I spent last weekend driving 5 hours to (and then from) Champaign, Illinois to attend a book fair in a poorly lit bar downtown. This probably says a lot of things about me, not the least of which is the fact that I find remarkably nerdy ways to use up all my gas money.
The book fair was part of the Pygmalion Literature Festival, which is a part of the much larger (albeit still “boutique”) Pygmalion Music Festival. The Lit. Fest. is an (almost) totally free series of events that satiates us lit. nerds with author readings, a lit. crawl, and an indie book sale. Last year, I got to meet Richard Siken, Tarfia Faizullah, and Jamaal May. But this year, I just drove down for one day with my boyfriend and enjoyed the book fair. Here’s what I got!
If you have any interest in literary magazines and small publishing presses, then this is a great event to check out. I left the book fair with a nice little haul of books and back issues. Much of it is discounted, and several booths were handing out back issues for free. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the actual event (I get embarrassed taking photos in public??) but the book fair was basically a very dark, very crowded bar with virtually every table stacked high with books. In other words, it was paradise.
The Short Flight / Long Drive Books booth had a deal for 3 books for $20, so I picked up a short fiction collection by Mary Miller, a novella by Chloe Caldwell, and a collection of poetry by Chelsea Martin. I was totally unfamiliar with these titles, but the book seller there (whose name was Brooks, by the way) did such a great job of describing all the books on the table, I couldn’t help but purchase a few.
I bought a couple of issues of Forklift, Ohio, a literary journal that I was totally unfamiliar with before attending the book fair. Their concept is pretty unique since the press uses different materials every time they publish an issue. The one on the left is bound with beeswax (and it smells delicious), and the one on the right is bound like a piece of meat purchased at a butchers shop. Such a strange concept, and yet oddly appealing.
I stopped by the Black Ocean table and purchased this collection of tiny essays by Elisa Gabbert.
Booth, the lit. journal out of Butler University was having a great deal on back issues of their journal so I picked up a few. I’ve barely dug in, but so far really enjoy the fact that this press publishes comics alongside poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Overall, I had a great time and hope to return next year. This is the only indie book fair I’ve been to, but I will say that’s it’s a much more intimate experience than walking into a bookstore or library. As an introvert myself, I’d say you definitely need to be comfortable approaching tables and talking to the booksellers. And you also need to be comfortable politely walking away from tables (and authors!) without buying any of their books, (unless you have the means and desire to purchase wares from every booth, then more power to you!). It’s an awesome event, but might be a little taxing on the introverts out there (and aren’t most of us book nerds at least a little introverted). I admit, as soon as I walked into the bar, I was a little overwhelmed and almost ran out of there without even approaching any tables. So happy I decided to stick around and mingle.
Have you been to an indie book fair recently? Have any favorites in your area I should check out? Let me know! And, as always, happy reading.