Photos by Nina Hagen
For the past 15 years, the annual Twin Cities Book Festival has given the thriving Minnesota literary community—including authors, publishers, book artists, and advocacy groups—an opportunity to shine, and this year’s incarnation was no different. Hundreds of book lovers turned out on Oct. 15 for the 16th annual festival on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Any naysaying cries that print media is dying would certainly have fallen on deaf ears in the packed event space.
Sponsored by literary review publication Rain Taxi, the free event welcomed authors from around the country to read from and discuss their works, encouraging audience participation in the conversations. The event was by definition interactive; in addition to the author presentations in the Fine Arts Building, the larger Progress Center comprised more 100 exhibiting organizations, from major publishing houses to small-press publishers to self-published authors, all of whom welcomed questions and comments from attendees about their oeuvres.
Chapbooks and book art
Several of the exhibiting authors and organizations had a specific focus or cause to support. Groups such as Quatrefoil Library, a resource for the LGBT community; Minnesota Atheists; and Mizna, a promoter of Arab-American arts, brought perspectives from various Minnesota cultures and sub-cultures who may not ordinarily have such a large platform to share their stories.
Work from certain exhibitors at the event also expanded the definition of “book” through artistic expression and innovation. Rain Taxi is notable for reviewing chapbooks as well as novels, and a few booths displayed the handmade booklets in creative ways. Sister Black Press had a bike printing press set up and encouraged attendees to print their own “poetry spoke cards.” The Loft Literary Center encouraged people to share what piece of writing changed their lives, collecting the responses on a colorful corkboard display.
The Loft Literary Center’s table
These friendly touches, along with the corner of the floor dedicated to children’s authors and storytellers, all conveyed the sense that the local literary community is nothing if not welcoming. Not unlike a college or job fair in its setup, the event gave attendees the opportunity to put a face to the names of familiar organizations and authors around town. It also raised awareness about certain organizations and causes that are perhaps not as well known to the general population.
But what it did most of all was promote creativity and artistic expression in all forms, encouraging everyone from published authors to fans of the art to express themselves and find their unique voice. The huge turnout indicated that these sentiments have a lot of local support, promising a bright future for local authors and creatives in a medium some seem to think is on its way out. To me, it seems that print media is alive and well.
Graywolf Press’ table
Sister Black Printing Press
Crowd at the Twin Cities Book Festival