Lauryn Allison knows the literary world from all sides, not only is she the managing editor at Curbside Splendor (a Chicago-based indie publisher) but she’s also a published writer; last year her sci-fi novella, Solo/Down, was released to critical acclaim.
It was an honor to speak with Ms. Lewis about her experiences, and I found her answers very enlightening; I hope you do, too.
You work as a managing editor at Curbside Splendor Publishing, can you tell me what you love about your job?
I love the people that I work with: the other editors and the authors whose work we publish. The most satisfying parts of my job include brainstorming new directions and growth for the company, and working one-on-one with an author through the editing of their manuscript. Also, because CS is still small (but rapidly expanding!) and flexible, I’ve been able to experience virtually every aspect of what it takes to make a publishing company work. I started reading submissions, moved into more of a management role, and now I focus almost exclusively on manuscript acquisition and editing.
What moves you when you come across manuscripts submitted to Curbside?
I love quirk. I love weird. I love heartfelt and gripping and beautiful prose. I want to feel something in my guts while I’m reading. Mechanical precision is also really important to me as an editor. I don’t expect anything to come in absolutely polished and perfect, but I do want to see that the author really tended to their work, and that they invested time and were careful with the writing.
Curbside Splendor recently acquired a larger distributor, can you tell me about your role in this process?
Victor [Giron] and I recently traveled to the frozen Minneapolis tundra and had an all-day meeting with Consortium Book Sales & Distribution to set up our first Spring 2013 catalog and set off down the path to national distribution. It is so exciting. I am so excited! We’ll be able to really help our authors get their work out to whole new audiences. That’s the most important thing. I want CS authors to be successful, whatever that looks like for them…. I want them to be able to earn enough through book sales to focus on their writing. I have tremendous empathy for the struggle writers face every day: fulfill your life’s purpose through writing, or grind away at a soul-sucking job to pay your bills. Helping writers pay their bills with their writing makes my heart flip.
What is it like working at an indie press? What are the perils? What are the triumphs?
It’s chaos, but it’s awesome. Everyone has to do a little of everything. A “that’s not my job” attitude will not work in this atmosphere. The perils: we could go broke. That’s a constant reality facing all small publishers. The triumphs: we’re not going broke! Every time we publish a new title, host a successful event, or receive a positive review, we celebrate. We rock out so hard. Sometimes I even cry a little.
Last year you released a novella through CCLAP, can you tell me what it was like to be on the other side of the publishing world?
That’s actually the side I started on, so it was a great experience. I think that because of my experience editing other author’s work, I was able to foresee what my editors were going to need from me and get a little ahead of the process. Jason Pettus might disagree with me. He kept telling me that I was making him nervous, but that’s only because I sometimes need to go off the grid while I’m rewriting. Jason and Sarah Bradford really transformed my manuscript in the best possible way. They saw the golden nugget glowing inside of it and mined that through the editing.
What is your favorite quote and why?
"The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream." -Joan Didion.
What do you look for in an ideal manuscript or book?
CS really loves work that’s a little (or a lot) to the left of mainstream. We’re a bunch of weirdos and geeks, so of course we love work that is super weird and geeky. There are so many amazingly talented writers whose work is often overlooked because they don’t “fit” anywhere, which can be threatening to some publishers. But man, not to us. We’re misfits. We look for other misfits and then we try to make them our best friends.
Who are your favorite kinds of characters?
I like oddballs. I like characters who inhabit their truth, even if their truth is that they are evil, horrible monsters. I like it when characters get out of their heads and start moving, talking, burning down houses.
What book changed your life?
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. Oh my god. That book tore my heart out in the best possible way.
What is your favorite breed of dog?
I like mutts and rescues and companion dogs.
What inspires you more: food, music or wine?
FOOD. I write about food all of the time. The novel I’m working on now is all about food, sex, loss, and love.
What brings you joy?
My son. My pups. Cheese. America’s Test Kitchen. Writing. Coffee. Dancing. Roller skating. Cooking. Snuggling.
Lauryn Allison writes fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews of all sorts. She is the managing editor of Curbside Splendor Publishing. Her novella, Solo/Down, was recently published by The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, and her debut novel, The Beauties, is forthcoming from Silverthought Press in spring of 2013.
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