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When it comes to quality fiction, keen-eyed local readers probably know to keep it indie. With over a dozen print and online literary magazines and small publishers, D.C.’s literary scene is growing and formidable. This Saturday’s Indie Lit Summit, aimed at bookish types from D.C. and Baltimore, aims to address the scene and its future.
Organized by Barrelhouse poetry editor Dan Brady and a local committee, the summit is designed to be a formal venue for the type of idea-swapping Brady usually sees at readings and informal get-togethers. In organizing the summit, Brady wanted to gather what he considers the “infrastructure” of D.C. literature, including publishers, editors, bloggers, and agents. It appears he has succeeded: The guest list currently boasts lit mags Big Lucks and Gargoyle, and publishers including Publishing Genius Press, Red Dragon Press, and Big Game Books.
Brady says people involved in independent publishing often become “accidental experts” in that field. “We start literary projects because we love stories and poems,” he says, “but end up having to learn a whole slew of business practices beyond the editorial role.”
Saturday kicks off with a keynote address from editor and publisher of Electric Literature and Electric Publisher Andy Hunter before breaking out into topic-specific sessions. Discussions will focus on everything an aspiring indie publisher or editor would need to know, from printing and distribution to marketing and fundraising. The summit is the first of its kind in D.C., and a similar event is being planned in Chicago for Midwest publishers. Brady notes that “other cities have expressed interest in using the D.C. summit as a model.”
The poetry editor is encouraged by the diversity of literature in D.C. and Baltimore, which spans experimental poetry, mystery, children’s writing, and historical fiction. There’s also a number of well-established organizations to mix with the “scrappy upstarts,” he says. He hopes that the Indie Lit Summit becomes an annual event so that “we can keep improving what we’re doing, growing the scene, building community, and having a greater impact in the cultural life of D.C. … I’d love to find more ways to bring together the communities that frequent Bridge Street Books with the folks you’d find in K Street lobbying firms.”