What We Do

BleakHouse Publishing is an independent, not-for-profit press devoted to social justice. We publish creative writing that sheds a humane light on men and women entangled in the criminal justice system. Many of our published writers are current or former prisoners. The creativity and resilience of our authors reveal an often unacknowledged side of incarcerated Americans.

Seeing persons who commit crime through a softer, more person-centered lens, the works we publish raise questions about our system’s harshest punishments. Our interests are by no means limited to crime and punishment. Our creative writers and artists explore a range of topics, all of them hopeful variations on the bleaker qualities of human existence. From the battleground of addiction to the hell of violent crime to the existential challenges of everyday life, there is no issue BleakHouse contributors will not engage.


The press was founded in 2006 by Robert Johnson, a professor of justice, law and criminology. American University students and alumni play active roles in our press as staff members, poets, bloggers, and creative thinkers. As editor and publisher, Johnson oversees our staff and publications.


BOOKS Once a year, we release a book of poetry. You can explore our publications here. Our superb editors make our poetry collections the heart and soul of BleakHouse. Another annual undertaking, Tacenda Literary Magazinefeatures creative writing on crime and punishment. Like our books, Tacenda is released in a beautiful paperback edition. We accept submissions for Tacenda on a rolling basis.


BLEAKHOUSE REVIEW We also publish the BleakHouse Review each year. An online literary and graphic arts magazine, the Review features creative writing, art, and photography from our dedicated staff. Each artist reflects on freedom, fear, and growth in adversity.


ART GALLERY Our online art gallery features illustrations and photography that express BleakHouse’s belief in the beauty and grace inherent to every person. BleakHouse staff members contribute their work to the gallery, as do renowned social justice artists.

SUBMIT YOUR WORK Submission to BleakHouse Review is by invitation only; but we encourage you to reach out to Robert Johnson at bleakhousepublishing@gmail.com if you would like to become a member of our team. Tacenda Literary Magazine and book submissions are open to all—as is submission to our online art gallery. Please review our submission guidelines and publications to see if BleakHouse is the right place for your work.


AWARDS BleakHouse hosts an annual awards ceremony to honor the most outstanding BleakHouse writers of the year, At the ceremony, an American University student is awarded the BleakHouse fellowship. The BleakHouse fellow is an accomplished undergraduate who works with publisher Robert Johnson on special projects during the year. The press also awards the Victor Hassine Memorial Scholarship. Generously sponsored by Hassine’s family, this $500 stipend recognizes someone who—like imprisoned author Victor Hassine—uses art or writing to educate others about pressing issues in our justice system.


MEDIA RELATIONS Our communications team promotes BleakHouse publications to our supporters and members of the pressthrough media relations, event planning, and social media outreach.. They also develop relationships with groups that share our goals. We feature partner organizations on our website, and our communications staff supports their events when needed. If your organization would like to be a BleakHouse partner, please contact our Chief Development Officer, Nora Kirk, at nora.kirk@american.edu.


For more information on BleakHouse, continue to visit this site as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages. Please follow our partner blog, The Bare Lightbulb, where BleakHouse authors post poetry and creative insights on current events.

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