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A Critical Look

In her review in the Portland Mercury, Sophie Ouellete-Howitz writes that Genevieve Hudson's "visceral prose needles into the reader’s veins, especially when she’s writing about yearning, which her adult characters feel just as urgently as her adolescent ones. Their desires range from the conventionally transgressive, like sex with someone who’s off-limits, to the surreal—like the subject of 'Transplant,' who has her dead loved one’s eyeballs implanted in the back of her skull." Published by Future Tense Books, Pretend We Live Here is a "fierce" debut collection. 
Who is the title character in Anna Moschovakis’ debut novel Eleanor, or the Rejection of the Progress of Love? Writing in Cleaver Magazine, reviewer John Spurlock describes Eleanor as "a disaffected academic in an ambiguous relationship; a deeply thoughtful writer struggling with a stolen laptop and anxiety about her subject; a lost grown child seeking a feeling of belonging." This "searching and poignant"  debut novel from Coffee House Press is also rooted in the present moment: "Eleanor... recounts very specific experiences of gendering and racialization, and attempts earnestly to guide the reader through her resulting emotional process in a comparative, cautious, and insightful manner." 
Is Joanna Walsh's recent novel published by Semiotext(e) about a break up that's already happened, or one that is yet to occur? As Ruby Brunton points out in her review for Bookforum, the question is not so easy to answer. The narrator of the novel, also named Joanna, is traveling by herself across Europe, seeking to escape from her relationship. Layered with poetry, philosophy, and psychology, Break.up offers "a literary investigation into the nature of human relationships" and a glimpse of the conflict between fantasy and reality.   
Published this summer by The Feminist Press, Ivelisse Rodriguez's collection Love War Stories examine love and its consequences in many forms. In Forward Reviews, Karen Rigby writes: "These stories reveal longings that ripple with consequence. Here, love involves a challenging negotiation between what Latinx culture fosters and what individuals want to believe. Rodriguez deftly portrays this tension before her characters reach their decisive moments." Narrated by teenagers, college students, and older characters, the stories in the collection "mark the shortfall between romantic illusion and reality." 
An Inside Look
Thirteen years after I first started writing it, my debut novel Besotted was accepted for publication by 7.13 Books, a small press based in Brooklyn that publishes debut literary fiction. I never imagined that it would take me so long to find a home for it, and in fact there was a time when I "broke up with" the book, assuming it would never be published. 

The break up lasted two years. In that time—and in large part as a result of the divorce I went through—I figured out how to fix the novel. 

To learn more about my path to small press publication, check out my essay "When People Ask Me if My Novel Is True" about what I learned from my divorce that helped me finally finish Besotted. 

Thank you to Bill Wolfe for inviting me to submit to "Read Her Like an Open Book" and for running a blog devoted to literary fiction by women! 
We're joined this month by Will Evans, founder of the small press Deep Vellum. I asked Will to share a bit about his own press as well as three other small publishers he loves.  

"Deep Vellum was founded in 2013 in Dallas, Texas to bring the world into conversation through literature. We have published translated literature from around the world in our first five years, and are expanding our focus to also publish English-original poetry, nonfiction, and art/design books, with a special focus on Dallas and Texas-based writers and themes."

Three of our favorite presses:

Open Letter Books: Founded and run by Chad Post, my publishing mentor who inspired me to start Deep Vellum, Open Letter Books combines an exquisite list of translations with a tireless advocacy to get more readers engaged in translations and more critical and industry attention on translations.

Awst Press: This tiny but powerful publisher out of Austin started as a chapbook publisher and has branched out into book-length works. Their edition of Micheline Marcom's The Brick House was quietly the best book of 2017.

Coach House Books: The legendary Toronto-based Canadian indie publisher of poetry, fiction, brilliant nonfiction, and more inspires me every day to create a literature of place for the Dallas-Fort Worth area that can be as powerful as what they've done for Toronto.
In the Inside Look column I'll share with readers a bit about my own writing life and experiences publishing my debut novel with the small press 7.13 Books. I'll also be reaching out to other writers, publishers, cover designers, book reviewers, and independent literary magazines and journals to learn more about the small press landscape. If you have an idea for the column, please feel free to reach out! 
A Second Look
Released four years ago from Forest Avenue Press, poet Kate Gray's debut novel Carry the Sky is gorgeous and lyrical, with wonderful imagery. Narrated in alternating chapters by veteran physics teacher Jack Song and first-year rowing coach Taylor Alta, the novel offers a gut-wrenching look at life at a prestigious Delaware boarding school from the teachers’ perspectives. Each short chapter is its own story, its own little prose poem. Gray leaves a beautiful trail of writing for the reader to follow, the continuity of language, imagery, and metaphor requiring a slower, thoughtful read. Many books about high school deal with bullying, but few explore the ramifications as deeply as Carry the Sky.
Each month, Another Read Through owner Elisa Saphier will choose a small press book released a year or more ago for our Second Look column. Based in Portland, Oregon, Another Read Through ships, so if you want to order any of the books featured in Magnify, follow the links to order them from Elisa
Thanks so much for reading Magnify! If you have a review of a recent small press book you'd like to see included in our Critical Look, or questions about life as a small press author, feel free to contact me. See you next month! 

Copyright © 2018 Melissa Duclos, All rights reserved.

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