Small Press Book Fair a success

BY KATIE SIMS | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

While the publishing industry may be facing financial pressure in the current downturn, at least one segment of publishers remains optimistic.

Richard Sowienski, the managing editor of The Missouri Review, a University of Missouri-based literary magazine, said the publication — which costs $24 for a four-issue, one-year subscription — has not felt the economic crunch.

“People who love literature are willing to buy the magazine,” he said.

Sowienski’s and his organization were one of 100 local, regional, and national publishers that participated in the Literary Magazine and Small Press Book Fair at Old Brick on Thursday. The small press is a loosely defined segment of the publishing market that normally prints fewer than 12 titles a year. Many of the country’s 80,000 book publishers are small presses, according to the Center for Independent Publishing.

Holly Carver, the director of the UI Press, agrees. She compared the “speedboat” small press to the “Titanic” large press, saying it is easier for small presses to be flexible and maintain a steady program.

“Actually, we’re more like a kayak,” she said.

The fair, cohosted by the Iowa Review and the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, was free to the public and gave guests the opportunity to speak with more than a dozen editors from various publications. Attendees could also purchase $2 magazines and $4 books. Poetry, short stories, and creative essays were most prominent, but the abundance of material could satisfy the choosiest of tastes.

Kurt Michael Friese has a taste for local food — and writes about it. The editor-in-chief of Edible Iowa River Valley and also a chef owns Devotay, 117 N. Linn St.

“They say, write what you know,” he said.

The quarterly publication’s pages are stuffed with stories celebrating local foods and agriculture. For its summer 2008 issue, the magazine’s publishers originally planned to feature the food along the RAGBRAI bike ride, but weather interfered and in just three weeks, they churned out an award-winning flood issue instead. The flood of 2008 also canceled the small-press fair last year.

Ben Furnish and wife Linda Rodriguez traveled to Iowa City from Kansas City, Mo., to showcase published writing and mingle with others like them. Furnish is the managing editor for BkMk Press, a small press that is part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The BkMk Press publishes four to six titles per year by writers from the United States and abroad, mostly poetry and short fiction. Furnish said he was excited about the gathering and the opportunity to meet “other folks in the field.”

While some attended the fair to represent their affiliations, others came to relish in the ample amount of literature.

Nina Barragan, who has been writing fiction for 50 years and has had two books published by small presses, stopped by the book fair because it was “nostalgic” for her. She is writing a third book and hopes it will also eventually set sail on one of the “kayaks.”

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