Jen Woods and Typecast Publishing are 'rethinking the traditional outdated business model for publishing' [Books]

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This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

Typecast Publishing owner and president Jen Woods hopes to do nothing less than “rethink the traditional, outdated business model for publishing.” And from the award-winning art magazine The Lumberyard to its first full-length volume of poetry, Monkey Bars by Matthew Lippman, there is an unconventional vision for design and distribution that is bringing new readers to the printed word in an age when others are proclaiming the death of the conventional book. Formerly an associate editor at Sarabande Books, Woods explains Typecast’s approach to a new project: “We consider the entire history of printing methods when we sit down to make a book, from old-school letterpress printing to modern, digital options, and from these options we create a book-specific plan of attack.” The publishing house is the outgrowth of The Lumberyard, which she and her brother Eric launched in 2007. Eric Woods is owner of The Firecracker Press, a design studio and letterpress shop based in St. Louis, where The Lumberyard is designed and printed, one copy at a time, on an antique letterpress.

Book that has most guided your personal outlook or belief system

In college I read most of the major religious texts, and that — combined with books on science, such as Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Death by Black Hole (or if you’re up for a brain-bender, anything written by Stephen Hawking) — has revealed a very fragile thread of commonality that I can grasp periodically, with concentration. But my personal belief system is that I don’t really know all that much, so perhaps I’m still searching for that one book that says it all.
Book you are reading now: I just picked up Modern Life, by Matthea Harvey. It’s very far from what I normally choose for myself.  She’s like the Salvador Dali of poetry.

Book you’d recommend to a friend to take along on vacation

When to Go Into the Water, by Lawrence Sutin, is a quick, fun read you will lose yourself in and one of my favorites from my years at Sarabande Books. Sutin is an author who delights in the strange and the whimsical. The novel spans nearly two centuries, following the life of the little-known author Hector de Saint-Aureole and the impact of his self-published autobiography on those to whom the book finds its way.

Favorite book or author when you were (about) 21

Still Life With Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins, was the book I always carried with me then; that and Louise Gluck’s volume of poems The House on Marshland. Two diametrically opposite books — that’s so classic me!

Favorite book from childhood

There are literally hundreds, but my mom gave me A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle,  for Christmas one year and I adored it for a very long time. Growing up in a rural place, reading was about getting away. The book was a portal to a magical place a million miles away for me.

Book that has most guided or served as a model for your professional outlook or artistic vision

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, is, in my opinion, the most misunderstood book out there. It’s a true artist’s manifesto, and makes the case better than any for “to thine own self be true.” I’ve never understood those who say it’s a validation of “greed” in the common sense of the word; if anything it staunchly argues against the singular, shortsighted chase for material gain, calling those who engage in it “second-handers.” Ellsworth Toohey is the creepiest villain of all time, because he’s real and everywhere and always existing in plain sight.

Photo: John Nation