Coffee House Press to Publish Work from Writers of Color on Coffee Sleeves

by Melissa Ragsdale

There is perhaps no greater pairing than a good book and a warm drink, and Coffee House Press knows it. In their forthcoming Coffee Sleeve Conversations project, the indie publisher plans to print and distribute over 10,000 coffee sleeves with writing from local St. Paul writers of color.

The project aims to foster literary conversations and particularly to allow people who aren’t regular readers to make connections with the writers of color in the community. Local poet and activist Tish Jones has been hired to curate and solicit selections for coffee sleeve publication, sourcing both poetry and prose. Writing will additionally be accepted through an online call for submissions. Keeping in line with Coffee House Press’ established publishing practices, the project will publish both established and debut authors.

Coffee Sleeve Conversations was made possible through a grant from the Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge. The project is part of Coffee House Press’s ongoing Books in Action programming, which is dedicated to encouraging reader/writer interaction beyond the page. Other Books in Action projects have included writers’ residencies, the creation of public reading rooms, and the Ring Ring Poetry project, in which poems are written for specific locations and accessed by telephone.

Coffee Sleeve Conversations is not the first marriage of literature and food-packaging. For instance, Chipotle has been publishing new work on their cups and bags via the “Cultivating Thought” Author Series, which currently features writing from Jonathan Franzen, Colson Whitehead, and Lois Lowry, among other well-known voices. While the Coffee Sleeve Conversations project focuses on promoting writers of color, both initiatives share a drive to integrate literary thought into everyday life.

“We believe fervently that art, in all forms, is a part of daily experience,” said Coffee House Press Managing Director Caroline Casey. “Part of what we’ve done in our Books in Action programming…is to create new literary experiences for people that aren’t reading. It makes that everyday presence of art and literature visible, as well as the artists. Artmaking is a particularly human occupation. It deserves celebrating in small and big ways.”

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