I haven’t always wanted to start a small business and become an independent publisher of poetry. In fact, when I was in grad school the first time, getting my MBA, I remember studying entrepreneurship and thinking, that is definitely not something I’m interested in. And at the time, it was a true statement, it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. And if looking at it through the lens of business school, when I thought entrepreneurship meant consulting or starting my own accounting firm, then no, it’s something I’m still not interested in. But entrepreneurship can take many forms, and this is where my press comes in.
I got my MBA in my late twenties. I was unsure what I really wanted to do in my life but I already had my undergrad in business and it seemed that getting a master’s in it would be useful as well. It also helped that I landed a 50% tuition scholarship which made continuing my schooling far more affordable. I graduated with my MBA, got a promotion and raise at work, and assumed any business skills I learned would be applied to my job.
Despite having a business background and working for the government since I finished college, I have always loved and written poetry. In high school, I wrote bad, sappy, and cliché filled poetry. (Doesn’t ever poet? I think this is a rite of passage.) Because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I opted to study business instead of literature in college. In my thirties, after finishing business school, getting a divorce, and moving to a new city, I returned to poetry and my passion began to grow. I began publishing individual poems in journals. Then, my first chapbook, All in the Family, was published by Bottlecap Press. (The chapbook is now out of print.) It was around that point that I began toying with the idea of going back to school to get my MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. I started looking into programs and calculating costs. Eventually, I settled on Queens University of Charlotte and I applied. I started the program on my 38th birthday, in January 2017.
Deciding to get my MFA proved to be life changing. Before starting the program I had three main goals: 1) Improve my writing, 2) write my first book, and 3) find my writing community. By the end of the program two years later I had achieved all three goals. My writing was cleaner and sharper, my first full length collection of poetry, Beautiful & Full of Monsters, which was based on my final thesis manuscript, was forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, and I had found my community.
I didn’t plan on changing career tracks with my MFA. I had a well paying job I enjoyed, even if it wasn’t in a creative field, and it provided me the financial flexibility to support my writing and pay for conferences, workshops, and other writing-related endeavors.
And then the pandemic hit. And while my career remained safe and I was able to transition to working from home full time, I suddenly had a lot of extra time on my hands. And I started toying with the idea of starting a press, after all, I had both a business and a poetry background, so I could manage both the creative and analytical sides of it. I reached out to a few friends who were already in the business of publishing books and picked their brains. I sent emails filled with questions and started researching. And after about two months of research I decided to move forward and start the press and thus, Riot in Your Throat was born.