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Archive | Small Press Medley

News, infor­ma­tion, and pro­files fea­tur­ing small press­es and their books.

Catalyst Press

Catalyst PressCat­a­lyst Press has a bold and dar­ing mis­sion. 

As a new inde­pen­dent press, Cat­a­lyst Press brings to Amer­i­can read­ers books from the African con­ti­nent writ­ten by Africans and/or about Africa, con­tem­po­rary and his­tor­i­cal. One of Catalyst’s first books is the star­tling graph­ic nov­el, Sha­ka Ris­ing: A Leg­end of the War­rior Prince.  It is writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Luke W. Molver, and is the first of an African Graph­ic Nov­el series. It re-tells the sto­ry of Sha­ka, the most famous king of the Zulus in South­ern Africa, who con­sol­i­dat­ed dif­fer­ent clans into one  strong king­dom to pro­tect his peo­ple from the slave trade. It’s quite a book. Sha­ka Ris­ing is a grip­ping sto­ry with strong dar­ing graph­ics. What an oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand one’s knowl­edge of Africa, its his­to­ry and its peo­ple, beyond the his­to­ry of apartheid in South Africa.Jessica L. Powers

Jes­si­ca L. Pow­ers, the cre­ator and pub­lish­er, plans to expand Catalyst’s mis­sion to not only pub­lish authors from Africa but also indige­nous writ­ers from oth­er parts of the world, all with the goal of pub­lish­ing lit­er­a­ture that expos­es the truth and pur­sues jus­tice and peace.

Her goal is to bring to West­ern read­ers books that reveal the world from dif­fer­ent perspectives—tilting, revers­ing or tweak­ing the stan­dard West­ern under­stand­ing of what’s real, true, nec­es­sary, or beau­ti­ful. Her moti­va­tion to cre­ate this press is her belief that books can be the fire and fuel for change. One book in the hands of one child can change—and has changed—the world for many.

Story Press AfricaI asked Jes­si­ca Pow­ers to explain her press’s imprint, Sto­ry Press Africa, and describe its rela­tion­ship to Jive Media Africa.

Sto­ry Press Africa, as an imprint of Cat­a­lyst Press (USA) and Jive Media Africa (locat­ed in South Africa), is a col­lab­o­ra­tive lit­er­ary plat­form for shar­ing African knowl­edge. Both press­es pub­lish sto­ries by Africans about Africa for a glob­al audi­ence; both pub­lish sto­ries that are authen­tic, chal­leng­ing, and some­times express controversial& visions of the con­ti­nent that birthed humankind.

Jes­si­ca, what is your back­ground that fuels your inter­est in the African con­ti­nent and cul­tures and how did it ignite your pas­sion to risk cre­at­ing a press to bring books about Africa to West­ern read­ers?

I have two master’s degrees in African his­to­ry and have spent sig­nif­i­cant time in East and South­ern Africa. But it wasn’t until my son was born that the seeds for Cat­a­lyst Press and its imprint Sto­ry Press Africa were plant­ed. As I spent time in my library look­ing for books that would intro­duce young read­ers to Africa, I real­ized that there are not enough good children’s books about Africa and/or writ­ten by Africans. What is rep­re­sent­ed? Folk tales/animal tales and Nel­son Man­dela. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love folk tales and I love Nel­son Man­dela but come on. Africa is the cra­dle of humankind. It is an enor­mous con­ti­nent with many coun­tries and cul­tures, thou­sands of lan­guages … yet in the Unit­ed States we often fail to see val­ue in expand­ing our knowl­edge of coun­tries and cul­tures beyond our own bor­ders.

What is your own expe­ri­ence as an author and edi­tor that has helped make this dream endeav­or pos­si­ble?

I’ve been writ­ing for young adults and chil­dren for a long time—my four young adult nov­els, The Con­fes­sion­al (2007), This Thing Called the Future (2011), Ami­na (2013), and Bro­ken Cir­cle (2017) were rec­og­nized with a vari­ety of awards. I’ve also been work­ing for the inde­pen­dent mul­ti­cul­tur­al pub­lish­er Cin­co Pun­tos Press since 2002. So the world of books and the real­i­ty of pub­lish­ing are not mys­te­ri­ous to me. Armed with pas­sion, expe­ri­ence, and knowl­edge, I decid­ed to go for broke and start this endeav­or, which launched in 2017. I wish “going for broke” was just a phrase. Pub­lish­ing is a very expen­sive propo­si­tion!

Cat­a­lyst Press began in 2017 and already has launched sev­er­al books. Please tell us about them.

Cat­a­lyst and its imprint, Sto­ry Press Africa, are still very new so we don’t have a lot of books out yet, but our books are unique, emerg­ing pri­mar­i­ly from Africa—by Africans about Africa. I’ll men­tion two that came out this year.

  • Shaka RisingSha­ka Ris­ing: A Leg­end of the War­rior Prince, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Luke W. Molver, is the first of an African Graph­ic Nov­el series. It re-tells the sto­ry of Sha­ka, the most famous king of the Zulus in South­ern Africa, who fought many bloody bat­tles to bring trib­al nations togeth­er to his peo­ple from the slave trade. In pre­vi­ous tellings of Sha­ka, the slave trade was nev­er a promi­nent or even vis­i­ble part of the sto­ry. Euro­peans feared Sha­ka and demo­nized him in their por­tray­als, large­ly because they want­ed to jus­ti­fy col­o­niza­tion of south­ern Africa and he was a major threat. We specif­i­cal­ly approached this from a non-Euro­pean under­stand­ing and once you remove Euro­pean por­tray­als of Sha­ka, you find a much dif­fer­ent pic­ture and under­stand­ing. Of course, sources about Sha­ka are scant, so we can’t claim to be telling THE true ver­sion of Shaka’s sto­ry, but we based this sto­ry on the most recent his­to­ries of Sha­ka and the Zulu nation as his­to­ri­ans have tried to unrav­el Euro­pean bias in writ­ten sources as well as being cre­ative and look­ing at arche­o­log­i­cal, geo­log­i­cal, and oth­er types of records to pro­vide more nuance.
  • We Kiss Them with RainWe Kiss Them With Rain by Futhi Ntshingi­la. Set in a squat­ter camp out­side of Dur­ban, South Africa, this grit­ty young adult nov­el presents us with a tru­ly bit­ter­sweet com­ing-of-age sto­ry that involves HIV-AIDS, teen preg­nan­cy, child aban­don­ment, and poverty—but does so with humor and enor­mous hope! Kirkus gave it a starred review.

Jes­si­ca, will you share with us your hopes for the future of children’s lit­er­a­ture?

I have a deep com­mit­ment to devel­op lit­er­a­ture that rep­re­sents all chil­dren, and to build a canon of tru­ly diverse lit­er­a­ture, both as a writer myself and as a pub­lish­er. One of the things that I think gets left out of that equa­tion some­times is world lit­er­a­ture for chil­dren. As a pub­lish­er of African-authored and African-based books (writ­ten by writ­ers from all over the world), I would love to see a strong cel­e­bra­tion and embrace of inter­na­tion­al lit­er­a­ture with­in the Amer­i­can children’s lit com­mu­ni­ty. It’s such a dif­fer­ent and unique and won­der­ful world and we have a real oppor­tu­ni­ty to open Amer­i­can youth’s eyes to issues, cul­tures, and ways of life out­side of North Amer­i­ca.  If you’re not sure where to start, you can go to USBBY’s won­der­ful annu­al list of the best inter­na­tion­al­ly pub­lished books.

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Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Eerdmans Books for Young ReadersEngag­ing.  Diverse. Page-turn­ers. Spir­i­tu­al.  Sur­prise! Gen­tle. Com­pas­sion. Old – over 100 years old! and Clas­sic.

Wm. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny has been, and still is, an inde­pen­dent, fam­i­ly-owned pub­lish­er since 1911. Their new imprint—Eerd­mans Books for Young Read­ers—began in 1995 and has been pro­duc­ing over a dozen new children’s books each year.  Each year many of their books are top award-win­ners.

There is a rea­son why this press has sur­vived and con­tin­ues to pub­lish impor­tant books—books of diver­si­ty, com­pas­sion, and authen­tic­i­ty.

Kathleen Mertz, Eerdmans Acquisitions and Managing EditorI asked Kath­leen Mertz, Acqui­si­tions and Man­ag­ing Edi­tor:

What is the pas­sion that gives you the courage to con­tin­ue pub­lish­ing books? Her reply reflects the pas­sion many edi­tors feel about cre­at­ing excit­ing, won­der­ful, and impor­tant books for young read­ers.  One book in the hands of one child can make a difference—in one child’s world, in one entire nation’s world. It hap­pens.

Kath­leen answered, “Pub­lish­ing books does take a lot of courage. It’s a tough industry—the prof­it mar­gins are often nar­row, the mar­ket is always chang­ing. And there are so many good books—and great books—being pub­lished that it can be easy for even a won­der­ful title to get lost in the shuf­fle and not find its way into the hands of the read­ers who would fall in love with it.

Most of us in pub­lish­ing do what we do because we love it, and I’m no excep­tion. I’m grate­ful to work with a small team of incred­i­bly pas­sion­ate peo­ple who care deeply about the books we pro­duce. I’m grate­ful to be able to have a hand in bring­ing so many books from oth­er coun­tries to a U.S. read­er­ship that might not oth­er­wise ever encounter them. I’m grate­ful to work for a pub­lish­er that tries to pub­lish brave, hon­est books that speak tru­ly about the world. These are the things that sus­tain my pas­sion for the work I do.”

RainKath­leen describes two new­ly released books that reflect this pas­sion and also the inclu­sion of books from oth­er coun­tries: 

Rain—This col­lec­tion of haiku was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Swedish, and is struc­tured around a very broad con­cept of “rain”—including not only the driz­zle that might first come to mind, but also flur­ries of snow, show­ers of ash­es, gen­tle drifts of cher­ry blos­som petals. It’s an evoca­tive book that cel­e­brates nature, poet­ry, and cul­tures from around the world—and it’s a book that looks beyond the obvi­ous for the unex­pect­ed com­mon threads.

I'll Root for YouI’ll Root for You—A wit­ty and whim­si­cal book of poems about sports of all sorts, but with a unique focus. This one is for all the folks who don’t come in first: “Today we’ll root for the losers. / Today we’ll cheer the oth­er way round. / Today we’ll love every­body / whose som­er­sault / nev­er got off the ground.” It’s a joy­ful and encour­ag­ing reminder that win­ning isn’t every­thing.”

Inspired by Kathleen’s descrip­tion of the pas­sion that fuels the pub­li­ca­tion of books, I then asked Kath­leen “What is most reward­ing about work­ing in pub­lish­ing?” I was again inspired to hear Kath­leen speak about com­mu­ni­ty, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and the excite­ment of shared cre­ation.

Kath­leen said,  “I still remem­ber what it felt like to receive the fin­ished copy of the first book I edited—a book whose every word I’d pored over, a sto­ry that would go out into the world and find read­ers who would fall in love with it them­selves.

One of the great­est joys of being an edi­tor is get­ting to watch (and have a hand in) how a sto­ry grows from man­u­script to fin­ished book. It’s incred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing when I can help an author hone their sto­ry in a way that will help it reach an audi­ence even more effec­tive­ly. And then I get to see the artist take that sto­ry and bring their own bril­liance to it—those days when we get sketch­es or final art in for a project are tremen­dous­ly excit­ing.  

To work on children’s books is to be part of some of the most won­der­ful communities—the dri­ven and end­less­ly cre­ative peo­ple who dream up words and art to tell the world new sto­ries, the pas­sion­ate and thought­ful peo­ple who invest their lives in pub­lish­ing, the teach­ers and librar­i­ans and read­ers of all ages who find end­less joy in sto­ries and are always on the look­out for the next book to fall in love with.”

I want­ed to hear more about Eerd­mans’ new books. Kath­leen, tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique.

Here are two more of our fall books that I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ed about:

Paul Writes (a Letter) and The Little BarbarianPaul Writes (a Let­ter)—Chris Rasch­ka is just bril­liant. Each spread of this book depicts Paul writ­ing to his friends, cap­tur­ing a core idea or two from each of the epis­tles. It’s earnest and warm and sur­pris­ing­ly funny—a more human depic­tion of Paul than I’ve ever seen before.

The Lit­tle Bar­bar­ian—This is the first com­plete­ly word­less pic­ture book we’ve pub­lished. It might be short on words, but it’s not short on adven­ture or imag­i­na­tion! With the help of his trusty steed, our fear­less lit­tle bar­bar­ian must bat­tle one ter­ri­fy­ing adver­sary after anoth­er. I love the dis­tinc­tive for­mat of this book, and the look of delight on people’s faces when they get to the sur­prise twist of an end­ing.”

I have always enjoyed re-read­ing many of Eerd­mans’ books. So many are excel­lent ways to begin mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions with read­ers or to enrich the study of many top­ics with “sto­ry.” I asked Kath­leen, “What recent ‘old­er’ books of yours would you espe­cial­ly rec­om­mend to teach­ers and librar­i­ans?”

Nile Crossing, Hidden City, Story Like the Wind

Nile Cross­ing—I describe this book as a back-to-school sto­ry set in ancient Egypt. It’s about a young boy named Khep­ri who is leav­ing his life as a fish­er­man to start scribe school. It’s lyri­cal­ly writ­ten, the art is stun­ning, and it’s got a ton of addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion at the back—perfect for any class doing a unit on Ancient Egypt.

Hid­den City—A col­lec­tion of poems cel­e­brat­ing the ways that nature exists even in the mid­dle of our cities. The poems are acces­si­ble, the art is col­or­ful and fun, and there’s some real­ly good addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion at the end of the book. This is a great way to encour­age kids to keep an eye out for the flo­ra and fau­na that they might encounter in their own lives.

Sto­ry Like the Wind—This is a beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed mid­dle-grade nov­el about a group of refugees adrift at sea in a tiny raft. One of them, a boy named Rami, takes out his vio­lin (the only thing he’s man­aged to bring with him) and with it tells a sto­ry about an indomitable stallion—a sto­ry that helps them all remem­ber the past and find some hope for the future. It’s a pow­er­ful book that tack­les hard sub­jects and also reminds read­ers how impor­tant sto­ries can be.”

Check out an Eerd­mans’ title at your local library or inde­pen­dent book­store.  You will enjoy a fresh way of see­ing, a deep­er way of think­ing.

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Groundwood Books

Groundwood BooksGround­wood Books cel­e­brates diver­si­ty. In the words of the late Sheila Bar­ry, for­mer pub­lish­er, their com­mit­ment is to pub­lish “the most excit­ing Cana­di­an voic­es we can find. Whether it’s a pic­ture book from Nunavut in the Arc­tic or a Car­ni­val sto­ry about a new Cana­di­an from the Caribbean ….”  

Ground­wood pub­lish­es not only all things Cana­di­an but much more—stories about First Nations peo­ple, refugees, chil­dren caught in the ter­ror of war, the grief felt by immi­grants as well as the gift of their expe­ri­ences and tal­ents they bring to their new coun­try. Themes are uni­ver­sal. Sto­ries are spe­cif­ic. Voic­es are authen­tic. Their books say take notice, these are pow­er­ful, impor­tant sto­ries. These are beau­ti­ful sto­ries. Often, these are “in our own voice” sto­ries.

Regard­ing immi­gra­tion and refugee sto­ries, one of my favorite pic­ture books about the strug­gle of fam­i­lies to seek asy­lum in the Unit­ed States con­tin­ues to be Two White Rab­bits. Oth­er Ground­wood books on this top­ic that speak to chil­dren are Migrant and Malaika’s Cos­tume.

Two White Rabbits, Migrant, and Malaika's Costume

The Bread­win­ner tril­o­gy and also Chil­dren of War, both by Deb­o­rah Ellis, are some of the most pow­er­ful and poignant books about the courage of Afghan and Iraqi chil­dren. The Bread­win­ner Tril­o­gy is now avail­able as a graph­ic nov­el and just recent­ly, an ani­mat­ed movie. Deb­o­rah Ellis’s books—fiction and nonfiction—give voice to chil­dren and teens caught in war or flee­ing from war. Deb­o­rah Ellis is a mas­ter sto­ry­teller who has received the high­est lit­er­ary awards giv­en in Cana­da. She has donat­ed near­ly $2 mil­lion in roy­al­ties to orga­ni­za­tions such as Women for Women in Afghanistan, UNICEF, and Street Kids Inter­na­tion­al. Check them out.

I sent Fred Hor­ler, mar­ket­ing man­ag­er for Ground­wood, sev­er­al ques­tions. I’ve nev­er had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask a mar­ket­ing man­ag­er why they love their job: sell­ing books, not just any books, but Ground­wood Books. I think you will enjoy read­ing Fred’s reply.

Fred Horler

Sto­ry­time with Fred’s daugh­ters (2012). Pho­to used with per­mis­sion.

Ques­tions to Fred Hor­ler:

What is most reward­ing about work­ing in mar­ket­ing?

There is a lot that I love—I work in children’s books after all—but one aspect ris­es above the rest: work­ing at an edu­ca­tion or library con­fer­ence and shar­ing my favorite books with the atten­dees.

I recent­ly had a con­ver­sa­tion with a librar­i­an at one of these con­fer­ences and we talked about the plea­sure of read­ing a pic­ture book for the first time. That feel­ing of dis­cov­ery as you move from one page to the next—being tak­en on a trip that has been so care­ful­ly and painstak­ing­ly plot­ted out by the books’ cre­ators. (And which is why I have been known to chas­tise those who insist on flip­ping through a pic­ture book from back to front.) That first read­ing can be a pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence and will nev­er be repeat­ed in quite the same way.

Grant­ed, there is a lot to be gained by mul­ti­ple re-read­ings, but you will nev­er get that first-time expe­ri­ence again. Except that I do—I get to relive that jour­ney every time I intro­duce a favorite book to a vis­i­tor at my booth who is will­ing to take a few min­utes to ful­ly immerse them­selves. And while I may appear to leave them alone while they read, I am very aware of the emo­tion­al ride they are expe­ri­enc­ing. And I get to trav­el along with them shar­ing the goose bumps, the laugh­ter, and some­times even the tears. That’s a gift I nev­er get tired of receiv­ing.

What helps you mar­ket Ground­wood books?

Children’s pub­lish­ing is a crowd­ed market—walking through the exhibits of a library con­fer­ence quick­ly illus­trates the chal­lenge of get­ting our books noticed. For­tu­nate­ly, we pub­lish very good books—we wouldn’t get any­where with­out that. But that isn’t enough—there are a lot of great books being pub­lished every year.

We are very grate­ful to the review jour­nals that take the time to con­sid­er our books and pub­lish their reviews. Awards are also very grat­i­fy­ing, though, as a Cana­di­an com­pa­ny who pub­lish­es direct­ly into the U.S., I may have been over­heard grum­bling about the num­ber of awards for which we are not eli­gi­ble. And we adver­tise and still pro­duce a print­ed cat­a­logue – with all that gor­geous art in our books, we can’t help but show it off.

But ulti­mate­ly, I still think it’s that old stand-by—word of mouth—that con­tributes the most to sell­ing our books. Fans of children’s books are incred­i­bly enthu­si­as­tic about the books they love—just try and stop them from talk­ing about their favorites. And so part of my job, not unlike that of a children’s librar­i­an, is to match the right books with the right readers—and then let them take it from there.

Tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique?

I love our books that elic­it a vis­cer­al reac­tion. We just pub­lished a beau­ti­ful pic­ture book about a young girl’s expe­ri­ence at her first funer­al. Matt James’ The Funer­al is sen­si­tive and hon­est and can affect peo­ple in very dif­fer­ent ways but invari­ably evokes a very per­son­al response.

The same is true for Louis Under­cov­er by Fan­ny Britt and Isabelle Arse­nault, and Walk with Me by Jairo Buitra­go and Rafael Yock­teng. Both these books have the abil­i­ty to touch peo­ple in pro­found ways. More than once I’ve had peo­ple who have had to walk away after read­ing them because their emo­tions made them unable to even talk. That’s pow­er­ful stuff.

Ground­wood has always had a strong rep­u­ta­tion for pub­lish­ing sto­ries that per­haps can’t be found else­where and I am par­tic­u­lar­ly proud of our books from North Amer­i­can Indige­nous cre­ators such as the bilin­gual (Eng­lish and Cree) pic­ture books nipêhon / I Wait and niwî­ci­hâw / I Help. We have made free audio book ver­sions avail­able on our web­site for both of these titles so peo­ple can hear the lan­guage spo­ken aloud.

And this fall we con­tin­ue this tra­di­tion with a list that includes a book set in Haiti (Aun­tie Luce’s Talk­ing Paint­ings by Fran­cie Latour and Ken Daley); a sto­ry about a Black com­mu­ni­ty in Nova Sco­tia that was demol­ished in the 1960s (Africville by Shauntay Grant and Eva Camp­bell); a tale about a friend­ship between plants from an Iran­ian author and illus­tra­tor (I’m Glad That You’re Hap­py by Nahid Kaze­mi), and a book that cel­e­brates Jew­ish cul­ture (Bit­ter and Sweet by San­dra V. Fed­er and Kyrsten Brook­er).

Nan­cy: Ground­wood Books is a trea­sure trove of edi­tors, authors, and illus­tra­tors whose sto­ries speak to the hearts of read­ers with poignan­cy, authen­tic­i­ty, and pow­er.

Take a look! And don’t miss their resources for teach­ers and librar­i­ans.

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Pomelo Books

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

What do a uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor from Dal­las and a lawyer from Prince­ton have in com­mon?

Both are pas­sion­ate about poet­ry, specif­i­cal­ly, poet­ry in the class­room for every­one, every­day, and about any­thing, even alge­bra. Sylvia Vardell, pro­fes­sor and author of edu­ca­tion­al books for teach­ers, and Janet Wong, lawyer and author of sev­er­al dozen books for chil­dren, com­bined their knowl­edge and poet­ry pas­sion and cre­at­ed Pome­lo Books. Their goal was to pub­lish books that make poet­ry avail­able and accessible—and fun—in the class­room.

Pet CrazyEach book (twelve books so far and more on the way) has a unique focus. The books in The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy series offer a vari­ety of verse and also short edu­ca­tion­al guides, resources, “Take 5 lessons,” and oth­er appli­ca­tions that cross cur­ricu­lum lines. Each verse entry in the Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book series pro­vides white space for reluc­tant writ­ers, prompts for writ­ing, and sug­ges­tions of places where stu­dents can sub­mit their own poems for pub­li­ca­tion.

In their own words, Pome­lo Books are unique books “that will puck­er your lips, reduce cho­les­terol, cure scurvy, curb glob­al warm­ing, and make young peo­ple hap­py while teach­ing them lots.”

What is most reward­ing about being a pub­lish­er?

CelebrationsSylvia Vardell: There have been so many rewards in this ven­ture: col­lab­o­rat­ing with the ener­getic Janet Wong and 100+ poets across the globe, see­ing a project come to fruit in print, and watch­ing teach­ers thumb through the book and say, “Yes, I can DO this!”

But prob­a­bly my favorite thing is how much I have learned along the way! I love try­ing new things and cre­at­ing Pome­lo Books has pushed me to try many, many new things such as the ins and outs of soft­ware pro­grams, exper­i­ment­ing with book design, cre­at­ing pro­mo­tion­al graph­ics, and pre­sent­ing to all kinds of audi­ences. And that doesn’t even include all the new things I’ve learned about poet­ry

Who do you hope is read­ing and talk­ing about your books?

Janet Wong: Recent­ly Sylvia and I have been booked at sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty con­fer­ences to speak to pre-ser­vice teach­ers, as well as recent grads. This, to me, is the ide­al audi­ence: new teach­ers who are eager to find their own best ways of reach­ing all kinds of kids. They under­stand that time is tight, and a five-minute poet­ry les­son can be used to teach mul­ti­ple con­tent areas. It’s so great to see them snap­ping tons of pho­tos of Sylvia’s Pow­er­Point slides!

Tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique.

The Poetry of ScienceJanet Wong: One of the most dis­tinc­tive things about our books in The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy series is the sheer size of them: in 4 books (our orig­i­nal K-5 book, the Mid­dle School book, the Sci­ence book, and the Cel­e­bra­tions book) we have 700+ poems by 150 poets. That’s a whole lot of diver­si­ty (of all kinds)—diverse voic­es, diverse top­ics, and diverse approach­es.

And in our recent Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book series (You Just Wait, Here We Go, and Pet Crazy), we’re pro­vid­ing Pow­er­Packs that are filled with pre-writ­ing activ­i­ties, men­tor poems, and writ­ing prompts—plus the poems, woven togeth­er, tell a sto­ry, Plus there are exten­sive back mat­ter resources on where kids can get pub­lished and a whole lot more. Our mot­to is “Pome­lo Books = Poet­ry Plus!” and we’re doing our best to live up to it!

As an edu­ca­tor, what do your books add to my stu­dents’ class­room expe­ri­ence?

Here We GoSylvia Vardell: This is where Pome­lo Books is unique. As Janet point­ed out, we are so proud to fea­ture 700+ poems by 150 poets in our var­i­ous antholo­gies, but added to that are “Take 5” activ­i­ties or mini-lessons for every sin­gle one of those 700+ poems. We pro­vide the short­cut that a busy teacher can use to pause, share a poem, and pro­vide a tiny lit­er­a­cy les­son that is engag­ing and mean­ing­ful. For the busy edu­ca­tor, our books are very search­able and prac­ti­cal, offer­ing poems on top­ics that are rel­e­vant to children’s lives and con­nect­ed with cur­ric­u­lar areas. We make it easy for the novice teacher to begin as well as for the expe­ri­enced edu­ca­tor to add vari­ety and cre­ativ­i­ty to poem shar­ing. 

Pome­lo Books web­site

Pome­lo Books twelve pub­li­ca­tions are:

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy (K-5 Com­mon Core)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy (K-5 TEKS)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Mid­dle School (Com­mon Core)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Mid­dle School (TEKS)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence (K-5 Teacher/Librarian Edi­tion)

The Poet­ry of Sci­ence: The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence for Kids

The TEKS Guide to The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Cel­e­bra­tions (Teacher/Librarian Edi­tion)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Cel­e­bra­tions (Children’s Edi­tion)

You Just Wait: A Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book

Here We Go: A Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book

Pet Crazy: A Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book

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Cinco Puntos Press

The Story of Colors / La Historia de los ColoresCon­tro­ver­sy and noto­ri­ety were not the rea­sons that Bob­by Byrd and Lee Mer­rill Byrd began their own pub­lish­ing house, Cin­co Pun­tos Press. They believed in giv­ing voice to ideas, issues, and writ­ers whose voic­es need­ed to be heard.  In 1999, Cin­co Pun­tos pub­lished the book The Sto­ry of Col­ors / La His­to­ria de los col­ores writ­ten by Sub­co­man­dante Mar­cos, the leader of the Zap­atista Army of Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion in Mex­i­co. The Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts at first applaud­ed the pub­li­ca­tion but lat­er with­drew its praise and mon­e­tary grant. The Lan­nan Foun­da­tion pro­vid­ed Cin­co Pun­tos Press with twice the amount of the lost fund­ing and in 2005 rec­og­nized the coura­geous and impor­tant work of Cin­co Pun­tos with the Cul­tur­al Free­dom Fel­low­ship for Excel­lence in Pub­lish­ing. Dur­ing a time of heat­ed con­tro­ver­sy when many issues were added to the mix, pub­lish­er Bob­by Byrd stat­ed:

It was a strange media fren­zy, a true boon to Cin­co Pun­tos. But real ideas and issues got lost in that fren­zy, the most impor­tant of which is the indige­nous strug­gle for auton­o­my and land in Chi­a­pas.”

Cin­co Pun­tos Press con­tin­ues to pub­lish books that have a fresh voice, spo­ken with hon­esty, with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Thus it is no sur­prise that Cin­co Pun­tos has won sev­er­al awards and their books—fiction and non­fic­tion, adult, YA, juve­nile, and pic­ture books—continue to rise to the top of best book lists as impor­tant books to read. Their awards include The Lan­non Foun­da­tion Cul­tur­al Free­dom Fel­low­ship for excel­lence in pub­lish­ing, the Amer­i­can Book Award from the Before Colum­bus Foun­da­tion, and the South­west Book Award for excel­lence in pub­lish­ing from the Bor­der Region Library Asso­ci­a­tion.

Lee Merrill Byrd, publisher

Lee Mer­rill Byrd, pub­lish­er

I asked Lee Mer­rill Byrd how and why she and her hus­band, Bob­by Byrd, began an award-win­ning press.  Some of her respons­es will sur­prise you.

What is the most reward­ing aspect about being a pub­lish­er?

Friends, authors, illus­tra­tors, col­leagues, work­ing with our son and work­ing with each oth­er, find­ing writ­ing that is full of vital­i­ty, quirk­i­ness, ener­gy, find­ing writ­ers who know how to write, even find­ing writ­ers who don’t yet know how to write. Watch­ing read­ers who love the books we’ve pub­lished. See­ing writ­ers we’ve pub­lished pros­per. It’s all good.

What was the pas­sion that gave you the courage to form Cin­co Pun­tos Press?

This is a great ques­tion: I don’t think we had either pas­sion or courage when we start­ed Cin­co Pun­tos Press in 1985. We were two writers—I’m a fic­tion writer and Bob­by is a poet—with three kids—and we were tired of work­ing for oth­er peo­ple and wish­ing we had more time to write. (Pub­lish­ing is not the answer to hav­ing more time to write, by the way.)

We vis­it­ed Richard Grossinger and his wife, Lindy Hough, who ran North Atlantic Press in Berke­ley. They had pub­lished a book of Bobby’s poems, called Get Some Fus­es for the House. They told us they were mak­ing about $25,000 a year as pub­lish­ers. It was 1985, and that sound­ed real­ly good! So, with­out know­ing any­thing, we decid­ed that we would become pub­lish­ers. For­tu­nate­ly we had a friend down the street, Vic­ki Trego Hill, who knew how to design books and anoth­er friend two blocks over with a short sto­ry col­lec­tion, Dagob­er­to Gilb, (Win­ners on the Pass Line) who lat­er became famous and prob­a­bly for­got all about us. We didn’t have dis­tri­b­u­tion. We prob­a­bly didn’t know what dis­tri­b­u­tion meant. We didn’t have a phone num­ber in the phone book, so when Alan Cheuse reviewed Win­ners on the Pass Line on NPR, no one knew how to find it!

All this is to say that I think the very best thing that we have had going for us is that we didn’t know any­thing at all about pub­lish­ing when we start­ed. And the fact that we live here on the U.S. / Mex­i­co bor­der, far from the so-called cen­ter of pub­lish­ing in NYC. That has allowed us to be unfet­tered by the kind of com­pe­ti­tion that pre­vails in New York and also to have our own par­tic­u­lar vision of what makes a good sto­ry. And, of course, to be deeply inter­est­ed in cul­tures that are not like the ones we grew up in.

As an author, what can I do to give my work the best chance to be pub­lished by your press?

This is a toughie with no guar­an­tees, but I think the best thing a writer can do to get pub­lished by Cin­co Puntos—or by any press—is to write. If you want to be a writer, make writ­ing a dai­ly habit and write from your own heart and write for your own under­stand­ing. Don’t write to get pub­lished, but write to get at what you want to say.

In my sub­mis­sion guide­lines on our web­site, I ask aspir­ing authors to call me on the phone and tell me what they would like us to con­sid­er. I gen­er­al­ly don’t hear peo­ple who are writ­ers. I hear peo­ple who want to get pub­lished more than they want to write. That should not be the dri­ving force.

What recent pub­li­ca­tions are you espe­cial­ly excit­ed about?

I’ll men­tion a few.

Feath­ered Ser­pent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mex­i­co by David Bowles.

Our first-ever Span­ish edi­tion of The Smell of Old Lady Per­fume by Clau­dia Guadalupe Mar­tinez. This book in Eng­lish is a clas­sic, just as good as The House on Man­go Street, in a Span­ish edi­tion.

When a Woman Ris­es, by Chris­tine Eber, the sto­ry of two young women grow­ing up in Chi­a­pas dur­ing the begin­nings of the Zap­atista rev­o­lu­tion, going very dif­fer­ent ways.

Iron Riv­er by Daniel Acos­ta, a YA set in the late 1950s in L.A.

From Nan­cy: One book—a pic­ture book—I will add to your recent list of award-win­ning books is All Around Us, a debut pic­ture book writ­ten by Xele­na Gon­za­lez and illus­trat­ed by Adri­ana Gar­cia. All Around Us was select­ed as an Amer­i­can Indi­an Library Asso­ci­a­tion out­stand­ing pic­ture book hon­or, received nation­al recog­ni­tion with the Pura Bel­pré 2018 Illus­tra­tor Hon­or Book, won the Tomas Rivera Best Pic­ture Book Award, and was named as the best pic­ture book by The Texas Insti­tute of Let­ters.

Thank you, Lee, for being “brave and fool­ish” and con­tin­u­ing to pub­lish books that mat­ter. 

Cin­co Pun­tos Press con­tin­ues to be a small press that takes risks, pub­lish­es new voic­es, cel­e­brates a diver­si­ty of sto­ries, and offers the best in good books, well-writ­ten. If you are not yet famil­iar with their books, I encour­age you to seek them out.

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