Last week, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs held its annual conference, filled, as usual, with discussion panels, author readings, dozens of offsite events, and a copious book fair described as "the nation's largest marketplace for independent literary presses and journals, creative writing programs, writing conferences and centers, and literary arts organizations."
This year's AWP conference was held in Seattle, and I had the good fortune of attending with my husband. The book fair was truly gigantic, with aisle after aisle of little-known publishers offering countless creations you'll rarely hear discussed in literary journalism. So I'm posting this article to help remedy that lack of visibility. I'm going to share with you what hidden gems caught my eye at the 2023 AWP book fair:
A Cage for Every Child by S. D. Chrostowska
(Sublunary Editions, 2021)
"Their bodies lingered, vanishing only when you, who glimpsed
them vivid and felt their breath inside your ear, vanished first."
And if That Mockingbird Don't Sing, edited by Hannah Grieco
(Alternating Current Press, 2022)
"My daughter is two. She still giggles when she sees
her reflection. She has not yet seen her ghost."
As if Fire Could Hide Us by Melanie Rae Thon
(The University of Alabama Press, 2023)
"And they were young again, it's true,
transformed by the plasma of humans."
At the Edge of the Woods by Masatsugu Ono,
translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
(Two Lines Press, 2022)
"The trees would pat each other familiarly on the shoulders and
back and sometimes wriggle their hips as they hurried on ahead."
Buffalo Is the New Buffalo by Chelsea Vowel
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022)
"She realized she could not move, not even to blink, helplessly
watching that black figure cross the lake at an impossible speed."
Dance of the Returned by Devon A. Mihesuah
(The University of Arizona Press, 2022)
"He was born repeatedly, and the memories of innumerable ancestors
flashed through his mind, all complex and too indistinct to recall."
Dioramas by Blair Austin
(Dzanc Books, 2023)
"Millions and millions of years pass in the outside
world, but the diorama appears unchanged."
Erase and Rewind by Meghan Bell
(Book*hug Press, 2021)
"Louisa discovered she could reverse time on a dim suburban
street, thirty-eight minutes after leaving Nick's house."
Everyday, Monsters by C. M. Chapman and Larry D. Thacker
(Unsolicited Press, 2021)
"Down the way was what was left of a woman, still stuck in her vehicle, barely
clawing at the windows and doors, baking for days, decomposing in motion."
God Isn't Here Today by Francine Cunningham
(Invisible Publishing, 2022)
"Midday light poured in through the large windows.
God had a corner office. Small, though. And dusty."
Infinity Ends Soon by Joseph Avski,
translated by Mark McGraw
(Mouthfeel Press, 2023)
"Sometimes memory is a shallow grave, sometimes a
black abyss where all the forms of the universe are hidden."
Keeping Time by Thomas Legendre
(Acre Books, 2020)
"If I make a circle it doesn't matter where I start, so
let's begin with Aaron appearing from the future."
Loving Monsters by Laura Eppinger
(Alternating Current Press, 2021)
"It's not easy being the kind of ghost who haunts a house decorated
out of an IKEA catalog, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up."
One Person Away from You by Andrew Bertaina
(Moon City Press, 2021)
"I told Sally about the earth spinning in a different direction today.
I asked her if she had noticed the change in the quality of light."
Only and Ever This by J. A. Tyler
(Dzanc Books, 2023)
"We dream, too, of escaping before Our Mother
goes transparent, before she becomes a ghost."
Ring by André Alexis
(Coach House Books, 2021)
"All had passed the ring on to their daughters.
But not all had used the three wishes."
Ship of Fates by Caitlin Chung
(Lanternfish Press, 2019)
"The gold was carried in the belly of a whale that swam for
seven days and seven nights while Mei rode on its back."
Split Aces by M. L. Schepps
(Korza Books, 2022)
"I stared at JD while JD stared right back at me. I felt a reflexive
urge to look away but instead I held the reflection of my other self."
Temporary by Hilary Leichter
(Coffee House Press, 2020)
"My job was to open the doors, then close them, every forty
minutes, every day, all day long, until otherwise notified."
The Anchored World by Jasmine Sawers
(Rose Metal Press, 2022)
"I kept the Moon in water and moisturizer
and conversation. The Earth began to suffer."
The Enhancers by Anne K. Yoder
(Meekling Press, 2022)
"Pomegranate minds were more common, with ideas packed together side
by side then sealed off, like apartment tenants, like networked computers."
The Man with Wolves for Hands by Juan Eugenio Ramirez
(Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2022)
"The left wolf sniffs at the trunk above his head. The right wolf sleeps
across his lap, occasionally growls, probably dreaming wolfy dreams."
This Side of the Divide, edited by Danilo John Thomas
(Baobab Press, 2023)
"The bird's stomach would be filled for another day. But it refused to
speak again until it had taken a gooey dump at the foot of my mailbox."
Unwieldy Creatures by Addie Tsai
(Jaded Ibis Press, 2022)
"Perhaps there was a way, I questioned, that I could use a laser to
sculpt an embryo out of material in ways we had never considered before."
What Makes You Think You're Awake? by Maegan Poland
"Once the knob clicked tightly into the frame, it was as though she had
pushed pause on the outside world and the scene beyond the window."
To be honest, I haven't yet begun reading the books I bought at the conference, so instead of a review, this is an invitation. The indie market is the asthenospheric convection cell that periodically renews the felsic crust of literature via decompression melting. Or something. Be more curious about indie books, is what I'm saying.
POSTED BY: Arturo Serrano, multiclass Trekkie/Whovian/Moonie/Miraculer, accumulating experience points for still more obsessions.