I’m Michael Nye, the third installment/writerly person in the Vouched Visitors series, following in the steps of Robert Stapleton of Booth and Adam Robinson of Publishing Genius. I’m the managing editor of The Missouri Review, and this month (today, actually) my debut short story collection, Strategies Against Extinction, is out in the world.
SAE (as the kids call it) is published by Queen’s Ferry Press, a new small press publisher of literary fiction. You can bounce over here if you so desire and read the mission statement to get a sense of what QFP is all about. But I’m not sure this gives you a true sense of what the press is about, and the kind of wonderful work Erin McKnight, the press’s founder and publisher, seeks in the work she publishes.
Last week, I was on the phone with my mother. I had sent her a copy of my book and then waited a good two weeks before she called to say she read and wanted to talk about it. This is all new to me but I would imagine for every writer, there is a certain level of anxiety about what people who are close to us are going to think about our work. I’m sure other writers can say they genuinely don’t care. I’m not one of those writers.
My mother wasn’t embarrassingly effusive, but she also wasn’t entirely articulate either. She read all the stories, she said. She understood things better, she said. What things, I asked. My stories aren’t particularly personal, though all writers steal from their own lives (and others, of course), but my collection is comprised of stories that go back at least seven years. Which means much of the work was written, and before that marinating, in my twenties. I’ve always been a pretty independent person, but still, there is a separation from our childhood homes and parents that happen in our twenties that is a bit painful for both the parent and child. But she saw something there, in all those stories, the way they work together, compliment, create friction, deepen, and complicate each other. At least, I think that was after.
Which is what Erin McKnight saw, too, though she would say it quite differently. Publishers have a different eye than our parents, and knows the writer only based on the work. Erin promised to agonize over each word, and this ended being completely true, even if we were awfully pleasant about our agony (there’s a famous quote allusion there, I think). Publishers, of course, need to make some bank, and also have a vision of what they want their list to be. There’s something incredibly reassuring about a publisher who recognizes what I do as a writer—pacing, narrative arc, and character interiority. It made me comfortable with her editorial vision and the press. I couldn’t be happier with how the book turned out.
Of course, I’m not sure this tells you much about Queen’s Ferry Press. When asked what a story is about, the best answer is “Read it.” It shouldn’t be easy to sum up. Which is hopefully true of a collection and of a press. So to find out what Queen’s Ferry Press is about, it isn’t enough to say it’s a boutique press of literary fiction, focusing on short story collections. Instead, you should check out Bayard Godsave’s fantastic Lesser Apocalypses and its tales of broken survivors trying to hold themselves together. You should snag Kevin Grauke’s collection that’s on par with the masculinity of a Shaun Ray or Benjamin Percy. You should be anticipating the debut collection from Janice Deal and the latest and greatest from Ethel Rohan.
Maybe by reading all this terrific work you get a complete, true, and perhaps tricky to articulate sense of what Queen’s Ferry Press is about. The kind of work, as my mentor Lee K. Abbott would say, that’s as clear-eyed and honest as a fistfight.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye