Collaboration and Conversation: Interview on The Believer Logger

Interviews, News Section, Reviews

May 21st, 2013




Go Forth, Vol. 7


Originally posted May 15, 2013


NICOLLE ELIZABETH: Hi, Lisa. We’re interviewing publishers, authors, and editors in an effort to share information with readers on what it is like to work in the many facets of publishing. Siglio is a publishing house that has brought many things, such as the works of Spero and Brainard and Calle, to better light. Can you walk us through the differences between publishing novels and publishing art books, with regard to the specifics of the process?

LISA PEARSON: Collaboration and conversation. The novelist generally writes in isolation and most often thinks of “the book” as a kind of delivery system for the language she has so carefully composed and honed into a work of literary art. If she works with an editor, it is on the writing itself; the physical qualities of “the book” are out of her hands and may be of little interest other than wanting a really great cover and decent paper stock. For an artist, and particularly for the kinds of books Siglio publishes—which are more like artists’ books than monographs or catalogues—the physical manifestation of the work as a book is not only critical but intrinsic to the work: it mediates the reader’s relationship with that work in a way that is much less transparent than with a novel, a nonfiction book, or a collection of stories. There are a thousand decisions, large and small, to get the work to really live on the page and as as an object the reader holds in her hands. That’s a dynamic process in which publisher and author/artist engage together: it’s creative and conceptual, but also practical and logistical. And I bring that same kind of attention to the fiction and prose I publish. For instance, in the novel SPRAWL by Danielle Dutton, there are no actual images, but the shape of the book itself, the wide margins, and the space between lines of text, make an essential contribution to nature of the reader’s experience with the book. It’s subtle, but it makes a difference.

NE: How much time does it typically take for an art book to be birthed to the world, from acquisition to shelf?

LP: “Acquisition” isn’t quite the right word for what I do, though I hope it will be sometime in the future (and make my life a little easier). Many of the books I publish are nurtured, developed, shaped into form out of conversations with the artists and writers (or those who represent their estates) I approach or who approach me. Sometimes it takes as little as six months from an initial breakfast meeting of coffee and latkes to a press-ready book (as with The Nancy Book by Joe Brainard, edited by Ron Padgett and myself). Other times, the gathering, editing, designing process can easily take more than a year (or three as it was with It Is Almost That: A Collection of Image+Text Work by Women Artists & Writers, so that I could consider hundreds of works and narrow the selection down to a couple dozen). And in some cases, a conversation gets started without necessarily a specific project in mind, and we just see where it goes. Of course, when an unsolicited query lands in my inbox and yields a book like SPRAWL (which required minimal editing), I’m thrilled…

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