I’ve been attending the Austin International Poetry Festival semi-consistently for the past decade. The festival is truly a staple, a cornerstone of the Austin poetry scene. The Austin International Poetry Festival began twenty-one years ago. In fact, this year’s theme was “Lucky 21″ because, as board members remarked, this year “we were lucky” to have a festival. Still, the festival began humbly over two decades ago, has gone through changes in board members and directors, and has withstood the test of time. This year, the festival ran from April 11-14. and hosted over two hundred registered poets and dozens of lit-interested Austinites in several central locations around Austin, TX. Several poets from local to international status featured, giving readings, hosting workshops, hosting open mics, giving lectures and speaking on panels. There was something of interest for everyone interested in literature and the many facets literature can break into. The Austin International Poetry Festival, a celebration of National Poetry Month, brought maximum exposure to the citizens of Austin, invading university and college campuses, bookstores, coffee shops, music venues, libraries and theaters.
For my part, I’ve participated in the festival, volunteered for the festival, served briefly as a member of the board in 2010.This year, I was asked to host a workshop at the Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus as part of the festival’s itinerary. The workshop was about d.i.y. and self publishing as that is where Virgogray Press’ roots are. The workshop actually focused on the publication history of Virgogray Press as a sort of spine for the topic. Virgogray Press first began as a print-at-home engagement, all chapbooks from 2003-2010 were hand assembled and self-distributed. As one may or may not be able to imagine, the process, from receiving the submission, to the selection process, to the review and editorial process, to the design and formatting process and on and on through the printing and binding was very time-consuming; a true labor of love. In 2010-2011, Virgogray began using print on demand technology for the printing and binding of its publications. Since that time, I’ve ceased the print-at-home, traditional chapbook, in favor of the “professional,” perfect bound publication.
Because I’ve worked both avenues of D.I.Y. publishing, both self-publishing and press publishing where other poets, writers and artists are involved, I was able to present relevant information and insights into both facets. Sparing the history of chapbook publishing, I presented those in attendance with a free “classic” Virgogray chapbook, most of which are now out-of-print, to show how self-publishing, d.i.y. publishing, started as single or double sided sheets (broadsides), or books of folded paper stapled or stitched together. We spoke about what it takes to self-publish, including all the above mentioned aspects of revision/design/format, etc., but also included discussion on pricing, distribution, bar-coding, registering with the Library of Congress, marketing, promotions and royalties. I spilled the guts on Virgogray Press, sharing our business models and sharing ideas on publishing. Most participants were interested in self-publishing, but thought the idea of housing their work under their own press moniker worth venturing into. Mostly, the writers were interested in the process of publishing and the easiest ways of execution. Our discussion also included internet publishing and e-book publication, social networking and website basics. The Virgogray Press self-publishing workshop was a great experience and a nice way to share the press’ brief history. The Austin International Poetry Festival is now preparing for its 22nd year, for more information visit: http://www.aipf.org/