Alan Squire Publishing tries something new.
Once I ran away. At 8 years old, I packed a sky-blue suitcase, which was as long as I was tall. The handle bit into my palm. It was an illusion of heaviness since it was fairly empty — I wore all the clothes that fit me. I trudged down my block, Daisy Farms Drive, though running away was an illusion, too. I had nowhere to go. I only wanted to leave my lonely, motherless home. After a while, Pop noticed I was gone, or one of my younger siblings snitched, and he drove up beside me in the station wagon and said, “Get. In. Now.”
Some days, I feel like I’m still running away from that house, but it is always there. So, I was both nervous and eager to see Alan Squire Publishing’s first-ever anthology, Already Gone: 40 Stories of Running Away, edited by Hannah Grieco. This new collection prompted me to reach out to Rose Solari, a widely published poet, editor, and co-founder, with James J. Patterson, of ASP, to learn more about her dynamic small press, which was founded in 2010.
How do anthologies fit into your overall mission for ASP?
Well, this is our first anthology, so it’s a very new thing for us. But as an entrepreneur, I’ve always believed that if a smart and trustworthy team member brings in a new idea they’re super excited about, good things will come from supporting that. In this case, ASP Associate Editor Hannah Grieco pitched the idea to me for this anthology. Hannah is a huge talent, and I’d seen what a fine job she did editing a previous anthology for another small press. She came up with the concept of an anthology about running away, opened the call for submissions, solicited writers, and wrote the introduction. We’re thrilled with the result.
As a reader, I was also thrilled with this hybrid collection of fiction and memoir. As Grieco notes in her introduction, “Maybe we all want to run away…and if we can’t release the burden in real life, perhaps the page is where we turn.” Rarely is there a story collection that speaks to both the writer and the child in me as Already Gone did.
Deesha Philyaw’s story, “Mother’s Day,” about a mother leaving as her kids sleep, just about broke my heart. The wondrous flash story “That Kind of Love,” by Melissa Llanes Brownlee, imagines a girl at the sea’s edge, ready to run from her tumultuous family life, the sea and its gods calling to her in images that glint and roil.
In Zach Powers’ “Surface Treatments,” I was hoping the children would run from their alcoholic parents. In language that’s as horrifying as it is plaintive in its exacting detail, the act of painting a home becomes the very act that destroys it. And in Jen Soong’s evocative “Feeding Time,” the narrator packs her mother’s suitcase with food but warns against hungry ghosts. It’s a haunting story of never entirely leaving the past behind.
There are many ways we run away from those we love, care for, or need to escape, and these stories explore them all.
I always grapple with how to end my own stories and even how to order them in a collection. Grieco chose a poetic meditation on boys leaving and returning to conclude Already Gone, “Hummingbirds in the Forest of Needle and Blood,” by Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán. One must read the entire dreamy fable, with each sentence skillfully starting with the command “Say.” The story ends on this call: “Say this is our story. Ours.”
Already Gone’s stories are our stories, and its culmination gives warning and hope to all those who wish to run away — or to write.
As someone who’s worked for years as an editor and now also as a publisher, I had one more question for Solari.
What is the first thing you tell writers who approach you about being published by Alan Squire?
We are a very author-centric press: From acquisition through the editing process and into the design of the finished book, we want the author to feel well-served and well-represented. Therefore, we put a lot more time into the editing process than many other small presses do, and that can require a bit of an adjustment on the part of authors who have previous indie books. And the author must, absolutely must, be ready to get out there and promote themselves.
I would run away with Solari and Grieco if I could. But this isn’t a column about running away but about running toward independent presses like Alan Squire Publishing. Here’s to a new year filled with literary discoveries, with more columns on small presses, and always with peace and joy.
Caroline Bock is the author of Carry Her Home, winner of the Fiction Award from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and LIE and Before My Eyes, YA novels from St. Martin’s Press. She is co-president of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, a nonprofit literary press based in Washington, DC.