Late Night Library. I immediately liked something about the name. Perhaps it was the notion of a library—evoking a sense of community, egalitarianism, a quiet coziness—that first grabbed my attention. Or maybe it was something about this concept combined with the term “late night”—the continuation of the literary quest while all the rest of the world was winding down—that ultimately attracted me. Visiting the Late Night Library website, I was intrigued by what I read and listened to: from contributor columns and writerly contests to debut book reviews and author interviews to podcasts with publishers and booksellers across the United States, the website projected a collaborative, grassroots vibe without being overly kitschy. When I met with Paul Martone, the executive director of Late Night Library, for my internship interview a week later, he instantly created a dialogue of reciprocity, inquiring about my publishing classes, my work at Ooligan Press, my favorite books, and how Late Night Library might best assist me on my professional journey. The qualities that I noticed on their website and in my initial conversation with Paul—community, dialogue, a strong sense of reciprocity—are what really define Late Night Library and my internship experience so far.
In its original incarnation, Late Night Library was divided into three parts:
- Late Night Conversation, a podcast focusing almost exclusively on discussions with publishers and booksellers;
- Late Night Debut, a podcast highlighting conversations with debut authors about their books and their writing processes;
- Late Night Review, the home of contributor-based book reviews and author interviews.
This had been a great place for Paul and his then-business partner, New York City resident Erin Hoover, to begin their venture into the wild world of book culture. It gave the organization variety while at the same time keeping the staff focused on a specific set of goals. Paul and Erin’s venture succeeded in a tangible way, gaining listeners across Portland and New York City as well as positive feedback from organizations like Tin House, Poets and Writers, and Fiction Writers Review. Indeed, Paul was looking to expand even further just as I was arriving at the doorsteps of the Late Night Library headquarters (a.k.a. Paul’s house).
In keeping with Paul’s vision for the evolution of Late Night Library, managing editor Candace Opper and I began the process of seriously rethinking the structure and function of Late Night Review. It was necessary to be frank in our initial discussions: we had to let go of any illusions that our writers’ reviews could compete with The New York Times or Publishers Weekly and start focusing on what we could offer our audiences that would be both refreshing and indicative of the tone of our collaborative. Brainstorming with this reality in mind, we established five fresh columns:
- “Read This Book,” a new spin on the traditional book review that asks readers to craft personal essays exploring connections between their own lives and the books they read, how these connections might translate into larger global themes common to the human condition, and just what it is about that particular novel that makes them tell every person they meet, “You just have to read this book!”;
- “The Late Night Interview,” where staffers and contributors converse with their favorite authors about their novel(s), writing, and what it is about books that gets us all so twitterpated;
- “Dog-Eared and Dispatched,” a weekly news column focusing on the latest information to hit the book world;
- “The Rookie Report,” where we ask debut authors to answer ten nontraditional questions, such as “If your book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?” and “What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?”;
- “Freshman Reading List,” where we revisit books we loved as children and explore how our perceptions have adapted with age.
With the introduction of these new columns, I officially moved up in the ranks of Late Night Library, taking on the position of editorial assistant. My duties now include editing submissions, corresponding with contributors, and authoring the “Dog-Eared and Dispatched” column each week. As we head into the fall, Candace and I will be adding more columns to the mix, with one future write-up focusing on book lovers’ guilty literary pleasures.
I feel extremely fortunate to have been welcomed into a literary arts association like Late Night Library so early on in both its growth and my own professional career. Paul’s passionate enthusiasm is infectious, and at a time in my life when the presence and panic of the “real world” beyond academia is looming ever closer, it gives me a sense of hope to be a member of a group with such spirited ambition—an organization fueled by avant-garde initiatives; a collective where collaboration is king, queen, and jester; a place where literature never sleeps.