Seattle’s indie book lovers are a resilient bunch. They throw wakes when beloved independent shops shutter —we lost Capitol Hill institution Bailey/Coy Books in 2009, followed by the opening (and shutting) of Pilot Books shortly after. And when one small press fest ends, two more pop up in its place. The latest is the Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature (APRIL) festival, which rises from the ashes of Pilot Books and its last outing, Small Press Fest. This is no series of sedate readings. APRIL wants to bring in people who wouldn’t usually find themselves at literary events, with parties, live music, chapbook-making workshops, and the intriguing “A Poet, a Playwright, and a Drag Queen” competitive storytelling session.
“We decided to keep the festival going as a remnant of Pilot—having the same spirit, idea, and focus but without a brick and mortar space.” said co-curator Willie Fitzgerald, who, with Tara Atkinson, carries on the tradition they started with Pilot Books owner Summer Robinson.
Despite struggling financially, the indie bookstore succeeded in being an outlet for skilled experimental authors—both upcoming or established—without the aid of big book conglomerates. Fitzgerald acknowledges that "it’s really not a good time for publishing in general, but I think there are a lot of really good opportunities for indie publishing. What we’re seeing now from some of the really cool small presses is a focus on the quality of the work and the quality of the book as the object. These presses can cultivate a pretty dedicated readership in a way that a big conglomerate might not be able to.”
Because of this setup, Fitzgerald didn’t fret when Amazon recently jumped into the publishing fray. “I don’t think they’re going to steal a lot of readership from the small press and indie press world. Amazon, you’re going to get stuff going toward the middle of the road, where they know they have a defined reading audience. The books that small presses are putting out are sort of transgressive or experimental, or stuff that a lot of other publishers wouldn’t touch regardless if they’re Amazon or Harper Perennial or FSG. I think small press publishing is really about pushing out. Having a reading audience that you trust, and they trust you.”
APRIL strives not only to please Seattle’s dedicated indie publishing community, but also welcome those who aren’t familiar with the scene.
“The writing world and the reading world is on a very insular track. There was an article that had this sort of grim prognosis that eventually the only people reading new writing would be writers themselves. [A literary event] doesn’t have to be three hours of a poetry reading in Town Hall and then everyone gets sort of sleepy. I want to be like, ‘Hey you had this great time at this event, and wasn’t this poetry you heard before the dance party really great? Check out this book and this book.’”
APRIL Literary Festival
Mar 22–31, various venues, aprilfestival.wordpress.com
Mar 22 @ 8, Opening Party at Sole Repair. $7.
Mar 26 @ 8, A Poet, a Playwright, and a Drag Queen (competitive storytelling) at Sorrento Hotel’s Fireside Room. $7.
Mar 29 @ 8, Readings from Ryan Call and Chelsea Martin at Porchlight Coffee and Records. Free. (Note: Call’s The Weather Stations is Fitzgerald’s pick for 2011’s best book).