We will be accepting submissions in a limited number of categories starting Thursday, January 6, 2022. Believe it or not, we are still working through some of the submissions from last year, in which we received more submissions than all of the last five years combined. The pandemic seems to have been an invitation to many to write down thoughts, to finally start that novel, to craft a poetry collection. This is all wonderful, and we encourage creative writing in all its forms. Because of this, we will be setting submissions caps and deadlines for each category. As the year progresses and we clear through submissions, we will be opening up additional categories, so please check back with us from time to time.
The theme for our Fourth Annual Short Story Anthology is The Natural World. Stories should take place predominantly outdoors or in some natural context, with nature a defining aspect of the work. Man-made environments and situations should take a backseat in the characteristics of landscape, plot, and other elements of your submission. Merriam-Webster defines “the natural world” as “all of the animals, plants, and other things existing in nature and not made or caused by people.” We would love to see stories that explore how interactions with nature cause tension, excitement, wonder, and/or increase the knowledge of the reader and characters in the story. Reconnecting with the natural world is vital in these times of pandemic, resulting in working from home, avoiding crowds, being cooped up in enclosed spaces, away from each other. How can we maintain our humanity without nature? How often should we try to be outside, in nature? What can happen because of it? Without it?
In 2019, Lee and Low published an important Diversity Baseline Study showing statistics among publishers related to the “the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup of their employees.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found a diversity problem, which was reflected in the major offerings in the catalogs of most publishing houses. We began our press with diversity in mind and have resolved to do better, and hope that our offerings continue to show that even small, independent presses need to take seriously the call for diverse books.
Late in 2020, The New York Times sought to take the temperature of the publishing world: were things improving, and if so, how and where? The results were disappointing. While slightly more books of fiction were being published by minority and ethnically-diverse writers, publishing wasn’t paying them as well, and there were still vastly more books overall by white authors. When surveying the most popular books of the period 1950 to 2018 in order to provide a comparative baseline of current author diversity among the largest US publishing houses, an overwhelming 95% works were found to be authored by white writers, while non-Hispanic white persons make up about 60% of the US population. In 2018 alone, 89% of published books were by white authors. Clearly there is room for improvement.
Both studies found that the makeup of publishing houses tended to be factors in what was chosen for publication, and the majority of employees in publishing were, and still are, white. It was noted that during the tenure of Toni Morrison, the percentage of non-white published authors rose at Random House, and dropped notably when she left. Marie Dutton Brown, a contemporary editor at Doubleday who is now a literary agent, has noted that the fluctuation in publishers’ support for Black writers may be attributed to the news cycle, “which periodically directs the nation’s attention to acts of brutality against Black people. Publishers’ interest in amplifying Black voices wanes as media coverage peters out because “many white editors are not exposed to Black life beyond the headlines,” Ms. Brown said.”
Where does Propertius Press lie on the spectrum? We thought we should take a close look. Of the thirty-two (32) books that we will have released by November 20, 2021, fully nine (9) of them are wholly or partially written by those who identify as Black or Minority Ethnic (BAME). This includes Latin, Asian, and Jewish writers. This calculates to about 28% of our catalogue. Seven (7) include works by LGBTQ+ authors. These include our three short-story anthologies, fiction, and non-fiction works. We still have a ways to go before we will be satisfied that our catalogue fully reflects the diversity that it should. Finding statistics on worldwide racial population is actually a bit difficult – Wikipedia, for example, gives population by country but not by race specifically. The closest thing I could find is this pie chart offered by an independent researcher:
So we don’t actually have a good goal in mind, but we try to be aware of the makeup of our catalogue as it grows. In the past, we have limited certain types of submissions categories only to BAME writers. Currently, we are not accepting submissions while we evaluate all of what we have to-date. In the future, we expect the percentage of Black and minority authors in our catalogue to grow. We are open to suggestions about how to do this better, please leave these in the comments below. Thank you so much for your support and readership.
You’ve seen these words on our social media and website, and they may have made you wonder: What does this mean, exactly? Well, to begin with, we’re so small, we don’t have one “location” or place of business, as it were. Our staff numbers less than twenty, including editors, graphic artists, formatters, and marketing staff, all of whom work remotely – from all over the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America, as well as Great Britain and France. Some of us are part-time or retired, but we are all dedicated to carrying each book all the way through the process and into the hands of readers. We don’t earn a profit, but we do pay taxes. Each dollar received after covering the costs of making each book goes back into making more books – paying our authors, graphics folks, editors, and the rest of the Staff who bring these works to life.
Propertius Press is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the National Book Critics Circle, the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), and many of our editors are members of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA).
And finally, we’re not affiliated with any one market or outlet – we’re available internationally and domestically through the widest distribution network in the world: Ingram Content Group. What this means is, anyone, anywhere in the world can order and purchase the books we publish through their local bookstore, library, or online at their favorite ebook site. We aren’t limited to solely Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple iStore, or anywhere else. You can find us wherever books are sold, as well as at our exclusive online bookstore, www.visitourbookstore.com!
Originally known as Decoration Day, the event now called Memorial Day in the US first honored those who died in the American Civil War. It is widely believed to have sprung from the Appalachian tradition of cleaning family gravesites and decorating them with flowers, emblems, and memorabilia on a day set aside when the weather warms up in Spring. These events grew to include gatherings at the cemetery where families would sing, pray, and sometimes even serve a home-cooked picnic dinner among the graves. According to the US Veteran’s Administration, it was not until after World War I that celebrations on Memorial Day were expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. Congress declared the day a national holiday in 1971. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.
This Memorial Day may be quieter than in former years. Solitude and reflection on the weighty cost of war are always appropriate. Perhaps we will want to have a quiet picnic with a book, read aloud in the soft space of time spent with a loved one or ancestor who has gone beyond: Communion of the highest order, we think.
There is a deeply meaningful memory set down by David W. Blight about the first Decoration Day, which happened in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. It was celebrated not by grieving Civil War soldiers’ widows, but by 10,000 free blacks, who affirmed their freedom and sense of belonging within the newly recreated United States; and because they felt it was the right thing to do, re-interred thousands of Union prisoners of war on an old racecourse, a classic symbol of southern wealth and privilege. Not surprisingly, when the annals of history are consulted, little record remains of this first celebration. Read more about this meaningful event and the brave individuals who conducted it here.
Freedom, of course, isn’t free. There will probably always be instances of one individual’s or group’s wish to dominate over another, or all the rest of us. Quiet, resilient, strong, and yes, stubborn resistance and dedication such as was shown by black men, women, and children in Charleston on May 1, 1865 may be, in the end, the most steadfast of struggles. By definition, it is also the most difficult to counteract, which makes it one of the best.
Violence is never the answer, as we all know. It’s a good time to remember this, as we honor those who went before, in their struggles for belief and protection of those beliefs. Let’s not give over to mindless celebrations vaunted by “giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President,” as Howard Zinn admonishes in his 1976 classic essay. He correctly states, “Let the dead of past wars be honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.”
So pack a basket, and take a book to the cemetery for a solitary meal with those who’ve gone before, and perhaps share a song and lay some flowers. Or we can read of peace, in quiet understanding, in our homes where those of us who consider such things important continue to self-isolate and care for our families. Here are a few ideas, including recent offerings, that in the coming weeks may help pave the way toward a different way of thinking about your brave new world.
“You just here for the summer?” David said. “What are you doing?”
“One month. I was in a kibbutz for two weeks and I’ve been touring. Next week I’m going home. This is my last stop.”
“So what do you think of Israel?”
“It’s very nice.”
“What do you do at home?”
“I’m at Ohio State. I’m going into my junior year.”
“Yes. How old are you?”
“I’m twenty too.”
“No, twenty, too.”
“I see.” It made her laugh. “When do you finish the army?”
“Then what’ll you do?”
“I don’t know. Work, I guess.”
“I don’t know. With my hands, I guess. Fixing things.”
In this sweet novella by Fred Skolnik set in the 1960s, a young American coed and an American-Israeli soldier meet at a café in Jerusalem, enjoy each others’ company, and fall in love. Upon her return to America, they begin writing letters back and forth. Eventually they meet again. Their story is sweet, simple, and breathtakingly beautiful, but in the background, the unrest in Israel foreshadows and finally demands the ultimate sacrifice. This is a tragic love story set just before the Six-Day War involving two young Americans — and representing, in effect, the tragic end of the Zionist dream itself, perhaps too fragile in its purity and innocence to endure.
Like all of our books, this wonderful novella will be available on March 16, 2020, in both ebook and paperback, wherever books are sold.
Fred Skolnik is the editor in chief of the 22-volume 2nd edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, winner of the 2007 Dartmouth Medal, and also the author of six novels, three under the pen name, Fred Russell. A collection of his short fiction, Americans & Other Stories, was published by Fomite Press in 2017. He lives in Israel.
You can now pre-order your print or digital copy of the fantastic new novel by Adam Phillips, Something Like My Name. Pre-orders allow you to receive your copy at a substantial discount and before many online or brick-and-mortar dealers have the book in their stores. Books will begin shipping next week, and if you order now, we waive the shipping charges!
Adam Phillips has written a treasure, wide-ranging yet focused, intricate in thought, simple in language. Something Like My Name takes its title from the James Tate poem, Manna, which describes a moment of ineffable beauty and reassurance. Set in northern Idaho, the concurrent struggle of two young men to figure out their paths in life is filled with dark humor, encounters with odd characters, high times, revisiting old mistakes, and death itself. Raw, edgy, and powerful, it will appeal to readers who enjoyed books like Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn. Told in a series of somewhat rambling, linked episodes similar to Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, with the incisive, gritty detail and unflinching tension of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and touches of an almost demented, tragic hilarity that echoes William Kennedy’s Ironweed and Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm. You will find yourself shaken and stirred by the personalities in this story, by who they are and what they become, and the ending, while perhaps foreseen, is nevertheless surprising and satisfying.
Phillips, an Idahoan who has taught at the university level as well as at-risk eighth graders, has some ready familiarity with the absurdities and life challenges illustrated in his story. About the book, he says, “I wanted to demonstrate that this story, the quest to ascribe some type of meaning to yourself and your life, is really the only story that has ever existed, and that each one of us, from the first sentient caveman to the last post-apocalyptic survivor, is possessing and directing a localized version of this same story. To execute this purpose, throughout the book I’ve placed threads of themes and details and characters from some very old very well-traveled shared stories, having spent several years studying the archetypal hero stories, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and the Babylonian and Mesopotamian myths that both Bibles are based on. Readers familiar with any of these sources will recognize the satanic and angelic forces tugging at the protagonists’ souls, the shrouded curses and augers, the bolts of vengeful wrath and beams of benevolent favor. I’ve woven these epic shadows into the sometimes decrepit lives of my earnestly seeking but imperfect protagonists in order to represent the ubiquity of the collective quest.”
Something Like My Name will be available in both ebook and print in our Bookstore and all major online and retail outlets, wherever books are sold. It will be released on January 20, 2020.
There’s no snow on the ground yet where we are. But the holidays beckon and there’s an excitement in the air that somehow seems as if some sparkling winter weather is imminent. Perhaps it’s because there are things afoot; we have been working on some huge changes — website, marketing, social media — and can hardly wait to share it with you.
We’ve been almost too busy to comment, much less plan, for holiday specials or promotions this year; suffice it to say we will more than make up for this soon. We will soon have big news about what we’re working on: more book releases, a new poetry anthology, and — perhaps most exciting of all — increased exposure for our writers! So pardon our relative quiet these past few weeks, and we promise things will liven up soon!
Meanwhile, take a look at our bookstore for the lowest prices on all of our books – we’re certain you’ll find something to please everyone on your gift list! Cozy up with a cup of cocoa and a good read, and celebrate the turning of the season with us. We’ll look forward to serving up some really exciting news in the coming weeks… We can hardly wait.
November 11th is Veterans Day in the US, and is celebrated in other countries worldwide as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. It recognizes the moment when major hostilities ceased, marking the end of the Great War, or World War I.
Today, we honor the service and the life of everyone who served honorably in any branch of the military. For the curious, some handy facts are posted at Defense.gov.
All of us know a Veteran. Please be sure to let these persons know their service is acknowledged and appreciated today. The Veterans Administration has this list of nationwide deals exclusive to Veterans, including free or reduced prices at restaurants, retail outlets, museums, and services such as haircuts and flu shots: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/67508/veterans-day-discounts-2019/
In addition, many of your local indie and small-scale retail and service outfits are also offering Veterans deals. Check for deals in an internet search using your locality + the search terms “Veterans deals” and they’ll come up for you!
From our own catalogue, we love the story told in Acropolis, by Howard Winn (Veteran), about a small group of soldiers who enter university courtesy
of the GI Bill, as each attempts to settle in to a civilian life. The clash of cultures between privileged and working classes combined with personal struggles with PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and simple real-world adjustment battles amid the creative intellectual world of higher education makes for an engaging read. This book helped us to better understand the everyday challenges returning Veterans can face upon returning home.
Finally, in soon to be released…
Some may not be aware of the actor Marlon Brando’s own work with Veterans, which stems all the way back to his very first movie, The Men, in which he portrays a soldier who has to adapt to the loss of the use of his legs. In preparing for the role, Brando actually lived for several weeks at the Veteran’s Hospital near the filming location. He insisted on being put through the exact same rigors as the paraplegic men in the wards, having great sympathy for what these men experienced. As noted by several friends and biographers, Brando felt the best way he could help them was to make them laugh, maybe forget their troubles for awhile. Here’s an excerpt from the upcoming book, “The Impish Humor of Marlon Brando,” by Aubrey Malone:
…he was looking forward to his cinematic maiden voyage, being an admirer of Kramer’s social dramas. When he first met the director, he was dressed in his standard jeans and torn T-shirt. A number of paraplegics from Birmingham Veterans Hospital were also there. They expected an “actor’s actor,” so were pleasantly surprised at the offbeat man they encountered in his place. They were even more surprised when he expressed an interest in moving into their hospital with them full-time.
In fact, Brando stayed in the institution, which was located in the neighborhood of Van Nuys, in Los Angeles, for several weeks. In what would become typical Method, he wanted the experience of living as one of the injured and told his relations, “You can visit me there, but don’t be surprised if you find me in a wheelchair with a urine bottle.”
He even managed to convince a therapist that he was a paraplegic. As he was being fitted for leg braces, the man in question informed an attendant that he was “paralyzed from the tenth dorsal vertebra down.”
One day near the end of his sojourn, he was eating in a restaurant with the paraplegics when a wild-eyed woman entered. She started talking to them about Jesus, about how they might be able to walk again if they believed enough in him. They weren’t interested in her ramblings but Brando pretended to be. He gazed at her with rapt attention. He said, “I believe in the Lord.”
The woman said, “You should believe, soldier, because I know that with the Lord’s work you can recover.”
With that, Brando started to rise from his wheelchair. “I do believe!” he roared, “I do believe!” He gripped the sides of his wheelchair until his knuckles whitened. “I feel the Lord has come right into this room,” he said, “and into my body. The Lord is in my body. I feel it.” He walked to the bar and started dancing and leaping. The woman shrieked and fled the room to hoots of laughter from the veterans.
Hi, I’m Susannah Smith, the publisher here at Propertius Press. I recently did an interview with Duotrope, a subscription-based service for writers and artists that offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art markets and other benefits. Propertius Press has been listed with Duotrope since January 2018, and we know several successful authors found us this way.
It was really helpful to have the opportunity to clarify and expand on the information you can find here on our website. The questions the interviewer posed gave me insight into the types of things people want to know when considering whether to submit their work to a publisher. A writer’s work is precious and meaningful not only to oneself, but to the publisher who makes the decision to print the work and add it to their catalogue. With every offer of publication we fully realize that our reputation hinges on the success of that decision – both yours and ours.
For that reason, I hope you’ll take time to read the interview, and let us know your thoughts. This is our seventh year of bringing unique, polished treasures to the literary world. It’s a labour of love, certainly, but we hope that not only our readers, but all you diverse, talented writers out there can continue to find promising outcomes with us.