HIBF Exhibitor Spotlight: OH NO Books

A short interview with OH NO Books, one of this year’s Houston Indie Book Festival exhibitors:

HIBF: Tell us about your first issue, how did it come about? How did you come across the image for your cover?

OHB: This is the cover of the first issue of OH NO. We released it at AWP this past February, and it truly could not have been hotter off that press, baby. Sarah’s parents picked up the books from our printer in Western Pennsylvania and drove them to DC, just in time for the first day of the book fair. We had a good time thinking up myriad ways to convey the proverbial hotness of the magazine, but we won’t list them here. (If you’re starved for wordplay, hit us up in Houston!)

Just six months earlier, in the summer of 2010, there wasn’t any sort of magazine to speak of, and it was an exciting time (still is) to construct the character of OH NO as we went—and the quality of the submissions surpassed our wildest dreams. Of course you daydream (and actual-dream) about what the magazine will look like, how it will feel in your hands—and there wasn’t even a logo or a cover image yet!

The image fell into our laps after we had decided on the first few contributors, around when Adam’s cousin returned from military service in Iraq with a whole hard drive of stunning photos he’d taken while he was there. We loved several of them, but we really just couldn’t turn away from this one. I mean, a man selling cotton candy in a street of blown-out cars? It’s the sort of thing that’s meant to be a photo and not a poem, which is great for the cover of a literary magazine.

As a photo, any blunt political statement one might perceive takes a back seat to some of its more elusive qualities, which we think are indicative of the magazine’s emerging character: whether the poems or stories inside this issue are funny or serious with a capital “S” (or both, like this image), we found that they’re often making those gestures in less obvious or anticipated ways, or they make the reader slightly disoriented. It’s a great preview to some sterling work.

HIBF: What type of writing are you looking for in terms of submissions (manuscript, journal submissions, etc.)?

ONB: The issue two submission period is still going strong, and we’re just thrilled with the response to the first issue and the way issue two is shaping up—lots of work that fulfills our call for poems that “steal our milk money and poems that French braid our hair,” sometimes all at once!

OH NO‘s eventual goal is to expand into publishing chapbooks of contemporary translations and full-length poetry collections, but for now, we’re focusing on nurturing this beautiful new biannual to toddler status. If you want to jump on the OH NO train, just send 3-7 poems as a single .doc attachment to ohnomagazine (at) gmail (dot) com; feel free to include a cover letter in the body of the e-mail or in the attachment. Currently we are only considering solicited fiction manuscripts; sorry, but hang in there!

The Houston Indie Book Festival (HIBF) is hosted by NANO Fiction and Gulf Coast through a collaboration with The Menil Community Arts Festival, and the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses at Menil Park. The 2011 festival will be on Saturday, April 2, 2011 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. The event is completely free and open to the public and remains the only one of its kind in the Houston and Austin areas.