- Scenes:Sundress Publications: An interview with Erin Elizabeth Smith
Could you briefly describe your press’s history?
Sundress Publications is a (mostly) woman-run, woman-friendly non-profit publication group founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals and publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats. We also publish the annual Best of the Net Anthology, celebrating the best work published online, and the Gone Dark Archives, preserving online journals that have reached the end of their run.
Sundress Publications is also the umbrella site of the publications The Best of the Net Anthology, Stirring, Wicked Alice, Intentional Walk, and Stone Highway Review as well as a non-profit literary press. Stirring: A Literary Collection was founded by Erin Elizabeth Smith in September of 1999 and is one of the longest continually publishing journal on the internet. Wicked Alice is a women-centered poetry journal, dedicated to publishing quality work, by both sexes, depicting and exploring the female experience. Rogue Agent is a journal dedicated to publishing poetry and art that depicts the myriad experiences of living in the body. They are especially interested in receiving submissions from marginalized/underrepresented voices. Pretty Owl Poetry is an online quarterly journal that publishes new, emerging, and established writers in poetry, flash fiction, and the visual arts. cahoodaloodaling is a collaborative publication whose themed quarterly issues are shaped by an eclectic staff and a revolving guest editor. Finally, the Gone Dark Archives seeks to preserve now-defunct online journals so that the work of their editors and authors does not disappear into the recesses of cyberspace.
In 2013, Sundress founded the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) at Firefly Farms, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Nestled in an old-fashioned “holler” just twenty minutes from downtown, this picturesque 45-acre farm is the perfect artists’ residency where visitors can hone their creative crafts as they escape the routine of modern life. Currently, SAFTA runs a series of weekend workshops centered on writing, theater, filmmaking, and visual art, where the staff encourages artists of all skill levels and experience to work with peers and professionals to learn a host of new skills in order to enrich their work. SAFTA is now open for artist residency applications for all seasons.
How would you characterize the work you publish?
Although we are conscious of the lack of representation by women writers in literary publishing, we do not only publish women. Our policy is non-discriminatory and focused on promoting excellent creative work independent of the age, race, sex, gender, class, religion, culture, social status, sexual orientation, or country of origin of its creator(s).
We are firm believers in fostering artists whose work is worthy of recognition. Sundress Publications works closely with its authors, artists, and contributors, providing feedback and assistance through every stage of the publication process. For this reason, we do not and cannot publish works we do not love wholeheartedly.
Our aesthetic sensibilities run the gamut from traditional to innovative; we do not align ourselves with a single school or style. While we do confess a preference for poetry, we do not publish it exclusively. Instead, we seek works in all genres by intelligent, creative humans that speak to other intelligent, creative humans. In many ways, Sundress Publications envisions the manuscripts it publishes as concept albums, not merely as collections of hot singles. We are most interested in the overall effect created by the artist, how the parts act in concert to create the whole.
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Who is your audience, and in what ways are you trying to reach them?
We believe we have a fairly diverse audience of readers who appreciate contemporary poetry in all of its variations. In our roster we have experimental writers—T. A. Noonan, Kristina Marie Darling, etc.—more traditionally narrative writers— Donna Vorreyer, Sarah A. Chavez, Karen Craigo, Les Kay—and writers who work in a space that blends the narrative and the lyric like Jill Khoury and Margaret Bashaar. Our anthologies work to focus on voices that are often underrepresented in contemporary publishing, showcasing a variety of perspectives tied to the themes we focus on...