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Coffee House cranks it up: Biblio Bash, Books in Action and more

Biblio Bas this Saturday!
Biblio Bas this Saturday!

What’s brewing at Coffee House Press? That’s always the question. The venerable press is celebrating a lot – they have had Chris Fischbach at the helm now for nearly two years, their list is growing in exciting ways, and they are looking at thirty years in publishing come 2014.

I met with Chris recently to discuss Coffee House Press and what he’s looking forward to. Sounds like a lot of very exciting stuff coming up.

Books in Action

In 2012, Coffee House published Read This! edited by Hans Weyandt, the co-owner of local indie bookstore Micawber’s Books. It is a collection of recommendations from indie booksellers around the country. Hans had told me earlier that Chris was the one to suggest that the blog where Hans was posting these suggestions could be made into a book. Chris, of course, takes very little credit for this. “Yes, I suggested it be made into a book. But really everyone contributed. The staff brainstormed and came up with suggestions for what to call it and how it would be organized.”

I asked Chris whether he had more books up his sleeve, “Coffee House is working on a book about libraries as creative spaces. That draft manuscript has just come in and will likely be part of our 2014 catalog.” This will be part of a new series called Books in Action, which hopes to explore different ways that people can interact with books – whether it’s using a book as a travel guide to indie bookstores, or using a book as a guide for new ways to use old spaces, or something else.

Biblio Bash

What’s next for Coffee House? Well, that’s easy. They are having their annual fund-raiser, Biblio Bash, this weekend. The Bash is a screaming good time, and through it, they seek to engage people in literature through other means. It’s a carnival setting, complete with a midway, games, fun food and more. And if you want to escape from the music and noise of the midway, you can retreat to the Coffee House offices for a series of author readings.

The event is on Saturday, April 20, from 7 to 11pm, and will be held in the Grain Belt Bottling House atrium and the Coffee House offices. Admission is $30, which includes food and drink, as well as music. There will be a Silent Auction, carnival games, performances, and of course, a letterpress demo (this is, after all, Coffee House Press). Catering will be provided by Chowgirls Killer Catering, with an edible installation by artist Molly Balcom Raleigh, inspired by CHP work. There will be a signature Biblio Bash cocktail, and music will be provided by DJ Jacquie Fuller from The Current. Tickets are still available, including tickets for the Spotlight Reception with Andrew Zimmern earlier in the evening.

If you can’t make it to Biblio Bash, have no fear. You can get a Biblio Bash Un-Ticket. What is this, you ask? It is a way to have a memento of the occasion without making the trip. You will receive a chapbook created at the event, which will be written on the spot by attending CHP authors. You may get poems, snippets of prose, drawings or other wonderful creative things. “We’re giving our authors free rein with these imaginings, so expect interpretations magical and vibrant.”

As a non-profit publishing house, Coffee House Press depends on its supporters to continue its long tradition. So whether you give by attending Biblio Bash, or on Give to the Max Day, or simply through a gift, you are supporting good literature.

Great Literature

That literature has been the focus of much attention over the past year. In March, the press announced that it will add essay collections and creative nonfiction to its regular publishing program. It’s “a very deliberate gesture,” says Fischbach in a recent press release. “Adventurous and curious writers and readers should look to us to become a leader in this field.” The first title in this area will be Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow by Andy Sturdevant, coming this fall. More will follow in the spring catalog.

While the gang was at AWP this year, they found out that two of their titles, Kind One by Laird Hunt and Hold It Til It Hurts by T. Geronimo Johnson, were listed as Finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Add to that previous awards for titles such as the 2013 Believer Poetry Award for Sun Yung Shin, Patricia Smith’s William Carlos William Award and many others, and you’ve got yourself a continuing literary legacy.

Coffee House continues to delve into new and imaginative ways to share literature. Ring Ring Poetry, a poetry installation project by Cole Sarar, will be launched in May. It will include notes strategically posted around town that will include a phone number. If you make the call, you will be given the choice of hearing a current poem, an archived poem, or a “choose your own adventure poem,” which you can direct by, yes, pushing one, or two, or so on. A nice contrast to voicemail hell, with which we are all so familiar. Each poem will in some way reference a location or space within the Twin Cities.”

This is another facet of the Books in Action program, with a new poem available every two weeks, written by such Coffee House poets as John Colburn, Lightsey Darst, Sarah Fox and Bao Phi, and Twin Cities poets Dobby Gibson, Misty Rowan and Cole Sarar herself.

And if you want to give the gift of poetry, try out the National Poetry Month deal, where you can Buy One, Give One. In a joint effort with Tin House Books and several other publishers, Coffee House will send a free book to give for every book of poetry purchased via their websites. The publishers include Archipelago, BOA, Copper Canyon, Milkweed Editions, Red Hen, Sarabande and YesYes. Who wouldn’t love to receive a book of poetry! It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s a limited time offer.

So while the helm has changed, and there is much to be gained by looking back (as founder Allan Kornblum addressed in a recent talk in New York City), there is also much to look forward to and lots of exciting, new ways to share literature on the horizon. Watch this space: Coffee House Press is sure to have more fun new ways for you to experience literature.

This article is a precursor to a larger article that will soon be published on an upcoming website called The Publishing Bones. Thanks to Chris Fischbach for generously giving his time and thoughts and to the team of Caroline Casey, Kelsey Shanesy and Sarah Caflish for their help.


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