(This blog entry was written for the Winning Words blog - and first appeared on the 15th April 2011)
On 3rd April 2011 I set up Gumbo Press to publish a literary e-zine and chapbooks of prose and poetry. It was a spur of the moment decision which took 7 years in the making.
I used to run a small press. In 1997 I founded CK Publishing and Writer’s Muse magazine. We moved on, over time to publish chapbooks, novellas, and finally some ‘proper’ trade paperbacks. Writer’s Muse passed into other hands in 2001 when I started my PhD, and CK Publishing finally came to an end in 2004 when we had to cease trading. We had tried to grow too fast and over-reached ourselves, and the business failed.
I left CK Publishing behind with some regret, but moved on to concentrate on my studies, my own writing – mostly academic – and latterly my lecturing in Literature and Creative Writing. However, in the last two years I have been writing a lot more fiction – short stories and flash-fictions mostly – and have been sending them out with some success. As a result I have been coming into contact with, and enjoying, a huge range of small press magazines, both print and electronic. This experience reconnected me with what I had been doing before, and reignited my own desire to get back into the publishing game in some small way.
All of this would, almost certainly, have remained just one of those nebulous things you plan to do ‘one day’ if it weren’t for the recent arts funding decisions. It has seemed, from the announcements, and from the reactions of many of my writing and editing friends online, that the publishing sector has been disproportionately hit by the cuts, small presses even more so than some of the larger ones. There is a lot of anger, and not a little anxiety, in many quarters. In me it provoked the desire to get back into the game and show that, despite political decisions, good writing – and its publication – will not be halted.
So, on the 3rd April 2011, my partner Kath Lloyd and I announced the creation of Gumbo Press. We were quickly joined by 2 other writers – poet and National Poetry Day Director, Jo Bell, and writer, film-buff and Writer’s Muse editor, Mike Somers – to help with the editing, promotion and general running of the endeavour. A week of planning, meetings and website-building later, we are up and running, ready to bring the first issue of our e-zine, Word Gumbo, to the web at the end of May 2011.
What we have now, after a frenetic week of organising, is a press dedicated to finding and publishing the very best in new writing from both emerging and established writers working in all the various forms. We want to be the place to break the new Carol Ann Duffy or Ted Hughes, the new Iris Murdoch or Raymond Carver, the new Susan Sontag or Hunter S. Thompson, and the new Caryl Churchill or Tom Stoppard. There’s no point in aiming low, we want to create something online which can rival the very best print publications in both range and quality.
It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m happy to be back in the editor’s chair and looking forward to the adventure.
- Calum Kerr (Managing Editor, Gumbo Press)
(The theme for the first issue of Word Gumbo is ‘Beginnings’ and the deadline for submissions is 30th April. Submission guidelines and more information can be found online at www.gumbopress.co.uk.)