On Tuesday night, we held a Zoom release party for Aaron Burch and his debut novel, Year of the Buffalo, the first book from American Buffalo Books, a brand-new independent press affiliated with Kansas State’s English Department. We did all the usual book-release things: we heard Aaron read (excellently) from his new book (also excellent), and audience members asked smart questions, but the event was also a celebration of literary collaboration and symbiosis.
Although the commonplace view of the literary world is that a lone genius works in a garret somewhere and appears years later with a finished book, the reality is that writers work in collaboration with so many other people: members of workshops, close friends who serve as Beta readers, agents, and editors of all types. American Buffalo Books makes Kansas State students working members of this literary ecosystem, and a handful of students who worked on Aaron’s book, through English 767 “Literary Editing,” were in attendance and answered questions about their experience.
“It was a pleasure to watch as a long process met such a fruitful end,” current Florida State MFA candidate Alyssa Freeman-Moser (M.A. ’21) said. “As a writer, the experience was really instructive for me, too.”
Danny Caine — who might be America’s best-known living bookstore owner (The New Yorker once wrote a story about him!) — was also on hand and asked Aaron about literary mentorship, about fostering young writers, about letting K-State students help shape his book.
It’s one of the best parts of living a life of letters, Aaron said, to help launch careers. Few things feel better, for example, than seeing people praise a poem that you published, Aaron said, referring to his 20-plus years of editing literary magazines.
As former K-State students discussed their experience with American Buffalo Books at the reading, Natasha Muhametzyanova (M.A. ’21) said the most important thing she learned was that you had to give your own creative work up to others at some point — the way that Aaron did, with enthusiasm and generosity — that you have to trust others and their suggestions.
Former K-State art student Zoe Abner, who designed the cover of Year of the Buffalo, shared the process of working on the book cover with Aaron and me, the rounds of feedback and tweaks and suggestions.
“I love creating other people’s ideas,” Zoe said.
And that’s really how the literary world works too. It’s Aaron’s book, his ideas, his name on the cover — but so many people helped give those ideas shape.
Press release about American Buffalo Books:
American Buffalo Books website (including link to order Year of the Buffalo):
— Daniel A. Hoyt, Professor and founding editor of American Buffalo Books