Sunday, June 10, 2018

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Jill Mceldowney and Caroline Chavatel on Madhouse Press

Madhouse Press is a small chapbook press based out of Las Cruces, New Mexico that specializes in hand-bound letterpress chapbooks. Our press seeks to preserve and proliferate the ephemeral art of the chapbook. Find us here:

Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook Kisses Over Babylon (dancing girl press 2016) and Airs Above Ground (Finishing Line Press Fall 2018). Her previously published work can be found in journals such as Vinyl, Fugue, Whiskey Island, and others.

Caroline Chavatel is from Baltimore and got her BA in Creative Writing from Salisbury University. Her work has appeared in AGNI Online, Sonora Review, Gulf Coast, Hayden's Ferry Review & elsewhere.

1— When did MadHouse Press 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? What first brought you to publishing?
Madhouse Press was started in the Spring of 2017. As readers of poetry, we felt it necessary to address the gap in the current books and chapbooks being published and produced. By this we mean the lack of female voices and true voices of diversity. Starting Madhouse Press is our way of making sure that those voices have a platform and a space to be both heard and read.

2 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
We believe small publishers are responsible, like all publishers, for bringing marginalized voices to the center and for creating a more diverse poetic landscape. We also feel like one of our main responsibilities is toward our authors--making sure they feel secure and involved in the process of creating the book.

In addition, we want to support the work and the artists we choose to publish.
The editor/publisher-author relationship shouldn’t necessarily end with the publication of the book.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
One thing we do that sets us apart aesthetically is that we hand-sew our books and hand letterpress our covers. Each cover goes through the letterpress with a custom plate, which we think gives our books a unique and personalized edge.  Because we are so ‘hands on’  as far as the design, printing, and binding processes go and because we are so small, we are able to engaged with the work on a level that cannot be found in most publishing houses.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
Personally, we feel like the poetry community is already wonderful at promoting and supporting one another so it makes our jobs pretty easy in terms of getting people excited and getting the books out into the world. Our authors usually promote their books (as do we) on Twitter. Find us here : @madhouse_press.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
Light touch. The author knows the work better than an editor ever will. As editors, we believe our presence is to ‘fine tune’ rather than become present in the work ourselves. We trust that our authors know what is best for their own work.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
We have a website ( and collect payments through PayPal and rely on social media like Twitter for promotion. We were also present at AWP Tampa this past spring and were able to successfully promote our authors there. Our books are printed in limited runs of 100.

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?
Right now, it’s just two of us (Jill Mceldowney and Caroline Chavatel). In addition to the two editors, we also have a “Board of Advisors” that have provided much guidance and support.

Our press is in the nascent stage, so we’ve yet to collaborate with other editors, but we have worked closely with artists who we commission for the covers and our letterpress expert, Joshua Flores. We are always looking for artists to collaborate with on cover art.

11– How do you see Madhouse Press evolving?
At this point, we as a press are looking to establish ourselves and find our footing in the poetry community. That is not to say that we are without long term goals. In our first year, we published two collections of poetry. In our second, we are looking to double that figure. We are reading some truly exciting manuscripts right now and look forward to working with their authors over the coming months.

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?
As publishers, we are most proud of the way we have been able to promote our current authors as well as books that we have not published but find exciting, interesting, and in conversation with current events.

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Our publishing models are Noemi Press and Four Way Books. We admire the editors of these publishing houses, the books that they choose to publish, and the way in which they promote and care for their authors.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
Currently, we do not take submissions and acquire work through solicitations only. We are, however, always open to queries from poets who feel our press may be a good fit for their work. As previously mentioned, we are planning a contest now for Summer 2019 which will include a call outlining what we are looking.

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
Thus far, we have only published two books Alexis Pope’s Debt and Chelsea Dingman’s What Bodies HaveI Moved. Both books are incredibly special to us. We feel so proud to have been able to put these two works into the world as well as promote their authors. Pope’s book very much addresses and complicates the traditionally held ideals of the female body and the female body as mother. Dingman’s work challenges history itself, family tradition, and the social concepts held in Eastern Europe.

These books are very different but both are doing essential work.

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