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Unexpected benefactor makes expansion possible at A Gallery of Readers Press, Northampton

  • Left,  Robin Barber and Carol Edelstein at their home in Northampton with books they have published.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • <br/>Book published by  Robin Barber and Carol Edelstein at their home in Northampton. <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

A Gallery of Readers Press is helping local writers jump the hardest hurdle — getting their work published.

Robin Barber and Carol Edelstein, who for many years have run A Gallery of Readers writing workshops and a small press out of their home in Northampton, expanded their enterprise last year, thanks in large part to generous, and unexpected, financial assistance.

After independently producing three anthologies in 1994, 1996 and 2010, somebody took notice, and offered to fund the annual publication of books under A Gallery of Readers imprint. With that promise of financial assistance, Barber and Edelstein, who are married, expanded the A Gallery of Readers Press into a nonprofit group — a move, they say, that has helped more members of the workshop reach a wider audience.

“It’s part of our mission to provide publication opportunities for the people who take the workshops, to get a wider audience for the writing we’re helping facilitate,” Edelstein said in a recent interview.

It’s not easy getting published, Barber added, and assistance from the benefactor, who prefers not to be named publicly, has helped. “We might be able to help a few people skip some of the pain and suffering,” Barber said.

Since receiving the private funding, the new press has produced three books by Northampton authors: “Meet Jimmy Fox” by Barbara Lucey; “Ladder to the Roof” by Brett Averitt; and “Lessons out of School” by Susan Cocalis.

Another collection of short stories by Joan Cenedella, of Northampton, and a book of poetry by Jonathan Wright, also of Northampton, are in development. Cenedella’s work has already been type-set, and is ready for proof-reading, Barber says; Wright’s book will appear in print further down the road.

Workshop writers who haven’t produced an entire work by themselves have still seen publication. A Gallery of Readers Press has produced three anthologies. The latest, edited by Edelstein, Barber and Stephanie Gibbs, features the work of 44 local writers.

Each author A Gallery of Readers Press has put in print has been a member of the couple’s writing workshop. Barber says those people take priority when considering works for publication, but the group does accept submissions to a magazine on its website, www.galleryofreaders.org.

Edelstein, who grew up in Northampton, and Barber, who is originally from Amherst, says workshops for local writers have filled a large role in both their lives. The two met in 1987 at a workshop run by Pat Schneider, founder of Amherst Writers and Artists.

Edelstein began A Gallery of Readers workshop in Northampton, at Schneider’s request, in 1988. The weekly workshops expanded in 1997 after Barber took workshop-leader training with Schneider, and began running his own sessions.

The writing group has accrued close to 100 members, with about 40 people currently active. Workshop sessions run three days a week for 10 weeks. Each class has between 10 and 12 members, some of whom have been together since the beginning.

Making the switch

Barber says becoming a nonprofit organization made sense for the small press; the couple made the switch after receiving the offer of financial assistance in 2010, because it allowed the individual to make tax-deductible donations.

“Donations that we’ve been getting to do the press are like a dream come true we never thought we’d even try for,” Edelstein said.

Since the IRS granted the press nonprofit status in 2012, and it was able to accept the funding, the couple has increased the press’s output and production quality. The next project, they say, is getting the books into local libraries.

“Slowly, but surely, we’re working toward making that happen,” Barber said.

In addition to tax-deductible funding, there have been other benefits, Barber says. For example, the IRS recommended appointing a board of directors, which Barber and Edelstein’s press now has, consisting of long-term members of the workshop. That additional input and support is something Barber and Edelstein say they find comforting.

“It’s possible that when we do need to retire from running this program ourselves, we will be able to transition to having other people do it,” Barber said.

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