For Danny Caine, owner of the Raven Book Store in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, building community is just another part of the job.
“What are we without a community?” Caine asks with a sense of sarcasm. “Of course we’re working to build a community around books.”
In the two years since Caine bought the renowned Lawrence bookstore in 2017, the Raven Book Store and the University Press of Kansas (UPK) have partnered on dozens of author events. Caine is a passionate supporter of independent businesses and works tirelessly to promote companies he feels are fighting the good fight.
“Our relationship with UPK is mutually beneficial,” Caine explains. “We work hard to offer a curated selection of books to our audience, and the press provides the fantastic regional books that many of our customers want. UPK produces the beautiful, thoughtful works we want to put on our shelves, and we know when we host a UPK author that they will attract an engaged crowd.”
Caine’s work to build a literary community in Lawrence has taken an ambitious turn. This summer he announced the inaugural Paper Plains Literary Festival (April 23–26, 2020), featuring poets, novelists, and young adult fiction writers.
“I was confident Lawrence would support the idea of a festival featuring authors and poets,” Caine says. “We’re really excited about the lineup we have coming to town, and the feedback says the community will embrace it.”
Paper Plains will be Lawrence’s first literary festival. UPK has assisted in its planning and is excited to host author Dan Flores (American Serengeti) and a roundtable discussion featuring regional UPK authors.
“It’s great having UPK involved with Paper Plains,” Caine says. “The press has a reputation for producing engaging, challenging work, and we’re excited to have them involved in the festival.”
Much like the work Caine is doing at the Raven, Lawrence Public Library Events Coordinator Kristin Soper is actively working to serve the educated community in Lawrence.
“This is a university town, so we know our audience is expecting well-researched ideas,” Soper says. “Our relationship with UPK is great. Actually really great.”
Soper traces the library’s relationship with UPK back to a single book.
“Really, it was C.J. Janovy’s book (No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas) that spurred our relationship with UPK,” she says. “We hosted two events with C.J. that were really exciting and well-attended, and those were eye-opening for us.”
Soper says a relationship with the University Press of Kansas has helped fill a need.
“Since our first event [with] C.J. Janovy a few years ago, our relationship with UPK has really helped fulfill a need for regional topics,” Soper explains. “The press does a phenomenal job publishing books of regional interest, and we know when we bring in one of their authors we will draw a crowd of engaged, intellectual readers.”
The University Press of Kansas and the Lawrence Public Library have partnered on events ranging from C.J.‘s talk about LGBTQ activism in Lawrence to a local author’s story about his scientific grandfather.
“Our relationship with UPK is great,” Soper said. “Our job at the library is to serve our community, and working with the press and their authors has been a tremendous benefit for both of us. We get to bring in intelligent, thoughtful authors who have written great books, and the press gets to build their brand within the Lawrence community.”