Just last week, Chiwan Choi and Jessica Ceballos of Writ Large Press swung by our Westwind staff meeting to discuss the realities of writing and getting published in Los Angeles. Founded in 2007, Writ Large Press is a small press that, like Westwind, publishes exclusively LA residents. They have a total of eight books under their belt, one of which is on pre-order right now.
Both Chiwan and his co-founding partner, Judith Oden Choi, went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Together, they first created the literary journal, Wednesday. They went into the project thinking, “Let’s aim to fail in two years.” This carefree mindset allowed the two editors to do whatever they wanted and take creative liberties.
Through their short-lived, 6-issue experience with Wednesday, they learned how to build a successful team. With this knowledge, Chiwan and Judith co-founded Writ Large Press, later adding Peter Woods and Jessica Ceballos. Though they have, by now, a wealth of experience, the literature and culture in the city is in itself ever-evolving, prompting the team every year to ask themselves, “Who are we, and what do we stand for?” As a result, they are constantly in the process of redefining their mission.
During their discussion with Westwind, both Chiwan and Jessica addressed the challenges of writing and publishing outside of New York. Although LA is a literary metropolis in its own right, it lacks many of the resources available on the east coast. Chiwan said that it is much more difficult to promote the press in such a large, sprawling city, especially one so far from the Big Apple, the U.S.’s capitol of publishing. Our visitors both agreed that their greatest challenges come down to money. “In L.A.,” Chiwan joked, “we’re all fighting for a piece of zero pie.”
As a group of aspiring writers ourselves, we asked Chiwan and Jessica about their own writing. In response, Chiwan and Jessica said that, as professional editors, they actually have very little time to read and write for pleasure. Chiwan said that by the time he gets home after work, he’s so tired of reading that he just doesn’t do much of it anymore. Jessica added, “It’s horrible… I’m trying to work on it.”
When asked about what they like to see in a manuscript, Jessica answered, “Something that’s unique.” It seems simple, but when put into practice, it’s much more difficult. Chiwan elaborated, explaining that he sees editors as “tastemakers”: editors suggest to the audience what to try, and that often means introducing them to new, “unique” tastes and textures.
To get acquainted with these unique tastes and textures, visit Writ Large Press at their website and view their selection of books.