Book News

January 2022 eLitPak :: SIR Press

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2022 Michael Waters Poetry Prize

Deadline: February 1, 2022
A prize of $5,000 and publication by SIR Press is awarded annually for a collection of poetry written in English. All entries are considered for publication. Michael Waters is the final judge. Entrants receive a one-year subscription to Southern Indiana ReviewVisit website.

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January 2022 eLitPak :: National Indie Excellence Awards

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Now Open for Entries

Deadline: March 31, 2022
The 16th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards (NIEA) are open to all English language printed books available for sale, including small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, and self-published authors. NIEA is proud to be a champion of self-publishing and small independent presses going the extra mile to produce books of excellence in every aspect. Visit website.

View full January 2022 eLitPak newsletter.

‘The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois’

Guest Post by Kevin Brown.

In her first novel, Jeffers covers a wide range of history, but focuses on one place called Chicasetta, moving from the Indigenous Creek to African Americans and whites as they move into or are brought into the area. The novel follows two strands of a story that ultimately intersect: one from the Native American viewpoint covering hundreds of years and one following Ailey Garfield from her childhood to graduate school in history in the early 2000s.

There are echoes of African American history and literature, ranging from the obvious references to DuBois—not only the title, but significant ideas in the novel—but also narratives by those who were enslaved (Jacobs and Douglass) and more contemporary writers, such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. While drawing on such sources, though, Jeffers makes this story her own by setting it so concretely in one place and following one family’s history.

My one criticism is that the novel covers so much time, even within the contemporary story, minor characters seem to come in to serve a particular role, then exit quickly. That’s especially true when Ailey is in college and graduate school, as those characters seem to represent some idea that needed covering.

However, Jeffers uses the historical sweep to explore questions of America and identity and race, knowing there are no answers, only questions, as Ailey says at the end of the novel: “I know the story will be over soon. That I will wake up with a question. And then another, but the question is what I have wanted. The question is the point. The question is my breath.” Jeffers’s novel shows us the power of questions: Who’s asking them? Who’s avoiding them? What’s left out?

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Harper, August 2021.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press).  He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. You can find out more about him and his work on Twitter at @kevinbrownwrite or at

A Tender New Year’s Resolution

Guest Post by Annie Eacy.

It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, and I’m isolating in my childhood bedroom after testing positive for Covid-19 after nearly two years of masking, vaccinating, boosting, testing, and more. My whole body aches and all I would like to do is spiral in self pity. Instead, I pick up a green book on my bedside table: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan.

Small town Ireland in the 1980s. A blue-collar man, reserved and hardworking, is married with five young daughters. He lives a measured and somewhat mundane life, not prone to much contemplation or self-reflection. That is, until one day not long before Christmas, he makes a discovery requiring an act of heroism that has the potential to change many lives and not all for the better.

This is a marvelous, unassuming novel filled with small, tender moments: helping his girls with the spelling in their Santa letters, filling hot water bottles for their beds, watching them sing in their church choir. “Aren’t we the lucky ones?” he says to his wife one night, and she agrees. However, his gratefulness is warped by the misfortune of others. How should they have so much and not share it? Keegan’s novel begs many questions about heroism and altruism, but the most compelling might be that while there can certainly be tenderness in heroism, can there also be heroism in tenderness?

I close the book, no longer wallowing in my self-pity. My mother knocks to offer me tea—her voice soothes, like honey for my sore throat. I hear her soft slippers on the stairs, the tapping of dog paws following, the click of the gas stove. Small, tender things. How much there is to be grateful for when you look or listen for it, and after reading Keegan’s novel, that’s what I’ll do.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. Grove Atlantic, November 2021.

Reviewer bio: Annie Eacy is a writer living in the Finger Lakes. She writes poetry, fiction, and essays, and is currently working on a novel.

Call :: Still Time to Submit Manuscripts in All Genres to Atmosphere Press

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Deadline: Rolling
Atmosphere Press currently seeks book manuscripts from diverse voices. There’s no submission fee, and if your manuscript is selected, we’ll be the publisher you’ve always wanted: attentive, organized, on schedule, and professional. We use a model in which the author funds the publication of the book, but retains 100% rights, royalties, and artistic autonomy. This year Atmosphere authors have received featured reviews with Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, and have even appeared on a giant billboard in Times Square. Submit your book manuscript at

Buckle Your Seatbelts, You’re in for Quite a Ride!

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

Air France 006, Paris to New York. The seatbelt sign comes on. The captain calmly announces, prepare for a little turbulence.  More than a little it turns out. If you’ve ever been on a flight where you questioned if the plane would successfully land, you know the feeling. I don’t profess to have completely unraveled (or made sense of) all the threads of this book, but I enjoyed the ride.  Part sci-fi, part political thriller, part philosophical treatise, The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier was a huge bestseller in France and won the Prix Goncourt.

It took a bit for the puzzle pieces to fall in place for me, but once the catalyst for these disparate stories was revealed the novel picked up speed. Apparently, the same flight with the same crew and the same passengers landed twice—four months apart.  Ultimately, we follow the fates of eleven passengers (and their clones)—from a contract killer to a film editor to the author of a novel called, you guessed it, The Anomaly. There are references to everything from Martin Guerre to Elton John to Nietzsche. Quotes from War and Peace, Romeo and Juliet, and Ecclesiastes. Sandwiched in there is the American government’s ham-fisted response to the mysterious second landing.

I confess to getting a little lost in some of the mathematical and astrophysics tangents, but the reader is drawn into the personal stories of the passengers (and their clones).  What would you say if confronted with an exact doppelgänger of you, right down to the same memories, the same secrets, the same neurosis? Definitely existential, but also humorous and with quite a few quotable lines. You may not be able to board a flight and go on an exotic adventure these days because of Covid, but you can take off on a wild ride from the comfort of home with The Anomaly.

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier. Other Press, November 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

Expect the Unexpected

Guest Post by Julia Wilson.

Elizabeth McCracken is one of my favorite authors, primarily for her graceful blending of mundane realities with imaginative and unusual details, thus painting seemingly humdrum lives sparkling with the unexpected.

Bowlaway is no exception. Ostensibly a story about generations of an extended family living in a small town, McCracken’s odd characters are mixes of humorous, pathetic, lonely, yearning, creative, frail, damaged, liberated, secretive, selfish, and loving. They are mysterious and perplexing, not necessarily likeable but compelling. The book starts with a woman, Bertha Truitt, being found unconscious in a cemetery, without explanation. Thus begins the family saga of the Truitts, who own a bowling alley in the northeastern town of Salford.

But the real story in Bowlaway is the complexities of relationships, primarily marriages. In McCracken’s smooth sentences and use of an omniscient narrator, the reader is witness to weaknesses, loyalty, secrets, misunderstandings, and resignation. The partners in these relationships don’t have much eagerness in looking forward to the future yet have found a reality they can tolerate, containing both joy and heartache. There is tenderness between a woman and her mother-in-law, compassion of a wife in the face of her husband’s alcoholism, a recluse’s love for a mourning mother, and the relief of the few who escape the dreary life in Salford.

McCracken is at her best painting the facets of her characters so they come alive to the reader. They are flawed, self-interested, confused, and searching—as are we all.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken. Ecco, November 2019.

Reviewer bio: Julia Wilson is an MA in Writing student at Johns Hopkins University

A Darned Good Book About Vermont Humor

Guest Post by Alec W. Hastings.

Bill Mares and Don Hooper put out a darned good book about Vermont humor. It’s called I Could Hardly Keep from Laughing. Even though I’ve grown up in Vermont—well, almost—I’ve always wondered what that is. Vermont humor, I mean. How would I know it if I met it walking down the street? I read eagerly and kept my eyes open for the answer.

The authors collected Vermont jokes and anecdotes by the truckload. I delighted in Hooper’s cartoon art, the bug-eyed but endearing folk of our Vermont hills. I could hardly keep from smiling at the humor of familiar Vermonters like Silent Cal, Francis Colburn, George Woodard, Al Boright, Fred Tuttle, and Rusty DeWees. Some of the Vermont humorists I met in these pages were new to me, and it tickled me to get acquainted with Robert C. Davis, David K. Smith, or Josie Leavitt.

Did Mares and Hooper entertain me and add to my understanding of Vermont humor? St. Peter on a pogo stick! You bet they did! Did they define Vermont humor like Webster? They’ve lived in Vermont long enough to know better. They did give a few hints to help us put classic Vermont humor up a tree. What did they say in chapter one? “Dry, wry, understated.” And when they unloaded their truck, the humor that tumbled out fizzed with playful wit, but I agree with Danziger. He says in the foreword it’s easier to tell what Vermont humor is than what it is not. In my mind’s eye there is always a hint of mischief in the eye of the Vermont humorist looking back at me. It bespeaks an urge to tease but never to be unkind.

For me, the best Vermont humorists have always put themselves in the same boat with their audience. Theirs is not so much the idea that “the joke is on you,” as it is that “the joke is on all of us.” But what do I know? As the fella said in chapter three, “Not a damn thing.” Vermont humor remains something of a mystery to me. Maybe that’s good. A butterfly pinned to a board is nowhere near as pretty as one fluttering by on the breeze.

I Could Hardly Keep from Laughing by Don Hooper & Bill Mares. Rootstock Publishing, December 2021.

Reviewer bio: Alec W. Hastings is the author of Cap Pistols, Cardboard Sleds & Seven Rusty Nails: A Vermont Boyhood in Happy Valley. He grew up in the hill country of Vermont when Jersey cows still grazed the pastures and men in denim boiled sap in wood-fired evaporators.

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Try Your Hand at a Glosa with Page & Pappadà

Guest Post by Elda Pappadà.

I discovered P.K. Page about two years ago, and since then this talented, prolific writer has become one of my favorite poets. I was determined to read all her poetry books when I came across: Coal and Roses: Twenty-One Glosas. Glosa (Glose) is a Spanish form of poetry where the author quotes a quatrain from an existing poet and writes four ten-line stanzas with the four lines acting as a refrain in the final line of each stanza. Therefore, the first line from the quatrain would be the final line in the first stanza, and etc.  The last word at the end of the sixth and ninth lines must also rhyme with the last word in the borrowed tenth line.

Coal & Roses was a captivating find. P. K. Page manages to keep the flow continuous and writes with such ease, originality, and skill. It is very interesting to see the final product. A Glosa can keep the same tone as the original quatrain or can take a whole new path and narrative. I tried my own hand at writing a Glosa and found it to be rather liberating with unlimited possibilities. The final product was unlike most poetry I have ever written.

Coal and Roses: Twenty-One Glosas by P. K. Page. The Porcupine’s Quill, 2009.

Reviewer bio: Elda Pappadà has self-published her first poetry book, Freedom – about love, loss, and understanding. Freedom is about finding meaning in the highs and lows of everyday life, to learn and even re-learn what we need to move forward.  It’s about defining life and giving weight to everything we do.

A Realistic Portrayal of Recovery

Guest Post by Lailey Robbins.

Good Enough, written by Jen Petro-Roy, is a piece of fiction that sits comfortably between middle reader and young adult. It is quite a realistic piece of fiction with a profoundly honest and vulnerable look into the life of Riley, who is hospitalized for her struggles with anorexia nervosa. Through the story, we see her heal, stumble, and navigate through a realistically and maturely portrayed journey of recovery.

This work is nothing short of phenomenal. With its accessible language and mature-yet-realistic handling of the sensitive topics that it delves into, it is a must have. Petro-Roy, being a survivor of an eating disorder herself, offers sensitive and helpful insight into the life of recovery and the many struggles that come with it. This, alongside her brilliant character development and the portrayal of relationships within the work, home in on her wonderful style. Not only does the audience watch Riley change, grow, and heal, they are also able to watch her juggle both the friendships that she has made within the facility while simultaneously trying to keep her pre-hospitalization friendships alive.

However, the downfall of this novel lies within its conclusion. The ending is unsatisfying, for lack of better words, as there is no definite answer for what comes next. As the novel draws nearer to Riley’s release from the facility, the book ends, leaving the reader with a sense of confusion as the character that they had been expecting to see make a full recovery is still struggling. Though it is realistic to not know what comes next, especially when in recovery, the ending of this novel seems to disregard its stakes entirely, leaving the reader completely lost.

However, if you are one for open endings, this novel has many redeeming qualities that allow it to be a wonderful read.

Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy. Feiwel & Friends, February 2019.

Reviewer bio: Lailey Robbins is a creative writing student from Salem College, North Carolina. Currently, she is working on a short story and a novel, with hopes to be published in the future.