I had 20 minutes, maybe 25 minutes if I could get lucky with a few green lights.
I'd dropped my youngest daughter off at therapy and dashed home to watch a wee bit of midweek, weekday football from England before making the return trip to scoop her up. I got back home, ran up the stairs, plopped onto the sofa, and refreshed my email which at that point always had something new for me, because the inaugural Stanchion manuscript submission window was still open.
Giving my attention to something else, damn near anything else has become a real problem while trying to, theoretically, focus on the sport I love. My attention span while watching matches on TV has been diminished because it's a pale imitation of what I truly adore - being there in person in West London, Norwich, Leeds, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Brighton, and beyond. Being inside a football ground for 90 minutes plus stoppage time is the only time my overactive mind shuts down, and the more I watch football on terraces in grounds in England and everywhere else I happen to find myself, from Reykjavik to Rennes, the harder it is for me to watch on television. Anyway, there I was with my phone in my hand, eyes trained on that small screen.
Hybrid chapbook submission: The Woman's Part — Jo Gatford
The subject line grabbed me first, and held my attention for two reasons, in the main:
1) the word "hybrid," but mainly,
2) the title, The Woman's Part
That sounded cool, so even though my plan was to watch a bit of footy, I opened the email and started to read.
Please consider my hybrid (prose and erasure poetry) chapbook, The Woman's Part, for publication by Stanchion.
The Woman's Part reimagines the lives and desires of Shakespeare's women — their unspoken opinions, perspectives, and unwritten endings. Each piece is accompanied by an erasure poem made from one of the character's speeches.
Well so much for the match!
The email went on to tell of Jo Gatford's education, her experience with scholarly old men who couldn't understand why one of Shakespeare's women was "making a fuss" about not wanting non-consensual sex, her rage about this incident, and how The Woman's Part grew from there, because, as she put it, "so many of these characters' experiences translate seamlessly and depressingly to today."
I was drawn in close as I continued to read Jo's query, and absolutely giddy to click open the PDF attachment, but by this point, I had maybe 5 minutes before having to head down to the parking lot and get moving back to the therapist's office.
I'm not a person who prays, but I was saying a few to no one in particular, as a way of ensuring that the manuscript would be able to cash the checks that the body of the email was writing.
The Woman's Part opens with Portia from The Merchant of Venice. This is what I read while not leaving to get my daughter. I didn't know that character at all and knew the work by name only. And yet, AND YET, I was shaking with excitement as I read The Woman's Part's opening original prose piece and erasure poem, from Act III Scene 2.
I'm also not a person who is ever late, but the clock ticked closer to 4. This meant I would be at least 12 minutes behind schedule. A text was sent, apologies made in advance, and off I went with Portia's dreams stirring in my mind.
Again I prayed-without-praying, that the rest of manuscript would live up to Portia's portion of it, and that in the 30 or so minutes between me leaving and returning to my apartment, no other editor would email Jo Gatford to acquire this chapbook that was a simultaneous submission.
I became more blown away as I progressed through my first, second and third read of the book, and I kept referring back to Jo's email, soaking up the small details of it, the personal relationships she clearly has with these famous women, and the purpose-driven nature of why she was compelled to write The Woman's Part. Additionally, because Jo was extremely forthright and open in her query, I was easily able to gleam her passion, work ethic, and willingness to partner with me on this new journey into publishing books.
Stanchion acquired The Woman's Part (obviously) and slotted it in as the first title to be published under the newly established press. It'll be published on 17 January 2023.