Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Featherproof offers light and ‘enchanting’ reads...

Check it out... this is an article about my good old friend Zach Dodson who lives in Chicago. We were humanities majors together and got in lots of trouble. :)

Chicago’s literary scene works to fill the independent niche
By Tiffany Breyne
Assistant A&E Editor
Photos Courtesy Featherproof Books

Word to the wise: Shit is about to hit the fan. Bat shit, that is. Or at least that’s what Jonathan Messinger and Zach Dodson, the founders of Featherproof Books, are saying about their first published book, The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs, written by Columbia fiction writing teacher Brian Costello.

Describing the book as “bat shit-crazy,” Messinger and Dodson are pumped to release Costello’s debut book about “overnight hipster scenes, suburbia and tortured musicians who want to change the world,” which is set to be released Dec. 15.

But they say Enchanters is just the beginning for their indie publishing group, aimed at advancing local writers career’s while working towards the bigger goal of broadening Chicago’s independent literary scene.

“What’s best, I think, about Chicago is that people don’t think there’s a vibrant literary scene outside of New York and L.A.,” Messinger said. “I think that once people break out of that idea that you have to rely on these big corporations to make literature, these other scenes become more important and more vibrant. And I think that’s what happening with Chicago.”

Messinger, books editor at TimeOut Chicago, met Dodson when Dodson was working as a book designer, and they dreamt up an independent publishing company for writers such as themselves who didn’t want to try the large publishing house route.

“It started off as fantasy and then we started taking steps to make it happen,” Dodson said. “And it kinda happened by itself. And I guess as long as we keep taking those steps it’s gonna keep happening—or until we drop from exhaustion.”

Dodson is now the associate art director at Shelter magazine, and both men are working nonstop to help build press for Costello’s book. They are also working on their other project for Featherproof, the Light Reading series. The Light Reading series is an expanding group of short stories readers can download and print off Featherproof’s website and fold together to create a slim, easy read—perfect for long commutes on the el where space is limited and staring at the person across the aisle can only go on for so long.

For Messinger and Dodson, the Light Reading series is a helpful—and free—way to spread the work of authors who might not have a chance to turn out their work through mainstream publishers. It’s also a way to share their combined love of art and literature.
Photos Courtesy Featherproof Books
The faces of Featherproof: Zach Dodson and Jonathan Messinger. Left: Brian Costello’s book, in stores Dec. 15. Below: Messinger and Dodson toughen up.

“We really wanted to bring that physical aspect,” Dodson said. “And not just with the mini books, but with the novels too—each one will be designed in a special way. With the Internet, words can become cheap. There’s something special about a book and the paper and the smell.”

Messinger and Dodson base the business aspect of their publishing company off their influence from indie rock labels. From contracts to PR, they hope that maybe their company can help independent authors just like smaller labels have helped independent musicians over the years. Messinger likens their collection of Light Reading stories to a seven-inch record or a compilation of bands that music labels would put out on one CD—both writers and consumers of independent culture can catch a glimpse of what’s available to them.

“Those [smaller music] communities have had such success,” Messinger said. “It’s an always growing frustration for me—I feel like the literature being done in Chicago right now [and] the ideas being explored are more socially relevant and intriguing to me than anything done by any band. Not just in Chicago—anywhere, really. And so you have all these kids that will pay $15 or $10 to go to the Empty Bottle and see this band and see music, but they balk at paying $10 for a book or something like that, and so I think that what we’re trying to do is bridge that gap.”

Messinger believes that Columbia, along with other institutions, have had a lot to do with leading the way in Chicago’s literary scene. He credits several people involved with Columbia for promoting their love of literature: Costello; Todd Dills, who got his MFA at Columbia and has been running his own business, the 2ndHand, for about five years; and Joe Meno, a Columbia fiction writing teacher and author of Hairstyles of the Damned.

Featherproof wants to join in on the literary action with their promotions for Costello’s book at different music venues here and on the West Coast.

“Part of our deal is that we really believe in readings that aren’t just guys in tweed jackets reading into their books,” Messinger said. “It’s really fun to have bands and make it real so people can come out to it.”

For more information on Featherproof, go to www.featherproof.com, and check out a sneak peek of Costello’s book, The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs, out Dec. 15.

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