Zone 3 Creative Nonfiction Book Award

Author: Amy Wright

What makes Zone 3 Press a unique part of the publishing community?

Two aspects of the Zone 3 Press place us in a unique publishing niche. The first is our interest in fostering handmade book artistry in conjunction with a digital presence and production print books. Our chapbook series beginning with Norman Dubieʼs The Fallen Bird of the Fields celebrates the tactile experience of opening a handsewn cover of pressed Tennessee field grass in an era that is marked by electronic accessibility. We are a press whose mission is grounded in the preservation of regional and cultural expression across diverse media.

The second defining characteristic is our aesthetic. Our poetry books represent a range of lyric talent. As the Nonfiction Editor, Iʼm drawn to the incredible capacity of each genre to explore and comprehend context. Our first nonfiction book, Nicole Walkerʼs Quench Your Thirst With Salt, selected by judge Lia Purpura, is a great example of the kind of prose we seek to promote—emotionally and socially engaged in contemporary discourse.

Please describe the contests of the Zone 3 Press. How long have you been running these contests? What motivated you to start the Zone 3 Creative Nonfiction Book Award?

Zone 3 Press has two biennial contests. We rotate yearly between the First Book Award for Poetry and the Creative Nonfiction Book Award. The press launched in 2006 under the direction of Blas Falconer and Barry Kitterman with the pilot book Oval, by David Till. The same year, they hosted the First Book Award for Poetry, which was awarded to Andrew Kozma and Leigh Anne Couch. Subsequent award winners have been Kate Gleason, John Pursley III, and Amanda Auchter.

When I joined the faculty, I suggested we expand the press to include a Creative Nonfiction Book Award because I am excited by the abundance of new work being written in the genre.

What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication or for becoming a finalist in the contest?

My vote is one among many, in that I procure the semi-finalist judges and the final judge. I think it is safe to say, though, that we are all on the lookout for work that contributes to the forward push of an evolving genre even as it reflects a certain indebtedness to tradition. An ideal manuscript compels and instructs its readership, establishing and perhaps changing the rules by which it is best read, which is why most editors who have more experience than I have simply say they know it when they see it.

Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?

I am personally drawn to prose that expands our idea of what a sentence can contain.

What is the most exciting part about running Zone 3 Creative Nonfiction Book Award? What has been been most challenging?

Not many moments as an editor could top my phone call to an award winner to tell her book has been selected for publication. That said, it is incredibly hard to let the runners up and finalists go, knowing there is a high caliber of work that also deserves to be read and enjoyed but that we will not be putting into circulation.

What is the next exciting thing happening with the Zone 3 Press?

Weʼre growing! I am energized by the prospects of our next contest will bring another manuscript to us that we can revel in promoting.