David Wilk interviews poet and publisher Bill Mohr

March 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

For the past several years, I’ve been talking to editors and publishers of independent presses about their work, including a number of important literary publishers.

Many years ago, I was introduced to the amazing poetry and writing scene in the Los Angeles area, centered in Venice Beach with the Beyond Baroque Literary Center (which was founded by poet George Drury Smith in 1968) through an old family friend, Alexandra Garrett. Surprisingly to many, Los Angeles has an amazing literary history – there’s much more there than just tinseltown. And of course Charles Bukowski and John Fante lived and worked there, John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press was born in LA, and there have been and now are thriving poetry scenes in various locales throughout the urb over the years. Doug Messerli’s Sun & Moon Press is another notable LA publisher we’ve spoken with.

There were several terrific bookstores in LA in those years, and quite a few great literary magazines and small presses over the years. One of the central individuals in the LA poetry movement of the seventies, eighties and nineties is Bill Mohr, whose magazine and press, Momentum, was a focal point for many writers in and around Los Angeles. Bill and I were friendly in those years but since lost touch, so it was a pleasure to get a chance to talk to him about Momentum for this series of interviews about the independent presses and magazines of the last half century.

Bill was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and grew up there, then moved to Los Angeles to do some acting with various small theater companies, including the Burbage Theater Ensemble. He published and edited Momentum magazine for five years, and then founded Momentum Press in the early 1980s. Between 1975 and 1988, Momentum published about 25 books including Leland Hickman’s Great Slave Lake Suite, which was one of five finalists for the Los Angeles Times book prize in 1980.

Bill also edited two important LA-focused anthologies, The Streets Inside (1978) and Poetry Loves Poetry (1985). During much of this time Bill worked as a blueprint machine operator and a typesetter, and later went to graduate school to start a new career as a scholar and professor. Mohr has been a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, as well as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. A chapter from his work-in-progress on West Coast poetry during the Cold War was included in The Sons and Daughters of Los: Culture and Community in L.A. (Temple University Press). For over 25 years he has taught creative writing in medium and minimum security prisons in Chino and the University of California, San Diego, and Idyllwild Arts, in Idyllwild, CA.

Bill is now a professor in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach. He has a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California, San Diego, and has taught at CSU Long Beach since 2006. His poems, prose poems and creative prose have appeared in dozens of magazines in the past 40 years, including 5 AM, Antioch Review, Beyond Baroque, Blue Collar Review, Blue Mesa Review, Caliban (On-line), Miramar, ONTHEBUS, OR, Santa Monica Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Solo Nolo, Sonora Review, Spot, Upstreet, Wormwood Review, and ZYZZYVA. His volumes of poetry include Hidden Proofs (1982); Penetralia (1984); Bittersweet Kaleidoscope (2006); and a bilingual volume published in Mexico, Pruebas Ocultas (Bonobos Editores, 2015). A CD and cassette release of spoken word was produced by Harvey Robert Kubernik and released by New Alliance Records in 1993.

This conversation was great fun for me, and I hope will be an important addition to the oral history of independent publishing over the last decades.

David Wilk interviews poet and publisher Bill Corbett

October 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

william_corbett03Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

For the past several years, I’ve been talking to editors and publishers of independent presses about their work, including a number of important literary publishers. It’s a great pleasure for me to add Bill Corbett to this group. He’s been a key figure in the Boston literary scene for more than forty years, though he has now moved to Brooklyn.

Corbett’s house in the South End was an essential literary salon for local and many visiting artists, poets, and writers. Corbett has been active in what has been known as the “New York School” of poets, with a deep and abiding interest in the intersections of art and poetry. In a review of Corbett’s All Prose, Kevin Gallagher said “Corbett is ambassador to a strange land.”

Editing and publishing have also been central to Corbett’s work. He edited the literary journal Fire Exit with Fanny Howe and The Boston Eagle, with Lewis Warsh and Lee Harwood, wrote for the Boston Phoenix, and has been involved with literary magazines Ploughshares, Agni, and Grand Street. In 1999, Corbett founded Pressed Wafer, a small press publishing poetry, essays, and art writing. Corbett taught writing at MIT, and also has taught at Harvard and Emerson.

Patrick Pritchett summed up Corbett’s work rather well as follows:

For several decades now, Corbett has been one of our leading men of letters – the phrase itself has been rendered almost extinct in this age of ubiquitous bloggery and relentless peer-review – but I use it here to indicate a breadth of range and a fineness of attention that once upon a time was the norm, rather than the exception. As poet, essayist, memoirist, art critic, literary historian, publisher and tireless promoter of other writer’s work, Corbett is – yet ought not to be – sui generis. But even if the present time were more thickly populated by writers of comparable range, he would still be a force to be reckoned with, in a category of his own.

In this conversation, we talked about a wide range of topics, but it seems we may have barely scratched the surface of Corbett’s work in art and writing. I hope we will have a chance to talk again soon.

Links:

Pritchett essay about Bill Corbett on the blog Writing the Messianic

Pressed Wafer books “poetry fiction essays art memoir etc”

Bill Corbett’s Tumblr

 

David Wilk interviews Brooke Warner of She Writes Press

July 19, 2016 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, The Future

Brooke Warner-2016-squarePublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

I really enjoy talking to the innovators in our industry who are creating new modes of publishing and opportunities for writers. Brooke Warner and Kamy Wicoff founded She Writes Press in 2012 to provide writers with new publishing opportunities. Kamy operated the online community, She Writes, which was created to connect and serve women writers, both established and aspiring, and Brooke came from independent publishing.

Brooke’s first job in publishing was with the renowned North Atlantic Books in Berkeley (founded by Richard Grossinger and Lindy Hough). Subsequently, she was Executive Editor at Seal Press, working there for eight years. Toward the end of her time there, she felt she was witnessing firsthand the contracting publishing environment, where as editor, she was frequently rejecting well-written books, simply because the authors she was working with did not have the kinds of “author platforms” that commercial publishers now virtually require.

Kamy and Brooke envisioned a new kind of publishing company that would enable authors to be invited to publish based on the merit of their writing alone. They wanted to establish a publishing business for women writers that would itself enable the kind of a platform that could launch – and grow – the writing careers of their client authors. In 2014, She Writes Press became part of SparkPoint Studio, LLC., whose CEO is Crystal Patriarche.

She Writes is now a solid publishing partner for authors who might otherwise struggle with self publishing. With a strong editorial effort, traditional book distribution (through Ingram Publisher Services) and an in-house marketing and publicity team (through Patriarche’s publicity company, BookSparks) available to SWP authors, She Writes Press has become successful in the emerging category of “hybrid” publishers.

In this interview, where Brooke explains how She Writes works and the problems it is solving for now more than a hundred writers, and talks about the current and future of trade book publishing.

In addition to being publisher of She Writes Press, Brooke is president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book, What’s Your Book?, How to Sell Your Memoir, and the co-author of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir. She currently sits on the boards of the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Bay Area Book Festival, and the National Association of Memoir Writers. She blogs actively on Huffington Post Books and SheWrites.com. She lives and works in Berkeley, California.

Length alert – we had a good time talking so this interview runs just over 45 minutes.logo-swp

David Wilk talks with Bill Henderson of Pushcart Press

January 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

HendersonPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

It is my great pleasure and honor to have a conversation about publishing with extraordinary Bill Henderson, the founder and editor of Pushcart Press and the Pushcart prize.

Pushcart was founded in 1972, the same year Bill ended his gainful employment as an editor at Doubleday (which is now one of the many imprints of Penguin Random House). Bill’s first book was the very important Publish It Yourself Handbook, published in 1973 and distributed then more or less by hand, at least initially. This book is a collection of essays by such luminaries as Anais Nin, Stewart Brand, Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Over the years it has sold over 70,000 copies through four editions and has been a touchstone for independent publishing.

But it was really Henderson’s idea for a prize and anthology to recognize and celebrate the best work of the independent magazines and presses that were flowering in those days that has made Pushcart so meaningful and important. It was in 1976 that Bill and a group of Founding Editors he enlisted, including Paul Bowles, Ralph Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates and Reynolds Price, that began the Pushcart Prize anthology that is still published annually, now forty years on.

The original model is still in place. Publishers, magazines and Pushcart’s contributing editors nominate work they feel is their best, and Bill himself reads everything and selects what he feels is the best work from the hundreds of works submitted. It’s an incredible accomplishment that has helped launch and sustain the work of now thousands of writers and presses.

Pushcart is adamantly individualistic and essentially noncommercial. Its books are distributed by WW Norton, but otherwise, Bill is a one person operation. The press is now a nonprofit, but that means he has to raise money for it, and that takes time too.

As our conversation together will demonstrate, Bill shows no sign of slowing down and no sign of changing his opinion about what matters in writing and publishing. His commitment to the work is unwavering, and what he has done is truly magnificent. I am proud to have had an association with Pushcart from its inception, and am in awe of the work Bill and his operation has accomplished over these many years.

You can learn more about Pushcart here. Order the new anthology from your favorite independent bookstore, and if you are as impressed as I think you will be, make a donation to Pushcart here.

And there is even more to the Pushcart effort – Bill Henderson operates a bookstore on his property every summer in Maine, where he has also built a cathedral of local stone (profiled in the NY Times!)
Bill at store in Maine2016CoverOtherPages

David Wilk talks with Malcolm Margolin of Heyday Books

January 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

 

Malcolm MargolinI think of Malcolm Margolin and Heyday Books as one of the iconic independent publishers of the modern era. Founded in 1974 in Berkeley, then and now a hotbed of independent publishing, Heyday began because Malcolm had written a book about walking in the East Bay called East Bay Out and wanted to publish and sell it himself as a locally based book. Its somewhat unexpected success led to his work on a book called The Ohlone Way, about native Americans of California, and by then Heyday was on its way to becoming an important cultural node that over its forty years has produced more than 350 titles.

 

The history of Heyday is documented in its newly published The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher. The book, compiled by Heyday editor Kim Bancroft, is a wonderful collection of oral histories told by Margolin, his family, authors, friends, current and former staffers and some of the many Californians that have been involved with the press and its cultural work for so many years.

 

This book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of independent publishing and especially the inspiring Bay Area publishing movement of the last half century. Malcolm is truly one of the great story tellers of our time. Unassuming and irreverent, he is now experienced enough to have become an elder statesman, much loved by all who have worked with him.

 

Heyday is now a well-run and highly respected nonprofit organization. It has produced a significant body of work, and as an ongoing operation, it reflects the values and beliefs of its founder. Heyday, like Malcolm, is committed to the voices of authors, the beauty and power of California as place, and valuing culture as lived by individuals, more important than institutions. And the quality of the work has always been paramount. Every book produced by Heyday displays a high level of care and attention, learned and practiced over many years.

 

Heyday board member and former staffer Patricia Wakida describes the quintessential image of Margolin getting into his 1997 Volvo to drive to California’s high country to hear yet another story around the campfire. “That’s what it’s all about,” she says. “Forty years of listening.”

 

I’m proud to offer this conversation with Malcolm, which gives you the singular opportunity to hear his wonderful voice and persona, to get a sense of why Malcolm and Heyday are so important and meaningful to so many – and what an impact a truly independent publisher can have.

Running time: 47 minutes. Enjoy!
The Heyday of Malcolm MargolinHeyday No Cal

 

Ohlone Way Malcolm Margolin 2

David Wilk talks with Andrew Lipstein about 0s and 1s

static.squarespace.comPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing.  I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.  This new interview reflects my interest in the history of independent literary publishing, an area in which I have been active for a long time. And this particular conversation reflects some longstanding personal relationships as well.

Andrew Lipstein is one of the new wave of writers interested in changing the way books are published, distributed and read. When I first read about his new venture 0s and 1s, I was immediately interested (that’s “zeroes and ones” – I misread it initially as “os and 1s” and you will hear that in my interview with Andrew). 0s and 1s is a curation project, offering ebooks for download at very attractive prices selected from a limited number of like-minded independent publishers. It is diametrically opposed to the way we have been trained to think about ebook retailing, where for the most part, readers are tied to the ecosystems created by the platform owners.

For example, if you are a Kindle reader, you buy all your ebooks from Amazon, for example, and whether you know it or not, or care or not, your choices of what to read, or what to think about reading, are highly contextualized. Online ebook stores have incredible limitations, and ironically, the huge breadth of titles potentially available to readers ultimately mean a hegemonically limited selection of reading possibilities.

As Andrew states on the 0s and 1s site: “The selling of digital books has become an oligopoly, with only a few important players—& a lot of power. The world of e-reading shouldn’t be proprietary to any one brand, reader, or (set of) publishers. Selling a digital book is as simple as transmitting a series of zeroes & ones, & there’s never been a better time to take advantage of that fact.”

Personally, I think it’s an opportune moment for publishers and writers to start experimenting with alternative models of engaging with readers. Andrew and the publishers and authors he is promoting here deserve credit and support for taking a necessary step toward demonstrating how we might imagine alternatives to big box retail book selling and a better way to promote a culturally diverse and meaningful reading culture. 0s and 1s is aware of the need to explain to readers what it’s doing by selling all its ebooks at $6 each and has a very clear explanation of why this is good for authors on its website.

Andrew Lipstein is a writer too, and also curates a really interesting micro-publishing site, well worth a visit, called Thickjam.andrew_2

In many ways this project reminds me of some of the experiments in independent book distribution and marketing from the seventies (many supported by what was then called CCLM, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines – now called CLMP –  with a grant from the Ford Foundation). Some of those projects were highly influential and in various forms lasted for a number of years. I hope we can say the same about 0s and 1s in the future.

If you’re interested in the history of CCLM and CLMP and the organization’s key role in supporting independent magazine and book publishers, there is a nice bit of history here.  The Publishing Talks interview with CLMP’s current dynamic director Jeffrey Lependorf is here.  You can find links to publishers participating in the 0s and 1s project here. One of the several distribution projects funded by CCLM and the Ford Foundation was Truck Distribution Service, started in St. Paul, MN, by yours truly, which later became the very successful small press wholesaler, Bookslinger, and another was the still flourishing Writers and Books, founded in Rochester, NY, by Joe Flaherty.

Thanks to John Marshall Media and engineer Nathan Rosborough for this recording.

David Wilk interviews Bradford Morrow of Conjunctions Magazine

conj61dPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how they believe publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics.

Recently, the series has expanded to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing.  I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the past, present and future of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.  My latest interview reflects my interest in the history of independent literary publishing, an area I have been involved in for a very long time.

Bradford Morrow is an accomplished novelist and poet. In fact we talked about his outstanding novel The Diviner’s Tale in 2011. Brad is also the founder and editor of Conjunctions magazine, which he began in 1981. Conjunctions is truly an exceptional literary endeavor that is now sponsored and hosted by Bard College. Conjunctions has long provided a platform for a host of unknown writers, many of whom are now well known, as well as enabling a number of established writers to create work that challenges reader expectations. Every May and November the magazine publishes anthology form collections around specific themes that include significant long-form work.

Conjunctions has embraced digital publishing, offering a weekly online journal of new work by individual authors, called Web Conjunctions, as well as a multimedia collection of recorded readings, and an archival collection of full-text selections from the anthologies. In particular, I like this line on their website, as an appropriate epigraph for the three-plus decades Conjunctions has been publishing: “a living notebook in which authors can write freely and audiences can read dangerously.” I can’t think of a better motto under which to publish.brad morrow 2

It was a pleasure for me to spend some time talking to Brad about the past, present and future of Conjunctions and the challenges and enjoyments of the work of literary publishing, and I hope also just as much a pleasure for you to hear what Brad has to say here.

(Alert to listeners – as are many of the Publishing Talks interviews, this one is quite long at 51 minutes, but you can always pause and return if it’s too long for one sitting)

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Ishmael Reed

Ishmael ReedIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Ishmael Reed is not only one of my favorite writers (fiction, poetry, theater and a wide range of nonfiction), he is an editor, publisher, literary activist and one of the founders of the Before Columbus Foundation, which has sponsored the American Book Awards since 1980.  His latest publishing venture is Ishmael Reed Publishing Company, sponsoring the work of a diverse set of writers from many continents, including an online magazine, Konch.  He blogs for the San Francisco Chronicle at www.sfgate.com.

His own books include the now classic Yellow Back Radio Brokedown, Mumbo Jumbo, The Freelance Pallbearers (a book I like to re-read at least once every five years), Flight to Canada as well as an amazing number of collections of essays, plays and poems, and recently, Powwow: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience, an anthology he co-edited with Carla Blank.  Forthcoming books include The Fighter and the Writer: Two American Stories (Random House), and Brawls, a new collection of Ishmael’s always provocative and on point essays. Ishmael Reed is a massively prolific writer in a wide range of forms.

You can read a complete biography of Ishmael here.  It’s pretty impressive, but listen to this interview I did with him to get a real sense of what he has done to support and promote the full breadth of writing and creativity in this country (and around the world).  Ishmael Reed gives voice to the heart and soul of the river of creativity that flows out of and through the great American continent, and never fails to tell truth to power, expose alternative views of accepted wisdom, and makes us think long and hard about who we really are.Fiction Anthology_0  This conversation covers a wide range of topics, and includes much about the history of independent publishing in the last several decades, and much more.

Blan_0609807846-330 A guest appearance by editor, writer and professor Carla Blank near the end of our talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carla Blank

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews CLMP Director Jeffrey Lependorf

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Jeffrey Lependorf has an unusual perspective on publishing.  He is the Executive Director of two nonprofit organizations: both the New York City based Council of Literary Magazines (CLMP) and the Berkeley, California based Small Press Distribution (SPD).  CLMP provides support services to and advocacy for literary magazines and independent literary presses, while SPD provides distribution and sales services to the same general constituency (though not always the same presses and magazines).  Both organizations have been on the scene for many, many years and their identities and services have changed significantly over time.

While the overall publishing industry has undergone sea changes in physical retailing and wholesaling that have created challenges for commercial publishers, those changes have caused massive disruption for hundreds of smaller literary presses and magazines, mostly by reducing their retail viability and forcing them to look for other means of reaching readers, including innovative approaches to digital publishing and direct to consumer sales.  Independent presses and magazines may be quietly creating some incredibly valuable and interesting approaches to connecting with readers that could provide long lasting benefits for them, and models for larger publishers to emulate.

In this conversation, I took advantage of Lependorf’s unique perspective to discuss the past, present and future of independent literary publishing, both books and magazines, as well as some of the digital initiatives they have undertaken, and the specific activities of both the organizations he operates.  It’s worth visiting both the CLMP and SPD websites.  If you’re interested in what independent publishers are doing, CLMP has alot of information; if you’d like to see the books and magazines (and ebooks) that independent publishers are producing, visit SPD, where, it is important to note, you can browse and buy thousands of unusual and important publications directly (even though they also distribute to retailers like Amazon, B&N and many independent bookstores).  Support independent literary publishing by buying their books whenever you can.

By the way, Lependorf has another career as a composer and performer whose work I also admire.  Amazing stuff from an amazing person!

ALERT: this is another relatively long podcast, just over 43 minutes, but I believe it’s well worth your time.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Coffee House Press Founder Allan Kornblum

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I talk to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us better understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing, books and reading culture, and how we can ourselves both understand and influence the future of books and reading.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve been talking to a wide variety of people in the book business, mostly about the future of writing, publishing, and reading. But the future is always built on what has gone before now.  And there has been so much incredibly creative and wonderful publishing work done in recent years, I’ve wanted to share some of the experiences of people who have accomplished so much, with vision, talent and amazing effort.

I’ve known Allan Kornblum, founder of Coffee House Press (and its predecessor, Toothpaste Press), a long, long time.  He and I started out in publishing in similar ways and around the same time, the early 1970s.  Allan started out as many of us did in those days publishing a handmade mimeo magazine.  But he discovered fine printing by taking classes at the University of Iowa with the renowned Harry Duncan (Cummington Press – there is a great interview with him in a wonderful book called Against the Grain, interviews with independent publishers, you can access this book online through Project Muse).  Allan’s Toothpaste Press used letterpress printing to create beautiful poetry books and chapbooks for ten years beginning in 1973, when Allan and his wife Cinda lived in West Branch, Iowa (home of Herbert Hoover).

The Kornblums eventually faced an existential crisis with Toothpaste, to either become a letterpress “art press,” producing limited editions at high prices, with limited readership and distribution, or to aim for a broader audience, which for a low margin literary press, requires financial support.  Kornblum elected to create a nonprofit publishing venture, renamed Coffee House Press, and moved to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, the literary mecca of the midwest (then as now), where the press has thrived along with several other excellent publishers, with a literary arts center, and an extremely supportive community of readers and writers.  Now having published there for almost thirty years, Coffee House is an established an active organization, with a strong board and staff, and a tremendous list of books to its credit, many of which have won awards and have sold extremely well.  Coffee House has maintained consistently high editorial and production standards, but it has also been a successful and innovative book marketer, embracing a wealth of tools and approaches to finding audiences for its books.

Interviewing Allan for Publishing Talks was a pleasure for me.  I’d also like to recommend listeners to a written interview with Allan from 2006 that can be found at NewPages.com.  And visit the Coffee House Press website to see their latest books as well as their exceptional and impressive backlist. Listener alert!  These interviews with independent publishers, documenting their history and experiences, are longer than usual.  This one is 53 minutes long.  Pull up a chair….

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