Small Press Points

Poets and Writers - - Trends - –DANA ISOKAWA

“In the be­gin­ning

BatCat was truly an ex­per­i­ment,” says Deanna Baringer, the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor and su­per­vis­ing teacher of BatCat Press (bat­cat­ “I didn’t know if high school kids would be ca­pa­ble of, let alone in­ter­ested in, pub­lish­ing and book­mak­ing.” Nearly ten years later BatCat is no longer an ex­per­i­ment but a full-fledged in­die press run by a group of about ten stu­dents at Lin­coln Park Per­form­ing Arts Char­ter School in Mid­land, Penn­syl­va­nia. The stu­dents do all the edit­ing, print­ing, and bind­ing by hand and pub­lish two or three books per year, mostly po­etry with some fic­tion and non­fic­tion ti­tles, by de­but and es­tab­lished writ­ers alike. In

June the press re­leased Dustin Nightin­gale’s po­etry chap­book, Ghost Wood­pecker—which Baringer calls a “terse but punchy col­lec­tion”— that was printed en­tirely via a hand­set let­ter­press, and Jes­sica Poli’s po­etry col­lec­tion Canyons. “The po­ems are quirky lit­tle lines that stick with you and make you think,” says Alexa Bo­cek, a BatCat ed­i­tor from the class of 2019. The stu­dents work to­gether to se­lect the fi­nal manuscripts, a process they ap­proach with great care. “Not only does it come down to whether or not the piece is good, but a lot of it is also whether it works for our au­di­ence and if there are as­pects we can draw from to cre­ate de­sign el­e­ments,” says Sarah Bett, who grad­u­ated in the spring. “Go­ing through hun­dreds of manuscripts, it could be­come easy to just skim them and quickly de­cide that you didn’t like it. I had to grow more pa­tient and able to look at each piece through a new per­spec­tive.” BatCat is open to sub­mis­sions of full-length and chap­book-length manuscripts in any genre year-round via Sub­mit­table, though the ed­i­tors read mostly in the fall. There is no age min­i­mum to sub­mit.

Sev­eral of Ad­jei-Brenyah’s sto­ries take place in the mall—the book’s ti­tle is in part a riff on the shop­ping phe­nom­e­non known as Black Fri­day—and one such story, “In Re­tail,” was pub­lished in the on­line jour­nal Com­pose: A Jour­nal of

Sim­ply Good Writ­ing (com­pose­jour­nal .com). Man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Suzan­nah Wind­sor says the ed­i­tors were struck im­me­di­ately by Ad­jei-Brenyah’s “strong voice and great eye for un­usual de­tails.” In turn Ad­jei-Brenyah was drawn to the ed­i­tors’ sin­cer­ity and trans­parency about the process. “I ap­pre­ci­ate that and still do,” he says. “Jour­nals that aren’t afraid to show some of their in­sides to re­mind you the peo­ple on that side of the ed­i­to­rial process are hu­mans too.” In keep­ing with that trans­parency, the ed­i­tors re­cently an­nounced that the jour­nal is on a brief hia­tus due to per­sonal and pro­fes­sional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties such as pub­lish­ing a book and hav­ing a child. They plan to re­open sub­mis­sions in po­etry, fic­tion, non­fic­tion, and art soon and will move from pub­lish­ing two is­sues a year to pub­lish­ing sin­gle pieces on a con­tin­ual ba­sis. uu In 2013 Ad­jei-Brenyah pub­lished his first print piece in Bro­ken Pen­cil (bro­ken­pen­cil .com), a Cana­dian mag­a­zine that pub­lishes fic­tion, in­ter­views, comics, art crit­i­cism, and zine re­views. Ad­jei-Brenyah pub­lished “Cardi­gan Blues” with the quar­terly mag­a­zine after win­ning its an­nual In­die Writ­ers’ Death­match, a tour­na­ment in which read­ers vote for a win­ning story, and writ­ers can post on “par­tic­u­larly ag­gres­sive mes­sage boards,” says Ad­jei-Brenyah, to drum up sup­port. Ed­i­tor Jonathan Valelly de­scribes the tour­na­ment as “chaotic and oc­ca­sion­ally messy, which is what we think rad­i­cal and ground­break­ing fic­tion should be.” Bro­ken Pen­cil re­cently started print­ing its is­sues in full color and is work­ing to reach more cities across Canada to “em­power lo­cal zine com­mu­ni­ties and nour­ish DIY arts.” Gen­eral fic­tion sub­mis­sions are open un­til Septem­ber 15; sub­mis­sions for this year’s Death­match open Septem­ber 22.

uu “I was drawn to their sim­ple de­sign. Straight to the con­tent,”

says Ad­jei-Brenyah about the on­line jour­nal Fo­li­ate Oak (fo­li­a­teoak .com). “There’s some­thing beau­ti­ful about pre­sent­ing sto­ries with­out much adorn­ment.” Edited by un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Arkansas in Mon­ti­cello, the jour­nal is pub­lished monthly dur­ing the aca­demic year and fea­tures po­etry, fic­tion, non­fic­tion, and art. Ad­jei-Brenyah, who pub­lished a flash-fic­tion piece in Fo­li­ate Oak in 2014, notes that the pub­li­ca­tion takes flash fic­tion se­ri­ously. The jour­nal is open for sub­mis­sions via Sub­mit­table year-round, and the ed­i­tors are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in flash fic­tion, non-rhyming po­ems, and “quirky writ­ing that makes sense.” uu “I love the di­ver­sity of the con­tent Guer­nica pub­lishes,” Ad­jei-Brenyah says about the on­line mag­a­zine ded­i­cated to the in­ter­sec­tion of art and pol­i­tics. “I also love the way it seems to lean into the po­lit­i­cal. I be­lieve art is in­her­ently po­lit­i­cal, or at least it is a great priv­i­lege to be able to think of your art out­side of any po­lit­i­cal land­scape. I feel as though Guer­nica feels that way as well.” Es­tab­lished in 2004, Guer­nica (guer­ni­ca­mag .com) pub­lishes es­says, art, po­etry, and fic­tion by writ­ers and artists from all over the world. Ad­jei-Brenyah’s “The Era,” pub­lished in April, de­picts a dystopian fu­ture in which peo­ple’s per­son­al­i­ties are ge­net­i­cally op­ti­mized, and those whose aren’t are de­rided and shunted to the edges of the city. Sub­mis­sions are open in fic­tion and non­fic­tion; po­etry sub­mis­sions will open on Septem­ber 15. uu The sharp so­cial in­sight of Ad­jei-Brenyah’s work calls to mind the work of ZZ Packer, so it’s fit­ting that Packer chose his story “The Neon Guil­lo­tine” as the win­ner of the sec­ond an­nual fic­tion prize ad­min­is­tered by the on­line jour­nal Break­wa­ter Re­view (break­wa­ter­re­ Edited by the stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts in Bos­ton’s

MFA pro­gram, the jour­nal pub­lishes three is­sues of po­etry, fic­tion, and non­fic­tion each year. The lat­est is­sue fea­tures sto­ries by Ter­rance Wedin and Joey Hedger and po­ems from Holly Day, Low­ell Jaeger, and Katie Brunero, among oth­ers. Sub­mis­sions for the an­nual fic­tion award—which in­cludes pub­li­ca­tion and a $1,000 prize—are open un­til De­cem­ber 15 with a $10 en­try fee; free gen­eral sub­mis­sions open Septem­ber 1 via Sub­mit­table.

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