South Sound Magazine recently featured Carlisle Huntington’s profiles of “smaller, independent book publishers” in the Pacific Northwest.
Community engagement […] is a priority for Tacoma-based publisher Christina Butcher of Blue Cactus Press.
Butcher is a Chicana poet, publisher, and veteran from New Mexico. When she’s not running the press, she works part-time at Tacoma’s favorite independent bookstore, King’s Books, and teaches poetry workshops with Write 253, a local nonprofit dedicated to making literary arts education accessible to Tacoma’s youth.
A freelance writer, mentor, and bookseller, Butcher has her finger on the pulse of Tacoma’s literary community. In fact, her business grew out of a desire to see more of her peers’ work recognized and celebrated.
“I started the press because I wanted to publish my own book of poetry on my own terms, then I realized I wanted to publish a lot of other people’s work and really give publishing a go,” Butcher said. “The literary community in Tacoma is so extensive and talented, it’s wild! It excites me to keep pushing on.”
Butcher launched the press in 2018 with her debut collection, Still Clutching Maps, which explores her relationship to her Chicana heritage as well as her experiences of living and traveling through the American southwest, Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Northwest, Yukon Territory, Alaska, and India. Blue Cactus Press’s second book, There is No Other Way to Worship Them, a short story collection by Samuel Snoek-Brown, is also an investigation of boundary crossing, both internal and external.
“I have been obsessed with (Sam’s) work since I first heard him read in Tacoma,” Butcher said. “I’m still blown away that he trusted me with his manuscript.”
Themes of dark internal conflict continue to interest Butcher and influence the overall voice of the press.
“We want our lives to be photo-ready, to fit into all these beautiful little boxes and categories,” she said. “But that’s just not sustainable for our mental health. I’m interested in work that explores life’s undercurrents — the stuff we all go through but are too ashamed to talk about.”
Regarding the future of Blue Cactus, Butcher hopes to pivot her focus toward publishing more womxn of color (the “x” indicating the inclusion of trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals).
“There are so many gatekeepers in traditional publishing,” she said. “And I find that often — and I’m basing this on my own personal experience — women writers of color never think that their work is good enough.”
Butcher hopes to cultivate a press that can provide the necessary support for artists of minoritized backgrounds, but she has also learned that it takes more than words to do the trick.
“I got to interview Krista Perez, the president of the Tacoma Women of Color Collective, and she said something along the lines of, ‘We always want to amplify the voices of people in our community, but we forget to actually show up.’ Sometimes that’s what support is, just showing up. So, I’m trying to show up more myself.”
Read more profiles here.