The founders of Sunset Press, Kenyon’s first student-run literary press, jokingly refer to their organization as a “family business.” It’s easy to understand why: The team behind Sunset Press worked closely with poet Virginia Kane ’22 and prose writer Jenny Tie ’21 to edit, design and market books of each writer’s work, all within the span of eight weeks.
Armiya “A” Shaikh ’21 is the one who came up with the idea for Sunset Press after taking Andy Grace’s Introduction to Poetry Writing (ENGL 201) and furthering her passion for workshopping and long form work. Once the class was finished, she wanted to continue the momentum that she and her classmates had established.
According to Shaikh, starting a student-run literary press is all about hard work, dedication and finding the right people to help.
“Sunset Press is a people project. And it’s like, I’m one person. And it took me intro poetry to find my people,” she said. “We all had the dedication to create long form work.”
Unlike campus literary magazines like HIKA and Persimmons, which draw from individual and anonymous submissions, Sunset Press seeks to work directly with the writers in the editing process to cultivate a collection of their work for publication.
“It’s your writing, but you’re working on vision together,” Tie said. “They’re pushing you to be better than you are.”
For inspiration, the group looked to Wesleyan University’s Stethoscope Press, which works with writers over the academic year to help them publish collections of work and long form stories. Sunset, however, took the model a step further.
“We really Kenyon-fied it,” Shaikh said.
For one thing, Sunset Press hopes to lift up underrepresented voices. They also differ from Wesleyan’s model in terms of structure; rather than have the writers work one-on-one with a single editor, Sunset took more of a team approach. They split into smaller groups to work with each writer, and then came together to workshop as a team. This was partially due to an outpouring of interest during the hiring process which prompted Shaikh, along with fellow chief editors Maria Peteet ’21, Emmy Roday ’21 and Trudy Wrona ’20, to allow more press editors to join the project.
Sunset Press also stands apart from Stethoscope, as well as other Kenyon publications, because they will charge for their books. To help offset the cost of printing and raise the funds needed to hold campus-wide events, each copy will cost five dollars.
“I also think there’s something symbolic and important about placing a value on your work,” Kane said.
Kane’s book is called “If organic deodorant was made for dancing.”
“It’s a commentary on our attempts to cover up the most natural parts of ourselves,” she said. “Sometimes it’s too much to be contained.”
Tie’s memoir is titled “Shoebox of Sparrows” and focuses on themes of forgiveness and finding a release from the past.
Both of these works were officially released on April 19 at the first ever Sunset Press launch party. Members of the community were welcomed to the lower Horn Gallery to enjoy readings by Kane and Tie as well as cakes with the covers of the books on them.
In the future, Sunset Press plans to continue their mission of showcasing underrepresented voices by creating two more writer positions, one for genre-specific work and one satellite position covering off-campus students.
They also plan to publish an anthology of works by writers of color and hold workshops throughout each semester.