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 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.

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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.

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).  

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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.

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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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