Firecracker Awards


Celebrating the Best of Independently Published Literature

Firecracker Awards Seal

The CLMP Firecracker Awards for Independently Published Literature are given annually to celebrate books and magazines that make a significant contribution to our literary culture and the publishers that strive to introduce important voices to readers far and wide. Prizes are awarded in the categories of Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Magazine/General Excellence, and Magazine/Best Debut. Each year, CLMP also awards the Lord Nose Award, given to a publisher or editor in recognition of a lifetime of work in literary publishing.

A national publicity campaign spotlights and promotes our winning titles each year. In partnership with the American Booksellers Association, promotional materials—including a press release and shelf talkers featuring the winning titles—are distributed to over 750 independent booksellers across the country. Booksellers can also download printable shelf talkers here. Winners are also promoted in CLMP’s newsletters, on our website, and through a dedicated social media campaign. The publishers of winning titles receive a free one-year membership to CLMP, and magazine winners receive a one-year CLMP Member subscription to Submittable. To read press coverage about this year’s Firecracker Award winners, visit our Press Center.

The submission period for the 2022 Firecracker Awards will open on September 30, 2021.

2021 Firecracker Award Winners

FICTION: Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton, published by Soft Skull Press

From the Judges
“Aoko Matsuda’s short story collection, Where the Wild Ladies Are, takes impressive risks and showcases a range of narrative engagement. Its tone can shift from poignant to hilarious to meditative, often within the same story. There’s a masterful sense of breath as the author subsumes and transforms Japanese folktales in unexpected ways.”

Aoko Matsuda is a writer and translator. In 2013, her debut book, Stackable, was nominated for the Yukio Mishima Prize and the Noma Literary New Face Prize. Her novella The Girl Who Is Getting Married was published by the UK-based Strangers Press in 2016. In 2019, her short story “The Woman Dies” was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award. She has translated work by Karen Russell, Amelia Gray, and Carmen Maria Machado into Japanese.

Translator Polly Barton​ is a translator of Japanese literature and nonfiction, including the full-length translations Friendship for Grown-ups by Naocola Yamazaki (Strangers Press), Mikumari by Misumi Kubo (Strangers Press), and Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki (Pushkin Press). She has also translated short stories for Words Without Borders, The White Review, and GRANTA. She is the recipient of the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize.

Soft Skull Press was founded in 1992 in New York City and has published works by Eileen Myles, Maggie Nelson, Noam Chomsky, Lydia Millet, Alain Mabanckou, and many more. The press’s books have been awarded numerous Lambda Literary Awards, as well as the Quill Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction, and have been finalists for the Believer Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Read a full citation from the judges.

 

MAGAZINES/BEST DEBUT: Lucky Jefferson

From the Judges:
“This is a magazine interested in the momentum and power of diverse voices—and in creating a beautiful space in which those voices can flourish. A great read and a truly excellent teaching tool, the magazine uses discussion questions and writing prompts alongside the creative work to make space for conversation in a new way.”

Lucky Jefferson is a print and online literary journal that generates constructive and interactive conversations around poetry, art, and publishing and redefines the way journals are produced and shared. Founded in 2018, the journal aims to diversify literature by publishing poetry, flash fiction, essays, and art that highlight the voices of writers and artists identifying as Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Read a full citation from the judges.

 

POETRY: The Malevolent Volume by Justin Phillip Reed, published by Coffee House Press

From the Judges:
“A dextrous and epic music, this book faces down our combative and trespassed American moment. Almost every line is meant to be repeated slowly and held aloft for its heart-stopping craftsmanship.”

Justin Phillip Reed is the author of Indecency (Coffee House Press), winner of the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry and Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. He earned his BA in creative writing at Tusculum College and his MFA in poetry at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the 2019-2021 Fellow in Creative Writing at the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics and has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Conversation Literary Festival, and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis.

Coffee House Press, founded in 1972, is an internationally renowned nonprofit publisher of literary fiction, essays, poetry, and other work that doesn’t fit neatly into genre categories. The Minneapolis-based press creates new spaces for audiences and artists to interact, inspiring readers and enriching communities by expanding the definition of what literature is, what it can do, and who it belongs to.

Read a full citation from the judges.

 

MAGAZINES/GENERAL EXCELLENCE: Mizna

From the Judges:
“This beautiful and surprising magazine combines a strong international reach with a sense of rooted regionalism, working to create a nexus of vibrant and robust artistic intersection. Singing, emotionally compelling, intentional, and wrought, this is a magazine that is deeply alive, and we are made more alive by reading it.”

Mizna is a critical platform for contemporary literature, art, film, and cultural programming centering the work of Arab and Southwest Asian and North African artists. Since the organization’s founding in 1999, Mizna has published 38 issues of Mizna: Prose, Poetry, and Art Exploring Arab America, presenting more than 350 authors and 32 visual artists authentically with the understanding that in a culture that often vilifies our communities and their various intersections, it is essential that artists have a space to speak for ourselves.

Read a full citation from the judges.

 

CREATIVE NONFICTION: The Names of All the Flowers by Melissa Valentine, published by Feminist Press

From the Judges:
“In this stunning debut, Melissa Valentine traces an unforgettable narrative of growing up the daughter of a white Quaker man and his Black Southern wife. This is a memoir filled with grief and tenderness as it keenly navigates its way around her compelling devotion to her older brother, powerfully piecing together how tragedy could befall this community in the first place.”

Melissa Valentine​ is a writer from Oakland, California. She received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She has been a fellow at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Her work has appeared in Jezebel, Guernica, Apogee Journal, and elsewhere and has received honorable mentions from Glimmer Train and the Ardella Mills Nonfiction Award.

Feminist Press publishes books that ignite movements and social transformation, seeking to champion intersectional and nuanced works that spark much-needed dialogue and move the feminist conversation forward. Founded in 1970 and based in New York City, it lifts up insurgent and marginalized voices from around the world to build a more just future.

Read a full citation from the judges.

2021 Lord Nose Award

RECIPIENT: Charles Alexander & CHAX Press


Founded in 1984 by Charles Alexander, CHAX Press strives to create unique book arts editions to explore the relationship between book forms and contemporary poetry and to make challenging and innovative contemporary writing available to the public. In addition to publishing nearly 250 books, CHAX Press has also sponsored readings, multi-art events, symposia and small conferences, educational projects, podcasts, and more, in an attempt to increase the impact of poetry in our lives.

Charles Alexander is the author of six books of poetry, most recently AT the Edge OF the Sea: Pushing Water II (Singing Horse Press) and Pushing Water (Cuneiform Press), as well as numerous chapbooks, including Some Sentences Look for Some Periods (Red Leaves Textile Series). Pushing Water III is forthcoming from Cuneiform Press. Alexander has taught literature and writing at multiple universities, including Naropa University, University of Arizona, and the University of Houston-Victoria, where he directed the MFA Creative Writing Program and managed the UHV Center for the Arts from 2014 through 2018. He lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his partner, the painter Cynthia Miller.

Read more about Charles Alexander & CHAX Press, and the Lord Nose Award.

Read the Lord Nose Award citation and Charles Alexander’s acceptance speech.


2021 Firecracker Award Finalists:

Fiction
David Tung Can’t Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College by Ed Lin, published by Kaya Press
Fiebre Tropical by Juli Delgado Lopera, published by Feminist Press
Further News of Defeat by Michael X. Wang, published by Autumn House Press
Hezada! I Miss You by Erin Pringle, published by Awst Press
Silence Is My Mother Tongue by Sulaiman Addonia, published by Graywolf Press
Silverfish by Rone Shavers, published by CLASH Books
Telephone by Percival Everett, published by Graywolf Press
Temporary by Hilary Leichter, published by Coffee House Press
When the Whales Leave by Yuri Rytkheu, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse, published by Milkweed Editions
Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton, published by Soft Skull Press

 

Magazines: Best Debut
Gasher Journal
Lucky Jefferson
Midst
Subnivean

 

Poetry
america, MINE by Sasha Banks, published by co•im•press
DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi, published by Wave Books
Fugitive Atlas by Khaled Mattawa, published by Graywolf Press
Homie by Danez Smith, published by Graywolf Press
The Malevolent Volume by Justin Phillip Reed, published by Coffee House Press
OBIT by Victoria Chang, published by Copper Canyon Press
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz, published by Graywolf Press
Salt Body Shimmer by Aricka Foreman, published by YesYes Books
Wound from the Mouth of a Wound by torrin a. greathouse, published by Milkweed Editions
Year of the Dog by Deborah Paredez, published by BOA Editions

 

Magazines: General Excellence
American Short Fiction
The Kenyon Review
Mizna: Prose, Poetry, and Art Exploring Arab America
New England Review
Oxford American
Raleigh Review
The Seventh Wave
World Literature Today

 

Creative Nonfiction
Bright Archive by Sarah Minor, published by Rescue Press
The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore, published by Graywolf Press
Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker, published by Feminist Press
Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine, published by Graywolf Press
Lecture by Mary Cappello, published by Transit Books
The Names of All the Flowers by Melissa Valentine, published by Feminist Press
Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener, translated by Jessica Powell, published by Restless Books
Pass With Care by Cooper Lee Bombardier, published by Dottir Press
Stranger Faces by Namwali Serpell, published by Transit Books
This Is One Way to Dance by Sejal Shah, published by University of Georgia Press

2021 Firecracker Award Judges

Fiction

Natanya Ann Pulley, author of With Teeth, published by New Rivers Press

Irene Yoon, Director of the LARB Publishing Workshop at the Los Angeles Review of Books

Robert Yune, author of Impossible Children, published by Sarabande Books

 

Creative Nonfiction

E. J. Koh, author of The Magical Language of Others, published by Tin House Books

Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World, published by Graywolf Press

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, published by Milkweed Editions

 

Poetry

Sarah Gambito, author of Loves You, published by Persea Books

Raquel Salas Rivera, author of while they sleep (under the bed is another country), published by Birds, LLC

Malcolm Tariq, author of Heed the Hollow, published by Graywolf Press

 

Magazine

Charles Flowers, Editor, BLOOM Literary Journal

Keetje Kuipers, Editor, Poetry Northwest

Marcus Wicker, Poetry Editor, Southern Indiana Review

About the Lord Nose Award

The annual ​Lord Nose Award​ is given to a publisher or editor in recognition of a lifetime of work in literary publishing to honor and celebrate the memory of Jonathan Williams, founder and publisher of the now legendary literary press, The Jargon Society, as well as an accomplished poet, photographer, raconteur, and cultural observer with a mordant wit and a clear eye for artistic excellence wherever it might be found. Over a period of more than fifty years, beginning in 1951, Jargon published 85 books and 30 broadsides and booklets, all focused on his unique vision of poetry, prose, and photography that truly mattered—that needed to be discovered, nurtured, and brought into the world. His commitment to making books as compellingly beautiful objects never wavered. Jargon stands as one of the most important literary presses of the twentieth century. It is an exemplar of Jonathan’s lifelong dedication to words and art, of discovery and joy, the social act of making public the work he believed in. The Lord Nose Award was established in 2017 by David Wilk, with support from Jeffery Beam, Stanley Finch, and Tom Meyer. There is no application process; honorees are chosen based on their work and accomplishments. The award is administered by CLMP.

About the Firecracker Awards

A national publicity campaign spotlights and promotes our winning titles each year. In partnership with the American Booksellers Association, promotional materials—including a press release and shelf talkers featuring the winning titles—are distributed to over 750 independent booksellers across the country. Booksellers can also download printable shelf talkers here. Winners are also promoted in CLMP’s newsletters, on our website, and through a dedicated social media campaign. The publishers of winning titles receive a free one-year membership to CLMP, and magazine winners receive a one-year CLMP Member subscription to Submittable.

Submissions to the 2022 Firecracker Awards will be accepted in the fall.

Finalists will be announced in spring 2022; the winners will be announced at the Firecracker Awards ceremony in June 2022.

Submission Guidelines

  • Books must be published by an independent publisher during the 2021 calendar year.
  • Anthologies and self-published titles are not eligible but works in translation and graphic novels are welcome.
  • Both print and digital magazines are eligible.
  • Magazines submitting in the General Excellence category must have published regularly for at least the past two years.
  • Magazines submitting in the Best Debut category must have launched during the 2019, 2020, or 2021 calendar year.
  • There is no limit to the number of entries publishers may submit.
  • The entry fee is $65 ($55 for CLMP Members) for the first book and $30 ($25 for CLMP Members) for each additional entry.

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The Firecracker Awards are sponsored by

Submittable