Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Indie Spotlight: MG Press

It's not often that I stumble across a brand new publisher BEFORE their first book releases. And what a great looking first book it is! World, I'd like to introduce you to MG Press, the micro-press extension of Midwestern Gothic - a quarterly print journal that calls Ann Arbor, Michigan its home. 

MG Press is poised to release their debut short story collection This Jealous Earth in January 2013. Though currently closed for submissions, their goal is a valiant one: to spotlight Midwestern literature, highlighting local authors and the region's mythology and culture.

The press's co-founding editor Robert James Russell is guest posting today to tell you all about Midwestern Gothics new literary adventure:

Indie Spotlight: MG Press

First things first: Where is the Midwest? Well, that varies slightly depending on who you ask. Traditionally—at least by U.S. Census standards—the “Midwest” extends from Michigan over to North Dakota, down to Missouri, and rounding back up to Ohio (including everything in between). Some people include Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and a few others, but really, if you’ve been here at all, you’ll know there are very particular states that have this unique and somewhat-shared history, mythology and culture. Of course, there are micro-cultures if you zoom in further, but in general, the people of these states are considered “Midwesterners” and very much of the same ilk.

Now that the geography lesson is out of the way, why the Midwest? MG Press, which is an offshoot of the literary journal Midwestern Gothic—formed in late 2010 with Jeff Pfaller—has a simple enough aim: to showcase talent from this region that we feel is vastly undervalued as a hotbed of artistic wonder. I mean, think about it: With the exception of maybe Chicago, you don’t necessarily think of the Midwest and think of authors, poets, artists, a lively food and music culture. Instead—let’s say, thanks to the media—you tend to think of cornfields and blue-collar workers and factories and, negative stereotypes about fat people. And that, to us, is a shame, because honestly, there is such a distinct history and culture to this place that assuming no talent lives here, or that no great work is inspired by the region, is a big mistake. Thus, Midwestern Gothic was born, a quarterly literary journal devoted to highlighting these very people, giving them a venue to show the world, “Hey, this is our home, and we’re proud of it. Very good things come from here!”

Regionalism has been a part of literature—especially in the U.S.—since, really, the dawn of literature. We have such distinct “areas” that it’s impossible not to notice how they affect the writers and their works. What we’ve seen, though, is while there have been and continue to be fantastic Midwestern authors who do find the spotlight, there’s never been a national push like there has been for, let’s say, Southern literature. Or even West Coast literature. The Midwest is as unique as those places, so why has it been overlooked?

That’s a loaded question, to be sure, one that deserves many devoted essays to be written about it, but if it’s possible to simplify any sort of response, I think it would because we don’t have the glam these other regions do. We don’t necessarily have a unique cuisine, or Hollywood or the likes of a New York City. We do have farms and factories and livelihoods that sprang up from these. We have hardworking, proud and—above all—cheerful men and women like you can’t find anywhere else. And while that created Midwest culture as we know it, it can easily be overshadowed by these other, more dazzling bits of Americana.

But ultimately, it doesn’t mean we don’t have stories to tell. And we were lucky to find that niche. Of course there are some fantastic Midwest-based journals out there, both print and online, but we didn’t see any whose sole mission it was to educate about the Midwest, to try to shine a spotlight to the region. So we took it upon ourselves to create one, a home for Midwesterners—or, even, anyone just inspired by the region—a place to showcase their work. Jeff and I were both born here and still live here, and the beauty we see in this place…well, it’s the reason we do what we do. We want the world to see this place as we do—a wonderland of talent. Simple as that.

And MG Press is an extension our original goal. We want to go further and really hype up this region, show the talent that's here and publish a small number of titles each year. Of course this is no easy task. Creating a press of any size isn’t. But we feel sticking to our original credo is a good start. (And designing pretty-looking books doesn’t hurt either.) We don’t listen to anyone who says print is dead—people who aren’t in the business say that. Because anyone who is, anyone who spends time talking with writers and understanding us—and readers too—knows it isn’t dead. Not really. Has focus shifted to eBooks? Absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But print is still here, and creating a press isn’t the most unheard of thing these days. It all comes down to the market, to having a niche, and again, we believe we do. What we’ve seen with the success of Midwestern Gothic is that people understand our vision, what we’re trying to accomplish. Our biggest fear early on was that people would shun us, push us aside as just another gimmick, but it’s been quite the opposite, and we’re hoping to keep that momentum with MG Press.

So, what’s ahead? We’re thrilled about our first release, This Jealous Earth, a collection of stories by the extremely talented Scott Dominick Carpenter—to be released January 2013. We’re busy marketing that and sending advance review copies out now, trying to get Scott and his wonderful book much-deserved attention, and as well to introduce MG Press to the world.

We’re going to open submissions up eventually for MG Press, but we’re not sure when—not exactly, anyway. This is all new to us, the book press aspect, and while it shares some similarities to the journal and how we produce and market that, there are enough differences that we feel we want to stumble through this first, figure out what works and what doesn’t before we start reading again. But we’re excited for the future, for what this will mean not only for us, but for the region. We just hope what we’re doing makes a difference—even a small one—on the mindset of those who consider us just “flyover” states. Because the truth is, we’re much more than that. Wait and see.

For more information on MG Press and This Jealous Earth, click here.

To submit your work for Midwestern Gothic, click here.

Robert James Russell is the co-founding editor of Midwestern Gothic. His work has appeared in Joyland, The Collagist, Thunderclap! Magazine, LITSNACK, Greatest Lakes Review, and The Legendary, among others. His first novel, Sea of Trees, was released in May 2012 by Winter Goose Publishing.  Robert lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Find him online at www.robertjamesrussell.com

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