Digital Book Tour: New Books by Matt Mitchell, Sean Prentiss, Caitlin Scarano

Fam, times are weird—so many of us have to figure out new ways of doing old things. Book launches, an established feature of our wonderful community of writers, have been particularly hard hit, and we’d love to make room for authors to share their work with the world. Our limited Digital Book Tour series will serve that end! Today, we’re sharing excerpts and interviews from Matt Mitchell’s You’re My Favorite Garçon, Sean Prentiss’ Crosscut: Poems, and Caitlin Scarano’s The Hatchet and the Hammer.


An Excerpt from Matt Mitchell’s You’re My Favorite Garçon



ever since i erected a home
in your dirty mouth,
i stare at the sun without fear
of seeing black spots
in every corridor of my horizon.
mouth dirty like vending machines
at scandals, dirty like lebron
tomahawking on kevin garnett—
but the big ticket is the taste
of your skin pulpy
like a disco cocktail.
the continental drift
of our pangean bodies,
the soft edges of our limbs
fitting perfectly together,
i want you to eat the chronic ache
from my bones. suck the broken ghosts
from my brittle fingers.
i’m on my knees
& these cupped hands of
midnight neon runneth over.


On What the Reader Will Walk Away With

Matt Mitchell: Mostly, I want the reader to walk away with a new understanding for how popular culture can intersect with a personal narrative in poetry. That’s important, to me, because I think there is a whole world of delicacy and softness intersecting with masculinity and societal expectations that we aren’t writing enough about. A universe within a poem can be so expansive and contained at the same time.


On What the Writer Walked Away With

Matt Mitchell: YMFG liberated me. It’s a fantasy re-telling about a part of my life I had never examined before I wrote the chapbook. I wanted to make a book my friends, who hate poetry, would read. I don’t know how to write about my queerness in a way that doesn’t cross-examine how cultural things, like 1990s NBA, hip-hop, and Ohio, have been catalysts for that queerness.


On The Book’s Biography

Matthew Mitchell: It started in October 2019 when I bing-listened to every single song Tyler, the Creator ever uploaded to YouTube. Most of the tracks never made it onto an album, but they’re gorgeous. I started with the poem “GELATO,” and then moved on to “QUARTZ,” and so on. Every time I examined one of the songs, a poem came out it. I finished it right around Thanksgiving of the same year.


On The Book’s Family of Support

Matt Mitchell: This book would not have been possible without Tyler, the Creator. His music is the vehicle carrying this chapbook to the finish line. I also couldn’t have made this book without Kevin Bertolero, the editor-in-chief of Ghost City Press.


Matt Mitchell is a writer from Northeast Ohio. His words appear in, or are forthcoming to, venues like The Boiler, NPR, The Shallow Ends, Okay Donkey, Vagabond City, and The Indianapolis Review, among others…


Learn more about the work here.




An Excerpt from Sean Prentiss’ Crosscut: Poems

Logger Boots

Six days before I repair to the woods for a five-month
hitch, a salesman hefts over a pair of ten-inch-high
Westco boots with logger tongues & logger heels thick
as a burled fist of wood. Two hundred dollars, he says,
but these boots will be worth every dime on the trail.

I’ll earn that cash in three days of building duffy
trails one Pulaski swing at a time or running a hot
Stihl chainsaw till my biceps & triceps scream louder
than the two-stroke engine could dream of whining.

But my feet, no matter the miles, & there will be
hundreds, will never complain. I’ll take them, I say,
sliding city feet deep into new leather homes.


On What the Reader Will Walk Away With

Sean Prentiss: When readers are done with Crosscut, I hope that they feel as if they too are living in the woods. I want them to feel dirt and mud under their fingernails, calluses on the palms of their hands, what it’s like to sleep upon dirt and rock. I want them to smell the cedar burning upon a wood fire, oatmeal cooking at 4:30 a.m. or rice burning at 6 p.m. I want them to know what it feels like to have a tool in their hands, to feel as if they are less without that tool.

But beyond that woods life, I want them to know what it is like to create a community in the woods. To go from a group of diverse individuals to a single family. And I want them to understand what is given up when one family is created and how other elements can be lost. I want them to see that living in the woods is beautiful and glorious but comes at a cost. That cost is disappearing from friends and a lover and family for weeks and months at a time.

And then I just hope they enjoy the balance of poetry and memoir blended together, the feel of getting a poetic memoir. For the most part, poetry comes as a collection. I hope readers enjoy a memoir told through poems.

Those are some of the things that I hope readers walk away with. But I’m most excited to hear what the reader discovers on their own. Already I’ve had multiple readers talk to me about things that surprised me. So I’m excited to find out what they are drawn to, to see what they unravel, to see how they live within this book.


On What the Writer Walked Away With

Sean Prentiss: I learned so much writing Crosscut. First, I had to learn how to write a memoir-in-poems. Crosscut didn’t start out as a memoir. It started out as a collection of poems. But slowly it morphed into what it is today. My biggest guiding light for creating a memoir-in-poems was Jack Ridl’s Losing Season, which is a stunning novel-in-poems about a losing basketball team. Anytime I got stuck, I go to Losing Season to figure out how Jack dealt with that issue. Jack, both as a friend and as a writer, has taught me so much.

The other thing that I really learned was how to write what I call connective poems. After a draft of the book was done and a memoir was created, I realize that there were these little connectors that were missing, and I needed to create new poems to bridge the gap from spot to spot, and the way I did that was to write these connective poems. They were really tricky to write because they were often about lower-stakes events. So I had to figure out how to make a van ride important or had to write about laundry and showers in a way that might move the reader.

In terms of myself, oh, I’m far away from those days, so writing the book really transported me back. Those days in wilderness just taught me about who I am today. I am a professor because of those days building trails. I know how to teach in the ways because of teaching those with the Northwest youth corps. So much of my life was created in those woods.


On The Book’s Biography

Sean Prentiss: In 2011, I was at an artist residency at a remote cabin out West. My girlfriend, now wife, was with me, and each day she told me to write something new since my primary task at this residency was to work on Finding Abbey. She wanted me to not only revise but also to create, which was a great idea! But I had no idea what new things to write.

At the end of each day, Sarah and I would go on hikes and luckily enough for me, these trails were the very trails that I had worked on years before. So I will tell Sarah all the stories of my time working in the woods. I’d point out turnpikes or switchbacks we had constructed. I’d tell her stories of Shilo, Red, Strings, and all the others. And it was during these walks and during the stories that I realize I should be writing trail poems. So I did. At first, it was just one trail poem about Shilo and then two and then three poems. Soon I had 30 or 40 trail poems, and I realized I had a collection of trail poems.

Somewhere in that stage, it morphed into a memoir-in-poems, which required me to do much revision to create and connect the story arc. After that it was just revision, sharing it with readers. Joe Wilkins, a great friend and writer, offered some really useful ideas, especially about dealing with time and place and writing those connective poems. Another great reader was VCFA MFA candidate, Dayton Shafer. He really uncovered some key problems and offered great ideas for solving them. And, of course, I never submit anything without Sarah reading it over. She’s a physical therapist, and I think that she’s a better editor because she’s not a creative writer. She reads my projects as a reader would. She seems what a reader might not love.

Then I just sent Crosscut to the University of New Mexico Press. I’d never published a book of poems before, so I expected lots of rejections. I was so excited when they picked it up. I only sent it to one publisher, and I love the editing and design work that they always do.


On The Book’s Family of Support

Sean Prentiss: I couldn’t have created Crosscut without the crews that I worked with. There were so many youth corps members and leaders and woods bosses who taught me so much about living and working in the woods. And some of those people also taught me about writing as well. We’d sit around a campfire and write short vignettes and read them to each other. That was one of the first places I learned about creative writing. So I could not have made Crosscut without then.

I could not have made Crosscut without the wilds. I spent years in the Pacific Northwest and the Desert Southwest building trails, and those wild areas taught me so much about myself and about beauty and about art.

As I mentioned above, Jack Ridl and his book Losing Season taught me so much. Christine Byl has a wonderful book about trails, Dirt Work. And then all the readers who offered revisions, especially Joe, Dayton, and Sarah. Without them, the book would be much chunkier and not nearly as successful. And then, of course, the University of New Mexico Press and Elise McHugh, my editor for reading the book and liking it enough to publish it.


Sean Prentiss is the award-winning author of Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, a memoir about Edward Abbey and the search for home. Finding Abbey won the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography, the Utah Book Award for Nonfiction, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography. It was also a Vermont Book Award and Colorado Book Award finalistHe is also the author of Crosscut: Poems, which is poetic memoir about his time spent working as a trail builder in the Pacific Northwest. Prentiss is also co-editor of The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative NonfictionPrentiss is a creative writing textbook writer, including Environmental and Nature Writing: A Craft Guide and Anthology  and the series editor for the Bloomsbury Writers Guide and Anthologies Series. This textbook line focuses on creative writing.

Learn more about the work here.


An Excerpt from Caitlin Scarano’s The Hatchet and the Hammer


Excerpt from The Hatchet and the Hammer

I was a child, a constellation of scabs
opened and reopened.

My mother warned me: You will be made
of white scars
if you don’t stop
all this picking.

And I didn’t,
so I was.


Try telling your story without the body.

You will fail.


With my father, as well as X, this was my line of thinking:

You can convince him to love you,
you can make him well,
if you simply
find the right offering.


Image: My father’s father attacking his wife
with a hammer.
Image: My mother’s father standing on the front
porch with a shotgun, screaming
at my mother’s high school boyfriend, a black boy,
If you come back here, I’ll kill you.

Image: My father hitting my mother
in the head where she was pinned in a red
wingback chair.

Image: A man choking my little sister
on a mattress when she is six months pregnant
with his daughter.

Image: X standing in the snow in our yard
throwing a hatchet into the woods
after a week of visions
of killing me with it.

I could go on.


In the end, courage has mattered so much less than not spooking easily, which is all nerve is. [1]

Hammer, shotgun, fist, fingers, and hatchet.

Cataloguing in order to reclaim.


These harming thoughts are perceived as being ego-dystonic
            [or ego alien],
which simply means that the thoughts are inconsistent
with the individual’s values, beliefs
and sense of self. [2]

(not stable not stable he repeated
over the phone five years later, echo
of an avalanche in my life, all
that it buried, how I came out shell-shocked
yet half-hardened,


[1] Carl Phillips, “His Grace Asleep and Waking”

[2] OCD Center of Los Angeles


On What the Reader Will Walk Away With

Caitlin Scarano: Every trauma, whether it’s a violation, a sickness, an act of violence, or some other struggle, that I’ve experienced (in myself or in others who are close to me) stems from a web of interconnected traumas. Especially those traumas rooted in or done to the body. I don’t believe people are good or evil. But I believe we need to (work to) be accountable to ourselves, our histories, our bodies, and our impact on the selves, histories, and bodies of others.


On The Book’s Biography

Caitlin Scarano: Oddly, the work on this chapbook began in Washington state before I actually lived in Washington state. In early summer 2016, I was doing a writing residency at the North Cascades Institute in Washington. Experiencing writer’s block, I went back through all my unfinished poems and notes over the past year or so and started putting the best fragments and lines together in one document (if you’re stuck, I recommend trying this). I was surprised by the clear narrative and themes that revealed themselves—I was simultaneously grappling with my father’s death, my own recent sobriety, the end of my relationship with X after his diagnosis of Harm OCD, and violence in my family’s history. So much of my thinking revolved around the idea of sickness, the construction of sickness, the lived experience of sickness, the inescapability of sickness, etc. These issues became intertwined through the act of intertwining them in the manuscript.

The title references the hatchet that my previous partner (X) threw in the woods near our cabin after the Harm OCD caused him to have cyclical, anxiety-driven visions of killing me with it (please note, this was not a domestic abuse situation but an articulation of a mental health crisis). The hammer references an actual domestic abuse situation—in my twenties, I learned that my father’s father attacked his wife with a hammer decades before. She lived but I never met either of them. I didn’t know what to do or make of all this, especially this tangled legacy of violence. The manuscript was an outlet for parsing through all of these traumatic events. I finished the chapbook in a few months. I think I sent it to one or two chapbook contests and it received positive feedback but didn’t get published. I stopped sharing it. I didn’t include it in my PhD dissertation. I think I thought it was just for me, for my processing. While at that writing residency in the North Cascades, I met my current partner and moved from Wisconsin to Washington in July 2017. In summer 2019, after sharing other old work with a friend, I re-read The Hatchet and the Hammer and decided to send it out. Ricochet Editions picked it up last fall.


On The Book’s Family of Support

Caitlin Scarano: This chapbook could not have been made without all the writers and thinkers whose ideas and texts informed or complicated my understanding of mental health, addiction, sickness, violence, and pain (See “Works Quoted” in the chapbook). In particular, Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Scarry’s book served as a lens for how I came to think about the incommunicability of pain.

The very talented poet Freesia McKee gave me feedback on the chapbook years ago.

I also want to thank Megan Perra, who did the cover art. In January, 2019, Megan, whom I didn’t know at the time, sent me a message through my website to ask if I’d like to do an artistic collaboration with her in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I’d previously lived. We didn’t actually meet in person until the day before the art show! We’ve been collaborating ever since. We’re currently working on a project called “The Ten-Oh-Two,” an artistic collaboration that stories the ecology of the Porcupine Caribou Herd in ANWR’s 1002 area through visual art paired with poetry. In a show at Bear Gallery in Fairbanks in 2021, the collaboration will take audiences through a year in the life of the herd using knowledge from contemporary caribou research and ongoing monitoring efforts.

In addition, I’m so grateful Ricochet Editions published this book. They handled the manuscript with such care and attention. They helped me believe in my work again. Special thank you to Kate Partridge and Diana Arterian.


Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in Anacortes, Washington. She holds a PhD in English (creative writing) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She was selected as a 2018 participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program, and is currently working on a project from that experience. Her hybrid chapbook The Hatchet and the Hammer was recently released by Ricochet Editions. Her debut collection of poems is Do Not Bring Him Water. Her work has appeared in Granta, Entropy, Carve, and Colorado Review. You can find her at

Learn more about the work here.



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