by Sara Renee Marshall
Noemi Press, is a 501©(3) literary arts organization based out of Las Cruces, New Mexico, but with two primary editors in Denver, CO. Like many small presses, Noemi began by publishing chapbooks in 2002 they chose by way of a contest. Since 2002 the Noemi Chapbook Series has published 1-3 chapbook manuscripts a year in both poetry and fiction. Around 2008, the press held their first open reading period for full-length poetry manuscripts yielding two poetry titles in 2009. But after taking a long, hard look at their credit card statements, publishers Carmen Gimenez Smith and Evan Lavender Smith faced a glaring reality: this publishing model was unsustainable. So, the Noemi Book Contest came to be. The press charged and still charges $25 for entry into a contest judged by the editors. The contest fees pay the Noemi Book Award winners in fiction and poetry $1000 each. The remainder goes directly into production of two contest manuscripts and, if funds permit, one or two other books per year.
In an interview by HTML GIANT contributor and colleague, Lily Hoang, Lily asked, “For the sake of transparency, would you be willing to disclose roughly how much your contest “makes” and how that money is used? This, sadly, is an important question. A lot of readers assume the money goes into your pocket or for drinks or something.” Carmen Gimenez Smith answered, “We also made about $7,000 this year on both our contests. We pay the award and produce two or three full-length manuscripts and there you go. I sometimes buy drinks in the form of orange juice for the readers, maybe even pizza.” See the rest of her answers here.
The contest submissions are read blindly. I can vouch for this, as I read for the Noemi contest this last summer. This is a meaningful conceit in the process of contest publishing. Poetry editor J. Michael Martinez and I slaved over that submission pile, then talked long, hard and with conviction about our favorites. Something deeply exciting happened when we unveiled our poetry entrants: our shortlist was comprised of young, emerging authors. Poetry is a small tilt-a-whirl and among the roughly 100+ rejections were many recognizable names, some of which are well-established poets. I’m thankful that what influences our contest decisions is a righteous and considered attraction to the work.
Beyond the contest, the editors have recently chosen additional manuscripts through solicitation or query. These are exceptions, and most often, labors of love—books the editors want desperately to see in the world.
The press does offer a subscription deal, which varies based on which books are available when. At the moment, we’re putting together a bundle of about 7 titles for $100.
CURRENT BOOK SERIES
This year Noemi initiated two additional series: Akrilica and Disquiet (this name may change). The Akrilica Series, a collaboration with Letras Latinas and poet Francisco Aragon, is made possible through this organization’s generous funds ($1000/book). The first forthcoming title in this series is Sandy Florian’s Boxing the Compass due out in Spring 2013. The Disquiet Series extends to a poetics/essay form and has been kicked off with Sarah Vap’s End of the Sentimental Journey: A Mystery Poem.
Noemi consists of a few unpaid staff in the following roles:
Publisher: Carmen Gimenez Smith
Founding Editor: Evan Lavender Smith
Managing Editor: Sara Renee Marshall
Poetry Editor: J. Michael Martinez
Fiction Editor: Mike Meginnis
Associate Editor: Curt Moyer, Tracy Meginnis
Advisory Board: Mary Jo Bang, Francisco Aragon, Georganne Deen, Brian Evenson, Krystal Languell, Monica Youn
The Noemi catalog makes this press particularly difficult to pigeonhole. Foremost, I’d say the press is interested in books that are formally innovative and that disregard generic thresholds. Take, for instance, a small sampling of their authors: Danielle Pafunda, Khadijah Queen, Joshua Edwards, Rusty Morrison. Gothic sci-fi feminism, bold form-bending survivalism, meditations on a speculated ruin in the Gulf Coast, the domestic-erotic. This range of tastes not only speaks to a democratic field of editorial voices, but to an explicit missive that they try to meet: find surprising work, find work that troubles expectations of what language and genre should do.
The look and feel of Noemi Books vary, and likely this has to do with variable funds and possibilities at the time of publication. While some presses have firm, standardized specifications for their book design and production standards, I think the variability in their books speaks mainly to a determination to publish the books they believe in to the best of their ability, regardless of how that process is cobbled together. In the face of financial and time constraints, I think this is an admirable course.
The safest way to honor this exciting body of work is not to sum it up, but to open readers to its expansive range. Enjoy the following videos from Noemi authors as an introduction to what you might discover there.