The Literary Life

Dallas-based publisher expands bookish empire to downtown store

Dallas-based publisher expands bookish empire to downtown store

Will Evans
Deep Vellum Publishing founder Will Evans. Photo courtesy of Will Evans
Deep Vellum Books
The Dallas shelf at Deep Vellum Books. Photo by Ciara McHaney
Deep Vellum Books
The shop's selection will encourage more literary exploration in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Deep Vellum Books
Will Evans
Deep Vellum Books
Deep Vellum Books

Independent bookstores are thin on the ground in our fair city, but that doesn’t deter Deep Vellum Publishing founder and publisher Will Evans. With 10 translated novels under his belt, the local literary light is just warming up.

Next on his roster? A new bookstore opening in the same building as his literary arts organization’s offices at 3000 Commerce St. On December 9, local book fans can steal a sneak peek at the space-in-progress from 6-8 pm.

“I’ve always believed literature belongs on the streets, among the people,” says Evans. “I’ve been wanting to open a bookstore in this exact location since I moved to Dallas two-and-a-half years ago. When the [Bishop Arts shop] Wild Detectives announced they were opening, I decided to postpone my own store to throw all my support behind them to make sure they could survive. I’m inspired and in awe of all they’ve done, so I found it was time for Dallas to have its second European-style bookstore.”

Although the space — which will also have a small cafe offering coffee and wine — won’t officially have its grand opening until February, the Wednesday night event will give a glimpse into what Evans hopes will evolve into a “literary cultural center.” Focusing on the Deep Vellum catalog, the shop will also sell works from other independent publishers along with 'zines, chapbooks, and magazines. Readings, a poetry program, release parties, and book clubs will round out the events.

With 13 titles on the docket for 2016 by authors from such far-flung places as Brazil, Morocco, the Netherlands, and the Ukraine, there will be plenty to keep that book club engaged. On January 5, Sergio Waisman, translator of Ricardo Piglia’s rave-reviewed philosophical novel Target in the Night, will kick off the programming.

Evans, who says his model for the space was influenced by such iconic shops as Malvern Books in Austin, the Brazos Bookstore in Houston, New York’s Three Lives, and City Lights in San Francisco, felt compelled to create a space selling the books he wanted to read.

“Anything outside the traditional big five corporate publishers who own everything in the industry,” he explains. “Think indie music equals indie literature. The under-appreciated. The better. The best. I want the people who read our books to own our store, to feel an investment in the success and health of our bookstore, and all bookstores, for the future. There are so many great bookstores in this country. I hope Deep Vellum can be counted among them in a hundred years' time.”

Lest this seem like too lofty of a goal, rest assured that Evans is doing the legwork. Since founding the press in 2013, he’s attended the Frankfurt Book Fair three times, the London Book Fair, the Guadalajara Book Fair in Mexico, and Iceland’s Reykjavik International Literary Festival, as well as editor’s trips to Germany, the Netherlands, Flanders, and South Korea.

With the e-reader’s failure to kill the printed word, even a mass retailer like Amazon can’t quite dull the enthusiasm for a quiet, welcoming place to discover new literature and meet like-minded souls who, quite simply, love to read.

“The numbers show that more and more bookstores are opening every year for the last several years,” says Evans. “You never realize the true value of an independent bookstore in your community until it comes back. Dallas without the Wild Detectives was a much emptier, less literary place than it is today. The Wild Detectives, and hopefully our store, give the city more soul.

“Literature and the literary arts are a vital part of the health of any city, and it’s great to see Dallas growing healthier in this way."