Saturday, November 16, 2019

Finding the Right Cover Art for Your Poetry Book

I like to work collaboratively with my Terrapin poets on cover design. Once a manuscript has been accepted, I ask the poet if he or she has any initial ideas in mind. Some know immediately what they want and have already selected a piece of art. If I like it too, we go with it. Other poets have no idea, but most are somewhere in between. That’s when we begin the hunt for the perfect cover. The hunt usually takes some time, but it’s an enjoyable, exciting process. Following is a Q&A with Kory Wells whose poetry collection, Sugar Fix, was recently published by Terrapin Books. I’ve invited Kory to talk with me about our search for her perfect cover.

Diane Lockward: Most poets begin to imagine a cover for their book as soon as the manuscript is accepted. When you learned that Terrapin Books had accepted your manuscript, what cover images came into your head? What expectations did you have for your cover?

Kory Wells: While I was still revising the manuscript, I had the idea that I might like the cover to include or somehow suggest an image of a red velvet cake, after one of the poems in the collection. I'd also caught a bit of inspiration from the photography of Jill Wellington, whose stock images I've used to promote some individual poem publications on social media. 

Despite these ideas, at the very beginning of the process with Terrapin, I was trying to keep my expectations largely in check! I'd had some frustrations working with the publisher of my chapbook to arrive at a cover we both liked. For Sugar Fix, I was thrilled that you wanted my ideas and confident that even though I might not get my first pick, I’d ultimately get a cover I was happy with since Terrapin has consistently produced attractive books. Of course your covers are on your website, but I'd purchased several Terrapin titles before I ever submitted to you. As an author, I think it's imperative to know a press produces a book you'll be proud of.

Diane: How did you go about searching for a good image?

Kory: First of all, I pulled books of all genres from my shelves to consider what really stood out to me. I realized I wasn't against using a photo, but I gravitated more toward some sort of painting or collage.

Next I made a private Pinterest board to share with you some of these images and other cover ideas. I made notes on what I liked about certain covers: the collage on Cecilia Woloch's Carpathia, the fonts and whimsy of Kim Sunée's A Mouthful of Stars, and the intriguing surreal painting on Ashley Seitz Kramer's Museum of Distance, just to name a few. Although my cover doesn't look particularly like any of these, I see now how they informed our path.

Diane: I recall that the first image we seriously considered for the cover of Sugar Fix was a single slice of red velvet cake on a plate floating in air. It initially seemed perfect for your book which several times references red velvet cake. We both loved that image. I enhanced the colors, then muted them. I worked up several sample covers. You did too, but we ended up not using the image. Tell us why we had to abandon it.

Kory: I am quite taken with the work of Charles Keiger, and as you say, his red velvet cake was so tempting to use. On his blog he even says that the painting to him is about nostalgia and longing, two themes that  occur in Sugar Fix. Ultimately, though, the image didn't pass my gut check. Although some of the poems in the book turn toward darkness, the painting felt too moody for the collection as a whole. Some might consider this a poor aesthetic, but I wanted a cover that simply made me feel happy when I looked at it.

Diane: I recall that you next zeroed in on the art of Janet Hill. What attracted you to her work?

Kory: I'd discovered Janet Hill not too long ago when I was adding images to my Pinterest board "The Art of Reading," paintings that show people engaged with books. To me, much of Hill's work is a delightful combination of romantic and quirky; they feel vintage and yet contemporary. Her paintings have a charm that seems very Southern (although Hill lives in Ontario) and are at times darkly comic. I like to think all those same descriptions apply to Sugar Fix.

Diane: You found a kitchen image by Janet Hill that we liked, but I felt it was too similar to the cover of another book that Terrapin had just published. Then there was another one we liked, but when I contacted the artist we learned that it was no longer available. How did we finally arrive at the image we used?

Kory: I confess I still think about that evocative kitchen scene with a teal refrigerator (teal is my favorite color)! But I totally understood Terrapin's need for a different look. I used Canva to make mock-ups of our two final choices, printed and trimmed them to actual book size, and road-tested on my family members. You made some mock-ups with your cover software. Neither of us could argue with the results: the coconut cake on that vibrant green background caught everyone's eye!

Diane: Once we’d settled on the image and obtained the artist’s permission to use it, how did we arrive at the final design?

Kory: The painting itself more or less pointed us to the position of the title and other text; I think deciding the font for the cover was the most important decision. All along I'd leaned toward a script, and you sent several choices. Again, I was printing out options and laying them on the kitchen table to "live with" for a bit. The back cover was all yours—and though the graphic element is a rose, it's delightfully close to a buttercream rose!

Sugar Fix is available at Amazon, B&N, and the Terrapin bookstore.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Anniversary for Terrapin Books

Turtle in Party Outfit
This month marks the 4th anniversary of Terrapin Books and we're celebrating! Back in 2015 I decided to open a small press for poetry books. Getting started involved a lot of work and new learning, but I approached it one day at a time and kept telling myself I could do it. I practiced my personal mantra: Patience and Persistence.

I first did all the business stuff that had to be done—formed an LLC, obtained an FEIN and a state ID, opened a business account at the bank, registered a domain name, built a website, researched printing options, and opened an Ingram account. Then came the biggest challenge—learning how to format a book.

I needed help along the way so when I needed it, I reached out and asked. Everyone I asked for help seemed happy to provide it. By January 2016 I was ready to put out my first call for submissions. That first book was the anthology, The Doll Collection. I took those first submissions by email, but have since joined Submittable.

In spite of the amount of work involved, I’ve never regretted opening the press. In fact, I love the work. It is a huge source of satisfaction to have built and launched the press, and it’s a joy to publish books for poets.

Since opening, Terrapin Books has published 19 poetry books with two more in progress:

Neil Carpathios, Confessions of a Captured Angel
Lynne Knight, The Persistence of Longing
Jessica de Koninck, Cutting Room
Christine Stewart-Nunez, Bluewords Greening
Patricia Clark, The Canopy
Carolyn Miller, Route 66 and Its Sorrows
Susanna Lang, Travel Notes from the River Styx
Hayden Saunier, How to Wear This Body
Michelle Menting, Leaves Surface Like Skin
Karen Paul Holmes, No Such Thing as Distance
Geraldine Connolly, Aileron
Michael T. Young, The Infinite Doctrine of Water
Lisa Bellamy, The Northway
Paige Riehl, Suspension
Gary J. Whitehead, Strange What Rises
Ann Fisher-Wirth, The Bones of Winter Birds
Sarah Wetzel, The Davids Inside David
David Graham, The Honey of Earth
Kory Wells, Sugar Fix
Dion O’Reilly, Ghost Dogs (forthcoming)
Ann Keniston, Somatic (forthcoming)

We’ve also published 3 anthologies:
The Doll Collection, ed. Diane Lockward
The Book of Donuts, eds. Jason Lee Brown and Shanie Latham
A Constellation of Kisses, ed, Diane Lockward

and 3 craft books:
The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop
The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop
The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics

Terrapin poets have received some wonderful recognition for their books and poems. This, too, is a great source of satisfaction. Our poets have been featured on Poetry Daily, The Writer's Almanac, Verse Daily, The Missouri Review, Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry, and Tracy K. Smith's podcast series The Slowdown.

Our books have been reviewed in a number of publications, including The Chattahoochee Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, American Poetry Journal, Broadkill Review, Rain Taxi Review of Books,  Mom Egg Review, Sabotage, Pedestal Magazine, New Letters, Pleiades, Compulsive Reader, The Collagist, Connotation Press, Rhino Poetry, Whale Road Review, The Adirondack Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, and The Literary Review.

Our books have also been adopted as course texts at such institutions as Bucks County Community College, Colorado State University, Washington & Lee University, Missouri State University, and Grand Valley State University.

Our books and our poets have also received some nice awards:

Lisa Bellamy won a 2018 Pushcart Prize for "Wild Pansy," from The Northway.
Michael T. Young’s book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was named to the long list of finalists for the 2018 Julie Suk Prize.
Christine Stewart-Nunez’s book, Bluewords Greening, received the 2018 Whirling Prize from Etchings Press.
Patricia Clark’s book, The Canopy, received the 2018 Book Award from the Poetry Society of Virginia.
Michelle Menting’s book, Leaves Surface Like Skin, was named a 2017 finalist by Foreword Reviews in its annual book contest.
Lynne Knight’s book, The Persistence of Longing, was a finalist for the 2016 Northern California Book Award in Poetry.

We even have a state Poet Laureate among our poets! Christine Stewart-Nunez has recently been appointed Poet Laureate of South Dakota; her term began July 1, 2019.

Terrapin looks forward to continuing to publish beautiful poetry books. We hold two open reading periods each year. Our next open reading period will be January 24 - February 29, 2020. Guidelines are posted at the website. Perhaps you’ll join our list of poets?

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Book Launch for A Constellation of Kisses

A book launch reading and party is always exciting. I'm especially excited for the upcoming one for A Constellation of Kisses as I have such a spectacular group of 16 poets from the book coming to read. Here's the lineup:

Tina Barry
Robin Rosen Chang
Jessica de Koninck
Jane Ebihara
Deborah Gerrish
Jared Harel
Tina Kelley
Adele Kenny
Marjorie Maddox
Charlotte Mandel
Wanda Praisner
Susanna Rich
Kenneth Ronkowitz
Susan Rothbard
David Vincenti
Michael T. Young

The reading will be followed by a reception with home baked cookies, cheese platter, and beverages. Everyone is invited to join the poets for refreshments and conversation.

The anthology will be available for sale and signing.

2:00 - 4:00 PM   Free
West Caldwell Public Library
30 Clinton Rd.
West Caldwell, NJ 07006

Friday, September 20, 2019

Some Thoughts about Submitting Your Manuscript

My press, Terrapin Books, has been in operation now for four years with two submission periods each year. Thus far, we’ve held 8 open reading periods. So I’ve read quite a few manuscripts. While most of them arrive nicely prepared, I’ve seen a number of the same mistakes made repeatedly. In an effort to guide you away from such mistakes, I’ve put together some suggestions, most of which will apply to my press and others as well.

1) Before you submit your manuscript to any press, buy or borrow at least one title published by that press. There are several good reasons for doing so:

  • You need to be sure that your manuscript suits the mission of the press. Would your manuscript be a good fit? Would it fit and still offer something that the press doesn’t already have? Each submission period I get a few submissions of wildly experimental work. A review of what we publish should make it clear that we don’t publish experimental work. We don’t get it well enough to be able to offer much help to the poet. Is your work loaded with obscenities? An examination of what we publish should tell you that your manuscript is probably not for us. Are the poems in your collection all haiku, all prose poems, or any other single form? Again, not for us.
  • Would you be proud to have your book published by this press? Do you see lots of errors that slipped by the editor? Is the font appealing and readable? Is the physical quality of the sample book sloppy?
  • Your first purchase is one good way to support the press that you’d like to publish your work. But if you can’t afford to purchase, you can still get a sense of the quality of the work done by the press by perusing the website. You can also see the interior of many books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2) Before you hit the Submit button, be sure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. After you convert your Word doc into a pdf, open the pdf and make sure it all looks good. You want your manuscript to suggest that you know what you’re doing.

  • Be sure that each new poem begins on a new page. It’s distracting and confusing to get a manuscript in which a new poem begins on the same page as the preceding poem. Do not use the Return key to get to a new page; instead use a Page Break.
  • Don’t use larger than a 12 pt font (it will appear larger in the pdf anyhow). And use the same font throughout the text, though titles are fine in a different and larger font. Don’t use colors. Don’t use fancy fonts.
  • Use one-inch margins all around.

3) Read the Guidelines. Read the Guidelines. Read the Guidelines. I can’t say that enough. Each submission period I receive some manuscripts whose authors clearly did not read the guidelines. I ask for 40-55 poems, so if you send 28 poems, I can be pretty sure that you didn’t read the guidelines. You just wasted your submission fee as well as your time and mine. Also, I ask that previous publications be listed with each poem title and journal title put in a list, yet each submission period I get some that omit the poem titles and lump the journal titles together in one paragraph. Not a big deal and it won’t get you disqualified, but it will tell me that you didn’t read or heed the guidelines.

4) Do not place the copyright symbol anywhere on your manuscript. That implies that you are afraid that someone at the press will steal your work. Really, it’s the sign of an amateur. Don’t do it. A minor matter but it matters.

You want your manuscript to be treated with care. Be sure you also treat it with care.

Good luck!

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Constellation of Kisses Has Landed on Earth
Click Cover for Amazon
I am happy to announce that A Constellation of Kisses has just been published and is available wherever you buy books. I am enormously proud of this anthology. I received a record number of submissions and had to turn away many good poems, but I believe that the 107 I selected give the reader a wonderful variety of poems on the topic of kissing. The collection includes poems about first kisses and final kisses, French kisses, hot kisses, cold kisses, chocolate kisses, wanted and unwanted kisses, forbidden kisses, dangerous kisses, and even dog kisses. There are long poems and short ones, a few in parts, formal poems, prose poems, and free verse poems. You will laugh and you will cry. You will remember your own kisses. And you will want more kisses.

The book begins with a wonderful foreword by poet Lee Upton. Then the 107 poems are by such poets as Dorianne Laux, David Kirby, Ron Smith, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Kurt Brown, Kim Addonizio, Caitlyn Doyle, Jeffrey Harrison, Robert Wrigley, and Cecilia Woloch. I'm happy that there are also several Terrapin poets included in the book, poets such as Ann Fisher-Wirth, Christine Stewart-Nunez, Jessica de Koninck, Karen Paul Holmes, Neil Carpathios, Michael T. Young, Patricia Clark, Geraldine Connolly, and Lynne Knight. See the entire list of contributors here.

The collection includes poems with such intriguing titles as "A woman just wants to sleep" by Nin Andrews, "Strategy of a Kiss" by Michele Battiste, "Just a Kiss Goodbye at the Airport" by Debra Bruce, "The Tiniest Toad in Moore County, NC" by John Hoppenthaler, "The Numerology of Kisses" by Allison Joseph, "Sycophant's Guide to Ass-kissing" by Marilyn L. Taylor, and "Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound" by Yvonne Zipter.

There will be a book launch/party on Sunday, October 13, at 2:00 PM at the West Caldwell Public Library In NJ. So far I have 17 poets signed up to read. It should be a festive celebration. Please mark your calendar if you live anywhere in the area.

Here's a sample poem by Jeffrey Harrison:


Not a place of worship exactly
but one I like to go back to
and where, you could say, I take
sanctuary: this smooth area
above the ear and around the corner
from your forehead, where your hair
is as silky as milkweed.
The way to feel its featheriness best
is with the lips. Though you
are going gray, right there

your hair is as soft as a girl’s,
the two of us briefly young again
when I kiss your temple.

Get yourself a copy of the book and enjoy! Think ahead to holiday gifts and Valentine's Day gifts. Perfect for the poets in your life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Presence: A New Print Journal for Poetry and Poets

Here's news of a wonderful new journal dedicated to poetry.

Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry recently published its third annual issue. The journal is the brainchild of Mary Ann Miller, an English professor at Caldwell University. As I live near the university, I've had the pleasure of meeting Mary Ann. She has for years been doing a wonderful job of introducing her students to poetry, often bringing in poets to work with her classes.

Mary Ann serves as editor-in-chief of the journal. The journal clearly reflects her generous spirit. By the way, don't be misled by the sub-title into thinking that the journal is only about Catholicism and Catholic poets. It's open to everyone with a love of poetry.

Take a look at the Table of Contents and you'll see what I mean when I say that Presence is a very diverse journal.

The publication's third issue has cover art by Rick Mullin, a talented local artist as well as a wonderful poet. The issue includes a short piece by Mullin about his art.

There is also a generous feature of a single poet, translations by such poets as Ilya Kaminsky and Garrett Hongo, and tributes to poets who have died.

This recent issue includes poems by such poets as Joseph Bathanti, Jim Daniels, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, and Sheryl St. Germain. There are also several interviews and an amazing Book Reviews section which includes 23 reviews.

You can Purchase individual issues online. The current issue is a very reasonable $12. The two earlier issues are only $8 each.

Here's a sample poem by Chicago poet, Debra Bruce.

I look forward to more issues of Presence—and I'm not even Catholic, except in my taste for poetry. The issue I perused is strong and full of variety. This journal is a wonderful addition to the world of poetry.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Terrapin Poet Wins Pushcart Prize

Here's the official list of the 2018 winners of the Pushcart Prize. The winners include poets, short story authors, and creative non-fiction authors. Many authors receive nominations, but as you can see only a handful win the prize, making it very special. Terrapin Books is proud of Lisa Bellamy who has won a first Pushcart for the press. Congratulations!

Lisa's winning poem, "Wild Pansy," will appear in the Pushcart Prize XLIV anthology. The poem, first published in The Southern Review, appears in Lisa's collection, The Northway, her first full-length book.

Here's the poem. Enjoy!

Wild Pansy

As a seed, I was shot out the back end of a blue jay
when, heedless, she flew over the meadow.
She had swallowed me in my homeland when she spied me
lying easy under the sun—briefly, I called her Mother
before I passed through her gullet like a ghost.
In a blink of God’s eye I was an orphan. I trembled
where I fell, alone in the dirt. That first night
was a long night, early May and chilly, and I remember
rain filled my furrow. I called out for mercy—
only a wolverine wandered by. I cursed my luck,
I cursed the happenstance of this world, I smelled
his hot stink, but he nosed me deep into the mud—
this was the gift of obscurity. I germinated, hidden
from the giants of earth, the jostling stalks,

the various, boisterous bloomers, and this was my salvation.
After seven days and nights I pushed through—
yes. Here I am, kissable: your tiny, purple profusion.
Click Cover for Amazon

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