Akashic Books: A New Hope (for breakout literature)

carriefisherIf you, like many, are a fan of Carrie Fisher (otherwise known as Princess Leia of the Star Wars universe) and her vibrant Twitter feed, you may have spotted her tweet mentioning Go the Fuck to Sleep, the 2011 smash hit from Akashic Books.

It’s safe to say the Force has been with Akashic these past few months. Days before Fisher’s Tweet, Go the Fuck to Sleep went platinum, making it Akashic’s first title to sell over one million copies. This past September, Senior Editor Ibrahim Ahmad was featured as one of Publishers Weekly’s 2015 Star Watch Finalists.

In the publishing world’s version of the American Dream, Ahmad started at Akashic as an internAkashicLogoNew03 at age 17. He quickly moved up the ranks to become one of Akashic’s four core staffers. Beginning with very little publishing experience, Ahmad proved that he had a natural eye for editorial work. As an intern, he fought to acquire Boy Genius by Yongsoo Park, exclaiming “F— YEAH!” in black sharpie on his reader’s report. Akashic went on to acquire and publish the book, which was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards.

As Senior Editor, Ahmad took on the biggest challenge of all when he spearheaded the marketing and publicity campaign for Go the Fuck to Sleep. The title hit every major #1 bestseller list before it was even published. It was an unprecedented level of media attention for the small press.

“[It] was a crash course in publishing that simply cannot be taught,” Ahmad says.

Though Ahmad jokes about the large number of gray hairs that the reception to Go the Fuck to Sleep gave him, the book’s success provided Akashic with not only confidence but also a much-welcomed financial stability. The beginning of 2016 ushers in two new titles from Akashic: Chasing Water, a memoir by Olympic gold-medalist Anthony Ervin, and The Book of Harlan, a novel about two African American musicians imprisoned in Nazi Germany.

The [literary] Force is strong with this one. Congrats, Akashic, on all of your star-studded success!

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The NBCC Thinks Coffee House Press and Copper Canyon Titles are a Big Deal

This past week, the National Book Critics Circle announced their list of WhatAboutThisfinalists for the 2015 Book Awards. Not one but two Consortium titles made it through the incredibly competitive selection process: What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford from Copper Canyon Press, nominated in Poetry, and The Story of My Teeth from Coffee House Press, nominated in Fiction.

StoryOfMyTeethThe Story of My Teeth has been garnering attention since before its debut. A review in the New York Times raved about it, saying the novel is “playful, attentive and very smart without being for a minute pretentious.” What About This is a collection that has been anticipated for decades, containing works that had been out-of-print since Frank Stanford’s death in the mid-1970s. NPR.org even called its release “the big event in poetry for 2015.”

You might be asking yourself, “But what are the NBCC Awards?”

Each year, the over 600 members of the NBCCcomprised of critics, authors, literary bloggers, publishers, and students—nominate books that they believe are the most critical, groundbreaking titles of the past year. From that pile, the board chooses five titles as finalists in each category (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Autobiography, Biography, and Criticism), and, after a long review process that lasts several months, the winners. This year’s award winners will be announced on March 17th. The chosen authors will join ranks with literary greats such as Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, John Updike, Sharon Olds, and Louise Erdrich. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal.

Best of luck to Copper Canyon Press and Coffee House Press!

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The Spirit of the Indie: Ig Publishing Founder Robert Lasner Pushes Limits

igpublishingIg Publishing was launched in 2002 with the release of Editor-in-Chief Robert Lasner’s own book, For Fucks Sake. Joining Lasner as co-founder was his wife, Elizabeth, who already had publishing experience through her work at a literary agency. The two were far from inexperienced, but it wasn’t until 2007 that Ig Publishing truly hit its stride. The Lasners refined the focus of their productions, deciding to publish primarily literary fiction, political nonfiction, and classic reprints. Since then, Ig publishing titles have garnered numerous awards, and on January 16, Entropymag.org sat down with Lasner to discuss his publishing journey.

Rather than selecting missile-231x3461books to publish based on genre or author renown, Lasner chooses books that he likes and feels proud of sending out into the world. Lasner doesn’t shy away from difficult topicsIg’s next novel, Missile Paradise by Ron Tanner, out April 2016, confronts systemic racism and the impact of climate change on the Marshall Islands.

Lasner chooses authors who excite him, whose work is fresh and challenging and also might have been passed up by the “Big Five.”

“Sometimes I think about how many of our authors would never have been published if it wasn’t for us,” Lasner said. “It makes you realize how important indie presses are, and what a vital role they play in the publishing ecosystem.”

Ig Publishing is also launching a new series called Bookmarked, in which authors write about books which have had a crucial influence on their lives and their careers. Lasner 9781632460103developed this series to pay tribute to the “primal love of literature” that lives in anyone who writes or works in publishing. Curt Smith wrote the first title of the series, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five: Bookmarked, and Kirby Gann (the series’ editor) wrote John Knowles’ A Separate Peace: Bookmarked.

A penchant for classic literature and reprints doesn’t mean that Lasner and Ig Publishing are caught up in the past. The publisher has adopted e-books (though Lasner admits that he’ll always have a soft spot for print books), and is already looking forward to the next trend.

“It’s all about change,” Lasner said about the industry. “As an independent publisher, you either change and adapt, or die.”

And adapt Ig Publishing has. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

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Françoise Mouly of TOON Books is a Comic Book Hero

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Credit: Eleanor Davis

 

Françoise Mouly is one brilliant woman. She’s been on a roll since founding TOON Books in 2008, and now she’s received the Smithsonian’s “Ingenuity Award” for her work in education! On November 12, Jeff MacGregor for Smithsonian online interviewed Mouly about her “comic book hero” image, and she shared her inspiration for the press and her brilliant understanding of children.

The idea for TOON Books sprung out of Mouly’s experiences learning English (she’s a native French speaker) and when she became a mother, she realized how beneficial comics are when you are learning a language: “it’s almost like sketching out language for you. . . . Reading is making meaning out of squiggles, but the thing with comics is that no one has ever had to teach a child how to find Waldo.” Though the big houses rejected her queries to create high-quality and smart comics, Mouly persevered and eventually TOON Books was created. Now, Mouly is glad that she’s not attached to a large press, because she has the freedom to “make books happen without having to explain and justify.”

The key to Mouly’s success as a publisher is her keen insight into the minds of children and her respect for their learning styles and interests. Specifically, their natural penchant for re-reading books: “Kids naturally want you to read them the same book every single night. . . . they get something different every time. . . .The ambition is not to make something that will want to be read, but to make something that can be reread.”

The Smithsonian interview calls Mouly a “transformative figure in the history of comics,” partTOONBooksLogoly because she has made it okay for teachers to use comics in the classroom, and because she has melted away the stigma against comics. TOON Books is simply a work of love for Mouly, especially because she gets to work with her husband, artist Art Spiegelman: “most people are asked to separate their private lives from their work lives. I am so privileged that my work life is what I love and I love what I do in my work.” Even though Mouly modestly refuses to call herself a hero, she certainly is one in the eyes of many.

 

 

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Deep Vellum Publishing is Opening a Bookstore!

When you think of Ddeep-vellum-logoallas, do you think of it as the art and literary hub of Texas? If not, look to Will Evans and his press Deep Vellum Publishing (founded in 2013), because he’s opening a bookstore which he hopes will be that hub. The Dallas Morning News (November 19) and Central Track (November 10) took a look at Evans’ hopes for this latest venture.

Under the name Deep Vellum Books, Evans plans to only stock titles from indie presses and literary magazines, according to Central Track. The 900 square foot space will house 2,000 to 3,000 titles, and it focus mainly on translations. The goal of the store itself is to “be the kind of place for things you can’t get anywhere else in the city,” Evans told the Dallas Morning News.

Evans wants the store to “be a catalyst for the entire neighborhood. . . Dallas is going to become a world-class city, beginning with this space.” In the Central Track article, Evans shared his hopes for the store to become a space for the “intermingling of all the arts,” awill_evans2 cultural hub that’s open every night of the week, with different non-profit programming each night. There will be a stage for readings or music shows, and a small bar will also serve coffee and wine.

Evans told Central Track: “it will be a place to come and buy books, to have a cup of coffee or beer, to chill for a minute, to have a meeting with a friend, to see a show or what have you.” However, don’t plan on setting up your home office at Deep Vellum Books, because Evans might kick you off the wi-fi.

Deep Vellum Books is officially launching on December 9th, with a housewarming party/bookstore launch happening from 6pm-8pm at their new digs at 3000 Commerce Street. Thanks to the energetic and innovative Will Evans, Deep Vellum Books is an exciting and innovative venture. Welcome to Dallas’ literary hub.

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Here’s to Coach House Books!

There must be a coFifteenDogsnstant party atmosphere at the office of Coach House Books in Toronto: they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary, and one of their titles, Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize! The Giller Prize is the Canadian equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the U.S., so obviously everyone at Coach House Books is over the moon. Alexis received $100,000 at a black-tie ceremony on November 10th, as well as the opportunity to attend a two-week residency program at Leighton Artists’ Colony in Banff, Alberta, courtesy of the Banff Centre.

Both the shortlist (which included two titles from Biblioasis, Martin John and Arvida) and the winner were chosen by a five-member jury panel. Their statement about Fifteen Dogs makes it clear why it was chosen: “it’s a novel filled with balancing acts: humor juxtaposed with savagery, solitude with the desperate need to be part of a pack, perceptive prose interspersed with playful poetry. A wonderful and original piece of writing that challenges the reader to examine their own existence and recall the age-old question, what’s the meaning of life?”

In addition to the 2015 Giller Prize, Fifteen Dogs won the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the 2015 Toronto Book Awards. Though the Giller Prize marks the most prestigious award a Coach House Books author has received, the press has also received numerous awards and nominations.

It all began in 1965, when typesetter Stan Bevington rented an old coach house and joined forces with Dennis Reid to print a book of poetry by Wayne Clifford. Since then, Coach House Books has remained one of the few presses that still prints their books in-house. This allows them to put just as much focus and attention on the quality and construction of the physical books as they do on the stories themselves. They have a diverse collection of titles, featuring innovative fiction, poetry, film and drama, and non-fiction. Check out this radio documentary they put together to hear the “voices behind the books.”

Congratulations to André Alexis and Coach House Books on their win, and here’s to the next 50 years!

 

 

 

 

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Books to Make Sense of Paris

129 fatalities. 368 wounded. A city of 2.24 million. And shock waves of pain and fear that are impossible to number.

In this confusion, what we can do as a book distributor is simply offer up six books that give a bit of perspective. The first four inform you about terrorism, the global narrative surrounding it, its history, and modern opinions. The last two titles are purely about Paris, and we think that’s important—to be reminded of the deep intimacies of this city and its people within this tragedy. In the words of Walt Whitman to Paris, “And I send these words to Paris with my love/…I will yet sing a song for you, Ma Femme.”

Syria SSyriaSpeakspeaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, by Malu Halasa and Zaher Omareen, published by Saqi Books, highlights the artists of Syria who combat  the culture of violence through their work. The anthology features poetry, illustrations, photographs, and stories that shed light on the individuals striving to make a difference.  NoNonsenseGuideToTerrorism

The No-Nonsense Guide to Global Terrorism by Jonathan Barker, published by New Internationalist, is an accessible analysis of terrorism and its history. The book uses examples from the Middle East, state terrorism, and political terrorism to look at the causes of terrorism and possible ways to combat it.

EnoughBloodShedPublished by New Society Publishers, Enough Blood Shed: 101 Solutions to Violence, Terror and War by Mary-Wynne Ashford and Guy Dauncey is told in two parts, with the first half of the book describing the culture of violence that terrorism creates, and the second half offering possible solutions. Though heavy in subject matter, the hopeful tone shows that change is possible. PiratesAndEmperors

Pirates and Emperors, Old and New: International Terrorism in the Real World by Noam Chomsky and published by Haymarket Books  offers a crash course in the many forms terrorism can take. Using the United States’ role in the Middle East as the main example, Chomsky shows how terrorism can be stopped by understanding these different forms.

Paris by ParisJulian Green and published by Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd takes readers through the romantic and winding streets of Paris. Like a love-note to the city, Paris is a literary portrait illustrated with Green’s photographs that shows readers just how special Paris really is.750YearsInParis

750 Years in Paris by Vincent Mahé, published by NoBrow Press, is a literary graphic novel that focuses on just one building in Paris through the progression of history, starting in the thirteenth century. The book shows how drastically things can change in an instant, and also celebrates the enduring nature of Paris itself.

 

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