Organization Background (History)
Beginning Growth and Development:
Helicon Nine Editions is managed by an editor/publisher, art director,
and business manager (see attached bios). We have operated successfully
as a 501(c)(3) organization for 25 years, managing the editing,
publishing, and sale of a major literary magazine and 43 books
and chapbooks of poetry and fiction.
magazine: Helicon Nine: The Journal of Women’s Arts & Letters
was founded in 1977 in Kansas City, Missouri, by editor/publisher/poet
Gloria Vando Hickok to provide a quality literary publication
by and about women. The magazine provided a forum for women in
the arts at a time when women were being excluded from major anthologies,
history books, museums, and academic curricula. It published the
work of well over 500 artists - from Christine de Pisan to Yoko
Ono. In 1992 Helicon Nine, changed its name to Midwest Center
for the Literary Arts, Inc., in order to expand its mission to
include (1) publication of fine books of literature through Helicon
Nine Editions (HNE), and (2) the founding of The Writers Place,
a regional literary community center, library, and gallery offering
public and educational programs for all ages.
b. books: In 1990 when women's contributions to the arts
and letters became more widely acknowledged, Helicon Nine directed
its attention to the publication and nurturing of books of fine
literature under the imprint Helicon Nine Editions. With the disappearance
of many of the small vanguard presses, it has become increasingly
difficult for non-commercial authors to get their work published.
There is a real need for independent small presses that are willing
to take risks. HNE fulfills this need.
c. prizes: In 1991 Helicon Nine held the first of its annual
literary competitions: the Marianne Moore Poetry Prize, the Willa
Cather Fiction Prize, and the Virgil Thomson Essay Prize. The
competitions were established to honor Marianne Moore, Willa Cather,
and Virgil Thomson, three originals from the heartland whose works
reflect the poetic mood, pioneer spirit, and creative energy of
America. The competitions are open to poets and writers living
in the United States, and are judged by authors of national renown.
Prizewinners receive $1000, publication by HNE, and participate
in a joint reading with the judges.
d. chapbooks: Feuillets were published for the first time
in 1994. Feuillets (literally "little leaves," derives
its name from the "feuilleton," a now abandoned section
of a newspaper page once devoted to fiction, poetry, and criticism).
Feuillets are single-poem, story or essay books, ranging in length
from 1-24 pages, and in price from $2.50-$4.00, and come in their
own mailing envelope. By publishing Feuillets, HNE hopes to introduce
the public to fine writing. Feuillets also give regional authors
and artists an opportunity to reach a wider audience, including
those who cannot afford to purchase expensive books of literature.
Authors and artists are paid a flat fee of $100.
e. awards and honors to Helicon Nine include: the 1991
Governor's Arts Award from the State of Kansas, a CLMP Editors
Grant ($3500 award) for editorial excellence and innovation, and
several design awards including the Mid-America Publishers Association
and the Birmingham and Prosser Graphic Selection Award. HNE was
one of six literary presses nationwide to be awarded a 1992 Consultant
Grant, as part of a pilot program of the Council of Literary Magazines
and Presses, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Our books have won many awards, including the American Library
Association Poetry Award, William Carlos Williams Poetry Award
from the Poetry Society of America; the Society of Midland Authors
Poetry Award; Great Lakes Colleges Association National First
Book Award, Pushcart Prizes, and O'Henry Awards, and others.
HNE is one of a mere handful of independent small press publishers
in the Plain States with a national reputation. It has steadily
grown and developed with the support of a national advisory board
that has included three Pulitzer prizewinners and a poet laureate
of the United States. As a result of a 1992 Consultant Grant from
the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, with funding from
the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, HNE engaged a consultant from
the Center for Management Assistance to review board policy, assist
in restructuring the Board of Directors, and recruit and train
new members in fund-raising techniques. Ex Officio board members
include a merchandising expert, a publishing lawyer, and an accountant
who provide pro bono counsel. Last year a local advisory board
of ten published poets and fiction writers was formed to read
and evaluate incoming manuscripts. We have set up a computerized
invoice/returns/royalties system to meet the organizations growing
demands. Two years ago HNE developed a web page.
The present staff of four includes a full time executive director,
who serves as editor/publisher, a part time art director, a part-time
business manager and a contract worker (a student intern interested
in learning marketing and distribution). We also engage the services
of 20 local poets and writers to read and evaluate incoming manuscripts.
In addition to book and magazine sales, revenues come from grants
and individual donations, special events (readings and booksignings),
fundraisers, book festivals, T-shirt and poster sales, and in-kind
services. Our office and some of our equipment are donated. We
have broadened our markets and have engaged the services of a
new distributor who sells to the major book store chains. Helicon
Nine has been supported in part by grants from the Kansas Arts
Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, the National Endowment
for the Arts, and private foundations, including the Stickelber
Foundation, The Kansas City Star Foundation, N. W. Dible Foundation,
Copaken, White, and Blitt Foundation; and through individual donations.
These give uedibility and enable us to obtain additional funding.
As one of the few small presses in Kansas and Missouri, HNE generates
income in the area by using local printers, binders, typesetters,
artists, writers, proofreaders, color separators, jobbers, and
Since 1990 HNE has published 41 books and chapbooks of fiction
and poetry (under the imprint Helicon Nine Editions and feuillets);
sponsored annual national competitions in poetry (Marianne Moore
Poetry Prize), fiction (Willa Cather Fiction Prize), and creative
nonfiction (Virgil Thomson Essay Prize); and held workshops, public
readings, and book signings for its authors. In 2000 we produced
three books: Toy Guns, stories by Lisa Norris; The Air Lost in
Breathing, poems by Simone Muench; and Dresden, a chapbook by
Patricia Cleary Miller. All our authors give readings in the area;
some conduct workshops to which the public is invited.
The artistic quality of HNE has been lauded consistently throughout
its history. Commendatory reviews of HNE books have been featured
in local, regional, and national sources, including The New York
Times, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, The Indianapolis Star,
The Kansas City Star, Publishers Weekly, American Book Review,
The Bloomsbury Review, Sojourner, Xavier University Review, assorted
literary journals, and others. Dan Quisenberry's poem, "A
Day at the Park" from On Days Like This is recited by Kevin
Kostner in the recent HBO film "When It Was A Game, II."
Many of HNE's books have won the Willa Cather Fiction Prize and
the Marianne Moore Poetry Prize. Flesh by Susan Gubernat won the
2000 Bruce P. Rosley New Voices Literary Award; Diasporadic by
Patty Seyburn won the 2000 American Library Association Prize
for poetry (along with Seamus Heaney); A Strange Heart won the
Society of Midland Authors Poetry Competition (previous winners
include Allison Funk and Jorie Graham) and is in its second printing.
Wool Highways by David Ray won the William Carlos Williams Award
sponsored by the Poetry Society of America. Sweet Angel Band and
Black Method were both finalists for the 1991 Great Lakes Colleges
Association National First Book Award. Both Value of Kindness
and Galaxy Girls: Wonder Women (which sold out in four weeks)
are in their second printing.