Firecracker Award Winners, Ocean Vuong on the Scale of Novels, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

The 2019 Firecracker Awards were presented last night in a ceremony in New York City. Given annually by the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Firecrackers honor self- and independently published books as well as literary magazines. This year’s winners include Sesshu Foster for the poetry collection City of the Future (Kaya Press), Casey Plett for the novel Little Fish (Arsenal Pulp Press), and Shaelyn Smith for the essay collection The Leftovers (Cleveland State University Poetry Center). Lee Ann Brown, publisher of Tender Buttons, received the Lord Nose Award for “superlative small press publishing.”

At Electric Literature, poet Ocean Vuong talks about being haunted by scale in writing his debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. “The novel, the more you build it, the more it enlarges on your periphery—like the slowest nightfall—until you can’t do anything without seeing it darken the corner of your eye.”

Lillian Cho has been named the interim executive director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Cho will serve for an approximately six-month period while the organization’s board of directors conducts a search for a new executive director to succeed Ken Chen, who stepped down last month after eleven years in the position.

Following the premiere of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series When They See Us last Friday, online petitions have called for a boycott of books by prosecutor-turned-novelist Linda Fairstein. The show depicts the 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which Fairstein, as chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit, oversaw five black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted for rape. (New York Times)

At this week’s Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, participants such as Encyclopaedia Britannica and bilingual books publisher Lil’ Libros are looking to use proprietary, book-based retail products to create new revenue streams—and to sell more books. (Publishers Weekly)

“When I first started, there were many novels set in foreign countries. But I wasn’t very attracted to them. I was more interested in what one might describe as the work of exchanging meanings, or a bartering of spirituality. It was almost impossible to do that with the established literary style, so it was necessary to rearrange the literary vocabulary.” Haruki Murakami looks back on forty years of being a professional author. (Kyodo News)

While Keats might have written that “philosophy will clip an angel’s wings,” the poetry of science pioneers Ada Lovelace, Humphry Davy, and Rebecca Elson suggests that an interdisciplinary approach can give ideas more flight. (Cosmos)

“The scenario I placed in front of myself enticed me, it amused me, it seduced me. But it also left me wondering and afraid. I didn’t know what was possible for these characters or for myself, in the world I was placing them in.” Joanathan Lethem talks to Salon about depicting the political present in his new novel, The Feral Detective.