Now more than ever, a sea of new authors is looking for potential readers. Without help, even some of the best contemporary writing could remain undiscovered. A local grassroots project called Late Night Library is changing the tide by introducing debut published work to larger audiences. This spring marks the two-year anniversary of the growing organization. Candace Opper, a Portland State alumna, is at the forefront of the effort.
Now more than ever, a sea of new authors is looking for potential readers. Without help, even some of the best contemporary writing could remain undiscovered.
A local grassroots project called Late Night Library is changing the tide by introducing debut published work to larger audiences. This spring marks the two-year anniversary of the growing organization. Candace Opper, a Portland State alumna, is at the forefront of the effort.
“Late Night Library’s mission is to promote the writing of new authors and help foster a larger literary community,” Opper explained. She recently graduated from Portland State’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing nonfiction program, and is now the project’s managing editor.
“I get to meet a ton of writers, and it feels good to support them at the start of their careers,” she said.
Late Night Library was the brainchild of its executive director, Paul Martone. It began as a podcast that discussed debut authors with a co-host from New York. The organization has since expanded to include reading events, writing contests and a literary journal.
“The response has been fantastic. We’re getting an immense amount of attention since nobody else is really doing this,” Opper said.
Every other month, a free reading series called In and Out of Town is held at Literary Arts on Southwest Ninth Avenue and Washington Street. Previously featured authors include PSU professor Dan DeWeese, who read from his novel You Don’t Love This Man.
The event also offers live music and improv acts, bringing different art forms together in one space. According to Opper, the latest reading had one of the biggest turnouts yet.
“I was totally impressed by the format and layout of the reading,” remarked Shaun Doniger, a graphic design major at PSU. He recently began interning with the organization, and said that the passion people have for literature is infectious.
A two-year anniversary event, called Read Like You Mean It, is being organized in April. The celebration will contain the same elements of previous readings but on a bigger scale. It will be held at the Mt. Scott Community Center in Southeast Portland.
To help promote the event, a poster design contest is open to the public. The winner will get a $100 prize and have their artwork featured on a promotional flyer.
In response to last year’s decision not to award the Pulitzer Prize for a work of fiction, Late Night Library created a contest called the Debut-litzer. Submissions are currently being accepted from writers with debut published work in fiction, nonfiction and poetry categories. The deadline is May 31.
A $1,000 prize will be awarded to each winner, and each will have their book featured on Late Night Library podcasts. Paul Collins, a nonfiction writing professor at PSU, will be one of the judges.
With all of the organization’s offerings, an obvious obstacle for the project is funding. Pursuing nonprofit status is part of the plan for sustaining the organization.
“We’re already a registered Oregon nonprofit,” Opper said. “When we become a nationally recognized nonprofit we’ll qualify for grants and other funding.”
Although Portland is a perfect home base for Late Night Library, the group intends to build a presence in states across the country. Secondary operations are already nested in New York.
One national campaign currently in progress is called One for the Books! Its purpose is to combat predatory pricing, which is when corporate retailers like Amazon sell books at a cost that eliminates competition and devalues the product.
“We ask independent bookstores to carry a variety of independently published titles, for the community to have access to,” said Steven Clauw, communications director for Late Night Library.
“So far, we have 60 bookstores and about 51 publishers across the country involved in this campaign.”
Regardless of the expansive growth the organization has already experienced, even more ambitious endeavors are on the horizon.
“We’re considering eventually becoming a publisher ourselves. We basically just want to increase everything we’re doing,” Opper said.
As far as the name Late Night Library, Opper said that she is quite fond of it. She added that it can be interesting hearing what people think of the name.
“People are immediately attracted to the title, and then are like, ‘What does that mean?’ That’s what’s cool about the name, it can be kind of vague. People can make of it what they will. Plus, I like the alliteration.”
More information about Late Night Library and its offerings can be found at latenightlibrary.org.