Lena Dun­ham’s Lenny Im­print

Poets and Writers - - Trends - –KEVIN LARIMER

In 2015, Lena Dun­ham, along with her pro­duc­ing part­ner, Jenni Kon­ner, cre­ated an on­line news­let­ter that would pro­vide “a plat­form for young fe­male voices to dis­cuss fem­i­nist is­sues.” In its first six months Lenny Letter, also known as

Lenny, at­tracted an im­pres­sive 400,000 sub­scribers. Build­ing on that suc­cess, last year Ran­dom House, pub­lisher of Dun­ham’s 2014 mem­oir, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” an­nounced that Lenny would be the ba­sis of a new im­print, over­seen by vice pres­i­dent and edi­tor in chief Andy Ward. The im­print’s first ti­tle, Sour Heart, the de­but story col­lec­tion by poet Jenny Zhang, is out now. In the months lead­ing up to its pub­li­ca­tion, Dun­ham spoke about her vi­sion for Lenny Books.

There can never be too many plat­forms for new and emerg­ing lit­er­ary voices, but still: Why Lenny Books and why now?

It was es­sen­tial to Jenni and me that we use the gift of our plat­form to give voice to a di­verse group of women who need to be heard. It has never been more im­por­tant that we hear from every kind of woman and un­der­stand the speci­fici­ties of her ex­pe­ri­ence—and that hap­pens to be the goal of Lenny.

Will the im­print be fu­eled by the same ethos as the news­let­ter?

We want the im­print’s logo to be a sym­bol that lets you know you’re about to read some­thing that plays with the fem­i­nine in a fas­ci­nat­ing new way. We want you to see the spine and think, “Oh, thank the Lord, I know what will thrill me tonight.” We want our readers to trust that our im­print is se­lect­ing books that will en­rich them and make them laugh. Books al­low for a deeper, more sus­tained ex­plo­ration that the news­let­ter doesn’t—and that, too, is thrilling.

You and Jenni are al­ready suc­cess­fully pub­lish­ing new voices in your news­let­ter, so what is it about print books in gen­eral, and Ran­dom House in par­tic­u­lar, that led you to this new project?

We are book nerds. We read to learn. We read to re­lax. We read to get in­spired. It’s hon­estly selfish: We want a hand in help­ing pro­duce the kinds of books we want to read, and we want to get first crack at reading fan­tas­tic au­thors and ground­break­ing fem­i­nist works. So far, it’s been wildly fun. It’s in­ter­est­ing and in­spir­ing that our part­ner in crime is Andy Ward, a man who un­der­stands our mis­sion. So we aren’t for girls only, even if we are al­ways think­ing of our reader as a busy woman who needs to be able to trust that a Lenny book means her pre­cious time is not be­ing wasted.

What made Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart a good choice for the first ti­tle from Lenny?

Jenny is a writer of un­com­pro­mis­ing hon­esty, com­plete orig­i­nal­ity, mas­sive wit, and real skill. Her sto­ries show us a part of the world, a part of the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence, which most of us have never en­coun­tered. She’s enig­matic and com­pelling as a per­son—there is no one who more clearly rep­re­sents our mis­sion.

How closely will you work with Ran­dom House?

Andy was my edi­tor on my first book, and we are cur­rently at work on my sec­ond. He is my cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tor on a deep and abid­ing level. So we don’t just ac­cept his thoughts, we de­mand them. And we wouldn’t be do­ing this if we didn’t have such a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Ran­dom House.

You’ve pub­lished po­etry is­sues of Lenny.

Any chance you and Ran­dom House have a po­etry im­print in the works?

We would love to pub­lish po­etry and not rel­e­gate it to some musty back room. We just need to find the right poet who we think will spark with readers who may be new to the plea­sures of po­etry.

You’ve writ­ten a book, Not That Kind of

Girl, so do you have any ad­vice for writ­ers who are work­ing on their own?

Work. Work. Work. There’s no sub­sti­tute for ac­tu­ally rolling up your sleeves and get­ting it done.

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