for ice-cream to eat by the Seine is a favorite of mine.

To do and see:

The Parc Buttes Chaumont is the prettiest in Paris, or so they say, although I really love the Jardin des Plantes (which has the benefit of being relatively near Austerlitz, my favorite of the Paris stations). The area around the Canal St Martin has nice shops and an art bookshop. Galleries Lafayette has a roof garden that’s free to visit; so does the Institute du Monde Arabe (and there’s a great view). The best view of Paris I’ve ever had was in the restaurant on the 55th floor of the Tour de Montparnasse. A cup of tea will set you back about €8, but it’s cheaper than the observation deck (one floor up), and the view cannot be beat.

The Louvre is free to EU residents under 25, as well as on the first Sunday of every month (and July 14). Hôtel Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris, is free to visit; the Bibliothèque Nationale de France also has free exhibits (and a bookshop, cafeteria, and garden). The Palais de Tokio had, the last time I was there, an old but working photobooth.

For small objects and presents and general beauty I love the shop at the Paris Japan Center (métro Javel/a couple of blocks away from the Eiffel Tower), and if you’re in the market for stationery or just unusual postcards, I’d recommend both Mélodies Graphiques (on the edge of the Marais, rue St de Pont Louis-Philippe) and Éditions Cartes d’Art (9 rue du Dragon, in the 6th). Merci, at 111 blvd. Beaumarchais in the 3rd, is a charming shop that will probably make any lover of pretty things die of desire. Rue François Mirron in the Marais contains some of the best shops in Paris, in my opinion—especially Petit Pan.

And when in doubt, I recommend using Joshua Clover’s poem “Ceriserie” as your guide to Paris both historical and contemporary.

 

 

 

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still reading…

dickinson house writers residency belgium garden

This morning was spent designing Jonterri Gadson’s chapbook. This afternoon was all re-reading of work that came in during our open reading period in June—the hardest part of running a tiny press, because reading lots of good work inevitably makes me want to publish everyhing, when realistically we can only publish a few chapbooks, maybe a book, every year. So that’s to say I’ve been sending out rejection letters again, and I’m sorry about that. Writers, rest assured—and I bet this applies to most small presses—that very often the rejection has nothing to do with how ‘good’ your work is (‘good’ meaning ‘publishable’). It has everything to do with the material circumstances of being a small press, wanting to do right by our authors (meaning having the energy and means to promote their books, not to mention design and bind them) with the limited resources I have. To the twenty or so of you who are still waiting to hear, I’m aiming to finish re-reading and deciding by the end of next week. In the meantime, please enjoy this view of our garden.

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#VIDAcount

miel small press VIDA count poetry

We’ve published eight chapbooks/ books/ objects by women. Two more are forthcoming this year. We’ve also published two books by men, with three more forthcoming. Our literary magazine contributors include 41 men and 66 women.* (Thank you, writers and artists, for letting us print your work!)

We count and aim to pay attention to writing by underrepresented voices.

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* (We also know that a man/woman binary is an insufficient reflection of the actual diversity of our submitters and of the literary world more broadly. We know there’s more counting and accounting to be done. We accept the binary here as the rubric under which VIDA counts, and we say in concert with this counting: Hey you, with your voice of difference, we want to hear from you—we want to read your work. You count.)