Interview with Leah Maines

WG: When we interviewed you seven years ago, Finishing Line Press was one of the few presses that really gave encouragement to writers with disabilities by publishing their work. Recently, you published Border Songs by Ona Gritz and Dan Simpson, and I know that you are working with two other writers Erin Kelly and MaryAnn Miller to publish their work as well. While there are a few budding independent publishers who are concentrating on the work of disabled writers, among publishers with the size and reputation of Finishing Line there still seems to be some resistance. Do you think the market as providing more opportunities for disabled writers or is Finishing Line an anomaly?

LM: At Finishing Line Press we select manuscripts judged by the quality of the work—all of the FLP authors who are disabled writers are also excellent writers. I hope other publishers do the same.

I understand that marketing comes into play when one selects a manuscript for publication, and perhaps some publishers fear that those of us with disabilities will not be able to help promote the books, but that is not the reality. We at FLP work with our authors to help promote their works/books, and the authors, mostly via social media, join in the efforts, as they are able. The results are always good.

FLP does make a special effort to publish poets who are terminally ill. We work closely with the families in those cases, and we understand that the author is not able to promote his or her book at all. We have published numerous collections posthumously.

WG: Can you give a specific example a terminally ill author whose book you have published and tell us how you worked with the family to get it published?

Yes, we have published so many. One such poet was Brendan Ogg. Brendan was suffering with brain cancer. We worked closely with his parents to publish his poetry collection Summer Becomes Absurd. Brendan died shortly before the book went to print. He was able to see the galleys before he passed, and his mother said that made him very happy. Brendan did not see the actual book, but he knew his dream of publication was being fulfilled. We worked closely with his mother to make sure the book was perfect.

Sloan Kettering Hospital has a permanent art display of Brendanís poetry (from his FLP chapbook) called WORDFALL. http://franciehester.com/wordfall-memorial-sloan-kettering/. There is a video of the art exhibit of Brendanís poetry at https://www.mskcc.org/blog/poetry-motion-meaning-behind-stunning-sculpture-msk-s-josie-robertson-surgery.

WORDFALL has now become a nationwide art project featuring the poetry of terminally ill young people. This new project is called WORDFALL CURRENTS. You can see their site at http://franciehester.com/wordfall-currents-memorial-sloan-kettering/.

I have a Master of Divinity with a focus in hospice chaplaincy. To me it has been a great honor to work with terminally ill poets by helping them leave a legacy of poetry.

WG: Outline for poets who might be thinking about sending in a manuscript to Finishing Line, what the process is that they go through between the time of acceptance of their work until its publication.

LM: The process has several stages. We send acceptances via email, and then we follow up with a handwritten note to make sure they got the email. We then have all of the authors sign a contract. The authors are responsible for providing their cover art and author photos. We have a cover designer on staff who will then design the cover. We work closely with the author to make sure the cover is designed to their liking. Finishing Line Press then assigns the author a prepublication schedule and a publication release date.

FLP has a prepublication sales period that helps us determine the size of the pressrun. This is usually an eight week period. During that time FLP sends out promotional postcards, and runs ads on social media to promote the book. We also provide promotional materials to the author so she can get the word out about her book. We encourage her to use these suggestions to announce her book on social media.

During the prepublication time, the book is available directly from the FLP website. After publication the book is distributed by the Ingram Group for nationwide distribution.

WG: As a long time editor with Finishing Line Press, how have you seen it change over the years? Are there current new projects or directions FLP is taking that you are especially excited about?

LM: Finishing Line Press has taken a new direction since I took over the press in 2002. It now has a new director. Christen Kincaid became the new director of FLP in 2016. At that time, FLP switched all new chapbooks from saddle-stapled editions to perfect-bound editions. FLP also started listing all of their new titles with the Ingram Group, to offer a wide distribution of all the new titles. The largest change, is that FLP started publishing full-length poetry collections and novels, in addition to poetry chapbooks. FLP grew!

I have been busy working as the editor of the new online poetry magazine The Paddock Review.

WG: Tell us a bit more about The Paddock Review.

LM: The Paddock Review is an online literary journal. We publish poetry, poetry book reviews, and articles about the craft of writing. I started it as another outlet to promote poetry.

WG: Are the articles and book reviews for The Paddock Review something that you solicit from writers yourself or is that something that is open to submissions?

LM: It is open for submissions for the articles. We have not yet opened book reviews for submissions, but we plan to do so.

WG: Leah, I want to wish you luck with your new journal and thank you again for the effort that you and Finishing Line Press have made to get the work of so many poets with disabilities into the public eye. In many cases, it is because of your taking the chance on their first books that they have gone on to become successful poets.