Typewriter Fun Planned for Winter Institute

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Booksellers can expect to hear the clickety-clack of typewriter keys at this year’s Winter Institute, when Literati Bookstore’s Mike Gustafson and custom poetry purveyors Typewriter Rodeo will bring along their typewriters for the benefit of booksellers.

Notes from a Public Typewriter coverGustafson and the four poets that make up the Austin-based poetry group will also be promoting their forthcoming books, Notes From a Public Typewriter (Grand Central, March 27) and Typewriter Rodeo: Real People, Real Stories, Custom Poems (Andrews McMeel, April 3), respectively.

Gustafson, who owns Literati in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife, Hilary, said he’s excited to bring his typewriter to Memphis, Tennessee, and replicate the store’s practice of setting up a typewriter in-store where anyone can type an anonymous note, then uploading those notes to social media.

“At Winter Institute, booksellers and publishers can type and leave notes for fellow attendees, and we’ll periodically upload the notes to our social media page,” Gustafson said. “I think it will be a fun and positive experience for booksellers, and I hope people take advantage of it.”

Over the years, fans of Literati’s typewriter project have asked the Gustafsons to make a book out of the notes; now, in 2018, Notes From a Public Typewriter, which was co-edited by graphic designer and friend of the store Oliver Uberti, will be published just in time for the store’s five-year anniversary. It contains 150 notes selected from the thousands typed over the years, tons of photos, and several essays by Gustafson on some of the interesting interactions the typewriter has inspired.

Literati Bookstore's public typewriter
Literati Bookstore's public typewriter

“When we first started, I didn’t know what people would type. I didn’t know if people would leave malicious notes, which can happen whenever you allow anonymous content. But right from the get-go, people were leaving not just notes about books and writing, but confessional notes and thoughts that were very personal,” he said. “It’s also turned into a fun way for different generations to bond. For many, this typewriter is the first one they’ve ever used in their lives.”

“It’s just turned into this public experiment of people getting back to the pure enjoyment of the written word,” added Gustafson. “I like the idea that any one of us has a thought to leave behind, and I think that’s really resonated with the community. It’s been a great experiment.”

Gustafson’s typewriter will be stationed at the ABA Welcome Desk, next to the photo booth, on Monday, January 22, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the St. Louis Foyer at the Sheraton Hotel. From Tuesday to Thursday, booksellers can find the typewriter at the Ask ABA Desk, located in the Ballroom Foyer between the doors to Ballroom B&C at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. A bulletin board will be set up nearby where people can post the notes they type.‚Äč

In the coming weeks, Gustafson said booksellers should also check out the store’s special Instagram page, @publictypewriter, which will be updated as the book’s publication nears.

Typewriter antics at Winter Institute will continue that night at the Young Professionals After Party, to be co-sponsored by Andrews McMeel and Typewriter Rodeo: Real People, Real Stories, Custom Poems, along with LitHub/Book Marks, the National Book Foundation, and all nine regional bookseller associations. The event for new or young professionals in the book business will take place from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm in the Magnolia I & II Rooms at the Sheraton Hotel.

A note composed on Literati's public typewriter
A note composed using Literati's public typewriter

The book was written by the group’s four members: Jodi Egerton, Kari Anne Roy, Sean Petrie, and David Fruchter. Created on a lark at a local fair in 2013, Typewriter Rodeo consists of these four Austin writers creating spontaneous custom-composed poems for anyone who asks. Since the group’s founding, appearances have extended to corporate events, fundraisers, museums, book festivals, schools, and private parties, and similar groups have sprung up internationally.

According to Andrews McMeel, the new Typewriter Rodeo book celebrates poetry and human connection in the style of Humans of New York, featuring poems from all over the world paired with photos of the recipients and their personal stories.

Kathy Hilliard, vice president of marketing at Andrews McMeel, explained that attendees at the Young Professionals After Party will line up to talk to the poet they choose, who will then write a poem and hand it to the bookseller in a sleeve. Only one poem is allowed per person.

Typewriter Rodeo cover“It seems like it will be really fun; these poets have really moved people with some of the things they’ve written,” Hilliard told Bookselling This Week. “It’s really a sight to see and to read. I think it will show booksellers how much fun it could be if they have [an event like that] at their store. People are going to get a big kick out of it.”

According to the publisher, the members of Typewriter Rodeo have some strong writing credentials to their names: Egerton has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin and co-wrote This Word Now (Write Good Books) with her husband, while Fruchter is a freelance curriculum writer, musician, and performance artist. Holt’s published books (as K.A. Holt) include the middle grade novels-in-verse, Rhyme Schemer, House Arrest, and Knockout (all by Chronicle Books), and Petrie has an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a law degree from Stanford University.

The 2018 Winter Institute is made possible by support from lead sponsor Ingram Content Group and from publishers large and small. Questions about Winter Institute can be addressed to winterinstitute@bookweb.org.