The Iowa Youth Writing Project held its book fair at The Mill in Iowa City this Saturday. The non-profit was founded by University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates in 2010 and aims to inspire Iowa’s youth through literature. Countless publishing companies based in locations from Chicago, New York, and even England were in attendance to show off some of their newest and most popular work. Tables were decorated with beautifully illustrated covers and innovative bindings.
Long Day Press is a “hand-bound chapbook publisher.” Each piece is “literally sewn and bound by hand in my living room,” said Editor Joshua Bohnsack. Displayed on the table were the Long Day Press Journals, which are petite books made out of beer boxes. Other pieces contain prose, poems, and other short stories of fiction and surrealism.
Perhaps the most eye-catching was a medium-sized rustic looking wooden box with some words and a martini glass engraved into it. This “box” is actually a poetry book entitled “Burnt Sienna: Cocktails and Stories” by Joshua Bohnsack. Inside are 15 recipe cards with a cocktail recipe on the front and a bar story on the back.
One of the purposes of the fair is to promote marginalized voices in society. Based in Chicago, The Poetry Foundation publishes “Poetry” magazine, which, according to the foundation’s website,” exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.”
Patrick Samuel, one of the foundation’s representatives for the fair, elaborated on the process of choosing literature for the issues. Quality is not the only factor to consider when choosing which pieces to publish. The foundation prefers to publish perspectives that are not often prevalent in society. Therefore, the Poetry Foundation welcomes anyone to share their work with them. “Our open door policy is very important to us in order to be as inclusive as possible to our writers,” Samuel said. Poetry magazine is published monthly, and its next issue will focus on Transgender and LGBT perspectives.
Joe Tiefenhaler, who is in charge of literary programming for Mission Creek, helps to organize the fair. “The focus of this has always been independent presses and literary magazines, so all these people are outside of major publishing industry,” “A lot of them run it out of their own homes and garages and a lot of them are emerging authors and they put out some really beautiful work.”
Holding a two-foot-high stack of books he bought at the fair, Tiefenhaler was obviously passionate about these authors. He enjoys, not only helping these individuals gain traction, but indulging in their work himself. Making the book fair a bigger focal point of the festival is one of his goals through literary programming.
The Iowa Youth Project book fair is a unique event. It isn’t often that one gets to encounter so much literary talent in one place. The fair does not feature famous artists, and that is the entire point. Each author was extremely modest, conversational, and excited to promote his/her work while having a beer with those attending. The fair fits so perfectly into Mission Creek’s lineup and fills a niche that Iowa City so desperately needed. If you enjoy raw talent, look no further.