There are two sure ways to lose your shirt: Bet your net worth at the roulette table and start a small literary press.
Cindi Boiter and Bob Jolley of Chapin chose the latter. Thanks to Jolley’s salary – he’s Boiter’s husband and an emergency-room doctor in Mullins – they still have shirts aplenty. They also, as Muddy Ford Press, have a small list of local authors, which they hope to grow one carefully vetted book at a time.
“Once the girls were grown” – the couple, who met in high school in Duncan, have two daughters – “we decided we wanted to do something that is meaningful to us because we parented ours a---- off,” said Boiter, who was among this year’s recipients of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for her work in the field of dance.
“We started Muddy Ford Press for two reasons. The first was to help grow the literary-arts community in South Carolina. The second was to help underwrite the cost of publishing Jasper magazine. It is an extensive of the greater mission of Jasper – part of the whole idea of nurturing community within arts disciplines and between arts disciplines.
“Which is why, for example, when we release the book ‘Setting the Stage’ in the fall, we’ll do that in conjunction with a big theatre event, and when we release ‘Art from Ashes,’ it will be in conjunction with a 12-person visual art exhibition.”
Added Jolley, “Right now, we’re doing it because it’s fun. And we’re not plowing money, as long as we don’t factor our time into the costs.”
A couple with a different mindset might have started an art collection or taken up golf.
“To start with, we were both involved in Jasper magazine,” said Jolley of the literary magazine that distributes in the Midlands. “Cindi took on the creative and editing aspect, with my input being really more financial economic, nuts and bolts. As we got the first book or two out, what we did evolved into promoting authors from the Columbia area. There are a lot of writers in this town. We began to approach some people. From word of mouth, other people approached us. If you go to the website muddyfordpress.com, they all are listed with little blurbs. The fall line is not up there yet, but there should be eight or nine books.”
Muddy Ford’s first two books were a poetry chapbook called “Download,” edited by poet Ed Madden, and Boiter’s short-story collection “Buttered Biscuits.”
The company’s roster includes Kristine Hartvigsen, Debra A. Daniel, Laurie B. McIntosh, Alejandro García-Lemos, and James D. McCallister, whose novel “Fellow Traveler” has become a surprise success.
“‘Fellow Traveler’ has received international recognition,” Boiter said. “That I didn’t expect. The subject matter, a fictionalized account of following the Grateful Dead, has an amazingly far reach.”
The first edition of “Fall Lines,” a literary journal on which Muddy Ford collaborated with Richland County Public Library, One Columbia, and The University of South Carolina Press, came out earlier this month. A new anthology, “The Limelight: A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, Volume Two” and a poetry chapbook by Al Black will be released later this year.
“Things work better on a smaller scale for some people,” Jolley said. “We don’t have to worry whether the book is going to have a broad national appeal to make it worth our while to invest in it. We can take a chance on a book that will have a local interest and publish that and not worry about national numbers.”
To Boiter, what lures the authors is “the hands on. We’re not kidding anybody. We don’t have outreach of large publishing houses.”
And they don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to what to publish. “Eventually we approach that,” said Jolley. “We’ve wanted to do different things, then settled on the same thing. For the most part, we’re in agreement. And we’re able to print only as many copies as we think will sell. We can always go back and print more. That’s one way we can control costs and not tie up money. Muddy Ford Press is a small press. There are a lot of people out there who want that.”