An Interview with Paul Martone, Founder of Late Night Library

Late Night Library is a prominent fixture in Portland’s literary community. Since 2011, the organization has been dedicated to providing a space for debut and up-and-coming authors to publicize their work and an avenue for readers to discover previously unknown gems through podcasts, creative writing classes, author readings, and their own set of awards.

On Wednesday, April 22, Late Night Library is hosting a different kind of literary event—a literary-themed variety show. “All Fines Forgiven” will feature a diverse group of writers and entertainers. The roster includes New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain, the Seattle-based hip-hop band Ayron Jones and the Way, novelist Benjamin Percy, poets Arisa White and Cindy Williams Gutiérrez, and spoken-word performance artist Rasheed Jamal. Hosting the event is Arthur Bradford, award-winning author and Emmy-nominated filmmaker.

I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Paul Martone, the founder and executive director of Late Night Library, some questions about the organization and the upcoming variety show.

How did you first come up with the idea of Late Night Library? What has the journey growing from podcast to nonprofit literary organization looked like?

Late Night Library began as a bicoastal podcast in 2011. The initial show featured conversations about newly released books, and the responses we received from debut authors, in particular, caused us to realize a nonprofit mission. The journey from podcast to nonprofit wasn’t pretty. We didn’t have start-up money. It was hard work with no pay, but we loved doing it. Late Night Library became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2013. We further our mission through four programs: Late Night Media, Literary Voices, The Visiting Writers Series, and the Debut-litzer Prizes.

What was the inspiration behind putting on a variety show?

We’re hoping to create new readers for the writers we support while simultaneously promoting literature in the community. Author readings are great, and there are many in Portland. All Fines Forgiven is a different animal. We’re featuring one of Seattle’s hottest rock bands and one of Portland’s most talented rap artists, Ben Percy and Chelsea Cain are reading, and Arthur Bradford is hosting . . . all kinds of entertaining things will be happening on stage.

The variety show will feature a mix of writers, musicians, editors, and filmmakers. What do you think this eclectic group has in common with regards to their chosen art forms?

What the artists have in common is that they’re all supremely talented. I like your use of the word “eclectic.” We’re seeking an audience as eclectic as the artists themselves. The show does have a central theme, however. It’s the kind of thing you need to experience firsthand, but I assure you, all fines will be forgiven.

As per your mission statement, Late Night Library is “dedicated to sustaining book culture, promoting literature in schools and communities, and supporting a diverse array of writers early in their careers.” How do you see All Fines Forgiven as furthering some or all parts of Late Night Library’s goals as an organization?

We’re featuring a diverse array of writers, compensating them, selling their books, and promoting their work via print and digital media. Now consider the venue, the talent, and cost of production. We seek to promote literature in communities, and therefore tickets are sold for $11 (general admission) and $9 (students). In other words, it’s a variety show at the cost of a movie ticket.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you’ve featured on Late Night Library?

My favorite authors are the ones who are nice to the people supporting their efforts. Most of the authors we’ve featured are therefore my favorite.

What aspect of your work with Late Night Library are you most proud of?

We’re an inclusive bicoastal group of readers and writers, and we’re resilient as all hell. Nobody handed us Late Night Library. We built it. The LNL fam. That’s what I’m most proud of.

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