Thursday, February 28, 2019

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Tali Voron on The Soap Box

The Soap Box is a publication dedicated to providing an accessible platform that publishes the work of emerging and established writers.

Our mission is to create a community for writers and artists, where the creative process is supported and nurtured. We understand the many barriers that can prevent writers from getting published. We make it our mission to ensure that regardless of socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, or geographical location, The Soap Box remains an accessible medium for all writers within our community. Through our social media channels we feature works of our writers on a weekly basis, and guarantee that submitting to our anthologies remains free. At The Soap Box, we make it our mission to ensure that all voices, whether new or experienced, have a place to be heard.

Tali Voron is driven by her passion for creative writing, love of people, and the desire to make the publishing industry a more accessible space. She completed her Bachelor of Arts, Honours at the University of Toronto in English literature, Education, and Psychology. She is currently pursuing an MA in the Literatures of Modernity program at Ryerson University. In her spare time, Tali pens down prose on her blog, drinks copious amounts of coffee, fawns over any place with a patio or fairy lights, binge watches whatever is on Netflix, laughs, spends time with her friends and family, and enjoys [making] terrible puns.

1 – When did The Soap Box 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?

I founded The Soap Box in April of 2016. I was in the second year of my undergrad, studying English Literature at the University of Toronto, and had the crazy idea of starting a press. Being a writer myself I understood the difficulty of getting published as a new voice; I wanted to create a space specifically for emerging writers. I was incredibly fortunate as things fell into place quite quickly. By the summer of 2016 we had built a core team of talented and driven individuals who shared the same vision of creating an accessible space for emerging writers to have their work published. Our primary focus has been on publishing poetry and short stories in the form of annual anthologies and poetry chapbooks, as well as creating a community of writers in Toronto, and globally, through our social media platforms.

I wouldn’t say that our goals have shifted, but they have certainly expanded. In 2018 we accomplished more than we ever have. We published four titles, hosted two launch parties, and co-hosted From Pen to Published, a publishing fair, with the 11th Floor Writers. The fair was a day long event for emerging writers and individuals interested in a career in publishing, which included a networking session with industry professionals, a series of keynote speakers, craft workshops, and a book launch for Voices From the 11th Floor, an anthology by the 11th Floor Writers that we published. By virtue of the number of events we hosted last year, we have made engaging with our writing community and creating a physical space for people to come together a priority, in addition to the titles that we release.

I have learned a lot throughout my time with The Soap Box. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that everything comes down to people, community, and relationships. When we work with our writers, we want to make the experience personal. We get to know the individuals we are working with and ensure that we are always supporting and nurturing their voices. I’ve been working with my team for almost three years now, and as time goes on we keep getting closer; as our bonds as a collective strengthen, so does our work. We love what we do and we are happy to be doing it together. Needless to say, none of our work would be possible without all of the supportive individuals we have met along the way. It seems like our press has taken on a life of its own, as every step of the way we have crossed paths with the right people at the right time.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

This question was partially answered above, but it really came down to my desire to create an easily accessible space for emerging writers to have their work published. Although we publish established writers as well, we take great pride in being able to showcase and support new voices. We strive to remove barriers in two key ways: submitting to our anthologies is always free and the selection process for submissions is always completely blind. As we are an entirely self-funded press, we work to make ourselves increasingly more accessible to our writers as we grow each year.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

Support your writers, stay true to their work, and always do something new.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

We focus on emerging writers and pride ourselves in our accessibility to new talent.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?

I’ve found that the best way is through events and launches or any place where books can be marketed to a reader in person.

6 – How involved of an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

It depends on the piece I’m working with. Some works require very few edits while others need more in depth revisions. For me, the goal is always to preserve the voice of the writer and the intention behind the piece while bringing it to its best possible form.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?

We distribute our books on our website and at our book launches and other events. Many of our titles can also be purchased at Knife Fork Book in Toronto. Our print runs depend on the title, but the first printing is usually 50-75 copies.

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?

Our team has six editors - one of whom is also our resident cover artist, two layout designers, a web designer, a social media and marketing coordinator, and myself as the founder and editor-in-chief. We take on a number of projects throughout the year, which understandably require a lot of time and energy to bring to life. Having a larger team means that we have a variety of different perspectives, insights, and skillsets to work with and ensures that every project a team member takes on is one that they are passionate about.

So far I have only experienced the benefits of working with a team. I will say that the biggest struggle we’ve had is coordinating a time when everyone is available to meet. Although, these days it seems that can’t be helped.

9 – How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?

I have to admit that my own writing has taken a back seat since I started The Soap Box. I’m okay with that - for now. I am constantly inspired by the writing that is submitted to us; it holds me to a higher standard and I’m grateful for that.

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 as irrelevant?

Interesting question. I’ve been asked this quite often actually. Many people assume that I would submit my own writing to our anthologies or chapbook open calls. That doesn’t seem right to me. As the editor-in-chief, I would never want to take space away from another writer. With that said, I don’t have an opinion on what other writers who are also publishers do. People should do what works for them. Who am I to judge?

11 – How do you see The Soap Box evolving?

I see us continuing to grow. With each year we become more established and find ourselves being able to take on more. To us, this means hosting more events to bring our writing community together, taking on new and exciting projects, and finding more ways to meaningfully connect with our community, all while continuing to publish our annual anthologies and other titles.

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?

My proudest accomplishment so far was organizing and co-hosting From Pen to Published last November. It was a massive undertaking - we had over 200 people attend the event, and there were so many moving parts that had to be put in place. Hosting the event made me feel like we were carrying out our mission of making writing and publishing accessible. At a very low cost to participants, we created a day long event that brought emerging writers and individuals interested in publishing with industry professionals together. The high level of participant engagement in addition to the positive feedback we received reflected that there is a need, and desire for, what we’re doing. The whole experience was incredibly rewarding.

Needless to say, I am also proud of the books we put out. Every title we have released is one that I love and firmly believe deserves to be read and have a place on a book shelf. My frustration goes hand in hand with what I think gets overlooked about our publications: it can be hard to sell emerging writers. Readers often like to read who, or what, they know. It’s such a shame though. New voices have so much to offer and they deserve to be discovered. We’re doing what we can to make that happen by constantly working on how we can get our books into the hands of a larger audience and we’ll get there, one book at a time.

13 – Who were your early publishing models when starting out?

Hmm, we didn’t really model ourselves after anyone knowingly. As my team and I were new to publishing, we figured things out as we went along. Being self-funded has simultaneously been freeing and restricting. On one hand we don’t have stringent guidelines and structures that we must abide by. At the same time, funding is always on our mind. We just do what works and do everything we can to ensure that we can continue to do what we love. So far so good.

14 – How does The Soap Box work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see The Soap Box in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
The way that we work to engage with our community has been answered in several responses.

I have been inspired by the incredible work of a number of indie presses and journals. Blank Spaces Magazine, Anstruther Press, KFB, White Wall Review, and Metatron Press are just a few of the presses I’ve turned to in the past as a source of inspiration. I believe the dialogue comes through the ability of each press to bring something new and unique to the literary scene in order to allow writers to find a space that they can contribute to and thrive in.

15 – Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?

We’ve held book launches for all of our anthologies and in December we had a launch for our 2018 Chapbook series. Launches and readings are incredibly important as they allow us to connect with our community in person, as well as provide our writers with a space where they can share their work with an audience. It’s exciting for our writers to engage with readers, sign books, and see first hand the impact that their words have.

As I mentioned, last year we hosted a publishing fair which was the largest event we’ve hosted so far. We are planning to host another publishing fair again in the fall of 2019. We also have several other events planned for this year that will be announced on our website and social media platforms as soon as they’re scheduled.

16 – How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

The internet is integral to everything we do. We use Instagram to engage directly with our community and also feature the work burgeoning poets weekly. All of our events and open calls are advertised and widely spread across our social media platforms. Our website is important as it is one of the primary distribution channels for our books.

17 – Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?

We do take submissions. In fact, most of the material we publish gets to us through open calls. We are currently accepting submissions of poetry or short stories until February 15th for our fourth anthology on the theme “light.” We aren’t looking for writing that is expected, censored, or emotionless.

18 – Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.

Not Quite a Hurricane
is a poetry chapbook by Erin Suurkoivu. It is powerful, poignant, and filled with evocative imagery. Erin has a way of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, while still making it feel inherently familiar and instantly relatable. This chapbook was the third and final installment of our 2018 chapbook series, making for the perfect way to end off our year.

Voices From the 11th Floor
is a collection of poetry, short stories, and personal essays by the 11th Floor Writers, a Toronto-based writing group. This anthology is incredibly special as it highlights the voices of twelve unique writers of diverse backgrounds, all in different stages of their writing careers. We have brought together various genres and styles to create a collection that we believe holds something for every reader.

Lion’s Tooth on Migrating Chests is a poetry chapbook by Vaishali Paliwal. Lion’s Tooth is unlike anything we have published. The collection is striking. Vaishali’s poetry is raw and passionate as she writes about her family history, culture, and migration in a remarkable way. She tells a story, and personal history, that is important to learn and a gift to read.

12 or 20 (small press) questions;

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