I’ve harbored a love of publishing since my grad school days and through working on my Ph.D. in history. I spent maybe fifteen years working in the industry as an editor, but all the while I harbored an idea that someday, I would have my own publishing house.
A while back, I ended up leaving editing for teaching. That wasn’t a good fit, and I went back into editing, this time as freelance, where I had always felt at home. It was during these freelance years that I started writing fiction in earnest. I wrote the kinds of stories I wanted to read: strong women characters and lots of lesbian representation. The two not necessarily exclusive.
That was around 2007, and it was my writing journey that got me thinking again about publishing, and I liked that I was seeing the other side of the editor’s pen, and seeing another aspect of the industry. After I had published a couple of books, that old idea came up again.
Some of the people I was meeting on this part of my journey added to the idea. They included Jove Belle and R.G. Emanuelle, both of whom I met on an online writers’ forum about a decade ago. I met Jove first, and we started collaborating on a few projects, running ideas past each other, and beta-reading each other’s stuff.
I found in Jove an excellent foil to my inner uptight and analytical self. She’s irreverent, down-to-earth, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and one of the most caring people I’ve ever met. For whatever reasons, she kind of adopted me, and lucky for me, I know a good thing when I see it, so I totally let her. Jove posed launching the blog Women and Words to me and I didn’t even have to think about it. I jumped right in, something I had been learning to do more and more on my personal journey. I’m so glad I did.
Jove and I settled into a pretty easy professional collaboration that was completely community-oriented, fun-based, and inclusive. We make decisions together there, and we respect each other’s interests and expertise. Jove handles certain aspects of the blog while I do others. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life, and has taught me effective, caring teamwork. I think it’s actually what pushed Jove and me to really start thinking about doing other things together. Like, say, a publishing house...
The other critical ingredient during my nascent years in writing lesfic is R.G. Emanuelle, who also has a longtime background in publishing as an editor and production person, meaning she does typesetting and design as well as edits. R.G. seems quiet at first, but she’s wickedly funny and a gifted mimic once you get to know her. She’s also a great mentor and incredibly supportive, and will exhibit all kinds of badassery in that support.
R.G. and I started editing anthologies together after Jove and I started Women and Words. We’ve got three, now, under our belts. R.G. serves as kind of the traffic cop on those projects while I, ironically, am a little more loose in my approach. But we have similar visions about projects and editing, and we work very well as a team, like Jove and I do. We recognize each other’s strengths and pick up where the other leaves off. It wasn’t too long after we started working together that I found out she’d also been interested in forming a publishing house of her own.
So the conversations about this possibility had been going on for a while between the three of us, and Jove and I started researching what’d be involved in starting a venture like this. We also knew that ours would be a lot different than what we were seeing. We knew we wanted something that functions like Women and Words does, as a true collective in which the founders are all owners, and can pool our skills and resources to create the kinds of books we love to read. It was also important that we be able to continue working hard and having fun at the same time, while maintaining a community-based spirit.
We settled on a name a couple of years ago: Dirt Road Books, because Jove and I both grew up in the rural west, on dirt roads. And roads, to me, represent adventure and exploration, and serve as metaphors for all kinds of journeys, and that’s what we’re on here. To commemorate the decision, I purchased the domain the day after we settled on the name.
But to really make this work, we needed a few more awesome women. Fortunately, they were already in our lives:
Blythe Rippon: I met Blythe through Jove. They were already doing a podcast together, and lo and behold, I found out Blythe is a fangirl and academic. We’ve had many, many conversations about both. Blythe is super-smart, super-funny, but also really grounded. She’s a talented writer and an amazingly creative woman. Plus,
she’s kind, perceptive, articulate, and all the things I want to be if I ever manage to grow up.
Gill McKnight: Even before I met Gill, I knew her through her writing talent and her blogs. Gill, too, is wickedly funny, crazy smart, and also one of the most welcoming and chill people you could ever care to meet. She, too, is kind and the sort of person you meet for the first time but it’s like she’s an old friend. You’re never a stranger with Gill. In addition to her writing talents, she’s an editor and does bang-up editorial production.
Michelle Teichman: R.G. and I met Michelle and her wife in New York City at a book event. We had all agreed to manage the vendors’ table for our shared publisher. I think I might have developed a brain crush on Michelle that day. Watching her work the table with her wife (I have a brain crush on her, too), I knew right away that she’s savvy, warm, also incredibly funny and super-smart. Marketing guru, I dubbed her then (I still call her that), and as it turned out, I was right, because she’d been doing that as her day job for years. I soon came to discover that she’s also a talented writer, kind, and driven. She and I have similar analytical streaks, I think, but Michelle might be better at using hers as a super power.
And so these amazing women agreed to accompany me, Jove, and R.G. on this journey, and we’ve spent the last year getting ready to start the trip.
I can’t think of anybody I’d rather do this with.
So. You ready?
Let’s take a ride.