Inside Stillhouse Press: Ginny Eggerton, MFA' 21 on Michelle Ross's Shapeshifting

by Alice Magelssen-Green

Inside Stillhouse Press: Ginny Eggerton, MFA' 21  on Michelle Ross's Shapeshifting
Ginny Eggerton, MFA '21 and managing editor for Shapeshifting

Ginny Eggerton, MFA’ 21, served as the managing editor on Stillhouse Press’s newest collection of short stories, Michelle Ross’s Shapeshifting. In arresting, lyrical prose, Ross’s collection examines the shadows within social media perfectionism and the relentless cult of motherhood.

Stillhouse Press is an independent literary small press that makes up one part of Watershed Lit: Center for Literary Engagement and Publishing Practice at Mason. The press offers a unique opportunity for Mason MFA and BFA students, as well as alumni of those programs like Eggerton, to do real-world work and gain hands-on experience at a professional press. All of Stillhouse Press’s projects are chosen by student and alumni, who work with the authors throughout the entire “pipeline” of publishing their books, from acquisition to post-release publicity. Ginny took time to speak to us about Shapeshifting and her experience at Stillhouse.


What do you think is special about Shapeshifting?

Shapeshifting book cover that is an image of a brown bunny against a black night sky with stars“I fell in love with the collection because of Michelle Ross’s choice to tap into the less-talked-about fears and concerns about motherhood. The day-to-day things she chose to focus on are the things that are usually politely left unsaid. So much of the experience of motherhood is hidden by the PR efforts of MomsTM who feel pressured to stay silent about their struggles. I’ve always wanted kids but often felt anxious, wondering what it will be like and whether I’ll be able to handle it. This collection both validated and comforted me.”

Who do you think would love this book?

“Anyone who has a sort of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ picture of motherhood but wants more than that. I also think it will make many mothers feel seen. For people who are considering being mothers in the future, it feels like an honest warning label, one that doesn’t deter people from motherhood but just says ‘these fears you have aren’t irrational, and people do deal with them.’ Also, anyone who likes writers who find new ways to explain everyday situations will appreciate the writing in this book.”


Do you have a favorite short story from it?

“That’s tough! My gut response is ‘A House is a Mouth for Teeth.’ It’s extremely atmospheric, foreboding, and unsettling. It’s surprisingly affecting. It’s been my favorite since the beginning and still is my favorite.”


How would you say this book fits into Stillhouse’s aesthetic?

“Stillhouse likes to publish books that might be overlooked by big publishers or are off the mainstream beaten path. Most often this means works that we think stretch the definition of literary fiction one way or another or could get sidelined by major publishers.

 Short stories are having a renaissance right now, but back when we acquired this we felt that short story collections were a genre that big publishers didn’t give the care to that they should. That is currently changing. I’m hoping that short story collections continue getting the praise and attention they deserve, and the audience for them grows.”


Can you talk about your role at Stillhouse Press as a managing editor?

“Stillhouse Press has many managing editors. There is a managing editor for each project; your job when you get that project is essentially, if the author is birthing a book, to be its midwife. You are responsible for developmental edits, for copyediting, for consulting the rest of the press on things like marketing copy, and being the intermediary between the press and the author.”


What was valuable about your experience at Stillhouse?

“When I went into my MFA program I had a suspicion that I enjoyed editing people’s work maybe even more than I enjoyed writing my own. Stillhouse gave me the opportunity to explore that; there are few other avenues that I know of in higher education to experience what it is like to be in book publishing. There’s lit journal publishing, but bringing a book to life is a different beast entirely.

I knew that publishing interested me, but didn’t know what the process looked like, so I didn’t know if it was something I wanted to pursue. Stillhouse confirmed that for me. For anyone who is interested in the process, even if you came out of it and said ‘Wow, I never want to do that again,’ the best way you can learn that is through Stillhouse. It provides that entry-level publishing experience that so few people get because the publishing world is so competitive.

Being able to experience being a managing editor was such a gift. I got that gift because I went to Mason and was able to have that entry-level publishing experience without the emotional torture of applying for publishing internships. Th publishing industry can be so tough and often you can’t just try it. There’s no room for figuring things out. Stillhouse is that space for figuring out whether you want to pursue a career in publishing.”


What are you doing now?

“I am a technical writer and editor working in the aviation industry. I’ve been working full-time at my current position since July. I am absolutely directly using things I’ve learned at Stillhouse.  For example, I had never used an in-house style guide for copy editing before Stillhouse. My job now uses an in-house style guide, and I was able to hit the ground running because of Stillhouse. Before Stillhouse, I had never thought about institutional consistency in writing because that’s never something that my studies touched on. I have increased awareness of different facets of copy editing I wouldn’t know about otherwise.”


Is there anything else you want people to know?

“I love short story collections and I love this book so much and I want absolutely everyone to buy it and read it and experience it. And if it doesn’t sound like a book for you, I encourage you to go out and buy a short story collection, period. Short story collections are exactly what a modern reader with a short attention span would love. I think it’s the perfect genre for people who say ‘I don’t have time to read.’”


Shapeshifting is now available for purchase on Stillhouse Press's website, Amazon, and Bookshop.