Here's what we're looking for:
We publish fiction and poetry by Canada-based writers (read more on this below). No non-fiction, sorry. We try to alternate: poetry, fiction, poetry, fiction... etc, so right now, while we're still accepting poetry submissions, we're really looking for FICTION. Give us short fiction, novel length fiction, flash fiction... give it to us as a one-off or as a collection. If you submit some fiction writing in the next couple months you have a better than average chance of having it accepted. That said, we've adopted a "hell yeah or no" mentality when it comes to submissions. Either we think that the published work could be ★ amaaaaaazing ★ or it's a no, so if we feel "okay" or "not bad" about your writing it doesn't move forward with us. Here are a few notes on the things we like and the things we don't like in fiction and poetry:
✔ Plot based (Brianna likes) please have action at the beginning, middle, and end. Use your setting to develop your characters and your characters to move the plot. All of these things should be integrated, not just grouped side by side.
✔ Character based (Natalie likes)
✔ Unpredictable plot, spec fic, modernizations of classic lit (Natalie likes)
✔ Equity and Diversity (Both like) don't give us a bigoted male perspective even if you're criticizing the bigoted male perspective with your work. It's a lot more challenging and interesting to read about a solution than a problem.
✔ Eloquent but succinct prose (Natalie likes) avoid excessive description!
✖ Love triangles (Brianna dislikes) nope.
✖ Just for kids (not our jam) Caterpillar Portraits is a children's novel that reads enjoyably for adults, that's great. Penrose Press isn't looking for children's storybooks at this time.
✔ Plenty of imagery (both like) it's more enjoyable to read and lends itself to specialized design solutions.
✔ Avant-garde word, structure or punctuation (Natalie likes) but classic poem structures paired with contemporary content can be really excellent.
✔ Slam poetry, storytelling poems, prose novels (Natalie likes).
✔ Meaningful content (both like) what you're talking about is more important than how you're saying it, even with poetry
✖ Poems that are too complex to be relatable (Natalie dislikes)
✖ Elevated language that serves no function (Natalie dislikes) tone is everything.
✖ Rhyming (Brianna dislikes) you'd better have a really good reason that the poem rhymes, and the reason can't be "because it's a poem".
How to submit your writing:
Send us an email at email@example.com with a little note in the body of the email that introduces yourself and your work (nothing too fancy). Attach your writing as a pdf. You can send a sample or the whole thing. We'll start at the beginning and you've got about 3 pages or 15 minutes worth of reading to pull us in :)
If you work with us:
Most of our project timelines run for 4-6 months but we tend to schedule projects up to 6 months in advance so a launch for a project we accept now may happen up to a year from now.
Our publications fall into two categories: solo or sibling. Caterpillar Portraits and The Insomniac's Assistant are solo acts. They each took a full 6 months and are substantial books all on their own. A Wish and Letters to Frida are siblings, and so are The Size of Texas and The Midnight Garden. These works are published in pairs; they compliment one another. The sibling publications tend to be a little shorter and we work on them simultaneously, even though they result in completely independent books. There is no hierarchy between the solos and the sibs, each has their advantages.
The first thing we do is draw up a contract that outlines work scheduling, questions of permission and copyright, as well as financial elements. We address edition size and book price. Just to be clear, you don't pay us anything. We have an operating budget that we use to produce the work, and then everyone gets paid out percentages as we sell the book.
If the work calls for it, we'll match you with an illustrator. Sometimes that's Brianna, and sometimes it's another talented Canadian artist like Sydney Morrison, who worked on the Size of Texas.
Throughout the publishing process, Natalie and Brianna are only a facebook message away. We check in pretty regularly, Natalie with editing, and Brianna with design questions and updates. We are coaches and confidants, and hopefully friends by the end. We also introduce you to Joyce, Terry, Rebecca, Sienna, Kate, Sydney, Gabby, Sanna, and Jasmine. The idea is that the Penrose Fam supports each other, attending events and readings when we can, or commenting on social media if that works better. We only publish one work by any given author but our encouragement and investment in your writing career goes past that.
If you are a recent university graduate or you've decided to become serious about your creative writing career, this is a really good place to start. Get your momentum going with a publisher who is looking out for you. Also, since Penrose Press is a professional publisher you become eligible for certain grants for writers through the Canadian Municipal Arts Councils that are only available to "published authors". That isn't something you can achieve by self-publishing.
Why we work with Canada-based writers:
It's hard for us to explain why we're a Canadian publisher because Nationalism is a scary concept for us (especially considering our close neighbours). I think it's partly to combat the voices in our lives that have told us that in order to succeed we have to leave. Publishing is in New York and you need to go to Europe if you want a real shot in the arts. We are inundated with this well-meant but discouraging advice. At Penrose we want to defend the idea that you can make great art no matter where you're at: geographically, mentally, or chronologically in life. And for everyone in the back WE ARE MORE THAN HAPPY TO WORK WITH ANYONE WHO LIVES HERE REGARDLESS OF LEGAL STATUS. We're so sorry to have made you feel excluded in the past. We will do better.
A note for writers who aren't sure if they're ready:
The nature of writing as an emerging creative is that your skill and style are probably evolving rapidly. If you're writing anything of significant length, you may reach the end and look cringingly back at the beginning, worse still, you may never reach the end because you're too busy rewriting the first three chapters. If you're writing shorter work, the body of it may feel stunted because your taste is developing faster than your skill #creativeproblems (that's pretty classic). We hear from a number of writers who have a lot of self doubt, who swing between wanting to share their work with the world and wanting to set it on fire. We hear you, we know that self doubt and we know all about pyro-inclinations. But take the guess-work out of it! Let us tell you if we think you're ready or if we think you should keep trucking. We're always nice, even if we're not interested.
You may find (as we have), that while quality will get you places, quantity will allow you to stay there, if you want. It’s like a blog, or a business, people want consistency, they want proof that you’re not a one-hit wonder. Collecting a small readership with your first, imperfect publication will mean that when you are ready to launch the perfect book (though they may all feel imperfect, if we’re being honest) you will already have a foundation to build on.
We wish you all the best,
Brianna & Natalie