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Small presses celebrate book release, award finalist

Book lovers in the Northland have two events to cheer on May 5. Artist and writer Cecilia Lieder's Calyx Press Duluth, a 4-year-old small publisher, will be honored as a finalist at the Minnesota Book Awards in St. Paul for two of its volumes. Th...

Book lovers in the Northland have two events to cheer on May 5.

Artist and writer Cecilia Lieder's Calyx Press Duluth, a 4-year-old small publisher, will be honored as a finalist at the Minnesota Book Awards in St. Paul for two of its volumes.

The tiny business, which publishes a maximum of 500 copies per book, shares the spotlight with far larger publishers such as Simon & Schuster, St. Martin's Press, University of Notre Dame Press and Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Winners will be announced that evening.

May 5 also is the official release date of Duluth poet Louis Jenkins's new book of prose poems, "North of the Cities" -- the inaugural edition of Will o' the Wisp Books, his new small press. The paperback has been in Duluth bookstores for a couple of weeks, but May 5 is the day of the first book signing.

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Small presses are often successful and are growing in number, as evidenced by an estimated 60,000 small publishers in the nation, according to Scott Flora, executive director of the Small Publishers Association of North America, a trade association.

During the past decade, the development of new technology has allowed authors and artists to publish their own works. And it's a way for business people to take a stab at a new venture.

Entrepreneurs can easily design books on a computer and prepare them for the press. But there's high turnover in the industry, Flora said, partly because many people who are writers don't have heads for business.

Those who do, though, can make money, he said.

"I think it is possible to succeed in this world as a self-published author like it never has been before," said Claire Kirch, longtime Duluth-based correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a trade publication.

"Promises Vague Yet Certain," with poems by Donald Dass and artwork by Lieder, is nominated for the Minnesota Book Award in the fine-press category.

"Response," a book of poetry and printsfrom Lake Superior Writers and the Northern Printmakers Alliance, is a finalist in the poetry category.

"Promises" was Calyx's first hardcover book, and it's meant to be a collector's volume, with hand letter-set print, handmade archival paper and a $135 price tag. Only 100 books are in print, and all are signed by the author and the artist.

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"Response" came about when members of Lake Superior Writers wrote poetry to accompany artwork created by members of Northern Printmakers Alliance.

Calyx has published a dozen books since it was founded in 2003. A number of them, including "Response," are simple chapbooks, bound with staples.

"My books have done well as far as being recognized, and it's because they're beautiful. I am an artist, after all," Lieder said.

If one or both of the books wins Minnesota Book Awards, it might help the business. Flora said consumers often choose award winners when looking for gifts or when comparing books in a bookstore.

Louis Jenkins, who has won two Minnesota Book Awards, was searching for a publisher for his new book when his friend Garrison Keillor suggested that he publish it himself.

After initially rejecting the idea, Jenkins decided he'd like to have control of his work and be his own marketer.

"North of the Cities" is a paperback of 50 prose poems with a conversation with Keillor about the poems at the end of the book.

Jenkins received a $1,000 grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council to help with printing, he said. He had 2,000 copies made.

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He engaged Amy Burkett of Duluth to design the book and had it printed in Canada.

Jenkins will do his own marketing with book signings and a gig on "A Prairie Home Companion" May 19. He has scheduled a two-month tour of Norway, England, Wales and Ireland later this year during which he hopes to sell books.

He intends to cover his expenses and perhaps make a little money by publishing the book himself. "Money isn't the primary thing, although it's nice," he said.

Jenkins has written 12 books of poems. Some were published by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth.

He said that in his new venture he might publish other authors under the Will o' the Wisp name if they pay the expenses, but it would probably be by invitation only.

"I'm definitely not going to be reading manuscripts," he said.

"Response" and "North of the Cities" are sold at Northern Lights Books & Gifts and Barnes & Noble in Duluth.

"Promises Vague Yet Certain" by Donald Dass is available only through Cecilia Lieder, cele@northernprintsgallery.com or 724-5212.

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