Fifth Avenue Press launches nine new titles at A2 Community Bookfest


Fifth Avenue Press logo and A2 Community Bookfest 2023 banner

The Ann Arbor District Library's Fifth Avenue Press, which started in 2017, helps local authors produce a print-ready book at no cost—from copyediting to cover design—and the writers retain all rights. In return, the library gets to distribute ebooks to its patrons without paying royalties, but authors can sell their books—print, digital, or audio—in whatever ways they choose and keep all the proceeds.

Fifth Avenue launches nine new publications on Sunday, September 10, with a book-release reception at 1 pm in the lobby of AADL's Downtown location.

The Fifth Avenue Press event is part of the A2 Community Bookfest, which runs from 10 am to 5 pm at AADL Downtown, also on September 10, with a full schedule of renowned authors including J. Ryan Stradal, Sonali Dev, and Stephen Mack Jones.

Four new Fifth Avenue creators answered a questionnaire to help readers understand a bit more about the press process and their journey as authors. Also below is a list and descriptions of all the other Fifth Avenue books available on Sunday; click the titles to visit the books' web pages for more info on each. Many of the authors will be there to do readings and signings, too.


Mini Olson and her book Middle School Is No Place for Magic

Middle School Is No Place for Magic by Mimi Olson

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Eighth-grader Jay has been his dad’s magician’s assistant for the last five years. He mastered spoon-bending by the age of eight, silk tricks by 10, and has become a talented cardician. But no matter how fun it used to be when he was younger, being in the family show business is growing old.

Jay wants to try out for the basketball team and spend more time with his friends. He wants to be his own person. However, with so much weighing on his family—his parent’s talk of separation, his grandpa’s bad health, money struggles—the last thing Jay wants to do is disappoint the people he loves.

The clock starts ticking when his dad signs them up to perform their magic act at his school’s talent show. Will Jay find the courage to speak his mind, or will he end up being the laughingstock of Barrington Middle School?

Sometimes, Jay wishes he could disappear for real!

Q: What inspired the book?
A: Several years ago, my husband and I took our daughter to a magic show at a summer festival. The magician had his young son in the show, acting as his assistant. That ignited my imagination. I couldn’t help but envision what it might be like to:

a. Have a dad who’s a magician,
b. Grow up helping in the magic business, and ...
c. Enter middle school, a time when the smallest things can be mortifying.

To be that age and have to perform, possibly in front of your peers—my brain was buzzing.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: There are certainly times that have been difficult in my 20-year journey to become an author. I’ve experienced my fair share of rejection, though I see now that each rejection and critique has propelled me to this point.

Since I was very young, I’ve processed the world through writing, which often feels joyful to me. In addition to the writing, I was able to pilot my Short Story/Author Talk Workshop earlier this year with three sixth-grade classes in Columbus, Ohio, and it is the best thing I’ve experienced since starting this publishing journey. I love connecting with youth and was delighted to hear from the teacher that they have since been very engaged in writing their own stories.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: I work full-time for Michigan Medicine and I found it helpful to set aside one evening a week for writing, in addition to taking time on the weekends. I treat it as a night out for myself and I like to set up camp at a cafe or library. I’ve been in a couple of local writing groups and it’s motivating when you must show up every month with new pages.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...
A: Middle School Is No Place for Magic is realistic fiction, set in modern times in Ann Arbor. Similar types of novels include books by Judy Blume—my literary hero—Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: Only to follow their submission guidelines and make sure you understand your commitment to the publication process. Whether you’re self-publishing, working with a press, or picked up by a traditional publishing company, that process takes a considerable amount of time. Having said that, working with Fifth Avenue Press has been an incredible experience. It’s truly a gift!


Cover of A Fine Loaf of Bread along with an illustration of Terry and Leslie Butler.

A Fine Loaf of Bread by Terry & Leslie Butler with illustrations by Terry Butler

Answers by Terry Butler:

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Robert lives a quiet life in the country and looks forward to his weekly trip to the bakery in town. One day after he gets his loaf, he stumbles, drops it, and the loaf rolls away. The story is about his adventures in retrieving the loaf and how he chooses to enjoy it afterward.

Q: What inspired the book?
A: My wife Leslie and I worked in one of Michigan's first true organic sourdough bakeries in Leland, Michigan, over 20 years ago. The bakery was owned by Bob Pisor, a former news broadcaster in Detroit. Bob was a larger-than-life character who had an amazing passion and enthusiasm for a fine loaf of bread. The main character, Robert, is inspired by Bob but not meant to be him.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: I wrote the book back when we were working at the bakery thinking it would just be a fun venture. Being written in rhyme, it was fun to write and there was no pressure as I wasn't sure if I would ever do anything with it. I pulled it out during the pandemic and started doing some sketches, then sketched a small version of the story. We decided to sharpen it up and submit it. We enjoyed working together on the wording and rhyme although it could be tedious at times to analyze every detail. I did struggle some with the illustrations and had to do multiple versions at times before I was content with the result. Transitioning from a fair artist to a book illustrator meant learning to sequence the plot and consider space for the text as well as the scene forming in my mind.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: Reading and studying the art decisions made in other children's books is our great inspiration. I am also a former K-8 art teacher, which helped me develop a strong interest in children's literature. We daydream about a subject first, then bounce ideas off of each other. Once we have somewhat of a formed idea we start writing it down. We sit together and flesh out the details once we have the main ideas down.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...

A: Lynn Perkins has a lot of great children's books including Wintercake, which has a roughly similar theme to ours. Our book is illustrated with linocuts, a form of relief printing. A children's author with a similar style is Mary Azarian who works with woodblock printing.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: Get some editing done to your text by someone with experience. Experienced editorial help can reveal issues with your text that you may have not realized. Then, send the material out and see if it takes hold somewhere!


Cover of Ypsilanti Histories featuring a building montage.

Ypsilanti Histories: A Look Back at the Last Fifty Years, edited by John McCurdy, Bill Nickels, Evan Milan, and Sarah Zawacki

Answers by John McCurdy:

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Ypsilanti Histories: A Look Back at the Last Fifty Years is a collection of 40 essays that explores Ypsilanti's recent past. Written by Ypsilantians, both professional and amateur historians, it examines aspects of the city's government, education, businesses, community organizations, neighborhoods, and people. 

Q: What inspired the book?
A: In 2023, the City of Ypsilanti celebrated its bicentennial and the Ypsilanti Bicentennial Commission charged the History Subcommittee with producing a written history of the past. Eaastern Michigan Univeristy History Professor John McCurdy and Ypsilanti Historical Society President Bill Nickels—along with Evan Milan and Sarah Zawacki—solicited contributions from Ypsilanti residents, edited the articles, and arranged them into the current book. 

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: The most enjoyable part of writing and editing this book was learning so much about the history of a community I've been part of for the last 18 years. I learned that Ypsilanti had once been the home to a professional football team, that Barry Manilow once donated money for an EMU music scholarship, and that the city's schools struggled with racial segregation. The most difficult part was including as many voices as possible. We were not able to include everyone and so I know that there are many stories that went untold here.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: As a professional historian, my writing rituals include going to the archives, distilling what I've found into a story, and then trying to put as much as I can on the page. I contributed an essay on EMU, which took me to the EMU Archives and led me to flip through the pages of The Eastern Echo and university yearbooks. I was so much fun to see how much had changed and how much had changed at EMU in the last 50 years.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...

A: The Story of Ypsilanti by Harvey C. Colburn, which tells the history of the city's first century.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: Be prepared for your eyes to bug out as you read and reread page proofs! The Fifth Avenue Press was very professional. They stayed on schedule and were flexible when our printer changed at the last minute. The final product exceeded my expectations. It's really a beautiful book!


Frank Uhle and his book Cinema Ann Arbor

Cinema Ann Arbor: How Campus Rebels Forged a Singular Film Culture by Frank Uhle

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Cinema Ann Arbor traces the history of the University of Michigan's student film societies, which were launched in the early 1930s to present the art, foreign, classic, and experimental films that were being ignored by commercial theaters. Our societies were among the first in the U.S., and in their heyday of the 1960s-1980s arguably offered the most extensive film programming of any college campus in the country.

Over the years they brought to town numerous regional and even national film premieres; hosted VIP guests like Frank Capra, Robert Altman, and Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground; helped found the Ann Arbor Film Festival; supported the efforts of local experimental filmmakers; and served as an unaccredited film school for future notables like Ken Burns, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Moore. But their cutting-edge programming often clashed with university administrators and city police, and these student-led groups suffered arrests, protests, and even bomb threats.

I conducted extensive archival research and interviewed about 80 participants including Ken Burns, Neal Gabler, and Oscar-nominated American Hustle editor Jay Cassidy, and Fifth Avenue Press knocked it out of the park with a beautifully designed coffee table book that contains more than 400 ads, film society calendars, and rare vintage photos.

Q: What inspired the book?
A: In the pre-digital era, movies shown by campus groups like Cinema Guild and the Ann Arbor Film Cooperative were one of the city’s signature cultural offerings, but with the advent of home video in the mid-1980s the societies began to vanish and today are almost completely forgotten. I had been involved as a member of Cinema II, and for the university's 2017 bicentennial, I decided to document this history for posterity. But as I began interviewing other former film society members, I kept uncovering fascinating stories that were new to me. The project gradually expanded from a short article into a book that would encompass chapters on the early years of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and its spunky 8mm cousin, the work of local underground filmmakers, and even the projectionists who souped up used or cast-off equipment to yield state-of-the-art results.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: I really enjoyed getting to know people who had been a part of the film scene here before I joined it. Some were referred to me by friends, but in a few cases, I spotted names in old copies of The Michigan Daily and used the internet to track them down. Almost all of them were happy to share their stories, photos, and documents with me, and since that time I've stayed in touch with many and consider them friends.

Probably my biggest challenge came as the book's level of detail kept growing. Seeking to avoid lopsided coverage of one subject area over another, I returned again and again to topics I thought were wrapped up to make them match what I had attained in other chapters. To cite one example, thanks to people like Pat Oleszko and the late Joe Wehrer and Betty Johnson, the ‘60s era of the film festival was fleshed out with some amazing untold stories, but it made what I’d written about the 8mm festival look much too thin by comparison. This was a good thing because, in that case, by digging deeper I managed to reach its founder, David Greene, who not only shared some wonderful stories and documents he'd saved but also put me in touch with several other early participants who helped inform that and other chapters as well. In the end, I went back to each part of the story multiple times and tried to make sure I had left no possible stone unturned to give everything the coverage it deserved.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: I like to immerse myself in one part of a story by getting all the facts and stories uploaded to my brain, then try to get it all down at once in a very rough draft. After that, I go back through it over and over to make the text flow well for the reader. I often do this dozens of times, and when I feel good I let it lay for a week or more before printing it out and going back to see whether it can be improved. I might do this several times until I can pick it back up and not spot anything that I want to change.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...

A: A Thousand Cuts by Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph (Univ. Press of Mississippi) — a deep dive into the subculture of hardcore film collectors whose obsessive efforts saved many obscure movies from extinction

Everyone Thought We Were Crazy by Mark Rozzo (HarperCollins) — about Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward’s ‘60s marriage and pop-art collecting activities

Swim Through the Darkness by Mike Stax (Feral House) — about obscure ‘60s musician Craig Smith who started as a clean-cut folkie and ended up a psychedelic dropout

Also any liner notes written by Alec Palao for Ace Records and other labels — he does deep research and writes in such an engaging manner that his typically extensive notes are like reading a small book. Alec has done everything from compilations of music by The Zombies and San Francisco ‘60s bands to Ann Arbor’s own Rationals.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: I would simply say that if your book is accepted you will be in very good hands, as the support I received from Fifth Avenue Press was absolutely phenomenal.

[Read a previous Pulp interview with Uhle about his book here. More media coverage on the book is available here, and AADL's Archives put together a repository of Uhle's research—images, articles, and more—here. The book was also named a finalist for the 2023 Alice Award, which honors a "richly illustrated book that makes a valuable contribution to its field and demonstrates high standards of production."]


Five 2023 books from Fifth Avenue Press

Other new Fifth Avenue Press books include:

Ann Arbor Adventures: A Visit to the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market by Ashlee Edens and Illustrations by Nicole Ray (Sloe Gin Fizz)
Join a family of rabbits as they explore and celebrate the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and what happens during all four seasons!

Ann Arbor Adventures: Visit to the Ann Arbor District Library by Ashlee Edens and Illustrations by Nicole Ray (Sloe Gin Fizz)
Join a family of opossums as they explore all five branches of the library! Learn about the collections, events, and fun things the library has to offer.

Chico Chews a Tale by Laura Pershin Raynor and illustrations by Sona Avedikian
Hungry for a story, Chico the Donkey gathers up his animal friends and heads to the library!

Step It Up, French Dukes! by Debbie Taylor and illustrations by Kris Marshall
Ten-year-old Kenny Mitchell longs to be a member of the French Dukes Precision Drill Team. When he fails to make the team, he tries harder. With the help of his older brother, he learns to "step it up" just in time to help the French Dukes win an important talent competition. Set in the 1960s Ann Arbor Kenny’s story is inspired by the real-life French Dukes Precision Drill Team. 

A Crown in the Dark by A.J. Yang
Catarina Winyr is a princess with a secret. Raised to rule with respect and steely resolve, she's never quite fit the mold and lacks one crucial thing to maintain control of her kingdom. When a shocking act of violence disillusions her subjects, Catarina is forced into exile. As strange dreams permeate her sleep, she finds comfort in new friends. But a sinister threat is lurking deep in the forests of Guinyth and Cat’s inner demons might be just as dark as those in the shadows.

The A2 Community Bookfest runs 10 am-5 pm on Sunday, September 10 at the Ann Arbor District Library's Downtown location, 343 South Fifth Avenue. The Fifth Avenue Press reception begins at 1 pm in the lobby. For more information on the press, visit