Push your shoulders and hands under the surface of the water.
Where: California What: independent press
Can you tell us a bit about how your press got started?
Back in the '80s and '90s I produced a few 'zines. I think my favorite, one of the first I did, was "The Bowl Sheet" which consisted of subversive art and writing and bowling puns. The last one I put together was called "Salmon Bosch" - a hand-drawn literary magazine featuring a wide variety of artists and writers. I took the project to the web with an online magazine called MungBeing, which ran for ten years.
Working on the web is a lot of fun, I do a lot of my art and work on the web, but I wanted to create a permanent home for some of this work offline. We've got all of these great resources now and I wanted to take advantage of them, so I started a publishing company. I would have sacrificed my left arm for access to these wonderful services back when I was trying to make a handmade 'zine look good, so I am really enjoying what we've got now. It's created some interesting design and production options which I continue to explore and utilize where I can.
The first books to come out of Pelekinesis were from MungBeing contributors - fabulist Tala Bar from Israel, minimalist author Peter Cherches from New York, and modern primitivist Ian Pyper from Brighton.
How did the name come about?
I ran a logotype project from 2001-2007 called "Hostitles" which poked fun at the strange naming conventions of the time (http://www.wckrspgt.com/hostitles/). When it came to naming the publishing company, I reached back into my hostitles design portfolio for visual inspiration. The name "Pelekinesis" is meant to suggest birds and movement, minds and magic. It comes from a survey I conducted of publishing houses where I found quite a range of topics and allusions - the larger publishing houses seem to favor people's names (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, etc) but there are also some pretty absurd names like Random House (now the even more absurd Penguin Random House, which sounds eerily like a hostitle).
Smaller presses usually address particular topics (North American Poetry Review, African American Review) and/or regions, but there is also a greater diversity of experimentation in the small press names (Bear Parade, Copper Nickel, River Teeth) and this is the model I chose to follow.
What types of publications do you put out?
Pelekinesis has an eclectic mix of styles and topics - from fine art coloring books and poetry to short story collections and novels. We have a few children's books and a book about a rock band. As a private enterprise we don't have a governing board or an open submission period, so we are left to the whim and will of our past authors and me.
I love to experiment with form and get excited when authors want to see how they can play with content. The challenging thing for me is to push the content and form while staying within the lines defined by the trade paperback market. I am also interested in helping to weave some of the regional stories, stories by local authors, into the fabric of our local history. The artists and writers can often be reclusive and private, but I want to ensure that some of the stories floating around get written down, and I want to help make them part of our collective history.
Can you tell us a bit about the space where you run your whole operation from? Is it an office space, a kitchen-table/bedroom operation or just from inside a smart-phone or a laptop?
The majority of my work is done on my laptop, with occasional artwork and marketing materials produced offsite. I have no designated space in which to work, but most often I end up at the dining room table or in a comfortable chair in the living room. I am able to read and edit in front of the fireplace and do layout and design at the table. My mailing and fulfillment operations are split between our library and the dining room table.
I work primarily in Linux with Libre Office for manuscript editing, GIMP for graphics (with some customized command line routines for processing CMYK and applying screens), and Inkscape for dealing with vector-based images. I do my accounting and royalty reports in php with a MySQL backend, and write the code for the websites with php routines and gedit. For final layout and book design I boot into Windows and use an old copy of InDesign to produce pdfs that conform to the standards that the manufacturing plant requires.
Can you tell us a little bit about the city in which you are based and what influence, if any, it has on your press?
I live in Southern California at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. I am aware of the boundaries that exist around me in a very real sense, defined by the mountains that I can see from my window to the ocean about an hour away. This valley is a desert and the seasonal changes are subtle. They exist, but you gotta pay attention or you'll miss them.
I like literature and art that does the same thing. I like the subtleties and intricacies of a good novel and the skill it takes to craft a good hero. I have grown up surrounded by authors and artists whose work has been shaped, both consciously and unconsciously, by their environment and whose work has in turn shaped the literary landscape that surrounds them. Pelekinesis is aware of the boundaries in the literary world and feels secure in pushing at the weak spots.
Do you see any commonality with the world of independent record labels and independent presses? I suppose we're thinking about how the two things share an independent spirit, small run fanzines/photocopied magazines, merchandising etc?
I find myself referring to book "labels" when I discuss the publishing world. I've done this a few times on the radio and once in an interview with a local newspaper. I have been involved in the independent music scene with my band, Wckr Spgt, for the last 35 years. I am currently the art director of Shrimper, an important fixture in the underground music scene. When I was contemplating this publishing venture I consulted with Dennis at Shrimper to reconcile the ideological imperatives with the monetary considerations. We talked about building a place where creative authors could express themselves freely, and the motivating factors behind artistic endeavors. We noted the similarities and the very direct parallels between independent presses and independent labels.
Tangentially, I am currently hand screening the cover of the new Wckr Spgt 10" vinyl record and am excited to get back into artwork that is so tactile. The record is coming out on Shrimper and distribution is being handled primarily by Revolver. I think that the way independent presses are approaching distribution and marketing, and live performances and readings, utilize many of the same techniques that independent bands employ - book readings at non-bookstore venues, unique events to launch books, sales channels that include record stores and local independent shops, readings and performances at breweries and coffee shops. Authors are also thinking up ways to make the packages more attractive as well by including download codes, posters, links to additional content, and bonus material.
The way that Pelekinesis is approaching book production and distribution certainly tries to infuse some of that independent spirit into the literary process.
These days every writer can get connected to their own social-media channels and promote and publish their own work, what do you see as the best role for the independent publisher now? Or do you think not that much has changed?
We are living in a great time for independently produced materials, the floodgates to independent production are wide open and the new tools and services that are available make it easier than ever to produce high quality products. What that also means is that the market is oversaturated with all kinds of books with varying levels of quality. I've seen some beautiful looking self-published books but I have also seen some that needed a little extra attention before they were unleashed upon the world.
Independent publishers can help curate some of that content and work with authors to produce higher quality packages. There's also a community that develops around like-minded writers and artists who work under the same banner - an inevitable connection formed across genre and style, location and age and focus. The independent publishers are learning to work within the established boundaries and figuring out where those boundaries can be pushed. And there still exists a need for someone to document the disparate voices of the literary underground.
Finally, please tell us a bit about a few of the next things that are due to come out?
Peter Cherches releases his book of autobiographical short stories, Autobiography Without Words in March; Peter Wortsman's short pieces, Footprints in Wet Cement comes out in April, as does Susan I. Weinstein's new edition of her Orwellian speculative fiction Paradise Gardens; May sees Selena Chambers debut collection Calls for Submission; the second Pelekinesis title from Don Skiles, Rain After Midnight drops in June; July features a new book by Lisa Blaushild;
the third book of new editions from Susan I. Weinstein, Tales of the Mer Family Onyx: Mermaid stories on land and under the sea will appear in July; August is the month that the second novel by David Scott Ewers, this one called Ultimate Resort (UR), will premiere; while September rounds out the year with The Princess of Herself by Roberta Allen.