In Part 1 of my interview with Krupa Parikh of Inprint, we discussed the organization’s participation in the New Pathways | Houston Program, and the exciting experiments they carried out to explore ways of deepening program diversity through partnerships. Keep reading to hear about how the impact of these experiments continues to shape the Inprint’s growth and plans for the future.
Ben: Now that the New Pathways program has concluded, in what ways do you see adaptive work “sticking” in terms of how Inprint operates as an organization?
Krupa: We definitely see the adaptive work sticking through the continuation of the experiments we started during the program, but also in other things we are doing. This is especially true for the way we are approaching writing activities. We were recently invited to be a partner of the Houston Flood Museum, the purpose of which is to capture individual narratives of people impacted by Hurricane Harvey. A regular 8 or 10-week Inprint Writing Workshop would not be a good model for this because most people impacted by the storm are already inundated with responsibilities—something shorter and in their own neighborhood would be a better fit. This fall, therefore, we are going to try and meet with a few neighborhood groups and lead residents in short, one-hour writing activities to help them get started on capturing their stories in words. One such Inprint Writing Workout, as we are calling it, has already been confirmed. Basically, we are trying to adapt to fit people’s needs. We do want to stay true to our mission and we want to be careful about staff time, so it is a balancing act.
Ben: Are there any specific tools or frameworks that you learned that you’ve found yourselves returning to?
Krupa: One thing that we often go back to is something we learned about during Phase 1 of New Pathways, which is to evaluate new challenges and opportunities in a much more nuanced way. Perhaps in the past, when approached us about a new collaboration we would have evaluated whether or not we wanted to do it in a quick, straightforward manner. Now, we make sure to slow down, ask questions, and consider things like whether it would help us reach new audiences, fit with Inprint’s current priorities, or help us financially.
Ben: What obstacles have you faced in sustaining an adaptive, experimental approach to your work, and how have you dealt with those obstacles?
Krupa: The main obstacles to all of this are essentially staff time and funding. We are trying to make sure not to add anything new that costs too much money and things that we do not have funding for, but sometimes even a series of small, inexpensive things can take a lot of staff time. The way we deal with this is through careful prioritizing, but also laughing and holding things lightly, and realizing that sometimes we have to say no to things that we’d like to do, but just cannot.
Ben: What do you still want to work on in this area? What ongoing challenges have you faced?
Krupa: One thing we definitely want to focus on this year is launching a Bilingual Inprint Poetry Busking team—local writers who can go out with typewriters and write free poems on requested themes on the spot in Spanish. We already have a few poets that are bilingual and can be part of the team, and we will be inviting some students in the Spanish creative writing program from University of Houston to join the team. One challenge we are dealing with now is finding the right typewriters. I know it seems like a minor challenge, but our current typewriters cannot do accents, etc., so we may need to acquire a whole new set of typewriters which of course adds expenses. In general, however, we are very excited about this and know it will be a wonderful way to serve Houston’s large, diverse, and vibrant Spanish-speaking community.
Ben: What else is on the horizon? What’s the next big thing you’re excited about?
As usual at this time of year, we are excited about our upcoming 2018/2019 season. The Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series will feature 12 fantastic authors from a variety of backgrounds. We worked very hard to have a roster of writers that feels relevant and engaging, with a mix of some veteran authors and some bold new voices. We feel incredibly fortunate to be presenting, in chronological order: Esi Edugyan, Meg Wolitzer, Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Lethem, Gary Shteyngart, Claudia Rankine, Valeria Luiselli, Tommy Orange, Carmen Giménez Smith, Fady Joudah, Tayari Jones, and Richard Powers. Our Cool Brains! series is just as exciting. In September we feature Sylvia Acevedo, the current CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, who went from being one of the few girls in her community to graduate from high school to becoming a rocket scientist at NASA, she will read from her new memoir for middle graders Path to the Stars. Then in November we feature kids’ lit rock star Jason Reynolds, sharing Book #4 in the popular Track series, Lu.
Perhaps this is another example of the impact of New Pathways. Over the past few years we have been revealing our author line-up via clues we share on Twitter and Facebook. It always helps create buzz and enthusiasm about the season. This year, in an effort to reach younger audiences as well as engage our current patrons, we continued sharing clues about the upcoming authors on social media, but then we invited everyone to an Inprint Big Reveal Happy Hour to find out who the authors are. At the Happy Hour, which was free and open to everyone and held at a neighborhood restaurant/bar, we shared our remarks via Facebook live. The event was a huge success and resulted in immediate media interest in our season. It excited our current patrons to see so much community enthusiasm about our readings, and it helped us introduce new and younger audiences to our reading series. Inprint actually looks cool now!
There are also some great upcoming collaborations that we look forward to, the start of all of our community workshops and a few new ones, the new season of Ink Well, the launch of the Inprint Bilingual Poetry Buskers, and more. There is a lot happening at Inprint and that feels great—now we just have to take vitamins and hope we can keep up!