Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MEET THE PRESS: And Other Stories

Avid would like to formally introduce you to And Other Stories, a small press located in England! This team of cool-sounding people publishes mostly works in translation; their mission is to increase access to world-class titles that are not currently available in English. Founder Stefan Tobler says: “It has been said that the reason to start a publishing house is normally an editorial impulse. There’s the sense that something is missing in the world of books and a company is born. That is true in And Other Stories’ case, and is no doubt true of all the other publishers who publish literature in translation as part of their list.”

The press is classified as a not-for-private-profit “CIC” (Community Interest Company), which basically means that they have more freedom to take risks with editorial decisions rather than catering to “Richard & Judy’s taste,” or to the dictates of investors. A focus on community is truly at the heart of their operation, as they allow readers a role in their editorial decisions through reading groups, and are partially funded by their subscription program.

Personally, I consider the subscription program the most captivating aspect of the press's business model. I'm a little biased, as I'm a member of the team that runs the Avid Book Subscription Program, which is such a wonderful means of connecting Avid to a nationwide literary community. In the case of And Other Stories, subscribers pay up front, and then receive first edition copies of new titles months before their publication dates. They're also thanked by name inside the books they supported! Tobler calls the work of the press “[a] social enterprise,” and shares that subscribers: “trust us to find new writers for them.” Beautiful.

Side note: They have some really compelling cover art. Feminist Press’s U.S. edition of Michelle Tea’s Black Wave is near and dear to my heart, but check out And Other Stories’ cover. Too good.

Want to know more? Head over to their website and read their “11 Commandments.”

Avid Staff Pick: And Other Stories Edition
Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World 

Signs is a slim novel, a quick fuse. It involves crossing borders, shifting identities, and weaving languages. It follows a badass female protagonist as she travels an allegorical landscape, exposing the un-truths and silences and willful ignorance inherent in the construction of borders and of "American-ness." One image is burned into my memory: A woman, undocumented, detained by border control, writes and recites a poem of protest. For this scene alone, you should read this book.

What sold me on Signs, though? A blurb from another incredible author, Valeria Luiselli (check out her novel, her other novel, her essay collection, and this article she wrote for Lithub). Here are her lovely words on Herrera: ‘Yuri Herrera must be a thousand years old. He must have travelled to hell, and heaven, and back again. He must have once been a girl, an animal, a rock, a boy, and a woman. Nothing else explains the vastness of his understanding.’


Final fun fact: Lisa Dillman, the translator of this book, lives in Atlanta!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Conversation with Will Walton: Small Press Edition!

Will Walton wears many hats: novelist, Avid bookseller extraordinaire, cat dad, and kind friend to everyone in Athens and beyond. He is also our local small press expert. As curator of Avid on Prince’s small press section and moderator of our small press book club, he possesses a wealth of knowledge about many tiny, amazing publishers. In addition to these concrete responsibilities, Will is also possibly the greatest champion of small press on a daily basis. Stop by Avid on Prince any time he's working, and I guarantee he'll have a new and strange and wonderful small press title to share with you.

Following is an interview with Will about the nature of small press inspiration, recent discoveries, favorite presses, and the importance of reading small press in these politically charged times.

EW: So, you love small press. What kick-started this obsession?

WW: When I went to Winter Institute 2015 [a book selling conference] and sat around with the staff of Diesel in Oakland. Brad, who works at Diesel, just started talking about all these amazing-sounding books, and I was like, "Why haven't I heard of these?" I remember he spoke about The Wallcreeper in particular, and that book blew my mind.

EW: Can you talk to me about the ways in which small press inspires you specifically?

WW: Small press titles force me to look up and look beyond. The term "great American novel" is too BIG for me, and it feels relative to a gaze that's specifically white, cis-male,  hetero,  and . .  . oh yeah, American! I don't need it. I need a story that feels human and personal, and I don't need to feel like the author sweated over it for ten years in order to produce it . .  If it's a little rough around the edges, so what? It's liberating! And so is life!

EW: You brainstormed the idea and carried through the reality of Small Press Book Club. Avid has nine book clubs (!), but, in my opinion, this one is really unique and exceptional. Discussions are so vibrant and thought provoking; it’s perhaps the most provocative of all our book clubs (and I say this as moderator of my own club, which I adore). Would you talk to me about how you conceived of your vision for the club, how you see it now, what has surprised you about it, etc.

WW: Yes! I'm so happy you love that club, and that it has delighted you! It has delighted and surprised me, too. I think, given the nature of the books we read, our discussions tend to be sprawling! We get a lot of ground covered! And we get to talk about form, which I LOVE doing. Form and style. If we talk about plot and character, too, well . . . that's just gravy.

EW: Would you tell me about the small press you’ve most recently discovered and fallen for?

WW: That's hard! I've fallen for so many! Lately, though, it's Sarabande Books.

EW: You’ve done so much great work building Avid’s small press section from the ground up. Has the active curation this physical section of the shop taught you anything new about small presses that you’re care to share?

WW: Aw, thank you! . . . Well, it has taught me how hard it is to curate a section in a bookstore! Haha. I'm always looking to see what's sold and trying to order it promptly back in again. And I'm getting a sense of what our customers like the most, which is always good!

EW: Okay, here’s a tough one: If you were absolutely forced to choose a favorite small press title, what would it be? Then, if you would, explain why everyone should RUN to their nearest indie bookstore and buy this book.

WW: Yes, that is tough! Ooh, ooh, ooh . . . hmm . . . Bluets by Maggie Nelson (Wave Books). You know why, Elizabeth Willis! [EW: Of all of the books, Bluets is my favorite. Click that link to read my staff pick on Avid's website, and you'll find out why].

EW: Do you believe that there is any particular necessity in increasing support of small presses and their authors post-election? Clearly from this question, I do, but maybe you think small press was as vitally important in 2015 as it is in 2017. Please, feel free to disagree with me! I’m eager to fight it out.

WW: I definitely do. I mean, the arts are going to take a hit in the next four years. And the new regime is corporate. So, yeah, anything small that ferries goodness into this country--whether it's a press, a bookshop, or an art house cinema--we need to make a conscious effort to support. Especially over the next four years. As believers in free speech, we're all in this together.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Happy Small Press Month!

On the first of March, Avid began a month-long celebration of small presses. Each week, we're featuring a different press at our Prince Ave. location. At the end of the week, we'll be raffling off a prize donated by the press itself (the prizes are, therefore, very awesome)!!

Avid loves small presses because they're run by teams of smart, passionate people dedicated to championing bold, outstanding, diverse literary voices. They're responsible for opening up exciting new possibilities in the publishing world, and putting writers in print who might be passed over by major publishing houses. The Avid family would like to personally thank independent publishers for putting crazy, weird, "out there" books in the hands of grateful readers like us. Small Press Month at Avid on Prince Ave. is our "Thank you."

Week 1: Catapult Press

It just so happens that March's Small Press Book Club is reading a Catapult title. Danielle Dutton's Margaret the First is a work of beauty. Read it to connect with Margaret Cavendish, 17th century writer, thinker, and all-around strong female; read it to immerse yourself in a shimmering fairy tale.

Catapult itself is an entire literary ecosystem: they publish books and an online literary magazine, offer writing workshops, and host an online writing community open to the public. Their beautiful mission statement is available online, part of which states: "We publish stories that celebrate life. In its continuously evolving, spontaneously rearranging development of possibilities. Stories that reveal all the layers—the sinews and hairy knuckles, the iron and meat of history and influence...Most of all, we publish stories that land us squarely, concretely, in someone else’s shoes." Oh, yes, they do.

Week 2: Dorothy, A Publishing Project

Founded by none other than Danielle Dutton (yes! That Danielle Dutton, author of the mind-bogglingly good Margaret the First), Dorothy has been called one of the small presses "slyly changing the industry for the better" (FlavorWire). Avid wholeheartedly agrees. They publish "works of fiction, or near fiction, or about fiction, mostly by women." Every fall, Dorothy publishes two books simultaneously. The books are paired intentionally as two works coming from differing "aesthetic traditions." Dorothy says: "A large part of our interest in literature lies in its possibilities, its endless stylistic and formal variety." Heart eyes emoji forever.

What's in a name? Dorothy "is named for head librarian, author, gardener, animal- and art-lover, bookmobile-driver, and great-aunt Dorothy Traver, who on every birthday gave a book with an owl bookplate."

Week 3: Coffee House Press

Coffee House is a rad press for all you "adventurous readers, arts enthusiasts, community builders, and risk takers" out there. They're based in Minneapolis, which means that a few lucky members of the Avid family had the privilege of meeting the Coffee House team back in January (during Winter Institute, a bookselling conference that was located in Minneapolis this year). They're truly lovely people. They also have an amazing imprint, Emily Books, a publishing project that publishes "weird books by women." This could not be more my jam if it tried.

Week 4: Two Dollar Radio, "Indie Book Publisher, Film Producer, Culture Maker"

Avid truly hearts this rad, family-run small press. They're bold and bright, publishing books in accordance with their motto "too loud to ignore." They also have some of the best cover art in publishing. Here I must quote them at length: "Our books and films aren’t for everyone. The last thing the world needs is an indie press releasing books that could just as easily carry a corporate colophon. Our work is for the disillusioned and disaffected, the adventurous and independent spirits who thirst for more, who push boundaries and like to witness others test their limits. We know we’re not alone. Let’s make some noise."

Pro tip: Check out their cool daily blog, "Radio Waves." My personal favorite is the weekly feature "Death Rattle of Culture."

Avid is abuzz with excitement for their upcoming release They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Don't even try to tell me that's not the best book cover you've ever seen... The pub. date is 11/14; pre-order today!

Week 4: Tin House

Tin House is a small press located in Portland, Oregon. It's also a really, really amazing literary magazine. They've published some weird, wonderful books that have captured the hearts of many an Avid bookseller. Rachel K. in particular is completely and irrevocably in love with Tin House.

I've also loved Tin House for quite some time, but they recently gained even more respect points in my book. The home page of their website currently displays the poem "Evil" by Langston Hughes, along with a heartening message in response to the 2016 election, part of which relates: "Now, more than ever, we believe in the power of story, in empathy, in inclusion, in the belief that all voices have the right to be heard." They have also began frequently posting incredible, timely poems on their blog. Check it out!

What's in a name? Tin House was named for its Portland home, an old Victorian with corrugated zinc siding known in the neighborhood as "the tin house."

Week 6: Graywolf Press

Graywolf, also located in Minneapolis, is a small press that particularly excels in the realms of poetry and essay. This is why we've chosen to feature them during the first week of April as an ideal bridge between Small Press Month and Poetry Month. While I don't play favorites... Graywolf is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to small, independent publishers. According to their mission statement, they publish books that "nourish the individual spirit and enrich the broader culture." Sign me up! Stay tuned for more Avid fangirling over Graywolf during the first week of April.

If you, dear reader, call Athens home, please stop by during the next month and help us celebrate small press at Avid Bookshop on Prince Ave.!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We Are OPEN!!

By now you've probably noticed that we're really, really bad at updating our Avid blog. But we're pros at updating Facebook and Twitter, and we are doing pretty well at actually running a brick & mortar bookshop.

That's right:  after four years of planning and education and preparation and money-gathering, Avid Bookshop has opened at 493 Prince Ave. in in-town Athens. Please drop by!

This week we are open Sunday from 10:30-5:30 and again Tuesday &Wednesday from 10:30-5:30. We will be closed on Monday, Oct. 17 so that we can run lots and lots of errands to prepare for the grand opening weekend.

On Thursday we have our first-ever poetry reading--local poet Ida Stewart will be here to celebrate the release of her new book, Gloss.

On Friday, 10/21 we'll be open from 10:30 AM until late, because Friday the 21st is our Grand Opening Party Part I!  And on Saturday the 22nd we're having the Grand Opening Part II, which is a kids' party.  Come on down!

We're beyond thrilled to be here at last.  Can't wait to see you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bookshop lease now firmly in hand (via the Bookshop Blog)

I recently started contributing to a website called The Bookshop Blog.  My first post there is entitled "Lease Now Firmly In Hand" and talks about the odd timing of the last few weeks--I delivered my signed store lease the same day the Borders news was all over the national radio and TV programming.  Check it out here:  http://bookshopblog.com/2011/07/26/the-bookshop-lease-now-firmly-in-hand/

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Storytimes!

Janet Geddis, Avid's owner, conducts monthly storytimes at Full Bloom Pregnancy & Young Parenting Center as well as at Arrow Space for Families.

Full Bloom Storytimes:
Every Wednesday at 4, Full Bloom hosts storytime.  Avid Bookshop helps out the second Wednesday of each month.  Come see us! This storytime is especially geared toward babies & their caregivers, but kids up to 7 will be entertained.

Full Bloom
220 N. Milledge Ave
Athens, GA 30601
http://fullbloomparent.com/

Arrow Storytimes:
The first Wednesday of each month at 11:00 AM, Janet visits Arrow Space for Families (adjacent to Big City Bread Cafe) to read stories with the little ones.  The reading is especially geared toward infants & toddlers, but all kids and their caregivers are welcome.

Arrow
393 N. Finley St., Studio D
Athens, GA 30601
http://www.ourarrow.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Borders closing ALL its doors after 40 years.

Well, it's really happening:  Borders Books & Music is shuttering its 399 remaining stores, including the one here in Athens in Beechwood Shopping Center on Alps Rd.

The Athens Banner-Herald posted this article today, and of course I decided to formally respond.  Here's what I wrote in the comments section.  Let me know what you think:


Some may be surprised to hear that even though I am a local, independent bookseller, I am saddened by our community's loss.  When Borders closes their 399 stores, approximately 10,700 booksellers will be jobless.  This is heartbreaking for them and for the industry at large.  Many of my friends and acquaintances here list our Alps Rd. Borders as one of their favorite places to hang out, and I feel sympathetic to them--it's hard to lose that "third place."

When Borders' woes were first made very public months ago, I wrote a piece for Beyond the Trestle about what it would mean if Borders were to go under--you can read it here if you're interested: http://beyondthetrestle.com/content/well-be-better-borders

To answer to a few of the commenters above:  Athens will now be home to just two independent bookstores.  Jackson Street Books downtown sells used books, DVDs, and more.  They have a great collection of competitively priced used materials and antiquarian books.  Avid Bookshop, my store, is currently online and events-based only, but we are moving into a retail storefront on Prince Avenue in the coming months.  We sell both new and used books as well as cards, gifts, and locally-made gift items.

There's a lot of talk out there about the demise of books and reading, but the amount of hours people spend reading has actually remained relatively constant over the last many decades.  When the big box stores began to open all over the country in the early- to mid-1990s, many independent shops lost their customer base and went out of business.  But, time and time again in recent years, we are seeing that the big box stores are having a hard time getting a handle on the rapidly-changing industry.  Some--not all!--independent stores that are willing to alter their business plans and approaches to bookselling are actually thriving, and MANY independent bookstores have been opening in the last couple of years--the number of new indie stores rivals that of the number of new stores per year in the pre-big box days. This is great news for small business, local economies, and, most of all, people who love to read.

All this is to say that I am sad about the closing of Borders and the loss of jobs, but I don't think bookstores are dead.  If you value reading, it behooves you to go to a store you know and love, where you trust the booksellers' recommendations and feel comfortable.  For some people, that place will be Barnes & Noble.  For others, that was Borders.  And for many others (like me), I feel most at home in many of the locally-owned bookstores.  Not all are fabulous, but the ones worth your time are.   
Thanks for reading this long-winded comment!
Sincerely,
Janet Geddis
Avid Bookshop LLC
Athens, GA