Guest post by Theric Jepson
The seed for Peculiar Pages was planted—no offense—during my dissatisfaction with Irreantum‘s fiction back in the early days. I was just becoming aware that actual Mormon literature (and not just Mormon books) existed (or at least could exist; my ignorance was vast) and I was feeling young and evangelical and my wife and I had discussions about What We Could Do. We created Peculiar Pages in our minds (as a short-story rag) and then sat on it for, oh, eight years maybe. By that time I was much more aware of the MoLit scene and its history and its breadth; plus, I was digging what was in Irreantum and so Peculiar Pages no longer seemed necessary.
About this same time I realized that my longtime writing group Fob had, between us, written two short stories, a novella and at least a dozen poems based on the Old Testament. This, I realized, could be a book. So I started soliciting additional work from my fellow Fobs and began building The Fob Bible. As it came together, I quickly realized that we were about to give birth to something truly virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy.
But how to turn our Word documents into a book? I knew The Fob Bible was too esoteric to be an easy sell to a standing publisher, either inside or outside the Mormon scene. No one who didn’t know me personally would even finish reading the email. But that seemed all right to me. With the exploding POD and digital markets set to change the market, I figured I might as well experiment. Learn the ropes, etc. Maybe become, I don’t know, a pioneer or something.
Step one was to set the book beautifully. So I started teaching myself LaTex (and not quite succeeding, alas). I also started talking with Elizabeth Beeton (who owns B10 MediaWorx) and realized that everything I thought I knew about POD and ebooks was pretty much wrong. (Including that good book design within Word is impossible. Ends up its not.)
With Elizabeth’s help (and Gustave Doré’s), the Bible appeared and has received glowing reviews and become one of those books that everyone knows is Really Astonishing but that pretty much no one has ever read.
And thus began both Peculiar Pages and our relationship with B10 Mediaworx. Which we generally describe as being B10′s imprint but that’s vaguely misleading as PP is mine and B10 is Elizabeth’s and I could walk away at any moment, but frankly I can’t think of any reason I would. I got lucky really; she’s practically hying to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye and she’s a generous publishing partner.
While I was working on The Fob Bible I read Nephi Anderson’s Dorian and was blown away. I had no idea Nephi Anderson was our Jane Austen and, let’s be frank, hardly anyone else does either. (Not even Deseret Book.) So I began to envision Peculiar Pages as a place to publish excellent critical/reader editions of the best classic LDS lit. I’ve since backed off as many small publishers are already doing this (not as I would, but I’m not up to a battle for that tiny market). I do have one old-timey book in the pipeline, but otherwise, no. And the identity of that book must, I’m afraid, remain a secret for the moment. Because, amazingly, no one else has already published it and I’d like to keep it that way.
Last year I was approached by Davey Morrison of New Play Project about publishing a book of NPP’s plays. This was an obvious yes; a book of Mormon drama was long overdue and few organizations in the MoLit scene right now are as vital or exciting as NPP. The volume (which includes two AML Award-winning plays [by James Goldberg and Mel Larson] and a masterpiece by former AML president Eric Samuelsen) came out last summer and is, like all well-written plays, as fun to read as to watch.
This year we’re bringing out two books, both of which I suspect will make a serious impact in Mormon letters. The first is Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Poets. That book, edited by the poet Tyler Chadwick, will be the first attempt at a comprehensive collection of Mormon poets since the Eugene England– and Dennis M. Clark–edited Harvest back in 1989. That work’s excellence of course ensures that it will never lose its place in Mormon letters, but it’s been over twenty years and it’s time for a new volume of poetry that focuses on the work of contemporary poets. You can see all 80+ contributors here.
The second is Mormons and Monsters, coedited by William Morris and myself. We aim to claim the pulp tradition for ourselves. Mormons of course served as stock villains in the early days of genre fiction and now it’s time to mess with that tradition by making Mormon characters, settings and ideas the protagonists of a pulpy cultural reappropriation. We’ve selected our tales and we’re editing them up and folks, I’ve got to tell you, this is going to be a book for the ages. Like the New Play Project book and our poetry volume, our contributors range from the well known to the obscure and, like those books, it’s going to be a book to talk about and to share.
I suppose, if asked to define Peculiar Pages’ current mission, I would suggest that we’re plugging the holes. And we’re open to suggestions. I may have come up with the ideas for The Fob Bible and Fire in the Pasture, but the rest of our books were suggested by people who just sent me an email one day.
Maybe your email will be the next great idea? Possibly. We’re certainly open to receiving proposals.