Helicon Nine

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Derivation of the name: Helicon Nine

Helicon Nine, derived its name from the nine Muses of Helicon, Greek goddesses with inspiratory powers who presided over literature, history, and the arts. Their names and the canonical number nine were ascribed to them by Hesiod in The Theogony, an 8th century B.C. epic that explores the evolution of the world, the affairs of the gods, parent/child relationships, and the triumph of order over chaos.

But it is only when Mnemosyn (Memory) gives birth to the "sweet-voiced" Muses that wisdom, beauty, and poetry are introduced into the world.

We start then with the Muses, who delight With song. . .telling of things that are, That will be, and that were, with voices joined In harmony.

And that is precisely what Helicon Nine did.

Mission Statement

The ongoing mission of Helicon Nine Editions is to publish books of unswerving quality, editorial excellence, and aesthetic merit by new and established writers - classics of the future, and to promote the authors and their work on a national and regional level; to nurture an interest in literature in a large, diverse audience; to promote literacy and free speech; and to contribute to the quality of cultural life in Kansas, Missouri, and throughout the Midwest.

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Organization Background (History)

1. 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.

a. 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.

2. Policy-Making Body
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.

3. Staff
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.

4. Financial Status
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 paper sellers.

5. Past Programming
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.

6. Artistic Quality
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.

Executive Board

Gloria Vando Hickok - President
Philomene Bennett - Vice President
Ann Slegman Isenberg - Vice President
Patricia Cleary Miller - Vice President
Pinky Kase - Secretary
Marty Nichols - Treasurer

National Advisory Board

Carolyn Doty
William Gass
Francine DuPlessix Gray
Michael S. Harper
Colette Inez
Hilary Masters
Rebekah Presson Mosby
Robert Phillips
Anne Roiphe
Miriam Schapiro
William Jay Smith
Daniel Stern
Robley Wilson