David Unowsky, Literary Rolodex

What’s the last good book David Unowsky read? Well, this veteran bookseller is in a bit of a slump, but he wholeheartedly endorses Why We Revolt: A Patient Revolution for Careful and Kind Care, published by the Mayo Clinic Press. Unowsky has been working for the Mayo since 2019. Before that, he ran the legendary Hungry Mind/Ruminator bookstore from 1970-2004 and facilitated author readings at Magers & Quinn and Subtext Books. In Minnesota, creative scenes and subcultures run small, so artistic careers often hinge on networking. Having spent much of his life selling books in the Twin Cities, Unowsky is a human Rolodex. He currently lives in White Bear Township, where he can watch the ducks from his window.

Hi, David! Please share a little about your creative practice.
Basically, my whole life in the world of arts has been about helping writers and helping get books out to people. I, personally, am not a writer, but I’m a person who helps writers [and] creates opportunities for them. I help them see what the market is; how to sell their book; how to publish it; how to market it; how to do publicity; how to link up with agents. All of the years that I’ve been in the book world — which is 50, now — have given me all these connections, and even though I don’t have my bookstore anymore, I’ve maintained all that. So when I contact a publisher or an agent, they know who I am. And they know that I’m going to recommend something that they’re interested in.

Setting up events is another thing I do. I ran reading series at two different bookstores after mine closed. I just did two events for [Why We Revolt] recently, and I’ll be doing more of that.

David Unowsky reading

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
Well, it was 12 years ago, and I was one of the original consultants. I think there were six of us then. Zaraawar [Mistry] was one; I mean, now he runs this program! [Anyway,] Kathleen Richert, who was then running that part of the program, contacted me, because she knew of my history in the book world and knew that I could help writers and other people who have anything to do with a book. I’ve helped photographers and artists who want to do book work, also. I’ve been there for 12 years, and I’m still there, and I love it.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
Last year, I worked with a guy who had a children’s book that had photographs, and then he imposed drawings of a boy and his dog on these nature photographs. It’s all about their relationship with animals and nature and children. And so far, he hasn’t been able to get a publisher. So I’m going to try to help him get it published, because I thought it was a gorgeous book with great ideas.

I just had a conference with a woman — this is interesting, now that Springboard has gone national, having to do with the pandemic and stuff. I’m working with a woman from Taiwan who lives in Brooklyn. She’s a poet and wants to connect with Minnesota writers. So I put some stuff up on Facebook and got close to 100 responses already. And hopefully I want to get her some readings. It’s really different to have people coming from all over the country for these consultations.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
Some people know this, but I’m an incredible baseball fan. I’ve traveled all over the country visiting ballparks, and I’ve been on two long bus trips with a bunch of goofy guys and women, where we went to major and minor league parks. Back on my honeymoon trips — of which there were more than one — we had to stop at a ballpark to watch a ballgame. I mean, obviously, I like my hometown teams. I love the Baltimore Orioles of the ’70s, which was probably my favorite other team, and I loved the manager that they had and some of the players.

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations: https://springboardforthearts.org/consultants/
Workshops & Events Calendar: https://springboardforthearts.org/events/
Work of Art and Handbook for Artists Working in Community books: https://springboardforthearts.org/buy-books/

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