Monday, November 10, 2014

The Mississippi Book Page: A Collaborative Effort


Since late 2013 University Press of Mississippi has been involved in a unique collaborative project with the Clarion Ledger and Lemuria Bookstore. Together, we have worked to write, edit, and produce a Mississippi book page in the Sunday edition of the Clarion Ledger – Mississippi’s paper of record.

A full page and a half in the Sunday features section is dedicated to our project. The book page features reviews, author interviews, columns about book culture, news about book clubs, and a calendar of literary events. See more at clarionledger.com/life


UPM is proud of the alliance between our Press, Lemuria Books, and the Clarion Ledger. These three entities had worked together in pairs for years, but have never collectively come to the table together.

In the spirit of further collaboration, below, UPM Marketing Manager Steve Yates, Lemuria bookseller Lisa Newman, and Clarion Ledger correspondent Jana Hoops describe the origin of and their role in helping to create the weekly Mississippi book page.


Steve Yates, Marketing Manager, University Press of Mississippi
Lamentation narratives are so 2013. You know them all by heart: Newspapers are dead. Print is dead. Library sales are dead. Independent bookstores are vanishing.

Here is an old chestnut of lacrimosa—The death of the book page at a daily newspaper. That requiem was overplayed way before the Great Recession!

Having worked at two Gannett newspapers, I was pretty skeptical when Lemuria Books owner John Evans came to me with an idea. He admired the way University Press of Mississippi was in constant touch with Mississippi’s numerous independentbookstoresWhy not ask those stores to submit a  list weekly of top ten bestselling books? And then convince the Clarion-Ledger (the second Gannett newspaper, where I once moonlighted as a night-side copy editor) to run them as a Best Mississippi Books List?

To my astonishment, when he presented the idea to Annie Oeth, features editor at the Clarion-Ledger, she was open to a list and more. UPM was already connected with lots of writers in the state. Why not ask UPM to recruit the best Mississippi writers to review new books, both by Mississippi writers and about the state? Why not have Lemuria staff write a column about rare and notable first editions and about Young Adult and Children’s Books?

All of these ideas have been fully realized and UPM has brought to a real, printed newspaper over forty different writers reviewing books from Louisiana State University Press, University of Illinois Press, trade houses, and independent publishers across the state and south in addition to our own Mississippi-related books. 


Jana Hoops, Correspondent, Clarion Ledger 

Every seven days I contribute a Q & A interview with a different Mississippi author (or one who has some ties to the state), to The Clarion-Ledger. And to meet that deadline each week, it’s been my great pleasure to work with artists, philosophers, theologians, high school teachers, lawyers, historians, a state senator, musicians, a fitness buff or two, chefs, a state Supreme Court judge, photographers, a former university chancellor, a landscape architect, athletes, activists, entrepreneurs, more professors than I can count, and reporters who have literally covered it all. 

How many other job descriptions require that the person who is lucky enough to hold that particular position must connect with interesting, fun and, often borderline famous (or, at the very least, notable) people, week after week, to consider topics as varied and interesting as the many folks who have called Mississippi home?  

For all of their diversity in interests and experience, they have one very important thing in common. They are all WRITERS, taking their places in Mississippi’s long legacy of reminding the rest of the world how good we are at that sort of thing.   

For me, that means two things have remained unchanged over the past year:
  • I’m reading many more books on a very regular basis.  
  • I rely on help from the people who are holding it down at the University Press of Mississippi and at Lemuria, Jackson’s legendary independent book store, for inspiration, ideas, and information


Thanks to UPM and Lemuria, each Sunday the Mississippi book page has reviews, comments, local best sellers, news about area book clubs, who’s signing what where – and an interview with a Mississippi author doing his or her part to ensure that our state’s reputation for spirited writing remains firmly intact. 

Lisa Newman, Bookseller, Lemuria Books

Since January of 2014 my contribution to the Mississippi book page has been writing a short column called The Book Shelf. My column is about collecting first editions and about why a certain title might be meaningful to add to one's collection.

I have always been a book lover and naturally interested in the first editions at Lemuria, but the column has provided the consistency to press forward and learn something new each week. Seeing the good faith of the Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi's literary community is also encouraging. I don't know of another newspaper that has a column about book collecting. The response from our customers in the bookstore has been wonderful. Hardly a day goes by without someone talking about the Mississippi Books page.

I think many people would have been pessimistic about such a collaborative effort but as the group began this bold endeavor and Annie Oeth at the Clarion-Ledger formalized the layout of the page, it became clear that nobody really considered failure an option. As we work to plan the book page, everyone on our team comes to the table with a positive attitude. We all seem to have that little bit of flexibility combined with our commitment to a weekly deadline to make it all work. The book page has enriched my work as a bookseller, and I'm grateful to be a part of it. As we look to 2015, I hope we can improve on our strong foundation. 

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