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Q&A: New director of UI Press

BY ERIC HAWKINSON | JANUARY 20, 2011 7:10 AM

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James A. McCoy was named the new director of University of Iowa Press in December 2010. We spoke with him to discuss plans for his new position and his life in Iowa City.

The Daily Iowan: What do you plan on doing with the UI Press?

McCoy: The challenge for us is to continue to evolve editorially and digitally while staying financially secure. The press has been on the right path for a while. For a “small” press, as we’re often described, we are way ahead of the game. We’ve got a fantastic staff of dedicated and knowledgeable people. I’d also like to see the press raise its profile both in the immediate community and nationally. Much of that comes down to publishing quality scholarship, as we’ve always done, but it’s also about reaching out actively to the community [members] and making them aware of what a university press is and why it is important.

DI: Why did you want to be the director?

McCoy: Based on what I’ve been doing for many years, being a director seemed like a natural progression. It is important to me to always learn new things, so I’ve purposely involved myself in as many aspects of publishing as I could. I’ve had an unusual career path in the university press world, but I feel it has prepared me well for the challenges ahead.

DI: What are your responsibilities?

McCoy: To oversee all aspects of the publishing enterprise that is University of Iowa Press: acquiring books, manuscript editing, production, sales and marketing, and the business operations.

DI: What are some things you learned in your 10 years with the University of Chicago Press?

McCoy: A book is many different things to many different people. Being able to properly balance and prioritize those things is what separates a good press from a mediocre one. I also learned to question everything. Once you pick something up and examine it from every angle, you are really thinking about what you are doing.

DI: What are some of your hobbies?

McCoy: I enjoy getting out on my bicycle during the weekend. I’ve been practicing yoga for the past few years, though I have a feeling my teacher does not think of yoga as a hobby. As you might expect, I read quite a bit. I’ve also been known to watch an awful lot of basketball, particularly in March.

DI: What are you reading right now?

McCoy: March Violets, by Philip Kerr, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, Practical Wisdom by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe.

DI: What do you enjoy most about Iowa Cityso far?

McCoy: It is an absolutely wonderful place to raise a child — kid-friendly in just about every way. But beyond that, it’s pretty heady stuff to walk the same streets as your literary heroes. The Iowa City Public Library is a treasure. To me, the world would be a better place if all cities placed their libraries at the very center of downtown. And I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of the people of Iowa City.


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