by Win Bassett
In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!
Coffee House came across A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing via the magic of Twitter. Elizabeth McCracken, who is one of that medium’s funniest and most good-spirited contributors, had tweeted about the book lacking a U.S. publisher. Chris Fischbach, our publisher, responded to her…because you listen to Elizabeth. He and I both read it and knew we had to sign it immediately. The catch was that Chris was on vacation in northern Minnesota and out of cell-phone range, so the contract was negotiated during daily furtive trips to town to steal Wi-Fi in the grocery store parking lot.
When I write something I’m proud of, I’m very full of myself immediately afterwards, and I have on occasion let that feeling get the better of me, and sent out work that wasn’t fully formed. But editors are smart—they reject that work. As I’ve gotten older, I do that sort of impulsive submissions less—both because I have a little less energy to throw at submitting, but also because I’ve come to recognize the value of polish and thought. Poems might sit several months, get a revision, and then get sent out, or, poems might sit for a year. Some poems don’t go out, of course, because I never feel they are up to snuff.
Now when I say surreal, I mean this: imagine you’ve helped create a small literary project, and the best you hope for is that someone — anyone — finds their way to it. Now imagine how it feels when, the day you go live, that someone turns into 1,000+ readers, and suddenly your eyes are scanning what seems like an endless stream of retweets and Facebook shares and other social media boosts, all positively publicizing your first issue. A tiny corner of the internet is alive with buzz, and as you watch the numbers jump, not just in U.S. locations but all over the world, you can’t help but exclaim “holy shit” over and over, because, in all seriousness, this is not what you expected. Sure, maybe word would get around, through some kind of grapevine, that a new publication was in town, but this kind of debut? I was floored.
Fast-forward two months later, and the next wave of surreality hits: through the generous support of over 150 funders, plus donations of personal time, books, and other prizes from countless individuals, this humble little literary magazine became fully-funded for a year. On April 14th, we received just over $12,000 in donations, some of which came from people we knew, and some of which came from people completely unfamiliar to us. To say we were bowled over is an understatement. When we launched the magazine, one of our main goals was to be able to pay all of our contributors for their work. With this funding, we’re now able to do that for a full year, and in an age where money always seems tight, this outpouring of generosity has left us speechless and moved.
* The latest issue of The Kenyon Review has work from Mary Ruefle, George Saunders, Carl Phillips, and more.
* The new issue of The American Poetry Review is out!
* GRIND’r Kelly Fordon‘s short story collection, Garden for the Blind, will be published by Wayne State University Press in May 2015.
Win Bassett‘s essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Guernica. His stories and poems have been published or are forthcoming in PANK, Image, Ruminate, and The Southern Poetry Anthology series. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.