Fiddler Features

Fiddler Crab Feature - Interview with Seven Kitchens Press' Editor, Ron Mohring


What brought you to poetry publishing? How did you get your name? In other words, a brief history of your press? 
I've been attracted to poetry chapbooks for a very long time (and had three of my own published before my first book came out), so the decision to launch a chapbook press was pretty easy. When I left a university job in 2007, I also left a job on the editorial staff of a literary magazine, and suddenly there was time to go ahead and take the micropress leap. I haven't looked back. 
Our name owes a debt to my partner and to my friend Deirdre O'Connor, in whose kitchen we were drinking wine & telling crazy housesitting stories when Randy suddenly exclaimed: "You guys should publish a collection!" Even though that housesitting anthology is still in limbo, I still believe it will happen, and I wanted to acknowledge a debt to all the nurturing conversation and brilliant ideas that hatch in our kitchens.

Books from Seven Kitchen have a very distinctive and, we think, attractive design/look. Do you have any comments about the design work or publishing aesthetics at your press or in general? Do you do all the work in house or outsource parts? 
Thank you! We've been fortunate to gain permission from some very talented artists and photographers for some of our cover images. I learned a bit about design at my old job, but some of the process was very trial-and-error, especially in our first year. Last year, I had the help of a madly talented intern, Kari Larsen, who designed some awesome covers (R J Gibson's Scavenge, Naomi Lazard's Ordinances, Erin Bertram's Inland Sea). I print the pages at home on my laser printer and have the covers printed locally. I trim, assemble, and tie each chapbook at home. 

Is there a kind of poetry manuscript or poet you are looking for or are passionate about? 
Ron Mohring, Editor of Seven Kitchens Press
My goal is to represent a wide range of voices and aesthetics. I think we're doing all right so far, though I really want to represent more poets of color (and I'm working on that). I read a lot--a lot--of poetry, and if a manuscript stays with me, even if a guest judge didn't land it in the top for whatever series, I will probably try to find a way to publish that manuscript. So many titles in our Editor's Series, and almost everything in our Summer Kitchen Series, happened because I couldn't let those poems go unpublished!

How are manuscripts selected for publication at Seven Kitchens? (Do you, for instance, ever use outside vetters or “ manuscripts made anonymous” for reading?). 
For our open series (Robin Becker, Keystone, Editor's Prize), we remove identifying information as soon as the manuscripts come in and assign randomly-generated log numbers. I don't know who wrote what until the finalists are selected. I like soliciting guest judges for the Keystone and Becker Prizes; it brings a fresh reader every year to those series, and I've been completely happy with the judges' selections. I do read every manuscript that comes in, though a time may come that I'll need help with that, but I'd rather hire a co-editor than ever hand the manuscripts over to outside readers who may not be as passionate about the press as I. 
What’s the hardest thing about running Seven Kitchens? And the best? 
The biggest challenge for me is time: my intentions are constantly undermined by the realities of my daily schedule. The second biggest challenge is money: we have a tiny budget--you wouldn't believe--yet here we are, thirty titles strong, pushing ahead and feeling very grateful for the support we've received so far. 
Editorial Assistant, Sadie
The best part about running 7KP is the absolute delight of bringing each writer's work into print in thoughtfully designed, carefully edited, lovingly constructed chapbooks. I love every stage of the process.

What are your thoughts about the current status of the chapbook in the poetry world, and how do you see the chapbook developing in the coming decade? 
I'm blown away by the ways that some folks--Didi Menendez and Nic Sebastian, for example--are creating gorgeous digital chapbooks. But there's so much creativity in the physical chapbook as well: Betsy Wheeler makes incredible chapbooks at Pilot Books, as does David McNamara at sunnyoutside. It's almost unfair to name names because so many folks out there are creating beautiful, original, stunning work. Chapbooks are thriving!

What do we need to know what about you do that we don’t know? 
When I'm not writing poems or working on the press, I quilt. I'm a hand quilter. Some antique Pennsylvania quilting fabrics inspired the cover designs for the Summer Kitchen Series; just wait till you see this year's batch. Finally, I want to thank you again for this interview, but especially for your commitment to the chapbook and the fine work you're doing with Fiddler Crab Review.
interview by P. Nelson and Emily Scudder.  photographs by Ron Mohring. All Rights Reserved.