Moveable Type: Interview with Michelle Dotter, Publisher and Editor in Chief

April 8, 2021

Dzanc Books Logo

Can you tell me about the mission at Dzanc Books?

Dzanc was founded to champion brilliant, experimental, innovative literary fiction and nonfiction—fantastic books that sometimes get overlooked by the publishing industry because they’re not necessarily commercial. From winners of the Shirley Jackson and Whiting Awards to Lambda, Pulitzer, and Man Booker Prize finalists, along with dozens of other honors, our authors are exceptional talents, and we’re honored to be putting their work into the world. Our books are passion projects—we publish what we like and what we believe in, always with an eye to uplifting new writers and making space for writers who are often squeezed out of commercial publishing.

How about a little bit about what you do?

Beyond our publishing activities, through which we publish ten to fourteen new titles each year, we also run a Writers-in-the-Schools program, offer low-cost mentorship opportunities for aspiring authors, and are partners with the Disquiet International Literary Program, which runs an incredible writing conference in Lisbon, Portugal each year (except 2020 and 2021). We also run three contests every year, which gives us a chance to find great new work in a variety of forms.

Is there a current project you’re excited about working on?

This is always the hardest question, because I have too many amazing books in progress. I’ll give you the six-word pitch for a few of them: In The Event Of Contact (May): Stories of connection & the Irish diaspora; And Then The Gray Heaven (June): Queer roadtrip, grief as hero’s journey; Between Tides (August): A young woman, a widow, two coasts; Siege Of Comedians (September): Novel in triptych, siege of Vienna; Skin Elegies: Why can’t I hold her hand?

Now that we’ve been dealing with this pandemic for a year, how have these times affected the way you work as a press?

We always operated remotely, so in that sense, not too much has changed. But I miss the chance to get to talk up our books directly at conferences and hear about great in-person events our authors are doing. Standing behind the booth at AWP every year is grueling, but it’s also one of my favorite times of the year: getting to talk with readers and writers, meeting some of my own authors who have been largely theoretical to that point, and sharing some very unconventional reads. We’ve been glad for the digital opportunities that have helped fill the hole. But like the character in the first story of In the Event of Contact, I too feel a yearning for connection across an unbreachable divide.

How can readers support Dzanc Books?

As a nonprofit, donations are always appreciated. But the best way to support us and our authors is to read our books, share them around, leave reviews if they affect you deeply. We’re distributed by PGW, so our books are available everywhere. And please remember to shop small and support our friends in the indie bookstore community, too. They’re the biggest champions of small presses and local authors.

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