Stocking shelves extra sweet for Lawrence bookstore owner releasing first book
photo by: Kathy Hanks
Boxes of Danny Caine’s first book of poetry are stored in a closet at the Raven Bookstore.
The release date for “Continental Breakfast” isn’t until Tuesday, which has Caine, the store’s owner, delaying gratification just a few more days before his work goes on sale.
“I’m so excited to have the launch party and get on the road for the tour. It’s been a long six years working on this book, but I feel like the longest time has been the past month, just looking at those boxes, waiting for everything to start,” Caine said.
Books will go on sale Tuesday at the store, 6 E Seventh St., and a launch party is scheduled for 7 that night at the Eighth Street Taproom, 801 New Hampshire St.
The creation of “Continental Breakfast,” published by Mason Jar Press in Baltimore, began before Caine arrived in Kansas from Ohio to study in the University of Kansas’ graduate program in creative writing in 2014.
Through humor, satire and a perceptive eye, Caine has been exploring the everyday life around him. Characters are revealed at the family Passover Seder in “Uncle Harold’s Maxwell House Haggadah” and “The Ideal Budweiser Customer Watches a Budweiser Commercial,” where he finds humor in the way horses are used to sell beer.
A sense of place can be found in “English 102 in Big 12 Country,” where he describes watching, on the big screen in a local theater, a college basketball player who hasn’t turned in his second essay in class. Or in the title poem “Continental Breakfast,” which Caine describes as “the postmodern travel guide to bad hotel breakfasts.”
A storyteller through poetry, Caine recently sat in a local coffee shop describing to the Journal-World how a line or idea is triggered and then is explored as he writes.
Caine said the book is a reflection of how he views the world.
“I can’t imagine writing in another way — it’s just what comes out, which sounds wishy-washy,” he said.
What comes out can be laugh-out-loud funny, and he said he likes the way humor can surprise even him as he creates the work.
“I like when it happens,” Caine said of times when he goes back to read a poem he created and finds himself laughing again.
Caine said his work explores his Jewish heritage and some of life’s realities, like the loss of those who have died or otherwise left people’s lives.
Prior to studying at KU, Caine earned a master’s degree in English from John Carroll University and his undergraduate degree from the College of Wooster, both in Ohio.
In Lawrence, while working on his graduate studies, Caine taught freshman composition classes each semester. He also began working part-time at the Raven. Three months after graduating in May 2017, he was able to buy the bookstore.
Caine keeps the pulse of the local literary scene and regularly hosts readings at the Raven. He works closely on community projects with KU, the Lawrence Public Library and Watkins Museum of History, bringing popular writers to town.
While at KU, “Continental Breakfast” became Caine’s master’s thesis. He was directed by Megan Kaminski, an associate professor and author.
“Danny is remarkable for having his book picked up so soon after graduation and is doing such wonderful work through The Raven bookstore,” Kaminski said in an email to the Journal-World, also noting the recent publishing successes of other KU graduate students such as L. Ann Wheeler, Mercedes Lucero, Jeff Griffin, Sayeeda Ahmad and Korbin Jones. “I’m so proud of Danny and all of the remarkable students in our program.”
Caine came to Kansas with his wife, Kara, who is completing a Ph.D. in music therapy at KU. The couple has a 9-month-old son, Jack, who figures in Caine’s next book, “El Dorado Freddy’s,” which will be out in 2020 from Belt Publishing of Cleveland.
“This is my food and fatherhood book, about becoming a dad,” Caine said. The book explores the landscape that crops up on off-ramps along the interstate.
“It might not be traditionally beautiful, but it is there, and it dominates so much of the American Midwest. I was interested in what drives people to these places. One thing is, when you have a kid, you are less embarrassed to make a mess in Wendy’s than you are a nice restaurant.”
For his next book, Caine has paired up with photographer Tara Wray, who shot the cover for “Continental Breakfast.” She will be including a photo insert in “El Dorado Freddy’s.”
And Caine’s writing hasn’t stopped there. While some might feel zapped of energy when running a business and being a parent, Caine said that hasn’t been the case for him. He said owning the Raven has energized his creativity, and he tries to carve out an hour, four or five times a week, when he can sit alone in a coffee shop around the corner from the store and write.