Friday, May 22, 2015

Incidently, in the vending machines I mentioned below, there are some little mini original ACEO's I did inhabiting one of the machines.  They are just ink drawings (well, more like doodles in my case) on some cards that showed up serendipitously on the free table  They'll be in the machines until they are gone and replaced by something else this summer and each is signed and dated on the back.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

So it has been a busy couple weeks as we hit the end of the semester and already I am ironing out  more creative plans for summer.  I tend to be up early and reasonable productive most days, despite the early shift, and while the weather is a little schizophrenic (sandals one day, heavy coat the next) I am getting by. There is the usual press business --not just current books, but also beginning to read submissions for both next year's books and our snazzy lit anthology project, plus some work for Aesthetics of Research, including some cool mermaid stamped little promo goody bags that featured the zine below (some copies were also squirreled away for zine series subscribers), the buttons we've been making from discarded books, and some really cool clay pendants from one of the LAS faculty members.  We handed them out to the best answers to the question "How do mermaids reproduce?"  during the college's Manifest celebration, which this being an arts school and all, got some rather hilarious and awesome answers.

We also have a full slate of vending machines up that include not only some of the stuff listed above, but also some original little drawings by me (I think there's about 20 of them--so get one before they're gone.)  I'm plotting a few other interesting little  work-related summer diversions now that the library is a ghost town, including some silly taxidermy collages for a zine  and maybe some artsy scavenger hunt / geocache action.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

5 random things

1.  Today on the bus, I realized I was listening to three french women talking and was understanding about 50 percent of what they said.  The odd thing was, I barely realized they were speaking in french until after a couple of minutes had passed.  Apparently my four years in highschool and one semester of college skills haven't atrophied as much as I thought.

2.  Today's grocery delivery included the most luscious. plump, bag of sweet cherries I've ever encountered.  I had to fight to keep from eating every single one before I left for downtown.  I will no doubt finish them off as soon as I get home.

3.  Today is the college's Manifest celebration and we've been working hard cooking up some freebies and vending machine goods to promote the Aesthetics of Research project, including some goodie bags that were only handed over to the best answers to the question "How do mermaids reproduce?"

4.  In other mermaid news, I'm formulating a plan for our next anthology project (in fact what I hope will be a continuing series of book art projects.) which may be a box or may be a sheaf, but will include things like broadsides and prints and chapbooks and whatever else we can dream up.  And not just for mermaids, but other things in the future like science and Japanese horror movies and all my other favorite topics.  More like maybe a monograph (in pieces) devoted to a certain subject or theme. It'll be in the vein of the Cornell project and Billet Doux and Rebecca Dunham's Fascicle. Keep an eye out for a submissions call very soon.

5. Another semester has come to an end and I will be decompressing this weekend (well, after Saturday's library shift) with an end of term drinking excursion and a cookout on Sunday.  Bring it, summer.  I've been waiting on your forever.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

 Another springtime sunday where I find myself confined to the library, but it's mitigated by the fact it's acually more like he pacific northwest out there today and not at all springtime in Chicago (as if that can acually be defined.)  So far today, I've laid out and designed a cover for Melissa Eleftherion's second book with dgp, have reseached a couple of journals I might be submitting to, and done some general writing related clerical tasks.  I wanted to actually do some writing, but I'm a little scattered and chilly with A/C cranked up in here, all of which makes it hard to concentrate on any one thing.
We are going into the final week of the semester, so I have one more weekend shift next Saturday and then I have an entire summer of free weekends--well mostly, at least once June rolls around.  It's been a rather swift ride since early April, so I'm looking forward to getting back to my usual routines. Since everything has been catch as catch can since winter and my ever present behindness, I'm also looking forward to getting back on track with some crafty stuff for the shop and some new more hands on visual projects.

It's also Mother's Day, and I've been watching all the posts on social media over lost mothers, the estranged mothers, the neglectful mothers and feel lucky that I actually have a pretty good relationship with mine (once I was over that teenage angst period and she was much less crazy--or maybe I was crazy and she was angsty).  I also feel like more and more I am becoming my mother, not so much in the details of life, but in my attitudes and gestures. The things I find myself saying. Our lives are vastly different and I realize occasionally that at my age, she already had a teenage daughter. Two daughters.  Had been married to my dad for almost 15 years.   Had gone back to work after my dad was laid off.   Had battled diabetes and cancer and the loss of both her parents.   And yet we look the same.  About ten years when I was going through an unfortunate perm phase, I had cut my darker hair a bit shorter than I was comfortable with and the resemblance was rather terrifying. (so much so that I vowed to keep it long from here on in.)  As toddlers (above), we looked much the same, though her hair would darken eventually while mine stayed blonde. The crazy thing is that while I would say my sister looks infinitely more like my dad and paternal grandmother, there is also something very similar in her and I that has made people suspect we were twins on occasion (though I don't see it beyond our occasionally similar hair color exploits.)  My maternal grandmother was raven-haired and slender and yet every year, my mother looks more and more like her, so I suppose maybe so do I (or at least I will twenty years from now), but again, I don't see it.  Perhaps it's a little like genetic legos, different combinations, but all the same pieces.

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

art, or something like it

I have some new collages being exhibited as part of the Art in the Library series.  Their genesis was the cover that I did for Jessica Bergamino's double set of books for the press and I decided I liked the effect and should play a little bit more with it.  They will be up through early summer on the 3rd Floor of the Columbia Library, 624 S. Michigan.  if you are in the neighborhood, you should also stop on the 1st Floor to see the Aesthetics of Research installation of poems from Tara Boswell's Don't Come Crying to Me, pick up a mini-broadside from the vending machine, and check out the zine exchange offerings.

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spring fever

April has, as it often does, slipped fleetly out from underneath me and I find myself in May.  It's not all that surprising , what with all the trips to a fro and general busyness in the form of wedding showers and readings and art openings and birthday festivities.  April has vanished again, but this weekend has been the warmest, mildest span of weather in a while.   I've been doomed to two library shifts, but I've been wallowing a bit in the warmth outside and walking about (well, as much as I can with the NFL nonsense parked in the park across the street.) Now that summer is more than just this strange mirage, I've been making my summer itinerary of things I want to do hell or high water --The Printers Row Book Fair, movies in the park, the Randolph Antique Fair, beach cookouts.  Meanwhile, inside,  I've been working on layouts and writing up interview responses and attending to general press business.  I've making cool little found zines for the zine exchange (see above).  I've been working on the blonde joke poems and some of the strange machine pieces. I've been thinking about summer clothing purchases (and maybe making a couple--see below), stocking up on sandals, and putting away my winter things.  Bring it on.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

the writing life: book manuscripts, the down and dirty

Sandy Marchetti culs some good advice on pulling together a manuscript and it got me to thinking about the different ways in which my own projects have come together over the years. the fever almanac, perhaps because it was the first, was probably the most challenging.  I began pulling the poems together in late 2003 and this version, which was titled simply almanac, had a lot of chaffe that later got trimmed off, most noticeably the structure, four parts, one for each season (yawn.)  The poems were what I had been working on since 99/00' when good things first began happening in my poems.  I had already landed a chapbook acceptance from a small, local, feminist press., but I felt like I finally had enough decent work to attempt something more ambitious that fall (we won't even talk about my actual first manuscript before that, Taurus,  finished in 1999 and mostly scrapped and only sent to one contest, mostly because I felt like I needed to have a manuscript done by the time I was 25. It was terrible.)  I started sending what would become the fever almanac off that fall to a couple contests, one of which it was actually a finalist, even in that rough, early version.  Meanwhile, I was starting my MFA and writing  a lot of work that was going toward what I thought would be a second book which I had tenatively started calling the fever poems.

Those were the years I had a sort of ridiculous first book mania, something which seemed like it was going to take forever to happen. I joked that it was my version of baby-fever.  I had just turned 30.  I'd been writing for over 10 years.  I was publishing quite regularly in journals and winning prizes here and there.  I felt like I should have a book by now, shouldn't I?  I wasn't getting any younger.  All my friends were doing it.  I'd spend hours quite regularly caressing the spines in Borders.  I didn't have a lot of money to enter contests, but I managed a few , maybe 10, not only with almanac, but also with that second mss. which I finished in mid-2004.  But I was getting a whole lot of nothing.  Those two years felt like a decade.  In early 2005, since I was already working on a new book with an entirely different feel (what would become in the bird museum) I decided maybe I should do some cutting and trim those two manuscripts into one.  I called it the megascript, and at first had no idea on a title.  I cut things.  I revised a few things. I pulled the whole squirming morass together and started another round of submitting.  That summer I was named a finalist in the Crab Orchard Prize and undertook another round of re-organization, this time, spending hours with each poem making notes on the pages and thinking how it fit into the narrative structure of the book and how I could stem some of the chaos I felt was happening there and holding the book back.  I delineated three sections.  I resubmitted it, this time after querying Ghost road Press out of the blue,  a small Denver press that had just published another po-blogger (Steve Mueske) first collection.  Yes, they would look at it.  And two months later, they called to say they were accepting it.    I walked around for days with the surreal feeeling like the top of my head was coming off.

My main struggle with that manuscript was the challenge of pulling together a dispirate number of poems on all sorts of things into a cohesive whole.  How could I successfully wrangle poems that were all over the place, poems about family, about relationships, about travel, and voice, and the limitations of language? How could I make them make sense together, especially since they all seemed to vary in terms of point-of-view, tone? There seemed to be more variances among them than similarities.  I really think that threading of somewhat of a narrative structure (even if it wasn't perfect) went a long way towards making the book work, even if it was skeletal, it was something to hold onto.

I've since gone on to write books in very different ways--as either larger whole  projects (girl show and the shared properties of water and stars) or linked smaller ones that form a larger whole (in the bird museum, major characters..., salvage.)  These books sort of order and organize themselves for the most part, so there is a lot less hair pulling than that first manuscript.  I've had amazing luck as well in getting those other books into good homes without having to hit the contest route again.   Dusie Press, who I cold- queried Susana Gardner with in the bird museum based on our our love of victoriana.  Kristina Marie Darling who solicited the shared properties... serendipitously right as I was  finishing it. major characters in minor films, which I sent to Sundress initially because they published the James Franco poems as a chapbook, and they wanted to publish the entirety.  The only bumps in the road were with  girl show, which Ghost Road accepted in 2007, but which was left unpublished when they went under in 2010. I then sent it out to BLP, who was on my radar not only for making gorgeous books, but publishing authors who shared my aesthetic. They luckily accepted it in the fall of 2011, and now, the forthcoming book in spring 2016, which I submitted during their open reading period last fall.  Even though I've had more luck placing manuscripts than any one author should expect to have, there is always the next book. The anxiousness.  Will someone love it enough to make it happen.  It's something that never goes away.

That first book was the hardest in more ways than one, but my only advice is find that thread that ties everything together and then build from there. Also, consider other ways of getting (particularly the first and most difficult book) into the hands of publishers.  Contests are nice and have the money bonus, but sometimes good stuff slips through the cracks in the contest system, so don't be afraid to query and approach presses one on one.  Follow guidelines, submit during open reading periods. Investigate the presses that are putting out the books you love, the books you would love to have written. The worst thing they can say is "no thanks".

{all this NAPOWRIMO month I will be blogging about poetry-related things --inspiration, publication, other verse-related randomness-- so stay tuned for more...}

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

So I did not (could not) go to AWP, but I did get quite a bit done on other writerly things this weekend, including updates & cobweb clearing on the website front, some work on a new series of poems,  some plans finalized for the next Aesthetics of Research installation.  I watched and listened from afar while dgp author rocked their readings, successfully peddled their books, and Sundress apparently sold clean out of major characters in  minor films at the book fair. Meanwhile, since I had the whole week off before my travel plans were canceled, I stayed in RockfordI drank too many margaritas. I hid in the basement from a frightfully destructive and unnervingly nearby tornado. I colored my hair a deeper more caramel-ey blonde.  I hit up the craft store and a couple more thrift shops. I ordered my birthday dress for the end of the monthI went to lunch and mall-wandering with my mom & aunts. Drank a really good root beer float in the depressing flourescent light of the food court.

Tomorrow,  I am back to the city and back in the studio and back to work. Back to the chaos for a few short days before I am back here for a cousin's wedding shower next weekend. Four days in which I intend to finish up my taxes, get the new Aesthetics stuff up, get some author copies out the door, and maybe launch a couple of chaps that are just about ready. I'm working, mostly in my head, on some more poetry-related posts for this space, including one on place and poetry, on putting together manuscripts, maybe one on narrative & form.

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