After 30 years and 25 editions, Tim Fay has been touring to promote the final version of the “Wapsipinicon Almanac.”
As he’s been going around talking about the book, most recently spending a couple of days at the University of Northern Iowa, he’s been approached by those who are sad that it’s over.
“It’s a mixed feeling,” Fay said. “It’s saying goodbye to a lot of old friends.”
As he’s met with people in public appearances, there’s been some surprise that he’s calling it quits on the production of the almanac, but Fay said he “wanted to go out on top” and has no regrets in closing the book on this particular chapter of his life.
“I wanted to go out while I was still enthusiastic about this. I don’t want it to rust out,” he said.
The first edition of the almanac was released in 1988 and, aside from a brief point in the 90s when he published every other year, Fay has released an edition every year.
From the beginning, the almanac has always done well. In an interview with the Journal-Eureka back in 1989, Fay recalled that once the initial edition was featured on “Take One,” on Iowa Public Television, the demand was everywhere. The first printing, 1,500 sold out before Christmas of the first year.
This year will be no exception, as Fay expects to sell out of the final edition soon. Copies of the almanac can be purchased at Tapken’s and Gypsy Moon Boutique.
With each printing, Fay said he learned something new. The biggest change over the course of the last decade or so has been that he’s done more of the display work, which he’s done on the computer initially before getting the plate ready for the letter press used to produce the issue. Even though the way the almanac is printed may be old-fashioned, the almanac was never a nostalgic undertaking for Fay.
Though he has self-published, he’s not done it entirely alone. Fay said he likes to believe he’s had very few typos throughout the almanac’s 30-year run, which would not have happened without the help of his proofreader, Marge Hummel. Hummel would proofread after Fay had looked through a piece and do a final check before things were pressed.
Fay also had the assistance of Eldon Meeks, who worked the linotype machine and helped Fay with the typesetting for many of the editions, though over the past six years Fay has largely taken over for Meeks who is now in his 90s.
Even at that age, Fay said Meeks still helps out when there’s something to be fixed on the old machine, which was built in 1936.
Aside from those who’ve helped him put out the almanac, Fay also knows how fortunate he is to have worked with so many talented writers.
“I’ve been very lucky. I was just a small-town printer and by doing this, I’ve been able to meet all kinds of writers and artists and people with interesting little cottage businesses…that I was really glad to feature in advertisements,” he said.
“By doing this I was able to really reach out and…I know people all over the state now. That’s been very rewarding.”
Given it’s the last year of the almanac, Fay did go out and try to recruit some of the “old guard” for the last hurrah. He was able to gather up some names that will be familiar to longtime readers of the almanac, while still including some new voices he’d never had the chance to meet before. That allowed him to keep a good mix of different kinds of pieces people have come to expect from the volume.
For Fay, there aren’t necessarily types of pieces that he gravitates toward more than others but that the quality is more what he looks for.
“I just enjoy good writing,” he said.
The goal and the vision for the almanac has not changed much through the years, providing a forum for a wide range of fiction and nonfiction pieces from area writers. There are pieces in every issue that stand out to Fay.
With his last almanac printed, Fay wants to focus on printing small books, and he’s already started on his next project. He’s currently working on printing a short story by Ted Kooser. Aside from that, he doesn’t really know what the future holds.
“Maybe I’ll write a book someday, who knows.”