As with a lot of enterprises, our association began— with friendship. Someone asked Genevieve and I yesterday how long we have been working together, and we looked at each other and laughed. Well, for the first five years, we stood around in the school parking lot, getting to know one another and supporting each other through school drop-offs and pickups, the hectic motherhood of toddlers at home. We always had one major thing in common: our love of beautiful books. We then leveled up to home and school fundraisers, working informally on a school playground committee. Weeks passed. Months passed. Years passed.
We were like two sides of the same coin. I was a writer, and she produced books. As a former teacher and Masters in Fine Arts creative writing brat, I talked often of craft, and care, and the writing process. As a Masters in Publishing, Gen talked about ethereal things: design, distribution, and marketing. Although I had published my first manuscript through the faith and fury of the traditional publishing system, I had lived through the gaps in knowledge and service. It didn’t seem right that a publisher took your book on, without a plan to educate young writers about the process, care-taking their experience and inspiring their writers to write more.
Once, Gen showed me some materials from her publishing days. Our boys were the same age, and we used playdates as a method of discovery. Her pages were full of boxes, lines, and places for checkmarks. Did it have a market? Was the author well known? Pagination? Distribution?
It was completely opposite to the world of writing: the act of unleashing one’s own creative well, sometimes diving deep into murk and mud, only to come out dancing furiously in the rain. THIS—is the creative process. Publishing is a completely different animal. It has to make sense. It has to measure up. It has to jump through hoops. And while most everyone enjoys print materials, the industry has somehow remained elusive, coveting its secrets of cover design, paper stock and print runs, all various elements of one small, paged work.
Gen and I continued to work in close circles. I carried on writing, completing my second book and starting a third. I also followed my passion of working with other writers in the community through my local Writers’ Guild, and finally formalized a freelance position in 2018 as an editor and writing coach. Gen carried on in the world of publishing, which in addition to behind the scenes book production, was now just as much of a job focused on marketing, sales and events.
In the summer of 2021, we initiated more formal meetings to discuss industry standards, publishing models, and our future together when sparks started to fly. We wanted to look at the publishing industry through a bit more of a kaleidoscope lens. We wanted to push people’s darkest stories into the light. We wanted to hear more people celebrate their wins. We wanted to tell more diverse stories. We wanted to start—a publishing company.
From those early conversations, our plan was always to use the hybrid model. We loved the traditional model, but we wanted to do it better. We loved the custom publishing model, because we know people want to create their own books. They don’t want to wait; they don’t want to query; they just want to finish it, and press send. The birth of Pownal Street Press has been our way of pressing ‘send’.
And now— we are flying.