Maybe you’re not familiar with Griffith, Indiana, a northwestern, Hoosier town forty minutes south of Chicago. Maybe you’ve never tried the “sproh rootie” at the Grindhouse Cafe downtown, or mosied into the Pokro Brewing Company for a craft beer with the infamous handle, the “Dwarven Assassin.” But worse yet, what if you weren’t in Griffith on August 1st and 2nd, when this interstate oasis hosted Small Prestivus 2015?
Unless you’re Cher and you can “turn back time,” then you missed out. But the good news is Julie Demoff Larson, Small Prestivus coordinator and Blotterature Literary Magazine founder/editor, plans to keep the annual festival alive and well for years to come. With books to buy, talent to hear, workshops to play, and new friendships to forge, Small Prestivus 2015 was a moleskin journal that fits in your back pocket: small enough for every page and every name to mingle and stand-out. Small enough to matter, to take with you wherever you go.
Speaking of books you obsessively carry and crave, last Saturday’s book fair was brimming with cool titles to share and shine, with food, music, and workshops abounding too. Twelve Winters Press, Lit Fest Press, Sundress Publications, and more showed off their writers and catalogs in the sweltering heat. And when I say sweltering, I mean it. Just ask T. A. Noonan’s likely-still-healing sunburns. Yeah, Sundress works hard for the money, and T.A. wasn’t the only author on-hand to sign books and help out at the publication’s tent. Sarah Winn and Donna Vorreyer were also present, giving readings on both days to very appreciative audiences. You can check-out Sarah’s e-chap, Portage, here for free. Donna’s release, A House of Many Windows, is available for purchase at the Sundress store.
Following a night of counter-intuitive hydration and evening readings at the Pokro Brewing Company, the Small Prestivus crew of writers, editors, friends, and family gathered one last time on Sunday afternoon for the Festival of Language. This was a diverse five hour slam of fiction and poetry. Deliveries ranged from the suave, Cassonova-meets-Bukowski poems of Bill Gainer to the heart-skipping elegance of Sarah Chavez’s reevaluation of the worlds that are borne on turtle backs. Kayla Greenwell took us into her grandmother’s home and, consequently, her own heart. Bud Smith told us a story about tiger blood. Joani Reese sang from her book, Night Chorus. Robert Vaughan introduced us to Addicts & Basements, and other wondrous characters. Krista Cox captured listeners with her verses scaling the walls of online dating, with one poem rightfully shrinking a “Fisher of Women” down a size. The full list of awesome writers and their equally poignant work is formidable to say the least, and other impressive artists staked their claim to the afternoon as well.
Also making sense of internet non-sense, Adam Nicholson was on-site, establishing himself as the “harmonizer of hash tags” with a reading of the internet’s finest dismal posts. Adam was also responsible for bringing Sala to everyone’s attention at Small Prestivus, a fresh organization made by artists for artists, promoting collaboration and support of creative thinkers as far as the internet can reach. But don’t take my word for it: take Adam’s, and support his cause here.
In the same reader’s block as Adam, T.A. Noonan later spoke both a “compsognathus” and an “archaeopteryx” back into existence. She read excerpts from Petticoat Government and The Bone Folders, one line of the latter echoing through the weekend, “That kindergarten grin of peel. How your lips glistened like raw eggs.” She even shared fresh material for fans. You can catch her new book, The Midway Iterations, later this year from Hyacinth Girl Press.
After each round of individual readings, Jane L. Carman and Julie Demoff Larson organized a series of reading experiments. These mixed and matched all the readers and their varied works onto the same stage. Voices mingled and read in unison. Fragments collided in midair. Other experiments allowed for call-and-response theatrics as presenters read every other line of their own work as questions instead of statements, as the laughter launched and the beverages threatened to crawl their way up and out of the audience’s helpless noses. After the last experiment and a round of sixty-second reads, the Festival of Language concluded.
With bittersweet farewells, the cast of Small Prestivus 2015 left the mystical heat of Griffith in its assorted rear-view mirrors. Across the country, we attempt in vain to resume normalcy after the high of sharing work and relishing in the words of new friends. We wait for Small Prestivus 2016, where we hope you can join us in our celebration of all things small press.
Sundress Publications thanks all those who participated, as well as Julie Demoff Larson for organizing!
(All photos courtesy of Small Prestivus 2015 unless otherwise noted.)
For a full list of occurrences, participants, and related news for next year, please view the Small Prestivus Facebook page.