Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Meet the Emma Press editors: Richard O'Brien

The Emma Press is introducing a new element to pamphlet submissions: authors get to choose the editor they would like to read their submission in the first round. This doesn't mean that you have to have this editor if your book is chosen, and nor does it guarantee that your chosen editor will be the one who reads your manuscript in the first round, but we will try our best.

We've put together profiles of all four Emma Press editors, to help you decide which editor might look most favourably on your manuscript. We do recommend that you read all four profiles and give them some thought, but don't agonise over your decision – if the editor reading your manuscript thinks it's good but might appeal to another editor more, they will pass it on to them.

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Hello, I'm... Richard O'Brien.

Mandatory editor selfie
in front of bookcase
I’m hoping to find... poems that take something familiar and make it something new, whether that means bringing contemporary life to a traditional form or using precise, unusual language to help the reader see an object, an experience, through new eyes. Above all, I want poems that care about communicating with a reader. I’d also be interested in building our list in the essay and creative non-fiction genres.

Three of my favourite books are... My answer to this question changes every day. When I first got into poetry, the writers I was most drawn to were Philip Larkin, John Donne and Frank O’Hara. But most of what I’ve been reading in the past few years has been a concerted effort to engage with a greater range of voices and perspectives, and I’d especially welcome submissions by authors from less well-represented groups.

I wish I’d written... In the last year or so, poetry-wise, Jason Koo’s America’s Favourite Poem (I love its swagger, and its easy familiarity with a variety of styles and traditions), and what I’ve read online by Hera Lindsay Bird – I don’t know how she does it, and I don’t think I ever could. On the prose front, I wish I could write like Leslie Jamison, or James Baldwin, or Jon Mooallem.

I wish I'd published... Jacqueline Saphra is one of our authors already, but her crown of sonnets for the photographer Lee Miller is exactly the kind of project I wish I'd worked on.

I’ve got a soft spot for... riffs on history and classic texts, forms and characters – particularly when the author uses these to explore contemporary concerns and power dynamics. Poems, with or without formal constraints, where the author actually seems to be having a good time with the voice and medium.

I’m less keen on... writing that’s complacent about its place in the world, about who will read it, about things as they are being allowed to go on more or less unchanged; but I’m not a fan of much poetry which is purely and exclusively political sloganeering, either. There are many poems I enjoy where conventional meaning-making doesn’t seem to be a primary concern – but I’m very unlikely to pick that kind of writing out of the slush pile.

Recently I edited... an anthology of poems about Birmingham, alongside Emma. I loved the range of entries we received, and the process of picking out entries which showed that breadth of approaches to the city when we came to put the whole book together. My next project is a children’s anthology about dinosaurs!

My advice to anyone thinking of submitting is... read the kinds of things we do. The Emma Press exists for a reason, and picks up work that resonates with contemporary readers in niches other publishers have neglected. It’s also worth really considering the specifics of the pamphlet form, rather than seeing it as a stepping stone to longer work.

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This round of pamphlet submissions ends on 10th December 2017. See the Emma Press website for guidelines.

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