Thursday, April 14, 2005

Latinidad With Wings: Q&A With the Chicanaesque Poet—Bryce Milligan—My New Publisher

Latinidad™ Newsletter – March/April 2005: Poetry

1. Saludos: Poetry
2. Editor Q&A: Bryce Milligan, Wings Press
3. Author Spotlight: E.A. "Tony" Mares
4. Upcoming Workshops: How to Pitch Your Book Idea/What Editors
Really Want
5. Writing Opportunities: True Poet Magazine Seeks Poems
For lists of agents and editors seeking Latino writers, visit and click on Writing Opportunities.
1. Saludos
April is Poetry Month. While there are numerous journals that
publish individual poems, it can be challenging to publish a book-
length collection of poems. Thankfully, there are a number of small
publishers that are dedicated to supporting poets. Wings Press,
which is featured below, is one example. When seeking a publisher
for your collection of poems, focus on smaller or regional
publishers instead of large publishers.

Helping Latino writers get published,
Marcela Landres

2. Editor Q&A
Bryce Milligan is the Publisher/Editor of Wings Press, one of the
oldest continually operating small presses in Texas. Wings Press
publishes up to 15 titles a year, including a wide array of
multicultural poetry, fiction, anthologies, and scholarship.
Milligan is also the primary editor of the anthologies Daughters of
the Fifth Sun: A Collection of Latina Fiction and Poetry and of
¡Floricanto Sí! A Collection of Latina Poetry.

Why is Wing Press a great home for Latino writers?
The Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago said that, "at
Wings, 'diversity' is about the preservation and propagation of
distinctive literature." That really is true. I certainly don't
limit the focus of the press to Latina/o writing – but I have always
found Latino/a literature to be distinctive. I do have to say that
for the most part, my heart belongs to Chicano/a literature, at
least in terms of what I publish. Even though I edited a couple of
the first "all-Latina" anthologies to come from NY houses –
Daughters of the Fifth Sun (Putnam/Riverhead) and ¡Floricanto Si: A
Collection of Latina Poetry (Penguin) – I've never been comfortable
with the implicit melting pot ideology of the term Latino or Latina.
But back to the question at hand. Ramón Renteria, the book editor of
the El Paso Times, said last year: "Without publishers like Wings,
Latino and Chicano literature would remain in a deep well in
America." I think what he was getting at was that presses like
Wings, and Bobby Byrd's Cinco Puntos Press, and others celebrate
this literature for what it is and on an equal footing with all our
other titles. I have great admiration for most of the old Chicano
and Latino presses, but in the mainstream mind there is a too often
a perception of ghetto-ization when they see a book from a press
that is limited to one ethnicity or even one gender. If a title is
on the Wings list, then readers know that it is there because of the
quality of the writing, the breadth of the imagination, and the
intellect. I try to the best of my abilities to publish only books
that have those qualities, no matter who the author is. That being
said, I must admit that I've never published a Republican to my

Which Latino authors has Wings Press published?
It is a long list, actually. Some of our more well known authors
are – alphabetically -- Marjorie Agosín, Ana Castillo, Lorna Dee
Cervantes, María Espinosa, the journalists Patrisia Gonzales and
Roberto Rodriguez, E. A. "Tony" Mares, Cecile Pineda, Raúl Salinas
(raúlrsalinas), Virgil Suárez, Carmen Tafolla, and Alma Luz
Villanueva. Of course there are several other major writers in some
of our anthologies. Wings also publishes a lot of first-time
authors, mainly poets. For a while we had a prize – the Premio
Poesía Tejana – for Texas Latinas under the age of 30. There were
seven books in that series, by Greta De Leon, Victoria García
Zapata, Celeste Guzmán, Carolina Monsivaís, Nicole Pollentier, Mary
Grace Rodriguez, and Frances Treviño. Some others include Wings,
Sheila Sanchez Hatch and Deborah Parédez.

I really like publishing great writing that has been or is being
overlooked by readers. For example, I republished two of Cecile
Pineda's books from the 1980s and 90s – Face and The Love Queen of
the Amazon. A third republication is coming next spring, her novel
Frieze. I've also published three new works by Cecile: Fishlight: A
Memoir of Childhood and two extremely innovative "mononovels,"
Bardo99 and Redoubt. Now, if you don't know Cecile's writing,
consider this statement from last September's (2004) Bloomsbury
Review: "Writers, readers, teachers, and creative writing classes,
take note: Cecile Pineda is an American original, a literary
treasure, and her prodigiously inventive and important work, finally
returning to print in a landmark and long-awaited reissue, deserves
a place in the forefront of American literature." By the way, you
can expect to hear an interview with Cecile on Latino USA on NPR
coming up in the near future.

Wings has three very important Latina titles coming out in the fall
of 2004. The first out will be a 200-page collection of poetry by
Marjorie Agosín entitled The Tree of Memory / El arbol de la
memoria. It is a facing page edition, Spanish and English. A musical
based on this book will be touring the country in 2005-2006. Next
out will be Ana Castillo's first published play, Psst … I Have
Something to Tell You, Mi Amor, which is about the rape and torture
of Sister Dianna Ortiz at the hands of US-funded and US-directed
forces in Guatemala. The third is a serious coup for any publisher
interested in Latina literature – Lorna Dee Cervantes' first book in
14 years. Drive: The First Quartet is nearly 300 pages of really
really powerful poetry. Drive will debut with a reading at the
National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 14.

What kinds of manuscripts do you seek?
I have probably published more poetry than is good for any press, so
I'm moving more toward fiction and non-fiction for a while. But to
answer the question, I'm not "seeking" anything in particular. I
know what I will publish when I see it.

How can writers avoid your "Reject" pile and get into your "Pursue"
The first thing is to pick the right publisher for what you are
writing. I get an enormous number of romance novel submissions, for
example, and just a glace at the website will indicate that this is
one of the last things on earth I would publish. Actually reading a
book or two from the press and mentioning them in your cover letter
is an excellent thing to do.

Don't send me an entire book. It won't get read and it is a waste of
good trees. I prefer to get an informative cover letter with just a
few poems or one or two chapters, and I prefer to get them by e-mail
first. If I am interested, I'll ask for more. Also, as the website
says, Wings does not publish poets who do not read poetry. You
wouldn't believe how often that happens. Something else that will
get my attention in a cover letter is a clear indication of how
active the writer is when it comes to giving readings, going to book
fairs and conferences, all that. New authors sometimes do not
understand that a publisher is not automatically a booking agency.
Except in special circumstances where the sales are likely to be
substantial, we do not arrange or pay for book tours. Think about
how many books one has to sell just to pay for an average airplane
ticket. But the single most important thing is to interest me with
both the cover letter and the sample.

Other than honing their craft, what is the smartest step writers can
take to become happily published?
"Successfully" is a relative term here. Beyond the satisfaction of
publishing a good book, for the publisher, success is necessarily
measured in sales, reviews, awards, etc., but mainly sales. For the
author, it could be that "success" simply means another book on
their shelf, or perhaps it is the thing that puts them over the line
in pursuit of university tenure, or perhaps it is just about getting
a good critical response. The author expects royalties, but no one
should reasonably expect to be able to live off the royalties from a
regional publisher. On the other hand, my authors can buy their own
books on credit at a 50% discount, then go out and sell them at
their non-bookstore events such as readings and lectures at schools
and other organizations, conferences and book fairs, etc. One of my
authors does at least two educational conferences a month, and at
each she sells 50 books or more. For a $16 book, that means she is
making about $400 per event in book sales, plus her honorarium. As I
said above, the author must be actively involved in promoting the
book. I have rejected numerous authors with five or six books to
their credit, many trailing awards, because when I call up their
other publishers and ask the crucial question -- "Do their books
sell?" – I am told that the author doesn't help to push the book. I
do not think that many regional publishers have any illusions of
getting rich in this business. Almost all of us plow a significant
portion of the "profits" right back into the next book. So "success"
requires effort on everyone's part, but the author most of all.

Send submissions to: Bryce Milligan, Wings Press, 627 E. Guenther,
San Antonio, TX 78210 or
Wings Press web site:
More Editor Q&A


Anonymous Enrique Ferland said...

Thanks!! I think Ill return in the near future

17/12/05 05:05  

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