Aspiring Writers can Soar at Howling Bird Press

Annabella Castillo, staff writer

Logo obtained from Howling Bird Press

For aspiring undergraduate and graduate writers, there are few programs more promising than Howling Bird Press, a publishing house run through Augsburg’s MFA program in Creative Writing. With its emphasis on experiential learning and its opportunities to involve student writers at all stages of the publishing process, it is indispensable for any Auggie student hoping to cement their place in the writing industry.

Founded in 2014, its staff is composed largely of graduate students enrolled in Publishing I and II, taught by James Cihlar. He is also the leader of Howling Bird Press and understands this experience is more than just a class. 

“In addition to being experiential education, Howling Bird Press is an introduction to the field of publishing and the variety of ways it can lead to or fit into a career.”

The way it achieves this is unique. The staff of graduate students gain hands-on experience through an annual contest hosted by the publishing house. This contest is open to writers all over the nation, and they receive hundreds of submissions in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry every year. The students read submissions and assist the creative writing faculty in choosing a winner for that year. With guidance from Cihlar, students learn how to also turn that manuscript from a draft into a published product that can be found in stores across the nation, as well as working with the authors in areas such as editing and proofreading.

Although Howling Bird Press is mainly staffed by graduate students, there are opportunities aplenty there for undergraduate students, who can intern there through the Strommen Center as a way to fulfill their Augsburg Experience requirements. For aspiring undergraduate writers, Cihlar advises taking creative writing classes, and stresses the value of publishing and editing classes as well. 

“Reading contemporary creative writing is essential to crafting your own original, fresh, and exciting work – and being an editor is one way to stay current and do a lot of reading.” 

Cihlar hopes that all budding student writers, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, will take advantage of Augsburg’s unique opportunities. “At Augsburg University, we have the advantage of living in a metro area that is regularly ranked near or at the top of lists for most literate, artistic, and livable cities in the U.S.,” said Cihlar. “Not coincidentally, we have one of the largest concentrations of literary presses in the country outside of the East Coast. It makes sense that Howling Bird Press finds its home in a university that stresses service and engagement. Writing, editing, and publishing are important contributors to culture and community, and we are proud to be a training ground for students as they prepare to make a difference in the world.”

The 2021 winner of their contest, Jean Prokott, just had their poetry book, “The Second Longest Day of the Year,” published in November. The Howling Bird Press is already hard at work on the fiction manuscript of the 2022 winner, Carrie Grinstead, entitled “I have Her Memories Now.” The expected release is for this fall, and this will be Howling Bird Press’s eighth published book.

Students who want to learn more about Howling Bird Press through their social media accounts on Twitter @howlingbirdprs, Instagram @howlingbirdpress and on Facebook. They can also be found on their website.