Books In Action
Coffee House Press (CHP) has long recognized that there are many possibilities for reader/writer exchange beyond (and even without) the page. Through our Books in Action publications and programs, we’ve become interdisciplinary collaborators and incubators for new work and audience experiences—not just with CHP authors, but with visual, performing, and social practice artists, and others whose ideas and work engage and inspire. Our vision for the future is one where a publisher is more than a company that packages books. We strive to be a catalyst and connector—between authors and readers, ideas and resources, creativity and community, inspiration and action.
Past and Ongoing Books in Action Projects
CHP In the Stacks
Inspired by the Library as Incubator Project, CHP: In the Stacks is a library residency program that places writers, artists, and sometimes readers in public and private collections/libraries to create new work, shine a light on the collection, and inspire creative engagement between community members and collections. To learn more about past CHP in the Stacks residencies, visit the project’s Tumblr page.
In collaboration with Works Progress, CHP invited twelve artists to engage communities in and around Minneapolis through conversation, artistic intervention, and other creative activities. Ranging from a public art performance on the Minneapolis light rail to a film screening on the side of an empty East Lake Street storefront, each artist’s project was inspired by an essay from Andy Sturdevant’s Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow, adding to, enacting, and connecting with its content. To learn more about the Potluck Projects and the participating artists, visit the project’s Tumblr page.
Office at Night (1940)
The Walker Art Center and CHP co-commissioned authors Kate Bernheimer and Laird Hunt to write a novella that would accompany the Walker’s exhibition Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process. Inspired by Hopper’s work, specifically Office At Night (1940), Bernheimer and Hunt wrote the work from the perspectives of the people and objects within the painting. It was released by CHP as an e-book and featured on the Walker’s website during the exhibition, providing a model for creative participation. The e-book was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and is available for purchase in our web store.
Reading Room created a public space dedicated solely to the act of quietly reading a book for pleasure. It was held at the Walker Art Center’s Open Field and at Minnehaha Park.
Ring Ring Poetry
A collaboration with Intermedia Arts, the Loft, the Jerome Foundation, and artist Cole Sarar, Ring Ring Poetry is a poetry installation project featuring Minneapolis and St. Paul poets “broadcasting” poems written for specific places in the Twin Cities. Community members can visit the project locations, call the Ring Ring Poetry phone number, and experience a poem and place together. To learn more about the project visit the Ring Ring Poetry website.
In collaboration with the American Swedish Institute, CHP and Sarah Schultz curated a room called the Laureate Lounge, an inventive space inspired by the real and imagined habits of Nobel Laureates. Through short, thought-provoking, and fun literary activities, the Lounge engaged well over six thousand people during its twelve-week run at the American Swedish Institute. To learn more about this project, visit the ASI’s event page.
Innovative Author Events
As a part of its Books In Action model, CHP regularly designs nontraditional author events. Past examples include the Let the Dark Flower Blossom Picnic Operetta, which featured a dramatic reading and meal based on the book; Lightsey Darst’s Dance book release, which featured twenty-five poets and dancers performing the book in collaboration; and Brad Zellar’s House of Coates book release, which took place at a used furniture store staged to mimic the book’s setting.
Books In Action Series of Titles and Approach to Publishing
Along with its Books in Action programs, CHP publishes a series of titles called Books In Action. These titles highlight local organizations and/or individuals working to further literary engagement. Past titles in this series include The Artist’s Library by Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer of The Library as Incubator project, The Little Free Library Book by Margret Aldrich, and Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores by Hans Weyandt.
CHP also regularly produces titles that expand on the conventional reading experience. Past titles include Boarded Windows by Dylan Hicks and Office at Night by Kate Bernheimer and Laird Hunt.
Past and Ongoing Access and Equity Initiatives
CHP is dedicated to equity, access, and public engagement and addresses these issues through Books in Action and the below initiatives.
In August of 2015, CHP announced the addition of stipends to its internship program. These stipends give anyone, regardless of their economic situation, the opportunity to participate in the program.
Titles Formatted for the Blind and Visually Impaired
In September of 2015, CHP will announce the availability of eighty titles formatted for screen readers used by the blind and visually impaired. With a focus on poetry and prose with unconventional formatting, this initiative significantly diversifies the work available to that community.
Little Free Library
In 2011, CHP began donating its books to the Little Free Library organization. To date, CHP has donated over 12,000 books. As a result, CHP titles have traveled with Little Free Libraries to over forty countries and reached hundreds of readers with geographic barriers to libraries.
Emily Books Imprint
Starting in 2016, CHP’s catalog will feature an imprint of books curated by feminist hybrid book club/bookstore/publisher Emily Books, establishing CHP as a place to incubate fledgling literary projects.