Alumna Casey Plett ‘12 Wins 2019 Firecracker Award, Alumni and Faculty Among Finalists

BY Zoe Contros Kearl, June 8, 2019

The 2019 Firecracker Award for fiction was awarded last week to alumna Casey Plett ‘12 for her novel Little Fish, published by Arsenal Pulp Press.


Little Fish tells the story of Wendy Reimer, a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives—from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide—Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather's life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth.


The Firecracker Awards are given by the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses for the best self and independently published books of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry and the best literary magazines in the categories of debut and general excellence. The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses ensures a vibrant, diverse literary landscape by helping small literary publishers work better. CLMP communicates the art of literary publishing to readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, educators, funders and other literary stakeholders and works to bring all of these communities together. The winners of this year's Firecracker Awards were announced at CLMP's annual awards ceremony, held this year on June 5, 2019 at Poets House in New York and hosted by Professor Dorothea Lasky.


Columbia alumni and faculty finalists for the 2019 Firecracker Award included All Roads Lead to Blood by Bonnie Chau ’15, published by Santa Fe Writers Project, and Little Fish by Casey Plett '12 in fiction. In creative nonfiction, finalists included A Handbook of Disappointed Fate by Anne Boyer, published by Ugly Duckling Presse, a press founded and edited by Professor Matvei Yankelevich, False Calm: A Journey Through the Ghost Towns of Patagonia by María Sonia Cristoff, translated by Katherine Silver, published by Transit Books, run by Adam Z. Levy ’12 and Ashley Nelson Levy ‘12, and Letters from Max: A Book of Friendship by Sarah Ruhl and Max Ritvo ’16, published by Milkweed Editions. In poetry, Professor Dorothea Lasky was named as a finalist for her book Milk, published by Wave Books.


Plett's novel Little Fish (Arsenal Pulp Press) is also the winner of the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. She's also the author of the Lambda Literary Award­­–winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love (Topside Press, 2014) and the co-editor of the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers (Topside Press, 2017). She lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.


Chau is from Southern California, where she ran writing programs at the nonprofit 826LA. She received her MFA in fiction and translation from Columbia University. A Kundiman fellow, she works at an independent bookstore in Brooklyn and is associate web editor at Poets & Writers. She is the author of the short story collection All Roads Lead to Blood, published by SFWP/2040 Books.


Yankelevich began publishing the Ugly Duckling zine in 1993, which transformed, in the late 1990s, into Ugly Duckling Presse. At UDP, Yankelevich curates the Eastern European Poets Series and edits and designs various books. He also co-edited the Emergency Gazette (1998-2002) and 6×6 magazine from 2000-2017. He served as UDP’s Co-Executive Director with Anna Moschovakis for ten years, and is now a member of the Working Collective as Managing Editor and Production Manager. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Yankelevich teaches for the Columbia University’s School of the Arts and is a member of the Writing faculty at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.


Levy and Levy are both publishers at Transit Books. Transit Books is a nonprofit publisher of international and American literature, based in Oakland, California. Founded in 2015, Transit Books is committed to the discovery and promotion of enduring works that carry readers across borders and communities.


Ritvo is the author of two poetry collections, The Last Voicemails and Four Reincarnations, both through Milkweed Editions. He was awarded a 2014 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for his chapbook, AEONS. His poetry has also appeared in the New Yorker, POETRY, and as a Poem-a-Day for He was a poetry editor at Parnassus: Poetry in Review and a teaching fellow at Columbia University


Lasky is the author of five books of poetry, Milk (Wave Books), as well as ROME (W.W. Norton/Liveright) and Thunderbird, Black Life, AWE, all out from Wave Books. She is also the author of several chapbooks, including Snakes (Tungsten Press) and Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and Boston Review, among other places.  She is the co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney's) and is a Bagley Wright Lecturer on Poetry. She holds a doctorate in creativity and education from the University of Pennsylvania and has been educated at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Washington University.


Congratulations to all!