Letter from the Editor, September 2019

Dearest Writing Community,

In July, I sat down to write a letter about the difficulties in running a chapbook press, both from an individual’s perspective and a businessperson’s perspective. My intention here is, in equal parts, to check in about what has happened since then, and to update the community on our next steps as a literary organization. Many of you are painfully aware of the vicissitudes of running a press without a major donor or a board of trustees. Hell, it’s even hard to operate a 501c3 with evergreen contributors. When I wrote of the possibility of closing the press, we received an outpouring of support that I never could have predicted. We raised over $4,000 with your help. It was an unexpected boon to our finances and it allowed us to invest in our usual quality of chapbooks replete with bells and whistles. Since then, we have put out chapbooks by Trevor Ketner and Shannon Sankey, and I am hard at work on the finishing touches of edits to Olatunde Osinaike’s beautiful chapbook, Speech Therapy, after which I will start work on Kina Viola’s haunting chapbook, Darkcutter, the final chapbook of 2019.

We receive weekly emails from eager writers, wanting to know when our next chapbook period will open up. I want to be able to say with confidence that we will open up submissions on October 15 or some other concrete, imminent date. But here is an unfortunate truth: Individual chapbook sales have not increased since our last influx, money of which directly contributed to our printer ($1800 for two chapbooks), author honorariums ($600), Adobe Creative Cloud ($36/mo), Submittable ($25/mo), site domain ($220/year), mailing software ($29/mo), and the growing debt from my personal finances that I funnel into the above Atlas expenses when our PayPal account is depleted. We also donated $500 to various San Antonio immigration nonprofits, such as RAICES and TRLA, in the wake of AWP’s tokenizing panels announcements that revealed the dearth of Latinx visibility in a state where they are at once subjugated and terrorized while living in a city in which they make up 64% of the demographic. Admittedly, we did not need to donate this money, but as an activist, I know that every penny matters, and I know that there are issues beyond literature worth fighting. On the topic of AWP, though, we often spend far more than $500 to attend: purchasing a table ($600), flying to the city ($400–600), booking a hotel ($200–500), and sometimes, renting out spaces for AWP off-site events ($100–300). Most of this ends up coming out of personal finances, unless we happen to have caught a lucky break that year, sales-wise.

Here is another truth: I am tired. I am broke. I have consistently operated Atlas since 2012, with an amazing—albeit an in flux—team. In that time, I have gone through so many developments in my personal life and professional career. I wrote and published two full-length books and three chapbooks; I’ve been in the midst of writing five drafts of a novel, an essay collection, a third full-length collection of poems; and presently, I will focus my energy at climate change by pursuing a career as a science journalist. Since 2012, I’ve come and gone from steady incomes and relationships, enjoyed a year of fellowship, and now find myself living the life of an adjunct, which means I’m underpaid and overworked. I’ve nursed abuses and traumas, life-threatening illnesses, and yes, momentary lapses of joy. The year 2020 represents an era of refocus in my growth.

The ;tldr is I need a break. At this moment in time, we will not be holding a fifth-annual reading period. Instead, we are going to apply for grants, radically alter our budget, develop a new editorial team, and continue promoting and selling the tremendous chapbooks we have on offer or will soon publish. It is my hope that we can open up our chapbook submission window sometime in 2020, but “the future,” to quote Virginia Woolf, “is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.”

Thank you so much for the support over the years. Please continue to support us and other small presses well into the future. But more important, support the dying planet. Support refugees and immigrants. Help organizations fight to abolish ICE and the detention camps. Register to vote. Pay attention to the 2020 election and fight tooth and nail for the candidate who MUST defeat Trump. Support literary organizations such as Apogee, Winter Tangerine, Anomaly, and Noemi Press that prioritize marginalized writers and editors. Support anthologized movements such as Bettering American Poetry and No Tender Fences: An Anthology of Immigrant & First-Generation American Poetry to Benefit RAICES-TEXAS. And keep watching us for more information. You will certainly want to purchase the chapbooks we have for sale, as well as our two amazing forthcoming chapbooks. There is so much work to do. Do what you can for yourself and others to ensure we have a world worth living in.

My very best,

Natalie Eilbert

Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief

The Atlas Review / TAR Chapbook Press