Awst Press is proud to feature Susanna Childress, Dan Bevacqua, David Olimpio, and Lillian Kwok in the inaugural series, House Picks. In addition to being quality writers, each of these four have helped—sometimes unknowingly—mold the Press into what it is.
Three years ago, Susanna Childress read her poetry at a local event here in Austin, Texas. As a newcomer to Austin, I was looking for things to do. I cannot remember having attended a poetry reading before this one and thought afterwards that perhaps I should not attend another. It wasn’t a bad experience. To the contrary, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional response to her work. I felt thrust into an intimate place with a stranger and was not sure how to handle myself when the rest of the audience chatted her up after she read. I decided to buy both of her books and promptly went home to read them straight through. The pieces we picked from Susanna’s collection may be technically great—and I have every confidence in her abilities at creating technically sound literature given her education, experience, and awards—but we chose them based on the power of the story.
Last year, while reading submissions for The Austin Review, I had trouble finding stories that resonated with me. When I read a story from Dan Bevacqua, it was different—I immediately voted yes on it, only to find a few hours later that it was accepted elsewhere before anybody else in our group had time to read it. Dan sent us another story later, but it too swooshed off to another publication. I wondered, Who is this Dan Bevacqua who teases us with great pieces that we can’t seem to land? I had to Google him only to find that he has no social media presence and only a few publications easy to locate—such a mysterious guy.
This made me wonder about how publishing has evolved. Do we really want authors spending their time selling themselves and their products? It begins to feel that we are rewarding salespeople instead of writers. In truth, this is what put me on the path to creating something new—Awst Press. When I reached out to him about featuring him, he told me that he felt his writing had recently reached a higher plane—I agree and am thrilled to finally be able to publish him.
After my experience with Dan, I had a chance to visit with David Olimpio while he was visiting Austin. I came to understand how authors may have publications in different places that aren’t continually available to readers—maybe they end up behind a pay wall or somebody shuts down a journal or there’s no more copies in print. I realized I could help authors by offering a home for their work, even after they’d been published elsewhere.
During that visit, I also heard David talking about stories he'd been working on. I knew they would be amazing and am thankful we could feature them. These new stories have given me a better appreciation for what men experience on the way to adulthood.
Finally, the fourth person in this group is Lillian Kwok. She is the one author that I know the least about personally, but her work is becoming a regular presence in a variety of journals, and it became clear that she is poised for bigger projects. I’ve quickly come to appreciate her narrative poems. I was especially keen on having different types of work represented in this inaugural series, and Lillian’s pieces show how best to maximize the effects of a story with few words.
Thank you for spending time with us, getting to know these impressive authors.
-- Wendy M. Walker