Short Flight/Long Drive Books is an independent press that emerged from the online literary magazine Hobart, founded by writer Aaron Burch in 2001. Hobart, which currently posts a wide variety of new literary and contemporary culture content on a daily basis, launched Short Flight/Long Drive Books in 2006 with fiction writer Elizabeth Ellen at the helm.
Ellen has worn many hats at Hobart since 2002, serving by turns as Hobart’s co-editor, fiction editor, and poetry editor, and she has collected a number of distinguished and daring titles for SF/LD that are smart rather than merely clever, well-crafted without being overwrought.
SF/LD books range from the near-classic NowTrends by Karl Taro Greenfeld, stories mixing absurdity with the dark underbelly of international adventure, to Jess Stoner’s I Have Blinded Myself Writing This, an unsettling meditation on philosophy, memory and pain, to Selected Tweets by Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez, whose Twitter conversation serves as an apt medium for disjointed narratives to form a story of personal connection in this fractured 21st century.
For Ploughshares, Elizabeth Ellen explains what makes Short Flight/Long Drive tick, as well as what’s on the travel itinerary in their near future.
Kate Flaherty: Like Short Flight/Long Drive, several new independent presses have evolved as an offshoot of a literary website. What motivated Hobart to expand to book publishing?
Elizabeth Ellen: Aaron and I had been working together to edit Hobart (both the print journal and the online journal) for about four years at that point, and while I enjoyed co-editing, it was clear that Hobart was Aaron’s baby, so to speak—that he had the last say-so when it came to anything Hobart-related—and I wanted my own baby to have say-so over. Books seemed a natural offshoot.
KF: SF/LD isn’t currently accepting unsolicited submissions. Do you find your authors primarily through Hobart? When you first read your titles in manuscript form, what seems to demand print publication? What would you say to a writer aspiring to be published by SF/LD?
EE: The only reason we aren’t currently accepting unsolicited subs is because we are not considering any subs currently. Our most recent book, Over for Rockwell, was found in the slush pile (as was Nowtrends and I Have Blinded Myself Writing This). So we are very much interested in ‘finding’ books—as much as we are interested in publishing books written by already established authors. I think like every other editor/publisher reading manuscripts, I want to be blown away by a book. I want to feel I am reading something so unique, in voice probably more than in plot, that I can’t turn it away, that I have to publish it. I care much less about plot or ‘forward movement’ and much more about a voice/style that is unduplicated, that has something different to say (to me), and says it in a way I haven’t heard it said before.
KF: Both Hobart and SF/LD publish work that seems both experimental and nostalgic, ridiculous and sacred, mixing baseball and apple pie with the absurdity of the modern age. How would you describe SF/LD’s mission or philosophy?
EE: I would say that Hobart, being Aaron’s “baby,” is much more nostalgic/baseball/apple pie, and that SF/LD, being “my baby,” is more experimental/absurd. That just defines, or highlights, our different aesthetics/likes/tastes. SF/LD exists to publish writers/books that are not necessarily marketable, that don’t have this forward thrust agents and bigger publishers talk a lot about, but that are unlike any other books being published for that very reason, because they don’t fit an already established mold of “fiction” or “poetry” or whatever. . . that don’t have the feel of an MFA workshopped manuscript, that are loyal to the author’s voice, not a committee.
KF: In less than ten years, SF/LD has quickly established itself with a list of eclectic and smart titles. What’s in store for readers next?
EE: I don’t know. We thought SF/LD might be “done,” a few months ago. But now I think we’re just going to take a few months off (mainly so I can get my own manuscripts out into the world), dust off the cynicism, and be back with a vengeance. Because there will always be a need for presses like SF/LD to honor voices that are true to themselves, rather than true to the fads and fancies of the market/agents/big book publishers, and we, or, I, want to honor them.