Many artistic or literary collectives are collective in name only, bringing a group of practitioners of the same medium or genre together with little more in common than the fact that they produce similar work. But the Fiction Collective 2 publishing house and writers group support each other’s work not just aesthetically but where it counts most, by providing page space for their ink to flow freely and try to find an audience. The 15th Annual Guest Writers Series, presented by the Salt Lake City Arts Council and the University of Utah English Department and Creative Writing Program, brings three authors under the FC2 imprint to read from their work: Jeffrey DeShell, Lynn Kilpatrick and Elisabeth Sheffield.
Matt Kirkpatrick, a graduate student in fiction writing in the University of Utah Creative Writing program, is a Fiction Collective 2 fellow who has done much of the work in bringing these authors here and explains the collective’s mission: “We aim to provide a home for innovative, nonmainstream works of fiction. It’s an authorrun publishing house.”
It really is a collective, in terms of editorial vision, and the development of its writers’ careers. The press is adventurous not only in taking chances on nonmainstream works and sometimes highly provocative content, but also in expanding the boundaries of the writing medium, recently publishing TOC, a multimedia novel on DVD with animation and films by Steve Tomasula, who read from it in the series Sept. 10.
The original Fiction Collective was founded in 1974 as an independent publishing house, and its current incarnation has relied on the support of various universities. “Florida State University used to be the hub,” explains Kirkpatrick, “but they lost a lot of funding, and it was mostly taken over by the University of Houston at Victoria.” The University of Utah also came into play as a smaller supporter of the press in 2007 when Lance Olsen, an FC2 author, came to teach at Utah.
The role of FC2—as well as other indie imprints—has become crucial to the diversity of literature in this country. Kirkpatrick says, “Mainstream publishing houses have come to rely on huge best-sellers to make their income, discarding less-profitable authors. When Fiction Collective started, that wasn’t the case.”
The authors in FC2 are stylistically all over the map, as exemplified by the three readers: DeShell, an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has written four novels—including S&M, a lyrical meditation on sexual politics and sexual exigency—and co-edited the post feminist fiction anthologies Chick-Lit I & II.
Kilpatrick, who has a Ph.D. in fiction from the University of Utah, teaches at Salt Lake Community College and is publishing her first collection of stories for FC2, In the House, and has also been published in the literary journals Hotel Amerika, Salt Hill and Ninth Letter, as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Sheffield is the author of a critical monograph on James Joyce, and her newest fiction is Fort Da: A Report. The discussion with the authors, usually held the next day, will be directly following the reading.
FC2 can only afford to publish eight to ten titles a year, but because of that fact and their small press runs it is able to keep books from going out of print. “A lot of good books go out of print because they don’t make money,” Kirkpatrick laments. Their authors are also published by other small houses, and members of the indie publishing world use a lot of networking to support one another.
Small publishers like Fiction Collective 2 have a different definition of what makes a successful title besides the bottom line for the major houses. Says Kirkpatrick, “We just want to put out good books.”
Jeffrey DeShell , Lynn Kilpatrick and Elisabeth Sheffield
Finch Lane Gallery
54 Finch Lane
Thursday, Sept. 24