Laomagination

Twin Cities Book Festival 2017!

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Had a fun time at the Twin Cities Book Festival this year. It’s the first time I’ve been able to go in years due to previous schedule conflicts and living out of state.

It was a rainy day, and I’d also forgotten they moved from MCTC to the State Fair Grounds. Fortunately, I still managed to get over there in time to catch up with my fellow Diversicon 2018 Guest of Honor, Charlie Jane Anders, and a chance meeting with award-winning author, Kelly Barnhill.

I spent the better part of my time there searching for speculative poetry, in particular, doing outreach for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.  It was good to see one of my favorite poets, Kyle Tran Myrhe at Button Poetry and his first collection out, as well as Mai Der Vang’s award-winning debut at the Graywolf Press table, and copies of US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars.

SF Minnesota’s Scott Lohman was representing Tales of the Unanticipated Magazine, which featured many fine speculative poets over the years, including myself. I also saw copies of the late John Calvin Rezmerski’s books over at the League of Minnesota Poets, who have a conference coming up next week.

Mizna, the journal of Arab American art and literature was still going strong, as was Water~Stone Review, although they were sold out of the issue featuring me, Kao Kalia Yang, Soul Vang, Mai Der Vang and May Lee Yang.

Among new faces was Aurora Whittet, who had her new book How To Turn Your Mom Into A Monster for readers to see at the festival. Queen of Swords Press was there with founder Catherine Lundoff and local author Michael Merriam. I had a chance to finally meet some of the wonderful folks at Boneshaker Books, a volunteer-run bookstore collective near the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis.

I saw a copy of Lucy, Queen of the Sofa, but they weren’t selling a copy, alas. Wendy Brown-Baez was representing the Minnesota Prison Writing Project, which will have a reading coming up on October 21st to support those efforts.

My congratulations to everyone who put on such a wonderful event, especially Rain Taxi, the lead organizers. I look forward to what we can all do together in the coming year ahead! Rain Taxi champions aesthetically adventurous literature through publications, events, and service to the literary community.

Founded in 1996, this year Rain Taxi became old enough to drink! Among the core values of Rain Taxi is its commitment to artistic inclusion, guided by the community with a sense of thoughtful curation and rigorous review. These are principles that cannot be taken for granted, and I hope that they will become a standard for many other literary institutions.

In the age of online technology, I think they found one of the best balances you could ask for in being both a print publication and an online journal. It’s not everyday you see such a literary venture thrive, and Rain Taxi is truly one of the treasures of Minnesota and Midwestern literature.

This year was the 16th year since the first Twin Cities Book Festival in 2001.  It was inspiring to see so many people excited to come out to engage with so many diverse writers, publishers, editors, artists, librarians, schools, booksellers, and other institutions in one space. When the festival first moved over to the fairgrounds in 2013, it did the near-impossible, successfully managing to make it a free event for the community on a shoestring budget of approximately $50,000.  In many years, attendance can reach over 6,000 people throughout the day! I hope to see it continue for decades ahead as a positive example of what we can do together to create spaces for the exchange of ideas and the fullest exploration of our freedom of expression in the United States.

This was my very first time meeting Charlie Jane in person, after so many of years of our paths crossing online, and I found her to be a warm and wonderful person to talk to, with excellent ideas and a thorough understanding on so many of the diverse issues we face today in science, art, literature, and the imagination. I think we’re going to have a lot of at Diversicon next July, so be sure to make your plans now to attend!

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