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What happens when you don’t see your face on a book?

Willow Books

BY DANIEL CHERRIN.  “What happens when you don’t see your face on a book,” asks Heather Buchannon, owner of Aquarias Publishing in Detroit.   “You stop reading! People, especially children loose interest if they cannot relate to a story or character.” Aquarius Press was founded in Detroit in 1999 by Buchannon, after working for the Detroit Writers Guild and Wayne County Council for Arts, History & Humanities. Her goal is to give writers of color a voice and work with them in telling and sharing their stories.  In fact, Buchannon has  published the stories and poems of over 300 writers from all over the world. Each sharing their stories of hope and opportunity, of struggle and survival.

Willow Books often partners with the Carr Center and other cultural centers in the region, and welcomes writers of diverse backgrounds to speak and read from their books. For example, they host a number of events during National Poetry Month (April) and have hosted the Idlewild Writers Conference in the past in Northern Michigan.

Upcoming events include:

  • Cambodian poet Sokunthary Svay book launch, Poets House, New York City, 9/22
  • Palestinian author Sahar Mustafah, the Arab American Museum, 10/6 (Friday), 7 pm 2
  • Sahar Mustafah reading at 1505 Woodward/Carr Ctr., 10/7 (Saturday), Noon-2 pm 3.

Each year, through trade shows such as The Bookcon, AWP Conference , contests and word-of-mouth, Buchannon receives over 100 manuscripts that she and a jury of her peers review. Roughly 20 books are published each year.

Notable titles published by Willow Books include:

  • Core by Denise Miller (Kzoo) – Miller, originally from Kalamazoo, Mich., created poetry from the oral histories of workers at a Saginaw foundry.
  • Wonderkind by Curtis L Crisler takes place in Indiana and explores the life of Stevie Wonder
  • Running Away to Home by Lita Hooper is a young adult book about Hurricane Katrina
  • This is not the exist by Qiana Towns, which includes a number of poems about Flint
  • Ropes, poems by Derrick Harriell about Joe Louis

Buchannon also is an author, publishing two books:

  • Dark River (2005), a novel set in Detroit when Detroit was a colony.  The story centers around a female slave that is buried at St. Annes in 1736.
  • Remembrance is about the Harlem Hell Fighters, a group of black jazz musicians that fought in World War I and are credited with bringing the sounds of jazz to Paris.

These books are available on Amazon, Aquarius Press or in a traditional bookstore.

Buchannon  also is taking her books to another level and produced a film set in Detroit.  Solomon is  about ​Dominick Darga, a young white writer, who struggles to pick up the pieces to his life after the death of his 3 year old child and a failed marriage. He stumbles across a retired black psychiatrist who sees his potential, but who first must uncover the darkness that lies buried inside of Dominick’s past and crumbling present.

For people interested in publishing their stories or poems, Buchannon says, “Never give up. If you have a compelling story it will find a home.” She suggests joining a writers group, starting at your favorite book store (if it is still around).

Some of Buchannon’s favority books stores include:

Her  favorite authors and poets include:

  • Billy Collins
  • Alice Walker (The Color Purple)
  • Octavia Butler (Kindred)
  • Paul Lawrence Dunbar
  • Steven King

Upcoming projects for Buchannon include: BLAZE: The Poetry Film and When the Swan Sings on Hastings, with actor Thomas Galasso (Hoffa).  For more information on Heather Buchanan, Publisher, Aquarius Press/Willow Books visit or tweet her @aquariuspress.

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