Queen’s Ferry Press, based out of Plano, Texas, since 2011, is the brainchild of Erin McKnight. While it’s hardly the first independent press with the lofty goal of printing and promoting the best literary fiction, in just a few short years Queen’s Ferry has managed to attract an impressive stable of writers at the top of their fiction game—Sherrie Flick, Sarah Van Arsdale, and Phong Nguyen to name a few. As Queen’s Ferry has grown its catalog, it has garnered awards and accolades along the way for its wonderfully eclectic range of titles. Queen’s Ferry ventures also include the imprint firthFORTH, which publishes fiction chapbooks, and The Best Small Fictions, an annual anthology compiling the best short fiction in a calendar year. The inaugural collection, to be published in 2015, will be guest edited by Robert Olen Butler. Tara L. Masih will serve as series editor.
Publisher Erin McKnight shares with Ploughshares the key to Queen’s Ferry’s success, and what’s in store for readers and writers in the New Year.
Ploughshares: Between Queen’s Ferry and firthFORTH, you’ve published more than two dozen attractively produced and well-received books in the past three years, with no sign of slow-down. Both presses also accept submissions year-round. How do you do it?
Erin McKnight: As trite as it sounds, I enjoy the work. The press is deeply personal, so emotional investment is high; making a manuscript into a book feeds my soul as well as my career ambition. Within the past few months, the masthead has also filled out—we now have marketing, editorial, reading, and social media roles—which has made my job far easier; it took me a long time to accept help, but this assistance was worth the wait.
PS: What was the motivation for The Best Small Fictions anthology? How would you describe “hybrid fiction”?
EM: Credit must go to Tara L. Masih. Though I was looking for a compelling project—believing that the press is poised for game-changing success—it was meeting Tara in an editorial capacity that brought the anthology to fruition. Tara is an award-winning editor with vast experience in the anthology realm and is also familiar with our books, so when she proposed the idea of Queen’s Ferry producing The Best Small Fictions anthology it felt like the stars had aligned. (I also know how lucky we are to have Robert Olen Butler on board.) In terms of “hybrid” writing, we are looking for submissions that place themselves anywhere on the fiction spectrum, from traditional to experimental. We will welcome prose poetry, and even graphic stories provided they meet length and other submission requirements.
PS: The range of Queen’s Ferry books is delightfully expansive in terms of style and subject, but all of your authors seem to share a meticulous obsession with language and the play of words on the page. What qualities do you believe Queen’s Ferry titles share? How does your role as editor contribute to these connections?
EM: Our shelf is clearly influenced by my personal aesthetic, which I like to believe is rather eclectic, but the single factor all our books have in common is first-class authors. Professionalism seeps through every page of their manuscripts: an attention to form and language, and a maturity in subject matter and theme is readily evident and translates pretty effortlessly into the finished book. I find I don’t have to do much to make the language sing, though I like to believe I exhibit a degree of editorial care that matches the writer’s creative effort. I’ve said before that I lose sleep over commas, and it’s the truth; I take pride in total immersion of every book that takes shape.
PS: Like so many small press editors, you also are a writer. How do you juggle the two vocations? What’s a greater achievement for you—finding a voice in your own writing or guiding a writer to find his or her own?
EM: I feel my own writing inspired me to start the press—and interact with these far-more-talented authors that I also have the pleasure of publishing! Sculpting a book is by far the greater achievement; I come along late in the writing process, but I like to believe my editorial eye can lead to breakthroughs in manuscripts that have been worked and reworked for, in many instances, years.
PS: Other than time and money—the bane of all indies—what is the biggest challenge facing Queen’s Ferry as an independent publisher? What does the future hold?
EM: Getting people to find us! Those who know we are here seem to like what we’re doing (and have been very supportive), but casting our ripples outward is always at the fore of my mind. I like to imagine that we are a small press producing big books; finding an equally large audience on our limited budget is the challenge. Apart from the Best Small Fictions anthology series, the press is now starting to publish traditional novels—which we hope will expose us to a wider reading audience and promote the fine literary writing we like to consider our hallmark.