Sunday, April 23, 2006

David McNamara: For this Somerville, Mass. publisher it is always: “sunnyoutside.”

David McNamara founded and operates “sunnyoutside,” ( ), an independent literary press located in Somerville, Mass. McNamara studied literature at Long Island University, Ohio State, the “Poet’s House,” in Ireland, and Farleigh Dickinson University, where he earned his B.A. David has been widely published in the small press, as well as being the director of the magazine “ism,” that was based in Seattle in the late 90’s. He still is writing and has a collection of poetry coming out “Or,” from Hemispherical Press.

Doug Holder: “sunnyoutside” was founded as an online literary journal in 2000. In 2004 you went to print. Why did you decide to make the change?

David McNamara: “suunyoutside” online folded because I was unable to keep up with submissions. I basically just submitted and wrote for awhile. Later the creative urge to start publishing came out. “sunnyoutside” had a logo, a website and somewhat of a following. It just seemed logical to stay with the name.

DH: Can you tell me about the Emerson College (Boston, Mass.) publishing program you graduated from?

DM: The program is basically 12 months. They break it up into four modules. It is a crash course for publishing in the ‘real world.’ Most of the people in it are looking to get editorial and publishing positions with trade publishers. The modules were editorial, marketing, business and production. I’ve been working in publishing for 10 or 12 years. I really didn’t have a good grasp of the business side of things. So the program prepped me to run a business and to market it.

DH: Small press publishers of poetry rarely if ever make a profit.

DM: There is a couple out there. One is the University of Pittsburgh Press. Of course they have university funds to depend on. “Black Sparrow,” made money on Bukowski and other authors.

I hope to expand from poetry to fiction. I also have an interest in non-fiction.

DH: Is there a mission statement for “sunnyoutside?”

DM: That’s a tough one. I think I changed it a few times. I want to publish works that are crafted and skilled on the contemporary literary landscape. From a production standpoint we really emphasize the quality of the product. We want to create a visual format that represents the text well. The presentation should not detract from the text. It should accenuate it.

DH: You describe your press as a “Fine Book,” press. What is that?

DM: We are an ‘aspiring’ fine book press. Fine presses usually work with a letterpress. They are not going to use digital reproduction. The technology that I use goes back to Gutenberg.

DH: Do you think the physical book is threatened by the internet?

DM. Threatened? I can’t dispute that. Readership for books has and will go down. I don’t think extinction will happen. There is too much value with holding what you are reading. We are still seeing more and more books on the market.

DH: Are production values as important as the actual content of the book for you?

DM: Yes and no. Only once did I publish something based on what I thought I could do with it. The text really has to stand out by itself. It still has to be good.

DH: Reviewers don’t often comment on production value. Is this frustrating for you?

DM: It’s at times loveless work. It is kind of frustrating. I put in a lot time into something like paper and soliciting an artist to do the work. Then the review comes out and says what a great job the artist did. And the artist did do a good job, but the reviewer doesn’t see behind the scene. There is a part of me that wishes I got more attention.

Dh: You just published a book by the San Francisco poet William Taylor, Jr. titled: “So Much is Burning.” What attracted you to his work?

DM: Everything I accept has to be accessible and more than one dimension. With Bill’s work, anyone who reads it, can appreciate it. He writes about the downtrodden of society in a way in which anyone can enjoy it. He explores the dichotomy of beauty and ugliness in a skillful way.

DH: Where are your books carried?

DM: “Powell’s” in Portland, Oregon, hopefully the “Trident,” in Boston, hopefully “Porter Square Books,” in Cambridge, Mass. and “City Lights,” in San Francisco. The cover of William Taylor’s book is modeled on the “City Light,” books style. We also have books at “Logos Books,” in Santa Cruz, California.

DH: You publish in other formats, right?

DM: The first publication we did was a broadside (one sheet of paper- published on both sides) I am going to start a postcard series, and we also have produced mini-chaps.

DH: Talk about the writers you published?

DM: We have done a few things by William Taylor Jr. We have published a couple of things by the poet Nate Graziano. I have four essays by A.D. Winans that might be our first work of non-fiction. Winnans founded the “Second Coming Press,” in the 70’s in San Francisco. The press was well-known for publishing Bukowski, among other things.

DH: What do you think of Bukowski’s work?

DM: I respect it. Bukowski is Bukowski. There are a lot of spin-offs in the small press by people who are trying to write like him. This is a paradox because, again Bukowski is Bukowski. He was one-of-a-kind.

DH: Do you need a formal education to be a poet? Do you need an MFA?

DM: Not necessarily. My education has definitely helped me as an editor. There are a lot of writers out there whose work I like, who don’t have their MFA. On the other hand there are a lot of people who have them whose work I like. I think if you are going to write novels what you learn in an MFA program is invaluable. This is being said by a person who does not have one.

DH: What are your ambitions for the press?

DM: I’d love to do trade publishing. It’s hard when you are dealing with relatively obscure writers. I would like to transcend the small press yet still be in it. I want to do trade publishing as well as fine press publishing.

Doug Holder for more info. About sunnyoutside go to:

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