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Editor Interview: Milk & Cake Press

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Poetry attentive to sound

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: Tender Buttons Press, Wave, Perugia Press, Omnidawn, the Atlas Review Chapbook Series, Porkbelly Press, Coffee House Press, Sarabande, Copper Canyon, Graywolf, among many others.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: I'm listing strictly poets here to conform to the press' focus: Lorine Niedecker, Frank O'Hara, Percy Shelley, John Keats, Tyehimba Jess, William Carlos Williams, Hoa Nguyen, Joanne Kyger, James Schuyler, Lucille Clifton, Laura Van Prooyen, Terrance Hayes, Harryette Mullen, Tarfia Faizullah, Fred Moten, among many others.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We are a micro-press, so we are hands-on in the production of each book from selection of manuscripts to mailing them out ourselves. We work hard to create lovely books that poets can be proud of.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: We are a very small, all-volunteer press. We care about making good books, and we are happy to help you find an audience for your work. Be sure you understand our ethos, and your own aspirations, before you submit. If you have questions, feel free to email us ahead of submitting.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission is very attentive to the sonic qualities of poetry. It coheres thematically and stylistically. It takes chances with language. It is compelling--it stays with us, and makes us want to re-read it.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: They provide biographical information, which we do not want to see at the outset. Instead, we prefer a brief synopsis of the book. We ask for this because the best descriptions demonstrate that the poet sees the work as a whole, connected book.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: Yes, we do want a cover letter (see previous answer), and no, we don't care about publication credits. We welcome emerging and experienced poets.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: Yes, at least two of three readers will read every piece from start to finish. we do get a good feel for whether we are interested in a manuscript early on, but even so, we read to the end in case further reading changes our minds.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: We use two initial readers and a simple, holistic scoring system. Manuscripts scoring in the top half will be read by the third reader. High scoring manuscripts will be read a second time and discussed by all three readers, and final decisions will be made from that point. We will consider diversity of voices and variety of topics at that final stage of decision making.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: We read as submissions come in. Our first reader works through all the manuscripts and leaves her comments and score for the second reader. The editor-in-chief checks the progress to see if a third reader needs to be assigned. This is generally a weekly process.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: We do think it's helpful to engage with modern technology, but it's not necessary; some presses put out beautiful work without using much of the available tech. We use email submissions, social media, a WordPress site and store, and digital publishing--though not POD--our initial print run is 100, shipped to us for distribution. These technologies make it possible for us to exist.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We do provide editing. We typically suggest line edits and reordering of the poems in the overall manuscript, and basic proofreading. The author approves the final edits. We work collaboratively with our authors on the editorial phase, and we respect that the poems, indeed the manuscripts themselves, belong to the poets.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Yes, we will nominate for a limited number of prizes, negotiated with the author during the contract phase.