We received nearly 220 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:

Lecture – Chase Burke
Permanent Marker – Sarah Cooper
The Museum of Resentments – Amanda Hope
When I Think of the Randolph Mountains – Conor McNamara

Our Finalists include:

I-80 – Brett Biebel
Wanting – Emily Bieniek
Mayflies – Cassandra Caverhill
Wonders of a Distant World – Ja’net Danielo
Telling the Bees – Sara Eddy
An Untold History of Black – Ashley Evans
Radio Buttons – Erin Fletcher
A Kiss for the Misbehaved – Jessica Lynne Furtado
Growth Response – Dena Igusti
Uncertain Elevators – Kristen Jackson
Androphobia – Samantha Lamph
Alchemy 37 – Lisa López Smith
Heirlooms: Stories – Alexander Luft
Allegheny Front – Lisa McMonagle
Gloom of Excruciating Desires – Olivia Pierce
Five Seconds to Skip Ad – Jacob Price
On Desire – Claire Robbins
Rooh – Maya Salemeh
Love, Mom – Cathryn Sherman
Cartography – Bassam Sidiki

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 hope to have announcements for the Vella Chapbook Contest posted in the near future!

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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!

Happy fall, folks! If you are the author of one of the 228 manuscripts we received between February and May for our annual chapbook contests, you may have been patiently (or perhaps less-than-patiently) waiting for results to be announced, since we estimated results to be ready by the end of September. This post is, sadly, not that announcement. However, we are getting very close and approaching a finalists list for each of the two categories. So, while I hesitate to give a specific date, we should have decisions announced soon. I know that it can be nerve-wracking to not hear about the status of a submission for so long — especially a manuscript — and so I wanted to offer this brief note as reassurance that the news shouldn’t be much longer, and that we are only a few weeks behind and really looking forward to getting the winning works published.

In the meantime, enjoy some recent accomplishments from some of our past contributors:

  • Meg Cowen (PN 11), Co-Editor and Co-founder of Pith and Kin Press, recently released this anthology of selections from the first year of the journal’s online issues. Also includes work from Nancy Chen Long (PN 11) (and yours truly). You can find it here.
  • Stephanie McCarley Dugger — who was a 2014 Vella Co-Winner — has her first full-length poetry collection available for pre-order here.
  • Charles Rafferty — a 2015 Vella Co-Winner — has had two poems in The Writer’s Almanac recently. You can find them here and here.

Thanks for your patience, and keep an eye out for some big announcements here soon.


We have selected three manuscripts for publication in the Debut Series, which are the following:

Puzzle Pieces – Bernard Grant
Shuffle – Emily Moore
Macerated – Emily Webber

We have also selected ten finalists, whose work we also very much admired:

Two Dreams of the Afterlife – Kelly Bancroft
Finally the Open Sea – Shebana Coelho
Like Wet Leaves in Floridian Heat – Nicholas Finch
Bowling in the Bumper Lane – Corey Ginsberg
Getting to the Point – Joanne Kerrigan
Animals & Enclosures – Joe Lucido
Girl Life – Leila Ortiz
Maroon – Angela Penaredondo
Hotels & Motels – Jennifer Porter
V – Chris Wiewiora

We received over 100 entries, and the quality of work was overwhelmingly high. Please know that this was a very tough decision, and there were many titles beyond these 13 that I found deft and memorable and moving — and very much deserving of publication. I was astonished that these manuscripts came from writers who have yet to publish a book or chapbook — which is to say, please, please keep sending your work out, even if I was unable to publish it this time. Send it everywhere. Your work belongs out in the world.

The Vella Chapbook submissions are still undergoing review. I am doing my best to work through these 150 manuscripts, but without rushing and still giving them the attention they deserve. I thank you for your patience.

We are still seeking work for our Digital Anthology focused on underrepresented groups and identities that explores both the uncomfortable realities and moments of healing and reconciliation. Works should be creative (poetry, short fiction, memoir/lyric essay/other CNF, or mixed genre), and should also be from a writer who identifies as a member of an underrepresented community. You can send submissions here: https://papernautilus.submittable.com/submit/41571

Additionally, PN15 should be just about full, and we’ll be beginning layout and production on that shortly. Release date is tough to estimate at the moment, since I’ve not yet settled down into my new position, but I’m hoping for late September or October.

Until then, I hope you all enjoy these last days of summer, and I’m looking forward to helping get all these works out into the world.

–Lisa Mangini