Hotspots of creative energy are a wondrous discovery. In recent times I’ve been learning more about a hotspot of literary activity burning emanating from Portland, Oregon. It exudes a spirit that once ignited Minnesota’s community of the book. It’s great to know that the energy of Late Night Library breathes into the digital reaches of Minnesota where one can hope the sparks will rekindle this state’s commitment to emerging talent, independents and a thriving book community.
Late Night Library is the enigmatic name of a whirlwind of ideas and programming devoted to the celebration and nurturing of “debut” literature. It’s risky to try to describe the constellation of initiatives operating under the aegis of LNL; an initiative may ignite at any moment.
My own observation is that many talented writers are so focused on their writing that they fall prey to the “if you build it they will come” myth. Paul Martone, a Portland writer and entrepreneur, observed the sad phenomenon and set about to do something. Beginning with a podcast series of discussions of debut fiction and poetry Martone and his colleague poet Erin Hoover launched Late Night Library just two years ago. In the early days LNL focused on their local community of the book, in Portland and Brooklyn respectively.
Two years into the enterprise the constellation includes “Late Night Debut,” a renamed version of LNL, “Late Night Conversations,” interviews and discussion about literary and publishing issues) a Portland-based reading series entitled “In and Out of Town”, a literary award called the “Debut-litzer,” a takeoff on the Pulitzer, and “One for the Books,” a campaign to support independent publishers and bookstores. Most recently LNL celebrated their two-year anniversary by sponsoring a poster contest exploring the theme “Read Like You Mean It.”
There are Minnesota connections to LNL. For example, Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber’s Books and editor of Read This!: Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores was interviewed about the “One for the Books” pledge. The show describes the multiple facets of the campaign:
– published authors who pledge to link to independent retailers or IndieBound rather than retailers engaged in “predatory pricing;”
– independent publishers who do not feature links to corporate retailers who predatory price on their official website;
– Bricks-and-Mortar pledges by which independently-owned bookstores support independent publishers by offering multiple independent titles on their bookshelves and providing a pick-up or delivery service for community-based readers.
More on the interview at http://latenightlibrary.org/hans-Weyandt. A forthcoming interview on Late Night Debut (May 31) will feature Rachel Maddow’s agent Amy Leach’s debut collection of essays, Things That Are, published by Milkweed Editions in July 2012.
Martone sums up the state of the writing/publishing/bookselling scene in this way: “I’m concerned that book culture has moved to the fringe over the last 10 years. I think writers need to support other writers, and I want to help get good books into the hands of people who are interested in reading them.” In other words, this is a task too overwhelming for anything less than a network of players and projects.
The podcasts, “Late Night Conversation” and “Late Night Debut”, remain the anchors of the operation. They’re free, available on iTunes, Stitcher and the LNL website.
Debut writers are invited to send two review copies of their published book to Late Night Library, 7503 Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, OR 97206. Find more about the podcasts, the “One for the Books” pledge, a copy of the charming “Read Like You Mean It” winning poster, details on where to find the podcasts online and what’s happening every week at LNL on their lively website. http://latenightlibrary.org