C&R Press stays literary, adds visionary
CHAD PREVOST IS MAKING SOME BIG changes at C&R Press. The Chattanooga-based nonprofit, independent literary press is broadening the range of books it publishes by starting two new series, putting a stronger emphasis on book design and exploring the intersection of old and new publishing technologies.
I spoke with Prevost at the Meacham Writer’s Workshop last week, where he and three of his writers—Sybil Baker and Caleb Ludwick, both of Chattanooga, and Lori Jakiela—gave readings. Ludwick’s story collection, "The First Time She Fell", was published commercially by C&R in October.
“We’re getting away from only being a literary press,” he said. “We’re looking for the content of our ideas and our design to set us apart from the pack.”
White Elephant Books is a new series of topical nonfiction books that’s all about concise presentations of big ideas. He’s looking for thought leaders and change makers who want to push against conventions, starting with Chattanooga.
“We’ve been such a literary press,” said Prevost. “I love literature. That’s a passion. But the thing I’m excited about is White Elephant. This is the first line of books C&R is going to do that doesn’t purport to be literary. It’s bold ideas from visionary people who want to do social good, the subjects that everyone is aware of but no one is really talking about.”
Each White Elephant title will be a 20-to-40-page multimedia ebook. They will be available through print-on-demand, but the ebook will include embedded videos of the authors presenting their ideas. He’s also planning a reading series with White Elephant authors at The Fourth Floor of the Public Library.
Prevost plans to publish six White Elephant titles per year, starting with six big ideas from Chattanooga. He’s soliciting not just writers, but anyone with a bold idea in business, technology, entrepreneurship, psychology, religion and politics. Because submissions for White Elephant have been lower than for more conventional types of books during C&R’s September and October reading period, Prevost is considering manuscript submissions and concept proposals in November.
A lot of the entrepreneurs doing great things in the community aren’t writers,” he said. “There are some gigantic ideas here in Chattanooga that have been submitted to me for White Elephant.”
C&R’s other new book series is The New Dirty, the type of Southern literature often called “grit lit.”
“It’s a way of embracing where we are, Southern literature in the spirit of Harry Crews, William Gay, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, George Singleton,” he said, quickly acknowledging, “Of course, those are all guys, and most of them are dead. It’s also the spirit of Lee Smith and Dorothy Allison.”
He’s also been talking to Terry Chouinard and others at The Open Press, Chattanooga’s brand new collaborative that’s working to revive and revitalize some very old printing technology. While the newest printing presses are digital, and much formerly printed matter is digital-only, The Open Press is reviving letterpress technology in which inked metal plates with letters on them are literally pressed onto paper.
Besides one collaboration with The Open Press on a small piece for the Fusebox Art+Word series a few weeks ago, it’s all in the planning stages so far. But Prevost envisions including letterpress-printed pages in a print-on-demand book. Call it “letterpress on demand,” a very Southern marriage of technologies, kind of unexpected but much friendlier than a shotgun wedding.
“We are exploring ways in which some of their old technology can be combined with new printing technology to create books with a crafted letterpress look and feel but that are affordable enough to be sustainable,” said Prevost. “We believe Chattanooga is at an important time in its life, and what we need to be doing is telling stories bringing together the best of old and new delivery mechanisms, creating print artifacts that are beautiful and powerful.”
Prevost is also turning to design to distinguish his books in a crowded market.
“Design was an afterthought for the first few years of C&R Press,” he admits. “There are so many talented designers I’m working with now, including Terry Chouinard at The Open Press and Aggie Toppins at UTC. Design is an important part of how we’re going to establish more and more of a brand and do stuff that’s way ahead of what most independent presses do.”
“I want to be part of helping develop a movement here in Chattanooga,” said Prevost. “I think the literary arts are definitely overlooked in this city. We do a great job with the visual arts and supporting those artists. But, man, the literary artists are struggling.”
For more information about C&R Press, find them on Facebook or at CRpress.org