We are so excited to announce the release of Christen Noel Kauffman’s Notes to a Mother God, a Debut Series Chapbook Co-Winner, and the fifth of six titles to be released from our lineup selected from our 2020 contests. The book may be ordered here or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

In “Notes to a Mother God,” Christen Noel Kauffman’s brilliant new lyric essay collection, the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, the human and the animal, sound and love, are revealed as illusory. In this gorgeous act of evaporation, a fresh engagement of motherhood is illuminated, one that miraculously manages to interrogate not boundaries, but exhilarating overlaps: this book dares to examine the spaces shared by the cleaving body and the spider’s web, a whale’s eye and the birth of a daughter, the Luna moth and guilt, the giant squid and empathy, memory and the seabed, death and a dream of an orchard. Throughout, Kauffman’s sumptuous essays do the essential work of exposing the plants and animals that many of us have ignored or mistakenly deemed as merely quotidian, as innately incantatory. And here, that incantation is howled by mothers actual and ghostly, sung, essentially, to quote Kauffman, into “the crevice of your neck.” This is a beautiful and breathtaking debut, as expansive as it is intimate.

— Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers

Notes to a Mother God gorgeously captures the contradictory moods and modes of new motherhood. In these exquisite pieces, Christen Noel Kauffman helps us understand the familiar and the foreign, the surprise of loneliness and the hunger for intimacy, and the magnetic tides of both desire and despair. Like motherhood itself, Notes to a Mother God is powerful, raw, and often dark, but with a marbled beauty that is as wondrous as it is undeniable. 

Randon Billings Noble, author of Be with Me Always

We are so excited to announce the release of Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker, a Debut Series Co-Winner and the first of our manuscripts selected in 2019’s contests to be released. The book may be ordered here, or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

These poems received the following praise:

Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker is a stunning elegiac sequence for a brother and the family he’s left behind.  But the chapbook is also about living through tremendous pain with grace and generosity, honest anger, and empathy. The poems are elegant in their imagery, evocative in their details, and artistic in their narrative focus.  Sarah Cooper is a superb poet of witness. Denise Duhamel 

Put simply: Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker enchants us. In “Grandma’s House,” we find the young Cooper siblings playing Ouija in the basement, casting spells with pebbles and bird feathers, hypnotized by the “oranges and pinks and blues of the jams glistening on shelves.” Such youth can’t be preserved. And though Cooper’s poems make this gut-wrenchingly clear in narrating the loss of that brother from the cellar, all the mystery of youth — that strange potion of great joy and deep sadness — is carried into these poems like a talisman. Like the BB left in the sister’s chest, forgotten, until years later she steps from the shower, runs her wet fingers over the lump, “and remembered your face / in shock as you realized you had shot me.” D. Gilson

Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker is about the ways we are marked by loss and all the forms that loss may take. The ephemeral smell of her brother’s cologne. His number and birthday, which she refuses to remove from her phone. Her brother’s baby teeth, which her father keeps in an Aleve bottle, suggesting the links this book traces between memory and pain. This is not a book about PTSD or addiction or brothers and sisters. It is about the collateral damage, the reverberating impact of loss on those left behind. Ed Madden

We have five more titles that my interns and I are preparing for production, and we can’t wait to have them ready for the world. And if you have a manuscript of your own, keep in mind that we’re open for chapbook submissions in poetry, fiction, literary non-fiction, and anything in between until April 20th!

Our annual chapbook contests are open this year from January 20th – April 20th, 2020. This will be our 9th year (!) of running an annual contest, and I had to count each year slowly on my hands a few times before I really believed it. We have published 34 titles during that time, six of which are forthcoming in the next few months. Be on the lookout for release announcements for some really amazing books in the next few months.

As in years past, the Vella Contest is open to all; the Debut Series is open only to writers who have yet to publish a book or chapbook (and for our purposes, this also includes if you’ve signed a publication contract but the book is not released yet).You can also go right to our Submittable, which should give you all the information you need once the contests go live on Monday.

This Spring, I’m lucky to have four wonderful interns to help with running the press. I’ll be gradually getting a little about them posted under our Staff tab.

As always, I am so grateful I get to do this. I’m excited to see what amazing work we’ll get to read this year!

We received nearly 150 submissions this year, making our selection incredibly tough. These decisions are difficult every year, and if we had unlimited resources, we would have accepted several more. Please join me in congratulating the writers below!

This year’s winners are:

Rooh – Maya Salameh
And the Whale – Sonya Vatomsky

Our Finalists include:

Beast-Mother – Sayuri Ayers
On Boxes (And Putting Poems In Them) – Jesica Carson Davis
The Centrifuge Brain Project – Ting Gou
Present Imperfect: Essays – Ona Gritz
Rappaccini’s Garden – Jules Jacob and Sonya Johanson
Whore of Blue – Siham Karami
sacraments – Kimberly Kemler
Something Like Surrender – Heather Lang-Cassera
The Sound of Her Voice – Veronica Montes
Our Lady of Impermanence – Megan Neville
Hitting an All-Time Low – Sarah Nichols
Homer Saw a Wine-Dark Sea – Victoria Nordlund
One Body May Act upon Another at a Distance – Lynda Sexson
Mortar: Montage of a Teaching Life Into Labels More – Christine Taylor
A Long Shoot Sweeping – Mary-Sherman Willis

And there are many more manuscripts we found memorable and were very fond of. Thank you to everyone who trusted us with their writing and gave us the opportunity to read their work.

We’ll now be turning our focus towards getting this year’s six total manuscripts ready for production. Both the Debut Series and Vella Contests re-open in January 2020, and we’re excited to read what next year has in store!

We are so excited to announce the release of Rage Hezekiah’s Unslakable, the first of three 2018 Vella Chapbook Winners to be released this year, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up. Please also consider checking out Rage’s website, to find out about events and any other future publications.

Her poems received the following praise:

“How can we say what was once unsayable and then learn to see beyond it? And beyond that seeing, can we dare to move beyond it—and live on our own terms? Rage Hezekiah’s Unslakable takes up this challenge with fierce compassion and a vital, human grace born of having lived and witnessed—and then gone farther. In that way, we can read the title, Unslakable, at once as description, challenge, and difficult desire. “First/you teach the child/what it is to drown/so she’ll know/to save herself” writes Hezekiah. These poems embody the process of walking with the strange weight of history – both personal and cultural – but these poems also carry us through the process of opening ourselves to self-love. Hezekiah’s courageous and thoughtful voice invites us all to rethink those big yet intimate issues: family legacy, sexuality, identity, and power. More than just response, reaction, or counterpoise, Unslakable claims and creates new space for the strength of one woman of color’s body – and vision – and spirit – in our world.”

-Aaron Coleman, author of St. Trigger, and Threat Come Close

“Startling and brutal in its clarity, Unslakable takes on multiple violences lived in an individual body – the trauma of a childhood with an alcoholic parent, the intergenerational inheritance of slavery and racism, the echo of every heartbreak. This is a collection brimming with quiet, the kind of raucous quiet full of unspoken things. Hezekiah’s poems don’t look away from painful memories, instead facing them head-on with unremitting tenderness. No detail is spared, these concise poems shake with emotion, insisting on naming the past and thereby carving a future, “punishing the silence of no one to blame.” In her poems, sharp-angled pain and hard-won human wisdom are held alongside the barbed beauty of the natural world: gardens of memory, birth and decay, the ocean as ever-present witness of a life lived by the water. In these poems are friendship, lovers, science, anatomy, longing, resilience, and “history’s/ detritus.” And, above all, desire, the unslakable, liberatory desire of a poet laying claim to the agony and beauty of a life, and telling us “I want it all for as long as it will last.”

-Mónica Gomery, author of Of Darkness and Tumbling and Here is the Night and the Night on the Road

* * *

We are currently accepting chapbook manuscripts until April 20th — just over a month left! — and cannot wait to see what startling and powerful work we get to publish this time next year. In the meantime, keep an eye out for four more titles to be released over the next few months.

Surprise! After several years of opening our chapbook contests on February 15th, we have decided to move the date a little earlier. We will be accepting chapbook contest entries from January 20 – April 20, 2019. This is because we have two wonderful interns helping Paper Nautilus this year, and we wanted to make the production schedule align a little more closely with the Spring semester. We’re not yet sure if this will be a permanent shift, but I feel really lucky to have such intrepid and insightful students working alongside me (and more about them soon)!

As always, we are seeking chapbook manuscripts of poetry, fiction, literary non-fiction, or any combination or hybridization of the above. You can find more detailed guidelines for the Debut Series Contest and the Vella Contest in the menu at the top of the page, or on our Submittable.

Some small changes from the previous year:

– In the past, a submitter could pay a slightly higher (+$3) fee and also receive a back issue of Paper Nautilus; this option still exists, but instead of a back issue, it will be a random chapbook title from our catalog. (We are almost completely SOLD OUT of Paper Nautilus issues; as soon as we have the time and an appropriate plan, I really want to get the work from these available online or in another format — but, one thing at a time!)

– Debut Series are now done in a perfect-bound format, like a standard paperback. Previously, the Debut Series winners had their books published in hand-bound editions. I loved having a DIY element and getting to fold and hand-stitch each copy (not sarcasm; I really found it relaxing!), but it was much more time-intensive, and also became harder to insure consistency in paper stock, etc., across the different titles.

I always find it so exciting to have a new batch of manuscripts start coming in. I can’t wait to see what powerful writing we get to read this year. I hope to read your work soon!

Thank you for your patience as I’ve read and re-read and deliberated over these manuscripts since May. While I know I say how hard it is to decide every year, the 2018 contest yielded nearly double the entries we’ve gotten in any of our past contests. This made for a much larger time commitment than previous years, and also impossible decisions to make. Of the 260 we received for the Vella Contest, even narrowing it down to a list of 29 (the 10% named as finalists, plus three winners) was daunting and difficult. Please know that, if you do not see your name below, it is still certainly likely that I really admired your work.

Winners
Translation – Ananda Lima
Flight – Robin Littell
Stray Harbor – Rage Hezekiah

Finalists (In order in which they were received)
Best True Love Stories – Jan Stinchcomb
Loves Lost and Other Vanishings – Shuly Cawood
Imaginary Weather – Jennifer Moore
New Histories – Amanda Chiado
Strata and Ax – Richard Lyons
Imagine Her Opening – Ali McClain
eidetic – Emily O’Neil
Towing Capacity – Autumn McClintock
Lullaby – D. G. Geis
The Truth about Our American Births – Judith Skillman
Saffron Splash – Ann Huang
The Alpine Valley – sarah dobbs
Chain Down the Moon – Carolyne Whelan
Small Fictions – Tasha Cotter
Your Posthumous Dress – A. Pence
What We Still Don’t Know – Dawn Paul
What’s Kept Alive – Aaron Caycedo-Kimura
Who Am I? and Other Poems – Saytam Moorty
Mantis – Tolu Oloruntoba
Notes for an Interview with the Widow – laurie rosenblatt
of infinite universes – Chelsea Catherine
Born-Again Anything – Kara Krewer
The Civil War War – Marc Sheehan
Southern Twang – pamela sumners
Animal Watch: Lyrics Essays – Norma Tilden
Proximity: Men and Me and Two Parts – Wheeler Light

Please join me in congratulating these writers for their extraordinary work. Thanks again to all who shared their writing with me these past several months — and for your patience in waiting for these results to be announced. Now that I have this step completed, I’ll finally be sending out the back issues that some folks ordered bundled in with their submission.

It may be fairly quiet here for some time, as we move forward in getting the five titles we selected ready for publication. If you want to see pictures of these beautiful books as I send orders out to their new readers, you can find that on our instagram, @paper.nautilus.

We are so pleased to announce the release of Shankar Narayan’s Postcards from the New World, our first 2017 Debut Series Chapbook Co-Winner to be released this year, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or over under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up. Please also consider checking out Shankar’s website, to find out about readings and events he’s hosting in the future!

His poems received the following praise:

“These poems are wholly original and loaded with compassion, intellect, and lyric interrogation. Shankar Narayan’s Postcards from the New World explores proximity, intimacy, identity, violence, and diaspora with a knowing, prophetic allure. I love these poems for their epistemological underpinnings and their graceful invention. Gorgeous surprises fuel this wonderful debut. Fiercely talented and equally humane, Narayan is one of my favorite new poets.

Lee Herrick, Poet Laureate of Fresno, 2015-17

* * * *

“These poems meditate on connection and dissolution, construction and deconstruction, selves and societies. In a violent historical moment, when rupture and brokenness (the breaking of bodies and the breaking of the word) are so evident, these poems announce a belief that there is (there has to be) some good, some light from a new sun. Narayan writes that “Entanglement means/what happens to you happens/to me,” not just as cosmic fact but as an ethical binding of various selves—the constructed energies of the speaker (abused by the world, consumed by idealism), the inherited and problematic threads of the world (traditions as tethers to a faraway land, the violent and virulent racism of America). In a song driven by words from our moment, Narayan has given us a compelling series of poems that will be worthy of rereading.

Tod Marshall, Poet Laureate of Washington State, 2016-18

* * * *

We have two more powerful and exciting titles to release this season.

If you think you have a manuscript we might love, our annual contest ends May 15th. You can find all the details you need at our Submittable, or elsewhere on our website. We can’t wait to start thinking about what amazing works we’ll get to read soon!

And, if you happen to live near Salem, Massachusetts, Paper Nautilus will have a table at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival Book Fair! The festival as a whole runs Friday, May 4th, through Sunday, May 6th, with some amazing poets — including headliners like Sonia Sanchez, Kaveh Akbar, Dorianne Laux, and Rhina P. Espaillat. You can find Paper Nautilus, peruse our titles, ask questions, or just say hi on Saturday, May 5th, from 11 a.m – 4 p.m. Hope to see you there!

We are so pleased to announce the release of Eloisa Amezcua’s, Symptoms of Teething, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or over under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up.

Amezcua’s poems received the following praise:

Here is a book of poems that is, at every turn, deeply invested in the kinds of love we share—with each other, with ourselves, with our pasts, and with our futures. In one moment, “we fall asleep / and there is no more falling.” In the next, the morning where “we fabricate each / other into being.” I am so grateful to Eloisa Amezcua for all her fabrications, for building us this little museum of love.
Kaveh Akbar, Calling a Wolf a Wolf

We have three more chapbooks to release this year, with two titles very close to release

If you think you have a manuscript we might love, our annual contest ends May 31st, 2017. You can find all the details you need at our Submittable. We hope to see your book release announcement here next year!

The Final Stretch

May 7, 2015

Both the semester and our two chapbook contests are coming to an end shortly. I’ll be picking up my last stack of final essays next week, and I’m looking forward to reading all these wonderful manuscripts as soon as all my grades are submitted.

If you haven’t sent us something yet, and you’d still like to, you have until May 15th! You can find the full guidelines on both the Vella and Debut Series Chapbook Contests in the menu above – or, just go straight to our Submittable.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out – we are always happy to help writers feel more comfortable with our guidelines, process, and business model.

Did I mention yet just how excited I am to start reading all of these next week? Because, while it’s always a tough decision which collection(s) we select, I truly look forward to this every year, and am so grateful to be trusted with your work.

Thanks,
Lisa Mangini