Karen Schindler is the managing director of the Poetry London Reading Series and a contract researcher at UWO’s Faculty of Education. Previous professions include chemical engineer, systems analyst, and high-school teacher. Her poetry and poetry book reviews have been published in literary journals such as The Antigonish Review, the Fiddlehead, the Malahat Review, and The Windsor ReView, and she was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC literary awards and longlisted for Descant's 2011 Winston Collins Prize.She has served as a grant juror for the Ontario Arts Council and a judge for the Hamilton Literary Awards. Her chapbook press, Baseline Press, was launched in the fall of 2011.
RUST TALK WITH KAREN SCHINDLER
Kathryn Mockler: Why did you decide to start a chapbook press?
KS: Because I was pretty sure I would love it. I’ve spent the last nine years happily becoming more and more immersed in poetry. Doing some writing. Organizing readings. Going to workshops and literary festivals. Picking up some editing and reviewing skills. And reading poetry—books and books of poetry. A friend, Ottawa poet Sandra Ridley, published a chapbook with Jack Pine Press in 2008, and it just blew me away—the book itself. It was such a beautiful thing. A piece of art. I wanted to be involved in the making of something like that. And I saw it as a natural extension of the other poetry-related things I’d been doing.
KM: Why is it called Baseline Press?
KS: London is home to two Baseline Roads—I’ve lived on one of them for the last 15 years, and I grew up on a side street of the other. Also, a baseline is a starting point--something basic and essential to refer back to. Although running a press is a continuation of the things I’ve been doing, I like to think of it as a taking-off point for me, and hopefully for some of the poets I’ll publish too.
KM: Who is in the fall line up? Is there a particular theme for the press or how did you choose your authors?
KS: I’m launching three poetry chapbooks this fall--The Black Car by Christine Walde, Sputniks by Andy McGuire, and Cardiogram by Danielle Devereaux. The London launch is Wed. Nov. 2 at Brennan’s Beer & Bistro. And we’re doing a joint launch with Cactus Press in Toronto on Thu. Nov. 3, as part of the Livewords Reading Series.
Christine and Andy I’ve known for several years through the Poetry London Reading Series. And Danielle I met two years ago at a poetry festival. They’re all terrific poets on their way to publishing their first full-length collections. The chapbook is the perfect stepping stone towards that.
I’m also publishing two single-poem broadsides—by Jeffery Donaldson and Sharon McCartney. As well as helping new writers take that first dip into the publishing pond, I’m looking forward to working with more established poets who I admire.
KM: How many books are in each edition?
KS: 75 copies of each chapbook, and 50 copies of each broadside. Those numbers may change from year to year, as I figure out demand.
KM: How did you approach book design?
KS: I did a lot of playing around before I approached any poets—made a few mock-ups using a dozen poems by Wallace Stevens. Pretended it was the real thing—shopped for cover stock and fly-leaf, chose a title, designed a cover, experimented with layout. This gave me an example to present to my prospective authors. Once each poet was on-board, the design was very much a joint effort. Each provided input regarding paper, graphics, etc. I made suggestions they didn’t like, and vice versa. Compromise is a given.
KM: What surprised you the most about the process of launching a press?
KS: I was overwhelmed by the support of the small-press community. I knew very little about how it all worked—paper suppliers? printing options? poet royalties? A few presses in particular—Cameron Anstee’s Apt. 9 (Ottawa), and Jim Johnstone’s Cactus Press (Toronto)—were over-the-top helpful. Seemed not the least bit bothered by my endless emails and phone calls. Everyone who does this seems to be in it for the love of poetry, and there’s a nice camaraderie between the presses. I’ve seen this at the small-press fairs I’ve attended too. So I’ve never felt stuck at any point this year. Good advice was always an email away.
The other surprise was how much I enjoyed the hands-on work—the paper cutting, the folding, the thread binding. It became kind of a meditative thing for me. I bought a terrific German-made rotary paper cutter, which I’ve kind of become addicted to (if anyone has any paper they need cutting…)
KM: Did you face any challenges?
KS: My first year has involved a tremendous amount of work, that’s for sure. Especially because I don’t yet have the funds to buy publishing and design software that allows for shortcuts. But I was prepared to put some hours into this. One thing that perhaps took me the whole year to figure out (and that I still can’t get my head around) is how much mistake paper I’d go through…
KM: Do you have any specific goals for the future?
KS: I would love to have access to a letter-press machine at some point. Especially for broadsides.
KM: London's had a rich art and literary history. As a poet, reviewer, reading event organizer, and now publisher, can you tell us a little bit about the literary scene in London, Ontario today?
KS: The Poetry London Reading Series, started by poet Cornelia Hoogland, is at the top of my list. Over the last seven years we’ve featured some of the country’s best (Lorna Crozier, coming October 19th!) as well as giving local writers a chance to take the stage. The poetry community that has grown around the series and the associated workshops is a dedicated group. And we’re always looking for new poetry aficionados. The series runs out of Landon Library in Wortley Village.
And there’s plenty more going on in London. We’re home to a number of excellent writers. Poet Laureate Penn Kemp has done a great job stirring things up this year—with her “Poetry in Motion” bus project, for example. London’s Kitty Lewis, general manager of Brick Books (one of the country’s top publishing houses) is a huge local poetry cheerleader. The London Writers Society is a big support to the city’s writers. And then there are the people you don’t hear so much about, who are doing their thing every day to nurture literature in the community—English teacher Ola Nowosad, who was involved in the Poetry In Voice high school recitation pilot project this year; Kelly Bradley, who facilitates the Grit Uplifted creative writing group for people who are homeless; Amy Van Es, who just launched Writtle Magazine. There are dozens more. Hats off to all of them.
KM: Do you have any advice for new writers and aspiring editors or publishers?
KS: The piece of advice I keep coming back to, concerning all things creative, was given to me six years ago when I attended a writing program at Banff. I was very new to writing and when I saw the work of some of the other participants, I was convinced that I was only there due to some fluky clerical error. One day one of the faculty, novelist Curtis Gillespie, told me that years earlier, when he himself had attended the program as a student, he had felt the same way. But he kept at it. And he told me that if you took all those intimidating writers he’d been thrown in with, and looked at where they were at today, you’d find that very few of them were still writing and getting published. But he was. Point being, to do something, you don’t have to be the best at it right off the bat. The desire to DO it counts for an awful lot.
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