It’s been a strange time in America these last few weeks, so we’re heading into this Roundup trying to focus on some good things for our readers and from our contributors. Here are things to toot happy horns about, and inspiring reads in the aftermath of some disconcerting divisiveness.
First up, Lookout author Clare Beams has received a ton of wonderful attention recently for We Show What We Have Learned. Most notably, perhaps, from the New York Times! “Stories as well executed as these are their own reward, but it’s also clear from the capaciousness on display here that Ms. Beams has novels’ worth of worlds inside her.” But there was love too from many others, including Kirkus‘s list of Best Debut Fiction of 2016, Paste Magazine, Parnassus Books, the Fiction Writers Review, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Charlotte Observer, the Wilmington Star News, Shelf Awareness, Brit+Co, and Flavorwire, to name a few more notables. You can also hear Clare talk with fellow debut story writer April Ayers Lawson on WUNC’s the State of Things. And, here’s a roundup of photos from Clare’s very celebratory book launch here at UNCW.
Could you possibly need more convincing that this is a book you should read?
Lookout author Ben Miller’s Mural Speaks! project, the aim of which is to translate William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow” into each of the 140 plus languages currently spoken in Sioux Falls, is still looking for submissions. We love the way the project celebrates the diversity of the urban midwest.
Oh, but there’s so much more to celebrate from Ecotone contributors!
We’re thrilled that Dan Hoyt is the winner of the inaugural Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction for his novel This Book Is Not For You. Dan’s story “The Mad King” is one wild ride, in our current issue.
Patrick Phillips’s book Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, out this September, is reviewed in the Washington Post. You can read an excerpt from the book at Longreads.
Lynne Thompson and Douglas Kearney are included in this fabulous Black Lives Matter Poetry Reader.
Alison Hawthorne Deming offers the first entry in a new series at Terrain, “Letter to America.”
National Poetry Series winner Melissa Range is featured on PBS News Hour, taking on terms like “redneck” and “white trash.”
Annie Finch’s poem “Moon of Our Daughters” is featured on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day.
Megan Snyder-Camp, who has not one but two books out this fall, has three poems in the Sewanee Review.
Belle Bogg’s The Art of Waiting is one of Oprah’s favorite books of 2016!
In their October issue, Poetry Magazine published Issue 21 contributor Laurie Clements Lambeth’s poem “Cusped Prognosis,” which was originally part of her essay, “Going Downhill From Here” in Ecotone‘s current issue.
We hope these engaging reads offer some perspective, comfort, and enjoyment. We’ll see you back here soon for our next Roundup!
It was an especially exciting week at Lookout HQ with the launch of Clare Beams’s story collection, We Show What We Have Learned, on Tuesday. The Lookout team has been hard at work on this amazing book for quite some time, and it’s been fun to see it getting the attention it so deserves. Here are a few of the special places you can read more about it.
The story “All the Keys to All the Doors” was featured in Electric Literature‘s Recommended Reading this week, with a fantastic introduction from Megan Mayhew Bergman: “Upon reading her, you make it to the third or fourth paragraph and realize this is not the restrained narrative you expected, that there is a cutting strangeness and profundity afoot.”
Clare got a bunch of love in Pittsburgh, the town she calls home, including this interview in the Pittsburgh City Paper, this review in the Pittsburgh Tribune, and a packed release party at the White Whale Bookstore.
And if you haven’t heard by now, she also got love from O, The Oprah Magazine, where it was featured as one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”
This coming week, Wilmington will host its own special launch party for Clare as part of Writers’ Week on Monday night. To read more about it–and the other fabulous writers coming to Wilmington including Mei Fong, Maurice Manning, and Chinelo Okparanta–check out this article from Encore.
Speaking of hometown love, Wilmington’s Salt Magazine did a fabulous profile on Lookout and Honey from the Lion, saying, “The care and adoration lavished on a Lookout book is obvious…. French flaps, beautiful graphic design, and tailored page layouts are the hallmarks of a book that someone cares about…. At Lookout, each book radiates that level of care.” And Parnassus Books created this roundup of “Small Presses: Little Gems With Big Impact,” calling out Lookout books by Clare Beams, Edith Pearlman, and Matthew Neill Null. (Thanks, you guys!)
There’s good news for other Lookout authors, too! Matthew Neill Null’s novel, Honey from the Lion, has been named a fiction finalist in the 2016 Massachusetts Book Awards from the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and has sold to Albin Michel for publication in France in 2018. Oui oui!
And Ben Miller, author of the memoir River Bend Chronicle, accepted the Cornell College Leadership & Service Award for “contributions to American literature.” Ben’s acceptance speech is funny and inspiring, and we’re so happy for him.
And there are book launches in the world of Ecotone contributors to boot! Melissa Range’s new poetry collection, Scriptorium, hit the shelves this month. Chosen by Tracy K. Smith for the 2015 National Poetry Series, it’s now available from Beacon Press.
Issue 21 contributor Safiya Sinclair’s book of poetry, Cannibal, which came out last month, got a shout out on Lenny: “Her stanzas will revive you and leave you transformed.”
This is the post that nearly launched a thousand books. We hope your reading all the great new literature you can handle–thanks for checking out ours!
In this week’s Roundup, we’ve got some fantastic contributor news, and a bunch of celebrity photos from AWP. By celebrity, of course, I mean our contributors and editors and students–all celebrities to us!
First up is Honey from the Lion author Matthew Neill Null, who won the 2016 Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Matt’s getting a fellowship that includes a stipend and a yearlong residency in Rome. Past recipients of the prestigious award include Ralph Ellison, A.R. Ammons, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Sexton, Junot Díaz, Anthony Doerr, Sigrid Nunez, Randall Kenan, and Lorrie Moore, among others–a true celebrity lineup. We’re so happy for Matt!
And here’s Matt looking Rome-bound with our publisher and art director, Emily Louise Smith at the AWP booth.
You might have heard some buzz from us in the past couple weeks about Lookout’s newest author, Clare Beams. We announced her cover a couple of weeks ago, and if you squint in this picture, you can see the galley there on the table. We’re so excited to share her fantastic collection of short stories, We Show What We Have Learned, with you in October.
Before we launch into the full slate of photos, some reading you should check out around the web: Ecotone contributor John Jeremiah Sullivan profiles “Shuffle Along,” one of the first successful all-black musicals, and the painful history of black performance in America. Ecotone contributor Claire Vaye Watkins has an essay up at LitHub about returning to her desert hometown and reflecting on what it means to run away from where you came from. And Lookout author Ben Miller also has an essay up on LitHub about the greatest writers’ group to come out of Davenport, Iowa.
Have I mentioned how much we love our contributors and the students who work on our imprints through UNCW’s MFA program? Man, we do. Here are some photos to help share that love. Behold, AWP booth photos from Lynn Thompson, Jamie Poissant, J.P. Grasser, and Leslie Wheeler.
And here are our staff: running, goofing, overhearing, eating, and partying (thanks to folks at the PEN Center for the party shots!).
We hope your AWP was as filled with inspiration, connection, and celebrity sightings as ours was. We’ll see you next year in DC and back here next week for another Roundup!
I’ve worked at a local bookstore as long as I’ve known about UNCW’s Publishing Laboratory. They’re both small, independent, and full of people I want to be when I grow up. They both give loving homes to books that might be ignored at larger institutions.
But here’s the thing about being small: it takes big effort. Huge, in fact. Let’s just go ahead and call it a gigantic labor of love. Small presses like Lookout compete with larger publishers before the book even makes it to the shelf (if it does that). Most indie publishers have limited budgets from which to offer authors advances for their manuscripts, and it’s not surprising that big numbers consistently compel great writers to sign with the big houses and their imprints.
Even when indie publishers bring great titles into the world (or, like Lookout, only one per year), it’s especially difficult for bookstores to sell the books of small presses. At Pomegranate Books, where I work, we often receive boxes of press kits and advance reading copies for the big books that big publishers want us to stock. Sure, we’d love to shelve every novel by our favorite indie presses, but will those titles move as fast as the mass-marketed books that everyone and their cousin want to read?
Pomegranate Books is small, but even for larger independent stores with more shelf space and more customers, there are different challenges to selling indie books. Trade publishers often offer volume discounts, or additional in-store advertising money to incentivize stocking and prominently displaying their books. So big-publisher books get coveted window display and shelf space even if a bookseller would prefer to give attention to her new favorite by an indie press. The New York Times wrote about this back in 1996, and it’s still a tiresome obstacle.
Instead of advertising money, Lookout offers gratitude to indie bookstores in the form of author visits, signings, and readings in their stores. At Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, Lookout’s publisher and editors tagged along with authors Steve Almond and Matthew Neill Null to offer free publishing workshops and to serve on panels after the authors’ readings. And Lookout celebrates indie stories such as Brookline Booksmith, which to date has sold almost six hundred copies of its first title, Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman! That collection found its way into the hands of hundreds more readers thanks to the generous support of booksellers at Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, and Politics & Prose, which hosted Edith Pearlman for one of her first public readings from Binocular Vision.
Millions of books exist in this world—in fact, I encourage everyone to purchase So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid, an exhilarating read published by another indie press, Paul Dry Books—but our store has fewer than five employees. Perhaps, if we had the time and human capital to dedicate regular hours to discovering new books by small presses, we’d be able to better hand sell their books. Instead, we struggle simply to stay up-to-date on the titles brought to our attention through large mailings and marketing budgets.
The better an independent press can convey its mission, purpose, and we-consider-every-little-detail attitude, the more inclined a bookstore’s owners and staff will be to share that appreciation for thoughtfully made books with their customers. It’s extremely difficult to verbalize or advertise that feeling, but Lookout serves as proof that it can work.
These five best practices from Lookout Books include things I wish I saw more of as a bookseller—from every press, big or small.
Lookout seeks works by emerging and historically underrepresented writers, as well as overlooked gems. Unlike large trade publishers, they aren’t beholden to stockholders or corporate owners, so they tend to be less motivated by profit margins. Bookstores know that they consider their publications works of art by literary artists, not just best-selling retail items (though they hope for that too!).
In developing media kits, Lookout makes or buys materials, when they can, from local or independent sellers. If a bookstore receives a promotional kit that includes unique, handmade materials, they’ll be more likely to give it attention. When Lookout staffer Anna Coe created coasters to celebrate the recent release of Matthew Neill Null’s Honey From the Lion, she ordered the wood slices from a supplier on Etsy and personally stamped and sealed every coaster!
Ben Miller’s memoir-in-essays, River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa was published by Lookout in 2013. He sent us this update about life after his Radcliffe Fellowship and a cross-country move for our regular department On Location, where writers share a picture of a meaningful place.
After completing my fellowship year at the Radcliffe Institute in May, I made a spinning leap from Cambridge to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and landed on my feet in front of the celebratory mural in Meldrum Park created in 2013 by artist Dave Loewenstein and the children of the Whittier Neighborhood. Squeezed in my left hand is a manuscript containing the sixty-one new translations of William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow” that I gathered over the last year from generous poets around the globe. It is my dream to hold a park reading at which this tiny poem of vast vision will be delivered in each of the 143 languages currently spoken in homes in Sioux Falls. Any translator interested in participating, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I am in particular need of translations of the poem in African and Asian languages.
Ben Miller is the author of River Bend Chronicle: the Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa. His prose is forthcoming in the New England Review and the St. Petersburg Review. His awards include fellowships from the NEA and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. On October 17 in Hooksett, New Hampshire, he will be presenting shrub-based polyphony in front of the New England chapter of the International Lilac Society. Selected works from his ongoing collaboration with the painter Dale Williams can be seen very soon in Brooklyn.
Happy Friday, everyone!
Did you miss Bookriot’s feature on bookstores in weird and wonderful places? From barns to boats, abandoned trains to haunted houses, the descriptions of these stores will leave you itching to travel.
Photos courtesy of the Gallifreyan Detective tumblr.
Judith Rosen of Publishers Weekly checked in on six indie bookstores opened within the past two years—from Scuppernong in Greensboro, NC, to Bookbound in Ann Arbor, MI—to see how they’re faring. As Scuppernong owner Brian Lampkin said, “There’s a growing shop-local movement. People are so ecstatic to have the downtown come back.” His NC store, which emphasizes literary fiction and poetry, also boasts an ambitious events schedule. Good news: they’re thriving!Continue Reading
Bookseller friends: anyone heading to the ABA’s Winter Institute in Asheville? We’ve created a special preview edition of Matthew Neill Null’s debut novel, Honey from the Lion, and we’re excited to share the first copies with you! The final cover is forthcoming, but we couldn’t wait to reveal the tremendous praise that has arrived already from Jaimy Gordon, Joy Williams, Salvatore Scibona, Ron Rash, Zachary Lazar, Jayne Anne Phillips, Smith Henderson, Lydia Peelle, and Anthony Marra.
Look for Honey from the Lion in the galley room, and please say hello to our publisher, Emily Louise Smith, at the Sunday night Carolina Speakeasy, sponsored by Lookout, Algonquin, Duke University Press, John F. Blair, and the University of North Carolina Press. (Rumor has it she’ll be speed dating as part of the rep picks lunches too.) Missing the fun this year but want a galley? E-mail us!Continue Reading
UNCW is back in session, and so is our weekly Lit News Roundup. We hope that our readers had a wonderful and restful holiday season.
We highly recommend reading this thoughtful and inspiring Slate article by Daniel Menaker, who writes, “The profession, in whatever form, will continue to produce physical and now electronic objects that move not only units but people. Move them and enlighten them emotionally, move them to action, move them to share what they learn and care about with others.”
In case you missed the cover of the Sunday Book Review on January 4, it featured a stunning review by Laura van den Berg of Honeydew (Little, Brown), the new collection by Lookout’s debut author, Edith Pearlman (Binocular Vision). A profile of Mrs. Pearlman, written by another Lookout author, Steve Almond, also appeared in the Times and chronicles her writing and publishing background, leading to her “commercial breakthrough at seventy-eight, after five decades of writing short stories, some 200 of them, nearly all appearing in small literary magazines.” The profile includes a quote by Lookout co-founder and former editor Ben George.Continue Reading
It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago we were celebrating Writers’ Week and helping our sister magazine, Ecotone, launch the fall Sustenance issue with a farm-to-table supper in partnership with Feast Down East. The delicious meal was served under a full moon and glowing lights in the Kenan Hall courtyard. Thanks again to contributors Alison Hawthorne Deming and Randall Kenan, as well as Leslie Hossfeld and Stefan Hartmann of Black River Organic Farm, for speaking. If you missed it, you can enjoy a taste of the evening in this album, courtesy of UNCW’s Will Page.
The new Sustenance issue of Ecotone is now on newsstands and available via the website, but don’t forget to pick a copy of the Spring/Summer 2014 issue, featuring a story by Lookout’s next author, Matthew Neill Null, while you’re at it.Continue Reading