Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Release Party and Interview with Burrow Press Editor Ryan Rivas

This Thursday, March 28th, stop by Urban ReThink (625 E Central Blvd) for the Burrow Press 15 Views Volume II: Corridor Book Release Party.  This free event runs from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and includes readings by three of the book's authors, and an original art exhibit by Volume II's illustrator, Lesley Silvia.

Be sure to pre-order your book now for event pick-up at a special price of $15.98.  The book includes 30 short stories ("That's only 50 cents a short story!") that loosely tie into one another, spanning diverse settings from Orlando to Tampa.

Below, Burrow Press editor and publisher Ryan Rivas gives us some insight into how the series came to be and about running a small independent press in Orlando.

Let's start with a bit of history: How did Burrow Press come into existence and why do you think it's an important asset to Orlando?

Burrow Press happened when Jana Waring and I decided it might be a good idea to have some kind of hub for fiction writers. There's a lot of open mic poetry and slam poetry in Orlando, but we're fiction and creative nonfiction writers, and mainly wanted to reach further out into the writing community and find some like-minded people. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of talented writers living in town. I think BP is an asset because, even though not everything we publish is locally focused, we dedicate a lot of time to trying to make Orlando more of a literary city, celebrating the talented writers here, and trying to encourage collaboration among all our city's literary institutions––Rollins, UCF, Valencia, Kerouac House, Atlantic Center, and tons of unaffiliated writers.

What's your selection process or criteria for choosing written pieces? 

Our online literary journal, Burrow Press Review, publishes short stories, flash fiction and creative nonfiction once a week, and we have open submissions year-round for that via Submittable. We look for excellent, character-driven work (not so much genre stuff, like horror, romance, sci-fi), but we're pretty diverse in our tastes, and have published a wide-range of writers, some who've had work in The New Yorker and some who are publishing for the first time.

We've got so much stuff already in the pipeline that our print submissions (for novels, short story collections, etc.) are currently closed.

How did the original idea for 15 View of Orlando come about?

That would be the work of the series editor Nathan Holic. He was a student of the late Jeanne Leiby, an amazing a writer, professor, and editor, who spent some time here in Orlando out at UCF. In her workshops, she'd do an activity where her students would create a city and write stories about it. Nathan does this in his classes now, too.

At some point after we met, Nathan proposed using this framework for a book about Orlando, but rather than invent a city, we'd use Orlando because it already has sort of an image problem. By giving literary writers who live (and have lived) in Orlando an opportunity to represent our city in fiction, we knew it would be a much more nuanced place. Each writer has to pick a different Metro Orlando location, and we added the condition that each writer after the first has to pull some kind of element (be it a character or a metaphor or an object) from a previous story, so the result is a sprawling, loosely linked, kinda messy, never completely finished, but ultimately honest portrait of the city.

What made you want to add the Tampa Bay area as a second location in Volume II?

Imperial hubris? No. I was thrilled to discover people outside Orlando were interested in this type of project. Orlando isn't the only Florida city that suffers from stereotypes and misconceptions, and creating alternative visions of Florida cities has really become the mission of the 15 Views series. So John Henry Fleming, a great writer who lives and teaches in Tampa, reached out and broached the topic of expanding the series, and for me it was a no brainer. It just so happens that Tampa also has a ton of amazing, established writers living across the Bay Area. In this volume we decided to put Orlando and Tampa back-to-back in one book because we're kind of rival cities, and the subtitle of the book "Corridor" references that fabulous stretch of hell that connects us. I am stunned and honored still by the authors who agreed to participate, and did such a great job playing our little game. Stay tuned for even further expansion: 15 Views of Miami drops November of this year.

Tell us about the artwork by Lesley Silvia and why you chose to illustrate this edition.

Lesley is a friend and just such a talented artist. One of her go-to mediums is papercutting. It happens that there are various regional roots to the medium of papercutting, and I thought, after the fact, that it was a perfect match for the type of regional project we've got in 15 Views. But really the idea of having silhouette-like illustrations to go along with each 15 Views story just sort of popped in my head, and I thought of Lesley Silvia, and I was like, "Hey, Lesley, will you strangle me if I ask you to make 30 papercuts and a book cover for the next book?" Luckily she is always hard at work on something, a true artist, and she said yes. She doesn't mess around, and she produced 30 (31 technically) amazing pieces that capture the essence of each story. Not to mention the best book cover I've ever seen. All the papercuts from the book will be on display at the book release, as well some of Lesley's other, more detailed work. And she'll be selling posters of that sexy book cover, so I encourage you to come out and support not just Burrow, but Lesley.

What are your hopes for the future of Orlando's literary community?

I hope that the excitement of what's going on in Orlando's lit community eventually spreads to more and more readers (or non-writers). I want Orlando to be considered a literate, well-read, if not literary, city. There are so many smart and creative people, so many great writers, and I think eventually we'll be recognized for that. The Enzian does it for film. Snap! does it for photography. Soon enough this city will jump on the book train.

I'd also love to see more readings and lit events and, like, an independent bookstore or two would be nice. It's things like bookstores and readers that strengthen the fabric that holds all this lit stuff together. Most writers around here are awesome people, and they support one another, but it'd be great to see more outside support. And for that to happen, it's important that the average reader/book nerd/curious person feels comfortable coming out to these events and being a part of the community. So let me say right now: we're not stuffy elitists writing irrelevant, inaccessible crap! Plus many of us like to drink. Come out to an event and say hi!

In four words, describe what people can expect from 15 View Volume II.

A pretty good read.

Ryan Rivas is the Publisher of Burrow Press (which publishes fiction and creative nonfiction in print and online) and the Programs Director of Page 15 (which provides free tutoring and creative writing programs to Orlando kids). Both are programs of the Urban Think! Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. His writing has appeared in the Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, Annalemma, Prick of the Spindle, and elsewhere.

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