Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lisa Frank Editor of Galway Stories- Co-Director Doire Press

March 1 to April 7

Lisa Frank
Doire Press 

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 Writers produce the short stories and then we read them and that is all there is to the matter?  Well maybe it is not quite so simple.  Someone has to  publish the books, decide which books might be good business prospects, someone has to oversee the printing, market the book and at the same time make a living with hopefully something left over for the writers. Publishers must deal with the needs and demands of writers, artists all, while using social media and literary events to promote their books.  Some publishers are parts of giant world class corporations, some even have people whose sole job is to give free books to book bloggers.  In some publishing houses the president may load up the books on trucks to go out to the stores before he gives an interview to the media or offers a hypersensitive author some editing suggestions.   The reading and writing public are best served when publishers love literature and Lisa Frankof Doire Press certainly falls in that category.

She is co-owner and chief operating officer of Doire Press in Galway Ireland and an author in her own right.  

Official Bio

LISA FRANK was born and raised in Los Angeles but lived in the
Pacific Northwest for several years before moving to Ireland in 2007. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University and has published fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and has published fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and screenplays. Her very first publication, ‘The Seven Deadly Sins: From God to the Simpsons’ was reprinted in Common Culture, an American university text book on writing about popular culture (Prentice Hall). 

In 2000 she won 2nd and 3rd place in Bad Kitty Films’ International Short Screenplay Competition; more recently she was long-listed for the Bristol Short Story Prize.

She has taught creative writing in a variety of settings, inluding a high school in Los Angeles, a men's prison and a university in the state of Washington in the USA.
She also worked as an editor at
Willow Springs, a literary journal in the Pacific Northwest, and for many years as a freelance editor. She lives in Connemara with her partner and is a co-director of Doire Press.

Lisa Frank

1.Who are some of the contemporary short story writers you admire, other than Irish writers? If you had to say, who do you regard as the three best ever short story writers?

I don't think I can stop at three. Maybe five or sixer. Raymond Carver would probably be my favourite and the most influential on me. I remember reading a story of his when I was seventeen and for the first time in my life being absolutely blown away by what a writer could do in so few words (this was one of his short, short pieces). He was also the reason I chose to get my MFA in Creative Writing in the Pacific Northwest, Carver county. 
I also love the darkness of Flannery O'Connor. Her stories linger in you for days after. And I love Aimee Bender, who has the most fantastic imagination. Jon McGregor's collection is the one that has most recently had a big effect on me. And I love Haruki Murakami's 'After the Quake'. He is magical.

2. I have read lots of Indian and American short stories in addition to Irish and alcohol plays a much bigger part in the Irish stories. When you first moved or spent a lot of time in Ireland, did there seem much more drinking than in the USA?

Drinking is more part of the culture here than in the States, yes. But it seems more casual here for the most part. One thing that struck me the first time I came here was that there doesn't seem to be an age barrier separating young and old in pubs. What I mean is that here you can go into any bar here and see a guy in his twenties chatting with a man in his sixties. I think that's wonderful. In the States that rarely happens.

4. Tell us a bit about your diverse experiences as a teacher of writing, please
My first experience teaching was high school English in Los Angeles. I didn't have any training or experience and it was a sink or swim situation and I sank. The students, for the most part, hated English and writing, though they did enjoy the many creative writing exercise we did because they could think outside the box. In graduate school I also got a certificate of teaching writing and through that I did student teaching at a community college and at 3rd year university course. The university course was a lot of fun because the students had a strong enough background with literature that I could teach around it in my creative writing exercises. The best experience by far was teaching creative writing at a medium security men's prison, which I did for two years. I had a core group of about eight students and we'd usually get a handful of others that would come and go. It was wonderful because it was the first time teaching people who really wanted to be there. Their experiences in life led to extremely interesting writing and it was a good outlet for them to explore their lives and their feelings. The strange thing was that they were far more interested in writing poetry than fiction. If I could do it again, I would in a heartbeat.

7. You talk about it in your preface to Galway Stories a bit, but why has Galway produced more great writers than cities with 50 times the population?

Galway has a very strong literary community and I think that's a big part of it. The community is very supportive and encouraging and so writers can take their craft more seriously. I think also there's such a strong awareness of the background of great writers in all of Ireland that the Irish feel writing is their birthright, which may in turn give them more confidence. I'd say it would be better to ask an Irish person this.

8.    How many manuscripts a month do you have submitted to Doire Press? do you read unsolicited works? it seems all of your works are by authors from Galway-coincidence or by design? If someone mailed you a wonderful collection of short stories from say India would you try to publish it?

The amount of submissions we get seems to come in waves. While we don't accept unsolicited manuscripts, we will read query letters and if we feel it might be a good fit, we will then ask to see a manuscript. 

We're a small publisher and know our limitations, which includes publishing writers outside of Ireland. Simply stated, we don't have the resources to distribute and market books outside of Ireland, and to do so would be a disservice to the writer. Just as publishers want to find a good fit in a writer, the writer should also seek out and find a good fit in a publisher. I didn't understand this as a writer before I came to publishing. 

This year we are publishing a UK writer, but it's a unique situation. 

12. One reason as an outsider I am drawn to Irish culture is that the Irish seem to love and be more interested in their own history than Americans or Filipinos, the two cultures I have direct knowledge about-do you find this also?
I think it's different being an American because it's still such a new country and thus there's relatively little history; that said, I think the 'lack' of history does shape Americans, whether we're conscious of it or not. In contrast, the Irish are hyper aware of their history and so yes it plays a big part in them and in their psyche.

14. Does the character of the "stage Irishman" live on still in the heavy drinking, violent, on the dole characters one finds in many contemporary Irish novels?   There is a lot of drinking, violence, and such in some of the short stories published by Doire Press.

While I think that some of our books feature stories with characters who might drink heavily or have episodes of violence, I wouldn't consider any of them 'stage Irish'. We wouldn't be interested in that.

16.   As an American in Ireland, do you feel more American in Ireland than you did at home similar to how Oscar Wilde said he did not really feel Irish until he moved to London?
This is definitely true. Ever since I was a child,  I always felt a very strong disconnection with being an American. And while I still don't relate to a lot of it, I do feel more American since I moved here. That isn't good or bad. It just is.

21.   can or will you talk at all in generalities about the American versus Irish character?

I think in general Americans are more success-driven, that they (we) have learned to evaluate themselves on how much they've achieved. Most Americans seem to define themselves by their job. The Irish, on the other hand, value their own time more, which I certainly appreciate and better relate to.

I think there are certainly a lot in common between both cultures, especially how friendly both cultures are. I visited the States with John a few years after I moved here and was amazed at how friendly Americans were. I had forgotten.
22. Once you decide to publish a book, how long until it is in the stores?

This all depends on the book and the writer. We work with mostly new writers and so we spend a lot of time working with them on editing to get their stories or poems as strong as they can be. A writer only has one first book and we want them to be proud of it.
23. Quick Pics
a cats versus dogs? Meow! from Castor, our ginger boy.
b. Starbucks or Temple Bar? Arabica in Galway.
c. day or night? Day in winter; night in summer.
d. favorite meal to eat out-breakfast, lunch or dinner? Dinner.

25.I know you have attended creative writing workshops can you share your experiences a bit please.

The workshops I attended were in my MFA programme in the States. They were very intensive three hour workshops in which we would focus only on two stories, telling the writer what the story is about, what's working and what isn't working. Each person in the workshop would receive the stories a week beforehand and provide a one-page feedback. American workshops tend to be more aggressive than in Ireland. While I didn't enjoy that aspect of it, I did prefer the structure to how most workshops here are, which tend to be more on-the-spot feedback, meaning that people are not given the stories ahead of time. While I do see the benefits of that type of workshop, I personally need the time to process each story.

29. What professionally do you find most rewarding about being a principal in Doire Press? Besides financial what are the biggest challenges? do you print and e -set your own books or do you out source this?

The most rewarding thing for us is always presenting the writer with the book. Nothing feels as good. It makes us feel like Santa Clause.

Our biggest challenge is distribution and marketing, which is difficult for short story collections and next to impossible for poetry.

I do the layout for our print an ebooks and we have them printed at our local printers, CL Print. They are literally just down the road.

30. OK let us close out on this note-what is your reaction these lines from a famous Irish poet?

I was born to the stink of whiskey and failure

And the scattered corpse of the real.

This is my childhood and country:

The cynical knowing smile

Plastered onto ignorance

Ideals untarnished and deadly

Because never translated to action

And everywhere

The sick glorification of failure.

Our white marble statues were draped in purple

The bars of the prison were born in our eyes

And if reality ever existed

It was a rotten tooth

That couldn't be removed.


Michael O'Loughlin


I offer my great thanks to Lisa Frank for providing us with such interesting answers and sharing with us her experience and knowledge of the publishing business.


shaunag said...

Wonderful interview, Mel and Lisa. I like the way the writer/publisher experienced was mixed throughout.

Group 8 said...

Nice to hear more of your story, Lisa.