We're gearing up for our newest release, are still starry eyed after being awarded a grant, and we broke up with our distributor!
Happy May! The days are getting longer, warmer, and inching closer to the release of Green River Valley! Take a moment to read how we're gearing up for our newest release, and keep up-to-date with info about grants, distribution, and more below. Oh, and you might want to give a listen to our Green River Valley playlist (made by Robert Lashley himself) while you peruse the shelves on bluecactuspress.com.
About the Book: Green River Valley is Lashley's third poetry collection and it's an unapologetic and harrowing look at gentrification, racism, and personal and collective loss in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington.
Join us in celebrating the publication of Robert Lashley's Green River Valley on June 11th! We're excited to host this virtual book launch for such a talented, loyal, and hardworking poet and friend as Robert. In addition to a poetry reading by Lashley himself, the event will also feature a few words by the photographer behind cover, Jody Poorwill, and poets Kellie Richardson and Graham Isaac!
Please note: this is a free event, but registration is required. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the Green River Valley Soundtrack
For all the Lashley fans (and music heads!) out there: Robert created a badass soundtrack to accompany Green River Valley! You can listen to the playlist on Spotify or click the link in our Instagram bio. From Beyonce to Kendrick to Sade and back again, this playlist DELIVERS. We've been listening to it all weekend :)
We Were Awarded a GSBA Grant!
A few weeks ago we were awarded the GSBA Ready for Business grant! This grant will enable us to cover overhead costs for the next few months, as well as pay some of our hard working editors and designers! It also ensures we can focus on what we do best: telling stories and making books!
GSBA is Washington State's LGBTQ and allied business chamber and the largest LGBTQ and allied chamber in North America. GSBA represents over 1,300 small business, corporate, and nonprofit members who share the values of promoting equality and diversity in the workplace.
In addition to the grant, GSBA is giving us access to business resources like financial coaching, marketing opportunities, and more closely aligns us with the regional LGBTQ+ community. Needless to say, we have been walking on air all month.
We Broke Up With Our Distributor
It's true: we went rogue! We decided to break ties with our distributor, Small Press Distribution late last month. Why? Because we're too small to cover the costs associated with distribution and still be profitable. Essentially, distribution fees include over 50% of the retail cost of a book, plus annual fees, the costs of returns, and the costs of printing and shipping over 100 additional copies of any given title. So, even though we were selling hundreds of books each year through distribution channels, we were often LOSING money.
So, we decided to scale down, hustle the books ourselves, and keep building our audience one fabulous reader at a time. Now, more than ever, we're putting faith in the badassery of our books and the support of our readers and community (that's you!).
Thank you for sticking with us as we make this transition, friends. We love you. MUAH!
Jonah Barrett recently sat down for an interview with Sapling, the literary magazine produced by Black Lawrence Press in New York! Check it out:
Sapling: Tell us about the process of getting your book published. Did you enter contests? Open reading periods? What transpired between sending the manuscript out initially and its acceptance by your publisher?
Jonah Barrett: I originally met my publisher Christina Butcher at a writer’s soirée in 2017. Christina was just starting up her own micro-press, Blue Cactus Press. We kicked it off and started collaborating on a number of projects, including a short science-fiction film of mine called “The Tetrahedron.” In late 2019 we decided we wanted to make something together through BCP. That’s when we thought “Well…why don’t we make a collection of Jonah’s stories?”
I already had a dozen-ish short stories floating around, and we kept adding and subtracting stories from the final roster until we had the manuscript. So really, my book Moss Covered Claws is a true collaboration between author and publisher.
Sapling: What was your experience with the editing of the manuscript? Did you have an opportunity to make revisions either at your own suggestion or at the suggestion of your editor? How involved were you in the design aspects of the book's production (cover image, design, etc.)?
JB: Digging into the manuscript with Christina was hard at times because there were a number of things she brought to the surface that I had always run away from. She pointed out themes of depression, self-confidence flaws and how to fix them. It was like an emotional bootcamp for me at times, and it was the best! I truly feel like I’m a better writer and human being at the end of the day, and it’s because I had this brilliant publisher and friend alongside me during this process.
Christina allowed me a great deal of creative freedom while also wrangling me back in whenever I went too far. And Lordy did I take it far sometimes. A month after we’d “finalized” the manuscript I wrote a brand-new short story in the first month of quarantine. I came to Christina and was like “Hey, what if we swapped this in for another story?” And Christina was like “No, oh my god it’s too late.” Then thirty minutes later after reading it she messaged back “Okay fine it’s really good.”
Like, who does that? I must be a nightmare author to work with. Christina assures me otherwise, but I think that’s just part of her job. In all seriousness it was great to have that confidence as an author, and I think it’s because Christina and I had such a great collaborative relationship that we’d established beforehand.
For things like the cover, I actually got to choose my cover artist. I chose my best friend, Samantha Breaux, who’s grown up with me as an artist and our styles have influenced each other over the years. She also did the interior illustrations as well at Christina’s request. It was really important to me to bring Sam along; she’s basically been at my side since day one and she created this beautiful cover that I felt just nailed the feeling I tried to convey in all my stories. There is a lot of friendship, love, and collaboration flowing through this book, and I hope readers will pick up on that!
Sapling: Did you publish any excerpts in literary journals or other periodicals before the publication of your book? If so, did this seem like a necessary part of the process for this particular project?
JB: I had mostly been publishing pieces with a local writing nonprofit called Creative Colloquy. The writers’ soirée Christina and I met at was actually hosted by Creative Colloquy! I think literary journals are a great way to get your name out there, boost your confidence, and meet other writers. I wouldn’t have met my publisher if I hadn’t gone to that soirée. I’d say submitting to literary journals and interacting with the writers of your community gives you a pretty big step forward in your writing career. I’ve been able to build connections and create long-term friendships with huge literature nerds that I never would’ve met otherwise. We help one another as much as we can and cheer our own on whenever they get their work out into the world. It’s more fun to be a writer when you’re surrounded by people who love you.
Sapling: In what ways have you been involved in the publicity and promotion of your book thus far? In what ways is your publisher helping you with marketing your book?
JB: I worked as a marketing director at the Olympia Film Society when we started putting the book together, so I brought all those skills to the table. I brought my filmmaker friends along and we did a series of photo shoots and film shoots for book trailers and a Kickstarter video. When it came time to run the Kickstarter for preorders, Christina was actually busy having a baby! So, her awesome assistant Kate Threat and I took the helm and used all our marketing prowess to hit our $4,000 goal in the midst of election season, a pandemic, and a social justice movement. Using Sam’s illustrations, I made graphics, ran digital ads, and used all of my connections to get the word out to my community. The whole month of November honestly felt like a 30-day panic attack. But then…we made it! And I got to eat a burrito on the beach and cry relief into the Pacific Ocean, so it all worked out in the end.
Sapling: What are some things that surprised you about the process of getting your book published? Is there anything you wished you'd known beforehand about putting a book out into the world?
JB: I was surprised at how much self-reflection and analyzation went into the creation of a book. After we came up with the idea of publishing my stories, Christina had to talk me down a bunch as I kept crying over the phone going “Okay but am I really good enough to release a book on my own? Can I do this? Is this not just my friend publishing my work because she has to because we’re friends?” Self-doubt would pop up every chance it got, it still does sometimes.
My community though has been telling me the opposite of what the little negative voice in my head’s been saying: they’re really excited for this book. People come into the bookstore I work at and eagerly ask me when Moss Covered Claws is getting released. Everyone was so jazzed when the pre-order campaign rolled out. We’ve made it onto the Lambda Literary list for March 2021 most anticipated LGBTQ books—which is very surreal for me. I didn’t think anything like this would happen! I thought we’d just have a quiet little release and that’d be it.
Okay, so the thing I wished I’d known was: my art is worth getting excited about, and it’s okay to hype yourself up.
Jonah Barrett is a queer writer and filmmaker from a forest in Tenino, Washington. Their debut book, Moss Covered Claws, comes out from Blue Cactus Press on March 18, 2021. They have also been published in the Forest Avenue Press collections City of Weird and the forthcoming Dispatches From Anarres. Their film work has been presented at the Olympia Film Society, Northwest Film Forum, and Trans Stellar Film Festival. For more info: