I don't recall, precisely, what circumstances had me on the phone with Sandy Taylor for the first time. I had recently joined the Institute (2003) and was gathering information about about book prizes--how to run one, really (the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize was just an idea waiting to happen). I suspect the conversation had something to do with Curbstone Press' Miguel Marmol prize, a first book prize for fiction. The conversation is a blur because it was the first of a handful I'd have with him these last few years. I remember calling him when I was in the thick of editing The Wind Shifts. I wasn't sure how things with University of Arizona Press were going to work out (or not) and I wanted to sound him out as a possible back up. After I described the project to him, he was unambiguous: if Arizona, in the end, passed, he would be very interested in seeing it.
One of the lessons I learned from Sandy (not an especially glamorous one but one that is crucial if you are the editor or publisher of a small independent press), I learned indirectly in the form of a piece of mail. Not long after the first or second conversation, I received a letter from Curbstone Press inviting me to become a friend, to add my name to their list of writers who supported the press. I promptly wrote and sent a check. In other words, Sandy knew that cultivating relationships--all kinds of relationships--came with the territory of publishing; that fundraising is a necessary tool, and that no stone should go unturned.
I finally got to meet him at an AWP conference about three years ago. There was a young Chicano poet I wanted to introduce him to and I took him (the poet) to the Curbstone table. Sandy suggested we leave the bookfair and find a place where the three of us could talk more comfortably. We stepped outside onto a terrace, pulled up three chairs, and talked shop for about 40 minutes. I was hoping I could interest Sandy in this young poet's manuscript. Sandy graciously agreed to have a look, personally and promptly. In the end, it didn't work out with that manuscript, but again, it was a lesson on how to conduct oneself in this racket: with professionalism, generosity, and tact. I can't claim to have known him well, by any means. But the interaction I had with him left an indelible mark.