Could you tell us a bit about the history of your press? (what you do, how you got started, what your goals are)
I began Pearl Press in the summer of 2020. I had a plan to create a space for artists, namely photographers and writers, to cohabitate; where diverse voices could come together and gain inspiration from one another. The name, Pearl, comes from my grandmother’s Yiddish name, Polina. My grandfather was a painter, poet, and photographer, and he had Polina as his muse always. I wanted to create a space for artists the same way my grandparents made room for art in their home. My goal is to keep reaching a broader and more diverse audience, seeing beautiful and inspiring work, and growing the ways that my community can uplift one another.
What is your press’s vibe in six words or less?
proud community of diverse voices
What is the process of publishing a book like for your press? From the first read through and acceptance, through publication and promotion.
After closing my open calls, I weave through submissions and begin dragging the stand out files onto my desktop to play around with sequence. I basically create the entire sequence just on my computer’s desktop screen and then move to creating spreads on the website where I have room to engage with interactions, sizes, and more. I go through a whole list of checkpoints after that making sure the PDF, newsletter, and social posts are ready to go. Once the issue is published, the majority of promotion happens on the instagram page, @pearl.press and on the website.
What kind of books are you looking for? Do you follow the market, wait for anything good, or have a particular niche in mind when you’re reading through submissions.
Each open call is based around a concept that I release a month in advance, i.e. heirlooms, cowboys, or high seas. I write a little something about the prompt, usually my experience with it or why I chose it that month. Looking through submissions, it’s so exciting to see how everyone interprets the open call differently. With the work itself, it’s hard to describe. It is so subjective, and each time it feels as though something new surprises me. I always encourage artists to submit multiple times whether they get through or not since their work could speak to one concept over another.
How many pages into a manuscript do you get before leaning one way or the other on accepting it?
When looking at a submission, it has a lot to do with an initial reaction to the work. I love reading the descriptions of the work as it helps me feel more connected to it as a publisher. The more minor part is seeing all of the requirements that are asked for (it makes it easier without all of the back and forth); name, bio, titles, description of the work, website and Instagram handle.
How do you find including photography elevates or emphasizes aspects or writing (and vice versa)?
I received my degree in photography from Pratt Institute, in addition to holding a love for writing. I took many classes to better understand where writing fits in with my artistic practice. At school, I was constantly bringing writing into my photographic work in different forms and it honestly felt frustrating to figure out how those things communicate. In creating Pearl Press, I realized that there are no rules. Writing and photography can interact however I'd like and in bringing both of my passions to one platform, I found the way that felt the most genuine. Written work creates visuals in the mind and photographic work can create stories. I never place the work near each other to force those things on the viewer. I try to find a sequence in which the viewer can guide their own journey.
Did an inclination toward photography start because of a personal interest or were you inspired by something else?
I began photographing very young. When I started taking classes in high school, I was already developing my own film and working in the darkroom. I was lucky to have an outlet like that to really find my passions early on. I had and have other photographers in the family that pushed me to explore this art form in addition to others. Writing, music, dance, photography to name a few. My love for it only grew through high school, a photography degree from Pratt, and my continued creation of my personal work in the outside world.
There doesn't seem to be as big of a scene for indie art & photography in magazines (this could very well be because of my lack of experience) but I wonder what advice you'd give for someone who may be interested in art/photography vs writing when it comes to submissions. What should they look at? How to judge a market? Really, anything (since my knowledge is so limited I'd leave this open to you).
I'd say when applying or submitting work to any publication, take a look at things they have published in the past with two different lenses. One being, does your work fit in with the rest? Is this publisher looking for anything specific that you might emulate as well? The other being, can you stand out for this publication? Can you bring something to the table that they have either not seen before or overlooked? Each press is so different in their submission process that it's difficult to speak generally about it. Because I am a one woman show, I have certain guidelines I look for in photography, I know what I like and what I usually don't. I generally don't ask others what I should accept, these are decisions that are my own. But in saying this, I also can look at a photograph and not love it until I read the meaning behind it, what the artist went through to make it, or what it means to them. And the final bit I'll add is submit no matter what because you truly never know. If you don't send your work out, you won't know how it will be received. Art is about vulnerability, sending work out there is extremely difficult and can feel like an open wound, but when you are well received, it's worth it.
Are there any red flags you’ve found in writer’s submissions that other writers might want to avoid?
I’m not sure I’ve seen any red flags in submissions thus far. Everyone has a different process and I enjoy seeing how everyone interprets the open call released.
Do you have any recent books you’ve published that you’d like to show some love for?
Every issue I publish has a special place in my heart! One of the more recent issues was a self-portrait issue, No. 14. It was the first of many coming to Pearl Press to celebrate the faces behind the submitters. Coming from a background in the arts myself, it was an opportunity to include a photograph of my own for the first time. The cover of the self-portrait 1 issue is one that I took up in Greenwood Lake, New York. I encourage everyone to take a look through it and engage with the voices of Pearl Press.
Are there any aspects of your submissions process that writers consistently miss or do wrong that they should pay more attention to?
The only thing I can think of is when the requirements aren’t met, not receiving the information asked for on the website or Instagram post for the open call. When all requirements are met, it shows me that this person is looking forward to the prospect of being included and really dedicated their time to sending their work in!
If you could add one question to this interview, what would it be, and how would you answer it?
Can you speak more about where you pull inspiration from for your open calls?
At the start of the publication, a lot of my concepts came from things I focused on in my own work. Afterwards, it grew into new inspirations from books I’ve read, music I’ve listened to, or conversations I’ve had with friends. This recent open call for Issue No. 16, ‘hail mary,’ comes from my first experience with sci-fi. I had recently read ‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir and started to really understand what a hail mary could mean in the every day world, feeling like something won’t succeed and sending out one final push to pray that it does. In choosing these concepts, I ask that my submitters live in this artistic universe with me for a month, celebrate and understand the ideas that have been floating around in my head. It’s really a way to open a non-verbal conversation around one, single theme.