Chad Prevost can’t resist redefining things, especially himself. Provost co-founded Chattanooga-based C&R Press in 2006 with fellow poet Ryan Van Cleave. The company started as a poetry press, partly because the barriers to entry were lower than for other forms of literature. “We knew poetry was something we could edit, we didn’t have to deal with agents, we could get much bigger names much less expensively, and the books were less costly to produce,” Prevost said.
In 2008, the focus expanded to include fiction and nonfiction, and their catalog now includes 24 titles. “We produced some beautiful books in fiction, but we are learning how hard it is to get the attention they deserve and need. There are literally more books than ever that are published annually,” he said.
C&R is now a few months into what Prevost estimates to be a two- to five-year process of reinventing itself to become profitable. With the help of a business consultant, the press is working to overhaul its business practices, find a new printer, revamp its distribution system and rebrand itself. All this is going on while 10 books are in production and the company has received a flood of high quality manuscript submissions.
“We’re trying to have an independent press that has enough profit to justify the enormous time, energy and expense that it requires to pull it off,” said Prevost.
At the same time he is both running and transforming a publishing company, Prevost is continuing his own writing. He is shopping both a novel and a new collection of poems, writing the first draft of one novel and reconsidering a novel he had previously shelved. “Pumpkin Fist” is a southern gothic novel about a snake-handling preacher with an oversized right hand. “I thought it was a big dead broke monster that I could never get right, but I looked back on it and thought this thing is kind of cool, I need to make sure this thing lives.” He also blogs regularly at hangingchad.com.
“I think it can all work together and not be a conflict of interest,” he said. “I’m constantly assessing that. Am I spending too much time developing and editing other people’s work and not doing mine? Every day I go am I a businessman or a writer?”
This dichotomy shows up in his writing, where he sometimes riffs on his own identity.
“A Walking Cliché Coins a Phrase: Prose Poems, Letters and Microfictions,” published in 2008, includes “The Meaning of Chad,” which ranges from the poet’s birth in Fairfax, California to the hanging, dimpled, swinging and pregnant Chads made famous in the Florida presidential recount of 2000 to rebellion in the African Republic of Chad. “Every day it seems Chad stands for something else,” he writes.
Though I have sat with him and even purchased Prevost’s books, I felt duty bound to consult with that indisputable arbiter of actuality, the Internet. Not only is Chad Prevost real (Whew!) but amazon.com includes a review quote in which Thomas Lux, author of God Particles, calls “A Walking Cliché Coins a Phrase,” “An utterly unique book of poems ... filled with true wit (strange things go on in this man’s head!), strong music, a stone blind love (the only kind of love that matters) of language, and a wild, wild heart.”
(Lux checks out, too, by the way. Google assures me that he has approximately 121,000 results worth of reality. And speaking of identity vertigo, Lux holds an endowed chair in poetry at Georgia Tech, which is an engineering school. Sounds like he and Prevost might have been separated at birth.)
After 10 years teaching, including five at Lee University and two at Dalton State College, Prevost took the leap 18 months ago to be a full-time writer and publisher.
“I’m trying to make sure that I keep my identity and fundamental dream of being a writer alive while being an expert in publishing as well. I’m trying to create a platform that says ‘I’m both.’”