The joy of a good NAP
NAP was a journal and press run by Chad Redden. The site ran from 2011-2014, starting as an online journal, expanding into physical chapbooks, and then publishing one of the best runs of ebooks I’ve ever seen a publisher put out.
NAP was one of those places I trusted inherently, whenever they published an ebook I was checking it out, whether I’d heard of the author before or not. They published early projects by people who have gone on to have a lot of success, like Gabby Bess, Sara June Woods, and Roberto Montes.
I think that some of the coolest things NAP published were their anthologies. LOG 1 & 2 brought a new meaning to ‘nature poems’; Anthology Of Etiquette And Terrifying Angels With Many Heads, edited by Jame Tadd Adcox, was overflowing with amazing writing by a who’s who of indie writers; #GOODLitSwerveAutumn, edited by Salvator Pane, was full of writing about Kanye West because duh. All of the pdf’s were designed by Chad, with not only beautiful cover art but often also including fantastic background images for the text itself, giving these digital books a very physical feeling.
Some writers who were published by NAP shared their memories with me:
NAP was my introduction to the online writing community. The playful/serious design struck me – until I discovered NAP, I didn’t realize that was allowed in literature. I don’t know where I came up with that rule. Chad was always kind and funny, one of my favorite people I haven’t met yet IRL to work with as a writer.
I think the most impressive thing about NAP was the seemingly endless amount of energy and ideas that Chad put into the project. It seemed to morph and grow and fluctuate with newness all the time. Activity Book is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, and one of the things I’m proudest to see recirculating on the internet still. Most other presses thought these poems were weird, or not actually poetry at all. Chad recognized them, though. He made them into a beautiful thing that people could (and still can) read for free — something I think we should all be doing a lot more of.
I think of Chad Redden as one of the unsung heroes of the literary scene at that time. His creativity in imagining what published work could look like and what form it could take, and his commitment to seeing those ideas through to reality, were unparalleled. Take his microchaps, tiny e-chaps which you could print out and assemble yourself. He came to the Chicago release reading for my NAP chapbook with a ton of them already assembled, a bunch with pretty colored thread. Chad has steadily and quietly put care into publishing work, and he cares as well about the people behind the work.
Chad and NAP believed in me when I was a baby poet. In many ways I still am, but it’s a credit to Chad that I’m still writing and publishing. He published my first chapbook, ETHER/ORE and that was at the time the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my writing life.
Chad Redden answered some questions I had about the site:
Why did you start NAP?
I read a lot. I kind of remember when I finally had a steady internet connection, I wanted to read more stuff, not like specifically online literature, but stuff by people who might be unpublished like me. I felt outside of online publishing, but then it began to feel familiar. At some point I started following writers on twitter and facebook. At some point I thought it would be a good idea to start NAP. I guess so I could read more.
How did NAP develop and change over time?
At the start I was interested in ebooks. So I started NAP with ebooks and pdfs on issuu. I didn’t build a website issue until maybe the second year. Then I did all three things. I think maybe the first two issues are on Amazon. I couldn’t put them up for free. I can’t pull them down now. They’re floating around there. Zombie ebooks. I learned about smashwords as a distribution method. Then ebooks were dropped and I focused on pdfs and webpages. Then print chapbooks and digital chapbooks you could print out and cut and fold into a tiny chapbook. Sometime before then I moved things to tumblr. Started posting work on there. Individual pieces and the full issues. Sometime during all of this, NAP had editors and readers too. Then toward the end I wanted to focus on echaps. What’s left of the site is kind of destroyed. I lost the domain. Which is what happened.
You published a few physical chapbooks before moving completely into the digital realm. What prompted you to make that move?
My work schedule made it difficult to make it to the post office. Orders sometimes needed a week or more before they’d be in the mail. It bothered me. I think if I were to do it again, I’d keep about twenty to sell online, then give the rest to the author to sell in person at readings or do whatever they like with them.
You came to Carolyn and I with the idea for the ebook we had published on NAP. How much of the work that you put out came to you in that way versus regular submissions?
A few times I wanted to see a writer whose work I knew take on an idea or topic I was thinking about. Sometimes the idea wouldn’t be fully formed, only a sketch. I don’t remember my what I asked for when I approached Carolyn and you. It may have been about wanting two voices talking in the dark, your voices talking in the dark.
A few times, I was approached with anthologies, which were almost fully formed, which gave me more time to design the layout. This is the case of Salvatore Pane’s #GOODLitSwerveAutumn and James Tadd Adcox’s ANTHOLOGY OF ETIQUETTE AND TERRIFYING ANGELS WITH MANY HEADS.
What was your favourite thing about running NAP?
Publishing someone for the first time.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I should have bothered more people I didn’t know and asked for their work. NAP introduced me to a lot of writers who I still follow and support. I should have solicited all of them for more work as well.
Are there any specific pieces/projects that you’re particularly proud of having published?
There are a lot to mention and I should list each one. There are a few I still think about and reread like Activity Book by Kelly Schirmann and I am Not All Water by Lucy Tiven. Every issue and chap from the 2nd and 3rd years felt like NAP was in the right place for itself.
Why did NAP come to an end?
In my life away from NAP, I took a job in a half a million square foot warehouse and worked with one other guy who didn’t talk much. The warehouse was full of stacks of recyclable materials and rats. Life became quieter and I wanted it that way. I didn’t need to talk to anyone or listen to anyone for days at a time if I didn’t want to. NAP submissions piled up, became less enjoyable to read, became more of a chore. It wasn’t the quality of the submissions. It was the quality of me.
Most of the work is still accessible on the tumblr, but some of the links have gone dead. Is it important to you for that writing to remain available? Do you plan to keep it online indefinitely?
Many webpages were disabled mysteriously or accidentally. I’m unsure, things fell apart, I am not that kind of detective in my spare time. The pdfs for issues and chapbooks are still accessible through the tumblr site. I’ll transfer them to Scribd or something similar in the near future. Where the work might circulate around. Some place stable.
Have you been working on any literary projects since NAP closed shop?
I read for [PANK] a year or so before it shut down, or sold, or whatever happened to it. That was nice. Just reading. What I wanted to do in the first place.
Other than that, nothing. I spend time on my own writing, a podcast, and creating card games, even though I don’t play card games. I’m half finished with one game, and it might be fun. Another game, which I’m not sure is a game, because it’s impossible to win, because it’s not a game to win, maybe only to lose. I think maybe it’s a game for spending time with another person, but if you lose interest in the person or the game, no one wins.