An Interview with the Publisher of sunnyoutside, David McNamara

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In preparation for our upcoming table-sharing at the AWP conference in Seattle, we asked editor David McNamara of sunnyoutside, a small press located in Buffalo, New York, a few probing questions. We figured if we’re about to be in the trenches together, we ought to get to know one another. We are honored that their books will be displayed next to The Austin Review at the conference, and you can find them at table Q9.   

The Interview

The Austin Review: What was your experience with writing before starting the press, and what made you want to go into publishing?

David McNamara: My younger self fancied himself a writer and I studied writing at university and the Poets’ House in Ireland. I got published a little bit here and there, and even did some spoken word stuff, including performing live on an NPR affiliate and at Lollapalooza one year. 

That whole while I was also interested in various publishing-related things—printing, typography, image manipulation, paper, et cetera. I grew up with zines and was always sort of drawn to ink on paper. My first publishing venture was actually a music zine that was mostly interviews and reviews, but it didn’t take too long for the two interests to find each other and I began to focus on literary endeavors.

TAR: What was your vision, and what differentiated sunnyoutside from other publishers when you first started it, and how has that evolved?

DM: I don’t know if I was ever too interested in differentiating; I just wanted to do what I wanted to and do it well, in both the production sense as well as in the moral, treat-people-well sense. But the plan was always to put out very good writing in the manner that it deserves.

In that sense, nothing has really changed, although I’m a better printer now than I used to be, our budget has grown a little bit, and we’ve won the trust of some wonderful independent bookstores that help us get the words we believe in out into the world.

TAR: What do you look for in work you're considering for publication? Is there a specific thing that makes you say: That's it!? 

DM: Brian Mihok, our associate editor, is actually the gentleman in charge of submissions these days, but I think we both like texts that are vivacious and humanist and quirky on their own terms. If something is well-written and engaging, it really doesn’t matter if it’s funny or dark or of a particular genre.

TAR: What new titles can we expect to see at your booth during AWP? Tell us a little bit about them... 

DM: Our next two books won’t be officially released until March, but we’ll be debuting both at AWP—and, in fact, both authors will be reading on Saturday at the JewelBox Theater at five p.m. (along with authors from Magic Helicopter Press, Hyacinth Girl Press, Future Tense Books, Mammoth Editions, and Calamari Press).

Needless to say, we’re excited about both, and delighted that both authors—James Brubaker and Rusty Barnes—will be in Seattle with us.

Rusty’s book is titled Reckoning and is actually both his and our first novel, so that’s pretty exciting. It’s a gritty Pennsylvania Appalachia coming of age romp in the form of some fine storytelling. 

James’s book is Pilot Season, which is a fairly sardonic (but sympathetic) take on contemporary television culture in the form of television pilots. They’re basically flash fiction pieces that take turns being funny and warm and thought-provoking.

TAR: What's in the works--anything you can share? 

DM: In the very near future we’ll have a great collection of short stories out by John Carr Walker and poetry books by William Taylor, Jr. and Sarah Boyer. Shortly after that will be our second novel, by Greg Shemkovitz, and a novel-in-verse by B.J. Best. And then, probably and hopefully in time for AWP 2015, a short-story collection by Ben Tanzer, nonfiction by Nate Liederbach, and poetry by Deborah Wood. Possibly more-or-less in that order. And there will probably be at least a couple chapbooks sprinkled in there at some point.

TAR: And finally--reading for a press takes a ton of time and energy. What's the best thing you've read lately that wasn't for the press?

DM: Caitlyn Paley’s “Goat Caitlyn” that Metazen recently published.

TAR: That piece is great.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, David, we’re excited to see your books at AWP!