Celebrating Texas Independents: An Interview with Kay Ellington of Lone Star Literary Life and Bookadelphia

“At Lone Star Literary Life, I am most proud that we shine a spotlight on the world of voices in Texas. In our coverage, we strive for diversity in ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, geography, rural versus urban, academic authors versus self-taught writers; topics–from literary fiction to bodice rippers to Westerns to spy thrillers to self-help and haiku.”

-Kay Ellington

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Texas has a thriving literary scene – are you taking full advantage of the opportunities in your own state, especially in your own backyard? In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.

These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions  about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

At our first panel discussion, taking place on March 2 in Odessa (details and address here), we’ll be speaking with three distinguished panelists, including Kay Ellington. In addition to being an author and an experienced manager at various media companies, she is the publisher of Lone Star Literary Life, a weekly statewide news site devoted to Texas books, authors, and readers. She is also the publisher of Bookadelphia, an independent publisher of literary and contemporary fiction and narrative nonfiction. We sat down with Kay to discuss the independent literary landscape in Texas.

kaypicScribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape, what makes it unique, special, what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, and publishers?

Kay Ellington: Texas is second only in population to California, Florida is third and New York is fourth. We should be the 800-pound gorilla of literature. The far-flung geography of the state, however, has a way of dissipating its impact on the national literary stage. There are actually about eight different literary regions of the state, sort of like France’s wine culture, or dialects in Italy. And each of the eight regions excel in Texas letters in different ways.

The Austin region seems to emphasize craft and introspection via the Michener Center and other salons. San Antonio and the Valley seemed to have spawned the most poets. Houston and Dallas deliver page-turning thrillers, and beyond the flyovers of the metros in the Far West and Deep Piney Woods bookends there’s still a lot of literature working through the Old West and Deep South mythos.

The opportunities are the 28 million residents of the Lone Star state who rarely find themselves and their stories in New York’s Big 5 publishers’ hands. Well-edited, well-designed books about this generation of Texans can still turn heads for publishers and feed the souls of readers.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents in Texas’s literary community (publishers, journals, booksellers) and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do as an independent publisher?

KE: I think the role of independents is to elevate the craft and the business of publishing. These days anyone can be an author or a publisher, but we have to push ourselves beyond the old pejorative of “vanity publishing” and continually emulate the best practices of the indies who have already made their marks in the industry. Because we are small, we can be nimble, and we should continually be looking for innovative ways to utilize technology.

At Lone Star Literary Life, I am most proud that we shine a spotlight on the world of voices in Texas. In our coverage, we strive for diversity in ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, geography, rural versus urban, academic authors versus self-taught writers; topics–from literary fiction to bodice rippers to Westerns to spy thrillers to self-help and haiku.

unnamed-3Scribe: Tell us a bit about a program, event, publication that you have upcoming that exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

KE: Lone Star Listens: Texas Authors on Writing and Publishing is edited by myself and Barbara Brannon with an introduction by Clay Reynolds. It will be available August 1, for readers, fans, and writers everywhere.

As a collection of insights into the writing and publishing life, the book will be useful in creative writing classes (not just in Texas alone) and other teaching settings, as well as for solo reading and study—and as a great Texas reference volume.

Thanks, Kay!

Join us for the first of our Celebrating Texas Independents panels on March 2. RSVP here. Visit our calendar for additional cities and dates throughout the month of March.

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

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