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RA Washington

RA Washington
During the past five or six years, several new initiatives have refreshed and deeply enriched Cleveland’s literary landscape. Each of these newer programs provides an ideal complement to the long-standing foundational elements of the city’s literary community such as the library systems and educational institutions.

In June of 2013, RA Washington opened Guide to Kulchur (GTK, https://guidetokulchur .com/). To call his bookstore anything less than a community arts center would be an understatement. Yes, it features an exceptional and ever-expanding selection of small-press books, many by local authors, but it’s also the scene of community meetings, author readings, live music and performance events. Washington is himself an amazingly productive polymath who has written and published more than 27 books, writes and plays music, operates a program that sends books to prisoners throughout Ohio and the U.S., and operated a small press of his own for several years.

People in Cleveland who want to carve out a career as a writer, he believes, have to take the responsibility of supporting their own books. “A publisher doesn’t owe a writer anything other than an opportunity to present the work as they are meant to see it,” Washington believes. “If you publish a book in a small press format, then the best thing you can do is get in touch with libraries and get on their schedule to read there. That guarantees the libraries will stock copies of your book, and you’ll get a reading there to get some books sales. And if you do a good job, they’ll probably ask you back….”

Guide to Kulchur relocated from its original location on Detroit Avenue near West 65th and reopened on Lorain Avenue at West 52nd Street in 2017. This year, Washington and his board oversaw the organization’s transition from a limited liability corporation (LLC) to a nonprofit incorporated organization. Despite these changes writers can continue to just hang out in the bookstore, peruse the shelves, get into deep discussions on a diverse range of topics with the gregarious proprietor and purchase the latest small-press offerings.