A Daughter’s Song and Dance

It started with a manuscript my mother put together on a word processor back in the early 90s.  During her lunch hours, she tapped away at the keyboard, telling the story of her childhood. When she was a few months old, she had been adopted by a wealthy single lady who gave her an amazing, and at times quite demanding, early life.

The manuscript bounced around for a while, finally ending up in a box in my apartment. I read through the 100-page document and was astounded. The year was 2010.

Since then mom and I have been working to get her story published. Now we are nearly ready to get the first eight chapters in print. The effort has balanced out my obsession with Gilgamesh and been a revelation in itself.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I will take away from ADS&D is how quickly life changes. Though the broad outlines of life in America have remained intact, we have lived through several revolutions since the 1930s and 40s. And that is to say nothing of the life of my grandfather (he’s the handsome devil in white tie at left)–born in 1891, he decided at 6 to become an actor and then actually *did* it, performing on Broadway for several years in the 1920s. People back then lived their lives flat-out, and my grandfather was no exception. It is basically impossible for anyone today to live the way his generation did.

And then there are the practical benefits of doing this kind of research and writing. Self-discovery may be the most important of these, but so was the discovery of my grandfather’s photo, about a year ago, taken when he was 24. This is not the first photo we’ve found of him, but I think it is the best. And my mother, at 83, now carries it around with her in her wallet. That is a milestone, a very satisfying one.

Memoirs are important, and not just to a family. They tell the past in a way that few other genres can.    AP

Unexpected, Unheard of, Amazing

You might be wondering why the English-speaking world needs a new small press. Ampersand Press, after all, will be publishing under the same tough economic conditions as all other small presses; the times aren’t propitious for starting a new publication venture.

Or maybe not. Readers may have noticed all the talk about networking, marketing, targeted audiences, profits, associations, conferences, content, and so forth. They might also have wondered what happened to a reader’s best friend: the good story. And what about a well-designed, handsome book, in an easy-to-use format that’s appropriate to the story? Could this be the fabled Shangri-La, an untapped market?

Of course, as William Morris remarked, everyone has a different idea of what Utopia looks like. And certainly there are many fine books that tell a compelling tale. But Ampersand Press has a suspicion that when all is said and done, publishers are paying too much attention to the mechanics of their business. Certainly mechanics are important, as Ansel Adams knew when he was struggling on the side of a dusty road to make the negative that became Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. And publishers are keeping their eyes on such issues as plagiarism, copyright, libel  and plain old costs with good reason.

What’s really important is the poet scribbling away in a transport of excitement, the novelist thrilled that she’s finally found her novel’s voice, the odd individual designing wallpaper patterns freehand over breakfast. There are some venues for these people, but not enough. Publishing is about community, and until we start seeing more unmarketable talent published, we are failing to get some of the most heartfelt writing in the community into print. And there is a lot of talent out there.

There’s a certain gotterdamerung quality to publishing: we will keep publishing until there *is* no money left. Maybe it has to be this way. Beauty is always a bit shy and tentative; the truth is always a suspect caller at the door. Despite the ocean of published material that is available in our society, Ampersand Press believes that an important part of America’s voice is not being heard. We’re here to do something about that.

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And speaking of mechanics, our next post will have details on submissions and other nuts and bolts.