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Small Press Points

It’s been a tough year for Fish Publishing (www.fishpublishing.com), the press founded in County Cork, Ireland, in 1994. On February 14—yes, Valentine’s Day—a fire destroyed the press’s office and burned hundreds of manuscripts that had been submitted to its two short story contests. “The building itself, of local stone, glass, and wood, has been burnt to a cinder,” Fish Publishing director Clem Cairns said. “Burnt pages of Fish anthologies from the last ten years lie on the ground, wet from firemen’s hoses.” About three hundred manuscripts that had been submitted to the annual Fish International Very Short Story Prize, given for short stories of 250 words or less, were lost. And a thousand submissions to the Fish International Short Story Prize, given annually for stories of up to 5,000 words, were also destroyed. “The main thing is that nobody was hurt and we have enough backed-up data to continue working,” Cairns said. The finalists for the Short Story Prize had already been sent to the judges, and after Cairns contacted the three hundred or so writers who entered the competition for the Very Short Story Prize, six winners were eventually chosen. The press recently published Fish Anthology 2004: Spoonface & Other Stories, which includes the winning stories from both contests. Cairns has also moved the press to better digs and improved the contest program, increasing the amount of the Short Story Prize from 2,500 Euros (approximately $3,000) to 10,000 Euros ($12,000), and launching a new contest, the Fish Unpublished Novel Award. “Our aim has always been to help writers on their way to greater success,” Cairns says. “And by giving this kind of money, we hope it will give the winner the resources to take time off to write, pay for editorial help, whatever.”

There is no doubt that movie trailers are effective marketing tools. Sometimes they’re even better than the movies themselves (especially the ones with deep, sonorous voice-overs that typically begin “In a world...”). But can video images be used to sell a book published by a small press? Zygote Publishing (www.zygotepublishing.com), a new press in Alberta, Canada, is hoping the answer is yes. In September, Zygote published Nunt, a book of poems by Mingus Tourette, a poet who signs his name “Notorious Drunkard, Esquire,” and produced a trailer that is available on Zygote’s Web site (QuickTime required). Although the video might be better than the book itself, and will likely offend most of its viewers—the gunslinging poet is portrayed as the “Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse”—it’s still a pretty good idea. Perhaps it’s time to cue the voice-over: “In a world…where self-help books rule the publishing industry, one press…published poetry.”

Although Perugia Press (www.perugiapress.com), founded in 1997 by Susan Kan in Florence, Massachusetts, publishes only one book of poetry each year—a first or second book by a woman—those books have received a good deal of attention. The 2002 title, Melanie Braverman’s Red, won the Audre Lorde Lesbian Poetry Prize from the Publishing Triangle, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. In 2003, Perugia Press received a Greenwall Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets to support the publication of Seamless by Linda Tomol Pennisi. Other Perugia Press books have been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Readerville, and Writer’s Digest. The press switched from an open submissions policy to a contest program two years ago. The $20 entry fee for the annual Perugia Press Intro Award helps fund the $1,000 prize and the publication of the winning book. Additional support for the press comes from the Fund for Women Artists, a nonprofit organization in Florence. The most recent winner of the Intro Award is Diane Gilliam Fisher’s Kettle Bottom, a book of poems written in the voices of people living and working in West Virginia during the coal-mine wars of 1920 and 1921.

Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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