We are so excited to announce the release of Conor McNamara’s When I Think of the Randolph Mountains, a Debut Series Co-Winner and the third book in our lineup selected from 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.

This collection received the following praise:

Conor McNamara has written a powerful portrait of West Virginia, mountain roads, pipeline work, cold nights, loss and enduring hope. Beautiful and understated, When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is a masterful collection of stories that stay with you long into the night.

Vincent Chu, author of Like a Champion

 

In aching bursts of spare, understated prose, Conor McNamara captures the loneliness of working as a pipeliner in wintry West Virginia. When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is at once a moving portrait of a young man—heartsick, far from home, deep in debt—and a searing look at the brutal emotional and physical toll that simply staying out of poverty takes on American workers. Though rooted in the particulars of small towns like Burnsville and Buckhannon, the story taps powerfully into the anxiety of placelessness, its narrator in every sense disoriented, always at risk of losing traction. Yet he never misses an opportunity to name the people he meets as he follows the pipeline—Ms. Amanda, the Exxon station clerk; Yogi, owner of the Motel 79; Mike Workman, a land inspector from the gas company—and we sense that no matter where the work takes him next, his alertness to human connection will come with him.

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Madeleine is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Conor McNamara is out there at work. He’s Studs Terkel and he’s the guy Studs Terkel is asking what the job is really like. He’s a poet and this is his American dream with a bloody nose. Come in close. He wants to tell you how to pass your drug test, how to swing a machete, how to be in love with the dirt and the grime and the rain and the unexpected sunshine bursting out from behind the dark clouds hanging over the piece of shit roadside motel that is tonight’s temporary home sweet home.

We have three more titles to be released this season, and are looking forward to announcing them, as well as spending more time with the 400+ manuscripts we received for our 2020 contests.

We are so excited to announce the release of Maya Salameh’s rooh, a Vella Chapbook Co-Winner and the second book in our lineup selected from 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:

“Maya Salameh’s rooh deftly works the familiar into the defamiliarized, in poems crackling with exuberant fluency. I read these poems and language feels boundless, looking feels boundless, form feels boundless. I read these poems and feel the possibilities of poetry stretching, evolving, breaking open to make room for the true refreshment that is Maya Salameh’s voice—its mischief, its enormous eyes.”
Safia Elhillo

We have four 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. We know this is a challenging time for almost everyone — especially emotionally, but also financially for a lot of folks. If you need a submission fee waiver, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Wishing everyone wellness and comfort.

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 are so excited to announce the release of Kimiko Hahn’s Brittle Process, a prose poetry collection inspired by terminology found in a psychology reference dictionary. 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.

Adam Boretz has described Hahn’s work, in her previous collection, Brain Fever, as “relentless formal experimentation.” Indeed, when I was in college and read Hahn’s poetry for the very first time, it opened my eyes to the different ways a poem could be and what it could do. When Hahn and I met at an event earlier this year and talked at length about our commitment to the chapbook as a serious and important literary vehicle, I knew we had to work together on this project.

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 Ananda Lima’s Translation, our final 2018 Vella Chapbook Winner 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.

These poems received the following praise:

There is so much unbridled joy and pained tenderness in Ananda Lima’s Translation. Inspired by the poet Nathaniel Mackey and the musician Caetano Veloso, her verse streams effortlessly down the page, plaiting English with Portuguese, as Lima sings of the thrills and terrors of her new life in America, the pleasures of motherhood, and what she inherited from her family. Her voice is singular and wise and fresh. I love the poems in this chapbook.
Cathy Park Hong

Ananda Lima’s Translation is as much a mother’s grappling with how to raise her son amid the danger and violence of today’s America as it is an investigation of a daughter’s inherited, migrant Brazilian past. Lima’s poetry has the rare power to let us feel and “know the terror” of the present moment, while reflecting on and ancestry and passing on familial legacy to the next generation. Her poems aren’t afraid to “shout ‘I’m an American citizen’ ” across borders and languages, while shattering the security of presumed identity and recognizing both the precarity and privilege of citizenship. Piercing and poignant, Lima’s voice and music stay with you, “undisturbed / by wind or water, there will always remain/ a footprint” guiding your way home.
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Lá na Bahia or on the 7 train, Ananda Lima’s poems house a stillness that moves gracefully on the page. Translation is altruistic in its soft haunt, its fleshly reminder that our daily self-discoveries are just the bones of ancestors waking for attention. The collection is a sun of moments gathered to greet us when and, wherever we may land after a long day of feeling like “other.”
Shauna Barbosa

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This wraps up our new titles from the 2018 contests — but we might have some surprises in the works over the next few months! And as always this time of year, we’re spending every spare minute with the 350+ manuscripts we received for 2019.

We are so excited to announce the release of Meredith Boe’s What City, our final 2018 Debut Series Chapbook Winner 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.

These stories and essays received the following praise:

“Moving with deft concision from location to location, this collection of eight pieces of brief prose feels like wandering through a city and stumbling upon treasure: a geocache of place and its associated feeling–not just where things happen, but how and why they matter. The stories leave the reader with a soft illumination, the way ‘lightning bugs emerge from a blanket of black sky.'”

Kathleen Rooney, author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

“In What City Meredith Boe’s prose inhabits neighborhoods of circumstance and memory. These essays delicately navigate love, loss, and moments of being, tracking terrains both intimate and urban. What city? Her city.”

Barrie Jean Borich, author of Apocalypse, Darling and Body Geographic

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Be on the lookout for our final release from the 2018 chapbook contests: a poetry collection from Ananda Lima. In the meantime, we’re slowing making our way through the enormous stack of outstanding manuscripts we received for 2019!

We are so excited to announce the release of Robin Littell’s Flight, the second 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.

These short stories are compact and lyrical, filled with wonder and a hint of the absurd. Each failed garden, bank heist, and second-hand heart for sale helps us to explore human relationships in a new way, with careful attention to language and image throughout.

Robin Littell holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University. Her stories can be found in Tin House, Two Hawks Quarterly, Literary Mama, Mud Season Review, Found Polaroids, Adanna, and others. More work is forthcoming in Fiction Southeast. Robin lives and writes in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Be on the lookout for our next release, a short prose collection from Meredith Boe, coming up very soon!

We are so excited to announce the release of Andres Rojas’s Looking For What Isn’t There, the first of two 2018 Debut Series 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.

These poems received the following praise:

“These colorful swaths of memory and lost language have their own smart beauty, forced open like an amaryllis in winter to enrich and warm the heart. Andres Rojas’ poems feel like rare birds migrating through a drizzled landscape, surprising and subtle and transformational all at once. What a remarkable pleasure it is to read each one.”

D.A. Powell

“Reading Looking For What Isn’t There, I remember the feeling of encountering Andres Rojas’s poems for the first time; I’m right back in that electric headspace. This poet is not walking a worn path, not echoing anyone else’s voice. Each metaphor,each line—“the radio waves/ lobster-boiled in the censored air”; “a boulevard/ of moonlight on water”—feels both brand-new and full of deep, hard-won wisdom. What a balancing act! I know I’ll return to these poems again and again.”

Maggie Smith

“The poems of Andres Rojas are succinct, pared down to the essentials: crystalline phrasing, striking imagery. His language, though concise, reveals and complicates longing and exile: ‘What we can’t miss /makes us whole.’ Among the sorrow, the necessity of insight urgently blooms. Empathy allows us to see ‘[a] skeletal Ford. [i]ts vaguely human form.’”

Eduardo C. Corral

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We just closed submissions for our annual contests a few hours ago, at midnight on April 20th. We received 360 submissions, and are looking forward to reading them (and, while bittersweet, perhaps looking forward a little less enthusiastically at how difficult these decisions will be). Be on the lookout for our next release, a short fiction collection from Robin Littell, coming up very soon! In the meantime, we hope this cruelest month is being kind to all of you.