A conversation between Erica Charis-Molling and founder & editor Gloria Mindock

Erica Charis-Molling: Let’s start at the beginning. How did the press get started?

CBP: Cervena Barva Press was founded in April, 2005. I have had a long history of publishing. From 1984-1994, I was editor and co-founder of the Boston Literary Review/BluR and S. Press, edited the Istanbul Literary Review, based in Turkey for four years, guest edited numerous anthologies, and currently am one of the US editors for Levure Litteraire (France). When I started Cervena Barva Press, it was because of my publishing history and my love and respect for Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. I loved his plays, the fact that he was a dissident, and all that he did to help the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. I chose the name Cervena Barva, which means “red color” in Czech. Since I am Czech, and mostly Eastern European besides Irish, I wanted a Czech name. I was raised thinking I was Italian, but I’m not. Those ads you see on TV about Ancestry, where a person thinks they are a certain ethnicity but find out there are something else, is true!

ECM: Tell us a bit about the press. What sets your press apart from other publishers?

CBP: What sets us apart from other presses is all the different things the press offers the community such as: Pastry with Poets (These workshops are offered for $10.00. So far, we have had instructors Richard Hoffman, Lloyd Schwartz, Annie Pluto and forthcoming are workshops by Martha Collins and Fred Marchant), Portrait of an Artist & Poet, Monologue Monday, Cervena Barva Press Reads Around the World, Cervena Barva Press Reading Series, The Lost Bookshelf Bookstore selling new and used books, Poetry Roundtable, Translation Poetry Roundtable, and Read America Read (Free books are left at train stations, bus stops, cafes, park benches etc… by writers and the general public all over the USA.)

Cervena Barva Press is extremely active as you can see. We publish Poetry, Fiction, and translations. We have published some plays, memoirs and non-fiction but our primary focus is on poetry, fiction and translations. I love publishing work from other countries and making it available here in the US. Many years ago, translations were difficult to find. That has finally changed. We publish approximately 20 chapbooks and books a year.

Dancing in Santa Fe

ECM: Can you give us a preview of what’s forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what in your current catalog you’re particularly excited about?

CBP: This year is an exciting year! We already released 5 books, and so many more will be released in October and November. You can look forward to poetry books and translations by Alisa Velaj, Adam Sorkin, Beate Sigriddaughter, Anis Shivani, Hussam Jefee Bahloul, George Kalamaras, Mimoza Erebara, Brad Rose, Glenn Sheldon, Alan Britt, Flavia Cosma, William Walsh, Michael Foldes, Mark Fleckenstein, and many more that I am not mentioning. I am sorry I cannot give the whole list. Too many to mention. I love all the manuscripts I am publishing and am excited about them all!

In our catalog, there are some books that are very special to me. They all are translations and what an honor for me to publish these books. They are: On Paths Known to No One by Flavia Cosma,

Two Colors of the Soul: The Selected Poetry of Dmytro Pavlychko, Edited and with an introduction by Michael M. Naydan, Profane Uncertainties by Luis Raúl Calvo, Translated from the Spanish by Flavia Cosma, Anezka Ceska by Jaromir Horec, Translated by Jana Kiely, THE EYES OF KEYHOLES by Milorad Pejic, Translated by Omer Hadziselimovic, and Balkan Grit by Milan Djuravosic.

I love the use of language in all these books. Reading these, makes me want to write. These books inspire me. As a writer myself, I need that.

ECM: What are you visions and goals for the press? Where do you see publishing going in general?

CBP: I plan on publishing more translations in the future and mostly concentrating on that. One of my goals is to plan a small writer’s conference. So far, my vision for the press has succeeded.  We have grown so much. I am happy to have a staff now helping me. They are: Flavia Cosma (Canada), Juri Talvet (Estonia), Andrey Gritsman, Helene Cardona, William Kelle, Renuka Raghavan, Melissa Silva, Karen Friedland, Tim Suermondt, Pui Ying Wong, and interns from local colleges.

There are so many small press publishers out there now as well as magazines. I love it!!! I think it is an exciting time for publishing. I do wish that more writers and the general public would buy books from the independent publishers instead of Amazon. All small presses could use the direct support. Most of us have our books on Amazon through our distributors but a big percentage of the money is taken so we really do not make much. I plan on fund-raising to help us keep going and survive.

ECM: What’s in your reading pile, either from your press and from other presses?

CBP: I have a huge pile pile of books to read from other presses. Some of them are: Twilight Chorus by Holly Guran, Shadow Feast by Joan Houlihan, Cut Off the Ears of Winter by Peter Covino, What Drives Men by Susan Tepper, What You Have Heard Is True by Carolyn Forche, and A Way Home by Nahid Rachlin. I also have a huge pile of books on True Crime that I have to read. Too many to mention. I will be searching for new translations of poetry and buying many this fall. I am very excited about that!

ECM: What advice would you offer someone looking to publish with you?

CBP: Follow the guidelines and send clean manuscripts for consideration. Do not send manuscripts outside the reading period. Send me work that take risks.

ECM: What advice would you offer someone thinking of starting a small press?

CBP: Don’t do it!!! I am only kidding. It is the best thing I have ever done. I have met, collaborated, and corresponded with so many wonderful writers, editors, and publishers throughout the years. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Most publishers are very helpful and will share their experience with you.

When I started publishing, Gian Lombardo of Quale Press was a huge help to me and answered so many questions. Mark Pawlak of Hanging Loose Press was very helpful to me too. They were so generous with their time. Steve Glines gave me software and laid out my first few books and explained how to lay-out books. Doug Holder also has helped me and has always been so supportive. Catherine Sasanov for always being there for me. I am so grateful to them all.

I have answered questions and helped other publishers. I believe we are all in this together. It is important for me to always be helpful and give back.

Finally, I must mention William J. Kelle. Without his help and work, the press would not be where it is today. I really want to thank everyone for their kindness. This community is the best! So many other states and cities do not have the kind of community we have here in the Boston area, the surrounding areas or throughout the state. Thank you for your continuous support of Cervena Barva Press.

Learn More about Cervena Barva Press

Erica Charis-Molling is a creative writing instructor and librarian at the Boston Public Library. Her writing has been published in Crosswinds, Presence, Glass, Anchor, Vinyl, Entropy, and Mezzo Cammin. She’s an alum of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University.