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Welcome to Ann Arbor, Literati!

By Harriet Staff


A new book store recently opened its doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan– with small press publishers and community on its mind! John Bohn of the Michigan Daily reports on the opening of Literati.

In the basement, philosophy, history and science books line the shelves. Generally, a few tables are available for people looking to sit down and peruse a title. But tonight, rows of chairs and a microphone turn the downstairs of Literati Bookstore into a cozy performance space.

On this occasion, the readings are organized around Hobart Press, a local, independent publisher. Ann Arbor residents Aaron Burch and Elizabeth Ellen edit for Hobart, which comprises an online journal and some printed titles.

Burch walks to the front of the room to announce the first reader. To introduce a writer, he explains, he likes to play a song that reminds him of them. For the first reader, Mary Miller, he’s chosen “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty. As he explains, Miller and Ellen are both fans of Petty and listened to him a lot during their most recent summer reading tour. And of course, Mary Miller and Mary Jane share the same first name. Miller walks to the mic as Burch plays the Tom Petty song on his iPhone. She then begins to read a short piece of flash fiction.

With the closing of Borders, the space for a general bookstore in Ann Arbor opened back up. On April 3, 2013, Literati opened its doors to fill that gap in the downtown community. But as an independent bookstore, Literati brings its own unique opportunities.

Hilary Gustafson, co-owner of Literati, does the buying. She works with a variety of distributors and publishers, some of which, like Consortium and Small Press Distribution, provide Gustafson with an array of alternative and indie press titles with which to stock the shelves of the store. However, Gustafson isn’t the only person who makes the decisions on stock. In addition to Gustafson, there is a team of workers all with previous experience in writing, literature and bookselling. Some came from Borders, others from Shaman Drum (another recently closed local book dealer) and some come from the University’s MFA poetry program.

“I allow them to be more involved in the buying process,” said Gustafson. “Having input from everybody on the team is something that Borders didn’t have, at least when it was corporate.”

From this collaborative process emerges a small node in the dizzying network of independent publishing. A brief look at the fiction section of any bookstore can make one queasy with a sense of not knowing what’s out there. Chances are, however, that even within that stock, a multitude of titles and authors has been edited out. And that’s where a store like Literati comes in. It provides authors, like Mary Miller, a chance to share their work.

Read more at Michigan Daily.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, September 5th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.