Small Press Points
“In the beginning
BatCat was truly an experiment,” says Deanna Baringer, the managing editor and supervising teacher of BatCat Press (batcatpress.com). “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 (breakwaterreview.com). 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.