English majors start chapbook publishing company

Along with Garrison Keillor’s eclectic book collection just across the street, Macalester students now have access to the products of a student-run publishing company.

Cloud City, a chapbook press led by Ollie St. John ’12 and Luke Marcott ’12, formed from the creative minds of English professor Wang Ping, English instructor Pete Bognanni and a team of student editors including Angus McLinn, Nick Arciero, Jerremiah Ellison and James Cihlar.

“Ping told us we should start a publishing company,” Marcott said. “That was five weeks ago and it’s been taking over our lives.”

After just a little more than a month, St. John, Marcott and the Cloud City team already have a final product to show for their efforts. Marcott’s chapbook Filmpocalypse, which is both his and the company’s first publication, can be found on the shelves of Common Good Books and a handful of other stores in the Twin Cities starting today.

“We want to publish work that wouldn’t be publishable elsewhere because it’s too subversive, or it takes too many risks,” Marcott wrote in a press release.

As Creative Writing majors, both of these editors-in-chief saw that students are coming out of Macalester with huge projects – namely capstones – to which they have devoted too much time to not reuse. For a chapbook style piece, the length of a capstone is almost perfect.

“Every student who takes an intensive creative writing class in college ends up producing one of these 60-80 page pieces,” St. John said in a press release. “They’ve worked harder than they have in their lives on these things, but what can they do with them? They’re too long for a literary magazine and too short for a book.”

That is where Cloud City comes into play. Chapbooks, small books made from letter-size paper that is bound and folded in the middle, are the ideal format for the projects Macalester students are producing.

“Chapbooks are a ‘Do It Yourself’ publication, which is most common with poetry,” St. John said.

Cloud City publishes submissions from 40-60 pages for poetry and 60-80 pages for prose. So far most of these submissions are coming from friends who the editors know may have something to contribute. Though the press has not been around long, Marcott and St. John are finding themselves overwhelmed with support and opportunities from both staff and outside resources.

“We have more staff help than we know what to do with … for being the control freaks we are,” Marcott said. “And we have a lot of college connections with other friends and siblings.”

The two have already received offers from friends and family at St. Olaf, Carleton and Bard to do public readings.

“These plans are incredibly shaky and probably won’t transpire, but it’d be cool if they did.” Marcott said.

Though these kinds of offers could transpire into something big in the future, Marcott and St. John don’t have firm plans for the future of the press.

“[We] don’t ever really plan to make money off of it,” Marcott said. “We’d like to get younger Mac people to take it up, but if they don’t, then we’ll probably just continue it and have it be a Twin Cities publication. We also might be getting money from Mac to do it, and we don’t really know how that would change the game.”

In the meantime, Cloud City has already confirmed its first public event: a reading from and launch party for Filmpocalypse tonight at 6:30 at Common Good Books. With help from the owners of Common Good and support in the Macalester community, Marcott and St. John have been able to get Filmpocalypse and Cloud City off the ground with more ease than they anticipated.

“[Running a press] is not a thing they teach at Macalester,” St. John said. “You just kind of make it up as you go along. But it has paid off a lot and gathered more momentum recently. We suddenly got all this support from all these people.”

“It’s also a great excuse to do little art projects,” Marcott added.

Cloud City is accepting submissions of 40-60 pages for poetry and 60-80 for prose at [email protected]