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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The House of Words (no. 16): Small presses: Phoenicia Publishing

Halving cherries,
I prie the stones
from their black hearts,
blood pooling
my fingernails.

Interview with Beth Adams of Phoenicia Press, continued

Marly:  Beth, you live a highly creative life. You draw, take pictures, write poetry, keep a blog, sing in a choir—probably there’s more that I don’t see. All these things are satisfying. A small publishing house is quite a bit of work and expense. In what ways is it satisfying to join the world of publishing?

Beth:  It's funny – when we were moving to Montreal from Vermont, I found a tiny book I had made when I was maybe 7 or 8, with drawings and a hand-written text. I’ve always “published” things, in one form or another, whether it’s been my own stuff, or newsletters for organizations, or elaborate professional jobs for corporations and institutions. I started my career at a time when you literally had to construct the entire job by hand on a light table, with type galleys and x-acto knives and wax and rubylith masks. Computers revolutionized the whole process, starting in the early 1980s – thank God! -- but digital technology for print-on-demand publishing opens up possibilities for someone like me that are almost too fabulous to be true. I hope and expect that e-book publishing will eventually offer the same design quality, and control over formatting, as print, because that is where I think we are headed.

An entrance to Lincoln Inn's Fields, London, 2010
11" x 7" watercolor
And the internet is so great! It’s put me in contact with talented and creative people all over the world – such a far cry from the isolation and frustration of being a creative kid in a small central New York town in the 1950s and 60s, as you can probably imagine, Marly! I’m also fortunate to have been in a long love and work partnership with my husband, who’s both a very talented photographer and an expert on the computer side of things, as well as being my best and most trusted critic. All these relationships make it possible and exciting to put together book projects that I hope are distinctive and worthwhile.

I have a bit more time in my life now. Some of it needs to be devoted to my own work, but I’m not someone who is happy working alone on personal projects all the time. It’s very satisfying to me to help bring a wonderful manuscript into life as a book -- not just because I love books, but because I enjoy working closely with the authors, and it’s their passion and hard work and spirit that should be reflected in what we do together. In a small way, I hope I’m giving something back to literature and to art – both of which have given me so much.


  1. Yes, for all the benefits of ebooks, I have to confess I prefer the 'real' thing in my hand - so pleased to hear Beth has high hopes for POD!

    That entrance to Lincolns Inn Field is certainly evocative of the place - that unexpectedly wild entrance. And I like the cherries words and pictures just as much as I loved the olives earlier. Beautifully simple and very evocative.

  2. Yes, we are tactile creatures! And a book can be such a beautiful object, and much more fun to have in your bag than a machine.

    Yes, she has a lot of variety in her drawings and paintings, and there are some other simple ones online--I nabbed the cherry because of the poem.

  3. For "beautiful" online options:

    a) Check out Vooks (bad name, intriguing idea). See

    b) Some people have done amazing "book" design for screens with PDF - not just straight black text but truly intriguing and useful designs for reading.

    An example of a simple design format that works for its purpose can be found here There are many others all over the web.

    Well designed "books" on the iPad/Android pad/laptop or Kindle are starting to achieve a kinesthetic and visual feel that, while not matching paper, certainly evokes it and surpasses it in usefulness (the Kindle dictionary being one example).


  4. Gary,

    I found you in Spam! And I think that returning you here probably stripped out the hot links. Sorry.

    I'm with you on the dictionary in some ways but not in all. Just as browsing for books in bookstores is now a lost way of finding new authors and books, so digital dictionaries tend to eliminate the sort of word-browsing and word-learning that goes on in a rich dictionary. In general, a digital world eliminates a certain kind of fruitful hunting-and-gathering.

    Thanks for the helpful links. I'm sure people will want to try them.Me too.

  5. How lovely those cherries and the little poem are... yes, Marly, how tactile, as you say. You can almost taste them! I am with you on books. I love the smell of library stacks. I think I even like the smell of library paste. There's still that eater of paste from kindergarten in me, I think.

  6. Good to know that you are glued together in the proper way, Robbi!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.