Mac and the Princess by Frances McColl Stewart is a very special release for Middle Island Press. It’s a children’s story with coloring pages which made it a unique publishing project, but beyond that, Fran and I “go back,” so to speak. She lived in this tiny town of West Union, WV when I arrived here in 2005, and it was poetry (of which she’s a true patron) that brought us together. I might have considered her a “closet poet,” more capable than what she would humbly admit, though I saw the adeptness of her poetry which she balances with the meek humility of her spiritual being. So anyway…
Fran was the one who founded the annual West Union Fest and stirred up all kinds of activity, gathered vendors, residents and the Press, and really made this place “happen,” put it on the map alongside a few other movers and shakers. She attended town meetings and had one of my poems nominated as the official poem of the Town of West Union. I was so touched that I wanted to do something in return, so I decided to create a chapbook of area poetry to sell at the first annual event.
I gathered the work of twelve poets—Fran, myself and my husband included—and created Hills & Hollows: A Collection of Doddridge County Poetry. I came up with the title even before I had a press name. My Robert and I sat musing one night over a name and I was amazed when he spoke aloud what was floating in my mind: Middle Island Press. That sealed it, and so began what originated as a hobby and has flowered into a business that brings in just enough to keep the coffee flowing and leaves me with enough time to enjoy it.
Fran has since moved, but I hope to pour her a cup this year when she visits. I also wish to do a “Coffee with the Poets” interview with her (I remember that she takes her coffee with cream unstirred so she can enjoy the swirls, the poetry of coffee), and I hope for her that Mac and the Princess sells as well as Hills & Hollows has. Both are available via Amazon.com, and I hope to find time this year to reformat Hills & Hollows and make it available in perfect-bound form, perhaps as an expanded edition complete with acknowledgments to Fran and my husband. From dreams to reality, onward and upward!
Thank You, Fran.