Ecotone Wins AWP Small Press Publisher Award

2022 AWP Small Press Publisher Award in front of the Climate IssueWe’re proud to share that AWP has selected Ecotone for the 2022 Small Press Publisher Award, given in alternate years to a small press or a literary magazine. Recent past winners include One Story, Creative Nonfiction, Birmingham Poetry Review, Milkweed Editions, and Graywolf Press.

The Small Press Publisher Award, as described by AWP, “acknowledges the hard work, creativity, and innovation of these presses and journals, and honors their contributions to the literary landscape through their publication of consistently excellent work.” AWP also recognized and American Short Fiction as finalists for this year’s award. We’re grateful for this support of our mission, and delighted to be in such fine company.

Upon accepting the award during AWP 2022, editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell offered these remarks:

I want to thank AWP for making space for literary magazines and presses in the beautiful way that it does. It’s an honor to receive this award.

Ecotone’s mission is twofold: we have a mission to train new editors and designers in the craft, and a mission of what we call reimagining place, or thinking about place in new ways, and bringing new voices into the space of place-based writing. There’s a great need for offering training for editors and designers. We rightly think of the primary producers of literature as the first people, the most important people, but we all need our work out in the world, and we need it edited well and designed beautifully. To make room for giving people the skills to do that is really important. There’s also right now a great need to think about the climate crisis and the ways that it affects, especially, poor and marginalized communities. I saw recently that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying that almost half of the world’s population is at risk now from serious effects of climate crisis—so it’s no joke, and we think of that as a big part of our mission.

Thank you to AWP for affirming those needs and parts of our mission. Many, many thanks to our nominators, and to the judges. And I want to briefly thank a couple of other people, including one person who can’t be with us tonight. David Gessner was the founding editor of Ecotone and is our editor in chief. He remains a fierce advocate for the work the magazine does, and we can’t thank him enough for his vision and the work he continues to do. UNC Wilmington and its department of creative writing have been steadfast supporters of our work, and we’re deeply thankful. Lots more people to thank, past and present—when you’re a magazine that trains new editors, you work with so many wonderful people.

I want to recognize Sophia Stid, our associate editor, who is here, and Michael Ramos, our art director, who is here. Thanks to both of you for your work—if you could wave your arms a little so people know who you are—and there are some other Ecotone team members in the room as well; could y’all wave your arms? I want people to see you! Thank you for your work.

I want to say thank you as well to our fellow finalists—please read and subscribe to American Short Fiction. You won’t regret it.

Long live literary magazines, and long live the fight for a sustainable place for us all to live.

Ecotone staff after receiving the 2022 AWP Small Press Publisher Award
Ecotone staff celebrate the 2022 AWP Small Press Publisher Award. Left to right: poetry editor Cass Lintz; co–fiction editor Emily Lowe; associate editor Sophia Stid; Cynthia Sherman (executive director, AWP); editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell; art director Michael Ramos; comics editor Ryleigh Wann; and co–fiction editor Kaylie Saidin.

Banned Books by Women Authors

In their last yearly report, the American Library Association reported that 273 books had been targets of censorship in libraries and schools, and surveys indicate that the reported number vastly underrepresents the total. Eliminating a novel or memoir or book of poetry—especially one that focuses on a marginalized community—from a library or classroom can also erase the history of that group. Books often help teach us empathy, and for those exploring identity or experiences outside of their own, book bans limit opportunities to connect and understand, for readers to see themselves reflected on the page.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we selected six of our often-banned favorites:









Beloved by Toni Morrison is my favorite book of all time.
—Ollie Loorz
Order Beloved here.

My favorite banned book by a woman is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I love the many literary allusions in this graphic memoir, which put Bechdel’s own family and experiences in conversation with other stories and characters. The visuals are also incredibly beautiful.
—Laura Traister
Order Fun Home here.









Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, In the Dream House, explores relational abuse within queer relationships, and is a stunning narrative written in a clever, innovative form. The author not only relates the story of her own struggle to survive but also interrogates why the history of queer domestic abuse has remained a silent, unspoken one.
—Felicia Rosemary Urso
Order In The Dream House here.

My eighth grade English teacher and I started a mini book club (just the two of us) to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. She recommended the book because she knew I was going through a rough time. It changed my life, for the better, and I wouldn’t be who I am without having read this book.
—Lauran Jones
Order Why the Caged Bird Sings here.









Persepolis is an incredible graphic memoir centered on a young girl’s upbringing in late 1970s–early 1980s Iran. Covering one of the most turbulent periods in Iranian history, the book reflects on author Marjane Satrapi’s family, oppression, religion, and gender roles. Persepolis has begun many conversations about Iranian culture, helping to break vicious stereotypes.
—Sarah Mina Osman
Order Persepolis here.

The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls, tells the tender and piercing story of a childhood within a household that is both uniquely dysfunctional and full of love. Walls walks a delicate line, narrating her survival and escape from an environment of alcoholism and abuse while also showing deep generosity and affection for her family.
—Amanda Ake
Order The Glass Castle here.


Thank you to Lookout staffer Sarah Mina Osman for her contributions to this roundup.

AWP Hot Panels: Philadelphia 2022

One of many boxes of books headed to Philadelphia!

Who else is excited for AWP in person this week? All of us on the Ecotone/Lookout team are busy packing and preparing to see familiar and new faces alike in Philadelphia! Our schedules are jam-packed with plans for the bookfair and compelling panels featuring our staff, authors, and contributors—including many from Lookout’s forthcoming anthology, Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.

To help make your schedule a little less hectic this week, we handpicked five events each day that we’re most looking forward to, all featuring people and topics near and dear to our indie­-publishing hearts.

Catch us at the events below and at our bookfair tables 828/830. We’ll be slinging our signature bag-of-snakes tote, our full catalog of Lookout titles, the new Ecotone “Climate issue,” and plenty of magazine back issues. Can’t wait to see your faces and to talk about all things Ecotone, Lookout, writing, and publishing with y’all!

Thursday, March 24

9–10:15 a.m., T125
2022 Debut Authors Discuss: How to Prepare for the Book Deal
(Jonathan Escoffery, Daphne Palasi Andreades, Xochitl Gonzalez, Cleyvis Natera, Jean Chen Ho)
You’ve workshopped, revised, and even saved a “final draft” of your book-length work of fiction—so now what? Five debut authors discuss when and how to acquire a literary agent, considerations for going on submission to publishers, navigating auctions, international book sales, and shopping film rights, and what happens between the book deal and publication. Panelists from a diverse array of writing communities speak on their experiences to demystify the journey from writer to published author. 

10:35–11:50 a.m., T137
Socializing the Nature Poem: The Nonhuman World & Identity
(Derek Sheffield, Chaun Ballard, Michael Wasson, Elizabeth Aoki, Brian Teare)
As Audre Lorde said, “Our visions are essential to create that which has never been, and we must each learn to use all of who we are to achieve those visions.” The “nature poem” was never just about nature. When we look at anything, we put ourselves into that gaze. Five poets of diverse backgrounds share poems that engage with the more-than-human world in ways that are accurate, ethical, nuanced, and surprising, connecting gender, race, geography, sexuality, and culture.

12:10–1:25 p.m., T175
A Form for What Haunts You: Using Fixed Forms to Write About Trauma
(Melissa Crowe, Stevie Edwards, Rachel McKibbens, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Meg Day)
Many poets feel compelled to write about painful experiences, but we may approach such material with a mixture of urgency and hesitancy. Finding the right language to convey trauma can be liberatory, but the process is often painful. A fixed form—whether that be a villanelle, a golden shovel, or a grocery list—can provide a strong container for writing about trauma and, more generally, memories that haunt. This panel features five poets discussing their usage of fixed forms to approach trauma.

3:20–4:35 p.m., T223
In This Together: Teacher-Poets Building Community Within & Beyond the Classroom
(Donna Vorreyer, Leah Umansky, Ashley M. Jones, Matthew E. Henry, Joan K. Glass)
Community is integral to a poet’s work, development, and identity. Poets who are K–12 teachers often struggle to access the larger literary community and must find new ways of building support networks and seeking creative opportunities, often doing so through their teaching practice. Five poets discuss how to cultivate strong connections to the larger poetry world while using poetry to foster more caring communities for their students, many of whom carry literary aspirations of their own.

5:00–6:15 p.m,, T244B
A Reading & Conversation with Elizabeth Acevedo, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Deesha Philyaw, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts
(Elizabeth Acevedo, Dawn Lundy Martin, Deesha Philyaw)
Join Blue Flower Arts for a reading and conversation featuring Elizabeth Acevedo, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Deesha Philyaw—three phenomenal women of color working across mediums to give voice to the most urgent stories of our time. From novel-in-verse and YA lit, story collections and poetry, TV pilots, essay, and memoir, these writers truly do it all, challenging the limits of genre and reflecting a diversity of stories through a wide range of storytelling methods.

Friday, March 25

9:00–10:15 a.m., F119
Debuting with a Small Press
(Jenn Bouchard, Khristeena Lute, Maan Gabriel, Rachel Mans McKenny, Joy Lanzendorfer)
Five small press authors will speak to their experiences debuting in 2021 with small presses. They will cover the benefits and challenges of their individual publishing journeys so far, as well as their own tips for a successful book launch.

9:00–10:15 a.m., F125
Four Women: Black Experimental Women Writers on Interdisciplinary Craft
(Rochelle Spencer, Shay YoungbloodOpal Moore, Chantal James, Kyla Marshell)
Why would a writer choose to experiment with different forms and work in multiple new and emerging genres? Are there possibilities for newer technologies deepening stories we tell about social justice and change? How can we encourage greater participation from writers with fewer resources or technological access? Four writers will discuss their own daring, insightful work, along with the work of innovative writers Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Duriel Harris, and the ways we build brilliant futures.

12:10–1:25 p.m., F162
Milkweed Presents: Landscape and Literary Culture
(Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Kazim Ali, Elena Passarello)
Milkweed authors discuss the intersections of literary culture and the natural world: Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders; Kazim Ali, author of Northern Light; and Kerri ní Dochartaigh, author of Thin Places. Deep attentiveness to the environment—with its diverse landscapes, wild creatures, and shifting climates—provides these writers with dynamic pathways to explore regeneration, identity, and wonder in their work. Moderated by Animals Strike Curious Poses author Elena Passarello. This event will be livestreamed. ASL interpretation and live captioning will be provided.

12:10–1:25 p.m., F169
Signifyin’ & Shade: Black Queer Writers’ Interventions into the Black Canon
(M Shelly Conner, Marci Blackman, Cheryl Clarke, Darnell Moore, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan)
Toni Morrison implores us to write the books that we want to read. No more is this true than for Black queer writers searching for ourselves in the Black literary canon. The works that we create talk back/signify (Gates, Jr.) to the very books that shaped us as writers while ostracizing us as community members. In this reading, five Black queer writers share excerpts of their work and the specific interventions or engagements that they make in Black canonical texts.

12:10–1:25 p.m., F171
The Best Apology Is Changed Behavior: An Editorial Call to Action
(Adrienne Perry, Monica Prince, Somayeh Shams, Julia Brown)
The permanent impacts of COVID and the Black Lives Matter movement on the publishing industry have yet to be determined, but the early ripples prove a need for a top-down reassessment of editorial practices. Small presses and literary magazines must reckon with patriarchal white supremacy if they plan to survive this social justice moment. Writers/editors discuss how identity impacts editorial biases, while offering strategies such as apprenticeships and training, to create lasting change.

Saturday, March 26

9–10:15 a.m., S114
The Teaching Press as an Agent of Change
(Emily Louise Smith, Neelanjana Banerjee, Robyn Crummer-Olson, KaToya Ellis Fleming, Irene Yoon)
Teaching presses and apprenticeships in the art and craft of publishing prepare student writers to submit and publish their work. They also provide the foundation for a more inclusive, innovative, and accessible publishing industry. Join panelists from Kaya Press, LARB Books, Lookout Books, and Ooligan Press as they discuss their respective publishing models and demonstrate how their work as publishers, editors, and teachers empowers future generations to lead meaningful change.

12:10–1:25 p.m., S159
The Art of Pitching Nonfiction: How to Sell Your Essays, Reporting, & More
(Caleb Johnson, Irina Zhorov, Jenny Tinghui Zhang, Latria Graham)
The first impression a writer makes on an editor happens in the pitch. But what exactly does a successful pitch look like? How long should one even be? What elements should a pitch contain in order to get that coveted assignment? Four writers with experience publishing reportage, essays, profiles, and other nonfiction discuss how to grab an editor’s attention with a pitch that tells a compelling story and how to pivot if a pitch gets turned down.

12:10–1:25 p.m., S167
Research as Survival: On Archival Research as Creative Practice & Reparative Act
(Sophia Stid, Kathryn Nuernberger, Chet-la Sebree, Jennifer Loyd, Josina Guess)
“I do not intend to speak about, just nearby,” Trinh T. Minh-ha says in her film Reassemblage, critiquing the documentary genre. What does it mean to speak nearby, as women writers who practice archival research and make work in conversation with difficult histories? How do we reclaim and remake the act of research itself? How do we speak with, without speaking for? Join us for a conversation on the joys, challenges, ethics, and possibilities of research as creative practice and reparative act.

3:20–4:35 p.m., S210
Strike a Chord: The Lyric Essay Forms of A Harp in the Stars
(Randon Billings Noble, Heidi Czerwiec, Angie Chuang, Sayantani Dasgupta, Laurie Easter)
This panel features craft talks by essayists whose work appears in the University of Nebraska Press anthology A Harp in the Stars, which Aimee Nezhukumatathil calls “a fascinating look into the bright heart of what the lyric essay can be.” Contributors will read brief excerpts of a segmented essay, a braided essay, a hermit crab essay in the form of a word search puzzle, and a hybrid lyric craft essay, then discuss practical strategies as well as theoretical concerns when writing in these forms. 

3:20–4:35 p.m., S214
Black MuthaWriters: The Politics, Protests, & Prose of Black Motherhood
(Deesha Philyaw, Kelly Glass, Nefertiti Austin, Doreen Oliver)
Surviving as a Black woman in the world is an act of protest. Thriving as a Black mother and artist can be revolutionary. How does this revolution appear on the page, on the stage, and in the difficult act of getting published—and paid well? In a genre dominated by white women, can the breadth of our stories be acknowledged and lauded? Writers of fiction, memoir, reportage, and plays will discuss the wide artistic terrain of Black motherhood, including health, disability, sex, adoption, and more.


The Future of Publishing: Caitlin Rae Taylor of Southern Humanities Review

In our series The Future of Publishing, we reintroduce alumni of UNCW’s publishing program, including former Ecotone and Lookout staffers, who have gone on to careers in the industry. We continue our series with a profile of Southern Humanities Review’s Caitlin Rae Taylor.

As the editor of Southern Humanities Review, a literary quarterly published by Auburn University’s Department of English, Caitlin Rae Taylor does a little bit of everything, from reading submissions and creating production schedules to managing author contracts and designing covers. “If you can think of a task for working on a literary magazine,” she says, “I probably do it.”

Taylor developed these skills as a student in the MFA program at UNCW, where she was the fiction editor for Ecotone and the graduate publishing assistant for Lookout Books. Both Ecotone and Lookout are teaching entities housed in the Department of Creative Writing’s Publishing Laboratory, which aims to provide students with a foundation in editing and publishing. Many students arrive at UNCW feeling like Taylor did: “Being an editor was so far-fetched to me when I was in high school and college, and there were no classes at my undergraduate institution that had anything to do with publishing,” she recalls. “I of course had this amorphous dream about moving to NYC and publishing books, but I had no true path to get there.” But then she enrolled in the Ecotone practicum. This class was her first glimpse into the mystifying world of publishing, and she says it “unlocked everything.”

Ecotone taught me how to compile a book as an art object, how the pieces in an anthology relate to one another, how they relate to the visual and document design. Lookout taught me how to technically master these kinds of designs, how to market a book, how to structure a production schedule, how to write marketing copy.”

Ecotone taught me how to compile a book as an art object, how the pieces in an anthology relate to one another, how they relate to the visual and document design,” she says. “Lookout Books taught me how to technically master these kinds of designs, how to market a book, how to structure a production schedule, how to write marketing copy.”

Taylor credits UNCW faculty Emily Louise Smith and Anna Lena Philips Bell, as well as former faculty member Beth Staples, with shaping her editorial philosophy. A central part of that philosophy is imagining a magazine or press as a pedagogical opportunity that can help make the publishing industry more accessible to students. In this model, faculty editors not only manage entities as part of their research, they also teach students what they’re doing and how publishing works. “This passing of knowledge on to budding editors is just as vital to an editor’s life as is the act of editing sentences,” Taylor notes.

At Auburn and Southern Humanities Review, Taylor’s teaching not only serves students who might not otherwise have opportunities to intern with magazines and publishers, it also challenges her as an editor and strengthens manuscripts. Students’ feedback is invaluable to her: “Their fresh perspectives allow editors to reimagine what we think we know about writing, storytelling, and poetry. . . . In this sense, I am not just apprenticing young editors, I am constantly engaging in the act of apprenticeship myself.”

“Their fresh perspectives allow editors to reimagine what we think we know about writing, storytelling, and poetry. . . . In this sense, I am not just apprenticing young editors, I am constantly engaging in the act of apprenticeship myself.”

Helping with the submissions process as a student at UNCW is something Taylor remembers well, particularly the time she encountered “Organ Cave” by Mesha Maren in Ecotone’s queue. “I knew as soon as I read the piece that it was something special,” she recalls. Although Maren’s story was not published until after Taylor graduated, she still gets excited thinking about the moment she received issue 27 in the mail and saw the story she’d first encountered two years earlier: “It was surreal and exciting, and maybe it was the first time I really felt like I might know what I’m doing as an editor, that I had been taught well, apprenticed well.”

She also remembers reading the book proposal for Cameron Dezen Hammon’s memoir This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession, which Lookout published in 2019. The proposal taught her about the acquisition process leading to a nonfiction book, but it also revealed something about her own creative work. “Much of my own writing is and was at the time about the church, about growing up religious, about being a woman in religious spaces,” she says. “Here was this memoir that spoke so directly to my own interests. . . . It opened up the genre for me.”

As for how working as a literary editor currently influences Taylor’s own writing, it depends. Some days, she admits, all she wants to do after reading so much at work is to go home and watch TV. “But there are other days,” she says, “where I find a gem in the SHR submission queue, and the writing is so electric that all I can do after 5 p.m. is write to try and match the excellence of what I’ve read.” Working as a full-time editor keeps her constantly engaged with the literary world, and she likes the idea of stealing time on the weekends or arriving to the office a little early to work on her own story collection.

“There’s no right way to be a writer, and there’s no right way to have a writing practice. We work when we can, and we let the life we live fuel and inspire that work.”


Thank you to Lookout staffer Laura Traister for her contributions to this profile.

Seven Questions (+1) for Sophia Stid

Today in Seven Questions, we talk with Ecotone postgraduate fellow Sophia Stid. Sophia recently received the 2021 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize, from Calyx magazine, and the 2022 Sally Buckner Emerging Writers’ Fellowship, from the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Her micro-chapbook Whistler’s Mother was published by Bull City Press in October 2021. Her work has also been supported by fellowships from Vanderbilt University and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and her recent work can be found in Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, and Pleiades.

Book cover for Sophia Stid's Whistler's MotherSophia has worked on Ecotone for the past two-plus years, and was recently promoted to associate editor. Her keen editorial sensibility, and her equally keen attention to both place and the artists and writers who consider it, are a gift to the magazine. Though some on Ecotone’s staff may quibble with her choice, in the lightning round below, of pie over cake, her editorial and writerly decision making is indisputably exemplary—wise, nuanced, thoughtful, kind. We are lucky to have her as part of the Ecotone team. Editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell interviewed her in fall 2021.

As you begin your third year with Ecotone, what are you excited about in your work?

I’m really excited about the Climate Issue, which we’re putting together right now—and Ecotone 30, which will reach subscribers and newsstands in the next week. The questions we’re holding as an editorial team are difficult and important: how to walk with hope and grief and rage at once, how to work for change while mourning what we’ve already lost. Carrying these questions in community with our contributors has already shaped my thinking and my living.

What’s something you’ve discovered in editing that surprised you or helped your own writing?

I’m surprised by how often it seems that when I have questions for a piece of writing as an editor, the work itself will hold a phrase or idea that guides the editorial team through those questions. I’ve learned so much from that about trusting the work itself to teach me how to write it.

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Meet Lookout’s Fall 2021 Practicum Team

Students in the UNCW’s MFA and BFA publishing-certificate programs help power Lookout Books through their work in the Publishing Practicum, taught by faculty publisher Emily Smith. To introduce this semester’s staff, we asked each of them to share a book that offered comfort or served as a source of joy throughout remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Get to know our team below, and then visit your favorite local bookstore to pick up these titles. You can also follow the provided links; sales through our Bookshop storefront benefit both independent booksellers and the work of Lookout Books. Win-win!

Amanda Ake is a third-year MFA candidate in creative nonfiction and the graduate publishing assistant for Lookout Books. With a background in website and social media management, she’s particularly excited to help Lookout’s next title make its way into the hands of readers. 

Recently, she enjoyed the themes of inheritance, intimacy, and identity found within the essay collection Spilt Milk (McSweeney’s, 2021) by Courtney Zoffness.

Zoe Howard is a senior earning a BFA in creative writing and a Certificate in Publishing. She looks forward to lending a hand in the care and identity that a year of Lookout’s attention can cultivate for a debut author or underrepresented voice.

She keeps returning to the work of poet Gabrielle Grace Hogan, especially her debut digital micro-chapbook Sentimental Violence: Some Poems About Tonya Harding (Ghost City Press, 2020).  

Olivia Loorz is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction. They work in the Publishing Laboratory teaching publishing and bookbuilding classes. This is their first year working with Lookout, and they can’t wait to help bring the next book into the world.

Olivia’s most loved book published by an indie press recently is Fiebre Tropical (Feminist Press, 2020) by Juliana Delgado Lopera. 

Luca Rhatigan is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction and a teaching assistant in the Publishing Laboratory. They are excited to continue their work with Lookout, carrying through the projects they began last semester.

Luca is inspired by Mariame Kaba’s reflections on police and prison abolition in We Do This ’Til We Free Us (Haymarket Books, 2021).

Gabi Stephens is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction and the designer for Chautauqua literary journal. In her first semester of Lookout, she is excited to create digital content that invites readers behind the scenes to see the care that goes into every Lookout title.

With its dark humor and very human narrator, Problems (Coffee House Press, 2016) by Jade Sharma especially helped her through this year. 

Laura Traister is a second-year MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at UNCW, where she also serves as a coordinator for Young Writers Workshop. Having worked at a small educational publishing company before returning to school, she is excited to learn how the worlds of educational publishing and literary publishing overlap and diverge.

An indie book that has been a source of joy for her in the past months is Translation as Transhumance (Feminist Press, 2017) by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.

What We’re Reading: Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

At the close of this semester, students in the Lookout Books publishing practicum collaborated on a list of books that inspired them and their work throughout the term. To celebrate the final week of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month, we’re in turn sharing their recommendations with you. Once you’ve immersed yourself in these beautiful titles, we hope you’ll also read up on ways to stop the rise in hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities.

Content warning: Please be advised that several book notes below include references to depression and suicide.

Soft Science by Franny ChoiWhen I found Franny Choi’s sonnet series “Chatroulette” in BOAAT, I knew I had to read more of her work. In Soft Science (Alice James Books, 2019), her second poetry collection, there are cyborgs and androids, cephalopods and moon phases. These tender, violent poems explore how humans build community and identity, and search for love in the fluid and intersecting worlds of the natural and digital, the human and machine. Soft Science is essential reading for those interested in how human bodies and consciousness are affected by technology, and this collection is especially compelling now, amidst the backdrop of the pandemic and ongoing Zoom fatigue. Dianne Seuss calls Soft Science, “a crucial book for our time—perhaps the book for our time,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Lindsay Lake

Order Soft Science here.

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun LiI was first drawn to Yiyun Li’s memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life (Random House, 2017) because of its lyrical title but soon found myself copying quotes from its pages into my journal, struck by Li’s ability to capture inchoate feelings in beautiful, unsentimental prose. During a period of suicidal depression, Li contemplates what it means to live, using the letters and private writings of her favorite writers as guides. While this book doesn’t offer easy answers, I found a great sense of relief in reading the work of a writer who doesn’t pretend to know the way forward but continues anyway. Moving seamlessly among different writers and moments in her life, Li speaks to the reader like a close friend, creating a connection that is difficult to forget.

Luca Rhatigan

Order Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life here.

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A garden for Earth Day

Scene of the Cape Fear River, featuring a fish trap rock formation, with trees visible across the water
Raven Rock State Park, Cape Fear River, NC. Photo by Gerry Dincher, CC BY-SA 2.0.

On Earth Day this year, we’re thinking about the intersections between social and environmental justice and how we can show up for both in our communities. In honor of the Garden Issue making its way to mailboxes now, we’ve compiled a list of organizations that support gardens, gardeners, what gardens need (water, pollinators, and the like), as well as green and growing spaces and the equitable access to them.

These are difficult and wearying times, and the burdens are unequally distributed through our communities. If you find yourself with resources to share, these organizations are wonderful places to consider lending support in whatever way you are able. This list is by no means comprehensive, but we hope it offers a handful of seeds, a place to begin.

Co-founded by Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-Indigenous community farm with a wide range of programs that serve over ten thousand people each year. In their words, they are committed to the intertwined goals of “uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system.” Their work encompasses every level of farming and food justice—individual, communal, systemic, and spiritual. They train and mentor farmer-activists, host a community-sourced reparations map for BIPOC farmers, develop youth food-justice workshops, deliver food to under-resourced households, and educate policy makers. They are currently seeking donations as part of a development initiative to fortify the foundation and future of the farm, as they build new infrastructure that will make their food-sovereignty work sustainable for decades to come.

On a nationwide level, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance is a network of Black-led organizations focused on Black food sovereignty, furthering Black visions for sustainability and justice, and creating self-determining food economies. Their food map and directory is an invaluable community resource. Their website offers several ways to donate and otherwise support their work, including contacting your senators in support of the Justice for Black Farmers Act.

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network amplifies the power of Asian immigrant and refugee communities in California through community organizing around environmental justice. Located in the Bay Area—specifically in Richmond and in Oakland Chinatown—APEN’s work includes community gardening projects, health education, multilingual environmental emergency alerts, eviction protections, and advocacy for affordable housing and safe working conditions. Since the 1990s, APEN has supported and nurtured young activists through the Asian Youth Advocates summer program.

Here in what is now known as North Carolina, American Indian Mothers Inc. is a cultural organization and social support agency that serves American Indians and other minorities in rural communities. They work to support women and empower and preserve families at the margins, offering transitional housing, counseling, job training, cultural awareness, scholarships, and mentoring. AIMI also works to address food insecurity and hunger on both the immediate level with food banks and meal programs, and on the systemic level with a community organic farm and cannery, a partnership between farms, fisheries, ranches, and tribes in the southeastern part of the state.

For more than thirty years, the Indigenous Environmental Network has been fighting for environmental and economic justice. IEN works to support tribal governments and Indigenous communities in protecting sacred sites, caring for the environment, promoting dialogue, and creating sustainable economies.

Founded by an artist and an activist, Signal Fire Arts is dedicated to connecting artists to our remaining wild places. They develop wilderness studio programs and backcountry retreats on public lands to advocate for equitable access—as well as preservation of—open landscapes. Signal Fire provides fellowships for communities typically marginalized from the culture of outdoor exploration and American environmentalism. They also offer yearly Indigenous artist retreats, designed by Native artists for Native artists.  During the pandemic, Signal Fire has been offering BIPOC Virtual Workshops. They are returning to in-the-field programming this summer and are currently accepting applications.

Across North America, Pollinator Partnership seeks to preserve and protect the health of pollinator species with a multifacted approach of conservation, education, and research. Every year, the Partnership sponsors Pollinator Week; this year’s weeklong celebration of pollinator goodness starts on June 21. Year round, the Partnership promotes bee-friendly farming, disburses honey-bee health grants, distributes school gardening kits, provides educational modules and trainings on pollinator protection, and generally works to increase pollinator habitats and decrease threats. They provide ecoregional planting guides, a useful resource for any Earth Day planting project.

Finally, we’ll end with a fundamental need of every human and every garden: water. The Waterkeeper Alliance is fighting for the basic human right to clean water worldwide. They work toward the goal of drinkable, fishable, swimmable water for every community through education, advocacy, legal work, policy, and action. The Alliance patrols and protects waterways on six continents through an extensive community network—you can find your nearest waterkeeper here to learn about water in your place and get involved locally. Ecotone is edited and published from the Cape Fear River Basin, where local folks can support the Cape Fear River Watch and join clean-up days and other socially distanced volunteer opportunities.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

This post was compiled by Ecotone postgraduate fellow Sophia Stid.

New Books on the Block

UNCW alum Holly Bader opens indie Papercut Books in downtown Wilmington

Last week, Wilmington’s newest independent bookstore opened its doors on Market Street. You’ll recognize Papercut Books from the lush fern out front and the small shelf of books marked FREE. Offering a selection to the community at no cost is one of just a few ways Papercut Books owner Holly Bader hopes to give back to Wilmington, where she’s lived her whole life, something she notes is “somewhat rare these days.”

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Meet Lookout’s Spring 2021 Team

Emily Smith, Lookout’s publisher, and student staff members in her spring 2021 publishing practicum at UNCW meet over Zoom.

Alongside publishing faculty, students in the UNCW Department of Creative Writing’s MFA and BFA publishing-certificate programs power Lookout Books through their work in the capstone Publishing Practicum. To celebrate Black History Month and also introduce this semester’s staff, we asked them to recommend books, essays, poems, and stories that they’re currently reading. Get to know our nine student staff members below, and then contact your favorite local bookstore to order these titles. You can also follow the provided links; sales through our Bookshop store benefit both independent booksellers and the work of Lookout Books.

Go Ahead In The Rain by Hanif AbdurraqibMarissa Castrigno is a second-year MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at UNCW, where she also serves as coordinator for the Writers in Action program. She looks forward to watching the evolution of a book from its proposal stage to its shelf-ready form. Right now, she’s reading Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas Press, 2019) by Hanif Abdurraqib, whose writing has fueled her love of all music genres.

Cheyenne Faircloth is a senior earning a BFA in creative writing and a Certificate in Publishing at UNCW. She is excited to work with an independent publisher that cares for left-of-center narratives, and to follow the life cycle of a book from manuscript to publication. Currently, she is devouring anything by Luther Hughes, first stumbling across his poem “if it’s about abuse, then yes, i’ll answer the questions” in Winter Tangerine’s 2016 summer issue.

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