Dallas Noir & Donations Accepted & Drenka Willen

I wrote a fun piece for fellow CLMP members, dear friends, and indie publishers extraordinaire Akashic Books abut why Dallas is the “ultimate noir town” to celebrate the release of the (awesome) Dallas Noir anthology, edited by Dallas-based literary agent David Hale Smith, and featuring stories by some of our finest local writers and characters, including Ben Fountain, Kathleen Kent, Matt Bondurant, and more. Check the little essay out here, and pick up the collection on Akashic’s site!

As a side note, earlier this week Deep Vellum and The Writer’s Garret formalized our fiscal sponsorship, meaning you can now make tax deductible donations to Deep Vellum via The Writer’s Garret–just make sure you write in a note in the “Special notes or requests?” box on the Paypal page to specify Deep Vellum Publishing is how you would like to direct your donation. This is fundraising-lite. Intro to Fundraising 101. Get in on the ground floor with a startup publisher looking to shake things up, be the change we all want to see in the world, get yourself recognized and make a big difference with a (comparatively) small donation. And coming soon I’ll have information about the benefits you as a donor will receive from Deep Vellum for varying levels of support, including swag, special events invitations, and recognition in the books for posterity to recognize your benevolent awesomeness. If you have questions about donating or about getting yourself recognized in print, supporting the publication of a series or a single book from a particular language group, email me.

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And one last thing for today, since this is after a blog where I hope to someday actually talk about world literature (with reviews! gossip! news! etcetera!), thanks to Chad over on the Three Percent blog I got to read this fantastic piece about Drenka Willen winning the first James H. Ottaway, Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature, which she was awarded at the Words Without Borders 10th Anniversary Gala a few weeks ago.I missed this post when it was originally written by Sal Robinson, an editor at Melville House and co-founder of the way-too-amazing Bridge Series (a reading series in NYC focusing on translation), who had the privilege and pleasure of working at Harcourt back in the day with Drenka, the legendary editor of such literary legends as Günter Grass, José Saramago, Wisława Szymborska, and Octavio Paz (four Nobel Prize winners!!) and many, many other authors, among them Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Stanislaw Lem, Charles Simic, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Bohumil Hrabal, Danilo Kiš, Margaret Drabble, Cees Nooteboom, and Ryszard Kapuściński. To work with and publish any ONE of those authors is a goal for any publisher of world literature, it was all in a day’s work for Drenka. Check out this amazing passage from Sal’s touching post on Drenka, and congratulations and eternal thanks to her for all she’s done for world literature!

In 2003, I came to work for her, first as an editorial assistant, then as an assistant editor, for eight years, and I learned many things, heard many stories, lived with her through deaths, mergers, firings, and the complete publication cycles of around 200 books. The experience gave me a lifelong to-read list from Drenka and the Wolffs’ backlist, which I will probably never get through: damn you, Georges Simenon! “Max Frisch,” she’d say, “is wonderful,” and I’d nod. I’m sure, I’m sure, but there are new books I have to write copy for, due tomorrow, I’d think. “Roads to Santiago,” she’d say, “You would like Roads to Santiago.”

In the meantime, we worked on the new books. They’re out in the world now. I see them in bookstores, on the subway, on people’s bookshelves. They seem to have always existed. And the editor’s role is so odd, so evanescent: we didn’t write the book, our names aren’t on them anywhere, the decisions that Drenka made, in pencil, on stacks of manuscripts, aren’t obvious.  I boxed up some of those manuscripts and sent them to the archives: no one asked me to, no one, in fact, seemed to care, including Drenka, whether we recycled the manuscript of the new translation of The Tin Drum or it went into climate-controlled, researcher-ready, deep storage.

But we were so close to them. Actually, literally, so close, Drenka leaning over the pages, doing one of the things she likes to do most in the world—editing sentences. I would be called in occasionally to give an opinion on something, to hear something read aloud, to read something aloud, to go over tipsheet copy, catalog copy, galley copy, jacket copy (sometimes, copy sessions actually put me to sleep, sitting up at the table). All those little pieces of a book, as inglorious as they often are, and the glorious parts too—our collective hands, side by side, are all over them. And it’s hard to throw those pages away.

Drenka Willen, winner of the first annual James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature

Drenka Willen, winner of the first annual James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature

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