“New Letters on the Air” hosted their “Fall Back in Love with Books” sale last Tuesday as part of UMKC’s Founders Week.
The event took place from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. and was hosted at the University House located at 5101 Rockhill Road. It preceded the book talk by UMKC alumna Nancy Thayer at the Bloch School of Business that evening.
“New Letters on the Air” is the nationally-syndicated radio show companion to “New Letters,” the 81-year-old national literature and art magazine published at UMKC.
Robert Stewart, Editor-in-Chief of “New Letters,” explained the purpose of the Founder’s Week book sale.
“It gets people from the community, both on campus and in the neighborhood, over here in a relaxed, social way,” Stewart said. “And it helps people understand who we are. A lot of people don’t know what goes on in this house.”
According to Stewart, each year publishers across the country send his staff books for promotional purposes. These literary books include various short stories and poetry, including works of fiction and non-fiction. Not all of them are used, so every two to three years Stewart and his staff host a book sale.
Beyond providing exposure for “New Letters” and “New Letters on the Air,” these events also allow their staff to raise petty cash. This cash is put toward various office events. These usually include office birthdays and occasionally purchasing marketing supplies.
“We don’t make a lot of money,” Stewart said. “It’s mainly so we can get people from the community to come by, and if they buy books, that’s great.”
Both “New Letters” and “New Letters on the Air” feature work from a wide variety of authors and publishers.
In its 81 years, “New Letters” has published Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and a variety of new authors. These include both well-known and relatively unknown writers. Among these are John Updike, Sherman Alexie, Grace Paley, Annie Dillard and Margaret Walker. More notable authors such as Richard Wright, e. e. cummings and J. D. Salinger have been published in the magazine’s extensive history.
“New Letters on the Air” typically highlights one of these authors, featuring interviews with the writer and live recordings of them reading samples of their work.
According to Stewart. a large number of publishers send their work to the offices at the University House.
“Almost every press in the country that publishes literary titles eventually will send us some books to see if we can’t get their author on our radio show,” Stewart said. “Or maybe review the book in the magazine.”
These publishers include well-known New York publishers the likes of Graywolf Press and Farrar, Strass and Giroux. They also include lesser-known publishers such as Black Horse Press.
“New Letters” is a quarterly publication, published nationally by BkMk Press. “New Letters on the Air” is broadcast in Kansas City through 89.3 KCUR, Sunday Mornings at 6:00 a.m. The show is syndicated nationally in 30 to 35 cities across the country on public radio stations.
Students can purchase issues of “New Letters” in the UMKC Bookstore and can listen to past broadcasts of “New Letters on the Air” at newletters.org.