Bookshop Interview

A Bookshop Interview with Darrell Epp

Image borrowed from  ihearthamilton.ca .

Image borrowed from ihearthamilton.ca.

I had the pleasure of meeting Darrell Epp in Troy, NY, when he was on tour earlier in 2019 and I’m glad he took a few minutes to tell us about his favorite bookshop. Take a look, and be sure to check out his books: Imaginary Maps, After Hours, and Sinners Dance.

Favorite Bookshop: The Printed Word (Dundas, Ontario)

My first experience there made me feel the way I'd imagine one feels when uncovering a trunk full of buried pirate's treasure--it was a real thrill to find such a lovely place, with a collection of books obviously curated with so much love and care...Browsing around it is, in a word, fun.

The 'vibe' is clear--James carries ZERO celebrity autobiographies, ZERO self-help books, but there's a great section of film books, theology books, philosophy books, a wild collection of dime novels from the 50's, the best selection of quality children's books you'll ever see, and a whole WALL devoted to poetry--since I write poetry and know how rare it is to see a retailer devoting his/her shelf space to it, I really appreciated that, but also just appreciated having so much great stuff at my fingertips...

I have bought a lot of books there...recently I bought A SMALL KILLING, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Oscar Zarate. Alan Moore is of course most known for writing WATCHMEN, but this book is a more personal work: "…chasing this puddle of piss-coloured light as it skims between flats painted post-war austerity mustard and maisonettes brick-built in scabby-knee burgundy during the macmillan years…through these streets; through this scrapyard of clapped-out utopias; failed social visions that came here to die…these houses are the furniture with which I stock my dreams. Night after night I rearrange them in my sleep…" I also recently purchased Robert Lowell's translation of THE ORESTIEA. I've loved Lattimore's translation for literally decades--it actually changed my life, as one big thing that motivated me to write poetry books was the dim hope that I might someday write something with the incantatory hypnotic effect of that...Lowell translates, not the Greek original, but the Lattimore version, with the aim of it being more stage-ready, able to be performed by modern actors in a single night...the end result is an ORESTEIA that really motors. it's really 'dramatic,' with an irresistible 'page-turner' quality. Also, the characters speak with a bluntness that makes the horror more horrifying...here's a sample, this is of course Cassandra speaking:

No, no, this is a meathouse. God

Hates these people. They have hung the flesh

Of their own young on hooks.


How I envy the nightingale—

When the nightingale died, the gods

Gave her beating wings,

And a bird’s life of song.

My life was, is,

And shall be the edge of the knife.


Ah, Troy, my city, the pitiful, munching

Sheep my father slaughtered by your walls

Were no help at all to save you!

I too with my brain on fire must die.


I do not wish to complain of my death.


What’s life? At best, its sorrows are hardly

More pitiable than its joys. At worst,

One sweep of a wet sponge wipes out the picture.

Hear me. I call upon the sun.

May the sun shine down on our avengers,

And on the final merciful hour of their vengeance.

When the avenge Agamemnon, may they also

Avenge a simple slave who died.

She was a small thing, and carelessly killed…


That is pretty hard to beat! So stop by The Printed Word the next time you're near the western tip of Lake Ontario...Man, I love bookstores!

BIO: Darrell Epp's poems have appeared in over 130 magazines on 6 continents. He is the author of 3 poetry collections: Imaginary Maps, After Hours, and Sinners Dance. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Visit his Amazon page HERE.

Check out Darrell reading HERE.

A Bookshop Interview with Ally Malinenko

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Ally Malinenko has been one of my favorite writers for a long time, and getting to share our cancer treatment experiences with each other way back when meant a lot to me and really helped during some tough times, so I’m doubly excited to finally interview her about her favorite bookshop. And how excited was I that she picked one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world! See below for more information about her books and social media links!

Favorite Bookshop: The Strand (New York, NY)

1. How did you discover the shop? Do you remember your first experience there?

I hate to say this because it's probably such a stereotypical New Yorker answer but The Strand is my favorite bookstore. Yes, I know it's full of tourists and yes I know they sell about as many trinkets as they do books, but I love it. I can't help it. The first time I went to The Strand, I was with my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. Though I had been to the city plenty of times growing up I never went to that particular bookstore. Jay, on the other hand knew all about it, including the infamous tagline: 18 miles of books. Walking in I just remember row after row of never ending shelves that you needed a ladder to get to the top of. It's different now, but at the time, it was incredible.

2. What is it like to browse around? Does it have a particular vibe or atmosphere that stands out?

Once you get through the crunch of tourists at the front of the store, it's nice. My favorite part is the basement with a lot of the nonfiction: gender studies, science, music, etc. Also that's where the vinyl is - my second obsession after books I feel like Strand's atmosphere is non-judgmental which I appreciate. I never feel like anyone is paying attention to what I'm looking at and the staff are always really great at helping me find stuff. I went in there the other day to buy a book published in the 1950's about the history of the Black Arts: Witchcraft and the Occult and no one wrinkled their nose at me. It's not a "literary" store where you feel like your choices are frowned upon my a man at the front desk in a sweater vest. My kind of vibe.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

So many things! And not just witchcraft books, I swear! Most of the books that I purchase come from The Strand. The rest from the library. Christmas shopping for my husband usually involves spending enough money to get another tote bag! The most recent purchases, other than the Black Arts book would have been How Long till Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisn and Devil in the White City by Eric Larsen which were birthday gifts from Jay.

4. Is there a specific part of the shop you love that really makes the place unique?

They have a rare books room on the third floor but I've never been up there! I'm sure it's fascinating. I like the second floor with the art books and the children's books. The children's room is pretty magical to me, not just cause I write children's books, but also because it still has those never ending shelves. I can only imagine being a little kid and seeing all those books.

BIO: Ally Malinenko is a novelist and poet. Her most recent poetry chapbook Princess Leia on the Back Deck Blues was published by Holy & Intoxicated Press. More information about her work can be found at allymalinenko.com or at @allymalinenko where she can be found blathering on about smashing the patriarchy, slaying cancer, writing books and other shenanigans.

A Bookshop Interview with Tim Suermondt

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Poet Tim Suermondt has five full-length collections to his name, the latest JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL from MadHat Press, and he took a few minutes to share his favorite bookshop with me. I still haven’t made my way to Boston to visit any bookshops, and this makes want to go even more. Thanks, Tim!

Favorite Bookshop: The Harvard Coop Bookstore (Cambridge, MA)

Tim: My favorite bookshop is the Harvard Coop at Harvard Square. I actually came to the Coop a bit late, initially spending a lot of time at The Harvard Bookstore (which is not affiliated with the University) and Grolier’s (which surprised me by its tiny space when I first went there.) As for the Coop, I noticed how rather large it was when I went to check it out, especially when compared to the feeble MIT Coop. And seeing a lot of books is always inviting.

Browsing is easy. There are four floors (counting the basement), accessible by elevator or the nice winding wooden staircases. There’s a café on the second floor—can’t say I’m a fan of these outposts, but they’re here to stay. There are chairs for reading, though a few more would be better. I always feel smarter when I’m there; it’s the Harvard air I’m sure.

I quickly came to realize that the Coop has a terrific assortment of books, especially their poetry selection which is the best in town for the latest poetry. My wife, Pui, and I have bought a number of books from the Coop. Just a few days ago we bought Rilke in Paris from Pushkin Press. It’s the type of book I don’t think you’d find elsewhere. I really like the way the poetry anthologies lead in to the poetry books, and from there into essays on poetry then music and travel—a smart, good threading.

The Coop also has a decent section of poetry journals and magazines, along with other fare. I don’t know if it’s unique, but the blending of the students, the locals and the out-of-towners who go there makes for a bustling but most satisfying vibe.

BIO: Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Stand Magazine, Galway Review, Bellevue Literary Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.

A Bookshop Interview with Kenning JP Garcia

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I first met Kenning Jean-Paul García at the St. Rocco reading series xe helps organize and immediately appreciated xyr wit, creativity, and sense of humor, not to mention an exceptional insight into linguistics, literature, and unpretentious beer. I assure you, getting to share a tallboy of PBR after a poetry reading with JP is always a great time. Xe took a few moments to talk about xyr favorite bookshop (a comic shop, which cannot be overlooked when it comes to storytelling and creativity!) and in turn I’m more than happy to share zyr latest book, OF: What Place Meant, which is now available! Be sure to check it out!

Favorite Bookshop: Earthworld Comics in Albany, NY

1. How did you discover the shop?

Sadly, I had to discover Earthworld Comics due to the closing of Fantaco Comics. I knew that Earthworld existed but I was a hardcore Fantaco fan. That's where the goths, punks, and hardcore geeks went. It was our place but eventually they went out of business. Then after a few years of not being able to really afford comics I was a bit ahead financially and I had some newer and younger friends who never went to Fantaco. They were like this is the place and it certainly is.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? What's it like to walk through?

I love the back wall where the indie trade paperbacks are. I love seeing what I might have missed from Dynamite, Boom, Oni and others. This and the bargain bins always get me. I like a good deal and if a comic is good it can be read years after its initial publication. So, I get a few throwback volumes when I can from the bargain bins. As for a walk-through, first you get the DC/Marvel shelves and the new releases. It's cool. I mean, great art on the covers and all the popular heroes. Then you go further back for the new release indie comics. As well as some alphabetized characters and titles in with the mainstream releases, like my boys, Jughead and the Shadow, or my homegirls, Vampirella, Red Sonja and crossing my fingers for the return of Jennifer Blood. But, really every good trip to the shop starts and ends with a rundown of what's new and what I missed from the staff. Always knowledgeable and they know what I like. It's a nerdy neighborhood vibe. We all kind of know each other by face and by tastes if not by names.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I bought the entire run of New 52's Swamp Thing as well as all of my Vampirella titles And this is where I really fell in love with my favorite superqueero - Midnighter. Steve Orlando (who also resides in the Capital Region) wrote the New 52 run and it was magical.

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4. What is it about the shop that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

The staff and selection make it special. I can find a lot of these books at Barnes and Noble but they don't have the pins. I'm a sucker for a new pin. My bags are all adorned in comic book pins. I'm always on the look out for a new pin. This adds a little something special to the place in addition to the comics and graphic novels. The other thing is, they do a good job of ordering based upon customer requests. I never leave there empty-handed and I often return specifically to pick up something that they ordered for me. It's monthly event for me and something that I set aside money and time for in my budget. In my opinion it's one of the great shops around this country. It's up there with some of the big city shops.

BIO: Kenning Jean-Paul García is a diarist, humorist, antipoet, and editor living in Albany, NY after growing up in Brooklyn and Queens. Xe spent most of xyr life in the restaurant industry and holds a bachelor's degree in Linguistics.  In addition to being the editor at Rigorous, the Operating System, and Five 2 One, xyr work has also been featured in BlazeVOX, eccolinguistics, Brooklyn Rail, Horse Less Review and Dream Pop. Slow Living is also available from West Vine Press along with They Say and Never Read.

(I definitely swiped the photo of the shop from the Fresh Comics website, so check them out too.)

A Bookshop Interview with Sam Slaughter

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Sam Slaughter is a Food & Drink Editor for the men’s lifestyle magazine, The Manual, and spirits work has appeared in MaximBloombergThe Bitter SouthernerThirsty, and elsewhere. His debut short story collection God in Neon was published in 2016 by Lucky Bastard Press, and his first cocktail book,  Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? and Other Cocktails for 90’s Kids will be published by Andrews-McMeel in June 2019. I’m delighted he took a few minutes to tell me about one of his favorite places to buy books.

Favorite Bookshop: McKay’s Books in Greensboro, NC

1. How did you discover the shop?

In college, a professor mentioned that there was a used book store down the road in Greensboro. One weekend afternoon, my roommate and I decided to go. It was love at first sight.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around.

Being a used bookstore, there’s a ton of stuff, from books (obviously) to vinyl, video games, DVDs, you name it. I used to love start at the front in the fiction section and working my way down the aisle, then turning around and walking back up the other side, going through each little cubby to see what was there. One of my favorite things is that the entire store is, in a way, a treasure hunt. If there are multiple versions of a book, chances are that they are going to be different prices. This makes you want to keep hunting, just in case.

After working through the fiction I’d head down the stairs to the food & drink books to see if there were any cookbooks I was into. Those were the two main sections for me, but I’d also check out the anthropology/sociology section (one of my college majors) and the comedy section. There was also a free section, and you could sometimes get some cool stuff there.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I bought most of my collection of contemporary southern fiction there. Ron Rash, Barry Hannah, et cetera. I also got a number of Best American collections there that I still have.

4. What is it about the shop that makes you love it? What really makes the place unique?

As I mentioned above, it’s the treasure hunt thing that gets me every time. I love going through everything, not only to find great books, but to see if I can find a better deal on the book.

In terms of uniqueness, McKay’s has a couple locations, and at this point I’ve been to 3 of them. Each store has completely different inventory that changes all the time. Even if you went back two days in a row, chances are you’d find some new stuff.

For more by Sam, visit his site at http://www.thesamslaughter.com.

A Bookshop Interview with Anney E.J. Ryan

Image borrowed from Yelp.

Image borrowed from Yelp.

Anney E.J. Ryan is an excellent poet and an educator down in Pennsylvania (I say “down” as if someone living south of me here in upstate NY is “downhill” from where I live or something). I keep meaning to get down to PA to check out some of their bookshops, but before I head out that way I thought I’d ask my pal Anney about her own favorite local. Here’s what she suggested!

Favorite Bookshop: Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown, Pennsylvania

1. How did you discover the shop?

Firefly opened in Kutztown in 2012, and I visited there immediately, as it’s the closest used bookstore to where I live. The shop sells used books, brand new books and current bestsellers, audiobooks, antique/vintage texts, games, puzzles, and special gifts. It also has a fantastic occult and witchcraft section. Every time I stop in, I find something to buy.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite?

The occult section is at the front of the first aisle, so I usually stop there immediately. I always check out the audiobook and vintage sections, but I spend the most time in the fiction section.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Cherry Ames – vintage series for my mother. Superhero graphic novels and The Last Kids on Earth series for my nephew. Robert Bly and Ted Kooser poetry books for my father-in-law. The Jeeves series by Wodehouse, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, some David Sedaris books, a historical nonfiction book on Robin Hood, and two science fiction novels by C. J. Cherryh. There are more, but I can’t remember them all.

4. What is it about Firefly that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

The prices are fantastic. They have a bathroom. There are couches where one can hang out and drink coffee. There’s always excellent music playing – classical or instrumental folk music. While the shop carries brand new books and gifts, most of the store is comprised of tall shelves stuffed with old lovely-smelling books. The store welcomes you to wander and dig and get lost in the collections.

A Bookshop Interview with R.M. Engelhardt

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When I asked poet R.M. Engelhardt about his favorite bookshop, I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened next: 1) that he eschewed my usual Q&A session and wrote me a couple paragraphs shooting from the hip; 2) that he picked two shops instead of one; and 3) that neither of the shops are still open. And why was I surprised? Because R.M. is a throwback kicking and smoking his way through the Era of Instapoets, and he’s not about to conform now just for a bookshop interview. But both of these shops sound pretty cool and I’m sorry I missed out on them when they were around. I hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to pick up any of his books, including Cold Ass Coffee Blues & Other Poems (Alien Buddha Press). You can also read his column The Half-Dead Poet Review over at AlbanyPoets.com. Enjoy!

Favorite Bookshops: Capital Bookshop and Nelson’s Bookstore, both formerly in Albany, NY.

Capital Bookshop: “The place looked like a bomb hit it inside. It’s closed now but I always referred to it as the ‘Bookstore Without A Name.’ I ran across the place many years ago in the late 1980s and just casually walked in to find a place where books of all genres were literally strewn all over the place from the ground up in piles and on shelves. There were dedicated sections, sure, but it looked like a book hoarders dream. I would make time to visit the store on my lunch break when I worked for a law firm in the 1990s around the corner. They had a poetry section of old paperbacks as well as hardcovers. Shakespeare, Milton, Dante's Inferno. A lot of classics. You could get lost in there or go missing. It was hard to walk around the books. I had bought several old copies of Poe & Baudelaire's books in Capital Bookshop, and even though the place smelled and had some mildew, it eventually became one of my favorite haunts because you never knew what you'd find. It was an impossible place of imagination, and it crossed your mind now and then that there might be a door in the back that if you opened you'd find some kind of posh secret society or spy headquarters or organization hiding behind the bookstore front like in a movie. But the best part of the store was this: pulp novels. Stacks of them. Detective stories and hard to find old Bantam copies of some of my favorite guilty pleasures for reading. Doc Savage, The Avenger, Science Fiction, Westerns/Louis L'Amour. They were in bad to decent condition but it was amazing what you could find in there. Old albums and comic books too. It was the kind of bookstore that the BBC Black Books was reminiscent of but with less room. Completely unorganized.”

Nelson’s Bookstore: “This was another store which I'd like to mention that is also gone now. It was a huge influence on my work and where I got most of my poetry. Nelson's Bookstore was on Central Avenue a few blocks away from the old Qe2 (an notable former punk/rock club that is now The Fuzebox) and it was the best counter culture, beat poetry bookshop around. Bill Nelson, the owner, sold me my first Bukowski book there in the early 90s, Love Is A Dog From Hell. I bought loads of poetry books there, from Burroughs to Kerouac, Jim Carroll, and so many others that I've forgotten but still have in my collection. Bill Nelson and I would have conversations about authors and I'd show him my poems when I was starting out as a writer. He was like a mentor and his store also carried tons of zines and local poets books. Eventually he carried mine as well. He encouraged me to send my work out and I had a few interesting visits there where I met other, more well known writers there in passing. I even met Serpico there. Yes, the real Frank Serpico, the detective that the old Al Pacino movie was based on. So, in the end, I miss two bookstores. Two favorites that are now just memories of what downtown Albany used to be.”

A Bookshop Interview with Brice Maiurro

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The holiday season is a busy one, but poet and editor Brice Maiurro took a few minutes out of his day to tell me about his favorite bookshop, and it sounds like an amazing place. Take a look!

Favorite Bookshop: Mutiny Information Cafe (Denver, CO)

1. How did you discover the shop?

I discovered Mutiny Information Café in what I imagine is the way that most people discover Mutiny Information Café. I was walking down South Broadway with some friends one night and we passed by Mutiny and through their big open glass windows I could see crowds of people crammed up against counters and at tables and mixed in with their records all watching a comedian perform. It was magic, of course, to feel a heartbeat like that. South Broadway is magic in general. I’ve seen so many incredible bands and events all over that long mile, but there amongst the bars on what I’m sure was a Tuesday night or something were people creating space for art. I wandered in and found what space I could amidst the huddled masses and listened to some comedian. I could be wrong on this, but I think it was Jordan Dahl too. I don’t know if this is just a Denver thing or a comedian at large thing but damn, Denver comedians are some of the most self-deprecating, nihilistic humans I’ve ever met. They’re also very funny.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Mutiny.

Mutiny is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly evolving. I’ve seen performances go from the front windows for passerby’s to see, now tucked intimately in the back surrounded by books, biographies and vintage copies. The pinball machines this week have their own aisle. The record collection is encroaching on the book section and the comic book section is encroaching on the records. They have this beautiful golden display case upfront which clearly must have harvested fancy chocolates or something similar at some point and it’s now filled with any Little Debbie or Hostess snack you might crave on a weeknight bender down South Broadway.

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I’d have to say my favorite part of Mutiny is the back. I will never forget the feeling of wandering into Mutiny to a seemingly low-key scene and sneaking to the back space to find anything from an anarchist puppet show to an ambient light event to a fashion runway to an open night magic night. I’ve seen cyphers in the back of Mutiny, I’ve seen some of Denver’s most prolific punk bands in the back of Mutiny. I’ve kissed women in the back of Mutiny. I’ve seen some of the people I’m closest to strip down to their underwear, covered in the hateful words that people have thrown at them in the back of Mutiny. So yeah, I think the back, surrounded by all those biographies of people who time may or may not forget. That’s gotta be my favorite part of Mutiny.

There’s also outside of Mutiny, a dozen of the same dregs smoking weed no matter if it’s 75 and sunny or -10 and dead cold.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I think the two most memorable books I’ve bought at Mutiny are “Coyotes” by Ken Arkind and “Retrospect/ed”, an audio poetry collection by Charly Fasano. Those two dudes are always in the spirit of anything I do in Denver. Seeing the names of people I saw around the city on a shelf in a bookstore is what made me myself realize two things. One, that I could do it. That I could someday get my book out onto the shelves at Mutiny, and two, that being on a bestseller list or getting a book deal with Simon & Schuster could be really gratifying, but I realized there was so much talent just lurking up and down the streets of Denver, and I’ve been so blessed to witness all of it.

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4. What is it about Mutiny that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

I asked Jim Norris, who owns Mutiny Information Café along with his business partner Matt Mega C one night how he came to own Mutiny and he told me how he came up through Denver’s music venues and at some point, he wanted to step out of the craziness of those venues and bring that same energy into a book shop. Mutiny has some great books. Early editions of Vonnegut novels, Hemingway novels, Kerouac novels. To call Mutiny a book store alone would be limiting. Mutiny is a safe haven for art that is done for the passion, something that Denver believes strongly in. Denver is notorious for having free events. Even so many live music shows I know are $5 suggested donation.

Mutiny Information Café has been a space that has helped me to find some grounding. I’ve hosted open mics there, Matt Clifford and I decided to start Punketry there. If I really like someone, I take them to Mutiny. I had my book release party at Mutiny. I’ve been in Mutiny on a Sunday morning and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to read Dr. Seuss to a room full of kids. I’ve been in Mutiny at the witching hour when the pinball machine plays reverend and I confess my sins to Ghostbusters in multi-ball. Mutiny is this big family of weirdos and the only rules I’ve gathered to be kicked out of that family is being a hateful or violent person.

My friend Squidds, Daniel Madden, told me that the intersection outside of Mutiny is the nexus of Denver, the zero-zero point of the city, and I believe that because I can’t think of a more resetting place. Mutiny is church, and it’s meant a lot to me.

BIO: Brice Maiurro is a poet and writer from Denver, CO. His work has been featured by The Denver Post, Boulder Weekly, Horror Sleaze Trash and Birdy Magazine. He is the Editor-In-Chief of South Broadway Ghost Society. You can find him at @maiurro on Instagram.

A Bookshop Interview with Clifford Brooks

(Photo from the Avid Bookshop website.)

(Photo from the Avid Bookshop website.)

Clifford Brooks is a poet, teacher, and one of the founders of The Southern Collective Experience, an organization that has always been supportive of my own creative projects, and so I wanted to loop Cliff in to my bookshop interview series to pick his brain and see which shop tops his own list of favorites.

Favorite Bookshop: Avid Bookshop (Athens, Georgia)

1. How did you discover the shop?

The launch, and my first reading - ever, of my book, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Avid Bookshop.

The poetry section is my favorite. It is not a sliver of one shelf, but generously represented. The location close to my heart has large windows in front, an open, airy interior, large enough for room to casually browse, but small enough for that total literary experience we bibliophiles need to get our fix.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Selected Works of Robert Pinsky, several novels by Pat Conroy, All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg, the Collected Work of Rilke, and the Collected Work of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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4. What is it about Avid Bookshop that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

The knowledgeable staff, the space they give you, closeness to The Grit, and comprehensive stock. What sets it apart is the business model and philosophy that makes them thrive as an independent bookstore.

For more about Cliff and his work, visit his Facebook page.

A Bookshop Interview with Melinda Wilson

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Melinda Wilson is a poet, essayist, editor, professor, reading host, and all around creative superhero, and she graciously agreed to fill us in on what was once her favorite spot to load up on books!

Favorite Bookshop: Baldface Books (Dover, New Hampshire)

1. How did you discover the shop?

I heard about Baldface during my time as an undergraduate English student at University of New Hampshire. Dover was a stone’s throw away from Durham where the main campus is located, and many students chose to live off-campus in Dover. I was one of those students. Several of my friends with similar literary interests had raved about Baldface, and I eventually visited the shop.

2. What part of the shop was your favorite?

Baldface is…well, was…the storefront recently closed permanently and the bookseller now sells from his rare book collections online only and has a few racks of records at a storefront called Cracked Skulls in Newmarket, New Hampshire. Baldface was a crowded but delightful space with a mishmash of different types of shelving of different colors and sizes. Since it’s no longer open, I can probably say without causing backlash for the store that it was most definitely a liability issue. Any one of those top-heavy shelves could have collapsed on me as I browsed the lower shelves. Nevertheless, this was kind of the best part. The shop had character. I remember holing up in a corner of the poetry section, sitting legs crossed on the carpeted floor, god, that carpet must have been a century old, reading Plath, Lowell, and Berryman. The poetry section was at the back of the store in a somewhat narrow space, and often I would get sidetracked in the excellent vinyl section at the front. I remember my then boyfriend, now husband, having several lengthy and energetic conversations about Dylan with the bookseller…I think his name was Clyde.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I’ve bought a number of books there over the years: a couple of Seamus Heaney collections, Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island, some older editions of Anne Sexton’s early work, Louis Simpson’s A Dream of Governors, W.D. Snodgrass’s Heart’s Needle…I can’t remember them all, but grab any worn book off my shelves, and it’s got a decent shot of having been acquired at Baldface.

4. What was it about Baldface that made you really love it? What set it apart?

I was studying with the poet Charles Simic during the years I was a Baldface regular, and I could almost see Simic’s influence on the poetry shelves there. The Elizabeth Bishop collections he would tout in class were all over the stacks. James Tate’s books also feature prominently in my memory. My memories of Baldface are obviously tied up with my nostalgia for a period in my life when I consumed poetry voraciously, definitely more so than I do now, when my entire life was devoted to the study of poetry and my craft. Life has definitely gotten more complicated…or something akin to that… since those days, so thinking of Baldface now, I end up in a headspace of pure joy and enthusiasm for what the world contains. I’m sad that Baldface isn’t a brick and mortar location anymore. It’s sad to think I can’t revisit the physical space from which much of my poetry’s root system grew. I guess Baldface has always felt to me like a space in which I could converse with the past. So many of the books were second-hand with previous readers’ annotations, and even seeing the handwriting of someone who likely read the book I was reading decades and decades ago felt like a kind of communion. Because the books were used, they were often cheap, which also solidified my love of the place. Beyond that, Baldface was a space in which I felt welcome. Every time I walked in, I got the distinct sense that I was the audience for the product, this was my place, I belonged there.


Melinda Wilson is a published poet, critic and essayist. Her work has appeared in journals such as Verse Daily, The Cincinnati Review, The Minnesota Review, Arsenic Lobster, The Agriculture Reader and Coldfront among many other publications. She holds an MFA from The New School and a PhD in English from Florida State University. She is a Founding editor and current Managing Editor of Coldfront. (www.coldfrontmag.com)

Bookshop Interview with Melanie Faith

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Melanie Faith is the author of two new books on the craft of writing, Poetry Power and In a Flash!, and she’s here to tell us a little about her favorite bookshop. But there’s a twist: her favorite bookshop isn’t quite a bookshop at all. Take a look!

Favorite Bookshop: My choice is a bit of a maverick: thrift stores. Specifically, a treasure-trove- filled Goodwill in the Show Me state.

1. How did you discover the shop?

My fantastic fellow-bookworm sister introduced me to her Goodwill book section a few years ago, and it’s become one of our favorite go-tos during my visits. We go at least two or three times in the summer weeks I spend at her house in Missouri.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it’s like to browse around at Goodwill.

From the plate-glass double doors clear across the open-concept warehouse-type building, the book section calls to me, just past the donated dining sets and a synthesizer from someone’s garage, beyond the racks of clothes arranged by hue, and motley bric-a-brac on shelves. Tucked beside the VHS and DVDs and CDs (and even a few tapes) lined up in neat stacks in a metal bin, there are three jam-packed book shelves against a brightly-painted back wall.

It may not be a particularly elegant set up and it doesn’t have chairs to invite a good long beverage-soaked-paging-through like my beloved-now-gone Borders used to, but elegance and comfiness are beside the point when books are at stake. This place is authentic and a bit of a throwback. The thrill of the search is keen and energizing.

I’ve found novels that were clearly 100% new with pristine, undog-eared pages and remaindered from a popular chain store down the street alongside poetry volumes baring oodles of squiggly red and blue and black pen notes in the hand of a college freshman (or senior or professor—part of the fun, as in Billy Collins’ poem “Marginalia”—is in the imagining). It’s a serendipitous, almost mystical process, and when it comes to book browsing (much like a yogini doing Tree Pose), I can stand for marathon stretches if good books are in the offering. Did I mention I can hold almost my own body weight in book bargains in my arms? No reading weakling here!

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Everything from poetry to bestselling recent novels to memoirs and classics (lots of college students in my sister’s town donate batches of lit books, whole semesters-worth, at a clip- I can’t decide if that’s wonderful or wonderfully sad) and some children’s books for my darling nieces’ library. Most books are just a dollar a piece, and even rare books are usually, at most, $2 or $3 for gently-used texts. A few times I lucked out and the books I wanted to purchase were on sale for 50 cents each—my stack wobbled in my arms on the way to the register on those days.

During my last week at my sister’s place last summer, the final four books I purchased there were (drumroll, please!): The Paris Wife (about Hadley Hemingway) by Paula McLain (which I’ve devoured and sent off for a writing pal to read next), a dishy old-Hollywood memoir of Ava Gardner (which I’ve also read cover-to-cover and happily sent off for a second writing friend who loves and writes well about old-Hollywood), Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (can’t wait to dig into that one this fall), and an awesome book about the making of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, that I gifted to my sister and plan to read next summer when I visit.

4. What is it about Goodwill that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

The Goodwill is not many other readers’ first thought when deciding on a new read, and yet thrift stores all across the US contain gems just waiting for readers. Like an antique store or swap meet or yard sale or craft fair, you can’t go in with one book and one author in mind. Instead, the smorgasbord of possibilities await! Why limit oneself? Give yourself at least a good half hour to 45 minutes—you’ll need it.

My other favorite element of the shop is that all of the goods are donated new by chain stores or gently-used from the community, and the money raised goes back to local nonprofit charities to assist people in nearby communities. Everybody gets a good deal from the purchases. While I love a good, long recline on a comfy chair with a book or three in a reading marathon as much as anybody, there’ll be plenty of time for that post-purchases, and I’d love for my fellow readers and writers to consider a stop by your local thrift store for a good perusal. You’ll do your book shelves and your local community some good and return home with quite a few treasures to entertain for endless hours.

Bio: Melanie Faith is a poet, professor, and photographer. She loves the Tiny House movement and collecting twinkly costume-jewelry pins. She wrote a craft book about the flash fiction and nonfiction genres to inspire fellow writers, In a Flash!: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose (Vine Leaves Press, April 2018), and Poetry Power (also Vine Leaves Press, Oct. 26, 2018). Her short stories are forthcoming from Red Coyote (fall 2018) and Sunlit Fiction (Nov. 2018), and her poetry will appear in Meniscus Literary Journal in New Zealand and Up North Lit (Oct. 2018). This fall, she is teaching a few writing seminars, including a poetry-thesis-writing class and a class she created that combines two of her passions, called Photography for Writers. See more of her photography, writing, and projects at: https://www.melaniedfaith.com/blog/

Bookshop Interview with Kevin Ridgeway

Photo borrowed from  Elder Zamora's Portraits in Poetry , May, 2018.

Photo borrowed from Elder Zamora's Portraits in Poetry, May, 2018.

Kevin Ridgeway is a California poet with at least six books under his belt, and I’m sure plenty more coming. His latest is a split chapbook with Gabe Ricard called A Ludicrous Split and is well worth your time. Here he tells us a little about his favorite bookshop, one I very much need to visit myself one day. Enjoy!    

Favorite Bookshop: Gatsby Books (5535 E Spring Street, Long Beach, CA)

1. How did you discover the shop?

On November 28th, 2012, I was asked to do a featured reading by a local press at a growing literary hub in Long Beach, CA. It was Gatsby Books. I met Sean Richard Moor, the personable owner and master of ceremonies of every reading. I had finally found an independent book store to get chased out of for hanging around too long.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite?

My favorite part of the shop is the poetry section. It has a wide range of the greats--from local authors to the classics. I'm always browsing that shelf.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Hammer and the Hearts of Gods by Fred Voss, Poets and Pleasure Seekers by Gerald Locklin and The Early Death of Men by Clint Margrave are among the titles I've scored at Gatsby's.

4. What is it about Gatsby’s that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

This place is a place where everybody knows your name. Ruby the Cat meows during readings and Fred Voss, Gerald Locklin and Joan Jobe Smith are regulars and personable yet brilliant scribes. And Sean Richard Moor is the glue that holds it all together. He also even sold my books. Whata guy. The best indie book store around.

Bookshop Interview with Rachel Nix

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Rachel Nix is a poet, reviewer, and editor extraordinaire who deserves a hurricane of praise for putting together what I tell everyone is my favorite poetry anthology, America Is Not The World (available at Amazon!), and in this interview she takes us on a tour of her favorite bookshop down in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Enjoy!   

Favorite Bookshop: Coldwater Books (101 W 6th St, Tuscumbia, AL)

1. How did you discover the shop?

It’s been at least a decade ago, but I believe a friend first took me there. Coldwater Books is in a historic area of Tuscumbia, Alabama, where I imagine folks discover the bookstore by both purpose and accident, but always with as much affectionate as I first did. For those unfamiliar, it’s near the Helen Keller Public Library, which was the first public library in all of Alabama, and of course the Keller birthplace. Spring Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the Shoals, is also nearby – making this tiny little community a perfect place to easily pass an afternoon.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Coldwater Books.

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There’s so much to love about this bookstore, but my favorite thing is the way local writers are featured so thoughtfully. There are various spots within the store to happen upon works by area writers: typically in the front of the store; almost always mid-store on a table with books spread out all over and a chair pulled up next to it for intimate gandering; mingled in where applicable; and then upstairs where artists’ works, such as paintings, postcards, soaps, and other handmade crafts are lined along the shelves near books by locals broken up by genre.

The walkthrough has to start with a coffee – you can order just about any variation of brew imaginable and often enough, the shop has a special drink made up for current events. (I had a frozen Butterbeer this past weekend with a nod to Harry Potter.) Coffee in hand, I then tend to loafer from room to room, seeing what’s new or what’s recommended by its shelfmates – the organization there is neat and dependable but also has a way of recommending books we might not otherwise notice and could fall in love with. If my nephew is with me, we spend a lot of time in the back room; this section of the store offers a long stretch of children’s books and toys all located in a play area, which includes a reading cave.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I usually buy poetry books at bookstores and I do this at Coldwater, too – specifically local works, but this is also one of the few places where I branch out the most. I’ve bought several books on local myths and history covering everything from the musical richness of the area to hauntings dating back to the Civil War era.

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4. What is it about Coldwater Books that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

Coldwater Books is a place for community and local pride, nurtured with an old-fashioned approach to business and with a progressive reach in blending what readers are offered. It’s a quiet place to escape to, an energetic and celebratory meeting place for local events, and the single best place to witness what’s being offered by people of the area and those outside of our little corner of the map.

Bio: Rachel Nix is an editor for cahoodaloodaling, Hobo Camp Review and Screen Door Review. Her own work has recently appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, L'Éphémère Review, Occulum, and Rogue Agent. She resides in Northwest Alabama, where pine trees outnumber people rather nicely, and can be followed at @rachelnix_poet on Twitter.

Bookshop Interview with Ryan Quinn Flanagan

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Ryan Quinn Flanagan is the author of a new book called Return to Vegas Poems, and he took a few moments to tell us about his favorite bookshop, one that is no longer.

Batta Bookshop (Batta Used Books), Ontario, Canada

1. How did you discover this shop?

I had just moved to a new neighbourhood in Toronto, ON Canada and was searching out used bookshops in the area and the one closest to my apartment ended up being the best by far. I lived a two minute walk from Batta and spent so much time in there! Not just going rack to rack and soaking up that musty magical smell of all the old books, but also talking books with the old timer who owned the shop.

2. What part of Batta was your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it was like to browse around.

My favourite part of the shop was in back. All the more popular stuff was up front and in the window, but the closer you got to the back the more treasures you could find. The far wall had more new releases and a non-fiction section while the middle of the shop was various turning racks four to five books deep with just about anything you can imagine. That’s what I loved about it. There was no order to it. Everything was random. You had to go searching so that when you found something it really felt like a treasure. There was a large brown floor to ceiling bookshelf behind the racks which was a large philosophy section separating the front of the store from the stock in back. More rare and valuable titles were kept in back as well behind a simple black curtain and were brought out if you inquired. The cash register was on the right wall in a small corner by the front door where the old timer’s wife watched her soaps on a small fourteen inch portable black and white television. She would ring things through and make change barely ever looking up from her soaps. She ran the register and her husband ran the books and all the years I went there I never once saw or heard them speak to each other. But he said they had been married over fifty years or something crazy like that. They loved books and surrounded themselves with them, it was great!

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3. What books did you buy there?

Ha, where to start. My Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan and his student Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, along with a good part of my philosophy collection: Rousseau, Foucault, Mill, Descartes, Plato, Locke, Camus, Hume, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Heidegger, Sartre, Kant, Voltaire, Marx, Spinoza, Hobbes etc.

Also a large part of my modernist stuff as well: Joyce, Forster, Baudelaire, Woolf, Conrad, Beckett, Rimbaud, Mansfield, Kafka, Pound, Cummings, Proust…you name it. Plus some of my Leonard Cohen books as well as some of Irving Layton’s and Al Purdy’s and some Canadian Poetry Collected volumes as well. You could get anything there and I did: books on art, books about the Bolshevik Revolution, military history, Woodward and Bernstein stuff, Chomsky, books on Native American folklore, economic theory, Basho haiku, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace (one of my favourites), all sorts of poetry, Irish history stuff…just a trove of stuff to go through and pickup and the prices were always insanely cheap.

4. What was it about Batta that made you love it?

I loved that it was a real mom and pop place run by an old couple who lived upstairs and who just loved books – that simple. A little hole in the wall that you could walk past on the street and miss if you weren’t looking. But the best thing about Batta Books that separates it from any other bookstore I have ever been to was the stocks in the back. And by stocks, I mean random piles of books stacked uneasily everywhere, and how the old timer couldn’t remember your name from five minutes ago even though you told him twice, but suggest some obscure book you hadn’t been able to find anywhere and he would walk over to one of the stacks and pull it out or be able to tell you right off that he didn’t have it. I watched this old man in his 70s do this so many times. He had a running catalog of every book in there and what pile it was in, truly remarkable to see. And if by some miracle they didn’t have what you were looking for he would order it for the next time you were in. That old timer was a magic man to me. The store is closed down now I hear. Both he and his wife have most likely passed on. And I haven’t lived in that city now for over a decade. But when I lived in Toronto that was the place for me. The books still have the smell of that little old shop along the Queensway whenever I open them.

Bio: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Nerve Cowboy, Ariel Chart, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review. Visit: http://ryanquinnflanagan.yolasite.com/

Bookshop Interview with Iris Appelquist

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Iris Appelquist is the author of such books as A Banner Year and Nice Feelings, and Iris took a few moments to talk about the complex relationships we sometimes have with bookstores in our community.   

Prospero's Books (1800 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO)

1. How did you discover the shop?

About 17 years ago I was 18 and attending a poetry reading by accident. My friend Emily and I on a seat-of-our-pants excursion from our ‘burbs 10 minutes away. I probably recited an Ani DiFranco spoken word piece. That initiated many relationships that helped fuel my earliest serious attempts at poetry, though I had been writing since childhood. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that there were people who made their lives around whatever or everything they wanted to do.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Prospero’s?

I don’t really have a favorite part…I can say the thing I least like about it. There are plexiglass panes in the floor, you can see down into the basement level. One of the people then running the store said it was so that one of the owners could look up women’s dresses.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

About 80% of those pictured came from Prospero’s Books.

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4. What is it about Prospero’s Books that makes you love it? What really sets it apart as a bookshop?

Well. There was another bookstore I wish I could have profiled for you, but it recently closed for business.

I don’t actually love it. I have to say that they have supported me personally and ‘professionally’ (if you can call writing poetry a profession) for a very long time, and without their help I would not have had many of the opportunities to which I’ve been availed and it’s the only bookstore standing to which I’ve made any kind of regular patronage…that being said, it’s increasingly clear to me that their choices and conduct as a business, and as representatives of the writing and reading community of Kansas City don’t align with my values, as I’ve come into my middle 30’s. I have a lot less patience for white boomers who think they’re cute for refusing to acknowledge changing social climes. Where their priorities are reflected in their actions around issues of inclusion and social responsibility (as an arts publisher and venue, and retail business), I find myself at odds with them.

They have been featured on the Colbert Report, and in the New York Times for a stunt concocted by the owners back in the ‘aughts (a staged book burning as a comment on the lack of readers), and they are the largest independent used books store in Kansas City. To say nothing of their history and commitment to literature would be a disservice to all the poets who’ve found venue with them, and to all the readers getting their kicks on the cheap. They enjoy a base of support from the community, regardless of their politics. But, really...I don’t fuck with them. Unfortunately for me, they control four of my titles.

Bio: Appelquist is a Kansas City native and psychology student at University of Missouri Kansas City

Bookshop Interview with Joanna C. Valente

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Joanna C. Valente is the author of Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, and Marys of the Sea, among others, and is the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault. I caught up with Joanna about their favorite bookstore, Quimby's, which I definitely need to visit. Check out Joanna's full bio below for info about their website, books, and more!   

Quimby's Bookstore (536 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY)


1. How did you discover the shop? 

I discovered Quimby's, which is a bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, last summer when I did a reading with The Operating System. It's a beautifully crafted and curated space full of art and culture and all things strange and unusual. It's a space for anyone who doesn't feel totally "normal," whatever that means. I love it so much. 

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Quimby's.

I love the small press section - as well as the zine section, which is quite substantial, especially since it's usually not in many bookstores. There's also a ton of art on the walls, some of which is by local artists, which I also love. Supporting a local community is one of the most important things editors, readers, artists, and writers can do. 

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Margaret Rhee's "Love, Robot." is a good one!

4. What is it about Quimby's that makes you love it? What really sets it apart as a bookshop? 

It's about building a physical community, which is really different than a lot of bookstores, even indies. I really love the environment and how it embraces a sense of occult and occult interests as well, as well as a DIY punk vibe (there's a wonderful zine section and a really inspiring small press section, along with a great music section). And these are all things I'm really passionate about

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere. Visit www.joannavalente.com/

Bookshop Interview with Bud Smith

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Bud Smith is the author of Double Bird, Work, F-250, Calm Face, and other books of fiction and poetry, and I caught his ear for a quick moment to ask him some questions about his favorite bookshop. 

BookBook (266 Bleecker Street, NYC) 

1. How did you discover the shop?

Michael Bible told me to go there because we were drinking beer and talking about all those NYRB releases. He said that they had books in like new condition for $6 or so. It's not quite a used bookstore. It's like a major discount for like-new books. 

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse at BookBook.

That big stack of NYRB releases is the best. It's right in the front of the store. I went there the other day and bought five of them. Past that are popular fiction titles and beyond that in the back of the shop there is literature. So you can nab Nabokov or whoever for $6.  

3. What other books have you bought there in the past?

A few Eve Babitz. A few by Tove Jansson. Fat City. Lucky Jim. 

4. What is it about BookBook that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

I just like how good quality the books are and how cheap they are. I like that it's right outside the Christopher Street path stop so I can get there quick from Jersey City. There is a WORD bookstore in my neighborhood in Jersey City but I do not like it very much. BookBook is the shit. Codex is another really great bookstore at the far Far east end of Bleecker.

Bud Smith is the author of Teenager (Tyrant Books, 2018), Double Bird (Maudlin House, 2018), WORK (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017), Dust Bunny City (Disorder Press, 2017), Calm Face (House of Vlad, 2016), among others. He lives in Jersey City, NJ, and works heavy construction. He blogs in the secret underground blogging ring known as tinyletter, follow him there, oh gawd. Also, he’s on Twitter at @bud_smithFor more about Bud and his books, check out his website, www.budsmithwrites.com.