10 March 2010

Arts & Upstarts: Sandra Alland, sandraslittlebookshop

Writer: Sandra Alland
Sandra Alland
Writer, Multimedia Artist, Performer

A micropress that publishes chapbooks and books and curates an online poetry journal. Started: 2003

What type of business do you run and why did you decide to start it?

sandraslittlebookshop primarily makes chapbooks, although I've also published one full-length book (Some Poems By People I Like, 2007) and continue to sporadically publish an online poetry journal (More Poems By People I Like).

I started sandraslittlebookshop during a residency in Mexico and Banff. I was working on a trilingual group poetry translation project that eventually morphed into a chapbook (Broken Telephone, 2003). It wasn't the first chapbook I've ever published, but it was the first to bear the company name. I mainly started the press to produce a copy of the chapbook for everyone who took part in the project. But I soon discovered others were interested in the work, so I made 100 copies. They sold out and I reprinted later on. On a more political level, I started the press because I noticed certain gaps in the kinds of work getting published.


How do you balance your business with your own art practice?

My latest chapbook project, Maricón, is a collaboration with Y. Josephine, the other half of my poetry-music performance troupe, Zorras — so there's a creative overlap. The first two chapbooks (Broken Telephone and Silent Slam) also corresponded with creative projects I was curating (Silent Slam was a live writing "happening," where the works were projected on the walls). That helps a lot, that the chapbooks usually come out of collaborations I'm already part of, but not necessarily writing for.

 Sandra Alland performing

In terms of the online journal, I generally invite people when I have some free time from gigging or trying to write — which is rarely these days, argh. Note to self.

What has been the biggest challenge in running your business, and what has been the greatest outcome?

I generally am only able to publish something every couple of years, and in small print runs. Publishing has become very expensive and time-consuming, and I just don't have the funds or energy. The chapbooks generally break even, but a book is a much bigger financial burden and also harder to sell because of the higher price. So yeah, money and time are the biggest challenges.

The greatest outcome has always been basking in the final product — I have published some very talented people and we have tried some pretty wacky things together. It's also been swell to get a review for each chapbook — two from Broken Pencil and one from word: the literary calendar — which hopefully gets more people reading the writers I admire. And a lovely man from the States put Some Poems By People I Like on his poetry class's reading list, that was cool.


In what ways are your artistic vision and entrepreneurial spirit connected?

My first published work (Partings, with Andra Simons, 1997) was published by me. I had to wait around a long while for someone to be interested in my work (I have Ann Decter and Zoe Whittall of McGilligan Books to thank for that eventually happening). In the meantime I learned to do for myself. My artistic vision also has a lot to do with collaboration and experimentation — and those are generally the kinds of things I've published.

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