In Conversation with Birchwood Press

Birchwood Press is an independent press that specializes in high-quality fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. With their latest release Marriage for Love: A Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Woman’s Fight for Justice published, they joined me for an email interview to discuss it and the challenges of being an independent publisher.

So, how did Birchwood Press get started?

It started about five years ago,2014-15, but the idea had been proposed as early as 2010 in the hopes of publishing interesting books which we saw were getting rejected by the big publishing houses and even some of the independent presses. We knew writers who were struggling to find a publisher and thought they deserved to be read.

We like to think that we have contributed to the visibility of especially books about Lithuania in the years that we have been producing as an “indie” press. Thanks to the Lithuanian Institute of Culture, an arm of the Ministry of Culture, and the presence of a few other indie presses, such as Picapica press, many more translations of deserving works are being published into world languages.

What are the challenges of running Birchwood Press?

It takes a lot of hard work, time, money and dedication. We’ve had to learn many aspects of publishing and marketing as well as how to get a book out and make it visible. It is rewarding work.

You recently published Marriage for Love, what is the book about, and how does it tie in with the values of Birchwood Press?

Marriage for Love: A Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Woman’s Fight for Justice has a brief introduction, followed by translations of Žemaitė’s selected, most important works. It was a labour of love for everyone involved because many people, even linguists, did not think her žemaitiškai dialect could be translated into English. We felt she was very important in the life of the country in that she fought not only against arranged marriages, but also described life under serfdom, contributed to the 1863 uprising, and brought up other aspects of her times, especially in her Autobiography, a rather neglected work.

We hope to be a home for Lithuanian books in English because the story of Lithuania, the creativity of Lithuanians is underrepresented in the wide world. So we are particularly interested in these stories and the stories of Baltic writers in general. However, that said, the next book we are considering is a Cuban émigré poet who fled Castro.

What are your goals for Birchwood Press in the next five years?

It sounds so soviet to have a five-year plan. We only hope to publish a handful of books that appeal to us.

Do you feel the presence of audiobooks and ebooks has helped publishers grow or have they diminished the real mission of a book publisher?

All of these platforms have helped both authors and readers tremendously, especially for those with vision problems or other disabilities. Thus we try to publish books in hardback, paperback and ebook format. Audiobooks are our next challenge.

My final question, how would you define Birchwood Press in 3 words?

Stir the soul.