By MARIA DELORENZO
San Diego City College has the market cornered on independent publishing. City Works Press, run out of several tiny offices on campus, is run collectively, self supported and entirely innovative.
Say what you will about San Diego’s rapidly growing population, posh downtown development, rejuvenated “urban living”, or the local music scene, but the truth remains: San Diego is sadly lacking a literary scene, and until 2003, there wasn’t a local press to speak of.
Enter stage left: City Works Press. Since its evolution, City Works has published three novels and two chapbooks of student writing.
Local writers and students have a unique opportunity to be published by a legitimate press by either submitting to the Chapbook Contest ending on Dec. 18, as well as the City College supported City Works Journal which accepts submissions until Feb. 23.
The press is run by the San Diego Writers Collective, a group of City College faculty, writers and arts supporters from all over San Diego. The press began by opening a non-profit account at the San Diego City College Foundation and raising funds.
In 2004, the San Diego Writers Collective received a huge boost when the American Federation of Teachers, local 1931, matched the seed money the collective had raised. Also in 2004, Jazz 88 jumped on board to help promote the press.
Currently, City Works is in the beginning stages of publishing its fourth novel and they don’t appear to be slowing. They have managed to self-support the press by the profits made from their book sales, which far exceeded their hopes.
City College President Terrence Burgess has been consistently supportive of the whole venture. With new funds coming into City College, Burgess hopes to design an expanded literary center that will be home to the press as well as City Works Journal and the annual Book Fair.
The first novel, “Sunshine/Noir: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana,” launched the press.
“‘Sunshine/Noir’ did so well, the press made more money than they had spent publishing the book,” said Burgess.
According to Jim Miller, one of the founders of the press and a City College English professor, he was prompted by a certain frustration with mainstream publishing to start something different, something grassroots.
“A lot of commercial presses just don’t treat writers well. With us, authors get to work with the project,” said Miller. “They really get to keep their hands on the project.”
Unlike corporate publishers, if you are published by City Works Press, you still own your copyright.
“Nobody makes personal profit from book sales, it all gets recycled back into City Works press and covers the cost of printing,” said Miller. “But because writers get to keep their copyright, they can use it as a stepping stone.”
“We are really trying to be an alternative model for publishing and we are trying to build a local writers community.”
“There isn’t really a college press (in San Diego) doing what we do,” said Chris Baron, Associate Professor of English and part of the collective. “It is very similar to independent films where you have small releases. If it’s a successful book it can be taken up by a larger press.”
So far, the books published by City Works have received glowing reviews from local papers like CityBeat and The San Diego Union-Tribune. The positive response is indicative of the fact that this press has done something entirely new to San Diego.
For more information about how to submit written work visit www.cityworkspress.org.