alma mater. They show the litmag to friends and try to getnthem to subscribe. Out of sheer appreciation and a starvingnneed for literary intercourse, they send Christmas cards andnnewspaper clippings to editors who have never written themnmore than a brief critical note.nOtherwise-normal human beings turn independent-pressneditor or publisher for one very uncomplicated reason:nbecause it sounds like fun. Oh, after they’re in the businessnfor a while they may begin to enjoy correspondence withncertain writers or other editors or publishers they wouldn’tnhave met otherwise; and they may discover, through theirnlitmag, others who will appreciate their own work—butnthese are peripheral benefits. There’s no money in editing anlitmag, not even compensation for one’s time; there’s nonglory, and a lot of kicks in the backside; it’s never improved anresume or impressed anyone; and there are a dozen varietiesnof frustration. These days, when the only seemingly solidnproof of success is to have reached people in quantitiesnupwards of seven figures, independent publishers strugglenfor years to raise their circulation from 200 to 500, from 500nto 1,000 — and that’s people, not thousands. The onlynexplanation that makes sense is that those who stick with anlitmag or independent press through the lean years (whichnmay continue indefinitely) do so simply because in spite of itnall, it’s fun. To make something beautiful and enduring innyour own image, from dust and a little spit and the work ofnothers: why, it’s almost more fun than writing!nStill, the writing is what matters, when you get down to it.nEditors understand that as clearly as submitters and readersndo. People associated with independent publishing in anynway — whether they edit, write for, or buy literary magazinesnand books—^believe that literature is important in thencosmic scheme of things. Yes, it’s true (as George Steinernand others have noted) that many Nazis did their ghastlynwork in the concentration camps and then went blithelynhome to read Goethe each evening, but literature canninform us of our moral position in the universe, if we’renreceptive to it. It gives us a glimpse inside the writer’s mind,nand thus inside our own, because literature is essentiallynabout the human dilemma: the problem of being halfnanimal, half angel. And certainly not least of all, literaturencan delight.nIt can do none of this, though, if no one can read it. Andnthat’s where independent publishers come in. The NewnYorker and The Atlantic and McCall’s couldn’t print all thengood stories and poems being written if they wanted ton(which it often seems they don’t).nOne example of a relatively successful independentnpress is The Spirit That Moves Us, founded in IowanCity in 1974 by Morty Sklar, who had “just wanted to getnout of New York.” Sklar is among a handful of independentnpublishers who try to earn a livelihood publishing literature.nUnmarried and childless, he’s squeaking by.nThe Spirit That Moves Us was, in 1983, the first press tonpublish a collection, in English, by Czech poet JaroslavnSeifert, who would the next year win the Nobel Prize fornliterature. Sklar is proud of this, but not noticeably anynprouder than he is of 14 years of poets who haven’t foundnnotoriety. His press is relatively mature and has a goodnreputation, none of which will ever bring in Morty Sklar an28/CHRONlCLESnnnMercedes or a condo in Palm Springs. “I’m just hooked,”nhe explains, citing (inevitably) friendships with other poetsnand editors, and the euphoria of contributing to the literarynwodd. “And if I can’t sleep at night, there’s always somenwork I can do.”nFrom 1971-1985 Linda Hasselstrom ran Lame JohnnynPress, which produced books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction,nand from 1971-1976 published Sunday Clothes: AnMagazine of the Fine Arts. She did all of this from her ranchnnear tiny Hermosa, South Dakota.n”The reward of Lame Johnny Press was helping goodnregional writers see their work in print, often for the firstntime. Those rewards are still coming in: Dan O’Brien, annauthor whose first published short story appeared in SundaynClothes, saw his first novel. The Spirit of the Hills, reviewednin The New York Times last year, and it’s been optioned bynSteven Spielberg. Other writers have gone on to othernbooks. It is a source of immense pride to me that many ofnthem might have given up, or might have waited years andnyears more to be published without my help.n”Sunday Clothes . . . endured being entirely broke threentimes, as I experimented with various ways of supporting it. Inwas fleeced by a flood and then [by my first] husband. Thenthird time I went broke it was because I briefly took a job outnof state to supplement my income and to add to mynexperience and resume. While I was gone my brand newnadvertising salesman sold $5,000 worth of advertising, spentnthe money, and disappeared. The magazine limped alongnuntil I’d printed the ads that had been contracted for in mynname.nLame Johnny kept publishing books for another decade.nWhy did Hasselstrom give up her press after 14 years innwhich she published 23 books, several of them small classicsnnow, and developed a national reputation? “I had graduallynwhittled jobs out of my life to make room for the expandingnwork of the press; I had given up valuable time with mynhusband (and now that he is dead that is painful for me),nuntil there were only three things left in my working life: thenranch that keeps me in enough money to live, the press, andnmy writing. The press was all I could give up.”nWhy, then, did she do it for so long? “Almost everynother publisher of an independent press in the nationncould probably narrate this story by heart, though the detailsnmay differ a little. I suppose not many of us brand a bull andnpaste up a book on the same day. But the principle is thensame: we all give our time, our energy, our money earned atnvarious jobs, to bring out writing we think is important to thenworld.n”We keep doing it partly because many of us are writers,nand we hope that somewhere in the world another independentnpublisher will love our books. But even if we aren’tnwriting, we are involved in the struggle to provide finenliterature. Most independent publishers can probably recitenthe names: Crane, Pope, Byron, Shelley, the Brownings,nTennyson, Poe, Edward Arlington Robinson, Willa Gather,nThomas Hardy, Walt Whitman, Thoreau, Kipling, RobertnBurns, Washington Irving, Thomas Paine, William Blake.nWithout independent publishers, many of them might nevernhave been published.”nn