Melting Snow Cones and Book Lovers' Hearts: TIR's Adventures at the Iowa City Book Festival

Sara Kosch

It was nine o'clock in the morning on Saturday, July 17, and I was already sweating profusely. I wished I had thought to bring a large palm leaf or at least a wide brimmed hat, but I comforted myself with the fact that at least I was going to get some color after working inside all summer. As it turned out that color was going to be red instead of the sun-kissed glow I would have preferred, but I'll take what I can get, I suppose.

The Iowa Review table was the only table in Gibson Square that didn't have a tent and somehow we had ended up being located in the one spot of the park without shade. Thankfully, Jenna Hammerich had a pretty umbrella that the two of us huddled under together and smiled along with the visitors wandering through the Iowa City Book Festival who jokingly pointed out what we already knew, that is, that we were slowly melting. On the plus side, though, I bet people's pity boosted our sales in the long run. Don't worry; we ended up moving the tables to a cooler location so we weren't in direct sunlight the entire eight hours. Our original home base. My new best friend after the move. (The tree, not the woman at the table). Well, technically Russell and Jenna moved the table. I returned from listening to my friend Ash Bruxvoort talk about her book blog to a deserted spot of grass, but after a moment of confusion realized that I was not in the Twilight Zone after all and went back to my post helping sell copies of TIR and sweet t-shirts from (we think) back in the 80's when the rejection slips sent out used to read: 

'This is just to say
We have taken some plums
We found in our mail box.
Delicious. Forgive us,
You were hoping' 

Apparently the rejected weren't as amused by this as the rejectors, but personally I think it's pretty genius, and I'm glad their humor has been immortalized by the large, tan-colored t-shirts. Who wouldn't want one of these? Overall, it was a pretty successful day. We handed out lots of fliers, sold about seventeen issues and a surprising number of t-shirts. The sweltering temperatures weren't enough to deter people from wandering the festival. I was glad to get a chance to do some wandering myself and check out the other venders set up in the park where bookstores, small presses, and emerging authors displayed their wares, the Center for the Book had a tent where you could sew together your own little book, print a bookplate, and get your name written in calligraphy, there was food and snow cones, poetry readings on the patio, author readings from Jane Smiley, Audrey Niffenegger and James Galvin, a puppet show for the little kids, and live music.

My thanks to Jenna for letting me desert our table to listen to James Galvin's reading. The poetry was great and so was the air-conditioning. One of the best parts about having a table at the festival was that we got to explain what The Iowa Review is to a lot of people that had never heard of us. Hopefully Jenna and I created some new TIR fans just by being our adorable selves and bribing them with free candy and postcards. But really, in explaining The Iowa Review to people, I realized once again what an awesome magazine this is. I mean, we publish people from all over the world! Last week I was doing some organization of our file cabinets and found contact sheets from when Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott submitted work for publication. It was so surreal because these were authors that I studied about in Intro to the English major last year, and there I was, holding a letter from Heaney to David Hamilton in my hand. The Iowa Review is seriously the bomb dot com, and it's really neat that we got a chance to declare it to the general public. I hope they wear their t-shirts with pride.