Just when I was about to mention how pleased I am to partner with Kore Press as a reader of book submissions, here comes news that Kore Press is one of the winners of the National Book Award's "Innovations in Reading" prizes. Perhaps it doesn't need to be spelled out, but the award honors individuals and organizations that "developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading." Here's the Kore Press citation:
For eighteen years, Kore Press has been defined by innovation. Whether it's publishing the highest quality women's literature, educating youth, or doing creative community programming, they have been on the edge of using literature to advance progressive social change. As a community of literary activists, Kore is dedicated to engaging the public through several visionary, creative writing projects. The "Grrls Literary Activism Workshop" is an after-school creative-writing-as-activism program that engages youth with America's long, literary history of passionate writing intended for communal, public circulation in the world rather than in the private form of a book (using t-shirts, video PSAs, readings, podcasts, poems wrapped around tampons and loaded into a repurposed tampon machine that travels to public restrooms). "Bounce Back" uses literature in surprising ways to raise awareness and create safety for queer students, teachers, and staff on high school and university campuses (using a 40-foot banner, a blog, a newspaper ad, posters in elevators, coffee cup sleeves, repurposed political yard signs). And with "Coming in Hot," Kore created, produced, and toured a play based on a collection of poetry and memoir by women in the US military as a means to both expand audiences into traditionally non-literary populations (military, veterans, teens) and to create a vehicle for dialogue.
Bad-ass, no? And while it isn't articulated here, I want to note that I appreciate Kore's quiet tradition of offering substantive feedback on each manuscript it receives -- eloquent, sharp-eyed, concise responses even (especially) to those authors it chooses not to publish. For any publisher, this is a radical commitment to keep, certainly at the level of Kore's grace. I believe this signifies a deep respect of the creative act, and, in its own way, it carries forward this "innovations in reading" ethic. It is a way of modeling and articulating deep reading in a format -- a rejection letter --where it's rarely found.
That's a wonderful tradition to step into, and I'm looking forward to contributing what I can as a Kore Press reader. In the meantime, check out the Isak Interview with Shannon Cain, the publisher's fiction editor.