Seekonk has its very own small publisher in Little Pear Press. Started in 2003 by Martha Manno, Little Pear has published four books of poems, two poetry anthologies and an illustrated children’s book.
Twenty years ago, when her children started full days of school, Manno, who has a background in psychology, took up writing as a hobby. Years later, she found herself a regular member of a women’s writers group that met every Sunday at the Sarah Doyle Center at Brown University. The group wanted to put together a book to compile their collective work, but, according to Manno, couldn’t agree on a number of things.
“I looked into publishing and I said ‘I’d like to try this. I’ll be the publisher and you guys just be the poets,’” Manno says.
And so Little Pear Press was born.
“Sundays at Sarah’s,” the aforementioned compilation, was the first book published. A couple of years later Manno was turning 50 and began mulling over the idea of regret. She put a call out to writers for poems on that theme and, to her surprise, received hundreds of submissions from all over the world. Ultimately, she decided on 63 poems that together would become Little Pear’s second book, “Regrets Only.”
At the time Manno’s daughter Christina, a RISD grad who does all the layout and covers for the books, was working at the bookstore in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Despite the fact that the store didn’t sell poetry books, they agreed to purchase a few copies of “Regrets only.”
“They sold the first six books, then the next eight, then twenty. Now they order thirty at a time and this has been going on for years,” says Manno.
Little Pear Press has also published the children’s book “Charlotte Bakeman Has Her Say,” and poetry books by Amanda Surkont, James Cihlar, Barbara Schweitzer and Eve Rifkah, who has a number of upcoming readings. The books are sold through their website, on Amazon.com, at bookstores around the country (including the famed City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco), and in several Rhode Island bookshops.
Manno is proud of the books they’ve published. “Poetry is a hard sell for a lot of people,” she says. “I think knowing that I could publish poets, give them their voice and do it in a beautiful book that they could be proud of has been meaningful to me.”
Currently, Little Pear Press has no books in the pipeline. Manno says that it’s very challenging for small publishers to make a profit, and admits that Little Pear has essentially been a labor of love. For now, Manno’s taking this break to do some writing of her own. The good news is, when she's ready for a publisher she won't have to look too far.