Belle Point Press launched two years ago and, in publisher Casie Dodd’s words, “hit the ground running, and it hasn’t slowed down since.” Belle Point will no doubt continue to pick up the pace, with IPG now distributing the Fort Smith, Ark.—based publisher's list of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction releases, many of them written by authors in the Mid-South region of the U.S.

Dodd says that she and her husband, Michael Dodd, decided to launch Belle Point during their return to the region after living for several years in Chicago, where Michael worked for Liturgy Training Publications (he still works for the company remotely). The two previously worked for academic journals—Casie as a publicity manager for the Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and Michael as an editorial assistant the James Joyce Quarterly—while enrolled in the graduate English program at Oklahoma's University of Tulsa before their move to Chicago. “After relocating," Dodd told PW, "we were trying to figure out something we could do as a family, but at the same time, not compromising on spending time with our children." (The couple has two children.) That's when the idea for Belle Point was born.

While Belle Point focuses on regional authors, it sees itself as much more than a regional press. “We focus on writers who live around here, but we try to reach readers everywhere,” Dodd said. “It’s similar to how I see the work of a lot of indie booksellers. They’re very committed to their local communities, and supporting those writers and readers—but they’re not just selling local interest books. They’re focused on supporting stories that can resonate with anyone. Our focus is on cultivating the community of authors here and finding ways to help develop their books in a way that will resonate with readers everywhere."

While such bestselling books as Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver have shone a spotlight on the Mid-South, Dodd said, Americans generally don’t realize the complexities of the region, which straddles the Mountains and Plains states, the South, and the Midwest. “We believe this central part of America that contains regional multitudes has something to say to everyone,” Dodd wrote last year in a Substack post about Belle Point's origins.

The press made its debut in September 2022 with the release of the Mid-South Anthology, a collection of creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry by 40 contributors. Since then, it has published to date 16 full-length titles, including two anthologies, six poetry collections, two novels, two memoirs, and four story collections. It will release Atchafalaya Darling by Shome Dasgupta on July 9 and six more titles between August and December; fourteen titles are scheduled for release in 2025, including a novella by Aaron Gwyn.

American Book Award winning–author Rilla Askew, who has been published both by large houses (Ecco, Viking Penguin) and scholarly publishers (University of Oklahoma Press), will publish her collection of stories, The Hungry and the Haunted, with Belle Point in September. Askew praised Dodd for her commitment to the regional literary community, as well as for her nimbleness and flexibility as a small press publisher.

“I find her proactive, responsive, imaginative, and innovative in terms of thinking of ways to get these books into bookstores and to distribute, as a new press, which is so much of a challenge,” Askew said, “She is what publishing is about: focus, and having a vision for the press. It really is what she has established in terms of community and the quality of the work.” Small presses like Belle Point, Askew asserted, “are filling the gap that larger houses are no longer paying attention to.”

“We’re trying to show a model of indie publishing that doesn’t have to be connected to these larger geographical areas," Dodd said, "and doesn’t have to have a lot of institutional support.” She believes that, while difficult, it is feasible for small presses even in rural areas far from large metro areas, with their established publishing communities and other resources, “to build alternative models for how they can do this kind of work without compromising on the quality of the writing or the books.”

The title of Rilla Askew's September release was incorrect in an earlier version of this story; it has been corrected.