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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Major Critics Continue to Brush Independents Aside

Indie publishers continue to sound the alarm on how the New York Times critics' top books for 2009 all came from the eight major houses dominating the market. If not for the advent of blog reviewers willing to review books from independent presses, we would truly be in dire straits. Martin Shepard's blog (see link) offers practical advice for independents to fight back against being ignored. Independent press authors deserve major coverage, too. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that the critics Shepard profiled are either clueless or truly do not care that the review coverage is woefully unbalanced. That being said, we can either try to open their eyes to the issue at hand and request a small press reviewer be added to their ranks (as suggested in Shepard's post), or forget them altogether and continue to pursue reviewers and bloggers receptive to good work, no matter the house it comes from. Perhaps soon, the right combination of independent reviews will trump that of conglomerate-inspired reviews and the reading public will hear more than eight voices. Until then, it's important for indie publishers to stay actively involved in this fight for the sake of their authors.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Poetry Will Never Die

For the past month or so, we have been touched by the outpouring of support for our new authors (Tara Betts, Antoinette Brim, Curtis L. Crisler) and their debut poetry collections. Thanks to fellow writers and poetry aficionados across the country, a door was opened for them during these hard economic times. The patronage shown these authors proves that there is still a powerful and viable market for poetry. Poetry should never be allowed to die; this world needs it now more than ever. It is our hope that this show of support will continue and build to the point where we have an unshakeable and consistent network of writers and readers ready to face the challenges of the new publishing paradigm--together.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Blooming of a Sunflower, Part I

A Journey into the Creation of Psalm of the Sunflower by Antoinette Brim, Part I

As she nears the completion of her debut poetry collection, Psalm of the Sunflower, Aquarius Press author Antoinette Brim has agreed to share some of her thoughts about the creative process and her role as a poet in a world that sometimes forgets its poets:

I remember how I first discovered poetry. At about seven, I chanced upon Langston Hughes' Dreams. I don’t recall that I had yet begun to dream dreams, but I understood the power of a dream having just read King’s Dream speech from a volume of the Negro Heritage Library my Nana had given me. I looked out of my bedroom window at the frozen New Jersey landscape. I knew that when I began to dream dreams, I would hold fast. . .

. . .As I prepare for the release of my debut collection of poetry, Psalm of the Sunflower, it is apropos that, I again think about discovery and identity through poetry. All grown-up now, a woman in the South for the better part of thirty years, I have measured myself by what are sometimes very strict and conservative social mores. A failed marriage and the resulting single parenthood was a painful induction into a realm of unreturned phone calls, un-invitations and social anonymity. It was cause for prayer and the cause of poverty. However, my divorce after fifteen years of marriage and three kids, created an opportunity not to recreate myself, but to self-actualize – to, as Walcott would say, “love again the stranger who was your self.” Writing the book showed me again that poetry could tell me the whole, unabridged truth about the world, about me and about me in the world. My poetry taught me to dream dreams. And, as I learned so long ago, "to hold fast."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Goodbye and Thanks to E. Lynn Harris

It was shocking to hear about the death of author E. Lynn Harris. I first met him about a decade ago, when he was kind enough to speak at the first Midwest Poets & Writers Conference in Detroit. I was a part of the planning team, and was nervous about how to deal with a famous author. Having heard about diva-esque authors and their tantrums, I was concerned. We wanted to make a good impression, but didn't want any trouble. Upon his arrival, to my pleasant surprise, the first thing I saw was Mr. Harris' smile: it was bright, warm and gracious. Mr. Harris was that way the entire time he was there, and I learned alot from him about the publishing industry. When Mr. Harris returned for another conference years later, even more famous, he still had his friendly manner. He made us laugh more than once and was willing to share his process with aspiring writers. His famous story of fame, selling one book at a time out of his car, will always be an inspiration to me. It is sad that he had to leave this world so soon, but he made good use of his time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Battle for Independent Bookstores

The recent news of the impending demise of Shaman Drum Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan is distressing, indeed. One of the most enduring and well-known bookstores in the Midwest, the Shaman Drum closing signals the end of an era. It is ironic and hard to believe that this store in particular would succumb, considering it is located in the heart of the University of Michigan, one of the top universities in the world. The double irony, though (if there is such a thing) is that the store's relationship with the university is partly the reason why the store has to close. According to the owner in a February article, the store lost business because of the digital revolution (many of the university's course materials were now being offered online, erasing the need for traditional textbooks). The owner also cited the disturbing government report about the decline in literary readers in the United States. These two reasons, coupled with what has already happened to independent stores due to the major chains, makes for a perfect storm.

I would venture to add one more reason, but one that does not have to be inevitable for the stores that remain. As an independent publisher in business 10 years, I can attest to the poor treatment I and my colleagues have received from some independent stores. Perhaps it's the perception that "local" can't possibly be good enough to endorse, so stores spend thousands to bring in a famous author from somewhere else for programs. This situation is doubly difficult for local publishers carrying quality literary titles by multicultural authors. While of course no store can take on every book prospect that comes through their doors, there are many award-winning authors from within that store's very own community (with impeccable credentials and a a strong public following) who get ignored.

It is my belief that a connection with the surrounding community is important, and that is directly tied to supporting talented authors within that community. This support also stabilizes the local economy. Perhaps independent stores will be more open to this idea as we move into the future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Poetry Month Celebration Finale

What more fitting way to celebrate National Poetry Month than to launch a new poetry website? Aquarius Press is proud to announce that its poetry imprint, Willow Books, now has it own site, . The brainchild of Reverie Journal editor Randall Horton, the Willow Books site can give our poets their proper due within a space all their own. Look for new release information, interviews, reviews and special events. Please visit often and support our outstanding poets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Land of Silent Morning Book Trailer

To coincide with the launch of The Land of Silent Morning, we are proud to debut our video book trailer. As it's a memoir of the experiences of author Kateleen K. Washington (born Kyong Mi), we thought the images should reflect some of the themes that appear within the book. Mind you, this is only a tiny fraction of everything that she went through. Reading her memoir will open your eyes to what's it's like to struggle for the basics of life on the streets, then come to the U.S. with little English and a 3rd grade education and struggle to make it here. But survive she did, and the book is a testament to her strength and force of will. Please post a comment here or on the YouTube channel to let us know what you think.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

National Poetry Month

Each year, Aquarius Press is proud to celebrate National Poetry Month. We are particularly fortunate to have some of the best poets in the country within our ranks. One shining beacon is of course Karen S. Williams, author of Elegy for a Scarred Shoulder, which has earned international acclaim and a multiple award nominee. It is also now a part of the Beinecke Library Special Collection at Yale University alongside the likes of Jean Toomer. Other award nominees are Felecia Studstill, author of Speaking No Evil, a passionate treatise on the landscape of human emotion, and the hard-hitting John Jeffire, prolific author and teacher, whose Stone+Fist+Brick+Bone is both memoir and 1960's social commentary.

We are excited to have some new poetry superstars joining our ranks this year. Get ready for: Tara Betts, creative writing Lecturer at Rutgers and author of the upcoming Arc and Hue; Curtis L. Crisler, Professor of Creative Writing at Purdue University-Ft. Wayne and author of the upcoming Pulling Scabs, and Antoinette Brim, a Harvard DuBois Fellow and Professor in Arkansas and author of the upcoming Psalm of the Sunflower.

If we all ever needed poetry, it is definitely now.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Aquarius Press Joins Technorati

Technorati Profile

We are always searching for new ways to extend our reach into cyberspace, and our new Technorati page will go a long way in helping Aquarius Press achieve that goal. Click on the link above, and you will travel to our profile page. While it's still under construction, we will be adding features as we go along. It's a challenge keeping up with the myriad options available, but it's exciting to see how blogging technology has evolved just in the past year alone. Another great feature is the ability to post videos (mainly acquired through YouTube) on Technorati where it increases viewership exponentially. Look for our author features there soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Land of Silent Morning a 50-Year Success

"As I walked through the marketplace, I promised myself that I would never die like my mother." These haunting words struck me and my editors as we read through what would become one of our great literary achievements. The Land of Silent Morning is more than just another memoir amongst memoirs, it's a validation of a life of shame, struggle, poverty, and redemption over a span of 50 years. The author, Kateleen K. Washington (nee Kyong Mi) first talked with me by phone. Her English was stilted, but I was intrigued by the intensity in her voice, her dead certainty that her life story would be a message to the world. I believe it is. Two weeks ago we hosted a pre-release party near her adopted hometown of Utica, Michigan. The people who came were not only the general public, but people from Kateleen's early years, people who knew her when she was struggling to survive in a foreign country, and her ex-husband, a man of whom she wrote quite a bit about in the book. It was interesting to see when he walked through the door with his new family that he and Kateleen tearfully hugged as if time had never moved on for either of them. During the Author Q and A, she admitted that she perhaps didn't appreciate the husband she had then, a man who had literally rescued her from a life of being an escort in South Korea's nightclubs. She says she couldn't appreciate his humor back then, but I believe she does now.

Kateleen holds no regrets, however, only pride in having forged a life for herself here in the U.S. as a business owner. She says she has no desire to ever return to Korea, but she has a burning desire to find her sisters with whom she lost touch so many decades before. She is hoping that this book will help with that mission. Whether she finds them or not, she will always be a part of the Aquarius Press Family.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Publishing Success in Trying Times

As the first month of this new year draws to a close, we are slammed nearly every day with dire economic news. For us in the publishing industry, it's even more terrifying--in addition to the overall economic woes, we face the collapse of the publishing industry and the decline of print book readers. It would be easy to just give up at this point, but as with virtually anything, there is a bright side. Even during the Great Depression, there was still economic activity, and more importantly, people still bought and read print material. For publishers like Aquarius Press, this is a time to forge ahead, while our competitors are afraid to make a move.

"There are more of us than there are of them." These words, spoken by my friend and fellow author Sylvia McClain, is very inspiring and true. She was referring to the traditional book reading public. This current generation was raised on books, before the new digital technologies burst on the scene. In other words, there are still countless numbers of people who like to hold books in their hands. As a publisher, Aquarius Press is ready and able to meet both print demand as well as digital demand for the new age, but it's nice to know there are others out there who still prefer to flip the pages of a book on a rainy afternoon.