Tuesday, October 13, 2020

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Catherine Parayre on The Small Walker Press

The Small Walker Press publishes collaborative work that brings together authors and artists from Canada and elsewhere. Predicated on interdisciplinary cooperation and the exploration of image and text, it seeks to contribute to and participate in the promotion of book culture. Publications may be in English, French or other languages. https://brocku.ca/miwsfpa/stac/small-walker-press/

Co-Editor of The Small Walker Press together with Derek Knight, Catherine Parayre is the Director of the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture and its Research Centre in Interdisciplinary Arts and Creative Culture at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Brock University, Niagara Region.

1 – When did The Small Walker 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?
The SWP’s first publications -two books on the theme of environmental degradation- appeared in April 2019. I remember distinctly that all started during a conversation with my colleague and co-editor Derek Knight, faculty member in Visual Arts at Brock University. We were overworked and, out of exhaustion, suddenly decided to start something we would love doing and feel happy about. As we both have curatorial and editing experience and are quite fascinated by the book as object, we started the SWP. With our authors and artists, we have learned that networks of kindness and rigorous work are what we strive on.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
My first work experience, in France, was working as editorial assistant to a journalist and a photographer who were experts in… fishing (and underwater photography). Both were highly respected in their ‘field’ and traveled around the world to remote places. They were tough and wonderful. Working with them was incredibly fun and I got to meet other fishing journalists, most of them fantastic writers. And yes, authors of fiction do write about fishing. In Canada, I am the editor of Voix plurielles, peer-reviewed academic journal of the Association des professeur.es de fran
çais des universités et collèges canadiens. Editing is a pleasant way to find one’s peace of mind.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
In my opinion, the main role of small publishing is to save us from boredom and uniformity. Small publishing is not adverse to unusual creativity, new voices, and experimental projects.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
I would never think that the SWP does things that no other small press is doing. We do what we like: each year we choose a theme, contact authors and artists who, in our opinion, would respond to it, introduce them to one another, and task them to send us high-quality contributions a few months later. We privilege teamwork and consider book design and the texture of the paper to be as important as content. Mostly, we like to have books published in pairs (two books on one theme); contrary to our authors and artists, Derek and I are aware at all stages how each project develops, which is not just fun for the two of us, but also allows us to play with the design of the books so that in the end, each book speaks to the other one.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?
We will welcome any advice on this. The SWP is very young and counts as research for Derek and myself -we have all sorts of other duties in our jobs that we cannot neglect. This said, we have a few distributors in Canada and we partner with another small press, the Salon f
ür Kunstbuch, Vienna, Austria with its own distribution network in Europe. In fact, our printed books are co-published with the Salon.  

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
As we consider book making to be a collective performance or a curatorial project, we are quite involved as editors. We give a lot of thought to who we would associate with whom. As our books come in pairs, we make sure that each works well or contrasts with the other. We will edit line by line, several times, and we work closely with the book designer. We love to spend 45 minutes on each comma.

7 – How do your books and broadsides get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
Our usual print run is 300 (150 for distribution in Canada; 150 for distribution in Europe).

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?
Derek and I do all the editing and we check each other’s copies several times before completion. We are in frequent contact with our book designer at the Salon; this includes day-long sessions on skype. I am typically responsible for the logistics. We are a team. Respect and appreciation are key words for us.

9 – How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
Well, I first worked with editors before I started writing myself. I have never thought of writing in the absence of editing. To me, writing is about placing words together on a page or in a paragraph; and it is a visual activity that reminds me of artworks I like to scrutinize.

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?
The belief that the author should be at arm’s length from the publisher is a very academic one. One lasting beauty of small presses is that they are not academic.

11 – How do you see The Small Walker Press evolving?
We would like to continue focusing on our thematic approach with two books a year for a while and build a collection.

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?
We only publish what we like, and our collective approach is the source of many enjoyable moments. The joy of sharing is both intellectual and artistic. Frustration, yes: every time we need to apply for funding and hope it will be successful, as well as all the logistics. But it’s ok, it has to be done. On a personal note, I am grateful to be able to work in a language I do not master. English is my third language -my fourth if taking into account the amount of English I use everyday. The gratefulness is quite genuine, as I do not like to own and often find that mistakes are an art with system.

13 – Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Clearly, artists books and creatively designed publications by art galleries. We owe a lot to the fine publications of the Rodman Hall Art Centre in St. Catharines and the Salon f
ür Kunstbuch in Vienna.

14 – How does The Small Walker Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see The Small Walker Press in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?|
We read, speak with colleagues, visit art exhibitions, attend artists’ talks, share long conversations between the two of us. We welcome constant exchange. This is the stuff of books. We are always willing to network. We would like more of this.

15 – Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
We receive very little funding, but we are committed to organizing at least one public lecture and a general book launch with a guest speaker each year.

16 – How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
Skype is our best friend! The SWP website is maintained by the Marilyn I. Waler School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock.

17 – Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
The SWP does not take submissions, but authors of creative writing and artists are most welcome to contact us to share their work with us. The themes we select are directly connected with what we have read and seen the previous year.

18 – Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
So far I have only written about SWP books that we print. We also publish occasional books online. The books with a printed version are quite special to us, as we can touch them, smell the paper, remove the book jacket, look at the binding, see the shadows made by the pages as they are turned. Also, only these books work in pairs. As the SWP is very young, there are four of them right now (not three, sorry): The Quarry (Adam Dickinson and Lorène Bourgeois); Inland (Shawn Serfas, Richard Fausset, and Derek Knight); Built to Ruin: Between Invisibility and Suburbia (Alejandro Cartagena, Tim Conley, and Nicholas Hauck); and The Dark Redacted (Donna Szőke and Gary Barwin).

12 or 20 (small press) questions;

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