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Announcing the Winner of the Chris Toll Prize

tollToday is Chris Toll’s birthday, so it is especially nice to announce the winner of the third annual Chris Toll Prize.

This year the prize committee read about 70 anonymous manuscripts, many of which were wonderfully suited to a prize honoring our dear, beautiful, tattooed friend.

After much deliberation, we are pleased to announce the selection of Hygiene in Reading, a taut collection of prose poems by Patrick Williams. The winning chapbook should be available for order this month.

Here’s a sample poem from the chapbook:


About Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams is a poet and academic librarian living in Central New York. Recent work appears in publications including Prelude, BORT Quarterly, NO INFINITE, and Heavy Feather Review. He is the editor of Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. Find him at and on Twitter @activitystory.

About The Chris Toll Prize

Chris Toll was a beloved and respected member of the Baltimore literary community for 40 years. During that time, he wrote and published many poems, including the volumes The Pilgrim’s Process (Shattered Wig), The Disinformation Phase (Publishing Genius), and Life On Earth (Fell Swoop). He was also mentor, teacher, and friend to many poets and writers of that community, known for his gentle encouragement, sharp poetic eye, and fearless honesty.

The Chris Toll Memorial Writing Prize is for an unpublished chapbook. It honors one poet each year whose work indicates the belief that poetry is the best of all callings, who carries poetry through life like a grim, hard, and happy duty, who knows, as Chris did, the finest expanse we might measure is for the love behind the word. The Prize thus honors the memory of Chris Toll and the bright, brittle artifacts—the poems—he left behind.

Previous Winners

2014: Barrett Warner, My Friend Ken Harvey

2013: Kyle Flak, What Hank Said on the Bus

More about The Chris Toll Prize

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Review of VRtH by Jen Hinst-White at The Common

Short stories! Available now!
Short stories! Available now!

The Common is a beautiful print and online journal from Amherst, Mass. Their superslick website featured a great review of Madeline ffitch’s short story collection Valparaiso Round the Horn (March 2015). Its scope is deep and wide, exploring the Madeline’s prose style and how the stories work and what they mean, and it’s the sort of review that added to my own appreciation of the book. Jen Hinst-White concludes the review:

Whether your home base is rural, like ffitch’s, or you dwell in the city or in the suburbs, as I do, finding a potent book like this frees up the imagination—resets the moral compass—not through moralizing, but by jarring us. I read this book aloud, story by story, to my husband on our commute, and each time, it jolted me out of routine. It made me feel alive.

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Leela Corman’s Praise for “The Well-Dressed Bear”

Corman, from her website

Jarod Roselló sent The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found to Leela Corman, author of the graphic novel Unterzakhn as well as an illustrator, radio host, and dancer. She responded with this blurb:

“A line-drawn tragedy of dual identity, code-switching, and hiding in plain sight. Rosello’s story made my heart break a little bit.”

The three elements that she pulls from the book really resonate. “Dual identity” and “hiding in plain sight” were clear to me the first time I read it, but I never would have thought of the term code-switching, which is something that happens when a speaker uses two languages in one context. Now I’m thinking about all the ways that applies to the Well-Dressed Bear, who is constantly so displaced.

wdb-front-picI think a fundamental question about the book is whether questions of the bear’s identity come from the outside—the woman who calls him on the phone and insists that he is someone named Jonathan, the neighbors who follow him around and want him gone—or from within himself. Probably both things are there.

Anyway, I ramble. You can find out more about Leela Corman at her website.

In other WDB-related news, we’ve got two events planned for the book: a release party in Tampa on October 2, and then on October 15 Jarod will be here in Atlanta to have a joint launch party with Matt Bell and his new novel, Scrapper.

And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to read this interview with Jarod that we just posted.

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Writing makes me feel powerful, drawing makes me feel free: A Comics Interview with Jarod Roselló



The latest from Publishing Genius is Jarod Roselló’s The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found, our second full-length comic book (after Activities by John Dermot Woods) and the second book title to feature parentheses (after The Best of (What’s Left of) Heaven by Mairéad Byrne).

Released last week, The Well-Dressed Bear is a book about a young bear who, in spite of his constantly mis-dialed phone, faces alienation and anxiety in a city that is increasingly becoming destroyed, and he’s increasingly threatened by his neighbors. You can read early reviews of the book at Enclave and The Small Press Book Review where the reviewer, Melissa Reddish, meaningfully finds parallels between Roselló’s comic and police mobs, Trayvon Martin, and the kind of stereotyping that Claudia Rankine explores in Citizen.

Jarod Roselló is a Cuban-American cartoonist who lives in Florida, where he also teaches creative writing. And since we began this interview, his second child was born. In fact, his book and his baby were practically born on the same day. Jarod talks about the relationship between drawing and parenting, as well as drawing and writing, and lots more. But let’s start at the beginning. Continue reading Writing makes me feel powerful, drawing makes me feel free: A Comics Interview with Jarod Roselló

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Stephanie Barber Talks with Laura Van den Berg

Over at BOMB Magazine, Laura Van den Berg interviewed Stephanie Barber about her new book, All the People (Ink Press 2015), which is a collection of short, prosey portraits of dozens of fictitious-but-real humans. It’s a beautifully produced book—the cover is nicely printed onto cereal boxes and the binding is hand-sewn  In the interview, Laura prompts Stephanie to talk about the thinking behind her varied types of work like writing a haiku everyday on Facebook, or the time she installed her studio for a month inside the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Stephanie Barber talks about the what:

But also, as regards media, I feel very strongly that I am simply making pieces of art. I don’t think a painting is a poem, or a film is a song, but I do think they can be received and created and considered as simply emotional or philosophical offerings made somehow sensorially manifest. I like the Buddhist word ayatana, which includes the mind as a sense organ.

and also how that works in her new book, specifically:

I’m also interested in using a sort of generic vernacular, particularly when what I am writing about is potentially too precious or heavy. There’s a desire to balance the depth of the concept with a light—or degraded?—handling. Mostly I was thinking about how something is being said as “the portrait,” not what is being said.

Read that interview here. Also check out Stephanie’s brilliant photo essays at Art21—and right here you can buy her DVD of films or her sensational YouTube book, Night Moves.

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Free Comic Book!

Photo on 8-21-15 at 1.45 PM

Hot off the press!

I just got home from the post office, where I’d shipped off the contributor copies of The Well-Dressed Bear to Jarod. As I pulled in, the mail carrier was putting these mini comics on my porch. He could tell how excited I was, but he didn’t stick around to watch me open the box. He shoulda! Look how pretty this is. Jarod used his risograph printer on sketchbook paper.

These are going out FREE to all the people who preorder the book.

Don’t forget to use coupon code BEAR-Y CHEAP to get the nice price.

Photo on 8-21-15 at 1.46 PM

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Review of Well-Dressed Bear at The Small Press Book Review

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 5.00.22 PMAt the Small Press Book Review, Melissa Reddish has put together a thoughtful look at Jarod Roselló’s graphic novel, The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found. Her review centers on current events—responses to the shooting of Cecil the lion in contrast to the shooting of unarmed people of color (she goes on to reference Trayvon Martin and his hoodie, as some characters in Roselló’s book wear hoodies)—and how through that we seek connection. She points to the ringing telephone and how it’s always the wrong number. In summarizing WDB structure, she says:

There are two parallel narratives in The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found: the text, which tells the story of a persistent wrong number, and the artwork, which tells the story of the Well-Dressed Bear’s persecution.  Although seemingly separate, they occasionally merge within the artwork.  The wrong number that rings, again and again, evokes Murakami while the menacing streets filled with hooded figures and helicopters beaming searchlights evoke a kind of noir/sci-fi mystery.

Read the review and then don’t forget to order your copy of The Well-Dressed Bear using the coupon BEAR-Y CHEAP for 33% off.

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WORDS: music by David Smooke

The first couple pages of the story

Composer David Smooke has written a musical monodrama (Wikipedia’d it) based on a story from WORDS by Andy Devine by Michael Kimball. It will be performed in Baltimore on September 8, as a collaboration with Margaret Rorison. The piece will feature vocalists and woodwinds.

From the Facebook invitation:

The September 8 concert will feature the world premiere of Baltimore composer David Smooke’s “A Baby Bigger Grows Than Up Was,” an hour-long monodrama on a text by Baltimore writer Michael Kimball (from the book “Words” published under the name Andy Devine), with visuals by Baltimore filmmaker Margaret Rorison. In this alphabetized tale, the relative stress created by repeating individual words as many as 443 times allows us to perceive elements of an underlying narrative structure while the repetition of words forces us to perceive them as sonic events. Within this unusual organization, we find intimations of more traditional stories that might possibly provide expressive foundations for our listening experience. What at first appears to be an abstract series of words eventually reveals itself as a beautiful, emotionally charged story. The narrator gradually develops a sense of self, growing up with a doting mother and a nearly absent father.

I can’t imagine a better description of what the book does, or a better medium to capture this effect.

Years ago, when Words was released, “Andy Devine” went on tour to dozens of cities across the country by having other people perform as if they were Andy Devine himself. I got to see Smooke perform as Devine in Baltimore, and his presentation was skillful and musical … and funny. I’m excited to see the final project, years in the making, in concert.

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Wet, Hot Fun Camp Discussion Guide

Durham Front WebThe discussion guide we made for Fun Camp (links to ebook version, $5.95) a few years ago could work just as well as a discussion guide for the Netflix show/prequel Wet, Hot American Summer. Here’s a link to download the PDF, if you wanna. (Particularly good for teachers who are looking for texts to use in their humor writing classes.)

FUN CAMP discussion guide (PDF download)