Last month, we looked at new and forthcoming books from four alums of the University of Baltimore MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts. This month, we’re sampling work from two alumni-founded publishing houses, Mason Jar Press and Ink Press.
It makes sense that UB alums are going into the business side of the book world – it’s the “publishing arts” offerings that distinguish UB’s program from most creative writing MFAs. Instead of stopping at the manuscript phase, UB students learn the aesthetic, technical, and entrepreneurial skills required to get books into print. The first and most famous proof of this pudding is 2010 graduate Adam Robinson’s Publishing Genius, an award-winning avant-garde small press devoted to “extraordinary reading experiences,” whose accomplishments include a film deal with Spike Jonze.
Mason Jar Press is the project of Ian Anderson (2014) and Michael B. Tager (2015). One of their first projects was Nihilist Kitsch, by Matthew Falk (2014), a collection of poems, now joined by books by two prose writers.
Michelle Junot (2014) was on a plane back from her home state of Louisiana when she decided to clear some space out of her phone. Flipping through her Notes, she realized she’d created a kind of personal diary/time capsule of her twenties, including both mundane things (grocery lists, reminders, lists of restaurants) and more heartfelt entries (wondering if God could hear her, wondering why her college boyfriend broke up with her again, exercise plans and body measurements.) The enthusiasm of Mason Jar for the manuscript she created brought Notes from My Phone to print in 2016.
Reading: Starts Here! @ Bird in Hand, 11 E. 33rd St., Saturday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Dave K., class of 2012, is the author of The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado, a picaresque saga following a homeless, one-armed man haunted by both his own past and the brides of a debauched plutocrat who steal him away to a party that never ends.
Reading: Infinity’s Kitchen Late Show, The 14K Cabaret, 218 West Saratoga, Saturday, Nov. 18, 8-10 p.m., plus more out of town events on the website.
Another pair of alums, Tracy Dimond (2015) and Amanda McCormick (2016), founded Ink Press Productions shortly after they met in the program. Since their first event in 2012, a Dark Valentine party celebrating Tracy’s “I’m Sorry I Wrote So Many Sad Poems Today,” they have dedicated themselves to producing handmade books and experimental events that that blur the lines between writing, visual, and performance art.
Their 2016 chapbook “She Named Him Michael” by Heather Rounds (2007) is an exploration of the short and strange life of America’s only living headless chicken, Miracle Mike (1945-1947). This book won the City Paper’s 2017 Best Fiction prize, which cited a “stark, poetic novella that turns into a different kind of legend, an unexpected meditation on gender roles, contextual small-mindedness, man’s thirst for power over nature, and after all that, the inevitable reward of death.”
If you’d like to get in on some of this bookmaking action, Ink Press occasionally holds public workshops on the basics of typesetting and letterpress. There is a session this Sunday, 11/19, with seats open at press time; write [email protected] to get details and make a reservation. If you’d like to hear about future workshops and readings, follow Ink Press on Facebook or go to inkpressproductions.com.