In these dark days of an Origami Zoo Press on the brink of closure, many of you may have been clawing at your bookshelves, screaming at your stucco ceilings, wondering what on earth will ever be able to fill the void when we go. It is with that in mind that we embark on a multi-part interview series entitled WHAT WILL FILL THE VOID? wherein we spotlight other small and/or independent presses we love (and hope you will love too!). You can check out part one, with Michael J. Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, here.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty: Jellyfish Highway press is, as we say, postindustrial bioluminescence. JHP is a press for work that stands out—both in authorial voice and narrative—from the traditional and expected. We want to publish risk-taking works and works that glow in the deepest dark. Our first three titles, all by women, represent perfectly the essence of what we are and hope to be.
We have no base of operations. Matt and I live in cities, but JHP is not rooted. There is no office. We exist within the community. As with Sundog Lit, the press interacts with the social media world and the writers found there, and we feel comfortable in that space. Jellyfish Highway Press is our authors, and is that sense of community. It’s not me or Matt. We are here only as sounding machines.
OZP: What are your goals as a press? How do you hope to stand out among the many great independent presses that seem to be springing up every day?
JLD: It’s easy to say that the work we publish will stand out as part of this postindustrial bioluminescence. More specifically, we will publish works that take risks and explore what it means to think of a book as both text and object. The book as a social artifact, a response to the industrial and the quotidian. Ashley Farmer’s The Farmacist is a perfect example of this, with its meditations on the dichotomy of the urban and the rural and the way the lyrical writing breaks down expectations of these settings. Your Sick addresses the domestic through real and imagined illnesses—as an example, one story sees a young girl who carries growing storms inside her. And Melissa Goodrich’s Daughters of Monsters is a phenomenal collection of often-fabulist stories that continue this trend of dismantling everyday life and exploring what the text can be in response to that.
OZP: What writers/books will you be publishing? What else is in the works?
JLD: So, I’ve mentioned the three we have slated for publication already. I don’t want to reveal too much more, though I think we have a good idea of who we will be contacting about publication in year two already. I’ll say that what we will continue to do is publish books by women, writers of color and writers in the LGBTQ community. This is important to us and to the community as a whole and we are committed to showcasing diverse books. Lastly, I’ll just say that we would really love to publish comics. More on that soon.
OZP: Who are some shoot-the-moon, long-shot dream writers (or other people/artists) you’d love to publish given the chance?
JLD: Oh, wow. Does this count as solicitation? Mary Miller, always, for false sense of quiet in her work and the devastation of her work in actuality. Mary, if you’re out there, and you’ve a 1,000-page space opera featuring talking squirrels, send it our way. Claire Vaye Watkins for her sense of place and environment. Amelia Gray, because she is a favorite, always. Traci Brimhall, because Our Lady of the Ruins is a phenomenal book and Cathy Park Hong because Engine Empire really struck me this year as an example of how you might stretch and bend a text. Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler, the writer and artist at Rat Queens, because comics are great and I will publish anything by them.
OZP: If Jellyfish Highway were a fantasy football team, what would their team name be?
JLD: The Citizens, because we fully embrace the need to be great literary community citizens and think that this endeavor is one of the best ways for us to do that.