Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart and Beautiful & Full of Monsters. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. I’ve known Courtney LeBlanc for several years now, and I have watched her champion other people’s writing (including mine) and support other authors long before she decided to start a small press. I remember talking to her about this press when it was just an idea, and now that it’s established and running beautifully, I wanted to talk to her about what it’s been like to stand at the helm, and what her hopes were about the future.
You’re a longtime poet and have several books out with small presses. What made you decide to start your own?
A combination of things prompted me to start Riot in Your Throat. Pre-pandemic, I traveled 50% of the time for work so I was used to a very busy and demanding schedule. With all travel put on hold, I suddenly had a lot more free time. In addition to the extra time I now had, I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled or challenged by my day job — I’ve been doing the same thing for years, and while I usually found it very challenging, the pandemic changed how we operated. So I wanted a project I could channel my energy into. I also really love small presses and the work they publish. I wanted to be part of that process and publish the kind of poetry I love reading.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting it and/or running it?
The technical side is hard for me — I have an MBA (Master of Business Administration) and an MFA (Master of Fine Arts), so the running of the business and the business of writing are pretty easy for me. But building a website? Doing the interior book design? Those things I know nothing about! So I quickly learned what I could do myself and what I should pay someone else to do. It meant that the start-up costs were more than they would have been if I had done those things myself, but it was a worthwhile cost to pay for a professional web designer to ensure I have a well-designed website and to pay for interior book design to ensure the books look clean and professional.
What has surprised you the most about running a small press?
I’ve been surprised by how much pleasure I’ve gotten out of it — yes, it’s a lot of work and I’m constantly checking email and social media, but I’m enjoying it so much and I’m really excited about the press and the poets I’m publishing.
What has been the biggest joy?
- I had the first open submission period in January and received 88 manuscripts. Because it was the first one, I had no idea what to expect — would I get 10 manuscripts or 100? I was really pleased with the number I received, and I loved reading through them.
- I loved telling the poets I’d chosen their manuscripts — I’m publishing four collections this year with the press and I love each. They are powerful and fierce and I loved them from the first read. I cannot wait to bring them into the world and for two of the four poets, it’s their first collection which is such a joy.
What are your hopes for the future of publishing?
I hope that small presses get more attention and that people look to them to discover and fall in love with new poets. The collections of poetry I’ve been most excited about have all been published by small presses and so I think they’re really doing great work and bringing attention to much-needed voices, particularly those who have traditionally not been published.