The Rapidian

New literary nonprofit works to support writers in Grand Rapids

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters is a new literary nonprofit in Grand Rapids with big ambitions.
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In the last year, the city of Grand Rapids has lost two of its urban independent bookstores. Literary Life Bookstore & More (LitLife) closed its brick-and-mortar storefront on Wealthy Street in June of 2012, while the downtown branch of Schuler Books shuttered its doors last month. Luckily for readers and writers, though, a new literary nonprofit has recently been established in West Michigan.

Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters (GLCL) was started by three former booksellers who recognized the need for ongoing literary services in the community. Dr. Roni K. Devlin, owner of LitLife and President of GLCL, notes that the idea for the nonprofit actually began while the bookstore was still open.

“On more than one occasion, a great idea for an author event, book launch or literary festival was put on hold because LitLife didn’t have enough cash flow or access to resources. So, as the bookstore closed, the subsequent development of a literary nonprofit made perfect sense. With GLCL, the link to the literary community is not contingent on book sales or profit margins,” says Devlin.

GLCL’s mission is simple but vital: to encourage, promote and celebrate the literary endeavors of writers within the Great Lakes region. Admittedly, the goals of the literary nonprofit are ambitious. Initial offerings will include author events, writing contests and workshops, book clubs and poetry readings. Eventually, GLCL hopes to be able to establish a writing retreat, a community literary festival on Wealthy Street and an independent literary press. 

“GLCL has no intention of stepping on the toes of the independent bookstores that continue to thrive in West Michigan," Devlin is quick to point out. "One of our first actions as a nonprofit was to develop a policy that clearly states that bookstores have the priority when it comes to author events and book signings, and that we will partner with locally-owned stores for book sales when appropriate.”

GLCL hopes to complement the activities that are already done well at other literary establishments, and to provide author services and reader connections that might be beyond the reach of retail bookstores in the region.

GLCL’s first events will be held in April in celebration of National Poetry Month, and include free poetry readings with Jack Ridl, Chris Dombrowski, Traci Brimhall, Patricia Clark and Alison Swan. Two poetry workshops have also been scheduled during April with Chris Dombrowski and Robert Fanning; each workshop is limited to 12 people and costs $40 to attend.

More information about GLCL can be found on its newly launched website, and inquiries about events or workshops can be directed to them via email.

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