UC Davis students start independent press

As Pablo Picasso once said, “action is the fundamental key to all success.” Most have heard some variation of this advice many times over; UC Davis students, Corey La Rue and Evan White, took it to heart.

As aspiring writers, La Rue, a senior philosophy major, and White, a senior English major, understand the difficulty of getting work published. Instead of leaving themselves at the whim and will of a publishing house, they decided to go independent and start Absurd Publications, Davis’s first-ever student run press.

“We have a business license, a contract with a bookstore and plans to expand,” La Rue said.

Absurd Publications, which releases its first anthology in coming months, aims to publish and distribute literature with artistic rather than industry quality.

“We do not compromise the voices of our writers in order to comply with any overarching form or style,” White said.

Founders La Rue and White call themselves editorial staff and consider themselves to be aids in the writing publishing process, rather than gatekeepers of publication services. They will work with authors to publish literary pieces that most clearly express their artistic and literary intentions.

Both students spent over a year in the planning and creation of the press. La Rue spearheaded networking, while White focused on editing and resource building. Despite many awkward rejections and unsympathetic ears, Absurd Publications rendered the necessary support, resources and time to create their first book, a collection of poetry and fiction titled, “All the Vegetarians in Texas Have Been Shot.” It features work from over 10 UC Davis students and members of the Davis community and will be sold at The Avid Reader as well as on iTunes and Amazon.com.

“The phrase ‘pulling the chicken’s teeth’ comes to mind,” White said of the laborious process of printing their first book. “However we’ve created our footprints and set up the modus operandi so that printing books will be much faster and easier in the future.”

La Rue and White plan to publish several more books in the near future and intend to move toward printing collections of individual author’s work.

In addition to publishing literature, Absurd Publications dedicates a lot of time and effort to hosting workshops for interested writers and contributors. They also plan public readings.
“We put a lot of emphasis on engaging the writing community of Davis by hosting free and open literary workshops,” La Rue said. “We strive to foster a sense of inclusion for all participants and enhance writers’ voices.”

The workshops, which are not a typical component of a press, are a key pillar of Absurd Publications. They were established in an effort to remove the creative writing workshop from the university setting and place it in a public, non-graded, peer-reviewed environment focused on personal rather than scholastic growth.

“In the workshops, students can truly explore and develop, away from the establishment,” La Rue said.

The workshops also aim to provide feedback and creative writing practice to those who are unable to take creative writing classes at UC Davis, such as students with a unit cap, students who aren’t accepted to the UC Davis creative writing classes or Davis community members who aren’t enrolled at the University. Two of the upcoming anthology contributors are not creative writing majors.

La Rue and White attribute much of their ethos to a poetry workshop they took with UC Davis lecturer and local poet, Dr. Andy Jones. Collaboration, action, mutual respect and artistic quality were all things that Dr. Jones encouraged in his class and that the founders of Absurd Publications carried over to their operation, they said.

Absurd Publications will host their next workshop on May 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Wellman 107. There will also be a public reading on May 26 at ARTifact Gallery, 423D L Street, from 7 to 9 p.m.

SARA ISLAS can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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