Not just any accomplished author, Molly Gaudry is one of the founders of The Lit Pub, a go-to website that brings to light amazing books that often go overlooked. The Lit Pub’s website is slated to relaunch any day now, but in the meantime, you can read what this literary-at-birth gal has to say about the different facets of today’s book industry.
Tell us about yourself. What should our readers know about you?
I guess, for this site, I would like readers to know that I’m adopted. I came from Seoul to Ohio in the early ’80s. I spent my early childhood reading everything I could get my hands on, spent nights with a flashlight under my covers. In 7th grade, I was taught methods to becoming a more efficient speed reader. I later became a creative writing major at what is now the nation’s only K-12 school of the arts. I then went to Southern California to study writing at the University of Redlands but transferred two years later to the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated with an English degree and an MA in Fiction. I taught for a few years at Widener University just outside of Philadelphia, published my first book, a novel in verse called We Take Me Apart, and now I’m back in school working toward an MFA in poetry. My plan is to go for a PhD in Fiction after this.
You’re currently an editor, a publisher and a published author. You’ve taught and reviewed books… how do you balance so many projects? And were you always an avid reader?
Yes to the avid reader question. And, as for balancing, I think there’s not much to it. For one thing, if I don’t have a lot going on, I tend to never leave the couch. I like Golden Girls reruns and Bravo too much. But, the more obligations I have, the more efficient I am with my time. I think that a lot of people, no matter what their particular field or career, are the same. Business types have work, then board meetings, then gym dates, then social obligations; that’s all stuff I don’t have to do. I have the luxury of sitting behind this computer for almost everything I do. It’s nice. It’s probably going to turn me into a hermit by the time I’m 40 but that’s O.K. But seriously, it always impresses me how much the average person has to balance, especially parents with full-time jobs. I have total respect for people with kids.
How would you describe your method of writing? How do you conceive of an idea for a book and then turn it into a reality?
I never start with a blank page. I always begin with a list of words or phrases. We Take Me Apart is a response to many words from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. I took her words and jumbled them up and then began stringing them together to form my own narrative. I’m working on a book now involving phrases from 30 art zines from 30 cities, all from the week of my 30th birthday. This book will be out from YesYes Books at the end of the year. And I’m also working on a novel, reworking words from Anne Carson‘s translation of Sappho’s Fragments. I had to defend this process of writing recently, and while doing some research I read somewhere that other writers who do this sort of constraint-based or process-driven work maintain that by enforcing these rules from the outset, you’re really freeing the subconscious. You could give any ten people the same “prompt,” but you’d end up with ten totally different results. It seemed to make sense to me because my final products are very much reflective of me and my thoughts and fears and worries and joys and triumphs and everything else, but at the same time, I would never be able to reveal any of those if I just had to sit there with a blank page and start typing. I am probably 90% reliant on constraint, and 100% unapologetic.
How did the Lit Pub get started?
All I wanted was a bunch of small presses to be able to come together to buy a batch of 1,000 ISBNs. One ISBN is $125. 10 ISBNs are $250…But 1,000 ISBNs are only $1,000. That’s a dollar each! I thought maybe 20 publishers could come together, pay $500 each, and instead of only getting 100 ISBNs for their $500, they could get 500. That’s more books than they’d probably publish, but anyway, in the end, we found out that you can’t do this. It was during this process that my friend Christopher Newgent and I learned that if we really wanted to help small presses there was so much more that we could do besides try to get them cheaper ISBNs. So we brainstormed and came up with the idea for The Lit Pub, which, when we first launched, was a sort of online publicity company. But now, I think we’ve decided we’re much better suited to being a kind of hub for good book recommendations, books that most people probably have never heard of for one reason or another.
The Lit Pub’s mission statement says, ‘Our mission is to promote a sustainable literary community by introducing readers to authors we know and love.’ What do you mean by ‘sustainable,’ and do you think it’s an author’s duty to facilitate a literary discussion among readers, authors, and publishers?
By ‘sustainable,’ we mean viable, real, legitimate, lasting. We are for the most part promoting small press and independently published books. These are often printed in batches of 100. Major distributors cannot work with these small presses if there are only 100 copies in existence. To stock a book at every Barnes & Noble in the country, there needs to be more than 100 copies, you know? To put 3 or 4 copies on every front table at B&N, there need to be even more copies (and a big, big monthly expense budget). It is not uncommon for a small press to pop up, publish amazing books no one’s ever heard of, even win some awards no one’s ever heard of, and then just go away because their other lives take over. Publishing was a second or third job. We want these publishers to know they’re appreciated, to get some extra attention for their books, and we want to do it with style. Issues of legitimizing small press and independently published books aside, this kind of helping-hand encouragement will have a small part, hopefully, in working toward a more sustainable future for independent publishing.
What is your all-time favorite book, and what are you reading right now?
Wow, all-time favorite? I’ve got four favorites, and they’re very different. I love Lydia Millet’s My Happy Life (Soft Skull Press), Selah Saterstrom’s The Pink Institution (Coffee House Press), Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red, and Margery Sharp’s Cluny Brown.
Right now I am reading Mathias Svalina’s I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur (Mud Luscious), Mel Bosworth’s Freight (Folded Word), Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood.
What’s next for you?
This is a good question. I don’t know, really. I’m just going to have to try harder and be better one day at a time, and then maybe something great will happen. Meantime, I’m going to focus on finishing these two new book projects and making sure The Lit Pub is in good working order. For now, I think that’s all I can ask.
[Photos: Courtesy of Molly Gaudry]