by Krista Davis
Curbside Splendor Publishing is an independent press based in Chicago, IL that publishes works of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. The press began in 2009 after the creative minds behind the endeavor decided to call it quits on the punk rock band that originally inspired them. Seven years later, with a team of seven full-time staff, the press maintains three imprints, Dark House Press, Artiface Books, and TRNSFR Books, and started a brand new record label in 2016. Dark House Press’ mission is to publish books of horror, sci-fi-, fantasy, neo-noir, etc. while Artiface Books serves as the poetry arm of Curbside Splendor. The most recent imprint that started in December of 2015, TRNSFR Books, is headed by the designer of Curbside Splendor, Alban Fischer, and aims to publish 1-2 books per year as well as a biannual journal of poetry, prose, and art.
In addition to publishing work that “celebrates extraordinary writing”, they “aim to rewrite the tradition of Midwestern publishing” through their active engagement with the Chicago literary scene. This includes hosting book fairs, organizing readings, and hosting their annual novella contest.
This contest, called the Wild Onion Novella Contest, began in 2015 and selected the piece Tacky Goblin by T. Sean Steele as its first winner. Guest Judge Joe Meno applauds it by writing “Travis Steele’s Tacky Goblin is the future. It’s also one of the most original, hilarious, inventive books I’ve read. Echoing the work of Richard Brautigan, Haruki Murakami, and Sam Pink, this novella presents the unending strangeness of becoming oneself. Through dog-children, black pills, and lost teeth, Steele traces the liminal moments of being a lost twenty-something in LA and Chicago, and perfectly captures the travails of two siblings—brother and sister—as they negotiate the absurdities of the beginning of the twenty-first century.” It is now available for order exclusively through the Curbside Splendor website.
In combination with the novella contest, Curbside Splendor holds periodic open general submissions and solicits work from authors that they admire. In an interview for Poets & Writers, publisher Victor Giron (also jokingly known as El Jefe on the Curbside Splendor website) explains that they “publish a little of everything—urban fiction, creative nonfiction, some poetry, and art books—in all formats, including novels, story collections, essay collections, memoirs, and hybrid books. We also experiment with highly designed books as well as more straightforward layouts.”
The phrase “highly designed” could not be more apt in describing Stephen Graham Jone’s collection of short stories After the People Lights Have Gone Off, published under Curbside Splendor’s imprint Dark House Press. This is the first work published by Curbside Splendor that I got my hands on. The excellent quality and unique visual aspects of the work led me to admire the press. The book, a 2014 Bram Stoker Awards finalist, features original artwork at the opening of each story as well as a bold, gritty header running across the top of the stories. Curbside Splendor teases that the fifteen stories that make up the collection “explore the horrors and fears of the supernatural and the everyday.” Further, Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, offers the praise: “If I’ve read better horror writers than Jones, I’ve forgotten them. He’s at the apex of his game. After the People Lights Have Gone Off is the kind of collection that lodges in your brain like a malignant grain of an evil dream. And it’s just going to be there, forever.”
A forthcoming memoir from Curbside Splendor that I am greatly looking forward to reading (and have already pre-ordered myself) is Ars Botanica by Tim Taranto. The cover is striking with its delicately drawn and shaded plants ringing the outer edges and winding around each letter of the title. The description from Curbside Splendor reads: “Written as letters to his unborn child, Tim Taranto’s Ars Botanica describes the infinite pleasures of falling in love — the small discoveries of each other’s otherness, the crush of desire, the frightening closeness — and the terrifying impossibility of losing someone…At times astonishingly personal and even painful, Ars Botanica is also playfully funny, a rich hybrid of memoir, poetry, and illustration that delightfully defies categorization.”
This type of cross-genre work is something that I am drawn to as both a writer and a reader. Curbside Splendor Publishing has offered a number of books that experiment with genre and hybrid works (The Desert Places by Amber Sparks and Robert Kloss comes to mind) that I esteem in their innovation and artistry. It is endlessly commendable that this press has been willing and able to publish works that challenge and entertain members of the literary world with beautiful, singular products.
Check out their elegant website and catalog here: http://www.curbsidesplendor.com/