Interview with Terrapin Books founder & chief editor, Diane Lockward

Diane Lockward is the author of four full-length books of poetry: The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement (2016), Temptation by Water (2010), What Feeds Us (2006), recipient of the Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress (2003), all from Wind Publications. She is also the author of three poetry craft books, The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics (Terrapin Books, 2018), The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop (Terrapin Books, 2016) and The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (rev. ed., Terrapin Books, 2016), and two chapbooks, Eve Argues Against Perfection (1997) and Greatest Hits: 1997-2010 (2012). Her poems have been published in Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. Her poems have also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. She is the recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and serves as the Poet Laureate of West Caldwell, New Jersey. She founded the Poetry Festival: A Celebration of Literary Journals in 2004 and served as its director for twelve years. A former high school English teacher at Millburn High School, she has also worked as a poet-in-the-schools for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. She lives in northern New Jersey. (from her Wikipedia page).

BKR: Diane, what led you to form your own independent publishing company?I’m guessing it was your desire both to promote poets with quality publication of their books and to have control over the publication of your craft books.

DL: Those were both motivating factors. Before I started Terrapin Books, I had published four poetry collections and one craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, all with the same publisher. I then had a new manuscript ready for The Crafty Poet II, but at that point, it had become clear that my former publisher was winding down and I needed to find another press. I knew that if I submitted to other presses I’d be waiting for several years before the book came into being. So I thought I’d do it myself. I’ve never been interested in self-publishing my poetry, but it seemed okay for the craft book. I did a lot of research and quickly realized that there was a good deal of work involved. I decided that if I was going to do that much work just to publish the one book I should make an old dream come true and start my own press. So I put the pieces in place, e.g., coming up with a name for the press, forming an LLC, opening a bank account for the press, learning how to format a book and design a cover, and setting up a website.

I first did an anthology, The Doll Collection, as it seemed like a good project for learning. That first book was my university. Then I opened a Submittable account and put out my first call for submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts. Three and a half years later, Terrapin Books has published nineteen poetry books, three anthologies, and three craft books.

BKR: I am mesmerized by book covers. Terrapin has such a stunning collection—I can actually envision the covers gracing a calendar, like poster art. How much do you collaborate with your authors in choosing cover art? Do you have final say?

DL: The entire process of publishing a Terrapin book is collaborative. I edit each manuscript. Then I go back and forth with the poet about changes. Along the way, I ask each poet what ideas he or she has for the cover art. Most of them submit specific pieces and we go from there. I am open to suggestions but, of course, will take the suggested art only if I like it. One of our covers was painted by the poet herself, three covers are paintings done by spouses, two pieces of cover art were contributed by former students of the poets.

Once we’ve agreed on the art, I do the layout. Again, there’s some back and forth about the layout, font style and size, colors. I have the final say, but my hope is always to come up with art and design that both the poet and I love. It makes me happy to know that you admire our covers. I’ve never considered myself artistic and can’t draw anything more elaborate than a stick figure. However, I really enjoy cover design and now consider myself slightly artistic.