Exploring the art of prose


2020 Books by CRAFT Contributors

Looking for ideas on what to buy with all those bookstore gift certificates? Check out our roundup of 2020 book releases by CRAFT contributors! We’ve got a bonus list of January 2021 books, too. Please buy local or via Bookshop.org if you don’t have a specific gift certificate directing your decision.

Madeline Anthes, Now We Haunt This Home Together

“Missing girls. Bad men. Houses haunted by memories and loss and sometimes actual ghosts. In Now We Haunt This Home Together, Madeline Anthes writes what it is to be a woman in this world. How it feels to have pieces of you lost or taken. How comfort is found in the quietest moments. I know the women in these stories, can see myself in these beautiful broken girls. Reading Anthes is like coming home.” —Meghan Phillips

Published by Bone & Ink Press

CRAFT: Read Madeline’s “Inheritance” (flash fiction, selected for the Editors’ Choice Round in the 2019 CRAFT Flash Fiction Contest)

Clare Beams, The Illness Lesson

The Illness Lesson is a brilliant, suspenseful, beautifully executed psychological thriller. With power, subtlety, and keen intelligence, Clare Beams has somehow crafted a tale that feels like both classical ghost story and…modern (and very timely) scream of female outrage. I stayed up all night to finish reading it, and I can still feel its impact thrumming through my mind and body. A masterpiece.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

Published by Doubleday (US) and Transworld (UK)

CRAFT: Read Clare’s “The Renaissance Person Tournament” (short story, reprinted from We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories (Lookout Books))

Tara CampbellPolitical AF: A Rage Collection

“I won’t say that Campbell’s is the book you didn’t know you needed, because you do know it. You do need it. It’s the rage, the elastic, ecstatic poetry, the sheer humor and horror of this country wrapped up in a gorgeous and furious collection, and it’s truly the thing you need to read now.” Amber Sparks

Published by Unlikely Books

CRAFT: Read Tara’s “On the Universal Rights of Ducks and Girls” (short story, nominated in 2020 for The Pushcart Prize)

Maria Cichosz, Cam & Beau

“An emotional journey that crackles with electricity, wielding the seductive power of a gripping, page-turner thriller. This is a must-read: a wry, sincere and unforgettable voice with strong universal appeal. I couldn’t put it down.” Victoria Hetherington

Published by Now or Never Publishing

CRAFT: Read Maria’s “For Better or Worse: On the Failure of the Stand-Alone Excerpt” (craft essay)

Katharine Coldiron, Ceremonials

Ceremonials is a dreamy punch of a book, a haunting, poetic aria. These pages ache with the far reach of love, hum with the slow blossoming of self, crackle with the power of myth. Katharine Coldiron has created something very special here, as fierce and tender as girls, as ghosts.” Gayle Brandeis

Published by Kernpunkt Press

CRAFT: Read Katharine’s “Book Review: CREDO” (review) and “Five Craft Books Off the Beaten Path” (craft essay/book summary)

Megan Cummins, If the Body Allows It

“Megan Cummins writes with great tenderness about the world today, when nothing seems stable and everyone has to find meaning where they can…. There is great wisdom here, and solace, and brilliance, and surprising laughs. I loved this book so much.” Alice Elliott Dark

Published by University of Nebraska Press, winner of The Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction

CRAFT: Read Megan’s “The Beast” (short story, reprinted from Ninth Letter) and our founding editor Laura Spence-Ash’s “Hybrid Interview: Megan Cummins

Matthew Duffus, Dunbar’s Folly and Other Stories

“Matthew Duffus’s debut collection is a powerful hymn to families—chosen ones, second ones, makeshift ones, loving and fierce, troubled and turbulent. The stories in Dunbar’s Folly unfold like stretches of gentle country road, tracking the signposts of relationships with an unassumingly clear-eyed lucidity. Each story navigates its dips and turns so smoothly that its ultimate destination—a sharp, illuminating crossroads—feels revelatory, every time.” —Suzanne Rivecca

Published by Unsolicited Press

CRAFT: Read Matthew’s “Diane Williams and a Taxonomy of Flash Fiction Endings” (critical essay)

Dewaine Farria, Revolutions of All Colors

“There’s such ambition and such range in Farria’s superb Revolutions of All Colors, which traces the American relationship to war and policing and race and violence and masculinity across forty years within one fascinating family. With vibrant characters and masterful evocations of everything from the work of contractors in 2000s Somalia to that of Black Panthers in 1970s New Orleans, this is a compulsively readable novel and a wonderful meditation on the complexities of American identity.” —Phil Klay

Published by Syracuse University Press, winner of the 2019 Veterans Writing Award sponsored by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Syracuse University Press

CRAFT: Read Dewaine’s “The Knife Intifada” (short story, nominated in 2019 for The Pushcart Prize)

Megan Giddings, Lakewood

“Megan Giddings’s Lakewood is a gripping thriller of ideas in the tradition of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, depicting a terrifying world of public complicity and government-sponsored malpractice. Giddings asks: What happens when our want to be useful is weaponized against us, when the only way we see to help others is to invite harm upon ourselves? This is the rare debut that feels utterly of the now, unearthing our shared past even as it charges the reader to imagine and enact a better future, fast as they can.” —Matt Bell

Published by Amistad

CRAFT: Read Megan’s “Vacations” (flash fiction, nominated in 2018 for Best Small Fictions)

Meg Pokrass, The Loss Detector

“Meg Pokrass is the virtuoso of the weird, a specialist of the out-of-the-blue. Her stories take the unexpected route every time, so that with each line the reader is bumped out of her preconceptions. Sometimes even the end of a sentence cannot be counted on. Her narration is confiding but marvelously unsettling. The Loss Detector follows Nikki out of the familiar comfort of family, hurls her into its breakup, and then follows Nikki, her mother, and brother through a series of attempts to remake that family or substitute something else for its loss. Every step along the way is straightforward, poignant, sometimes tender, often funny. It’s everything you never knew a novella-in-flash could be.” —Mary Grimm

Published by Bamboo Dart Press

CRAFT: Read Meg’s “I Married This” (flash fiction, reprinted from The Center for Fiction, and included in The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down (Etruscan Press))

Melissa Ragsly, We Know This Will All Disappear

We Know This Will All Disappear burrows under your skin looking for answers to questions you didn’t know you’d asked. These stories are dirty, brilliant, painfully human, fast, and strangely sensual. They were pulled from somewhere between a drunken phone call and a half-forgotten childhood dream. Read them.” —Gabino Iglesias

Published by [PANK] Books

CRAFT: Read Melissa’s “Mannequin” (short story, nominated in 2018 for The Pushcart Prize) and our “Art of the Opening: Melissa Ragsly

Doug Ramspeck, Distant Fires

“In the intense and compelling collection, Distant Fires, Doug Ramspeck reveals how the heart persists in loving even those who are unlovable. For the narrator, his brother is a puzzle he cannot abandon but [will] never solve…. A section of letters from the brother where he describes his life spreading ‘out like some great and endless sea’ demonstrates the complexity and sensitivity that cause the narrator to love his brother in spite of actions that should padlock the heart.” —Vivian Shipley

Published by Grayson Books, winner of the 2019 Grayson Books Poetry Contest

CRAFT: Read Doug’s  “Doppelganger” and “Frost” (two flash fiction pieces from “City by the Sea”)

Peter Selgin, Duplicity

“Wicked, intimate, and hilarious, Duplicity is a compendium of good advice about writing and plain bad intentions. Its narrator, Stewart Detweiler, who appears to be a descendent of Poe’s William Wilson and a long-lost cousin of Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, is tricky, tricky tricky. ‘Dear Reader’ (as Stewart likes to say), prepare yourself for a wild ride.” —Jim Krusoe

Published by Serving House Books, semi-finalist for the 2020 Elixir Press Fiction Award, shortlisted for the 2020 Steel Toe Books Prose Award, finalist for the 2019 CRAFT First Chapters Contest

CRAFT: Read Peter’s “An Extremely Disorganized Life: Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human” (critical essay) and “Master of the Touching Detail: Emmanuel Bove, the Ultimate Writer’s Writer” (critical essay)

Laura van den Berg, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

“Van den Berg is one of our most ingenious bards of the unsayable. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears carries forward the DNA of her other books, but it’s her best yet. With this collection, she invents a grammar to reconstitute the unease that flows beneath the surfaces of ordinary, mundane America.” Anita Felicelli

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

CRAFT: Read Laura’s “Object Lessons: An Exploration” (craft essay) and our “Art of the Opening: Laura van den Berg


Bonus: January 2021 Releases

Mike Corrao, Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede

“Mike Corrao’s text sheds light on the structures of existence and the voluptuousness of conflict masterfully, beyond fragmentation, through the absorption of the real, between absence and presence, entwining the manifested and the hidden, causing mutations in the flesh and in the mind. It tells us that there are other possibilities of living. Among its pages, antagonistic essences reflect in each other; among its pages, another game of potentialities is revealed. Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede is a book in perpetual motion, forming and informing cognition in and beyond time. A book whose language births the body of the new reader.”—Christina Tudor-Sideri

Published by 11:11 Press | January 19, 2021

CRAFT: Read Mike’s “Interiors” (short story) and “Theatre Novel: Reading Joseph Scapellato’s The Made-Up Man” (critical essay)

Caitlin Horrocks, Life Among the Terranauts

“Caitlin Horrocks is one of America’s finest story writers. I marvel at the language in Life Among the Terranauts, which expands, varies, and never slips, and at the book’s gaze, exact and exacting, which seems able to inhabit every denizen of the world. The humanity contained in these stories stuns and lingers.” —Marie-Helene Bertino

Published by Little, Brown and Co. | January 12, 2021

CRAFT: Read Caitlin’s “Naming Makes Visible: Building a Craft Vocabulary” (craft essay)

Nuala O’Connor, Nora

“An exceptional novel by one of the most brilliant contemporary Irish writers, this is a story of love in all its many seasons, from ardent sexuality to companionable tenderness, through strength, challenge, and courage. Nuala O’Connor has brought to vivid life a woman about whom every literature lover has surely wondered and has done so with immense skill and daring.” —Joseph O’Connor

Published by Harper Perennial (US) | January 5, 2021 & New Island (Ireland) | April 21, 2021

CRAFT: Read Nuala’s “The Marys” (creative nonfiction)

Gwendolyn Paradice, More Enduring for Having Been Broken

“Within imitation Egyptian palaces, haunted cardboard houses, and souvenir shop rooftops, Paradice’s characters learn to live within broken worlds, broken families, and broken homes. Focusing on adolescence, More Enduring for Having Been Broken asks the question: What happens when, left to the mercy and whims of adults, children are forced to grow up too quickly? They become boys and girls who would rather live in the past than the present. If you have ever failed and been broken, if you have ever tried to peel off layers of yourself to feed the wolves, then this is the book for you. You too will realize how close enduring looks and sounds like endearing and not be able to leave Paradice’s characters on the page.” —Kara Dorris

Published by Black Lawrence Press, winner of The Hudson Prize | January 2021

CRAFT: Read Gwendolyn’s “Dialogue as Character (and Narrative) Complexity in Monica McFawn’s ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’” (critical essay)