Friday, October 31, 2008

Bert Stern, co-founder of Off the Grid Press to read at the Somerville News Writers Festival Nov. 22, 2008

( Off the Grid author and co-founder Henry Braun)

( Off the Grid co-founders Tam Lin Neville/Bert Stern)

Off the Grid Press

By Bert Stern, PhD.

Our press had its origins in the wilds of Northern Maine. Henry Braun, our first author, cut some lumber to pay for the production costs of his new book, Loyalty. In the process of putting the book together, Henry’s wife, Joan, learned that she couldn’t buy just a single ISBN number; she had to buy ten. So, in 2005, the Brauns, along with Bert Stern and Tam Neville, current co-editors of the press, decided to found OTGP. What we most wanted was to encourage writing by elders like ourselves. So we began – a press for poets over 60.

Loyalties was widely praised, by poets like Betsy Sholl, Eleanor Wilner, Nathaniel Tarne, among others. It was also awarded The Maine Writer’s Prize for Poetry, 2008. The quality of our first book set the standards for the two that followed. We were not interested in publishing everything that came our way. In fact, out of 20 plus submissions, we have selected only two.

A Darker, Sweeter String, our second book, is by Lee Sharkey, co-editor of Beloit Poetry Journal. Francine Sterle said of the book: “These taut, truth-telling poems teach us how to ‘heft more weight than we can carry,’ how to speak the unspeakable.” The unspeakable here is the daily news of our anguished times.

Terry Adams, the author of our third book, Adam’s Ribs, became a conscientious objector while serving as Secret Control Officer at the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command Headquarters during the Vietnam era. His book features poems about emotional and spiritual flashpoints, written with a lyric honesty and fierceness. They are risky poems, often moving to a kind of jazz beat. In the words of James Reiss, “Adams has paid close attention to red-hot emotional moments frozen in time.”

We at Off the Grid are proud of our writers and their books. We are also proud that, through the expertise of our designer, Michael Alpert (head of University of Maine Press), our books are beautiful objects in themselves, printed on acid-free paper and bound with Smythe-Sewn bindings.

All three of our books deal with issues of war, some more directly than others. Though the press is not looking for political poetry per se, during the selection process, an important criteria for the editors is that the poet look beyond his or her own personal world.

Off the Grid Press is a cooperative. While poets pay production costs, editorial services are both free and pro-active. Our two editors, widely published poets and writers, provide editorial assistance described by one of our authors as “loving and insistent.” Though the press does incur some expenses, it makes no profit, and all proceeds go to the author. Today, with new submissions on our desks, we at Off the Grid Press look forward to a long and distinguished list of our titles.

Our reading period is all year long and we invite submissions. Please see our website first, ( for guidelines and required application.


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