About William Kemp:
About Nicole Brewer:
Nicole Brewer is a writer, editor, and
micropress publisher in Toronto, Ontario. She is the co-founder of and fiction
editor at the micropress words(on)pages. She is passionate about emerging
writers, small press culture, short fat dogs, and tea.
words(on)pages was created to be a
centralized location through which we do pretty much any of the creative things
you associate with literature, some for ourselves, some for others, some for
money. These include, but are not limited to creating, designing, editing, and
publishing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. We are also open to suggestions.
We are an organization created by emerging
writers for emerging writers. We know that, without a big name to put in your
byline, it can be nearly impossible to get recognition for work that may well
deserve accolades. We know that getting rejected by publishers and literary
magazines gets frustrating. We know that doing open mics week after week for no
apparent reason can be disheartening. We know that sometimes it sucks to have a
passion so hopelessly non-lucrative as writing, and we want to remind you that
your work is valuable. We want to give
you something you can put on a bookshelf, something you can peddle at readings,
something you can sell to kind friends and curious strangers. We want to give
you proof that your years of late nights and awful jobs and first drafts and
rewrites are worth it. Think of our work as tangible proof that hey, your
shit’s pretty rad.
1 – When did words(on)pages 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?
was started in March 2014, when we launched our “first” three chapbooks—they
were by us and a friend, and we were essentially self-publishing under the name
“words(on)pages.” Shortly after that, we started taking it seriously as a
micropress, figuring out what we we wanted to produce, and how to produce it.
The first step was our bi-monthly literary magazine, (parenthetical), which
launched its first issue in May 2014. As we produced more issues and booked
more readers at our reading series, we were overwhelmed by the amount of
talented writers who still hadn’t had the opportunity to be published in a
collection of any length, so we decided to open ourselves up to chapbook
submissions. Just this April, we launched our first official words(on)pages chapbooks, by Domenica Martinello, Daniel Scott Tysdal, Simina Banu, and philip
gordon, and then in October, to round out our first year of chapbooks, we
published JC Bouchard, Susie Berg, Astoria Felix, and philip miletic.
Our original goals haven’t
exactly shifted since we started—they’re more sharpened, as we learn more about
what else is out there and where we belong in the community, what we can do to
make ourselves unique as a press and as educators, how much production costs at
different levels, who’s being acknowledged and who’s being regularly overlooked
in the Canadian literary scene. More than anything, we’ve learned what our “for
emerging artists, by emerging artists” mission statement really means, and how
we can best stay true to it.
2 – What first brought you to publishing?
In September 2013, we
attended the Small Press Fair at the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, and that
was our first real exposure to what small presses were doing. We’d been aware
of the small press community before this, and picked up small press books here
and there, but it was incredibly inspiring to meet presses like BookThug, Thee Hellbox Press, and above/ground press and see all these beautiful and varied
books and chapbooks in person. Nicole had just finished a graduate publishing
program and Will was in the last year of his publishing program, and we were
becoming increasingly aware of how difficult it was to get paid internship or
work opportunities in the industry—particularly anywhere cool, like the presses
at the fair. So we said, “Fuck it. Let’s start something.” And we did.
3 – What do you consider the role and
responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
The number one
responsibility of small publishing, we believe, is to take chances. One aspect
of that is publishing authors that will probably never be on the bestseller
lists for one reason or another, but are doing important work and contributing
to the ever-growing canon of Canadian literature. Another is taking chances on
new or debut authors, who might someday end up being poached by a larger press,
but right now you’re the only
publisher in their corner. It’s kind of a shitty responsibility, sometimes,
because it might mean not selling a ton of books, or getting a ton of press,
but we really believe that small press publishing makes up the pillars of
literary culture in Canada—by doing the difficult, important work of fostering
new and different voices.
4 – What do you see your press doing that no
one else is?
There’s no one thing that
sets us apart from anyone else—so many people and presses are doing great,
original work that overlaps with ours in many ways, but we do feel that a
combination of things we’re doing helps set us apart. We have a real focus on
community-building and education for young, new, and emerging writers, which
means we’ve run workshops about the behind-the-scenes of small press and
literary magazine culture, as well as the ins and outs of being an emerging
writer, and in June of 2016, we'll be running our first ever multi-week,
multi-part workshop (you can find more details here:
http://www.wordsonpagespress.com/workshops/). We also provide feedback on all
submissions (the writing itself and the actual submission) to try to help
writers improve on their submission process. Essentially, we want to make our
process transparent, because even after four (or more) years of schooling, we
realized there was so much we were never taught about both writing and
publishing—stuff we didn’t learn until we were on the other side of it. Another
aspect of community-building is going out of our way to find other
publications, events, launches, writers, and so on that we appreciate, and
sharing their events, or new issues, or new publications, etc.—not because we
feel like we need to, but just because it’s cool shit, that we want people to
know about, and it helps connect writers, publishers, and publications with one
On a more material side, we
think publishing a bi-monthly literary magazine sets our press apart (many are
quarterly or biannual), and having that literary magazine be hand-bound is also
sort of different. Everything we make is hand-bound, which isn’t unique in the
small press community, but we haven’t seen a lot of hand-bound literary
journals. In addition to that, 100% of the content we publish—chapbooks and
literary magazine—is from submissions. We don’t solicit any work, so that we
can always find room to publish writers with few or no publication credits.
Again, it may not be entirely unique, but we’re a part of a small group of
small presses and literary magazines that highly values emerging writers.
5 – What do you see as the most effective way
to get new chapbooks out into the world?
Oh gosh. Well, we’re only
one year into “real” chapbook publishing, and so far we’ve sold chapbooks in person
at our launch, through our online store front, and we're in the process of
slowly getting them in local book stores, boutiques, and art stores that will
stock them. So we’re no experts. But the number one way seems to be by
handselling them: having a launch (and having more than one chapbook at that
launch), tabling at fairs of all sizes (art fairs! craft fairs! literary
fairs!), booking readings and bringing the chapbook along, etc. Because of
that, it goes a long way to have a chapbook that can stand out for how it’s
made: to us, the materiality (as in the actual feel and aesthetics) of the
chapbook is as important as the content, and a good-looking (and -feeling)
chapbook will find its way into the hands of passers-by. Things like having
excerpts available online may help, or having a kind of marketing one-sheet to
bring or send to indie bookstores or niche boutiques might also help. But for
us, so far, the reality has been that most sales happen in person, or through
word of mouth about either the author or us as a press.
It sounds simple, but being
passionate about what you’re producing, and who you’re publishing goes a long
way, and that shows in not only how you produce the chapbook—giving them the
respect they deserve by publishing a chapbook you’d want to spend money on
yourself—but how you talk about it.
6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig
deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
With (parenthetical), we do almost no editing whatsoever, partly because
of time constraints, and partly because we get tons of amazing submissions that
don’t even need any editing—they’re immediately publishable. With our
chapbooks, it varies a bit more. We feel we get a lot of work that has already
clearly been edited multiple times and polished to near perfection. We received
lots of great submissions for our 2015 chapbooks and that trend continued with
our submissions for 2016, and some of the manuscripts didn’t need any work at
all, other than proofreading and some copy editing for house style. Others we
ran through lightly a few times. A few others we worked with more closely,
whether it was structural or editorial or both. If, down the road, we get to
devote more time to words(on)pages than our current day jobs allow, we’re open to
working with authors on polishing and shaping manuscripts from their fledgling
7 – How do your books get distributed? What are
your usual print runs?
So far we’ve simply held
launches for our chapbooks and our literary magazine, sold them online, and
have (parenthetical) in a select few stores in Toronto—huge props to Book City,
TKVO, Art Metropole, and the TCAF store for stocking (parenthetical), btw! Our
usual print runs are about 40 to 60 copies, and we print on demand from there.
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’re the only editors for
all of it, and we essentially split the tasks: Will is, officially, the poetry
editor, and Nicole is the fiction editor. We both read everything and each get
a say in both areas, but defer to the “official” in any disagreements. The main
reason we don’t work with other editors is because we’re not into taking work
for free, and currently don’t have the budget to pay anyone. We're also pretty
passionate about our vision and editorial mandate when it comes to both our
chapbooks and (parenthetical), which makes giving up editorial control a bit
hard. This is the closest we have to a real, breathing, human baby aside from a
pet, and our landlord is allergic to cats and we're too broke for a dog, so
giving up control of (parenthetical) or our chapbooks is hard.
In terms of production, we
print (parenthetical) covers and our
chapbook contents, along with some covers, with an outside source, Swimmers
Group. The contents of (parenthetical) we print at home simply for the sake of
convenience. We also have an awesome friend that has provided us with their
screenprinting abilities for chapbooks. The only drawbacks to these outsourced
production aspects are that they increase the production timeline by a few
days. And that’s hardly a drawback.
9– How has being an editor/publisher changed
the way you think about your own writing?
Perhaps the most positive
change has been that we really understand, now, that rejection isn’t personal.
Rejection isn’t even always a reflection of the work you submitted. There are
so many reasons that a piece could get rejected, and “it sucked” is definitely
towards the bottom of that list. It’s helped us realize that a “good” story or
poem isn’t always a “publishable” story or poem, either because of how it jives
(or doesn’t) with the rest of an issue, or maybe because it just doesn’t stand
on its own very well. And that a “catchy” story or poem isn’t always “good.”
It’s helped our own submission process as writers, because we realized how much
a good submission e-mail can put a positive spin on the work you’re submitting.
And finally, we get to read so much amazing
writing that it’s helped us really pin down what works and what doesn’t in
terms of literary techniques and style and presentation—and what works for
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
Well, that’s how
words(on)pages started, was by us publishing our own work. So we’re certainly
not against it. But we also probably wouldn’t do it again any time soon,
because we don’t want to take our meagre resources away from the incredible
work we receive from other people. We receive enough of it to have a full
publishing schedule, so we just don’t see a reason to publish our own work.
That said, we each write a review in almost every issue of (parenthetical)—although that’s less about publishing our own
writing, and more about the fact that we want to include non-fiction, but don’t
get too may non-fiction submissions. It’s not that we feel the question is
irrelevant, just not exceptionally important (to us) in the grand scheme of
11– How do you see words(on)pages evolving?
Wow. Geez. A lot of ways,
rob. Big dreams, small wallets. We would really love to continue to expand our
online reach, both for our blog and for the online version of (parenthetical). We love what we
publish, so obviously we want more people to read it. That means putting more
time and more resources into building that online platform, creating a
beautiful, effective, interactive online platform for online reading. But we
also want to stay true to what makes us unique right now: handmade, artisan,
limited edition products. So we could see ourselves producing a limited print
run of our products for contributors, collectors, and local supporters, while
continuing to build an online presence. We would also like to continue building
on our presence in bookstores—to reach not only more in Toronto, but other
bookstores that promote awesome Canadian work. Perhaps, someday, we could see
ourselves producing one or two special edition “real” books, with spines, per
year. Maybe from there, if the time allows it, we publish more “real” books
with spines, but that starts to bring about a whole mess of questions about
staying true to what makes words(on)pages words(on)pages. And maybe we start a
different press for “real” books. Or maybe we don’t. That’s for the future to
We would also really like to
keep pushing the community-building and education aspects of words(on)pages—and
that means we really hope our first multi-week, open to the public workshop
goes well. And it means not only do we grow in our readership, but we bring in
new and diverse readers with new and diverse voices from emerging writers.
“Getting big” is nice, obviously, but we hope it's never at the expense of our
mandate to promote emerging writers and engage with and foster a big ol' loving
community of rad writers and publishers doing rad work.
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 impossible to choose
between our children, so our proudest accomplishment is twofold. We are
incredibly proud to have produced eleven issues of a literary magazine, and to
have an issue practically always at the ready, we’re not stopping any time
soon. We’re proud because we’ve published over 100 writers, and that group is
so diverse: from conceptual and visual poetry to narrative or formal poetry to
flash fiction to magic realist short stories, and everywhere in between and
beyond. Because we’ve published a previously unpublished fifteen-year-old, and
we’ve also published people “with a name”—people like Jay MillAr. So that’s one
of the things we’re most proud of.
The other was our two
successful chapbook launches We poured everything into producing those first
four chapbooks, and the day of the launch, we were nervous wrecks. And then it
went better than we ever could have expected—great turnout, unbelievable sales,
and everyone we talked to seemed to
have had a great time. And we thought we couldn't recreate that with our fall
launch, but we ended up somehow way under budget and things went off without a
hitch again and it was absolutely staggering. More than anything, that’s what
we want: we want to make things, and host things, that make people feel good
about buying them, or going to them. And our launch was the perfect example of
the perfect execution of that goal.
We don’t really feel like
anyone has necessarily “overlooked” anything about our publications, but we do
lament that not as many people are looking as we would hope. And that ties in
with the biggest frustration: because of our inherent small-ness and our focus
on emerging writers, we haven’t really gotten a lot of “notice” so far. That’s
not to say we don’t have support. We have an amazing group of people who have
supported us from the get go, and that group does seem to grow with every new
issue or chapbook we produce, but it’s a slow burn. We don’t often have those
“big names” that garner big attention, and when we do, they’re alongside half a
dozen other writers with just one or two publishing credits. And we love that
about ourselves, but it does mean that our reach has built slowly. It’s only in
the past few months that we feel like we’re starting to make an impact and
reach a new audience, while we’ve seen other publications start with a wider
audience “built in” because of solicited work from bigger names, or connections
that we simply didn’t have.
13– Who were your early publishing models when
Ferno House and BookThug
were our two main inspirations starting out. Ferno House made the most
beautiful chapbooks we’d ever seen, from the shape to the paper to the design
to the typesetting—everything was amazing. Those chapbooks were what made us
say, “Hot damn, let’s learn to bookbind.” (At our spring chapbook launch, a few
people compared our chapbooks to Ferno’s, and we swooned.) Jay and Hazel at
BookThug were inspirations in every way: as mentors, as people, as a couple, as
publishers, as a team—in addition to loving every single thing they publish,
their work ethic is unbelievable, and their conviction is inspiring.
14– How does words(on)pages work to engage with
your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or
presses do you see words(on)pages in dialogue with? How important do you see
those dialogues, those conversations?
We try to engage with the
immediate literary community in every way possible: in person by attending
shows, events, and launches, as well as online by sharing news or deadlines or
events. And buying books and journals because we know first-hand that these
publications and publishers don't exist without monetary support. For the
community at large, that goes back to our education-based initiatives like
workshops and presentations. As well, we work really hard to sort of break down
any perceived barriers between different “kinds” of writing and performance—in
Toronto especially, the literary community can seem quite clique-y, and it’s
created a number of divides, whether that’s between spoken word and page
poetry, or between poetry and fiction, or playwriting and “other” writing, and
so on. We want to encourage writers and readers from all backgrounds to be open
to new forms of writing and performance, both from an audience’s perspective,
and a creator’s perspective. To us, good writing is good writing is good
writing, and we just want to create a space for showcasing it, whether that's
on a stage or in print.
We also try to create a
dialogue with as many presses and magazines as possible, but in particular we
have strong dialogues with The Puritan,
The Quilliad, untethered, In/Words Magazine and Press, Anstruther Press,
Meat Locker Editions, Desert Pets Press, and BookThug. These dialogues take
shape in a few forms, to us. For example, with The Puritan, Anstruther Press,
and BookThug, not only do we admire the work they publish and aspire to a
lot of their editorial sensibilities, but we share their new issues/books
online, and go out to their events to show our appreciation in person and show
some solidarity to them as friends and admirers of what they do. For places
like The Quilliad, untethered, In/Words, and Meat Locker
Editions, we feel like they all very much share the sentiment of “for emerging
artists”—they’re all willing to take risks on virtually unknown writers and
showcase them like we do.
Another kind of engagement
comes from meeting, knowing, and publishing people who are involved with other
literary magazines and presses. For instance, in one of our early issues we
published a few writers who had been heavily involved with In/Words Magazine
and Press in Ottawa—the next issue, we had over a dozen submissions from people
who were involved with or had been published in In/Words, and we published a
ton of them. Something similar happened with untethered as well, and it’s also happened in reverse: we’ll
publish a writer with just one or two previous publications, then see them pop
up in two or three or four more magazines whose submissions calls we’ve shared.
Through a combination of sharing each other’s new issues and deadlines, as well
as writers sharing the issues they’ve been published in, we create a kind of
collaborative way of building new writers’ portfolios and extending the reach
of each press or magazine—without even really meaning to. We’re all just really
interested in getting good, previously under-appreciated writing out into the
15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings
or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
We host a reading series,
words(on)stages. For the first year, we held it monthly and featured 2-3
readers each month. Every second installation would double as a launch for (parenthetical). As of our second year,
and continuing on into 2016, we are only hosting words(on)stages bi-monthly, to
coincide with (parenthetical)
launches. In part, it was a financial decision, but we also didn’t want readers
in non-launch months to feel like they weren’t drawing a big enough audience,
compared to launch months. For our chapbooks, we have spring and fall launches
in April and October respectively, where we launch a handful of our
chapbooks—and sometimes collaborate with other chapbook presses and have a
co-launch, what with community being so important to us.
We feel public readings (and
such) are the lifeblood of the small press community. Whether it’s a launch or
a reading series or a reading at a festival or a one-off event, these public
readings are the best opportunity to show not only other people in the literary
community, but the public how passionate you (the publisher, the author, the
bookseller) are about the literature. But beyond that, beyond the sales aspect
of it, it’s an opportunity to meet other people in the community, the people
behind the presses or the books, or even just other people who like what you
like. They are, literally, the community.
16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all,
to further your goals?
We use Twitter, Facebook,
Tumblr, and our website to promote all the work we publish, as well as to
spread the word about our events—as any publisher ought to do. More than that,
though, we’re all about building our community outside of those we can see and
talk to in person. That means we not only showcase work and events from other
presses and writers we like, but we try to share things like readings and
launches, as well as submission deadlines for other literary magazines or
contests to get people involved with presses we respect and bring communities around
the country together. We are, after all, a part of Canadian literature, and not
only do we publish work from around Canada; we love work from a lot of
publishers around Canada too.
17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t
you looking for?
We do, indeed—for both
(parenthetical) and words(on)stages we’re always accepting submissions; for
chapbooks we have a time window that we announce on our website and social
media and all that good stuff. All of the info for submissions can be found
As for what we aren’t
looking for: manuscripts longer than thirty pages, genre fiction (nothing
personal, just not for us as a publication), and submissions that don’t follow
our guidelines. Anything else we’re totally up for.
18– Tell me about three of your most recent
titles, and why they’re special.
WOOL WATER by JC Bouchard: WOOL
WATER, JC Bouchard's second chapbook (his first the fantastic “Portraits”
from In/Words) is the culmination of ten days spent (mostly) in isolation in
Reykjavik, Iceland, and several more months wittling the experience down to a
sparse, stark long poem broken up into parts. JC distilled his experience in
Iceland into this fantastic manuscript of bite-sized sections that immediately
grab you, then linger, that get under your skin and form a narrative that not
only stays with you, but you want to share, that you insist on sharing by
reading pieces to anyone who will listen and forcing the pocket-sized little
collection into their hands. JC's parts form a narrative that's just as serene
and calm as it is dark and manic, and it does so in such a way that we've never
seen JC play with language and form.
instruction booklet by philip miletic:
Though quite the motherfucker to lay out, MOTHER2EARTH: an instruction
booklet was a fantastic, weird, eclectic manuscript about the seminal JRPG Earthbound
and its Japanese counterpart, Mother 2. The chapbook goes beyond
exploring mistranslation. It revels in the translation and mistranslation of
the script not only in its story and dialogue, but the actual script of the
game's code, and experiments with form, style, reader, and player expectations
in such a way that only an awesome, funny, risk-taking, and talented dude like
philip miletic can.
Astoria Felix: Encountering
Astoria's work first in (parenthetical), we were staggered by how
talented she was, and then she sent us a smattering of her work that came
together as meat//machine, her debut chapbook that's a culmination of
several years of working through trauma and identity. Divided into three parts informally entitled
"summer sheets," "circuit board: an interlude," and
"meat//machine," this chapbook works through notions of beauty and
identity. There's a constant feeling hat something isn't quite right, that somehow the words don't sit easy with the
speaker—or the reader for that matter. And what we love is that Astoria was so
willing to explore and subvert notions of beauty and identity, and do so in
such a stunning and honest way.