November/December 2021

In our annual Independent Publishing Issue, six editors share their stories of starting, sustaining, and stopping a small-press publishing project; Joshua Mohr talks with Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr about his new novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land; poets Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Ansley Moon, and Tiana Nobile revise the narrative of transracial, transnational adoption; Victoria Chang offers insight into creative struggle, stretching, and asking for help; and we present our sixth annual 5 Over 50 roundup of debut authors; plus tips on crafting a nonfiction book proposal, agent advice, writing prompts, contest listings, and much more.


5 Over 50: 2021

by Staff

In this online supplement to our annual print feature celebrating debut authors over the age of fifty, Jeffrey J. Higa, Ursula Pike, Megan Culhane Galbraith, Michael Kleber-Diggs, and Vinod Busjeet share excerpts from their first books.

The World the Book Can Build: A Q&A with Anthony Doerr

by Joshua Mohr
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With his new novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, the first since the Pulitzer Prize–winning All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr has created a masterpiece of imagination that embodies the vast interconnectedness of a wounded world.

Special Section

The Life Cycle of a Publisher: The Rise of Lucky Jefferson

by NaBeela Washington
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An editor recounts her motivation to start a literary magazine: to generate constructive and interactive conversations around poetry, art, and publishing—and to redefine the way journals are produced and shared with readers and writers.

The Life Cycle of a Publisher: The Journey (So Far) of Abalone Mountain Press

by Amber McCrary
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Inspired by her experience teaching a zine workshop at the Emerging Diné Writers’ Institute, the author overcame financial and logistical obstacles to start her own press devoted to work by Indigenous writers.

The Life Cycle of a Publisher: Sweat Equity and the Endurance of Obsidian

by Duriel E. Harris
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The longstanding journal of work by Black writers and artists, a manifestation of a collective vision to affirm and sustain Black people through literature, art, and scholarship, continues to evolve, expanding to a full publishing platform.

The Life Cycle of a Publisher: Nightboat Books Enters Midlife

by Stephen Motika
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A publisher finds his press occupying a different book ecosystem than the one he imagined as a teenager, but by addressing issues of distribution, marketing, and publicity, and strengthening its operational infrastructure, Nightboat is thriving.

The Life Cycle of a Publisher: The Uncertain Future of Bloom

by Charles Flowers
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The author recounts his calling to create a journal for LGBT writers, its successful launch, hiatus, resurrection, and closing, and considers a relaunch while realizing the end of one thing can be the beginning of another. 

The Life Cycle of a Publisher: The Ebb of Harbor Mountain Press

by Peter Money
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Reflecting on the beginning and end of a small press devoted to poetry, a former publisher takes stock of the people and work—the singular surviving beauty of books—that defined his press, which closed in the early months of the pandemic. 

News and Trends

The African Poetry Digital Portal

by Destiny O. Birdsong

Founded in 2017, the African Poetry Digital Portal serves as singular resource for studying contemporary African poetry. Now, with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project’s leaders aim to expand their offerings.

PEN International Marks a Century

by Gila Lyons

For one hundred years, PEN International has championed freedom of expression and the rights of writers. This fall, the organization considers its history with an online archive, a Centenary Congress, and a new book documenting their work.

Oral Florist cassette tapes

A Writer’s Garden of Sound

by Emma Hine

Curious about the pleasures and sounds of nonliterary language, author Rita Bullwinkel has created Oral Florist, an online sound library in which artists and writers read recipes, user manuals, and other encountered texts.

Sophie Calle’s The Hotel

The Written Image: The Hotel

by Staff

Writer Sophie Calle took a job as a maid at a Venice hotel to secretly study the lives of its guests. Her diary of observations and photos compose The Hotel, a book whose provocative methods have inspired other artists.

The Practical Writer

Nonfiction Book Proposals: The Fine Art of Crafting a Literary Business Plan

by Michael Bourne
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Literary agents Alia Hana Habib and Jade Wong-Baxter and authors Chloé Cooper Jones and Daniel Barban Levin add their perspectives to this detailed look at crafting a nonfiction book proposal.

The Literary Life

The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write three poems in the form of letters addressed to parents, grandparents, and an emotion; a fiction story set during holiday festivities; or a list essay about gratitude and expectation.

Dear Memory: On Creative Struggle, Stretching, and Asking for Help

by Victoria Chang
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The author reflects on the struggle to give shape to an intensely personal book—Dear Memory: Letters On Writing, Silence, and Grief—and discusses how reaching out to fellow writers helped her finish her manuscript.