March is, apparently, a month known for many things—National Noodle Month, National Peanut Month, Black Hole Awareness Month, and National Month of Social Work, for starters. And while this Saturday will mark the third evening I’ve spent dining with my social worker uncle at the Spaghetti Factory, discussing what might happen if a peanut fell into a black hole (he says it would freeze there, forever), I’m making it a point to take full advantage of yet another month-long celebration straight from left-field: that of independent publishers.
Yes, March is Small Press Month. And despite a serious lack of commemorative bake sales, we’re smack-dab in the middle of it.
Take for example, Melville House’s recent announcement of the Indie Booksellers Choice Award; a refreshingly open take on the best-of-the-best-book-prize in which booksellers from indie bookshops get to nominate their favorite small press releases of 2010. This, in my opinion, makes a lot of sense. As Melville House puts it: “Booksellers are the ultimate readers—who better to appoint the best books on the market.” The first award ceremony of its kind, Melville will honor its five finalists by coordinating a series of prominent displays in each participating bookshop. “With any luck, we can get some deserving titles to sell a few more copies, which is good for the store, good for the publisher, and good for the authors and translators.” Yes.
Powell’s, our compatriots to the south, will be offering a feast of small press activities with their fourth annual Smallpressapalooza on March 28th. Beginning at 6 pm, the event will feature a marathon session of readings, workshops, and discussions, all curated by Powell’s own Kevin Sampsell (author of A Common Pornography, Creamy Bullets and helmsman of Future Tense Press). Presenters include Neil Davis, Alissa Nutting, and Suzanne Burns. Think of this as a four-hour, small press lightning round—far more entertaining and enlightening than Password. Click here for a full list of events.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, March 19th marks the beginning of our fair city’s second annual Small Press Fair. With events scattered all over town and technically stretching into the middle of April, SPF offers something for everybody. What, might you ask? Well, there’s the veggie potluck social at Pilot Books on March 19th, featuring performances by Alex Miranda and Ronnie Porter, with music curated by Talking Helps records. The Scenic Drive Factory will be throwing a chapbook making work party on March 31st, with large quantities of pie dished up for all those in attendance. Town Hall Seattle plans to host an evening of poetry with Copper Canyon Press on April 5th, homegrown poet Shin Yu Pai will be reading at Elliott Bay on March 21st, and Richard Hugo House will tie it all together on April 9th with Recto Verso, their full-blown small press expo. This, and still so much more. Click here for a full calender of events.
The beauty of small press culture is that it’s mostly done in dimly-lit basements, by people with staplers and unusual sleeping habits. They’re down there because they read and want others to be reading, too. This is a celebration of what literature can be to people. So step outside and celebrate. –Matthew