Staff Profile: Nikkita Cohoon

One of my favorite parts of being the online editor for Black Ocean is the chance to talk with our authors and staff members. I love learning what drives them and how they work. This week, it’s my turn to answer a few questions about my role at Black Ocean. With these staff profiles, we hope to give our fans a little insight into how we run our press, the type of people we are, the things we love. I hope you’re enjoying the series! Nikki

How I got involved:

I discovered Black Ocean while I was living in Northern Michigan watching people shovel off the snow that threatened to cave in their rooftops, requesting books I’d only heard hints of be sent to the small library in town. I loved the vibrancy and richness I found with the books from Black Ocean, and I continued to follow what the press was doing until a year later when the online editor position opened up. It’s been so wonderful to get to know the staff and to be involved with projects I care so much about.

What I do and why I love it:

The position has developed over time to include updating all things virtual—the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and our monthly newsletter. Some of it is sharing content from other parts of the web, but the best part is the content I help create, often through collaboration with staff or authors.

Working on the blog especially has been a fun challenge, because we really want it to have the feel of a virtual community space; so I am always thinking of different features to add that will help bring about that sense. Having an excuse to reach out to poets I deeply admire and ask them questions is great—I’m constantly surprised and excited by the things I learn from our writers. And there really is such camaraderie and collaboration with everyone—authors giving me ideas and suggestions, initiating projects of their own, having conversations with us, with each other—so much wonderful exchange.

What it’s like to work virtually with staff and authors:

It’s kind of a given when working on a blog that a lot of correspondence will be through email, but what’s been really fun for me is the few times we do get to see each other. I started working with Black Ocean before I’d met anyone, so when I went to AWP last year, I was meeting Janaka and Carrie and Ashley in person for the first time, and our authors too. It made returning home to continue the work at my computer a little more dimensional and engaging.

Staff Profile: A. Minetta Gould

Though we provide very extensive bios on our crew page (everything you wanted to know about how Janaka takes his whisky, which El track Carrie writes her poems on, and Minetta's worries over rust), in the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing staff profiles of the clandestine figures behind Black Ocean. You’ll get a sneak peek into what we do behind the scenes and how it all comes together.

A. Minetta Gould is our illustrious Managing Editor. When not hosting elaborate dinner parties, she works like mad juggling spreadsheets, contacting authors, and greasing the cogs of our dark machine.

On how she got involved:

Black Ocean was born for me in some hot springs north of Boise, ID. Martin Corless-Smith and I were giving Paige [Ackerson-Keily, Handsome Editor] (she was here as our visiting author, In No One's Land had recently released from Ahsahta Press) the full Idaho experience. It was right before the last AWP Chicago...2009...and after a few hours hanging out in the pools Paige announced that I must introduce myself to Janaka, the editor of Black Ocean. I think she said we were similar souls and that we'd get along well. Something like that. A few weeks later I was standing in front of the Black Ocean table at AWP, still drunk from the night before, announcing that we were supposed to know one another, that Paige had said so (I also in this heat of morning drunk passion told Brandon Shimoda that I loved everything he did and wept at a Wallace Stevens presentation, in case anyone was wondering what I'm like upon first meeting me). Janaka gave me his card, I went to the Black Ocean reading that night, and understood this is what I wanted. My actual position is the product of a few basic elements: I was around when something needed done, I did said thing. Rinse: Repeat. 

On what she does and why she loves it:

I am the Managing Editor. This means I manage things. I have about twenty different spreadsheets for various aspects of the press that I keep updated. Time lines for awards. Reading organizers. Reviewers. Various other contacts. Pretty much everything that isn't creative about running a press I have a hand in. I like it this way...I could mess up creativity but I can't mess up whether or not a book store carries our titles. Janaka still takes care of a lot of organizational things like AWP related tasks, but most tasks that exist in the cloud I do.

I like that my job is to help make the press grow. A lot of the time when I'm doing tedious projects (ever try to decide whether every independent bookstore in the country would want to carry your books? Definitely tedious.) I am reminded that what I do is make this press more efficient and sustainable. 

I think the most surprising thing about my position is when I get approached about the press. Sometimes when I'm in my little spreadsheet world I forget that people really love and admire this press. A few months ago a group of students from Montana came through Boise to read and afterward one of them cornered me and was all gushy over Black Ocean. 1. It threw me that he knew who I was 2. After a few drinks he kept saying to people "Do you understand who she is?!?" or variations of a sort. I am a symbol for him of something bigger, and that throws me whenever it happens. 

On what it’s like to work virtually with staff and authors:

I think most small presses work virtually, don't they? I worked for Ahsahta Press prior to my position at Black Ocean and all of that was in the flesh. Most of it didn't need to be. It was nice to have everyone in a single room doing the same things, and impromptu conversations could arise that can't happen via email, but I think this system works well too. I like feeling popular, and when I get emails I feel popular, so days when we're discussing a topic in a long email train thrill me. Days when I can see Janaka or Carrie or Nikki working over in their time zones because I have five different email subject lines from them are awesome. It always makes me want to work harder. I don't think I'd have the same experience if we were all in the same place right now. I don't think it effects how I think about books or authors, beyond its nice to meet them in the flesh if I never have. A cherished moment kind of thing.