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 $16 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.

Short Story Month Celebration: Anne Valente

Anne ValenteTo 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 today we have Anne Valente!

In celebration of Short Story Month, I’ve spent the first half of May reading the work of Jaclyn Watterson, a fiction writer currently based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. Her stories have been all over the place in recent months, and rightly so – they capture the disorienting threats of modern life, of the female body in public space, and the strange, subtle horror of human interaction. “Nor Do They,” just published in Two Serious Ladies, recounts the unsettling fear of public transportation. “Recompense” in The Newer York describes the horror of a daughter watching a trail of men spill from her father’s mouth. “Some of Us Had Been Sucking Our Friend Carrie” depicts a group of women meeting up to finally stop devouring and bruising their friend, all discussed over brownies and champagne. And “A Baby is a Dreadful Thing,” recently published in Cura, places the reader in a world where women are being turned into infants, a world where women are no longer seen in public places – not on public transportation and not in libraries, their ranks diminished to hiding out in apartments.

Watterson’s surreal fictions subvert the reader’s expectations, not only for the worlds they explore – worlds where women are under constant threat, and where the stranger the world becomes, the closer its resemblance to our own flawed world – but for the sentences themselves, sliced against one another to destabilize narrative itself. A subtle menace grows on the page through the shape of each sentence. Watterson’s syntax and diction build a sense of dread and foreboding, as the best of horror films do, and yet there is grace and punctum in each story as well. Her fiction explores not only the grotesque but the collective as well – what it means to be part of a group of women or else a group of friends, or a group of children growing up together and growing away from one another, their bodies changing and morphing and pulling them apart.

Watterson’s fiction has just won Psychopomp Magazine’s 2015 Short Fiction Contest, judged by Kate Bernheimer and to be featured in the journal’s summer issue. I can’t wait to read the winning story, “Charlie’s Kidney,” when it releases this summer. Watterson’s full-length collection, Ventriloquisms, was recently a finalist frontrunner in Civil Coping Mechanism’s Mainline Competition, so I’m keeping an eye out for the lucky publisher who will surely snap up this book soon.

Anne Valente is the author of the short story collection, By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc Books), the fiction chapbook, An Elegy for Mathematics (Origami Zoo Press), and the forthcoming novel, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down (HarperCollins). She can be found online at www.annevalente.com. You can snag her Origami Zoo Press chapbook, An Elegy for Mathematics, in our Short Story Month sale!

Short Story Month Celebration: Leesa Cross-Smith

L CROSS-SMITHTo celebrate Short Story Month, we’re asking Origami Zoo Press authors and other writers we admire to sweet-talk a story they love by an emerging writer. First up is Leesa Cross-Smith!

“Halibut Point” by Molly Dektar begins There was a young soldier sitting at the bar, in those digital-print fatigues. I love reading about soldiers. If there’s a soldier in the first sentence, I will keep reading. And the last line at the end of that short first paragraph is My last boyfriend taught me that, if you have all the signs of looking good, it doesn’t matter if you really do or not. That sentence tells me so much about the narrator. It’s lovely. As a reader, we know she’s had a boyfriend, that she listened to him, that she believed him when he told her this thing. Him saying that gave her some confidence and she needed it.

She goes on to write:

He said nothing. It was clear to me that he was going to die.
“You look awful,” I said.
“Fuck you.”

And something I love about stories is when the characters immediately dive in to talking to one another. No introductions, no real back story. We’re in the conversation and even when few words are said, we can see them and hear them and get a feel for who they are just by the words they choose to use or not to use.

We went to the beach, to Halibut Point. We could hear the Atlantic but not see it—a black, rushing void. The water glided up to us, then foam tore along its edge. When he held my hand, he rubbed it gently with his fingers. We collapsed onto the sand. He was like two men, or aided by ghosts. His skin felt cold and the water felt hot and I was shaking my head like no, that can’t be right.

Every word in that paragraph has a purpose. Nothing is wasted. I especially love foam tore along its edge.

“You must have broken a lot of hearts,” I said.
“What?” he said. I had my head on his heartbeat, in a spot-on impression of a gesture of love.
“Leaving like this. Did you break your mama’s heart?”
“Sure, I’m breaking some hearts,” he said. 

I think this dialogue is so sweet. I think spot-on impression of a gesture of love is perfectAnd oftentimes when I see a soldier, I think the same thing. Did you break your mama’s heart?

He was feeling his neat haircut with his drunken hand. The sea gasped like a person with a new limp. I could have told him all my hopes and fears: a soldier is just like a priest.

A soldier is just like a priest, again. Perfect to me.

I thought, this boy never knew his dad either. It’s the way he held up his head—that’s why I went to talk to him, not the uniform.
“You’re doing it to break hearts,” I said, smiling, but he couldn’t see it. I was using my cell phone to illuminate the ground, and the dark flung itself from us like a centrifuge.

When she writes this boy never knew his dad either, we get that the narrator didn’t know her dad and we get that she is perceptive or projecting, all at once.

And the ending. I love the ending. I had the feeling when I reached the end of this story. The feeling I like to get when I reach the end of every story. The feeling that I’m sad it’s over, the feeling that I want to go back and read it again, the feeling of being surprised at how the author took me from the first line to the last without my even realizing I was kinda holding my breath in the way I always kinda hold my breath (even if not literally) when I’m reading something beautiful. The feeling. This story gives me the feeling. I love it, I love it, I love it. I read it years ago and still think about it. I love Dektar’s light hand, as well as the exploration of these complicated emotions and the simplicity of the story. Absolutely adore.


Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker, a house cat. She is the author of Every Kiss A War (Mojave River Press). Every Kiss A War was a finalist for both the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Iowa Short Fiction Award. She is the editor of WhiskeyPaper/WhiskeyPaper Press and lives in Kentucky with her husband and babies. Find more @LeesaCrossSmith.com and WhiskeyPaper.com.

Short Story Month Sale!

Behind-This-Mirror-GridHere at Origami Zoo Press, we are celebrating short story month with a sale, in hopes of getting more short stories in the hands of more eager short story readers. If you’ve already purchased or enjoyed our chapbooks, consider getting some as a gift! This sale lasts all month, so get ‘em while they’re hot: any OZP chapbook only $5 or all five for $20!

We’ll be celebrating short story month in other ways, too, so in between the many collections you devour this month, keep an eye on our blog for reading recommendations from our authors as well as special guests!

For all of May, get any of our short story collections for just $5!

 Or go crazy and get all 5 for $20!

AWP sale for those of us at home

Not attending AWP this year? That’s okay. You can still get our books on sale…and then they’ll arrive right on your door! You don’t event have to go through airport security with them.

Grab any of our longer fiction chapbooks for $5 each–the same deal you’d get at our table in Minneapolis!


Or, you want a couple of our books at once? How about a 2-for-1 sale? Grab any two of our titles for $8!

Twofer: List 2 titles below

 Just because you’re not going to AWP doesn’t mean you have to miss out on getting some great books–and for cheap!–in the convenience of your own home. No awkward networking conversations necessary.