Iowa Press Spotlight: Final Thursday Press in Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls Authors Festival: Jim O’Loughlin

Hearst Center for the Arts -- Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

Final Thursday Reading Series: Gary Kelley

Hearst Center for the Arts -- Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.

via Final Thursday Press on Facebook

Final Thursday Press out of Cedar Falls specializes in special books.

Jim O’Loughlin, press founder and publisher, curates the collection from regional writers whose work stands out and whose projects excite him.

“I’m always trying to work one level beyond what I’m comfortable with,” O’Loughlin said, each project challenging him in a way that allows him and Final Thursday to grow and improve with each publication.

Final Thursday Press evolved from a reading series that O’Loughlin, who is head of the Languages and Literary Studies department at University of Northern Iowa, has held since 2000 on the final Thursday of each month. The series features both an open mic and a featured reader portion. Although not officially associated with UNI, the press was started as an extension of the series, as an opportunity, O’Loughlin said, to highlight regional talent and support “the maintenance of a literary community.”

The increasing ease of access to publishing has allowed Final Thursday to function without needing to be genre-specific or have any hard boundaries surrounding publication. The press is a nonprofit entity funded primarily by grants and staffed sometimes by graduate assistants from UNI, sometimes by O’Loughlin alone. Because of its micro nature, O’Loughlin said, Final Thursday allows writers the opportunity to have more say in the process of publishing than they ordinarily would.

Because O’Loughlin puts such attention into each publication, the press only prints about one book per year, but the books tend toward the unique — another one of the benefits, he says, of running a micropress. His current recommendations include Final Thursday’s most recent publication, Passion for Beauty: Marjorie Nuhn, Watercolorist, and 2020’s Winsome/Bend of the Sun. The first is a visual biography of painter Marjorie Nuhn, who studied at Grant Wood’s Stone Art Colony. It’s compiled by Nuhn’s brother Ferner and includes essays and letters from other people in Nuhn’s life. The 2020 release is a double-cover pair of mysteries by Grant Tracey, fiction editor at the North American Review.

The books have small runs and must be purchased in-person from Hearst Center for the Arts, Ragged Edge Art Bar and Gallery or the UNI campus bookstore; online through Amazon; or by ordering through email (linked under each title on the Final Thursday Press website) and sending a check.

Although the pandemic “has made things harder,” O’Loughlin said, “it has made these events and publications matter more.”

“[I feel] fortunate to be at a place where it’s understood that we grow in all directions,” O’Loughlin said. “In any area there are always people doing interesting, important work and there are ways that we can support that and make sure we celebrate them.”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 300.

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