Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kew Gardens Pop-Up Bookstore

Last Thursday, local writers, publishers and artists got together in the Queens neighborhood of Kew Gardens to hold the first-ever "pop up bookstore." The event was held at ThinkingCAP (82-66 Austin Street), a tutoring center. Teaching rooms were remade into salons where small-press publishers, authors and other creative people displayed their work and chatted with curious booklovers. Authors were drawn from around Queens and some have double lives as artisans; the event included a local potter and several visual artists.

The evening was the first of its kind and hopefully not the last, as Queens booklovers rally to promote the idea of an independent bookstore in Kew Gardens or Forest Hills.

Right now, there is only a Barnes and Noble outlet in Forest Hills to supply local readers; the closest independent bookstore is in the neighborhood of Astoria. It would be great to see the borough be able to support a second indie, and one focused on this area of Queens with its particular strengths and diversity.

Today I have an interview with Deborah Emin, publisher at Sullivan Street Press, who organized the event. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us about the event.

Sullivan Street Press Publisher Deborah Emin
1. How did you come up with the idea for the pop up bookstore? Has there been an event like this before in the neighborhood? What goals do you have for it?

No one, as far as I know, has done a Pop-Up Bookstore in Kew Gardens. I wanted the community to know how many great writers we had here and that we all need their support and I wanted a potential bookstore owner to know that there were people interested in having such a venture here.

Author Robert K. Blechman holding his Twitter mystery Executive Severance. You can find him on Twitter @RKBs_Twitstery.

2. Can you tell me about the reading series you started in 2008? What authors have you had?

I started the REZ Reading Series in Kew Gardens because we have no bookstores and there was a large reading community but no place for them to experience the benefits of a bookstore--authors with new books to read and sell their work.  Vivian Gornick, Laura Miller, Max Blumenthal, Jay Neugeboren, Justin Martin, Nancy Kline, we had the Poverty Initiative show up during a blizzard to talk about their new book and to help with a food drive--basically we counted on good will as there was no money to offer anyone. Plus this area is filled with writers and we tapped on them to participate. I know lots of poets and people trying out new work and on and on, it has been a long and fruitful time.

Handmade Bookmarks and Poetry by Carol L. Lustgarten

3. What's your vision for an independent bookstore in Kew Gardens? 

I am not a bookseller, I am a publisher. I would love to have a place here where not only books were sold but also music, we have lots of musicians here too, and where artists can also sell their work.

A Selection of Books from Sullivan Street Press

4. What's the next step after the event is over? What can the community do to help? What kinds of challenges does the project face and how can we get involved?

 Last night as we all sat and talked about the fun we were having, we decided to do it again and again and to involve more Queens writers and booksellers in the mix. More artists too. A couple of people suggested spaces they thought they could get for free. And we talked about sitting in the parks, of which we are blessed with some of the most gorgeous spaces, to sell when the weather turns warm again. Making it a weekly event on the weekends and showing up, whoever wants to for a couple of hours.

The challenges are that none of us have any money. But we love bookstores. I think if more people come to the events, support the ones trying to draw attention to the needs for a bookstore and joining in by writing as you do about these things, we can find someone at some point who will take this venture seriously. We do have plenty of empty store fronts in both Kew Gardens and Forest Hills but the problem as always all over Queens is parking too.

Thank you so much for your time. It was a really fun evening and I for one look forward to more literary events in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens!

For more information on Sullivan Street Press, visit the website here.

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