Syracuse-based small press publisher Ghost City Press spent the entire summer undergoing the selfless task of curating and releasing one microchapbook a day for 75 days. It was their third time doing so and their best turnout yet. With some books containing only nine or ten pages and others reaching 30, the results were eclectic, genre-defying, and original, with each day providing a different style, voice, and approach to the short poetic form. I spoke with Kevin Bertolero about Ghost City’s jam-packed and wondrous summer, juggling editorial work with graduate school, and what Ghost City Press has in store before 2019. Be sure to grab the complete collection of microchapbooks for free (or pay what you want) by clicking the link below and also check out Ghost City’s new October issue.
Your summer chapbook series has come to a close. How do you feel?
Pretty relieved! The past two summers have been a lot of work, but we've been seeing some really great responses to the chaps we're publishing and the writers are very enthusiastic about the whole project. It's a nice exercise in building community. But yeah, I'm kind of happy to be done with this, and I'm ready to start focusing on our fall and winter releases.
Will you be taking off the fall to recover?
Unfortunately not! I'm a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, so I have very little free time between my own coursework and the class that I'm teaching. And for Ghost City, we've got seven or eight projects lined up and set for release before spring. Some of those plans will probably change, but for now that's our goal. We've got plenty of work ahead of us.
What's the rest of the year looking like for you?
We've got new collections from Jack Bachmann (who was my co-editor for the 2018 Summer Series), Dior Stephens, Lander Eicholzer, Nicholas Bon, Kate Cunningham, Dean Schabner, Rosie Accola, Mike Andrelczyk, Sophia Parsons, Daniel Warner, and a couple others. They're all incredible projects that are each very unique. I'm so excited to see how they turn out.
Reflecting on these 75 days, what surprised you? What frustrated you? What did you adore?
We had far fewer technical problems than we did last year which was nice. This was year three, so we've got the process down. 2016 was still kind of a test, just to see if this could work and if people were interested. Last year, we nearly doubled the number of writers involved which brought some new complications with it. This year we just tried to account for those issues ahead of time and everything seemed to work out. Much of our process is front-loaded, so aside from the promotional aspects and keeping the website up to date, the past couple months have actually been pretty easy. It's between January and May that we're really working hard on the series.
Do you plan on doing this summer series next year as well?
Absolutely I want to try to get a few more editors involved, just to lighten the work-load a little bit. I think more voices would be helpful and might provide us with some new ways of doing things. Our process is by no means perfect, so getting some fresh eyes on what we're doing would be helpful.
Outside of Ghost City publications, what else have you been reading?
Mostly literary theory for school and a lot of pedagogy. As far as novels, the last book I read that I really loved was The Idiot by Elif Batuman. For poetry, I just keep re-reading Frank O'Hara! Ghost City gives me enough poetry to read, so I usually stick to fiction when reading for fun.
For this ongoing literary interview series, I'm asking for everyone to present a writing prompt. It can be one that you craft out of thin air, it can be one you created a while ago, or it can be one you adore from an outside source that was passed down to you.
There's one prompt that I gave my students last week that worked well for them, and it was to write about your clearest childhood memory. I told them to really focus on certain smells that might trigger these memories. Writing about food is always a good place to start.
What kind of advice can you give to writers submitting to Ghost City?
Read through the old issues of Ghost City Review, explore the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Summer Series micro-chaps, and even order some of our books. See what we've been publishing so far, and if you think your work might fit in, we'd love to see it. Just focus on writing about your passions and interests. If you're excited about a particular project, chances are we will be too.
Any final thoughts / words of wisdom / shout-outs?
I just want to thank all the writers who were involved with us this summer, and a special thank you to everybody who has read the micro-chaps and has supported us so far. Even something as simple as retweeting us or liking one of our posts on Facebook, it means a lot.