In our newest series, The Future of Publishing, we’re excited to reintroduce alumni of UNCW’s publishing program, including former Ecotone and Lookout staffers, who have gone on to careers in the industry. To help celebrate the launch of Lookout’s redesigned website, we begin with a profile of Hub City’s Meg Reid.
Lookout Books is more than a haven for books that matter; it’s a teaching press under the auspices of the Publishing Laboratory at UNCW, making it also a haven for apprentice editors and publishers. The imprint and its sister magazine, Ecotone, offer students hands-on opportunities to gain experience in editing, marketing, publicity, design, and everything in between. Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was among the first class of students to support the work of the newly founded imprint.
The Lookout publishing practicum, taught by publisher Emily Smith, “completely prepared her for working for a small press,” Reid says, “which involves balancing a lot of plates and wearing a lot of hats.” While working for the press, she drafted grants, planned author readings and book tours, and wrote design briefs for artists.
“I always liked that we were called on to talk about the books in public often. I learned how to summarize a book, while communicating its important themes and resonances—a skill I use often now, pitching reps and booksellers,” Reid notes.
As part of her graduate work in writing and publishing, Reid enrolled in the Lookout practicum class multiple semesters and helped publish three titles: Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, Steve Almond’s God Bless America, and John Rybicki’s When All the World Is Old. She found it exhilarating to help build the imprint. “Edith’s book was a strike of lightning—we were brand new and suddenly in a national spotlight. I still regularly gift people Binocular Vision—to my mind, it’s the gold standard of short story collections.”
As director of Hub City Press, where she has worked since 2013, Reid now publishes between five to seven books a year in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She oversees the publishing program and helps realize Hub City’s mission to find and advocate for extraordinary voices from the American south.
“Though our mission is more geographically specific, we share Lookout’s commitment to finding and nurturing underrepresented voices—voices that might not otherwise be heard,” Reid says, “and like Lookout, through robust marketing and publicity efforts, enter them into the larger literary dialogue. By offering these voices a national platform, we’re able to transform and expand the national perception of the American South in literature and beyond.”
In 2014, Reid led a campaign to prevent the censorship of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and a Hub City Press book: Out Loud, edited by Ed Madden.
“We came up with the idea of the t-shirt campaign and a few weeks later we had authors like Ann Patchett, John Green, Junot Diaz, Terrance Hayes, and other huge names making statements and wearing the shirt. The campaign was covered in Publishers Weekly and the Guardian. It was a really amazing moment.”
Reid continues to innovate through her daily work, which includes coordinating Hub City’s literary outreach—workshops, readings, and an annual conference—in addition to overseeing its acquisitions and three book prizes. Recently, she’s “really enjoying finding writers—especially those whose manuscripts may have been overlooked by larger houses—cultivating relationships with agents by making them more familiar with what we do, and then working with the authors to edit and refine their books.”
Over the years, Hub City has brought home sixteen Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards, including six gold medals, and published a Kirkus Book of the Year in 2015, an NPR Best Book of 2016, and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Prize in 2017. Carolina Writers at Home, a collection of twenty-five North and South Carolina authors writing about the houses they live in, was edited by Reid.
As if she wasn’t busy enough, Reid also moonlights for Lookout. The cover to Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism was designed by Reid, who as a student editor for Ecotone remembers pulling contributor Jill Sission Quinn’s essay “Sign Here If You Exist” from the slush.
“I championed that piece and it not only ended up in the magazine it also won the John Burroughs Award.” She adds, “Reading for Ecotone gave me a really strong eye for finished work that was ready for publication. I liked coming into an organization with a set mission and then combing through submissions to find pieces that were a good fit.”
One of Reid’s proudest moments, she says, was organizing a reading in April 2012 featuring Edith Pearlman and John Rybicki. Working closely with two different authors across different UNCW departments and deciding on logistics, Reid notes, “was an immense undertaking and one I couldn’t have pulled off without an incredible amount of help from Emily. The resulting evening was lovely and only a day or two after my thesis defense! It was a whirlwind but felt like a beautiful capstone for my time at UNCW and with Lookout.”
Former Lookout publishing assistant Kate McMullen also works at Hub City as assistant director, and Lookout founder Emily Smith was the organization’s first writer in residence. Reid remembers, “When I moved to Spartanburg, everyone knew Emily and Lookout Books and coming here felt like a kind of homecoming.”
Thank you to Lookout staffer Lindsay Lake for her contributions to this profile.