An Interview With Great Weather for MEDIA Editor Jane Ormerod
Jane Ormerod is a founding editor at great weather for MEDIA, an independent press focusing on edgy and experimental poetry and prose. She is the author of Welcome to the Museum of Cattle (Three Rooms Press, 2012), Recreational Vehicles on Fire (Three Rooms Press, 2009), the chapbook 11 Films (Modern Metrics/EXOT Books, 2008), and the spoken word CD Nashville Invades Manhattan.
Jane’s work also appears in numerous US and international anthologies and journals including Have a Nice NYC (Three Rooms Press, 2012), Maintenant, AND / OR, Marsh Hawk Press Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ambush Review, and Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts. Born on the south coast of England, Jane now lives in New York City and performs extensively across the United States and beyond.
Mary: Welcome to People Who Make Books Happen, Jane. Great Weather for MEDIA does more for its authors than any independent press I’ve encountered—including maintaining an online blog, running a reading series, publishing collections of poetry, putting out a print-on-paper anthology each year, and arranging a nation-wide reading tour for the writers included the yearly anthologies. Please give us some background. Why did you decide to found Great Weather for MEDIA? When and where was the press founded? Was this a collective effort, or was one person the driving force?
Jane: Great weather for MEDIA was formed in January 2012, so we’re approaching our third birthday! Thomas Fucaloro, Brant Lyon, and myself were editors at another small press and wanted to start something on a larger scale that involved prose as well as poetry, arranging more mixed-media events, and also to include international submissions for our anthologies. Shortly after, George Wallace joined the editorial team. We also have the very hardworking Peter Darrell behind the scenes in charge of non-editorial work.
Mary: Tell us about those early days. What difficulties did you encounter?
Jane: Well, the huge shock was Brant passing away in May 2012. That was a deeply distressing time. Brant read the majority of submissions for our first anthology, It’s Animal but Merciful, and the book is dedicated to him. (The title is taken from one of his poems too.) After we chose the cover photograph, we realized it showed graffiti outside one of his favorite restaurants.
Mary: How have things changed since then?
Jane: Russ Green and David Lawton joined the team so we now have five poetry editors. After the first year, we decided on a guest prose editor for each anthology—this year it’s Chavisa Woods. Also we have started publishing single poet collections. 2014 heralded the arrival of Puma Perl’s Retrograde and Aimee Herman’s meant to wake up feeling. What else? Well, great weather for MEDIA continues to arrange events everywhere. We are based in New York City but we organize shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, New Orleans, to name just a few. In October this year we hosted a musical evening with the legendary jazz poet and activist John Sinclair. Book fairs too—find us at the Brooklyn Book Festival, NYC’s Rainbow Book Fair, and PHILALALIA in Philadelphia.
Mary: You open submissions once a year for your anthologies. How many submissions do you receive? Who submits work to you? Where do these writers come from?
Jane: In our first year great weather received about 500 submissions and they have ridden rapidly ever since. Our submission period runs October 15 to January 15 every year. 2014-15 is the first time we’ve used Submittable which is proving to be very efficient for editors and writers. We get submissions from unpublished writers and those whose bios contain every big name journal over a fifty-year career. All submissions are treated the same. During the past three years, we’ve published writers from Botswana, the Philippines, Barbados, Canada, and several European countries. Discovering new voices is a real thrill. Click here if you’d like to submit something to us.
Mary: Your motto is “out of the mainstream and away from the tributaries.” You’ve said that you focus on “the unpredictable, the fearless, the bright, the dark, and the innovative.” How does this influence your choices? In other words, what are you looking for?
Jane: Like most editors, we love receiving work that surprises us whether it’s language, narrative, subject, or imagery. We love the experimental and ambitious. Obviously some work is immediate, other pieces are more subtle. All the great weather editors are writers themselves and we differ in styles and in our personal author and poet favorites. Sometimes it is easier to say what we don’t like. In general we avoid haikus, archaic “poetic” language, limericks… It really is best for writers to check out what we do before submitting. We don’t publish themed collections—we love a mix. We understand the odd typo but please review your work well before sending. And remember, a thirty page epic poem is unlikely to be accepted for an anthology!
Mary: Why did you decide to publish the anthologies as print-on-paper instead of in digital form?
Jane: Our anthologies are a generously-sized 9.25 x 7.5. This provides plenty of room for visually experimental work and plenty of beautiful white space to show off more traditional formats. We really do pay a lot of attention to design and graphics. Each anthology has over sixty contributors, plus an interview – too much for an online anthology. Paper allows the reader to dip in and out and to appreciate the anthology as a single and intriguing identity.
Mary: Tell us about your latest anthology I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand.
Jane: I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand is a dynamic collection of contemporary poetry and short fiction by established and emerging writers from all across the United States, Denmark, Sweden, England, and France—all taken from open submission. We are very proud to include an interview between David Lawton and John Sinclair, plus an unpublished poem of John’s. Although our anthologies are never themed, the feel of this book is a strange mix of tenderness, fear, and worlds beyond our own.
Mary: What’s the significance of the title?
Jane: We love using unusual title for our collections. It’s Animal but Merciful was followed by The Understanding between Foxes and Light. I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand is the title of an artwork/poem by one of our contributors, Janne Karlsson from Sweden. The cover is an adapted close-up of his work inside the book.
Mary: What has inspired you to arrange a nation-wide reading tour for all the authors who appear in your anthologies? It must take a huge amount of work to set up these readings.
Jane: Ha! Yes, it is a lot of work coordinating a tour, getting the dates to fit together and the cities in a logical order e.g. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. To be clear, we book events in the areas where we have several contributors so not everyone in the book can get to participate in the reading. And of course writers often have friends or family in certain cities and ask if they can perform there. It’s terrific hearing and meeting poets after looking at their words so long on the page. Great weather for MEDIA is really about building community. Introducing writers from the same city who were unaware of each other’s work. Some of contributors run their own reading series and so discover new writers to feature.
Mary: Every Sunday (4-6 ) you host a reading at the Parkside Lounge in New York City. Who curates these reading? How do you select your featured readers?
Jane: Thomas Fucaloro, David Lawton, George Wallace, and Russ Green curate and host the reading series. With a different host each week, we get a wonderful mix of local and visiting poets. Sometimes we give a poet their first ever feature, other times we have established writers and performers such as Ellen Bass, Luis Bernard, and Jesús Papoleto Meléndez. Recently we’ve showcased Rich Ferguson (Los Angeles), Joan Gelfand (San Francisco), Christine Tierney (Boston), and Todd Anderson, Jeanann Verlee, and Corinna Bain from NYC. With two features each week, it’s nice to mix things up and find performers to contrast or complement one other.
Mary: As I recall, there’s always an open mic at the Parkside. What surprises has it offered?
Jane: We have surprises every week! That’s the joy of open mics, you never know who is coming through the door. One of regulars travels up by bus from Philadelphia—that’s a real thumbs up to what we are doing. Poets who have never read on stage before and come out with something beautiful. Slam artists mixing with storytellers. We’ve had cats and dogs make an appearance. And of course the odd drunk or crazy just to keep it real. Any style of poetry is welcome on the open mic and we’re a friendly bunch.
Mary: Recently you’ve begun to publish collections of work by individual writers? Who have you published so far? What plans do you have for future publications?
Jane: 2014 marked the publication of Retrograde by Puma Perl and meant to wake up feeling by Aimee Herman. All of us are incredibly proud of these books. Corrina Bain’s collection is due spring 2015, and stay tuned to what else is coming up next year.
Mary: Before you go, please tell us about your own poetry. How did you become a poet? What are you trying to do in your poems?
Jane: I began as a painter. I went to art school in London, left, and had a studio. My work increasingly contained words and phrases so it was a natural progression to switch from canvas to paper. It’s a long story but the final jump came a result of a bet. I could never paint as well as I wanted to in order to express my ideas. Poetry is equally as frustrating – as it should be – but I feel my visual eye is a better fit to words, and the shape and sound of words, than pigment. Live performance is a vital aspect too.
Mary: Please leave us with one of your poems.
Jane: Here is “Witness for the Prosecution”:
Witness for the Prosecution
I see power leaning. An international success. Sunshine appreciating the mouth. The mouth touching the after-hours. The blabber. This room wretched.
Excellent deprive excellent reprieve excellent deprive.
No, no. Vole. I see power broken into able recommendation. I see motor servicing, out-of-action toys, tantrums and tambourines, electric drifts, a birthday spent window shopping, a daring and extravagant hat, ha ha ha ribbon frippery. An egg beating. Play canasta, munch a sandwich. Lonely, alive, bad it looked. It, it. Deceiving to believe it was Moriarty. Handsome Moriarty. Walking a dog named fortitude. “Before” is precise. Rubble is tiring. I know, or want to know, too much protection. Fortitude is not lost or misplaced. Fortitude is here among us, among us all, is a toe stub against what we thought was a shaft of sun and instead was a cylinder containing pots of simple apple jelly.
Is getting better. Is getting better. Is a field. Is buying marmalade on installment. Finding a legal document in a jack-in-a-box. The room is brave. Cocoa is brandy. Body temperature is instantaneous. The room is surprised. Is much better. It has appearance. Has clasp. O is O. There is no wiggle. The O is a jacket. Is withdrawn. Is patterned. Is absent-minded and stopped often by the military and those thrusting lucky heather. The other is arranged, is near. This candor, this leap?
This leap is finished. The voices are oak. Able to comment on rubble now. Able to speak what is worth. The lack of only a name to withstand. Blue skies are facts of words only. Boat is open-sided. Boat is slut. Blues skies a fact of warning only. The last is life inside a pill. Trains commence. I am good for another. The letter is guilt. Is cash. Is hearing. Is hearing the now and again back to back rather than to and fro.
You are warmly invited to join this conversation about People Who Make Books Happen, ask Jane Ormerod questions, or leave a comment. See the other interviews in this series for information about How To Get An Agent, How To Design A Book Cover That Sells Books, Helping Independent Bookstores Survive and Thrive, Three Great Reasons To Still Print On Paper, Designing Websites For Writers, Best-selling author Ellen Sussman on Surviving Rejection, and more. People Who Make Books Happen is where the experts hang out.