July 6, 2018

A Conversation with David Anthony Martin, Founding Editor of Middle Creek Publishing and Audio

A friend of mine had a book of poetry published by Middle Creek Publishing and Audio recently, and I wanted to learn more about the publisher, the platform, and especially, The Literature of Human Ecology. I invited David Anthony Martin to talk and share a little of his world with me, and what follows is an amazing conversation. Be sure to check it out!

Middle Creek Publishing and Audio

Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, David. Tell me what inspired your vision for Middle Creek Publishing and Audio?

Certainly, Janine, so grateful to have this conversation. Thank you.

My pleasure, David. I found your website and your unique perspective on publishing fascinating!

It would be hard to point to any one thing as the inspiration as it was most likely a synthesis of several things coming together. One being my preference for reading and creating a particular type or genre of poetry. One of my favorite functions of literature, often most notably found in poetry, is artful communication which illuminates and connects people to each other, and to their environment in deeper, more meaningful ways, despite their differences by focusing on common denominators or through the use of metaphor or allegory.

A lot of books, especially fiction, are written for entertainment, for pleasurable distraction from our daily lives and the troubles and challenges of the world. But there is another use for literature, one that is, not only interesting, entertaining and enjoyable, but which also improves peoples lives through connection, or re-connection to our lives and to our world.

Our lives in these times are marked by so much separation and division . . . we are very busy with the day to day work of living and surviving and our moments are often so full of hurry, worry or distraction that we’ve become estranged from each other and from Nature. The technologies of our times have connected us to each other and to knowledge in ways Humanity has never known, and yet, somehow, our lives have become even more compartmentalized, disconnected and dismembered. There is a whole industry arising around mindfulness right now to address this. And I guess it was mindfulness that I was trying to put into my own writing.

Feedback from poetry readings and comments about my writing by readers often expressed the sentiment that my work helped them see the beauty of the world or small moments of life in more meaningful ways, that my work had lent them another way to see their world and their selves. I felt that what I wrote was often just me calling it as I see it, writing about and celebrating the world that I saw and my experience of it. In trying to understand the responses my work was receiving in order to refine it or tap into it more effectively, I began to question what it was about the way I saw things that was different and what may be the source of that essential uniqueness, to stalk and dissect my writing process.

I contributed much of my vision of the world from the quality and frequency of time that I spent out in Nature, hiking in solitude. When I read Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild, in my early twenties, I began to consciously and actively seek out deeper ways to connect with Nature, the wild and to wilderness, both outdoors and within my own biology and psychology. It began to greatly influence my study of the mythology, philosophy, theologies and cosmologies of Humanity. I found Henry David Thoreau’s quote “in Wildness is the preservation of the world" to be quite true for me, for it was in Nature that I found the answers to any ailments or dis-ease in my life. I recognized that this deepening of my own personal connection to Nature was an aspect of my life that gave me a lot of joy and solace, gave my moments more of a sense of profound purpose and meaning, and which provided me a sense of adventure and exploration and endless avenues of learning and personal growth. Overall, my love of spending time in Nature allowed me to live a more settled, peaceful, mindful and, more importantly, heart-ful life. I felt that it was this integration of Nature in every aspect of my life that was the source of or contributed to my overall health; body, mind and soul.

I decided that it was important for me to promote this connection, to share this vision . . . that it was perhaps my gift to present my version of the world at large as a thing of miraculous beauty, a thing made of moments seeming so simple at times, but undeniably founded on something most elegantly complex. That we are a small part of something much larger than ourselves which can be experienced personally and consciously to great benefit.

Another aspect of the inspiration came the environmental education work that I do. When I started Middle Creek Publishing, I was working for an organization called the Mountain Park Environmental Center in Beulah, Colorado which focused on something called environmental literacy, and worked toward increasing knowledge and understanding of the environment and the circumstances and conditions affecting it, particularly as relates to air, climate, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems. This organization, which I still work for, has now merged with what was once the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, Colorado to become a larger more comprehensive organization, The Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center with a River and Raptor Campus in Pueblo and a Mountain Campus in Beulah. This work allowed me to share my lifelong knowledge of the outdoors, the flora and fauna, watersheds and the ecology of the many interpenetrating cycles of nature with more people, and on a regular basis. The majority of the population I work with is children, teaching the organizations Earth Studies curriculum to fifth graders throughout the workweek. I find this especially meaningful work as I see our children as the future leaders, citizens and policy makers of our world. It’s been shown that we only work to preserve that which we love and understand, and so that is the work I do at my day-job, connecting children to Nature, teaching them and guiding their exploration and experience in a way which I hope is fun and inspiring to them.

And perhaps the final component was a self-help concept of trying to make my living doing the things I love by working to embody the things I would like to see more of in the world . . . by, essentially, being or becoming these things.

When my first book went out of print as the publisher went out of business, I was determined to get it back into print, and began the process of learning desk-top publishing to pursue self-publication of the second edition of my first book. Once I learned how to do this, I realized I had acquired another skill set to share with the world. I was a publisher.

Prior to that moment, as a writer, I was constantly submitting works and manuscripts in the hopes that a publisher would accept and publish them, but it isn’t easy work and as any writer knows is one that is not always successful. But, I realized, I could now be someone who said yes to others, someone who accepted submissions and helped midwife their poems into new books birthed into the world. By becoming a publisher of not only my own works, but those of others, I was found my self in the position to invest my time and energy in promoting things which I felt gave back or contributed towards the progress, health and well-being of the world.

These things led me to begin to refine my vision for Middle Creek Publishing, to create a platform to produce and promote what I felt was the literature of Human Ecology.

Your main focus and passion does seem to be connecting nature and humanity through the arts. Can you explain more about the Literature of Human Ecology?

Human ecology is defined as: an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments. Its theory is a way of looking at the interactions of humans with their environments and considering this relationship as a system. In this theoretical framework, biological, social, and physical aspects of the Human organism are considered within the context of their environments.

Middle Creek focuses on what I like to consider the Literature of Human Ecology, literature which is principally concerned with the experience of the human within its natural, built and social ecologies, but it also includes all aspects of global ecology because humans are a most important species.

Humanity has entered an era wherein we are the most influential component species of our global ecology, with human activity has being the dominant influence on climate and the environment. This new geological epoch, arriving on the heels of the Holocene, is now referred to as the Anthropocene.

I find that art in general is a response by the humanity to the world, and as the most influential species of our global ecology, it is perhaps the most critical aspect of feedback. I am drawn, personally, to literature as it is quite capable of embodying and expressing a multitude of the other liberal arts and sciences, and that as a form of response to the world, it provides a means of communication and contributes to the global conversation in a way which may provide us the connection and integration we need to circumscribe our passions, to move toward a more harmonious relationship with other people and our environment through education and a sharing of healthy, mature, responsible, perhaps moral, sentiment.

As a founding editor/publisher of two online magazines, I understand how demanding yet rewarding the work can be. What motivates you?

My major motivation is a desire to do good work and to make the world a better place. My dad always taught my brother and I that when we went backpacking and camping we would “leave no trace” and whenever possible, to leave a place better than when we arrived. Often this entailed cleaning up litter, cords left tied to trees or old bent tent stakes. My dad taught me a lot of the environmental ethics that I pass on to others in my daily work at the Mountain Park.

In facilitating the Earth Studies programs and guiding kids through the park, we often encounter trash on or off the trail left by other park guests. It’s an opportunity to have a conversation about our world, namely that even though we do not always encounter the world we would like to experience, we have the power to change our world through our work to help create a more preferable world, a world. I want to hike and explore a world without litter, and so by picking up the trash and disposing of it properly, I actually create the world I prefer from the world I find. It may not be our trash, but it’s our park.

In my publishing work I encounter a lot of very talented people, a lot of great art, and it is very satisfying to be able to give those artists a platform to share their work with the world, whether materializing their work as a book or publishing it in AFIELD, our online journal.

It is demanding work; I am often doing Middle Creek work in the morning before my day job and in the late afternoon and early evening afterwards as well as on most weekends. I’ve found that although its challenging and I am always learning, often through frustrations with formatting or learning new technologies or working to master the whole Adobe publishing suite of applications, it is work that I love, so it’s worth it.

Like everyone else, trying to balance my life is the eternal struggle. I am often so busy manifesting other peoples work that I have little time for my own, so I am motivated by finding better and more effective and efficient ways of working and running a business. For me publishing is a part of what I feel is my true vocation, and doing the work is an aspect of what Buddhists call Right Livelihood.

 As a publisher/writer/artist, I totally understand the struggle. Can you tell us a little more about the AFIELD Journal?

Yes, the AFIELD Journal is another aspect of Middle Creek intended to connect to and expand its readership. In an effort to find a way to connect Middle Creek to its readers more frequently I realized that a blog might be one avenue. It was a way for MCP to communicate small items of interest, new works by its authors as well as finding and promoting work by new authors. It became another publishing platform for short works or poetry, a way to get more work out by more authors with a minimal output of energy. Writing a book, or writing poems eventually collected into a book can take years, and publishing a book often takes several months, it’s a huge output of time and energy. With AFIELD I am able to publish something new, a single short story or poem by an author. The intention is that its mutually beneficial, adding a publication credit to an authors list of publications, connecting  MCP to new writers, and in a way which I hope will slowly grow the readership in an organic, or rhizomial manner.

The title of the journal comes from the fact that since it’s inception, Middle Creek has attracted more nature poets or eco-poets than most other forms or genres. Nature- or eco-poets often write in the field or write from the field.  It also alludes to the blank page as a field for the writer or poet to use. I’ve always enjoyed poetry that utilizes white-space to pace the work or create a more dimensional experience of the words laid down.

Does your press hold contests or events?

Yes. Middle Creek started with two annual contests. The Fledge Poetry Chapbook Prize which is intended to award poets who are yet unpublished or who have published no more than one full length book of poetry, not including chapbooks, with the publication of a chapbook of their work. Our intention is as much to increase the poet’s readership as it is to add another feather to their developing wings and flight skills.

The Osprey Fiction Prize which seeks fiction, either novels or collections of short stories or flash fiction.

This year we’ve added the Halcyon Prize which seeks full manuscripts of poetry in the Human Ecology field and the Broadside Poetry & Flash Fiction Prize which is seeking  a single piece of work to pair with art to produce our first broadside.

 Events are few and far between, most notably book releases and poetry readings, however I have offered workshops and guided hikes locally which have focused on everything from basic nature and eco-writing, to haiku and micro-poetry, and even some events that were simply connecting people to nature with less of a focus on writing such as foraging for wild mushrooms and for wild medicinal plants. These types of workshops and guided hikes usually include some form of classroom type setting to start out, whether indoors or outdoors, and at times at the end of the program there is a return to a setting suitable where time is made for writing or a recap and Q & A session.

You’ve published some fantastic authors at Middle Creek Publishing and Audio. What is the process for new authors who want to submit their works?

Honestly, one of my favorite joys about Middle Creek Publishing has been discovering great new poets, reading their work and working with them to turn their manuscripts into books. Most of the Middle Creek authors have come to my attention via the internet and social media, some through submitting to the contests and others simply through one poet or writer sharing the work of another.

Writers submitting manuscripts to the various contests submit manuscripts in a simple format, usually MS Word documents or PDF’s along with a reading fee. There are also open reading windows for general, unsolicited manuscripts which may not necessarily meet the criteria of the contest guidelines. Originally there were no reading fees but I suddenly found myself needing to spend a lot of time reading manuscripts and the fees help to cover the costs of that time spent with their work.

After a manuscript is accepted for publication a contract tis drawn up and agreed to and signed before any more work is done with the manuscript. After that begins a conversation about the book, the cover art. I then either begin working with the artist on the book cover concepts or begin designing them myself and work begins on formatting the submitted manuscript, shaping it in the ways that will turn it into a book and come out looking like we want when the interior and cover files are submitted to a printer. This process can take a lot of time, and I always run into new issues and challenges with each book.

The first two chapbooks I published happened to be by Colorado authors. I thought that was interesting since Middle Creek is based in Colorado, but what was more interesting was that each author had artists in mind that they wanted to work with as far as book cover creation, and that these two artists happened to also be Colorado based artists. Colorado loves Colorado; its one of those states with a great sense of identity and a specific craft culture that probably spawned from the close-knit communities and friendships that grow out of the outdoor sports scenes. There’s a huge market here for art and handmade crafts, craft micro-beers, artisan cheeses, unique and progressive small restaurants and businesses that break standard American molds and specialize in amazing niche markets with art and flair. Even the legalized medical and recreational marijuana industry, from seed to sale and incorporation into many foods and drinks is a revolution that has spawned innovation, technical advancement and spurred new avenues of arts and culture.  So anyway, I realized that what I had were some unique all-Colorado projects and decided to create a publishing imprint under the umbrella company of Middle Creek to be called ECOCO Books taken from and combining the words Ecology and Colorado. So some books that Middle Creek publishes fall into this unique all-Colorado category. As a local product from local authors, artists and publisher, many small retailers, such as Solar Roast Coffee (who are themselves local innovators of roasting coffee with the solar roaster they designed) relish displaying, selling and promoting our ECOCO Books.

What are your goals for Middle Creek Publishing and Audio?

A few general goals would be continue to publish great quality content and to expand our reach and grow our readership. I would like to offer more of our titles as eBooks and to make sure that the content is optimized for mobile. Trends in publishing in general show a strong trend of readers using mobile devices more and more for reading, however, with most of Middle Creeks content so far we have found that we still reside in a niche that is inhabited by those who prefer to hold a book in their hands. I would like to begin offering our titles in audio formats, an area of Middle Creek that, with all that goes into production of the print editions, I simply haven’t had the time to manifest. I would like to begin. I would like to grow our social media presence to connect to more people, however I am still struggling with finding the time to do this as often and as widely as I would like. I would like to Middle Creek move closer to some of it’s environmental and goals as far as an increased use of recycled material and lowering our carbon footprint. In time I would like to see Middle Creek become a carbon-zero company that invests in the preservation of old growth forests and is active in forest management projects to include reforestation as well as mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

This year we will be starting another imprint as well, Middle Creek Dragon Editions, which focuses on wisdom traditions as they pertain to health, happiness and consciousness aspects of Human Ecology. Middle Creek’s first offering in this field will be No Better Place: A New Zen Primer by Hoag Holmgren, which is a collection of short dharma talks. Hoag, whose poetry collection Paleos also comes out this year, has agreed to be a consultant in this project which was, for the most part, his brain-child, and he will be helping to facilitate this new branch of Middle Creek.

I have to credit my love for Gary Snyder’s work in my formidable years for this, as he introduced me, through his work, essays and interviews, to Zen sitting practices which inculcated a consciousness, mindfulness or awareness that I have found to be so crucial in my development as a writer and environmental educator and has greatly increased my love and enjoyment of life, whether those moments are outdoors in my natural ecology or indoors, in society or in relationship with my built and social ecologies. So we will be offering books and other content, as well as events such as guided hikes, meditation walks, which speak to the integration of ancient practices to connect or reconnect to Nature and our various ecologies in deeper ways.

A much larger goal that I have begun envisioning is to create an event that will serve as a conference, a retreat and a workshop focused on the integration of Nature and Ecology with and Art and Writing. It’s a big undertaking and will take a lot of planning. Kathleen Willard, author of Cirque & Sky who is a very active poet and event organizer is giving me some assistance with this. We are still in the visioning stage of this, but already things are lining up quite nicely and the pieces are falling into place.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Middle Creek Publishing and Audio?

Middle Creek believes that the disconnect between Nature and Humanity is a crucial contributor to the discontents and dis-ease we see in the world. Our mission is to connect people to each other and the world they inhabit in a deeper, more meaningful way, to inspire unity and oneness, to counter anomie and heal Humanity, and thus the world, by reigniting the passion between people and Nature through the arts. By providing a platform for artists working within this passion, we intend to share the rich complexity and profound depth of life; in all its beauty, challenge and potential.

We appreciate any help readers may feel called to in spreading the word about our authors, books or our press and its mission via social media, book reviews or sharing our books with others. As a small, independent press, we seek to grow a grassroots community, or perhaps, mycelial network of authors, artists and readers. We seek to bring the voice of Nature to those who love it and those who need it.

Middle Creek is dedicated to the illumination of Human Ecology. Open to fiction and non-fiction, novels, poetry, flash fiction and short stories of many genres and styles and to partnering with folks who spend time in nature, contemplating it, living it and truly, mindfully experiencing it as it is presently or contemplatively speculating on it's future.

To me, the internet is an extension of our evolution, a hyper-contextual aspect of language, and thus culture. I would agree with Gary Snyder that the purpose of 'the real work' at hand is 'to make the world as real as it is, and to find ourselves as real as we are within it' *

* Tan, J. Q. (2009). Han Shan, Chan Buddhism and Gary Snyder's Ecopoetic Way. Sussex Academic Press, Brighton/Portland.


~Janine Pickett
~David Anthony Martin


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