When Peter Balaskas, BA ’91, MA ’04, took a creative writing class while completing his master’s in English, he had no idea that it would plant the seed for a venture in literary publishing.
The professor of the class was so impressed by the work of the undergraduate and graduate students he created a book containing their work. Balaskas contributed to the funding of “Ex Machina, Volume One” and served as one of the editors. After it was published, he distributed copies to everyone in the English Department.
“I loved the process of editing other people's work and publishing them to be available for the public,” Balaskas said.
Balaskas wanted to publish a second book of graduate-level students’ work. He received about $1,500 in funding from the Graduate Division and English Department at LMU, hired a staff, copy edited the stories, and created “Ex Machina, Volume Two.” Balaskas took that book outside the English department and made consignment deals with local bookstores.
After graduation, Balaskas decided to pursue publishing on a professional level, while still working at his day job.
Ex Machina Press, meaning “from the machine press,” was named as a salute to that first LMU anthology series. Balaskas hired a staff, mainly LMU alumni, and established their first title, “Silent Voices: A Creative Mosaic of Fiction.”
Mark D’Anna, BA ’99, MA ’05, remarks that being part of the editing process of such books as “Silent Voices” has helped him as a writer. “I have amazing radar for bad writing now,” he said. “I can smell it a mile away, which I think has helped me make my own writing slightly less bad, or maybe even a little good.”
Susan Briggs, MA ’95, another associate editor of Ex Machina, has recently published her first novel, “I Can See Heaven,” under Ex Machina Press. Part love story, part road trip, and part dream, the novel takes place in 1997, when the arrival of a comet and a troubled wanderer disturb the life of an Ohio farm family.
“As alums, we all have that LMU connection in common and that really makes a difference,” Briggs said. “Everyone is very thoughtful and easy to work with, plus they're all very talented and creative.”
In addition to Balaskas, D’Anna, and Briggs, the Ex Machina staff includes William Salvini, BA ’90, MA ’04, and Chris Krause. As Balaskas noted, “It's basically all within the LMU family.”
For more information about Ex Machina Press, please click here, or to hear an audio excerpt of "I Can See Heaven," click here.
Photo (above right): (l to r) Peter A. Balaskas, Mark D'Anna, Susan E. Briggs at the 2007 West Hollywood Book Fair