For those members of the Binghamton community who aspire to a career in publishing and writing, Jan Freeman, founder of Paris Press, shared her insights and experiences in the field Wednesday afternoon in the Graduate Lounge in the Library Tower.
Freeman, visiting as part of the Readers’ Series sponsored by the Binghamton Center for Writers, shared the highs and lows of starting her own publishing company. She founded it in 1995 with the intention of publishing only one prose work, “The Life of Poetry,” by Muriel Rukeyser. The decision came from Freeman’s difficulty with finding the book after it had been stolen from multiple New York City public libraries. After four to six years of scouring secondhand bookshops, she eventually found it and realized it needed to stay in print in order to inspire others.
Despite her intentions to solely publish “The Life of Poetry,” Freeman also found herself publishing the poetry of Ruth Stone, her graduate school mentor.
“She needed to be celebrated for her work in a way that had never happened,” Freeman said.
Today, Paris Press publishes literature by women that is overlooked by mainstream and commercial publishing industries. It also publishes literature that has gone out of print or never had the chance to be published in the past, including material by famous female authors such as Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson.
“It’s been a great honor for me to bring these books into the world and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to describe to students how they too can do this kind of work,” she said.
Although her publishing endeavors have been successful, Freeman foresees the expansion of Paris Press with providing educational outreach opportunities to communities across the country as well as publishing female authors of color.
“That’s the way the Press will continue to live a long life,” she said.
About 20 people, of a variety of ages and education levels, attended the event. Freeman allowed for open discussion and a question-and-answer segment of the talk.
Freeman spoke of her own experiences as a young writer and the sacrifices she made early on, such as being underpaid, living on boiled eggs and walking to work each day.
“It’s always inspiring to hear someone’s story and the route that they thought they would go compared to the route they took,” said Jason Allen, a doctoral candidate in creative writing.
Freeman spoke of how she never expected to become a publisher. Regardless of the path she ended up taking, Freeman still tries to find time to write poetry in the midst of her publishing career.
“My life as a poet is what propels the Press,” Freeman said.
Freeman also suggested ways to get started in the field of writing, such as by applying for internships and publishing work online. She suggested that people interested in publishing should be completely relentless about their work.
“It’s important to have passion and try something,” Freeman said. “To take that risk and do something that is meaningful.”
Maria Mazziotti Gillan, director of the Center for Writers as well as the Creative Writing Program, said that Freeman’s endurance is inspiring.
“She forged her own path and didn’t let anything get in her way,” Gillan said.