5 Questions with Editor Yen-Yen Lu (The Emma Press)

Q. So The Emma Press has now opened its Call for Pamphlets, with Rachel Piercey, Emma Wright, Richard O’Brien and yourself as the

editors. For those who are considering sending their work to you, what would you say you are particularly on the look out for?

Each of the four editors are looking for different things. Until this year, the Emma Press has primarily published poetry. I am mainly interested in prose, particularly YA stories and novellas. I’d like to read work that is fresh, earnest, and teaches me something new. I’m less interested in clichés and I don’t want to be able to predict what will happen in a story – I find it more interesting when there’s a twist on the formulaic girl-meets-guy story, for example.

Q. Is there any genre you feel The Emma Press hasn't covered yet or needs to start touching on in a bigger way?

The Emma Press have published a lot of really great children’s poetry books and one collection of coming-of-age stories (The Secret Box by Daina Tabuna, translated from Latvian by Jayde Will). I’d be interested to see us continuing to branching out into children’s and YA literature. It’s important to be putting good work out there for young readers so hopefully they will grow up into good people. There was a study not too long ago showing that people who read Harry Potter as children are typically more compassionate and empathetic as adults. It would explain why I once cried at an Adam Sandler movie.

It would be really great to see more creative non-fiction works as well, which is one of Richard O’Brien focuses. It isn’t something we have published much though we have an interesting memoir coming out next year.

Q. What made you want to be more open about the 'behind the scenes' process of selecting and processing submissions?

This is the first time that we have asked writers to select the editor they’d like to read their submission, which should be a six-page sample of a manuscript. I think it’s useful for the editors as we can outline exactly what we’re looking for and hopefully read some writers who are interested in and produce similar kinds of work. I hope that it will be helpful to writers as well as they will have a better idea of what we’re interested in and decide for themselves which editor they think will be better suited for their work. However, I also want to point out that it’s not a decision to stress too much about – if an editor receives a submission that we think would be better suited to another editor, we will pass it along to them.

Q. Are there any authors The Emma Press particularly wants to hear from?

I’d be interested to hear from emerging or unpublished authors. I’d also really like to read authors from marginalised groups, whether that means BAME, disabled, LGBT, or any other groups that aren’t often represented in literature and as authors. As a writer from a minority background myself, it is a little frustrating and discouraging to mainly see ‘old white men’ held up as brilliant writers – maybe they are great writers but I feel that other voices should also be heard alongside them.

It might also be interesting to read some international authors - I really enjoyed Daina Tabuna’s collection and Leanne Radojkovich’s collection First fox (which we also published this year, with a lot of the stories set in New Zealand) because it was interesting to see the differences and similarities between growing up in the UK and growing up in Latvia and New Zealand.

Q. How did you become involved with The Emma Press and how has it grown since you started working there?

I first met Emma when I was an intern at Inpress, a publishing sales and marketing agency. After I left and moved back to London, I started freelancing and emailed Emma about working with her, as she had mentioned it before and I had always liked the press. I started working as a publicist and now branching into editing as well.

I think the press has grown in the way that there is a little more space to move now that there are more people working on the books. We have also recently hired someone to be in charge of production and recently took on a short-term work experience placement as well. I have previously had experience editing at university (I studied Creative Writing and gained a reputation for ‘legendary laser eyes’, as one of my friends puts it) and with a couple of other publishers too. I’m looking forward to reading these submissions and hope that the press will continue to grow and produce great books!