The Community of Literary Magazines and Publishers came together on October 14 for its 2021 benefit, showcasing the organization’s expanded pandemic-era role for its 800 members and honoring author Alexander Chee and publisher Alice James Books for their sustained advocacy in support of a more diverse and vibrant literary culture.
“This past year CLMP’s small but mighty staff was able to double the number of technical assistance events we provide, produce much needed resources and increase the number of grants we give, all in an effort to build publishers’ organizational capacities,” said executive director Mary Gannon.
The organization also announced the creation of a new $10,000 Constellation Award which will be given annually to independent literary presses helmed by—or dedicated to supporting—BIPOC and AAPI publishing professionals and authors.
The evening featured remarks by numerous authors, including National Book Award-winning poet Ada Limón and writer Mira Jacob. Poet Adrian Matejka presented Maine-based Alice James Books with the Golden Colophon Award for independent publishing, and described the publishing cooperative as “among the most diverse, independent poetry publishers out there.”
“In the 13 years since Carey Salerno has been executive director, the range of voices, the multiplicity of identities and experiences being rendered in the Alice James collections is staggering,” Matejka said.
Accepting the award, Salerno said community, small and large, had helped create the press Matejka had described, from the publishing house’s staff, authors, and board to CLMP. “CLMP truly supports us all,” she said, “not only through programs like professional development workshops, the indie lit, fair vendor discounts, mentorship and consulting grants and opportunities, but by bringing us together in sustained support for one another, which is so essential, especially right now.”
Author Chee accepted the Energizer Award for Exceptional Acts of Literary Citizenship, and said that receiving the award had prompted him to reflect on his life in writing, among fellow writers. “I think of this as my life and so it doesn’t seem like anything I should get an award for,” Chee said. “It’s probably because the people I met along the way taught me that this was how our lives were [and] what a life as a writer would be. Not a lonely existence, where you simply toil away in your room by yourself.”
Chee has become widely known among writers, not only for his own works but for his support for others’. In 1990, he co-organized the nation’s first LGBTQ writers conference, OutWrite, and he has advocated for writers through organizations like Lambda Literary and the Asian American Writers Workshop as well as in anthologies and public events.
At the close of the evening, CLMP had raised more than $14,000 and an anonymous donor promised to match that amount. Chee urged the literary community to continue to support the organization, praising their expanded outreach during a time when small publishers and literary magazines have been particularly hard-hit. “Please help us keep our literary culture alive for the generations to come,” he said, “and those of us who are here now, thank you very much.”