In this month’s community spotlight on independent presses, we talked to Split/Lip Press‘s Publicity & Reviews Manager, Allison Renner. Split/Lip has a commitment to boundary-pushing creative thought in prose, bringing innovation into print. Check out the interview below to hear more, and find out about their forthcoming titles at the end! You can also find Split/Lip on Twitter and Instagram.
From left to right, top to bottom: Kristine Langley Mahler, Director and Publisher; Caleb Tankersley, Managing Director; David Wojciechowski, Book Designer; Emmy Newman, Marketing & Events Manager; Mandana Chaffa, Special Projects; Allison Renner, Publicity & Reviews Manager; Kate Finegan, Novel/Novella Editor; Pedro Ramírez, Short Story/Flash Fiction Editor; Lauren W. Westerfield, Nonfiction/Hybrid Editor
Mary Rose Manspeaker: What sets you apart as an independent press? As a press that looks for boundary-breaking, experimental work, what stands out to you in submissions? What draws your editorial vision toward breaking apart “truths” or examining the unanswerable?
Allison Renner: We’re deeply interested and committed to championing the work we believe in–like most small presses–but our abiding desire to support prose books that expose under-explored boundaries and seek to stretch them is probably what makes us different. Our authors are a diverse group of people, from essayists to short story writers to novelists, and their books reflect that diversity on every level, including craft. We look for books where the material is being approached in an unexpected way within the literary form, or where the material is unexpected itself. We’re drawn toward authors and books who refuse to neatly box up the truth in tropes and who, instead, hand our readers the gift of their exploration–contained within the book–offering the opportunity to continue exploring within themselves.
MRM: What would you say is the most important aspect and outcome of supporting independent presses and bookstores? Of bolstering the literary arts?
AR: Independent presses, particularly those which do not have institutional support (like us!), thrive because of readers, not grants. As readers, we have the opportunity to purchase books from presses that answer solely to a mission rather than a financial-bottom-line or shareholders. Independent presses are historically those most willing to champion the work that isn’t cookie-cutter, that isn’t made for the masses, that isn’t temporary celebrity–and our books at Split/Lip Press are extraordinary, but they don’t sell at a NYT Best-Seller level. We believe in the work being done by our books, and we don’t remainder them or stop printing when sales drop off. By supporting independent presses, we support creative thought, first and foremost.
MRM: How have you adapted to the COVID pandemic landscape, and what are your goals for the future? Has the past year and a half changed your outlook?
AR: We’re already a “remote” press, with people working all over the United States and Canada, so it was relatively easy to adapt! We’ve started hosting online book launches for authors, which has been a great way to connect with readers. Even as in-person events become safe again, we still plan to host a launch around the book release just so everyone has a chance to be involved.
In addition to launches, we started hosting online book clubs a month after each title’s release. We send out discussion questions to get everyone thinking, then the genre editor hosts the first half of the event. It’s an informal discussion and a chance to share what you liked about the book, but there’s some insight into the process, too, since the editor is involved in the conversation. At the halfway point, the author joins, so the readers can ask their questions directly.
We’ve also partnered with other small presses for community readings. Since everyone started doing things online, it gave us a chance to combine forces. There are so many great small presses out there so we’ve loved being able to connect authors for really engaging events.
By supporting independent presses, we support creative thought, first and foremost.
MRM: Tell us about your most recent publications and what’s in the works—feel free to plug your new books!
AR: We’re releasing six books this year! Usually, it’s four, but we had two chapbooks come out earlier this year: one fiction and one nonfiction.
The Part That Burns by Jeannine Ouellette is a memoir where the author recollects fragments of her life and arranges them elliptically to witness each piece as torn and whole, as something more than itself. It’s earned starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, among other honors.
Flee by Calvin Walds is a nonfiction chapbook. It is a mode of being and of making with a hybrid of warring energies—the lyrical, theoretical, political, and surreal—to innovate and interrogate both form and content in surpassing the actual.
An Inventory of Abandoned Things by Kelly Ann Jacobson is a fiction chapbook made of linked stories that question what it means to fight the land for a place in it—and whether, in the fighting, there can be a bond between human and landscape formed that is stronger than love.
Before the Earth Devours Us by Esteban Rodríguez is our latest release. It’s an essay collection where a young boy emerges from the valley of childhood memories, curious and seeking to understand a world that is violent, uncertain, and as full of loss as it is of life from the people who inhabit it.
My Share of the Body by Devon Capizzi is a story collection that releases on December 15th, our final book of the year. The stories explore the ways our expectations—of ourselves, of the people we love—often live in tension with our lived experiences, and follow characters in the throes of change, always searching for what’s been lost, for what’s just out of reach, for newfound ways of carrying their pain.