There we were at our corporate board meeting, beers in hand, at two kitchen tables two thousand miles apart, cheering the arrival of the first offering of Paint Creek Press, Dark Continent. We had promised the world (or as much of the world as might care) that the reprint Dark Continent would be published May 1st. And here we were, the three CEO’s of Paint Creek Press, myself in Washington, Andrea Gabriel and Janna Jacobson at their home in Wisconsin, cheering on behalf of Paint Creek’s first beautiful book. In hand!
We started out with no capisce whatever of the work that would be demanded.
Paint Creek Press began as a casual convo some months ago, around Christmas time, Andrea and I on the phone chatting about how I had used snippets from my various books as examples in Memory Into Memoir (forthcoming October 2021 from University of New Mexico Press). I said I always wished I could see uniform trade paperbacks of my work, books that could sit on a shelf and actually look to be related, visibly related, instead straggling like unruly foster children from different homes. Andrea had the idea for the press, including the name, and logo. Janna vetoed the first logo idea, hence the lovely new logo that looks both like a swath of paint from a brush and meandering creek. We started out with the sort of attitude you see in those old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musicals from the 1930’s. Sure, kids! We can do this! Hey! Why Not! And no capisce whatever of the work that would be demanded.
In the midst of much else this past gruesome winter I began re-reading my long out-of-print books as part of the Paint Creek process, returning to them first as Word Documents, and then as PDFs. This was a very strange experience since I never re-read my books once they’re printed. I cannot revisit them without thinking, oh, I should have changed this, or made that better, or why didn’t I …
I found myself offering tsk tsk editorial advice to the writer, moi.
Nearly all my novels are baggy books in one way or another, not at all neat or streamlined, the content often struggling with structure. This winter as I re-read These Latter Days, Graced Land and Memoir Club, I found myself offering tsk tsk editorial advice to the writer, moi. There were places I could see that sheer narrative exuberance had propelled the story into flights it probably didn’t need to take. For TLD I wished I had had more faith in the story and not sliced so much out of it. (Chapters I later published as stories, but still, they could have deepened the characters in house, you might say.) I could see places where I had quarreled with the original editor, quarrels I had “won,” and now I could see that her judgment was actually right. So, all that was sobering.
But the books of stories and novellas? Dark Continent and Delinquent Virgin? No. I could not have slid a butter-knife into that prose to improve them. They still left me so emotionally slain, I could only read one story a day, and then I’d have to move on to some other undertaking.
To see this first one so handsomely bound makes my heart soar.
Dark Continent was first published by Viking in 1989. I can’t remember when it went out of print, but as with all my books, once out of print, I have got the rights returned to me. This can be an arduous, sometimes years-long process with publishers who are literally finished with the book, but require all sorts of formal bullshit from the author. My books, all except for 2019’s The Great Pretenders, are mine to reprint with Paint Creek Press, and to see this first one so handsomely bound makes my heart soar.
For these editions, I supply the content, the proofing and editing if necessary, and Andrea the artist and Janna with their enviable tech skills provide the means for that content to become an actual book. Dark Continent owes its visual and material beauty to Andrea’s artistic eye for design. In fact, when she saw the original ARC , she so hated it, she didn’t even send it on to me. Now the book in hand has nice large print, generous margins, cream-colored paper, interesting interior motifs and drop caps which I especially like because they remind of of all those 19th century books I always loved. Now that the design and other apparatus are in place (a process I absolutely do not understand) once the content is ready, each volume can go forward across all selling platforms as e-books and uniform trade paperbacks.
However different these novels, stories and novellas may be in terms of their focus, their voices, their sometimes noisy, warring, and far-afield struggling storylines, they will all eventually line up on a shelf, Paint Creek Editions, visibly, tangibly related to one another and to the mind, the writer who first brought them forth so long ago.