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Local Literary Superstars in Bookstores

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Literary spaces—the kind that make you feel at home, make you forget you’re in the middle of a major urban jungle, the kind that speak womb to musty pages to ink and weathered paper—are hard to find these days. We felt it necessary to carve out such a space in Fruitvale, Oakland; to offer a bit of respite along the fervor of Foothill Boulevard and the buzz of a city amongst cities in transition—renewal and destruction. It was a space built by its weekly inhabitants, as all literary spaces are, perhaps. Their energies lining the walls post-performance, the laughter and tears, raised voices and middle-finger rises—the spaces absorb the energies released and pretty soon it’s a soup of homeless letters and phrases, of misses in the night and full-fledged landings mid tarmac. We try to offer home to poets and musicians, performers and listeners, wanton for a bit of intimate time spent together over wine and freshly brewed coffee.

For the second feature in this series, J. K. Fowler of Nomadic Press talked with three phenomenal Fruitvale-based writers: Paul Corman-Roberts, Missy Church, and Cassandra Dallett. J. K. and crew all answered some questions about one of their favorite small press performance spaces in Oakland, the Nomadic Press Oakland Workspace in Fruitvale.

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What do you love about this literary space? 

Paul Corman-Roberts (PCR):  I love it because it is also a salon. I love it because it’s within walking distance of my house. I love it because there are pupusas with goldfish in them next door. I love it because if pupusas with goldfish are too outrageous for you, then you can easily walk to the best and worst Mexican food in Oakland from Nomadic Press.

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Missy Church (MC): I love the local access of Nomadic Press and the easy vibe that J. K. creates in the cozy little space. I find new eye treasures during every visit hidden among the books and home-made shelves. The clean bathroom can only be outdone by the cozy couch and the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
Cassandra Dallett (CD): I love the space because it’s in the neighborhood, because it’s full of sun light, cactus, books, and writers. I love that the space is inclusive and welcoming and that I can actually walk to a reading.
J. K. Fowler (JKF): I’ve seen the Oakland space unfold since I moved Nomadic Press into what was a tope barren wasteland space in Fruitvale. Redwood shelves were built, the books were moved in, furniture was slowly acquired (some through donations), colorful paint was slapped on the walls, and we started to host events. It wasn’t a quick build out by any means. We scrimped and saved, but in 2015, we’ve now had over 50 events in the Nomadic Press Oakland Workspace, and when you walk in, you can feel all of the amazing energy that creative, talented, beautiful folks in the community have brought to the space and left within the walls. The plants, the books, the furniture—it all just soaks it up and is rejuvenated every time we host an event. So what do I love? I love that our community is continually felt within the space. It feels like home, and home is hard for many of us to find these days.

What’s your favorite book in this bookstore?

PCR: I Am Sausal Creek by Melissa Reyes.
MC: I have to agree with PCR on this one: I Am Sausal Creek.
CD: I’m going to say the whole Nomadic Press Fall 2015 Collection. There are many good books on the shelves, and I hate to pick favorites, but I love to be surrounded by books—it feels like home.
JKF: Of course, I am biased. From a personal standpoint, I have the first copy of The Stranger by Albert Camus that I received from my eighth-grade teacher sitting right behind me while I work within the space. I have Frantz Fanon’sWretched of the Earth poised next to James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, both of which were given to me by a dear friend in high school. And Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gay Talese, and Truman Capote all sit near each other just over the piano and watch over me—all of their works completely altered me. But I smile every time I look up on our shelves and see the brand-new titles that Nomadic Press just put out by Cassandra Dallett, Paul Corman-Roberts, Dan Shurley, Freddy Gutierrez, Allie Marini (two titles by this amazing author!), Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco, and Melissa Reyes, not to mention our 2014 Nomadic Journal, Changes.

Do you have a book out right now?

PCR: Yes, it’s called We Shoot Typewriters and it has a depiction of a typewriter based on the typewriter on display at Nomadic that founder J. K. Fowler retrieved from Sausal Creek.
MC: Why, yes I do. Thanks for asking. My latest and greatest is called CHURCH (Paper Press). The official launch is Saturday, November 14, 2015, at Woods Bar & Brewery at 17th and Telegraph in Uptown, Oakland, from 5–8:00 PM. Come for the poetry, stay for the confessions.
CD: Yes, I have four chapbooks that have come out in 2015, and all of them are on the Nomadic Press shelves: On Sunday, a Finch (part of Nomadic Press’ Fall 2015 Collection, Pearl Tongue (Be About It), The Water Wars (Pedestrian Poet Series), and Bad Sandy (Lucky Bastard Press).
JKF: I have two in the works. One is nearly done; the other is just beginning. Both are creative non-fiction and controversial in their own right, whatever that means.

Local Literary Superstars in Bookstores is part of the Beautiful Women in Bookstores series, it’s the celebration of reading, intelligence, independent bookstores and beautiful…writers. In a time when bookstores seem to be disappearing this is our effort to show how sexy books and reading really are, as well as hip you to the folks who help populate our bookshelves, and the best spots to find them.  This interview and shoot was created and submitted by local writer​, organizer​, and founding and managing editor of Nomadic Press,​ J. K. Fowler.

All photos by Joe Carrow

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife (not so much nightlife anymore).

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