Shade Mountain Press is a one woman show.
Colonie-based publisher Rosalie Morales Kearns is an author and career copy editor who, since 2014, has committed the rare moments of her free time to operating the feminist micro-press that publishes one book per year by women across the country—particularly marginalized women of color, disabled women, women from low-income or working-class backgrounds and LGBTQ women.
“It came to me when I was trying to get my first book published, a short story collection called ‘Virgins and Tricksters’ (2012) and I was approaching agents and investigating small presses. In that long process of looking for press, I would look at the list of their forthcoming work and catalogue. The [works] were vastly by men, not even roughly evenly distributed. Sometimes there were no women at all. These were small presses touting themselves as cutting edge and dedicated to literary excellence. I thought, ‘Well, what are you not seeing?’”
According to the most recent VIDA count (2017)—a national, volunteer-led resource manually tallying gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews—which looked at 15 major U.S. print publications, only two published 50 percent or more works by women writers.
VIDA’s 2017 Larger Literary Landscape Count, analyzing 24 small and independent presses, found 15 had published as many or more bylines by women writers as men.
It is important to note that in these studies, “VIDA does not differentiate between cis men and binary trans men, so as not to invalidate binary trans men’s identities” while recognizing these writers still face oppression in their own experiences.
After seeing how small a press could be (operated by one or two people) in her own publishing process, Kearns opted to try it out for herself.
With more than 20 years experience in freelance book manuscript copy editing, she felt confident in her editorial skills and knowledge of the publishing and book design process when it came to understanding things like type-setting and coding. What she had to learn was the business and that came with time, experience, a handy distributor and steady fundraising through fracturedatlas.org with the support of individual donors and, most recently, a 2018-2019 grant from the New York State Arts Council.
It’s still not easy, but Kearns believes it’s worth dedicating her free time to her “labor of love,” helping to make a change in the publishing industry, even if it means chipping away at the patriarchy one annual book at a time.
“I try to communicate to my writers that I rarely see a return on the book until after about nine months,” she laughs. “It’s tough…I can see why grant writers are hired just to do that as a full-time job. It takes a lot of time and energy just to do the research on grant funding. As an example, the NYS Arts Council’s instructions PDF was about 90 pages long.”
Kearns explains that in order to get the grant, she also had to reconfigure her book-keeping process in order to fit to the guidelines.
“It was more important to me to identify expenses according to each book—marketing, awards, printing, copies. They were asking, for example, how many paperbacks I was selling in a year, how many e-books, what my total spent was for marketing so I had to go back and recalculate…so I can see why a company would need its own accounting division. It’s not easy to navigate that.”
Learning how to market her press and catalogue became Kearns’ favorite activity, in seeking out critics and literary press to connect with Shade Mountain and review its works, she was noticing who was writing about literary fiction, who was paying attention to works by women, authors of colors and so forth.
“Many of my calls for submission are specifically for writers of color. Again, because of how underrepresented they are in terms of having their books published, reviewed, awarded, that kind of thing,” she says. “I’m really proud of what we’ve published.”
Kearns says her publishing angle makes it easier for authors to find Shade Mountain because has a focus and purpose among the sea of small presses that are constantly opening and folding. There is a place at the micropress for writers that may otherwise be overlooked.
Not only are the writers featured at Shade Mountain Press being published, but they are being awarded for their works on a national level.
Vanessa Garcia’s “White Light” was an NPR Best Book of 2015 and won first prize in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards. Yi Shun Lai’s “Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu” was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Lynn Kanter’s “Her Own Vietnam” won a Silver Award for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year in War & Military Fiction and Kearns’ edited anthology of works, “The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women,” was a finalist for INDIEFAB Book of the Year.
“They’ve been well reviewed in Kirkus and other well known places and that’s really gratifying. These are authors who obviously weren’t getting agents or were being turned down by other small presses and those rejections they were getting weren’t a reflection on the quality of their work,” Kearns says.
All Shade Mountain Press releases are available for purchase at shademountainpress.com and spdbooks.org.
RECOMMENDED READS: Kearns shares a few award-winning, recent and notable works from Shade Mountain Press
“Her Own Vietnam” Lynn Kanter
“The novel is about a woman who had served in a US Army nurse in Vietnam and, several decades later, is coming to terms with those memories, those grim scenes that the nurses experienced. Kanter was too young to experience it but she did a lot of research and interviews and a lot of those women had never talked to anyone about it, let alone dealt with it on their own. During that time, there wasn’t a lot of recognition that they too could suffer from PTSD so they didn’t have access to the same resources as combat veterans. It’s a very interesting and moving book and the whole arc of [the subject’s] life is covered in it.”
“White Light” Vanessa Garcia
“‘White Light’ is about a woman who is a painter. One of the things I love about it is that you get the sense of what it’s like to be a visual artist through her eyes. She’s working on canvas, trying to produce work for a show that she was invited to be in, a great opportunity, but at the same time her father has died unexpectedly. She’s dealing with that grief. Vanessa Garcia is a Cuban-American author is from Miami so it’s very Miami-based and art-based. But also, Garcia is also an artist and a playwright, so her own art is on the cover of the book and some of her other work is in the facing pages of the part-openers. That was an interesting technical challenge for me, normally you don’t print with color, but it’s such a beautiful book.”
“The House of Erzulie” Kirsten Imani Kasai
“Published in 2018, the author wanted to write something with a gothic tinge. It follows two timelines: A woman in the current day and a couple in the 1850s in Louisiana. The present day woman, an architectural historian, has discovered the letters of the wife and the journal of the husband. The husband was a biracial man from France and his wife was Creole, in that context meaning that her family was of some black ancestry but fairly white, and they owned slaves. It’s very intense, there’s a lot of suffering. So for those who like a gothic novel, it’s also a historical novel—and was actually an editor’s choice in the Historical Novels Review. It’s haunting, beautiful, disturbing and really, really sad. Be prepared to cry.”