Praise for Cirque Press

Cirque Press has been so good to work with. I appreciate Sandra Kleven’s encouragement, her optimism, and her communication throughout the publishing process and her unselfish advocacy for writers. Michael Burwell possesses extensive knowledge when it comes to grammar, usage, and mechanics. But beyond that, I found that he provides sage advice regarding abstracts and intangibles as to what a writer is trying to accomplish in his work. I extend my gratitude to them both…

— Clifton Bates, author of Like Painted Kites & Collected Works


In 2019 Cirque Press brought out my fourteenth book of poetry, Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North, and it was the best experience with a publisher I’ve had. From Mike Burwell’s impeccable editing to Sandy Kleven’s management of the design, production, and marketing of the book, through every step of the way— which entailed working not only with dozens of poems but also a sizeable collection of my photographs — the Cirque Press team was outstanding. Highly professional and incredibly caring and supportive, they were simply this: the best!

​​​— Karla Linn Merrifield, author of Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North


Cirque, the magazine, and the press are such good friends to Pacific Rim writers, and I cannot thank Michael Burwell and Sandy Kleven enough for their help in publishing my poetry collection, Holy Ghost Town. They were so accommodating in making it everything I had hoped, and Sandy’s work to host readings to promote the book was especially helpful—so that it has sold in the hundreds.

My experience with Cirque has been nothing but positive.

— Tim Sherry, author of Holy Ghost Town (Cirque Press, 2019)


A writer’s book project doesn’t end when a manuscript is accepted for publication. There are challenges ahead but Sandra Kleven and Mike Burwell of Cirque Press’ innovative publishing model, initially establishes a trust relationship between the author and daunting publishing tasks. Cirque Press provides expert editing and insight, in addition to promotional and marketing opportunities. Their professional attention to detail afforded me the opportunity to work with a fabulous Alaskan book designer/artist, Janna Christen. My poetry collection couldn’t have been in more capable hands. Know that when you hold a book from Cirque Press, you are truly holding a work of art.

— Vivian Faith Prescott, author of Silty Water People (Cirque Press, 2020)


Why Cirque Press?

The day a stranger on a chairlift pointed me towards Cirque Press was one of the luckiest days of my life. I had been working on a novel for nearly four decades and had finally achieved a sense of completion. I had also just retired from my day job and planned to try to get the book published when I got home from the ski trip. Now I knew where to start, and soon found where I would finish. I felt great when Cirque took it on.

What I liked more was that I’d be invited into the community originally fostered by their magazine Cirque Journal. The quality of the writers they published was impressive, and becoming part of this circle was an honor. Not only were their magazines and books well known in Alaska, but they had also made inroads into literary communities and bookstores in Bellingham, Spokane, Seattle, and Portland.

For Cirque, writing and publishing is an art. If you have been working long enough on your poetry or prose to have felt it evolve into something that surprises and satisfies you in ways you hadn’t imagined, I’m guessing Mike Burwell and Sandy Kleven will see it and want to help present it to the world. They do a fine job of it, too.

— Dave Rowan, author of Loggers Don’t Make Love


One of the remarkable things about Cirque Press is how available its editors are. Once the manuscript was accepted, I was allowed to follow the vision I had for my first to-be-published book, The Dream That Is Childhood: A Memoir In Verse. Sandra Kleven and Michael Burwell each answered my questions and asked me a few too.  I appreciated the ease of timely exchange at every stage of the editing, design, publication, and promotion.

Another thing is its standard of topnotch quality, engaging with designers and artists who deliver it.  I found the aesthetic of the Press matches my own. I am proud to have my first book published by Cirque Press and be part of a community of innovative authors who bond with the North Pacific Rim. I suggest writers who seek publication and are willing to work with a team look at the range of publications of this press to see if a fit is possible. Even if not sure, contact this press.

— Sandra Wassilie, author of The Dream that is Childhood


In a time of five monopolies ruling 90 percent of publishing, and in an era of celebrity cookbooks, tell-all’s, and how to fleece a million people for a hundred million bucks tomes, a fourth rail of publishing is this going concern called Cirque Press.

The idea of literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry (and any other sort of “experimental” writing) reaching the book stage is largely predicated on luck and being in the right place at the right time. With Cirque Press, there is no roll of dice for the writer who can rest assured that the manuscript will reach conceptualizing, drafting, editing, laying out, and publishing stages with the author right in the mix.

My book — Wide Open Eyes — is a short story collection that in the eyes of New York publishing circles was either “too much of a downer” or “just not in the current mix of popular themes or topics.”

For me, a professional writer for almost five decades, I’ve been a second placer in the Drue Heinz award, and in other national manuscript contests. My New York agent worked hard to get my novels and story collections read and considered. A second look from Picador Press ended up in a rejection.

The satisfaction of having Wide Open Eyes published, marketed, and sold through Cirque Press has been a win-win for a writer like myself. There is no shame in an author helping a small press get a book off the ground. Skin in the game is an honorable bargain for today’s writer.

The community that is Cirque, the journal, and Cirque Press is invaluable to gifted writers. A press like Cirque can coalesce the energy, outreach, and dynamism of a diverse crew of writers.

Be part of the fourth rail of publishing. Contact Cirque today, and you might be able to talk to a writer like me to convince you of this grand publishing opportunity.

— Paul Kirk Haeder, author of Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam


In 2018, Cirque Press published my book of poems The Lure of Impermanence. Working with Michael Burwell and Sandy Kleven was a delight. I was pretty clear on my vision of the book from the beginning and they were both supportive and helpful in making that happen. I really appreciated Michael Burwell’s editing expertise and Sandy Kleven’s ability to ensure my design ideas were administered.

Beyond the relative ease of technically producing my book, they have been a faithful and encouraging support system, not only to me but to all the artists that have become part of the Cirque community. In fact, being part of this community has been one of the best experiences of my writing life.

If you are considering publication of your work, I would highly recommend you consider this gem of a press. You would be hard-pressed to find a better team to work with.

— Carey Taylor, author of The Lure of Impermanence


North Pacific Rim writers of powerful and innovative non-fiction, poetry, and fiction should consider submitting their finest work to Cirque Press, a literary press that evolved out of zesty, boundary-pushing Cirque Journal, the effort of founder, editor, and poet Mike Burwell). Alaska poet and essayist Sandra Kleven joined Burwell as co-editor of the journal and now of the press.

She is a co-originator of the monthly Poetry Parlay gatherings in Anchorage, most recently at intimate, The Writer’s Block Café before the current ZOOM format became necessary (due to Covid) for writers from the North Pacific Rim (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alaska, the Yukon and a sliver of the Russian far east).

Their first books were poetry collections by the region’s finest writers. I was looking to a national press for my fiction until I read an essay in Cirque Journal. The writing blew me off the page; I wanted to be among the extraordinary writers I discovered. Kleven suggested they publish my collection of short stories, Burwell reviewed them, and within a year a stunning book was published (Drunk On Love: Twelve Stories to Savor Responsibly, 2019).

In 2020 they offered a Kindle version. They continue to innovate, always working with an author to honor the vision and years that find words in gritty memoir, humor, the quest for meaning, love, and all that we recognize as part of “the human condition.”

They offer two free full-page ads in the journal for each publication, help the book find an audience by arranging for author engagements (now via ZOOM), and more. They respect and seek diversity, on the lookout for the finest writing from the Pacific North Rim.

Contact them to see if your book fits their evolving list and readership.

— Kerry Dean Feldman, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage. (Feldman’s frontier novel, Alice’s Trading Post: A novel of the west, will be published Feb. 2022 by Five Star-Cengage Press).


It was a joy working with the folks at Cirque Press.  From manuscript submission to actually holding the book in my hand took less than nine months.  Mike was an excellent close reader who helped me make tough decisions; Sandy was a supportive collaborator who encouraged me to follow my instincts at every step.  Their designer for my book, Emily Tallman, beautifully solved all the challenges I presented her with.

I still can’t believe that Alaska is lucky enough to have an independent press this good in our far neck of the woods.

— Eric Heyne, author of Fish the Dead Water Hard


Cirque Press published my collection of short stories. Oh whoopee, you say. Cirque doesn’t have an office in New York or a sales team or a promotion team on payroll, but Cirque has essential editor ingredients like Michael Burwell and Sandra Kleven. And designers.   

The dam has broken on publishing. Words have found the cracks. Technology is the culprit. I’m not dishing the major well-known, distinguished publishing houses that pay an advance if they accept a book. Publishing is a business. There are costs. That’s reality. I have been published over the years. In fact, all the stories in my collection, Out There In The Out There, have been previously published in literary journals. Agents who have read my stories have contacted me. I have had more rejections than acceptances. That’s the odds. That’s reality.

Nevertheless, I appreciate editors. We writers are guessers. We have good intentions; we have to believe we know what we are doing, fool ourselves. Sometimes we get it right, but like life, when we think we know it all, we know nothing.

That’s why I appreciate editors. I’m not talking about your friends or your mate who like you and think you’re great. I’m talking about the professional editors at Cirque Press: Michael Burwell is an editor with decades of experience in line and content editing. Sandy Kleven kicks in with content editing and promotion, layout, and countless other tasks. They are a professional team.

I’m a working writer. I write most days. It is possible—a long shot, a very long shot—that someday I might hit the jackpot and get an offer from a distinguished well-known publisher. Like hitting the fastball, it’s all about timing. With Cirque Press pitching one can see a book in hand in less than a year, sometimes sooner. With a major well-financed publisher it usually takes three to five years to see a book in print.

Meanwhile, I get in the writer’s batters-box every day.

Who knows who may see your work? But all you have to do is get it out there.

Batter up.

— Jerry Dale McDonnell, author of Out There in the Out There, tales from the midst of very big somewheres. A writer of prose, verse, and plays.