Posts by Frances Riddle

Publisher Profile: New Directions

"This is going to sound really Pollyanna, but things have gotten better recently."

Frances Riddle: Can you tell us a little bit about how New Directions got started?

Barbara Epler: We were started by James Laughlin in 1936 and he had gone to study with Ezra Pound; he was bored at Harvard and went to study with Gertrude Stein first and then with Ezra. And J.L. always wanted to be a writer. And Pound, seeing a rich kid, probably had an idea, and he said “No, you’ll never be a very good poet, why don’t you do something useful and go home, finish Harvard so that your parents will give you money, and start a publishing company.” Or assassinate the reviewer he hated at the Saturday Review of Literature. But do something useful. So J.L. came back and when he was still in college started New Directions. J.L. passed away in 1997 but he created a trust so that we could not be bought or sold but we have to stay the same size. He didn’t believe in the capital growth thing which I think is correct—that’ll kill a literary company. And we have to publish books of the same quality. READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: Ana Pérez Galván of Hispabooks

"The more of us there are, the more readers we’ll engage in reading literature in translation, which is nothing more than just reading good books!"

Frances Riddle: How was Hispabooks born?

Ana Pérez Galván: The two co-founders, my partner Gregorio Doval and myself, had worked many years in publishing in Spain, as editors for other presses (and in Gregorio’s case, as a writer himself too) and we had an urge to create a project of our own. The local market had been plunging for several years (and still hasn’t improved much) so it didn’t seem to make sense to set up just another run-of-the-mill independent press. Instead, after a little research we were amazed to see how very few Spanish literary writers got translated to English. Whilst it was easy to spot translations into French, German, Italian, Serbian . . . of the most relevant Spanish authors, translations into English were conspicuous by their absence. It seemed to make sense to focus our efforts, experience, and expertise in Spanish literary fiction in a project aimed at countering this situation, and that’s how we came up with the idea of Hispabooks.


Publisher Profile: Restless Books

"Restless was conceived in a moment when decisive transformations were taking place."

Restless Books is a digital-first publishing initiative spearheaded by Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. Stavans is also a writer and cofounder of the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst, Stanford, and Oxford. We spoke via Skype about his books, which “reflect the restlessness of our multiform lives.”

Frances Riddle: How was Restless Books born?

Ilan Stavans: Restless was conceived in a moment when decisive transformations were taking place. Booksellers were shrinking in size; big publishers were limiting the number of books coming from different countries, from different languages. Restless came out of a response to the limited exposure an American reader has to international fiction. We aim to translate great work from a variety of languages. That was and is our mission—to compensate for the commercial way of thinking the big publishers have in New York City. We are a mid-sized publisher, but our goal is to help internationalize the landscape of American literature as much as possible. The Press aims to publish fiction, non-fiction, and poetry dealing with restlessness as a condition.

FR: Was this focus on movement—restlessness—inspired by your own immigrant experience? READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: A Midsummer Night’s Press

An interview with Lawrence Schimel, head of independent poetry press A Midsummer Night's Press

A Midsummer Night’s Press started publishing poetry in 1991. Since then, the press has expanded to include three imprints. Fabula Rasa publishes works that draw inspiration from mythology and folklore. Body Language publishes writing related to gender and sexual identity. Sapphic Classics, in collaboration with Sinister Wisdom journal, rereleases works of lesbian poetry.

This fall, A Midsummer Night’s Press has launched a new imprint, Periscope, which focuses on poetry in translation. Lawrence Schimel, the press’s founder, answered my questions by e-mail before jetting off to the Guadalajara Book Fair. Read on for information on how to receive free international shipping on Periscope’s debut titles. READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: Berlinica

On the trail of a one-woman publishing house

Berlin native Eva Schweitzer learned a lot about the publishing industry from her years of work as a writer and New York correspondent for German newspapers. In 2011, she decided to open her own publishing house, focusing on books related to the city of Berlin. Eva runs Berlinica between New York City and Berlin. I spoke to her via Skype after one of her frequent trans-Atlantic flights.

Frances Riddle: How was Berlinica born?

Eva Schweitzer: I’m an author and nowadays it’s becoming easier to break into the market, even if you’re small. You don’t need so much overhead anymore. You can do print-on-demand and e-books, you can distribute them internationally with Amazon; and I thought why not try and publish books myself? I know how to write a book. How hard can it be to publish a book?

FR: So was it as easy as you thought it would be to open your own publishing house?

ES: No, it turns out it’s a great deal more time-consuming and complicated than you can imagine. READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: Ox and Pigeon

"I can’t imagine [digital publishing] is going to be anything but good for translated literature."

Ox and Pigeon Electronic Books embraces the digital age with a dynamic publishing model that enables them to deliver the literature they love to readers anywhere in the world. Since 2012, they have specialized in translations through their literary journal, The Portable Museum. Earlier this year, Ox and Pigeon began releasing their first novels in English translation. I spoke with co-founder Lucas Lyndes from his home in Lima, Peru, via Skype.

Frances Riddle: How was Ox and Pigeon born?

Lucas Lyndes: I moved to Peru in 2005 to learn Spanish with the idea of becoming a translator. I got married here in 2010 and my friends from Boston, Jason Curran and Katie Sedat, came down for the wedding. We got to talking about books because we’re all big readers. I was dabbling in translation and I was surprised at what was being translated; there were a lot of writers who weren’t getting any attention. So we decided to try and do something about it. The idea was born in 2010 and the first issue of The Portable Museum came out in 2012.  READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: New Vessel Press

"It’s scary, but if you want to expand the range of what you can do, you have to take these risks."

Founded in New York City in 2012, New Vessel Press is dedicated to publishing books “that offer erudition and pleasure, provoke and scintillate, transform and transport.” They specialize in translation of foreign literature in paperback and e-book format. Graphic designer Liana Finck’s beautiful cover art makes the New Vessel Press website a feast for the eyes. I spoke with New Vessel Press co-founders Michael Wise and Ross Ufberg via Skype.

Frances Riddle: How was New Vessel Press born?

Michael Wise: Ross and I met at a spelling bee. My son was in the Manhattan Spelling Bee and Ross was the announcer. He was introduced as a literary translator from Polish and Russian to English and I thought that was pretty fascinating. We met and it turned out we lived close by and we became friends and talked a lot about literature. The press was born out of that love for books.


What We’re Reading in August

Featuring Eridanos Library favorites, tales of primeval and Mongolian displacement, and an anthology of stories about knock-offs!

József Szabó (technical manager): Of the books I’ve read during the past few months, Hans Erich Nossack’s An Offering for the Dead (trans. Neugroschel) has become a book I highly regard. It was my slow but steady mining of the out-of-print Eridanos Library series that led me to this short novel, whose not-so-familiar author stood out from the others in the set, such as: Heimito von Doderer, Michel Leiris, Piñera, Klossowski, Landolfi, Akutagawa, Savinio, Musil.

An Offering, stylistically, reads as if (Hamburger’s) Celan wrote a ~120-page surrealistic threnody in prose for European victims of a WWII bombing. READ MORE…

Publisher Profile: Bloomsbury Publishing

"I don't publish literature from other languages as a translation. I publish it as literature."

Founded in 1986, Bloomsbury Publishing is an independent publishing house dedicated to promoting quality literature. During the editor’s week of the Buenos Aires Book Fair I met with Bill Swainson, Senior Commissioning Editor of the Adult Editorial Division at Bloomsbury Publishing in London. 

Bloomsbury logo


Publisher Profile: University of California Press

"In a different era, colleagues translated books because they believed in the project. That’s not a luxury I have today."

University of California Press Acquisitions Editor Kate Marshall specializes in publishing books on food, the environment, and Latin America in the social sciences and humanities. I talked to Kate during the editor’s week of the Buenos Aires Book Fair.

Frances Riddle: What gap in the publishing landscape does UC Press aim to fill?

Kate Marshall: UC Press is one of the leading university presses in the United States, the largest university press west of the Mississippi and the only major press affiliated with a public university. We publish in many fields but our press is especially known for publishing on progressive social issues, like inequality, human rights, and the environment. We do a lot of books in interdisciplinary fields, books that transcend formal disciplines. 


Publisher Profile: Arte Público Press

"We exist to give access to Latino writers and to Latino intellectuals."

Arte Público Press of the University of Houston is the oldest and most esteemed publisher of Hispanic authors in the U.S. Dedicated to publishing contemporary Hispanic literature, Arte Público also boasts a successful children’s book imprint, Piñata Books, and the Recovery Project, which aims to recover Latino writings that were lost from the colonial period to the 1960s. At their offices in Houston, Texas, I sat down with Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, founder and director of Arte Público Press.

Frances Riddle: How did Arte Público Press start out?

Nicolás Kanellos: I first founded and edited a literary magazine, the Revista Chicano-Riqueña for some eight, nine years. This came out of the Latino Civil Rights movement where I had worked with lots of writers who didn’t have any place to publish. We founded the magazine in 1972, and by 1979, we decided that we could publish books. First we published poetry books by Nuyorican [New York Puerto Rican] writers and then went on to prose. It’s called Arte Público because we were influenced by the public art movement, which meant we believed that there was art and culture in the community, and we wanted to take that art and format it and give it back to the community and make it known to everyone.


Publisher Profile: Will Evans of Deep Vellum

“Translation needs to be brought out of the ghetto that it’s in… we talk about translation as if it is separate from literature”

The contagiously enthusiastic Will Evans views literature as an international art form. His passion for world literature was the inspiration behind his brand new publishing venture, Deep Vellum, based in Dallas, Texas. Dedicated to quality literature in translation, Deep Vellum’s first titles are slated for release later this year.

Book Expo America attendees (or anyone else in NYC this week!) can check out Deep Vellum at the Translation Happy Hour Event Wednesday, May 28th, co-sponsored by Asymptote in celebration of the BEA’s Translation Market Focus.

Frances Riddle: What gap in the publishing landscape does Deep Vellum aim to fill?

Will Evans: I started Deep Vellum with a threefold mission to fill in the pieces that I feel are lacking in the literary landscape. Deep Vellum is going to publish translations of literature from every language and an unspoken part of that is I want to publish a lot of Mexican and Latin American literature. Based in Texas, we have strong ties to our neighbors south of the border.

I’m committed to publishing equal numbers of men and women authors. I’m very committed to publishing a diversity of authors from different styles, different viewpoints, different lifestyles, cultural backgrounds. The second part of Deep Vellum’s mission is to promote the art of translation, the more creative writing side of literary translation. And the third part of my mission is to promote literature as a part of the larger arts community in our country. If you look at the funding for the arts in America, literature is not considered the arts. So we need to get literature included in a discussion of the arts and the vital role that the literary community can play in this country.


Remembering Juan Gelman

We must go Gelmaning on

Three days of national mourning were declared in Argentina to commemorate the life of poet Juan Gelman, who passed away at eighty-three on Tuesday, January 14th in Mexico City. Silvina Friera of Pagina/12 remembered the Argentine poet’s great contribution to Spanish literature, stating “we have lost a man who transformed wounds into memorable verses…an untamable voice, so close and so beloved, whose deep cadence crackled with an elegant and playful irony.” READ MORE…