By Kristin Miller
New Rivers Press has received a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council for the production of “Paper Camera: A Half Century withNew Rivers Press,” a collection of essays set to hit shelves and e-readers in January 2015.
This grant marks the first time the council has given funds for the publication of a book. It is a big step forward for the collection, which chronicles the history of the press and its journey to the campus of MSUM.
As a non-profit, funding the publication of new books can be challenging, and this grant will cover nearly all of the publishing costs for the book.
“We operate as an independent press,” said Suzzanne Kelley, managing editor of New Rivers Press. She went on to explain that though New Rivers is housed on campus, it independently funds all of its publications. Funding is achieved through a combination of grants, donations and revenue generated from its publications.
In its proposal to the council, New Rivers stated, “There are no similar efforts or projects in our regional community … the production of ‘Paper Camera’ is a one-of-a-kind, unique project.”
To tell its story, “Paper Camera” utilizes essays written by individuals who have been connected to New Rivers since its beginning as an independent publisher nearly 50 years ago. Contributors to the collection include New Rivers’ staff and interns, as well as authors who have been published by the press, some of whom, including Charles Baxter and Deborah Keenan, had their first work published by New Rivers.
“The anthology is a study of the rare longevity of a small literary press,” Kelley said. She went on to say she has found no similar collection that worked to celebrate and describe the life of a press, making this project unique.
New Rivers Press was founded by C.W. “Bill” Truesdale in New York in 1968, and has since published over 330 books. After Truesdale’s death, New Rivers was nearly forced to shut its doors for good. However, the press moved to MSUM in 2001, remaining true to its vision of publishing new and emerging poets and authors of literary fiction.
New Rivers Press receives upwards of 1,000 manuscripts each year from across the country and has even received submissions from international authors residing in Korea, Sweden, New Zealand and Israel. This year, New Rivers will be publishing nine new titles including the anthology.
“Paper Camera” explores how New Rivers has survived when many similar operations went out of business, and found its way to MSUM to function as a teaching press for students interested in pursuing careers in publishing.
“Paper Camera” has also allowed students in Suzzanne Kelley’s Introduction to Publishing class to get hands-on publishing experience. As a teaching press, New Rivers puts the responsibility of preparing books for publication in the hands of students.
“I love working for New Rivers Press,” MSUM junior Kjersti Maday said. Maday is currently in Kelley’s class and does an honors apprenticeship for the press. Maday believes that this experience has left her with a solid foundation for pursuing a career in publishing after graduation.
To prepare the “Paper Camera” for publication, Maday and other students in the class have been responsible for reading through the book’s entire content with a critical eye, looking for errors and offering suggestions for improvement.
Next, they will use what they have learned about the publishing business to create an Indiegogo campaign to crowd-source funds for the book’s marketing and promotion. The campaign will go live on May 8 and will be entirely student-produced and driven.