BookBar is known for doing a wide variety of things and doing them well. As an independent bookstore with a small but well curated selection, a wine bar and coffee shop with tasty options, and as the organizer behind BookGive, a nonprofit that distributes free books to underserved locations, this unique local business has a huge presence in the Northwest Denver community and throughout the city. BookBar’s newest venture, independent publishing company BookBar Press, continues their community-driven and locally focused mission in what is perhaps their most creative way yet – by releasing titles written by Denver-based writers as an alternative to traditional publishers.
“Our goal is to publish books that are community-centric and will lift up voices that might be overlooked by traditional publishers,” explains Heather Garbo, BookBar Press’s Publishing Director. The imprint’s debut release, “Bite Size: An Anthology of Micro Theater,” features ten plays under fifteen minutes long by local writers – five of which were performed in collaboration with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts for a three week run of experiential theater at BookBar in 2018. Picked from over 200 submissions, the featured plays offer a wide array of settings, themes, and topics – from the post-apocalyptic prison of “Pocket Full of Dandelions,” the veterinary office waiting room of “Toxoplasmosis,” to the Denver Public Library’s Central location in “The Missing Piece,” to name a few.
While the last year seems like a difficult time to start an independent publishing company, BookBar Press rose to the occasion. “Like everything else that happened this past year, launching a new publishing company right now was a little bit of a challenge,” Heather describes. “But in some ways, I think the last year actually helped solidify our mission.” With the disconnection experienced by all due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the nationwide protests and unrest that gained attention throughout the summer, the release of “Bite Size” felt as important now as ever. Heather continues, “Recent events have also reinforced how important it is to listen to the marginalized voices in our community if we want to build a better future. As an indie publisher, I think we feel a responsibility to help make visible those who have often been marginalized in our society. “Bite Size” not only touches on important topics like social justice, prisoner rights, treatment of immigrants, and transgender experiences, but it also very much emerged from Colorado voices shaped by Colorado stories, so it really felt like the right debut title for us.”
Currently available for purchase through BookBar, “Bite Size” is just the beginning of BookBar Press’ publishing journey. Their next title, “Find Praise for January” by local poet Shirley Van Cleef Sullivan, is scheduled to come out by the end of the month, and the imprint plans to release a few books each year. BookBar Press also plans to roll out author services to writers looking for more control over their publishing path.
Due to current restrictions, “Bite Size” celebrated its release with a virtual event in December, but fear not if you missed out. Pre-pandemic, BookBar was alive with regular author events, and though an upside to the virtual event was that it allowed participants to attend from all over the country, Heather reassures, “that doesn’t mean we won’t plan to have a celebration at BookBar when it’s safe to do so again!”
Find out more about BookBar Press and its debut release, “Bite Size: An Anthology of Micro Theater,” at bookbardenver.com.