Mary Gan­non Leads CLMP

Poets and Writers - - Trends - –CAT RICHARD­SON

In Novem­ber, Mary Gan­non, formerly the as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor and di­rec­tor of con­tent for the Academy of Amer­i­can Po­ets, be­came the new ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Com­mu­nity of Literary Mag­a­zines and Presses (CLMP). She suc­ceeds Jef­frey Lepen­dorf as the head of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, which since its found­ing in 1967 has pro­vided literary presses and mag­a­zines across the United States with di­rect tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance, guid­ance on ev­ery­thing from au­di­ence build­ing to fund-rais­ing, and a plat­form through which pub­lish­ers can con­nect with read­ers, writ­ers, and one an­other. Prior to her ten­ure at the Academy of Amer­i­can Po­ets, Gan­non was the ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor of Po­ets & Writ­ers (she is also mar­ried to Po­ets & Writ­ers’ editor in chief, Kevin Larimer). As she pre­pared to step into her new po­si­tion, Gan­non spoke about CLMP’s po­ten­tial, its place in the literary land­scape, and the im­pact of in­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ing. What is CLMP’s most im­por­tant role? Our main role is to help raise the or­ga­ni­za­tional ca­pac­ity of literary mag­a­zines and presses and to sup­port them in what­ever way that they need. But there is also a harder-to-de­fine area of sup­port that comes from cre­at­ing the time and space for them to work to­gether, have con­ver­sa­tions, and dis­cover the ques­tions and prob­lems that they, be­cause they’re such a hard­work­ing group, haven’t had time to think about. In­ten­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a re­ally valu­able thing to help fa­cil­i­tate. We want to con­tinue to make those spa­ces on a na­tional level for mem­bers to col­lab­o­rate, lever­age one an­other’s strengths, and work to­ward this higher goal of mak­ing sure that lit­er­a­ture thrives.

What are the most sig­nif­i­cant needs of small presses and literary mag­a­zines right now?

Dis­tri­bu­tion is a chal­lenge, so fig­ur­ing out how CLMP can help literary pub­lish­ers get their work out is im­por­tant. How can we make sure that their mag­a­zines and books are be­ing sold in book­stores and seen in ma­jor on­line book­selling venues, so that all the good work they’re do­ing is ac­tu­ally get­ting out there and con­nect­ing with peo­ple? I think the other chal­lenge will be the fund-rais­ing as­pect of it—try­ing to make sure that CLMP has the re­sources it needs to pro­vide the re­sources for the net­work that it serves.

Are there other chal­lenges that you see on the hori­zon?

I think it is un­de­ni­able, es­pe­cially with younger gen­er­a­tions, that at­ten­tion is shift­ing, and the way peo­ple learn and read is shift­ing, so mak­ing sure that pub­lish­ers and pro­duc­ers of literary art are con­tend­ing with that in a way that works for ev­ery­body is a chal­lenge. I’m not re­ally sure what that looks like yet, but it’s very in­ter­est­ing to me. Hav­ing said that, it’s also a re­ally ex­cit­ing time for in­de­pen­dent and small pub­lish­ing, be­cause in the wake of the con­glom­er­a­tion of big pub­lish­ers, it has cre­ated space for in­no­va­tive, ded­i­cated peo­ple to put to­gether these projects that con­nect writ­ers with au­di­ences and make sure that lit­er­a­ture is in­clu­sive. Not to say that the big pub­lish­ers aren’t also putting beau­ti­ful books and mag­a­zines into the world, but for a healthy ecosys­tem you need di­ver­sity. And I think that’s where the smaller pub­lish­ers come into play.

Do you have any big plans for CLMP?

I have a few ideas, but one of the things I need to do first is make sure I am to­tally up to speed on what mem­bers’ needs are. Run­ning a small press or literary mag­a­zine is re­ally hard work, and peo­ple are driven to it be­cause they’re pas­sion­ate about it, and they have a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment to and love of the art form. Be­cause of them we have ac­cess to all these sto­ries that trans­form our lives, help us con­tend with what it means to be hu­man, and make us bet­ter ci­ti­zens. That’s a beau­ti­ful thing, and they de­serve to be sup­ported in ev­ery way they can.

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