Saturday, May 15, 2010

Save SMU Press!

SMU, Dallas Hall (Wikipedia)

Provost Paul Ludden announced the immediate closing of SMU Press called " one of the best small publishers of literary fiction in the country."

The decision to destroy SMU Press is shocking and discredits the university. Since 1936 the press has distinguished the school, publishing books of lasting value, and more recently fiction that future generations will read long after the cheering fans at football games in the twenty-first century are dead.

The word “culture” comes from a word meaning cultivation, tillage of the soil. In cultivation of the soil and the arts, the tools must go deep. SMU Press went deep and produced rich results.

Surely everything cannot be about money! Four hundred thousand dollars, the operating budget of the press, is an insignificant sum compared to the university’s other expenditures. Surely there are other ways to save money.

In a letter to the New York Times, author Tracy Daugherty writes: "Paul W. Ludden, the provost of Southern Methodist University . . . cites budgetary challenges as his rationale, but in fact SMU is weathering the recession quite well, with one of the largest university endowments in the country. Quite simply, this is a deliberate change in the university's educational/intellectual values, and I'm writing you because I believe this change would send ripples far beyond SMU, and set a precedent with disastrous ramifications for our national literary life."

While I am an SMU author--they published my novel In Paterson--I am not under contract for a future novel. I'm writing in support of SMU Press because I admire the work they do, publishing literary fiction the trade houses do not have the courage to publish. Here is a sample:

Praise for Mrs. Somebody Somebody from the Boston Globe

Short but not sweet
In the mill city of Lowell, interwoven tales of yearning, disappointment, and betrayal
By Steve Almond | April 19, 2009
By Tracy Winn
SMU Press, 189 pp.

Boston Globe/ Katherine Rathke

There was a time not so long ago when writers could make a living crafting short stories. Those days are gone. Amid the downturn in publishing, the new mantra among literary agents and editors is: "How can we transform these stories into a novel?"

Tracy Winn has wisely (and courageously) resisted the pressure. The 10 tales gathered in her new collection, "Mrs. Somebody Somebody," offer a testament to the power of the short form. They do what all great stories must: capture their heroes and heroines in the throes of astonishing events.

I would be grateful if you would join the following writers, among others, who have written letters of support. Please e-mail your letter to Provost Paul Ludden: and copy it to Kathryn Lang, Senior Editor,

Lee K. Abbott

Ann Beattie

Madison Smart Bell

Robert Boswell

Rosellen Brown

Robert Olen Butler

Alan Cheuse

Marcia Day Childress

Ron Carlson

Robert Cohen

Lesley Epstein

Richard Ford

Laura Furman

Alyson Hagy

David Huddle

Paul Lisicky

Margot Livesey

David Madden

Jill McCorkle

A.G. Mojtabai

Kent Nelson

Naomi Shihab Nye

Leslie Pietrzyk

Richard Russo

David Slavitt

Susan Straight

Abraham Verghese

Brad Watson

Gordon Weaver

Steve Yarbrough


  1. this is so important, mim. thank you for bringing it to our attention, and so eloquently. i will write a note.

  2. Thank you, Susan! With the support of people like you we may be able to turn this around and convince the Provost to keep SMU Press.

  3. Good to hear from you, Lewis!

  4. I wrote a note this morning after reading Leslie's note on Wompo. How frustrating that would be, to have a book in process two years then dropped! Sounds like the values are changing at the school. I hope they get enough feedback to reconsider.

  5. Julene: Thank you for helping! I've heard that, at least, the administration will honor the contracts. All is not lost. The press may continue after a reorganization.