What Will Fill the Void? pt. 4: Ink Press Productions

In these dark days of an Origami Zoo Press on the brink of closure, many of you may have been clawing at your bookshelves, screaming at your stucco ceilings, wondering what on earth will ever be able to fill the void when we go. It is with that in mind that we embark on a multi-part interview series entitled WHAT WILL FILL THE VOID? wherein we spotlight other small and/or independent presses we love (and hope you will love too!). You can check out part one, with Michael J. Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, here, part two, with Justin Lawrence Daugherty of Jellyfish Highway, here, and part three, with Leesa Cross-Smith, here.

Today we chat with Amanda McCormick and Tracy Dimond of Ink Press Productions! IPP comes highly recommended by our very own Laura van den Berg, who has a beautiful letter press printed novel excerpt available from IPP!

Origami Zoo Press: Who/what/where is Ink Press Productions?

Ink Press Productions: Ink Press Productions (IPP) is a collaborative effort based in Baltimore created and directed by Amanda McCormick and Tracy Dimond.

IPPlogoOZP: What are your goals as a press? You put an emphasis on “blurring the lines of writing, visual, and performance art.” How do you go about doing this?

IPP: Tracy and I are an ambitious pair in that we have many evolving goals for IPP. I think maybe the most important goal we have is sticking with our inclination to collaborate no matter how the “structure” of the press might change over the years. Our emphasis to blur the lines of genre in writing, visual, and performance art really comes from our collaborative process. We really try to disarm our pride and embrace each other’s creativity, and allow the art to go where it needs to go.

To deconstruct the phrase, “disarm our pride,” approaching each opportunity and project with a sense of openness, not relying on past success, has allowed us to maintain a flexibility. This is part of how we blur expectations. Precedent doesn’t decide what we do, an interest in creating something decides what we do.

OZP: What do you like about handmade books? How did you get involved in book arts/letter pressing? What are some of the benefits and challenges of that model?

IPP: There is a lot to like about handmade books – the freedom of non-traditional design, the chance to problem solve in a physical way, the ability to use non-traditional material, and the fact that they are visually interesting not-typical book-objects. From a publisher’s perspective, producing handmade books is a great way to get the writer involved in the design process. The handmade book-object is another way to communicate “book.” It speaks to the fact that the books we create are deliberate at every step. In this, we are able to further blur these lines of genre. Because we are so physically and conceptually attached to the book, we are able to constantly think how our books are performing while they are visual and literary entities. With the publication of handmade books, we are able to connect the body to our art in a unique and beautiful way.

In a way, the fact that we got involved with book arts and letterpress right around the time that Tracy and I met is the reason IPP came into being. Instead of adding to the stacks of perfect bound (and yes, equally important and often beautiful) books, we knew from the beginning that we were after something different.

Most of the benefits for us also exist in the challenges. Producing handmade publications can be complicated. We have to consider monetary resources as well as human power and the fact that certain types of books do require quite a bit of precision and craft – how do we play into our talents and work with our limitations? I that in system of restraint, the bud can really bloom.

OZP: What do you recommend for a new reader? What’s the ideal Ink Press “starter kit”?

IPP: We actually sell an IPP “gift pack” that includes our most recent publications, plus an assortment of handmade journals, prints, and ephemera. Besides that, I would encourage people to check out How to have a day by Megan McShea and All The People by Stephanie Barber (both included in “gift pack”). We published both of these earlier this year – they are great examples of our collaborative effort and genre-blurring sensibilities!

OZP: What’s in the works for the near (or distant) future?

IPP: O the future! the pure conglomerate of time we can never determine since it is always out of reach though we can hope to do everything right. Over the past three years we have been working hard to establish IPP, to give it focus but also enough flexibility to support our experimental art making. Of course, we hope to keep this going – which means we are doing a lot of foundational organizing in the near future. We want to be conscious of how IPP can be a sustainable endeavor, a life if you will.

Something we’ve agreed on in conversation is that “It’s still kinda strange to think that we have this thing that we built just because.” Both of our lives have changed dramatically in the three years since we established IPP. We’re still looking to create books that represent work we feel is vital to the world, but we’ve been moving a lot towards creating experiences for people. We hosted a genre bending variety show in late September. We paired twelve Baltimore area artists, then asked them to create a 5-10 minute performance. We’d love to do more of that – bring elements from different disciplines to a one of a kind performance. This takes a lot of time, but it’s so worth it.

As for projects, right now we’re really focused on promoting the press and our publications – we want our books and prints in the hands of people – this is where they thrive. Part of our efforts to do this is providing some deals for holiday shoppers. In addition to that, we’re excited to be pairing up with The Walter’s Art Museum on two book related events in 2016. We’re also planning to publish a couple books in the coming year and we’ve got a collaborative issue of espresso ink with Infinity’s Kitchen in the works. There are probably many things we haven’t thought of yet, I’m sure! Stayed tuned / Join our mailing list for updates.

OZP: Given unlimited resources, what dream project would you love to undertake?

IPP: An artist hostel-house-studio-print shop-event space! One of my longtime dreams has been to direct such a multi-faceted organization that not only supports collaboration and genre-blurring art, but also gives opportunities for artists of various backgrounds to come together with their skills and labor and create a family. One of the things we hold in high regard is the idea that money isn’t the only way to create a value system. In the ideal version of this dream project, we would operate collectively and provide artistic resources for people who might not have money but are able to contribute to the organization in other ways.

One of the projects we’d love to do in a space like that would be A GIANT HOUSE BOOK. It would be amazing to take an entire house structure, paint all the walls white, then allow people to contribute their stories by using their entire bodies to paint. Things would be constantly blurred or added to. I would love for this to be an ongoing project. Visiting artists in the hostel could perform site-specific work in this book-house. This brings the art and artist to a very personal level, something Joseph Young and Amanda discussed at the closing talk for his gallery exhibit.


Amanda McCormick is an outdoorsy, genre-blending artist. Some of her roles are printer, poet, performer, writer, and bookmaker. She is also the founding curator of Ink Press Productions in Baltimore.

Tracy Dimond co-curates Ink Press Productions. Her latest chapbook, I Want Your Tan, was released in May by Ink Press. She is also the author of Grind My Bones Into Glitter, Then Swim Through The Shimmer (NAP 2014) and Sorry I Wrote So Many Sad Poems Today (Ink Press 2013).

Ink Press Productions (IPP) is a collaborative effort based in Baltimore. Our mission is to blur the lines of genre in writing, visual, and performance art through the publication of handmade books, manual printing, and experimental events. Check us out online inkpressproductions.com.

What Will Fill the Void? pt. 3: WhiskeyPaper Press

In these dark days of an Origami Zoo Press on the brink of closure, many of you may have been clawing at your bookshelves, screaming at your stucco ceilings, wondering what on earth will ever be able to fill the void when we go. It is with that in mind that we embark on a multi-part interview series entitled WHAT WILL FILL THE VOID? wherein we spotlight other small and/or independent presses we love (and hope you will love too!). You can check out part one, with Michael J. Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, here, and part two, with Justin Lawrence Daugherty, here.

Today we talk with Leesa Cross-Smith who, along with her husband, runs the already thriving, always lovely online journal WhiskeyPaper, which has recently thrown its hat into the chapbook ring.

Origami Zoo Press: Who/what/where is WhiskeyPaper Press?

Leesa Cross-Smith: Me and my husband, Loran. We publish one story (flash fiction) a week and a couple chapbooks a year.

BOTTOMOZP: What are your goals as a press? WhiskeyPaper has been such a great journal for the past several years now, how do you see the press interacting with the journal/building upon the journal’s work?

LCS: Thank you much! Our main goal is to keep it chill. To be able to publish really great stories and unique, awesome chapbooks for years and years. I can only hope that people read the chapbooks and want to read the stories online and vice versa. We’ve published one chapbook and two more are coming at the end of October. All three authors have been published in WhiskeyPaper…there is always a certain feeling I’m going for whether it’s an online story or a collection of stories for a chapbook. It’s all one big feeling to me, executed in a couple different ways or many ways, depending.

OZP: Tell me a little bit about your first chapbook, Don’t Ask Me To Spell It Out by Robert James Russell, and how it works as kind of an “opening song” for the press, how it reflects what you hope your press will do/represent in the work it publishes.

LCS: Robert is a super-talented writer and he writes about families and relationships and his work has a strong sense of place. I love reading about those things. He’s also in love with nostalgia, like I am. Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Don’t Ask Me To Spell It Out was an easy decision for us because I knew Rob was easy to work with, I knew people liked his work and the chapbook was nearly perfect when he gave it to me, which always makes things easier too. It was a perfect “opening song” and all of the chapbooks we will put out will have two things in common: 1-the writing will be aces 2-the writer will be easy to work with. That is something extra-important to keep in mind…editors want to work with writers who are easy to work with, flexible, kind, appreciative. And I guess that can be said for any profession/project, right?

THE FACE OFOZP: What’s in the works for the near (or distant) future? I hear you have two upcoming baseball chapbooks…

LCS: Yes! One is called BOTTOM OF THE NINTH by Wyl Villacres and one is called THE FACE OF BASEBALL by Robyn Ryle and they are both so good I am happily willing to put the WhiskeyPaper seal on the back of them. So stoked to get them out into the world.

OZP: Now that the paper part of WhiskeyPaper is a reality, will WhiskeyPaper ever start distilling its own whiskey? And/or printing stories on whiskey bottle labels?

LCS: Brilliant. This is totally something to put in our pocket.

What Will Fill the Void? pt. 2: Jellyfish Highway

In these dark days of an Origami Zoo Press on the brink of closure, many of you may have been clawing at your bookshelves, screaming at your stucco ceilings, wondering what on earth will ever be able to fill the void when we go. It is with that in mind that we embark on a multi-part interview series entitled WHAT WILL FILL THE VOID? wherein we spotlight other small and/or independent presses we love (and hope you will love too!). You can check out part one, with Michael J. Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, here.

This week we interview Justin Lawrence Daugherty, publisher at Jellyfish Highway Press.

PrintOrigami Zoo Press: Who/what/where is Jellyfish Highway?

Justin Lawrence Daugherty: Jellyfish Highway press is, as we say, postindustrial bioluminescence. JHP is a press for work that stands out—both in authorial voice and narrative—from the traditional and expected. We want to publish risk-taking works and works that glow in the deepest dark. Our first three titles, all by women, represent perfectly the essence of what we are and hope to be.

We have no base of operations. Matt and I live in cities, but JHP is not rooted. There is no office. We exist within the community. As with Sundog Lit, the press interacts with the social media world and the writers found there, and we feel comfortable in that space. Jellyfish Highway Press is our authors, and is that sense of community. It’s not me or Matt. We are here only as sounding machines.

OZP: What are your goals as a press? How do you hope to stand out among the many great independent presses that seem to be springing up every day?

JLD: It’s easy to say that the work we publish will stand out as part of this postindustrial bioluminescence. More specifically, we will publish works that take risks and explore what it means to think of a book as both text and object. The book as a social artifact, a response to the industrial and the quotidian. Ashley Farmer’s The Farmacist is a perfect example of this, with its meditations on the dichotomy of the urban and the rural and the way the lyrical writing breaks down expectations of these settings. Your Sick addresses the domestic through real and imagined illnesses—as an example, one story sees a young girl who carries growing storms inside her. And Melissa Goodrich’s Daughters of Monsters is a phenomenal collection of often-fabulist stories that continue this trend of dismantling everyday life and exploring what the text can be in response to that.

OZP: What writers/books will you be publishing? What else is in the works?

JLD: So, I’ve mentioned the three we have slated for publication already. I don’t want to reveal too much more, though I think we have a good idea of who we will be contacting about publication in year two already. I’ll say that what we will continue to do is publish books by women, writers of color and writers in the LGBTQ community. This is important to us and to the community as a whole and we are committed to showcasing diverse books. Lastly, I’ll just say that we would really love to publish comics. More on that soon.

OZP: Who are some shoot-the-moon, long-shot dream writers (or other people/artists) you’d love to publish given the chance?

JLD: Oh, wow. Does this count as solicitation? Mary Miller, always, for false sense of quiet in her work and the devastation of her work in actuality. Mary, if you’re out there, and you’ve a 1,000-page space opera featuring talking squirrels, send it our way. Claire Vaye Watkins for her sense of place and environment. Amelia Gray, because she is a favorite, always. Traci Brimhall, because Our Lady of the Ruins is a phenomenal book and Cathy Park Hong because Engine Empire really struck me this year as an example of how you might stretch and bend a text. Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tess Fowler, the writer and artist at Rat Queens, because comics are great and I will publish anything by them.

OZP: If Jellyfish Highway were a fantasy football team, what would their team name be?

JLD: The Citizens, because we fully embrace the need to be great literary community citizens and think that this endeavor is one of the best ways for us to do that.

What Will Fill the Void? pt. 1: CCM

In these dark days of an Origami Zoo Press on the brink of closure, many of you may have been clawing at your bookshelves, screaming at your stucco ceilings, wondering what on earth will ever be able to fill the void when we go. It is with that in mind that we embark on a multi-part interview series entitled WHAT WILL FILL THE VOID? wherein we spotlight other small and/or independent presses we love (and hope you will love too!).

This week, we have an interview with Michael J. Seidlinger, the Publisher-in-Chief at Civil Coping Mechanisms.

CCMLogoOrigami Zoo Press: Who/what/where is Civil Coping Mechanisms?

Michael J. Seidlinger: Civil Coping Mechanisms (CCM) is a DIY kind of independent press that focuses on publishing work that remains as innovative, honest, and true to the authorial voice of the text. What that means, basically, is that CCM looks to publish titles that orbit their own unique range of emotion, often the sort of book that commands its narrative as much as it does the language used to navigate it.

The press exists because of the community that surrounds and contributes to the press, its online magazine, Entropy, and the blogspace, Enclave. Via a dizzying array of compassionate contributors and like-minded editors, the press is able to function without any geographical home. The press, much like the brand, is deeply embedded in the fluidity of the online social space. It almost always surprises me to think that we all live in different timezones.

OZP: What are your goals as a press? You talk about wanting work “so new, so different, that they renovate our notion of what literature can be.” How do some of your current titles achieve this?

blackcloudimportMJS: The aim, like the main aesthetic, is to continually explore what literature can be; this means being aware of new voices as much as the new choices/experiments being designed and administered by authors to invent new structures and means to tell a story. One such example is how Heiko Julien used social media to almost exclusively construct the material that became I AM READY TO DIE A VIOLENT DEATH. Another example is how Juliet Escoria helped promote her book, BLACK CLOUD, using Vimeo and the artistic expression that comes with transferring each story in the book into a filmic interpretation. A third? How about how Jamie Iredell utilized an incredibly difficult dual-layered narrative, complete with an immense amount of research, to explore his relationship with the Catholic religion in LAST MASS. It’s this sort of interplay and exploration that continues to excite me as both editor and reader and that’s what continues to be the main drive of the press: Discover and promote the passion for language.

OZP: CCM has developed a fairly extensive catalogue in the past few years. What do you recommend for a new reader? What’s the ideal CCM “starter kit”?

MJS: The ideal CCM starter kit? Hmm, tough one, mostly because I wouldn’t ever exclude a single title from the Catalogue. Hmm, I guess if I needed to answer, I’d focus on an assortment of work that whets the reader’s appetite. The kit would most certainly include Sean H Doyle’s THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (memoir), 40 LIKELY TO DIE BEFORE 40 (anthology), Joseph Riippi’s BECAUSE (novel), Juliet Escoria’s BLACK CLOUD (short stories), Brandi Wells’ THIS BORING APOCALYPSE (novella), and Shane Jones’

PAPER CHAMPION (illustrated novella). From there, I’d hope that the kit would provide some sort of wormhole effect, dragging them deeper into the Catalogue.

OZP: What’s in the works for the near (or distant) future?


MJS: Haha, we certainly have quite a bit on tap, both in terms of new books and new ventures. I can’t talk much about the latter but I’m always up for shoutouts so—we have the final quarter of 2015 set for publication, December 2nd:

Everyone Gets Eaten by Ben Brooks
Nothing but the Dead and Dying by Ryan W Bradley
I/O A Memoir by Brian Oliu
You and Other Pieces by Corey Zeller
Rules of Appropriate Conduct by Kirsten Alene
The Daydream Society by Evan Retzer

In 2016, CCM will be publishing a number of titles including the following:

The Sky Isn’t Blue by Janice Lee
The Depression by Mathias Svalina
The Last Book of Baghdad by Justin Sirois
Remember to Never Get Better by Madison Langston
Transitory by Tobias Carroll
Careful Mountain by Sara June Woods
Bruja by Wendy C Ortiz

And more. Wish I could go on and on but I have a tendency to ramble so I’ll shut up now.

OZP: Readers unfamiliar with the press may recognize you from the press’s catchphrase, which you tend to leave in the comment section of posts about CCM books on Facebook: “We’re coping.” I love what you say about this in a Poets & Writers interview: “We adhere to the idea that literature, especially bold literature—writing that doesn’t shy away from the problem, the pain, the worry, the doubt—can be one of our best coping mechanisms.” How do you see this idea interacting with your interest in the innovative, postmodern, surreal, and avant-garde, which some readers may categorize as art that actually obscures the problem and/or lacks a strong human/emotional core?

MJS: What some readers might find obscure others might consider enlightening. It really is relative, but the beauty of literature can be found in the way the structure of a piece and defy as much as it informs. One book might use more evasive, esoteric language to tackle a subject or series of subjects, but there is still something in the author’s act of writing it that adheres to that idea of a problem. Because there’s a reason a book is written—it isn’t written as merely an exercise. Well, I should clarify—our titles are not written under the idea of an exercise. It’s ultimately up to the reader to meet literature in the middle. But we’re all coping and it’s the reason a book, the one you needed at a specific point in time, has the power to energize and excite even the most jaded of readers.

OZP: If CCM had a superpower, what would it be?

MJS: To motivate and inspire any/all that read its titles to finish the project currently on their plate.

A Farewell from Anne Valente

Cover1-3-4-665x1024Since its founding in 2010, Origami Zoo Press had always been on my radar. I’d just completed my MFA program at Bowling Green State University, a two-year explosion of learning everything I could about literary journals, submissions, small presses and currently working writers. In reading so many issues of literary magazines, as well as reading fiction submissions for Mid-American Review, I discovered a number of new writers whose work it seemed spoke directly to me from the page. Among them: Chad Simpson, B.J. Hollars, Brian Oliu and Laura Van Den Berg. When Origami Zoo Press came into being and published the work of so many of my favorite writers, I became an immediate fan and read everything they produced.

When I received the news that my fiction chapbook, An Elegy for Mathematics, would be released in 2013 with Origami Zoo Press, I couldn’t believe that my work would be included in a catalogue alongside so many names I’d admired for years. I’d read each and every chapbook, along with the authors’ books, collections, and publications in literary journals. I’d had my local libraries purchase OZP chapbooks so others could read them too. And I admit I screamed a little at my desk when I opened the email that Origami Zoo’s editors, Sam Martone and Rebecca King, had taken an interest in my fiction too.

Beyond curating a wondrous list of amazing writers, including Kate Bernheimer, Ben Hoffman and Lena Bertone after my own chapbook was published, Origami Zoo Press creates stunningly beautiful books. I remember opening my shipment of copies for the first time when they arrived in the mail and marveling at the craftsmanship of Nate Pierce’s artwork – the cover image, a diagram of a hummingbird that felt like he’d scanned an image of my heart’s deepest wish for the perfect book cover – as well as the handcrafted inclusions with the deluxe edition: an audio recording, phases of the moon, and hand-folded paper birds.

I’m ecstatically proud to be a part of Origami Zoo Press’s collection of titles, and though I’m sad to see the press’s doors close, I know only good things are ahead for Sam and Rebecca – two writers in their own right who I’m glad to call friends and fellow authors. And I know I’ll keep reading each of their authors’ collections and essays and novels for so many years to come: I’ll be following them for life.

Anne Valente is the author of the short story collection, By Light We Knew Our Names, which won the Dzanc Books Short Story Prize and released in 2014. Her debut novel, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down, is forthcoming in November 2016 from William Morrow/HarperCollins. She currently lives in New Mexico, where she teaches creative writing and literature at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

A Eulogy for Origami Zoo

by B.J. Hollars

old-graveyard-11281969133FzO4We are (virtually) gathered here today, not to mourn the loss of our beloved Origami Zoo, but to celebrate her life. Those of us who knew her best know she’d certainly get a kick out of the solemnity of such an occasion. Which is why I call upon you to shake your solemnity, and instead, take a moment to reflect on the gift she gave us with the time she had.

I first met Origami Zoo in the fall of 2011. I was a younger man then, a newly installed professor in the hallowed halls of academia, and—to be frank—somewhat unprepared for halls as hallowed as those.

Case in point: I was writing essays about the existence of Bigfoot.

Well, that’s not quite right. In truth, I was writing essays about the existence of Sasquatch, an entirely different beast altogether (sort of…though not genetically speaking). But I digress…

The point is this: Origami Zoo indulged the work, championed it, and even gave that work a home. It wasn’t long before I rounded out that eventual chapbook with essays on the existence of the Loch Ness Monster and a giant turtle named Oscar. Though neither of those essays helped me fit in any better in those hallowed halls, O.Z. didn’t much care. Indeed, the collection must’ve seemed like lunacy, though now that we have the power of hindsight—and have since confirmed the existence of all of the aforementioned creatures (author’s note: do not fact check)—it seems our dear friend, Origami Zoo took a risk worth taking (author’s note #2: do not see “Book Sales” as proof).

All of this is to say that Origami Zoo took seriously what others wouldn’t. In my work she saw more than monsters, but humans, too, many of whom—for better or worse—believed in those creatures’ existence. Origamo Zoo’s confidence in the work was what eventually led me to the message I’d most hoped to share: that regardless of whether we were designed with fur or flippers or common flesh, we remain cohabitants nonetheless.

In some ways, our beloved O.Z. is no different than our dear friend, Sasquatch: both were here on this earth for far too short a time, though both will always linger. Indeed, I will never pass my bookshelf without glimpsing the wonderful work O.Z. has left behind; likewise, I will never traverse the wilderness without seeing Sasquatch’s familiar blur in the trees. Both sightings will always give me reason to smile—cause to remember what a better world we had with both of them still in it.


B.J. Hollars is the author of several books, most recently From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life, Death, and Being Human, as well as a collection of essays, This Is Only A Test.

Origami Zoo Press is closing, but you can still get our books until the end of the year.

Sad news: We’re closing our doors

Logo-crampedToday, with heavy hearts, Sam and I must announce that we have decided to close Origami Zoo Press indefinitely. During our time as editors, we’ve had the great privilege to work with some of our favorite writers, who in addition to being dazzling wordsmiths are also some of the best people we could ever hope to meet or collaborate with. We’ve enjoyed the challenge of trying to put their stories, essays, and art into packages worthy of the interiors, greater than the sum of their parts. Truly, it’s been a fantastic ride, but over the last four years, both Sam and I have accumulated far more responsibilities than we had in 2011, and we no longer have the time we’d like to invest in the press.

So, we’d rather end on a high note (with Lena Bertone’s amazing Behind This Mirror!) and with a near perfect record than to keep publishing without being able to give future books and authors the time, care, and championing the way we want to and the way they deserve. A huge thank you to our authors and artists, including Angie Dell (our expert bookbinder for Kate Bernheimer’s Floater) and Nathan Pierce (our tireless cover art designer). And thanks to all of you who purchased, read, and reviewed our authors’ books. The support we saw from so many people in the literary community was really amazing. I don’t think we worked a day where we weren’t filled with gratitude for everyone who was helping us along the way.

We are opening the cages throughout the Origami Zoo, and letting all the paper animals free. We really want all our books to find good homes, so we will continue selling them through the end of the year (and maybe beyond!). Everything must go! We’ll also be updating the blog in the coming weeks with some farewell posts, so stay tuned.

All of our titles are now $3! Just use the button below to place your order. You can also grab all 6 of our remaining titles for $18 while supplies last.

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Once again, enormous and endless thanks to everyone. We couldn’t have done it without you! We’re so grateful to have shared this chapter in our lives with all of you.

Short Story Month Celebration: Lena Bertone

Lena Bertone author photoTo celebrate Short Story Month, we’re asking Origami Zoo Press authors and other writers we admire to sweet-talk a story (or stories) they love by contemporary and/or emerging writers. Today, Lena Bertone talks about N. Michelle AuBuchon. Check out previous posts by Leesa Cross-SmithAnne ValenteBJ Hollars and Justin Lawrence Daugherty.

I read the story “The Haircut” by N. Michelle AuBuchon in Caketrain 12 last year. And then I read it again and again.

Here’s what I love about that story: it’s a story that’s straightforwardly told and easy to understand until it isn’t, and even then it still is. It’s a story with a single narrator until it has three narrators and even then it still has just one. It’s a story about dead and living people who become each other, though not really, but yes, they really do, and one of them, or maybe two, get a haircut, but in the end, it really is only one. I love that it’s a simply told story that makes the complications of love and grief reside so plainly on the surface of its storytelling. Here’s an example in which the narrator is both the husband and the dead daughter:

I had the feeling of remembering being scared of her, that woman, my wife, but then I just got to wanting to cut Mother’s hair, and I said, ‘Hold still, Mother, these scissors are sharp.’

In an essay called, “A Few Men Who Begged Me Not to Write about Them,” AuBuchon does a similar thing with her storytelling: she keeps the reader posted on the process and progress of the essay she’s writing. The essay is about the problem of being silenced by men, and writing the essay is one way that she unsilences herself:

I become obsessed with recording everything men don’t want me to. Their motivation to quiet me seems to parallel, if not exceed, their motivation to be with, in, or around me.

She writes about men who don’t want to be written about, and she reveals some things about them but not others. She writes as though it is ambivalence that makes her waver between concealing and revealing, but in truth, by including me, the reader, in these seemingly offhand decisions, she shows that she has the power to choose how she tells the story:

Afterwards, I take the train into the city to visit this editor I’ve been seeing, but, again, full disclosure: I’m omitting this section, because it was a short, not very interesting section, and he was the most insistent on being taken out of the essay. So anyway, he and I break up after a fight about the essay and something else I can’t remember.

In revealing what she’s been forbidden to reveal and chatting with her reader so easily about it, AuBuchon is showing the ways in which matters of silencing and revealing are so ubiquitous and morally tenuous. Much as she does in “The Haircut,” she makes the reader complicit in her narrative. When I’m reading her work, I feel like I’m looking at it from the inside out, and AuBuchon accompanies me through the whole strange and illuminating experience.


Lena Bertone is the author of Behind This Mirror (Origami Zoo Press) and Letters to the Devil (The Lit Pub). She has stories forthcoming in Sundog Lit and Condensed to Flash: World Classics. Check out our Short Story Month sale!

Short Story Month Celebration: Justin Lawrence Daugherty


To celebrate Short Story Month, we’re asking Origami Zoo Press authors and other writers we admire to sweet-talk a story (or stories) they love by contemporary writers. Today, Justin Lawrence Daugherty talks about Carol Guess & Kelly Magee. Check out previous posts by Leesa Cross-SmithAnne Valente, and BJ Hollars.

I like weirdness in stories. Stories where elements of the surreal and strange feature prominently. Grizzly bears living in a house with a couple having marital troubles. Irradiated jellyfish showing up in a town following a mine disaster. Whatever. I want the strange. It has to work with what the story’s trying to do, of course, but I am drawn to the strange.

Carol Guess and Kelly Magee’s “With Dragon” works the way other stories in With Animal (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press) do: the strange offspring of women are various animals and these children cause unique issues for their parents. Guess and Magee write:

“Though heat welled in her, she shivered and heaped blankets on her body. Her husband stopped sleeping with her, complaining that she steamed up the room. Her side of the bed darkened with stains that looked like scorch marks.”

In these very short stories, there is a breaking apparent immediately. The shock of these offspring is parallel to the discord in relationships between people and within individuals. The mother in this story knows things are bad and going to get worse. And, they do. Instant tension and instant escalation. Too much flash and short fiction rests and marinates in minimal tension or no tension at all. On internet message boards, the mother posts:

“She wrote, Do you ever feel like your baby is stronger than you? To which the message boards replied nothing.

She wrote, Do you ever wonder if you’ve made a mistake? but she didn’t bother to check the replies.”

Guess and Magee are masters with word economy. There is so much power in each word and sentence. And, each sentence builds on the last, makes what came before more important. These writers know how to keep the reader invested and worried:

“When the day came, the sky hung wreathed with fire. She stood in the kitchen, smoke peeling from her thighs, fire breaking instead of water, water what might put her out. Her husband splashed orange juice on her skirt. Ran red lights until lights stopped turning. Hustled her into the emergency room with the D word: Dragon.”

The quotidian is mixed with the strange. Dragon and orange juice. The internet and fire-reduced husbands and wives as left-behind ash mounds.

There are comments on the quotidian living in the strange. And, the strange is alive and menacing and pushing mothers to the edge. What I love most in great fiction is this almost-collapse, the at-the-edge teetering of people about to break. This story, and the other stories from With Animal are full of these moments. Guess and Magee don’t tell you what to think. There is no obvious message. I want to burn in the details of these stories. I’ve adored Guess and Magee’s work for a long time. If anyone is really lighting it up in fiction right now, these two are doing the thing.


Justin Lawrence Daugherty lives in Atlanta. He is the publisher and founder of Jellyfish Highway Press and the founder of Sundog Lit. He is the Fiction Editor at New South Journal and co-pilots Cartridge Lit, a lit mag dedicated to literature inspired by video games. He never says anything at @jdaugherty1081.

Short Story Month Celebration: B.J. Hollars

BJ HollarsTo celebrate Short Story Month, we’re asking Origami Zoo Press authors and other writers we admire to sweet-talk a story (or stories) they love by emerging writers. First up, we had Leesa Cross-Smith and Anne Valente, today we have B.J. Hollars!

When asked to write of a rising star writer, I could’ve easily assembled a triple-digit list; this, I think, is one of the primary perks of teaching. Though, of course, by doing so, I’d have had to rank 100 people’s creative work, which was a task I was hardly up for (not only because the idea of “ranking” makes me squeamish, but come on, it’s nearly finals week!).

And so, I went with the simpler route: a tried and true writer I trust—Charlotte Kupsh, a name you’ll surely hear again.

Full disclosure: Charlotte’s a former student; one I had the pleasure of working with throughout our shared time at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She holds the “distinct honor” (by which I mean “dubious honor”) of having worked with me more than almost any other student. And so, I hope you’ll forgive me my gushing. Over the years, she endured my classes, served as editor for the campus literary magazine I advise, and—given her propensity for punishment—even allowed me to work with her on an independent project entitled Until the Land Runs Out, a collection of carefully researched stories that traces generations in the river town of Eau Claire.

While Until the Land Runs Out yielded several pitch perfect stories, the one I most want to highlight is entitled “The Pontecorvo, 1884.” Published in the fall 2014 issue of The Madison Review, the story recounts the experiences of Andrew Johnson, a Norwegian-immigrant-turned-lumberman, who, in the summer of 1884, endures one of the most dangerous floods in Eau Claire history. The story drifts between the flood of 1884 and the summer of 2013, the juxtaposition serving as proof that, as Charlotte puts it, “The city has changed, but the river has not.”

As the flood ravages the city, readers become privy to Andrew’s past encounters with water; namely, his trans-Atlantic crossing on the Pontecorvo so many years before. It was a passage fraught with its own setbacks, one that first clued Andrew in on the unfeeling nature of nature.

While the story’s highly wrought prose and meticulous research make for a heart pounding narrative, for me, it’s the subtler moments that most resonate. With a light touch, Charlotte makes evident all that Andrew doesn’t know: “It is his first year in Eau Claire,” she writes. “He doesn’t know it yet, but over the next six years, the city will lose over four thousand residents, citizens vanishing like the last of the lumber rafts…” By revealing Andrew’s ignorance, we readers become knowledgeable; a technique that provides us with the vast, textured historical research that brings a story from the past back to life.

And it is indeed a story of the past (you need only Google “Pontecorvo shipwreck” to see for yourself). But what makes Charlotte’s story so good—and what makes me want to sing its praises with the gusto of an ancient mariner—is that she utilizes history as a tool for her narrative, and her usage of it always feels effortless. This is not a story bogged down in minutiae; rather, it’s a story that’s quick on its feet. Though born a century or so later, Charlotte recreates the world of a 19th century river town with such precision that we readers never question it. We are with her from the first page to the last, from the initial raindrop to the glimmer of post-storm sun.

It probably goes without saying, but it was a joy to watch Charlotte write and rewrite this story. But let me be clear: mostly, all I did was watch. She was the one who boarded the raft and set off into the river. All I did was beam proudly, as I do today, from the safety of the shore.


B.J. Hollars is the author of several books, including two forthcoming in 2015: From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life, Death, and Being Human, as well as a collection of essays, This Is Only A Test.