Texas has a thriving literary scene. Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities in your own state, especially in your own backyard? In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.
These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.
Our panel discussion in San Antonio will be held at The Twig Book Shop on Monday, March 6 at 6 pm (details and address here). We’ll be speaking with four distinguished panelists. We interviewed three of them about the literary landscape in Texas: Kelly Grey Carlisle, editor of the creative nonfiction journal 1966; Bryce Milligan, owner of Wings Press; and Tom Payton, director at Trinity University Press.
Scribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape? What makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, and publishers?
Kelly Grey Carlisle: I’m still a fairly new Texan; however, I’ve been so impressed with Gemini Ink, the literature and literacy nonprofit here in San Antonio. They bring amazing writers to town to read and teach and have an excellent writers in the community program. I can’t say enough good things about them. They are an excellent resource for writers in our community — both for classes and to share their work.
Bryce Milligan: Texas has a long, long history as a cultural crossroads. Even pre-conquest, south Texas was where the Indigenous peoples of the Americas crossed paths, trading peyote, flint, buffalo hides. . . . Since Cabeza De Vaca crossed the state, the region has been in a constant state of cultural and linguistic amalgamation. This is always good for creativity, and it is still with us. That kind of depth of culture in the very land makes Texas a great place to write.
As for the opportunities afforded to writers, that has improved markedly since the advent of computers, and especially the internet. There is really no need to go to the coasts to be a successful writer. On the other hand, there is an almost palpable anti-Texas bias when it comes to publishing, at least in terms of getting reviews in major journals. If you are publishing with an independent press in Texas, writers should be prepared to do a good deal of grassroots marketing themselves. Wings Press spends upwards of $30,000 a year on advertising, but our most successful authors are those who simply do a lot of readings, teach a lot of workshops, and network with potential reviewers.
Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents (publishers, journals, booksellers) in Texas’s literary community, and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do as an independent publisher?
KGC: I think independents in any literary community provide an important alternate to corporate outlets. Corporate isn’t necessarily bad, but independents take chances on material and authors that might be overlooked, and they’re willing to take on issues or champion causes corporates won’t. There is a fierce entrepreneurial spirit in independent publishing — not necessarily aimed at making money — but “entrepreneurial” in the sense of creating new institutions and championing new ideas. Independent publishers are never competitors — the more there are, the more the literary arts scene flourishes. Personally, I started 1966 to emphasize a genre I love — creative nonfiction with a research component. But it also helps give writers exposure to their work, as well as young editors their first experience working in publishing. Serving writers and young editors is incredibly rewarding for me. So is reading and discovering great essays.
Tom Payton: Independents are vital to telling the true and diverse story of Texas. It is an innately complex state, and we only understand its uniqueness (unto itself as well as nationally and internationally) by publishing all of the myriad stories, perspectives, and experiences. Indie publishers simply are the conduit to ensure that happens. Despite some cliched notions about Texas, I find it is a state eager to understand and embrace its diversity and sometimes conflicting complexity. While we have great resources, alas, I think we still have a long way to go, and we sometimes talk to ourselves too much and take things for granted. We can discuss that more at the panel on Monday.
BM: Personally, the most rewarding thing for me as an editor, publisher, and designer is making beautiful books from the widest possible variety of literary voices, especially those least likely to be published by the mainstream houses.
Scribe: Tell us a bit about one of your upcoming programs, events, or publications that you feel exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.
KGC: I am excited about my memoir, forthcoming in September. We Are All Shipwrecks is the story of the unsolved murder of my mother and my eccentric childhood on board a boat in the LA Harbor.
TP: We are in the planning stages for a major new local history and culture initiative that is far larger than a book or series of books. Tentatively known as Historia San Antonio, it will become a model for how to cultivate, gather, share, publish, learn from, and celebrate local micro-history.
BM: I am particularly excited by several books I am doing in 2018 that will celebrate the city of San Antonio’s Tricentennial. I have coming a unique novel about the life of William B. Travis; a history of Mexican exile Dr. Aureliano Urrutia’s architectural wonderland called Miraflores; and a republication of Maury Maverick’s 1939 book on La Villita. Unrelated to this, but of considerable interest to me will be an anthology of all the poetry that was run in the early years of Rolling Stone magazine.
Then there is the anthology that I edited, Literary San Antonio, coming from TCU Press in 2018 — a 500-page selection of writing from San Antonio over the past 300 years.
Thanks, Kelly, Bill, and Tom! We’ll also be speaking with Will Evans of Cinestate at this panel, as well as all of our panels this month. Look for an interview with Will on our blog Monday.
Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.