Update 9/29: Organizers for the St. Louis Small Press Expo report attendance at 900 people, roughly double the number of participants during the event's inaugural year.
The St. Louis Small Press Expo is designed to promote St. Louis writers and book makers from marginalized communities.
“It’s important that each of us not only represent a community of the kind of books and art that we make but we also tend to represent different communities in terms of our contributors and the kind of stories they’re telling,” said Jared Rourke who publishes Queer Young Cowboys, "And so we focus on queer issues; we have a lot of women’s issues; we have issues that are important to people of color.”
This inclusive mission has helped the event grow exponentially over the past year. The first iteration of the St. Louis Small Press Expo featured only local artists, writers and zine makers. This year’s event has relocated to the Central Library’s grand hall and features panels, workshops and participants from as far as Brooklyn, N.Y., and Corpus Christi, Texas. Last year's expo included between 400 and 500 participants and organizers expect that number to increase this year.
Organizer Jen Tappenden, who runs Architrave Press, says the experience aims to give literature fans of all kinds a chance to make connections and learn about each other’s craft.
“Getting those people out of their attics and basements all together in one place and seeing what cool things their compatriots are doing, I think grows everybody’s idea of what’s possible in St. Louis,” said Tappenden.
The event began informally a year ago when Nickey Rainey and Nick Kuntz started talking about creating an event that would unite a lot of the independent writers and book artists in the area. Rainey sent out an email asking who would like to involved and was joined by Rourke, Teppenden, Kuntz, Lauren Cardines, Christopher Alex Chamble and Kristie Wickwire at the group’s first planning session. This group continues organizing the event.
Organizers agreed that the event’s success depends on creating a space for marginalized voices in the literary scene.
“We’re hitting the notes that the bigger publishing world maybe isn’t all of the time. Especially when they’re focusing on celebrity driven books or like the latest thriller, and so it’s really important for us to find a place to let people that have that different voice say what they need to say,” said Rourke.
For Nick Kuntz, the event also offers artists the chance to step out from behind the work and meet people interested in their work. He said the Expo helps bridge the gap between consumer and producer as well. If your work is even represented in a store, authors don’t know who actually reads their work. This event gives fans and writers a chance to meet.
The event takes place Saturday, in the grand hall at St. Louis Public Library’s central branch.