Wednesday, May 24, 2017

1/2 Dozen for Nicola Mason, Fiction Editor of Acre Books, a Brand New Press

I was really excited when I heard that you had your eye on creating a press. Now that it's up and running, tell us about Acre Books.
Acre Books is the newly established book-publishing arm of The Cincinnati Review. We plan to fill our lists with high-caliber poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and hybrid forms. The brilliant Danielle Cadena Deulen is our poetry and nonfiction editor, I’m the fiction editor, and we have a designer nonpareil in Barbara Neely Bourgoyne.

What inspired you to move from managing The Cincinnati Review to creating a small press?
It seemed like a logical leap. CR has only been around since 2003, but despite its youth, we’ve developed a reputation for being a magazine that is well and truly read. Over the years, our subscription and submission numbers just kept mounting. Not only were pieces from CR’s pages getting regularly tapped for inclusion in prize anthologies, the authors of those pieces---many of them young writers with no “names” to speak of---were winning first-book prizes. Agents began subscribing to CR and asking us to put them in touch with various contributors. I started thinking that we should capitalize on our own strengths, publish not only single pieces by the wonderful writers we were discovering through our submission pool, but their books as well. In other words, that we should rely on our reputation and further develop the relationships we struck up with these undeniable talents---people the editors of Southern Review used to call (when I started out there years ago) “comers.”

Will you be soliciting manuscripts directly from writers and poets or will you be working with agents or both? 
I'll be soliciting as well as considering work that comes over the transom. Writers can query and attach sample pages on Acre’s website. Submissions are open and free.

What can we expect from Acre in its first year?
We’ve just released our premiere publication, a themed anthology titled A Very Angry Baby. The work included---from twenty contributors---runs the gamut in form, setting, tone, and angry-baby-induced trauma. Not all the babies are young, not all are small, not all are real, not all are human. But there’s an emotional center there, in the idea. An angry baby really can’t be ignored. Well, it can . . . but there are consequences. I rustled up some truly inspiring work both from writers who are well established and from those who have yet to crash the scene. All the pieces but one are unpublished, and a number of them were written specifically for the anthology. Though the volume is rather thin---130 pages---the content feels really full. Rich. Not to mention . . . fun. We even created a trailer for our YouTube channel. Check it out here.

The anthology will be Acre’s only spring offering, but we plan to bring out three or four books for the fall season. Our hope is to release one title per month starting in August.

Do you have an aesthetic that can be put into one sentence and how does A Very Angry Baby establish that aesthetic? 
I love stylish prose, muscular language, imaginative leaps. Transparent prose can be compelling, but the work I tend to enjoy most submerges me in a sensibility.

You’re an artist so can you tell us a little about the art and craft of bookmaking. Your covers, design?  What draws you in, personally? 
Barbara Bourgoyne does all our designing (she started Cincinnati Review with me back in 2003), but I hired her because we have very similar ideas about what holds visual appeal. I find a lot of overlap between writing and visual art. The things that are arresting communicate cleanly, but at a slant. When assessing an image or a manuscript, I often ask myself the same questions: what’s the goal; what’s the dominance; what’s the focal point; how are the edges handled; is there follow-through, attention to detail?



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Nicola Mason worked for many years at The Southern Review and Louisiana State University Press before moving to Cincinnati and founding The Cincinnati Review in 2003. A fiction writer and NEA Fellow whose work has appeared in many journals as well as in the Pushcart Prize, New Stories from the South, and Million Writers Award: Best New Online Voices, she is also a visual artist.