- The Mason Spirit - https://spirit.gmu.edu -

Start the Presses

George Mason University graduate student Marcos L. Martínez plans to publish three books next year. While that might be near impossible for him to do alone, he sees that as an ideal timeline for George Mason’s newest literary project, Stillhouse Press [1].

Founded with the help of Mason alumnus and author Dallas Hudgens, MFA ’92, the new student-run small press is a collaborative venture between Mason’s Creative Writing Program, the nonprofit Fall for the Book [2], and Relegation Books [3], Hudgens’ press.

Its aim is to give publication opportunities to writers of all stripes and hands-on experience in today’s publishing world to Mason students. Hudgens has coined the term “craft” publishing, much like craft brewing, to describe the enterprise, saying there is no longer one path to publishing a book.

When English professor Steve Goodwin asked Hudgens to speak to one of his writing classes about his experiences starting Relegation Books, Hudgens was not thinking of starting up another press. But as he listened to the students, he realized they had more than enough knowledge to run a small press. “In fact,” he recalls, “I was learning quite a lot from their presentations.”

Mason graduate students Anya Creightney, Marcos Martinez, and Meghan McNamara of Stillhouse Press [4]

Mason graduate students Anya Creightney, Marcos Martinez, and Meghan McNamara of Stillhouse Press

That moment left Hudgens with the spark that ignited Stillhouse Press. After meeting with Goodwin, Creative Writing Program director Bill Miller, MFA ’86, and several MFA students, Hudgens used Relegation Books as a model for Stillhouse and as a means to fund its launch. But once Stillhouse was formed, it was up to the students to take it where they felt like it should go.

“Relegation gave birth to Stillhouse,” Hudgens says, “but Stillhouse stands on its own. It has the freedom to create its own vision.”

Currently, Stillhouse is being run by third-year MFA students: Martinez, who serves as editor; Meghan McNamara, director of media and communications; and Anya Creightney, operations manager.

“They are going to be learning what the important considerations and factors are going into publishing a book,” Miller says. “You hear a lot of small presses say ‘I just had to publish this book.’ Why did they have to publish it? These are the kinds of tensions and issues that the students will be getting to.”

“At the beginning, it was a lot of brainstorming,” McNamara says. “I also did a lot of research, contacting other small presses to see what has inspired their humble beginnings and what they had learned from their own experience just starting out.”

The trio got to work immediately. “Over the past six months, Meghan and I have worked very closely together to strategize and develop a business plan,” says Martinez, “crafting tag lines for our website, discussing logo ideas, developing a plan for how to consider submissions . . . these have all been invaluable experiences.”

While the students are handling the vast majority of Stillhouse’s operations and vision— including the marketing, acquisitions, promotional materials, and the creation and upkeep of the website all while reading submissions and managing the actual printing of the books—there is an advisory committee that includes Hudgens, Miller, Goodwin, and English professor Scott Berg, MFA ’97.

“Every day brings something new,” McNamara says, “whether it’s emailing a famous author for a quote or writing the budget for our book. Even things that might otherwise seem mundane feel new. I don’t think I can overstate how exciting this experience has been.”

“How often do you get to point to a book on a shelf and say, “I was part of making that a reality!” Martinez says.

—Jay Patel, BA ’08, MFA ’11

Justin Lafreniere and Colleen Kearney Rich contributed to this story.

Stillhouse Press is currently looking for submissions for a second book. If you are interested in submitting a manuscript, please visit stillhousepress.org.