Where to Find Us at AWP 2023 in Seattle

We can’t believe that the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Conference & Bookfair begins next week! UNCW’s creative writing programs, including our imprint Lookout Books and magazine Ecotone, will be represented at the nation’s largest marketplace for independent literary presses and journals. Please stop by booths 609 & 611 for great deals on our catalog of books and issues of the magazine, as well as to meet our faculty and student staff.

Toast to Small Joys at AWP, hosted by Lookout Books


Along with giveaways and sales of our signature bag of snakes tote, we’re hosting a special bookfair event—Toast to Small Joys—featuring contributors to Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic. Join Destiny O. Birdsong, Opal Moore, and Deesha Philyaw for cake and drinks to celebrate the anthology’s publication—and to get your copy of Bigger Than Bravery signed. They’ll be at the booth on Friday, March 10, 12–1 p.m.

Aren’t registered for the conference? Not to worry! The bookfair will be open to the public on Saturday, March 11. We can’t wait to see you there!

Publishing faculty members Emily Louise Smith, Michael Ramos, and KaToya Ellis Fleming at AWP 2022

Many contributors to Bigger Than Bravery will be reading and speaking throughout the conference, so we’ve rounded up what are sure to be some of the biggest literary happenings in Seattle between March 8 and 11.

Thursday, March 9
9 to 10:15 a.m.

Rooms 435-436, Summit Building, Level 4

Occupational Hazards: Teaching and Writing Risk across Genres

Destiny O. Birdsong, Jan Beatty, Asali Solomon, Lesley Wheeler, Erika Meitner

Writers conjure literary power by putting something real on the line. Yet risk operates differently across nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and translation, raising craft questions as well as the challenge of inspiring students to bring vulnerability to their writing. Panelists with experience in many teaching contexts—including universities, conferences, and community workshops—will share concrete ideas for empowering and equipping students to take personal and aesthetic chances. 

Friday, March 10, 2023
1:45 to 3 p.m.
Signature Room, Summit Building, Level 5

How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, and Skill, Sponsored by the Hurston/Wright Foundation

Khadijah Ali-Coleman,
Jericho Brown, W. Ralph Eubanks, Tiphanie Yanique, Darlene Taylor

What happens to move things from a blank page to a beautiful book? This panel discusses the ongoing struggle to give voice to the ways Black writers find joy, the ways we resist, the ways we declare our will to be free. We explore the perspective of Black writers on the craft of writing and storytelling and the unique voice we bring to the page. Followed by a Q&A. 

Friday, March 10, 2023
10:35 to 11:50 a.m.
Rooms 335-336, Summit Building, Level 3

Beauty Clanging: A Tribute to Kamilah Aisha Moon

Maya Pindyck
, Ama Codjoe, Remica Bingham-Risher, Ellen Hagan

This poetry reading honors the life and work of poet Kamilah Aisha Moon (1973–2021), author of Starshine & Clay and She Has a Name, who touched the lives of countless people through her moving words and clear-eyed way of being in the world. A number of poets, including Remica Bingham-Risher, Ama Codjoe, and Evie Shockley, will share poems by Moon that have inspired them. The tribute remembers and celebrates the life of this remarkable poet. 

Friday, March 10, 2023
3:20 p.m. to 4:35 p.m.
Ballroom 2 & 3, Summit Building, Level 5

The National Book Critics Circle Presents Honorée Fanonne Jeffers and Namwali Serpell, Moderated by Jane Ciabattari

A literary partner featured event focused on two National Book Critics Circle’s honorees who work in multiple genres, moderated by NBCC VP/Events Jane Ciabattari, featuring NBCC Fiction Award winner Honorée Fanonne Jeffers and NBCC Criticism finalist Namwali Serpell. They’ll focus on writing in multiple genres (both write innovative fiction and cultural criticism; Jeffers also is a poet), inspiration and research for their work (both write novels with history, justice, surreal elements), the influence of NBCC and other awards, Afro futurism and other evolving forms, the unique challenges of writing in these times, and the imaginative process that shapes their work. Since 1974, the National Book Critics Circle awards have honored the best literature published in English. These are the only awards chosen by the critics themselves. This event will be livestreamed. ASL interpretation and live captioning will be provided. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023
10:35 to 11:50 a.m.
Room 447-448, Summit Building, Level 4

Growing the Garden: Paying Tribute to Joanne Gabbin and Furious Flower

Remica Bingham-Risher
, Shauna Morgan, Tyehimba Jess, Jericho Brown, Opal Moore

Envisioned by Dr. Joanne Gabbin, the historic Furious Flower Poetry Conference was organized at James Madison University in 1994 and led to the development of the nation’s first academic center for Black poetry. Furious Flower has become a singular institution, supporting the growth of new poets and archiving the work of torchbearers in the Black literary tradition. Gabbin, a veteran educator who pioneered courses in Black Studies, is also an editor, author, poet advocate, culture-worker, and community builder. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023
12:10 to 1:25 p.m.
Terrace Suite I, Summit Building, Level 4

First Impressions

Donica Bettanin
, Yuka Igarashi, Crystal Hana Kim, Deesha Philyaw, Paul Reyes

Seeing your fiction in print for the first time is a thrill. It could also be a stepping stone to future publications and wider recognition. The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes twelve emerging writers each year for their debut short story, and the winners are published by Catapult in an annual anthology. Hear from previous winners, judges, and editors about how a debut story can make an indelible impression. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023
12:10 p.m. to 1:25 p.m.
Ballroom 1, Summit Building, Level 5

Storytelling for Change: Environmental Racism and Literature with Kiese Laymon & Imbolo Mbue, Sponsored by Literary Arts & The Lyceum Agency

A conversation on storytelling, environmental racism, and activism. Set in a fictional African village being polluted by an oil company, Mbue’s latest novel confronts environmental devastation, corporate colonialism and activism. Kiese Laymon’s multigenerational roots in Mississippi have led him to consider climate justice and the ways that extractive agriculture, corporate interests, and the legacy of slavery impact communities of color in the US. This event will be livestreamed. ASL interpretation and live captioning will be provided. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Hugo House (Offsite event)

An Evening of Disability, Poetry and Poetics, featuring Khadjiah Queen and L. Lamar Wilson

Zoeglossia Fellows will also share brief readings and reflections, followed by a conversation with the featured readers, moderated by 2021-22 Zoeglossia Poetry Coalition Fellow, Saleem Hue Penny.

Admission is offered on a sliding scale, from $0-$25.

Announcing UNCW’s New Graduate Certificate in Publishing

Beginning in fall 2023, UNCW’s MFA program is offering students a complementary post-baccalaureate certificate in literary publishing. The 15-hour degree prepares graduates to work in publishing, editing, publicity, marketing, grant writing, and book and magazine design and production, among other areas. Students also learn skills beneficial in a variety of adjacent fields—from public relations to arts management. At the heart of the program are apprenticeships with the department’s award-winning literary entities: imprint Lookout Books and magazines Ecotone and Chautauqua.

As Lookout’s graduate publishing assistant, I’ve found hands-on experiences with the imprint to be invaluable. I chose UNCW’s MFA program because I wanted to explore professional options as I gained practical, real-world experience. I was uncertain about the exact career I wanted to pursue after graduation. Working at Lookout over the past two semesters has helped me fine-tune my goals and discover new skills.

After careful preparation, planning, and care, I helped launch the imprint’s latest title, Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic, in November. I helped design the anthology’s interior and cover, executed an accompanying social media campaign, and am now seeing my work pay off in the form of accolades and national media attention for the book. It’s come with satisfaction and excitement I’ve never felt before.

Lookout Practicum staff members Morissa Young, Tierra Ripley, and Felicia Rosemary Urso at the book launch

“It’s impossible not to learn from Emily Smith as she explains in real time why we’re taking each step in the publishing process. Instead of focusing on one area, students get to explore as many as we’d like. . . .  I’m actively developing new perspectives that will be crucial to my success post-MFA, in publishing and well beyond it.”

Lookout’s practicum is unique in terms of how full of an experience it offers—how much care publisher and professor Emily Smith takes in guiding students, while also challenging them. It’s impossible not to learn from Emily as she explains in real time why we’re taking each step in the publishing process. Instead of focusing on one area, students get to explore as many as we’d like. For example, this semester I’ve managed our social media, designed publicity materials, read and assessed submissions as part of the acquisitions team, and supported book marketing and promotional efforts. Through the apprenticeship required to complete the publishing certificate, I’m actively developing new perspectives that will be crucial to my success post-MFA, in publishing and well beyond it.

Lookout faculty and practicum staff members printing broadsides at Port City Letterpress in Wilmington


In addition to Lookout, students enrolled in the publishing certificate program can choose to apprentice with UNCW’s two nationally-acclaimed literary magazines, Ecotone and Chautauqua 

I’ve spent the majority of my writing life alone in at a desk with the occasional support of a friend or mentor, but entering this MFA submerged me in a world of people who are trying for this same wild thing,” says second-year nonfiction MFA candidate and Ecotone poetry editor Maggie Boyd Hare. “Working for Ecotone has given me an even broader place of connection. When editor and professor Anna Lena Phillips Bell introduces us to the process of reading submissions, she talks about how we’re practicing a kind of catch and release. I feel honored to be able to hold the work of so many other writers—to inspect it in the light—if only for a little while. To be able to act as a small part of this vast and vibrant community.” 

When editor and professor Anna Lena Phillips Bell introduces us to the process of reading submissions, she talks about how we’re practicing a kind of catch and release. I feel honored to be able to hold the work of so many other writers—to inspect it in the light—if only for a little while. To be able to act as a small part of this vast and vibrant community.” 

“Working on Chautauqua has given me opportunities to hone both editorial and design skills that I can take to the job market when I graduate,” says designer and third-year MFA fiction candidate Gabi Stephens. “On-the-job learning has also made me a more self-sufficient worker. I feel confident that when I come up against the logistic and creative challenges of book design, I have the resources to solve them. Beyond job marketability, working for Chautauqua has come with opportunities to attend the institution’s writers’ festival and to expand my community. The people I’ve met and the connections I’ve made are among the most invaluable aspects of the practicum experience.” 

“Working for Chautauqua has come with opportunities to attend the institution’s writers’ festival and to expand my community. The people I’ve met and the connections I’ve made are among the most invaluable aspects of the practicum experience.”  


Students are introduced to publishing through three core courses—Publishing Process, Editorial Process, and Bookbuilding—all taught by dedicated publishing faculty. Then, over at least two capstone semesters in either the book or the magazine practicum, students work under the close guidance of the instructor on a larger-scale project tailored to their specific interests. They can supplement their publishing study in special topics courses including access in publishing, book arts, the debut book, grant writing, and marketing and publicity. The program’s ongoing partnership with HarperCollins pairs students with senior publishing professionals for career advice and networking.

If you’re searching for a place to study the craft of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction while developing skills and perspectives in literary publishing, look no farther than UNCW’s MFA program. Though the certificate is new, it’s an extension of the department’s longstanding commitment to integrating the study of writing and publishing. We’re thrilled to finally be able offer students a professional credential in addition to the MFA. The application deadline is March 1, 2023. Come make books and magazines with us!  


Felicia Rosemary Urso,
Lookout Publishing Assistant

Bigger Than Bravery Contributors’ Favorite Bookstores

In celebration of Black History Month, we asked contributors to Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic to recommend their favorite Black-owned bookstores. Shopping at an indie store means investing in intentional programming, including readings and discussion groups, and fostering community spaces. Read on to learn how you can support the missions of these stores, as well as the larger literary ecosystem. And don’t forget to show them some love by plucking your copy of Bigger Than Bravery—and our contributors’ books—from their shelves!

Rofhiwa Book Café
recommended by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Jasmin Pittman Morell

Durham, NC





Open just shy of two years, Rofhiwa Book Café in Durham is a thoughtfully designed space, combining stellar, locally sourced coffee with a carefully curated selection of books by Black writers. Rofhiwa’s founder, Boitumelo Makhubele, and curator, Naledi Yaziyo, say that they “value books as repositories for collective knowledge.”

But their gorgeous indoor space houses more than books and coffee; it’s a gathering place for community, from book launches to readings to art exhibits. Rofhiwa’s impact on its community can’t be overstated. In a commentary for Cardinal & Pine, Yaziyo wrote, “In the year that Rofhiwa Book Café has been in operation in East Durham, it has been my singular mission to expose Black children to books about Black children in other places and other parts of the world.”

Bonus! For a limited time, Lookout is partnering with Rofhiwa to offer readers a free “Black Resilience, Black Reclamation” enamel pin when you purchase Bigger Than Bravery from them—while supplies last.


Loyalty Bookstore
Recommended by Jason Reynolds and Deesha Philyaw

Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD

With locations in DC and Maryland, Loyalty is a Black- and queer-owned bookstore that’s deeply committed to its community and to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation. Owner Hannah Oliver Depp is passionate about diversity and accessibility, with aspirations to create a bookmobile that will broaden the store’s reach.

“I decided to open this bookstore because I wanted to have an influence not only on my community but also in publishing,” Depp said during an interview with Good Morning America. “I wanted to provide jobs for people of color who love to sell books and talk about books. [I also wanted to] represent my neighborhood so they see themselves on the shelves when they come in.”

Bonus! For a limited time, Lookout Books is partnering with Loyalty too; pick up your copy of Bigger Than Bravery there, and receive a free “Black Resilience, Black Reclamation” enamel pin—while supplies last!


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Seven Questions (+1) for Michelle Donahue

Today in Seven Questions, we introduce Ecotone associate editor Michelle Donahue. In addition to editing, Michelle writes fiction and has published essays and poems. Her prose has been supported by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and has been published in Arts & Letters, CutBank, Porterhouse Review, Passages North, and others. She received an MFA in creative writing & environment from Iowa State and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah. Before joining Ecotone in August 2022, she was an editor for Quarterly West, the Adroit Journal, and Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment.

Michelle is a generous and energetic editor and a fabulous writer (not to mention a surfer and a brewer of beer). We are delighted to welcome her to the Ecotone team!

Co–fiction editor Becca Hannigan interviewed Michelle in fall 2022.

Michelle DonahueAs you settle in to Wilmington and your new roles at Ecotone and in the creative writing department, what do you find most exciting?

I’m most excited by the real commitment to community here. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it’s clear that people are interested in building a nourishing publishing, teaching, and writing environment. I’m honored to be a new member of such a beautiful ecosystem of writers, teachers, students, and editors.

Your degrees are in creative writing and literature as well as Could you share a specific experience, class, or conversation that’s carried you along? To what extent do you view your work as a writer and editor through a scientific lens?

When I was an undergraduate, I spent a semester studying on San Cristóbal Island in the Galápagos. It was such a unique experience that I’ve since tried to write about it, but always fail to capture it, with all of its strange beauty and contradictions. On the one hand, I spent my days lounging on the beach with sea lions who were wholly unafraid of humans. I watched blue-footed boobies perform their goofy mating rituals; I swam with green sea turtles, marine iguanas, manta rays, and reef sharks. It was unreal. But on the other hand, the Galápagos is a brutal, volcanic place, where the equatorial sun can burn unprotected skin in minutes. It’s a place where tourists who come to appreciate the unique life and landscape are also responsible for endangering its existence. I simultaneously loved every second of being there and felt guilty about my presence. I like this idea of an experience “carrying you along,” and my time in the Galápagos certainly has stayed with me in ways that are mollifying and maddening, celebratory and sad.

I think my background in science has changed the way I see the world, which I’m sure has affected the way I write and edit. In science, I was always drawn most to ecology, a discipline that focuses on relationships between the big and small, living and non-living. As a writer and editor, I’m interested in connections, in bringing the macro and the micro together.

You’ve worked as the managing editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment as well as prose editor for Quarterly West and the Adroit Journal. How and when did you know you wanted to pursue editorial work?

As a younger writer, I wanted to be as involved as possible in any and every good literary community I could find. Editorial work seemed like such a tremendous opportunity to contribute and give back to the literary community, while learning about writing and publishing. Once I started with Flyway, I knew I’d found a lifelong passion.

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Behind the Scenes: Promoting Bigger Than Bravery

With Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic hurdling toward its November 15, 2022 pub date, the Lookout team has been working behind the scenes on creative promotions. It’s bittersweet to reach this milestone without Bigger Than Bravery’s editor, Valerie Boyd, here to help us usher her final book into reviewers’ and early readers’ hands, but we’re infusing every galley that leaves our offices with her incomparable spirit.

For Lookout, promotional kits are meant not only to generate excitement but to contextualize and enlarge the conversation around our books. They include, of course, early reading copies and details about the book, but we always add extras to remind recipients how deeply we invest in each project we acquire. Over the past two semesters, publishing students in UNCW’s MFA and BFA programs have worked with book practicum instructor and publisher Emily Smith, as well as editor KaToya Ellis Fleming, to curate Bigger Than Bravery promotions with all the dedication and care that Valerie Boyd brought to her curation of the anthology itself.

The Commemorative Pin

As we grieved and processed Valerie Boyd’s unexpected passing, we thought about items that might meaningfully honor her legacy. We wanted this commemorative piece of the kit to be solemn yet bold, representative of Valerie and her work on Bigger Than Bravery, as well as her life’s work as a mentor and friend to so many writers and editors of color. The enamel pin calls to mind memorial pins often worn to remember a loved one. Borrowing from the book’s subtitle, we selected the phrase “Black Resilience. Black Reclamation.” When finished pins arrived, we placed all two hundred of them by hand on a custom card-stock backing. Each is anchored by two small black hearts.


Letterpress Broadside

Lookout staffer and letterpress artist Ollie Loorz designed and typeset an excerpt from Valerie Boyd’s introduction to Bigger Than Bravery:

“I offer you a glimpse into your own bravery, your own greatness, your own transcendent freedom.”

Emily Smith’s book publishing practicum then took a field trip to Port City Letterpress here in Wilmington, where Ollie gave us a demonstration and let us each take a turn at the wheel of the studio’s Chandler & Price platen press. What a beautiful day, watching Valerie Boyd’s words kiss the paper again and again—in that bold magenta ink!

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Seven Questions for Siobahn Daugherty

We’re excited to introduce the newest member of the Ecotone-Lookout team, administrative associate Siobahn Daugherty. If you’re a contributor to the magazine or to the imprint’s forthcoming anthology, Bigger Than Bravery, you have might have heard from Siobahn already!

Siobahn graduated from UNC Wilmington last year with a BFA in creative writing and a certificate in publishing. During her time in UNCW’s writing and publishing program, she served as the fiction editor for Seabreeze: A Literary Diaspora, the school’s first Black literary magazine, and as fiction editor for the student magazine Atlantis.

Lookout staffer and recent BFA and publishing-certificate graduate Lauran Jones had the chance to talk with Siobahn about her first few months on the job.

As you begin your work with Ecotone and Lookout Books, what most excites you?
The tight-knit-ness of both Ecotone and Lookout Books. It’s a very respectful and exciting work environment. I love how both organizations are writer focused and are willing to expand what good literature reads like and what good authors look like—things I feel most creative industries are very behind in.

You earned your certificate in publishing at UNC Wilmington, the parent institution for Lookout and Ecotone. Could you speak to a specific experience or class that helped prepare you for your position? Is there an area of expertise that you most look forward to bringing to the team?
Anna Lena’s editorial process class, as well as my work with both Atlantis and Seabreeze, helped prepare me for this position. Seabreeze and Atlantis gave me experience working with contributors and maneuvering the ever-changing needs of publishing. Anna Lena’s class assisted me with further fine-tuning my communication and editorial skills. An area of expertise I’m excited to bring to the team is how quickly I pick up new software. It’s healthy for my ego when I amaze people by showing them things they can do on a computer that neither they nor I knew about an hour ago.

Are there Lookout titles, issues of Ecotone, or pieces we’ve published that particularly inspire you?
Yes, of course! A piece from Ecotone I enjoy and think about often is Jennifer Tseng’s “Most of My Dream Fathers Are Women,” from the Love Issue. From Lookout Books, I adore Cameron Dezen Hammon’s This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession. I love how both works tackle grief and womanhood.

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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 Terrain.org 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 Terrain.org 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.

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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.

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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.