Interview: Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is the author of Reading with Oprah (which is coming out in paperback soon), a regular contributor to the Ploughshares Blog, a regular contributor to the Redivider, and the co-founder of Rose Metal Press (along with Abigail Beckel), who publish books in “hybrid genres,” including Brevity & Echo, a collection of short shorts. A witty, wonderful teacher who was constantly recommending me books while I was her student during my freshman year of college, she currently resides in Tacoma, Washington.

MB: Why short shorts? Why now?

KR: From the outset, Abby and I wanted Rose Metal Press to promote forms that are relatively recently emerged, or not traditionallly “established,” and short shorts seemed to be a good place to start. As a new press, we knew that we had close at hand many talented writers of short shorts that we could reach and get to contribute work. Thanks to BREVITY & ECHO, we ended up falling so in love with the form, that we started a Short Short Chapbook competition, and our first winner of that, Claudia Smith, will have her book THE SKY IS A WELL AND OTHER SHORTS out with us next month. Short shorts have a relatively small, but dynamic and committed community surrounding them, and having begun working with them ourselves, we can see why. They’re contagious; after the pleasure of reading a few, the form sort of invites and encourages you to try it yourself.

MB: Did you see anything out there in the world of other short short anthologies that you wanted to address / respond to / politely fix with “Brevity & Echo?”

KR: We like and admire the many short short anthologies that pre-date BREVITY & ECHO, and have found the authors and editors of those books to be quite supportive. Robbie Shapard, for example, co-editor of the SUDDEN FICTION books is going to be the judge of our next chapbook competition. That said, Emerson has been known for a long time and probably should be even more widely known as an incubator for a lot of really excellent writers of short shorts, due largely to Pamela Painter’s presence in the Writing, Literature, & Publishing Department. BREVITY & ECHO seemed to provide an opportunity to showcase that excellence. All the stories in the book have been previously published in places like Quick Fiction and McSweeney’s, but they’d never been collected.

MB: What sort of advice have you been getting re: the press?

KR: We’ve been fortunate to get really good advice from people like Pam Painter, Ron Carlson, and Martha Rhodes (of Four Way Books), and our pro bono arts lawyer Serge. He helped us get our non-profit status from the IRS, which we just received last week and for that he is our hero.

MB: I’d heard about that (the wait for the non-profit status). What took so long?

KR: Waits of arbitrary lengths seem to be sort of the IRS’s “thing.” At one point, Abby called their hotline to check on the status of the paper work Serge had helped us file, and she was told by the pre-recorded message to “try again another day.” Not that her wait time would be x minutes, or even to call back later that morning, but to actually just not bother and call back another day.

MB: How’d you approach editing with the writers? How’d it go?

KR: The nice thing about putting together an anthology of previously published material is that most of the stories we ended up accepting had already been fairly thoroughly vetted. The hardest part of it, honestly, was tracking some of the authors down. People had graduated long ago, changed their names, moved out of the country and so forth. Abby and I had to put on our deerstalker caps and sleuth around to track everyone down to get permissions and bios and final revisions. Abby looks adorable in a deerstalker cap.

(Image courtesy of KathleenRooney.com)

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