CLMP’s Ninth Annual ‘Firecracker Awards’: Five Categories in 2023

In News by Porter Anderson

The 2023 ‘Firecracker Awards’ announced this month by CLMP include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literary magazines.

Fourth of July fireworks on the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 2022. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Weaver

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Three Books, Two Magazines
As we continue to double back and pick up more international book and publishing industry awards news—metering our contest coverage from world markets to one story per day—today’s focus (June 30) is timed to the upcoming United States independence day holiday, the Fourth of July.

Firecrackers and other fireworks being a mainstay of celebrations on the Fourth, we look today at the 2023 Firecracker Award winners announced on June 22 by the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses (CLMP), a nonprofit organization supporting the work of small literary publishers.

This year, a winning book is awarded US$2,000, half of that going to the author or translator and half to the press. Each winner in a literary magazine category is awarded $1,000. During the presentation of the 2023 honors, Christine Holbert, the founding publisher of Lost Horse Press, was given this year’s Lord Nose Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in literary publishing.

As Publishing Perspectives’ world industry readership knows, the US-based CLMP’s more-than 900 member-presses work in many formats: print and digital books, magazines, online publications, chapbooks, and zines.

One of CLMP’s main efforts is to “increase the organizational capacity” of such publishers. In its mission statement, the organization (founded in 1967) says, “CLMP provides direct technical assistance to independent literary publishers and produces programs designed to bring the many communities our work touches together, including readers, writers, literary translators, booksellers, educators, and librarians.”

CLMP’s ‘Firecracker Award’ Winners

From left, ‘Firecracker Award’-winning authors Zain Khalid, Douglas Kearney, and Solmaz Sharif

This year’s Firecracker Awards are the ninth annual iteration of the program and have been issued in the categories of:

  • Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction,
  • Poetry
  • Magazine/Best Debut
  • Magazine/General Excellence


Jury comment: “The sentences in Brother Alive present like small, astonishing jewels, and the brilliance of this novel only accrues from there.

“Brother Alive’s extraordinary writing develops into a propulsive narrative that is a genuine pleasure to follow—one that both surprises and delights.

“This novel is surreal, complex, puzzling, mind-expanding, imaginative, original, and presciently relevant to our times.”

Creative Nonfiction

Jury comment: “Here are a few words that come to mind when reading Douglas Kearney’s Optic Subwoof: sonic, polyphonic, urgent in delivery and in truth.

“Beginning with the book’s first sentence— ‘Hush.’— readers are invited into a work of creative nonfiction where language is at its best and most playful and yet most serious.

“Optic Subwoof shows us how vital and limitless human creativity is.”


  • Customs by Solmaz Sharif, published by Graywolf Press

Jury comment: “In Customs, Solmaz Sharif pushes into a bold examination of the exhausting uncertainties and irreconcilable conditions of life in exile in the United States.

“Throughout, the poems in Customs feel fearless even in their fear.

“When the speaker sees, the poems skillfully call the reader to see with great caution and grief the external and internal powers over belonging as family members, citizens, and poets.

“This collection is thrilling to read—scathing, insightful, and original.”

Magazine / Best Debut

  • 128 Lit

Jury comment: “This magazine is bursting with boldness and energy.

“128 Lit’s mission of disrupting Eurocentric narratives and aesthetics is both admirable and well-executed within the journal’s contents.

“The journal’s contributors are diverse and talented, and the work includes translations and audio recordings in addition to the standard poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

“The weaving of literature and art and the thoughtful layout—along with a clean and clearly organized site—is splendid.

“Although 128 Lit is new, its intention (and magic) can be felt throughout the pages of the publication.”

Magazine / General Excellence

  • Ecotone

Jury comment: “Ecotone is a wonderful journal, whose consistent excellence is all the more impressive for its continued thematic focus.

“As befits a magazine with a focus on place, the visuals and layout of the print journal are compelling and enhance the written work while standing on their own.

“There aren’t many publishers taking on the challenge of amplifying incredible environmental and political pieces, and the editors’ attention to diversity among the contributors is clear.

“Ecotone is carving out their own lane with ease.”

Jurors for the 2023 CLMP Firecracker Awards


Creative Nonfiction



More from Publishing Perspectives on children’s books is here, more on publishing and book awards is here, more from us on Vietnam’s market is here, and more on the publishing industry in Asia is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.