dancing girl press & studio creates books, paper products, and ephemera as works of art, and also produces a chapbook series. The press & studio was founded by Kristy Bowen, who spoke with Danielle of Side B about running a small press, creating a space for female writers to thrive, and books as works of art.
dancing girl press and studio doesn’t just sell books, but paper products, arts & crafts, and a chapbook series as well. What inspired you to start such a project?
The impulse that drove me to start the press was born equally from both my writing interests and my forays into visual and paper arts. Most of what we do springs from those, along with a love of the unique and handmade. I think in general, it’s a desire to make beautiful things, be they books or objects or more ordinary things like handmade soaps or earrings. A lot of time, I’m just indulging my own interests, which move in various directions and are guided merely by curiosity and a love of research.
You are a poet as well as an artist- how is the medium of the book important to dancing girl press?
I am a book and paper fetishist, so the book as an object plays a central role. I’m also very much interested in exploring the elasticity of that object. We’ve done “books” that are decks of cards, collections of letters, envelopes filled with poems. art, & ephemera… I think as digital publishing moves to the forefront, the physical book’s relevance becomes more and more based on its ability to be art and not just a way to deliver content.
Do you have some favorite examples of books as art?
Some of my favorite small presses/journals have put out some really cool object things. I’m excited lately about the Little Red Leaves Textile Series, which makes beautiful fabric-bound books. dgp itself is working on a book/tarot card deck as well as a box project of bound and unbound fascicles and prints from Rebecca Dunham. I also have a couple artists book projects under way with my own poems and visual art.
What do you look for when you read submissions?
I love books that are small projects, something unified by a common theme or thread and not just thrown together random poems. I like quirkiness and humor, irreverence. In terms of voice, I like the sort of writing that speaks with authority, however surprising or unexpected the twists and turns therein.
Why do you think small presses are important to the publishing industry?
Small presses seem to be able to take risks larger ones cannot. It’s easy for dgp, as a small operation, to publish new authors who might not have a built-in market (just yet anyway), for us to publish projects that may take a while to find their readers and audience.
You are also the editor of wicked alice, which, like the dgp chapbook series, works toward publishing and promoting work by women writers. Why have a series specifically for female artists?
There are so many statistics out there that show how underrepresented women are in the world of letters. I guess I feel like dgp is collecting this huge crop of women’s voices and funneling them into a world where women are underrepresented despite so many efforts to the contrary.
What has been the most rewarding part of running all of these publishing, poetry, and art projects?
The best thing is to get to spend so much time among the things I love, words, images, and papery things. There’s always this amazing rush when one of our authors or books gets the attention it deserves and really thrives out in the world beyond dgp.
How do you predict the publishing industry will change in five to ten years?
I feel like its always evolving. Even in the years since I started the press in 2004, I feel like so much has changed. Digital publishing, social media, print on demand. I think print chapbooks will always have a place, but there are interesting new directions in how to go about producing them and what form they take… I feel like chapbooks are sort of going in two different trajectories, one digital, the other physical/object oriented.
I think the most awesome thing is accessibility, both in terms of being able to publish literature and being able to find it to read.