Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cover Story: In Search of an Image from New York to Miami to Paris

The following is a guest post from UPM author José Alaniz. We’ve had the pleasure of working with José now on two books. Below, he writes about the process of choosing a book cover. While many authors have a dream cover in mind, securing rights and permissions, as Alaniz quickly discovered, is a separate and entirely different endeavor.

If one shouldn’t trust a book by its cover, we can say too that every book cover has its own unique story. Having published two books with UPM, I can attest to that fact.

For my first, Komiks: Comic Art in Russia , I simply sent in several color reproductions by the artists I was examining in the text, and the press’ production staff took it from there. They delivered a colorful, striking design.

For my second, Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Ageand Beyond, things started more straightforward but wound up much more convoluted. The study, as clear from the title, scrutinizes the representation of death and disability in mainstream superhero comics from the late 1950s to 1993, a period when numerous series, characters and storylines reflected egalitarian post-war social change in the USA, including the death with dignity movement, the rise of hospice, and the emergence of disability as a civil rights issue.    

I knew right off the bat I wanted an image of the French artist Gilles Barbier’s installation Nursing Home (L’hospice, 2002) for the cover. The study begins with a discussion of that piece, with its aged costumed figures wasting away in an institution, as a wonderful example of the metaphorical use of the superhero body for a national critique. As my University of Washington colleague Kathleen Woodward puts it in an upcoming article, Nursing Home “brilliantly captures this view of America as an exhausted power, its once famed superheroes now old and tired and incapacitated.” Though not a work of comics, the installation struck me as one of the most remarkable pieces I’d found in my research, and the perfect entry point for the very questions regarding mortality, debility and ideology which I wanted to explore.

Nursing Home
So, when the time came to decide on a cover image, I explored the possibility of getting the rights to reproduce Nursing Home. Barbier’s work had made a splashy debut on these shores as part of “The American Effect: Global Perspectives on the United States: 1990-2003,” a 2003 exhibit at New York’s Whitney Museum of international artists’ responses to the USA after 9/11. Since then, I discovered, Barbier had sold the piece to the Collection Martin Z. Margulies in Miami. I reached them, and they agreed to my use of the piece, though they also informed me they did not own the copyright; I would have to contact the artist.

Thereupon I wrote the Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois in Paris, which represents Barbier. When they seemed to be taking too long to respond, I asked an old friend in Paris to call them up. That did they trick: they apologized for misplacing my e-mails and in short order let me know that Barbier agreed to let me reproduce a photograph of the installation. His and the gallery’s only price: copies of the book once it came out. Great news!

But then, another snag: the images the gallery sent me all seemed inadequate in one way or another: too far away, uninteresting angles. After all, they had used these pictures to document the piece, not to fashion attractive visuals that would hold their own in and of themselves. I needed something like the photograph I had seen in “American Cheese,” a 2003 review of the Whitney show by Mark Stevens, published in New York magazine. That article listed the photographer’s name: Tim McAfee.

Nursing Home
One pretty easy internet search later, I had McAfee’s phone number but no e-mail address. So I just cold-called him. I no longer recall if he answered right away or I left a message, but in any case we soon got in touch. He graciously agreed to let me have the rights to reproduce his image of Nursing Home for free.

Voila! I had my dream cover.

Sadly, despite that success, I do need to end this post on a sour note. Due a production error, readers of both the hardcover and paperback versions of Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond will find nowhere a credit as it should have appeared: “Copyright Gilles Barbier. Thanks to Collection Martin Z. Margulies. Photo by Tim McAfee.”

These very accommodating, generous people deserve that credit; this post, I hope, at least sets the record straight. After all, many still compliment my second book’s cover to this day. These generous folks made it happen.
 

P.S. Instead of Nursing Home, I did at one point muse on Sacha Newley’s portrait of Christopher Reeve (2004), a discussion of which close Death, Disability and the Superhero, for the cover. Those reproduction rights, owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I obtained very easily, quickly and for free.     

Monday, July 18, 2016

McRae Intern Achieves Goal of Working in Publishing

The following is a guest post from Lisa McMurtray. Lisa first worked at UPM as a McRae Intern and was eventually hired as a full-time editorial assistant. Below, Lisa writes about her longtime goal of working in publishing and how her experiences as an intern helped her achieve that goal.

The McRae Publishing Internship, supported by the Richard and Selby McRae Foundation, offers a singular educational opportunity to young men and women interested in book publishing to start their careers as interns and gain valuable practical knowledge about the publishing industry.

Having an English degree results in one of two conversations:

  1. "So, you’re going to be a teacher?” or 
  2. Jokes about perpetual unemployment
And while I often participated in the jokes about my future refrigerator box-apartment (and, admittedly, taught for five years while a graduate student), I always knew that I wanted to go into publishing. School, however, offered limited opportunities—literary journals if you were creative, scholarly journals if you were academic, the occasional copyediting or technical writing class. As a student, I read a lot (endlessly and without pause for what seemed like forever) and I wrote a lot (also endlessly and without pause for what seemed like forever) without really talking about how what I read was produced beyond a basic understanding of submitting my work into the void to one day be published.

Despite that, I knew I always wanted to work in publishing. I love writing, so it seemed like a natural extension of that interest to understand more fully how that work is cultivated and disseminated. I worked for literary journals, reading poetry and fiction and nonfiction, finding out how a journal establishes its name and voice, and I knew that I was on the right track. I got my Masters in English, then an MFA in creative writing, and still I wanted to work in publishing. When it came time to come home, back to Mississippi, I didn’t know what to do. I applied for the McRae Publishing Internship at University Press of Mississippi and, luckily, got it. With it, I got a chance to start a career.

As a McRae intern, I worked in almost every part of the acquisitions process: talking to prospective authors and readers, working with contracted authors, reading manuscripts, writing descriptions, documents, and letters. In the process, I asked questions to just about everyone—I learned about marketing and production, worked with the entire editorial team, including the Editor-in-Chief and Director, spoke with authors in comics studies, history, ethnomusicology, film and media studies, African American studies, and art and photography. In two short months, I got an incredible survey of what the acquisitions process is like.

Even more incredible, when a position opened up for a new Editorial Assistant, I got it. My internship allowed me the opportunity to learn directly from my future employers. My new position allowed me to work with our previous director Leila Salisbury and acquisitions editor Vijay Shah in the fields I love most. My experiences as an intern are still helpful today. I still contact readers, talk to authors, work on contracts, and read manuscripts. I still prepare descriptions and find endorsements. I file, organize, and write just as I did when I started. My experience was invaluable to what I do every day.

Now, the McRae Internship has grown to touch every aspect of the publishing process. Our interns work with Acquisitions Editorial, Manuscript Editorial, Business, Marketing, and Production. They do all the things I did and more. They work with a smart, welcoming team of people who are passionate about what they do and do it well. I am so grateful to have had a chance to work (and continue to work) at University Press of Mississippi, and I’m excited to help make this experience as educational, interesting, and fun for the next generation of interns as it was for me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

UPM in Haiti

Vijay Shah in Haiti
Last month UPM acquisitions editor Vijay Shah attended the Caribbean Studies Association’s annual conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This was Shah’s fourth trip to the CSA annual conference, having previously traveled to Grenada, Mexico, and New Orleans. Shah’s travel to the conference each year is made possible through a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Vijay displayed books in our Caribbean Studies Series for over 700 Caribbean scholars. Like him, many had never gone to the island before. Series editors Anton Allahar and Natasha Barnes also attended the conference.

Resisting Paradise: Tourism, Diaspora, and Sexuality in Caribbean Culture by Angelique V. Nixon was honored with the Barbara T. Christian Literary Award. The book prize was established in 2001 to honor the memory of distinguished Caribbean-American black feminist theorist Barbara T. Christian and the award celebrates her intellectual legacy and is given to the best book published over the previous three-year period which explicitly examines the topics of race, gender, sexuality, class and intersectionality. 

Nixon’s book is a study of tourism in the Caribbean and the ways artists and activists resist its great allure. The study explores the relationship between culture and sex within the production of "paradise" and investigates the ways in which Caribbean writers, artists, and activists respond to and powerfully resist this production. Through a unique multidisciplinary approach to comparative literary analysis, interviews, and participant observation, Nixon analyzes the ways Caribbean cultural producers are taking control of representation.
Angelique Nixon (2nd from L) poses with the Christian Awarrd

The Miami Herald wrote an article about the conference, wherein CSA president Carol Boyce Davies explains its import:

“This is a historic meeting,” Boyce Davies said about the Caribbean Studies Association’s 41st annual conference that takes place Monday through Saturday in Port-au-Prince at the Marriott hotel. “First, CSA has been everywhere in the Caribbean for 40 years and it’s never done Haiti. Given that it’s the first black Republic, there has been a real gap in our ability to say that we’re covering the entire Caribbean.”
The article went on to describe the topics at the conference:
“In all, 701 individuals have registered and the scholars hail from universities across the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Australia. Discussion topics include titles such as “The Experiences of Jamaican female workers in the Cayman Islands,” “The Emerging Haitian Diaspora in Brazil,” “Migratory roots and routes of music of the Caribbean diaspora,” and “Beyond Hegemony: Haiti and the Ideology of Occupation from U.S. to UN.”  
Dupuy and fellow Haiti-born academic Robert Fatton of the University of Virginia will both discuss one of the conference’s more popular topics, the unequal economic relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola.” 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rest in Peace, Scotty Moore

Scotty Moore at Lemuria Books in 2013
The staff at UPM were saddened to learn of the death of Scotty Moore last week. Moore, Elvis Presley's longtime guitarist and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, died last Tuesday at his home in Nashville.

Along with bass player Bill Black, Presley and Moore formed a trio that recorded an old blues number called "That's All Right, Mama." It turned out to be Elvis's first single and the defining record of his early style, with a trilling guitar hook that swirled country and blues together and minted a sound with unforgettable appeal.

Moore and Black backed Presley on dozens of legendary rock and roll songs over the next decade, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Mystery Train," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock" and "(You're the) Devil in Disguise."

Their immediate success launched a whirlwind of touring, radio appearances, and Elvis's first break into movies. Scotty was there every step of the way as both guitarist, film co-star and even manager.

After parting ways, Moore stayed in the music business and was profoundly influential. Moore went on to work with such artists as Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Carl Perkins, Jeff Beck, Levon Helm, Ronnie Wood and more. Moore was also named to Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists list.

Even late night host Conan O’Brien took a break from telling jokes to pay a passionate tribute to one of his childhood heroes. In the clip below, O’Brien recalled a moment back in 1998 when the legendary guitar player sat in with the band on "Late Night With Conan O’Brien."

We had the great pleasure to work with Scotty and James L. Dickerson on his autobiography Scotty And Elvis: Aboard the Mystery TrainThe book is Scotty’s true life story of how he helped transformed popular music and created a sound that became a prototype for so many rock guitarists to follow.



Friday, July 1, 2016

New Director, Staff Changes at UPM

The University Press of Mississippi is pleased to announce several recent staff changes, most notably, the promotion of Editor-in-Chief Craig W. Gill to the position of Director effective immediately. Gill replaces Leila Salisbury, UPM’s director for the previous 8 years.

Gill began his publishing career in 1990 as a marketing assistant at Northwestern University Press. After working in the editorial and marketing departments of the University of Chicago Press, he became the acquisitions editor at University Press of Kentucky. In 1997 he returned home to the south, moving with his wife and children to Jackson, Mississippi, and taking on the role of senior editor.

Craig Gill
He has served the University Press of Mississippi as senior editor, editor-in-chief, assistant director, and, now, director. During his more than twenty years as an editor he has acquired over 600 titles in fields including history, music, folklore, and Southern studies, as well as books of regional importance in Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Gulf South. Throughout his career he has been active in the American Association of University Presses (AAUP), chairing and participating on a number of panels and workshops at both national and regional meetings.

Of his new positon Gill says, “I am honored to be the sixth director in the history of the University Press of Mississippi. Having been a part of this great organization for over eighteen years, I know the high quality of its publications and the wonderful people on staff. I am fortunate to have inherited a thriving business from my predecessors, Leila Salisbury and Seetha Srinivasan, and look forward to
facing the challenges of an ever-changing publishing landscape.”

Other changes to UPM staff landscape include Todd Lape being promoted to Production and Design Manager following the retirement of longtime art director John Langston. Pete Halverson has been promoted Senior Book Designer. Jennifer Mixon was recently hired as Book Designer.

Steven B. Yates was promoted to Associate Director. Yates will also maintain his role as Sales and Marketing Director. Shane Gong was promoted to Project Manager and Valerie Jones to Project Editor. Katie Keene has been promoted to Associate Editor. Kristi Ezernack was recently hired as an Associate Project Editor. Emily Bandy was recently hired as Assistant to the Director.

The University Press of Mississippi was founded in 1970 and publishes 85 new titles annually. UPM publishes scholarly books of the highest distinction and books that interpret the South and its culture for the nation and the world. Focused on the humanities, with areas of strength in African American studies, film and popular culture, music, history, Mississippi and regional studies, comics studies, literature, and folklore.

Operating under the aegis of Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), UPM is the state’s only not-for-profit publisher. UPM is the publishing arm of the public university system of Mississippi and is supported by Mississippi's eight state universities including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; University of Mississippi; and University of Southern Mississippi

Friday, June 24, 2016

Rest in Peace, Ralph Stanley

  Ralph works on a banjo lick in the King studio (Gusto Records)
We were saddened to learn of the passing of Ralph Stanley yesterday at the age of 89. Stanley was widely considered to be the godfather of traditional bluegrass music who found found a new generation of fans late in life thanks to his Grammy-winning music for the 2000 movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

But it was his early work with his brother Carter Stanley (1925-1966) and the Clinch Mountain Boys that were some of his most important contribution to the tradition of bluegrass music. The brothers performed thousands of in-person and radio shows, recorded hundreds of songs and tunes for half a dozen record labels, and tried to keep pace with changing times while remaining true to the spirit of old-time country music. As a result of their accomplishments, they have become a standard of musical authenticity.

The following memorial recollection of Ralph Stanley is penned by David Johnson, author of
Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothersat the request of author Richard Thompson for his column at bluegrasstoday.com

Ralph Stanley is one of the most compelling musicians I have heard in a lifetime of listening to music. The sound of his voice singing “O Death” from the stage of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in June 2000 caused the hair to stand on the back of my neck. From that moment I began thinking about writing the book that became Lonesome Melodies.

Ralph and Carter smile for a King promotional photo.
During my interview with Ralph on the patio outside his house in 2003, I was very aware that I was talking to a legend. As we know, he is a man of few words, so I hung on every word he was willing to share with me. I saved one question for when the interview might be fading, which happened abruptly as I asked about Carter. I threw out a question about the importance of faith in his life.

He shed the measured words, and testified to his being born again after a dream about two ministers – one current, and the other the minister at Carter’s funeral. When Ralph woke from the dream, he called the current one and asked to be baptized in the Clinch River that very day in 1999. He firmly believed that blessings followed, such as being included in the sound track of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Looking into my eyes, he said I would know when Jesus was working on me. I would get down on my knees. I was ready to kneel right there. I felt the power of Ralph’s faith, just as I had felt the power of his unique voice at the Ryman in 2000. May he rest on a peaceful mountain. After seventy years of offering listeners the pleasure of his musical gifts, he deserves that.


Friday, June 3, 2016

UPM Staff Pick: Black and Brown Planets

UPM Acquisitions Editor Vijay Shah choose Isiah Lavender’s stellar Black and Brown Plants, a collection of essays on race and science fiction, as his reading recommendation from our Spring catalog. Below he explains why.

Science fiction has been really blowing up lately. In the past, science fiction has tended to look very white, recall the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a racial minority, it is exciting to think about black and brown peoples in space. Black planets! You might remember the title of Public Enemy’s fierce album back in the 1990, Fear of a Black Planet.

No doubt, I find Afrofuturism rather creative, imagining a future where blacks are actually in power. I definitely want to read the late great African American writer Octavia Butler’s novels, namely Kindred, and have heard a lot about Nalo Hopkinson, originally from Jamaica. Plus, I just attended a grand conference on science fiction at Jackson State University, one of Mississippi's historically black universities.

Lavender’s volume also covers Latino and indigenous science fiction—the brown planets, if you will. Considering how indigenous peoples have been exterminated in the last 500 years since Columbus’ arrival, we realize what a radical act is it to project them as controlling their own destiny in some futuristic realm.

Currently, Lavender and I are working together on a splendid follow-up, focusing on Asian science fiction. Recently, I read Chang-Rae Lee’s superb novel On Such a Full Sea, so feeling very stoked by this kind of sequel!

Black and Brown Plants: Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction is now available in paperback. Isiah Lavender III, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is an assistant professor of English at Louisiana State University.

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