A paper nautilus is a very small octopus, also known as an Argonaut. The females create thin cases that they live inside of, which strongly resemble chambered nautilus shells. While these shells are a source of shelter, they’re very delicate and can easily be destroyed. Proportionally, however, they are “perfect,” as these spirals are mathematically very close to the golden ratio. For being perfect, a number of species of Paper Nautilus are unfortunately extinct.
We loved this dichotomy: protection and fragility, perfect design and rare survival, mathematical formulas and creative expression. Paper Nautilus wants your gorgeous, strange, vulnerable, elegant words. We think of every poem and story as a temporary shelter for our readers to seek refuge in, knowing this protection only lasts as long as the number of pages in an issue.
Paper Nautilus was founded in February of 2011. We are an independent literary magazine, with one print issue annually. We have no specific theme or aesthetic; we are open to poetry and short fiction of all styles, and simply want work that speaks to us. Hybrid and cross-genre work is welcome as well, and we have a special category for what we call “aphorisms” – think haiku, long-winded six-(or twelve-, or twenty-)word memoirs, “twitterature” – tiny works of 160 characters or less.
We read submissions blind, but are committed to having diversity represented among our contributors – the experiences and perspectives of all writers are respected and valued here, regardless if they resemble our own. We also have a special fondness for the emerging writer.
We are a small operation, with no more than three editors for each genre. Any copies you order will more than likely come in a plain, white envelope, with your name and address handwritten by Founding Editor Lisa Mangini, who houses all our inventory on a bookshelf in her bedroom. We are sort of quaint; if we were a cottage, this would be part of our coziness and charm. It is not because we are not serious about your work (or our work, in showcasing yours), it’s that often the simplest way of getting a task done is the way that keeps things moving along smoothly.
Paper Nautilus operates as a small press as well. We publish chapbooks each year through contests: the Vella Chapbook Prize, and the Debut Series Chapbook Prize (beginning 2015). The Vella Chapbooks are perfect bound with glossy covers, while our Debut Series Chapbooks – open only to writers with no previous chapbooks or full-length publications – more closely resemble the “traditional” chapbook, and are carefully hand-stitched with a cardstock cover.
We keep our contest fees as low as possible, and we reinvest every dollar back into our operations: more entries submitted means more chapbooks can be funded. Winners are awarded with generous copies (100 for Vella Chapbook winners; 50 for Debut Series winners); this offers the author the freedom to decide if s/he wishes to be a salesperson or a marketer in addition to being a writer, or allows the author to refrain from treating their art like a business and may simply give the copies away, if s/he so chooses.
No pre-sale purchases, no sales goals; we respect and understand why other presses do this, but we simply opted for another business model that’s friendlier to writers who may not be as interested in self-promotion or the pressure of selling their work as a product. We are as transparent as possible in all aspects of our production, and value being entrusted with your work.