interview by Chrissy Wilmes
Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Yes Yes Books.
I founded YesYes Books almost 8 years ago with our first title coming out in the summer of 2011. I was in the third year of my MFA at Virginia Tech and filled with this incredible love of poetry – I had to figure out what to do with that!
In Vedic astrology I am Gemini rising, Taurus sun, Leo moon. That says pretty much all you need to know about me.
What makes you tick as a creator?
Life is a crushing, joyful, exhausting, invigorating, grief-filled, brilliant deluge. Every time I come across writing that expresses a piece of that truth, my commitment to publishing is renewed. This is also the well from which my own writing comes.
What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?
To start an online magazine or online publishing project, you need time and willingness to work all fueled by love of literature. To start a press you need all that plus money.
What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing today? What do you hope your older self might tell you today?
I am already old enough to have lived a few different lives. I dedicated the first decade of adulthood to service through teaching and nonprofit work. The next two decades were all about raising my five children. Mixed in the first two phases, I also spent about ten years studying philosophy (Plato, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche were my favorites!). I seem to be in the middle of my poetry years. There’s still road here for me to follow. Even so, I’m in the process of opening a Bookstore/Elixir/Healing Clinic. I’ll continue to tell myself what I have told myself since I was twelve which is some combination of “this is not a dress rehearsal” and FEAR NOT.
Who are some writers and makers that inspire you to keep creating and publishing?
There is no one I admire more in the literary landscape than Phillip B. Williams. He is fiercely committed to pushing into his art and intellectual discipline as he also devotes countless hours to raising up new voices in poetry. I am inspired by the writers who embrace the full complexity of human life: Lynn Melnick, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Tanya Olson, Brandon Courtney, Chase Berggrun, Hanif Abdurraqib, Aricka Foreman, Hari Ziyad, Christina Olivares and that’s just the beginning of that list.
How can makers “pass the stapler” to others to build community and promote inclusivity in their spaces?
That’s a huge and important question I’d love to have a lot of time to answer, but here’s a place to start: read as widely as possible. Don’t be satisfied with talking about or publishing the voices everyone else is talking about. We are all exhausted and its easy to be lazy. Don’t be. The “makers” can’t pass a damn thing if they aren’t reading to see what is out there. See it. Lift it. Find opportunities to get yourself out of the way.
This year’s Expo’s theme is “You Can Do This, Too!” What advice do you have for someone wanting to get more engaged with their community as a creator, who doesn’t know where to start?
Get moving and don’t let anyone stop you. My first book was accepted for publication when I was 50. Meanwhile, Stevie Edwards founded Muzzle Magazine when she was an undergrad. Age and experience are nothing. Start walking.
What are you most looking forward to at STLSPExpo 2018?
Hugging Justin Phillip Reed!
Anything else you’d like for our followers to know?
Publishing poetry and literature requires a team of dedicated selfless humans. Unless one is in publishing, it’s impossible to understand how much effort is behind the development, production, and release of each book, of each magazine issue. I am extremely lucky to be able to work with the editors ofVinyland YesYes Books who bring their intellect, artistry and heart to this work: Christina Olivares, Phillip B. Williams, Stevie Edwards, Jill Kolongowski, Cole Hildebrand, Alban Fischer, Amber Rambharose, Beyza Ozer, Levi Todd, Amie Zimmerman, Hari Ziyad, Carly Schweppe, and JoAnn Balingit. My endless thanks to these editors who make our projects possible.