Thursday, December 31, 2015

endings / beginnings...

Due to bout of recovery and some NYE's date plans held off till tomorrow night, I find myself nestled in on the couch with chinese delivery and Netflix and some time to think about the past year's creative developments.

Writing-wise, admittedly it was a slow year in terms of actually sending work out.  I had good luck with most of what I did, with only a couple of outright rejections, but I always think I should be sending out more if I actually want to be appearing regularly in journals (and not dissappearing from the publishing world almost entirely.)  I don't really have the ambitions I used to have about getting work in to X or Y-Journal (and alot of those journals have inevitably become dissappointing and uncrush-worthy sometimes)  There are still lots of favorites and new interests though and I should be sending them work.  Early on in the year, I was buoyed by the news that SALVAGE had been picked up by Black Lawrence, so there has been much in the way of blurb gathering, copy-editing, and cover design talks the latter half of this year getting ready for it's May debut.

Despite some work on a new series, DIRTY BLONDE, back in the spring, I spent alot of the summer and early fall NOT writing anything at all, which finally, like a bad fever,  broke in November, where I managed to finish the STRANGE MACHINE pieces and the final section of the apocalypse manuscript., which if my final tweaking pans out during the weekend, I may just have ready to send out soon. There were still some poems in journals--most by request--Split Lip Review, Hound, Whiskey Island.  A couple anthologies, The American Academy of Poets Poem-A Day anthology and Sundress' mermaid volume.  A good smattering of interviews and reviews of existing books, including my interview on dgp in the American Book Review.

I did make a lot of headway in terms of artwork, more paintings, more collages, trying to get things into shows and into other venues.  I've been trying out new techniques and incorporating them with collage. The only list longer than my future writing projects is my future art projects list.  I'm hoping now that poems are done to get the STRANGE MACHINE zine finished up later this month.  I also have a HUGE new set of acrylics I am itching to play with as soon as I get back from my New Orleans trip in a couple weeks. One of the more prospicious things I've been working on this year is some digital work with the Catalogue zine series, which is mostly just a little project I occasionally work on for fun, but which will be offering up some good images for prints and stationery this year in the shop.

As with any year, the goal for the coming year is to not let creative work get subsumed under the tide of other things--library work, the press, general life stuff. To create with purpose and goals, but not to let them be the master of me. To continue to do what makes me happy, not what I feel like I should or shouldn't be doing according to po-biz or others. To stay the course...


Sunday, December 27, 2015

ghosts...

Somehow the bulk of December slipped down the rabbit hole of getting things underwraps for being out of town, holiday shopping exploits, and endless stupid workplace drama. I usually do a year-wide wrap up of writing related things, so I will save talking about project and news on that front for another day, but besides a bout of Christmas Day stomach flu, the holiday went off nicely--many celebrations (even though I had to miss a couple)--gifts of chocolate and booze and art supplies I can't wait to dip into.

 As we were wrapping up the last one yesterday, I was thinking of an article someone had posted on FB about the ghosts of Christmases past haunting the Christmas present--grandmothers and others we've lost over the years. There's currently a rift on the maternal side that prevented us spending Christmas Eve there and it was disorienting to not have that touchstone. Since I live out of town, holidays are the only consistent time I get to actually see some of my cousins. Last night, with my Dad's side, as another cousin was packing up her adorable 1 year old, it got me thinking of my Aunt Judy, where we also spent a few hours every Christmas Eve, who having died about 10 years, missed seeing her great-grandaughter. Every holiday like that does seem superimposed on the past ones. My grandmother on that side died when I was only six, but I still remember the chaos of her rec room on Christmas Eve, the flurry of poker games and wrapping paper. The scent of her Oyster Stew (not necessarily a pleasant thing, but a familiar one). I even attempted her vodka punch this holiday (well my own version of it.) And other grandmothers, Thanksgiving celebrations at my great-grandmother Chloe's in the basement where I was eternally relegated to the kiddy table. My maternal grandmother's own Christmas Eve chaos in her bar-room with mountains of presents and her mesmerizing tree full of shiny red glass balls (glass ornaments being verboten in our house). After she was gone, those yearly Christmas Eves (the one we missed this year) at my Aunt's house, sometimes lasting into the wee hours. (Some years it was the first destination, sometimes the last). It's weird to not spend it there, even though we had a perfectly good time with a friend of my mother's.

 Outside of feeling a little melancholy and contemplative, I intend to spend the next few days until I go back to the city relaxing and recovering from my various ailments, eating all this chocolate, watching bad televsion and not fretting. When I get back, I'll probably spend a couple free days back in the studio, do some work on the mermaid anthology project, and work on finishing some final tweaks on the slew of poems I finished back in November. We have a few straggler chaps from this year that will be making their debut in January, along with a whole new bunch for 2016 in February I can't wait to show you...


Monday, December 07, 2015

I've been in the final stretches of late with the apocalypse book, having finished all the poems in their tidy sections.  I was not writing for months, for much of the summer and the early fall and then it sort of just all came in a rush during November.  The final pieces are still very rough and I feel like there is still ordering and such to tend to, but it feels like the house is built, the foundation is laid, the walls sound, and all that's left is to finish it up--paint the walls, lay the carpet, throw out the trash, and move in.  I'm aiming to do this during the break most likely, since I will have a little bit of free time between Christmas and New Years.  Otherwise I am pushing my way through more blonde joke poems, of which there may be more than the small chapbook I intended, and since I am making sure to write everyday (which is a challenge, especially since I am struggling to get back on schedule with chap releases by year's end.)  I may have something a little more substantial by the turn of the year, or at least something a little more hefty to work with.

Winter is dragging on me already though.  We don't have much sun, and when we do, it's that annoyingly blinding low winter sun. I hate this part of the year..I say it every winter...and yet every winter, I expect something different..We actually have had rather mildish weather, and unlike last year I am at least on my feet, so I won't complain too much.



Saturday, December 05, 2015



We've been working on some info materials for the library the past few days about Aesthetics of Research and it got me thinking a little bit about the project and how it's sort of changed my attitude about "day jobs" and creative work and such..

15 years ago last week, I moved from Rockford, where I had been working in an elementary school library for peanuts.  It was a cocktail of all sorts of things.  Highly fulfilling in the way that I felt I had the possibility to mold young minds into readers.  Creative in that I was able to develop all sorts of initiatives to get kids really excited about books. Autonomous in that I was pretty much in charge of the library with a district librarian who appeared once or so every month to check -in and order materials for us, but otherwise left to my own devices.   But also stressful in the way of dealing, in a more limited way, with the things teacher's everywhere deal with. It was my first real job, though, and I was grateful to be doing something in the sort of place I felt passionately about.   Over a year and a half, I forged great relationships with teachers and the principal, and it was hard to leave, but necessary, mostly since I was only making less than 8 bucks an hour, limited to in-school hours,  and wasn't needed over the summer. I was living with my parents at the time and was feeling stifled financially, so wound up, in one of my moments of frustration sending off my resume to a Tribune posting for a circ job at Columbia.

Somehow, I actually managed to get it and found myself trading Harry Potter mania for 9 year olds  for, well, Harry Potter mania for 19 year olds.  The job, which proved to be a lot of clerical work and desk hours and nice in the way that it was the sort of mostly unstressful save the odd difficult patron, the kind of work you showed up for and did what you needed to do, but didn't take home.  Over the years, tasks shifted and I found myself involved with different things that involved varying levels of responsibility, but mostly I was content.  I also worked with all sorts of cool people that made even drudgery and routine a lot of fun.

It was the sort of steady, stable of work, most importantly, that allowed me to do everything else I wanted as a side hustle.  Writing, publishing, getting my MFA, starting the press, making art. I have all sorts of artistic impulses and ambition, but Taurus that I am, I can't thrive without stability, without knowing that I can pay my rent, buy groceries, have health insurance. And Columbia is an amazing place to be, of course, probably more than any other academic library would.  It surrounded me with the environment I needed, with the sort people I needed to be around--artists, writers, creative people.

And of course, it was a library.  The church I spent most of my life worshipping, from the excitement of being a 5th grader checking out Beverly Cleary books to my college days holed up on the second floor of the RC library with bad vending machine coffee, writing and reading everything I could trying to be smart and pretentious. It was amazing and almost inevitable that I would end up working in one and actually getting paid to be there.

Nevertheless, there was still this weird disconnect between my working life and my creative life, and perhaps one I did not even notice until there was less of it. A couple years back I found myself sitting in a meeting listening to the new CCC president, who was talking about the role of libraries, and particular art school libraries, and the way that he hoped students could be guided into thinking of the library not only as a place they could get resources for papers for classes, but also ways in which the library could function as a generating-point for their artmaking. It was a moment of resonance with my own work, particularly my writing that depended so much on resource and materials--projects like GIRL SHOW, that had found me interlibrary-loaning books from everywhere on sideshow and circus history.  In the number of art how-to books I checked out in an interest to self-teach myself as a visual artist.  I filed it away  and few months later, another person in the department suggested that we start an exhibit series devoted to showcasing finished artwork with a list of sources and inspirations that went into forming that work.

In addition to just it generally being a really cool idea and something to put on the walls we stared at everyday on the 1st Floor, it was also an attempt to help a listing ship of print materials, whose circ stats were waning due to a number of things--new catalog systems that seemed to preference articles & periodicals over print materials, e-books, the internet in general.  We found ourselves in a building filled with shelves and shelves of materials and resources that were vastly underused compared to what they could be.

It was a slow roll out over a couple of years.  First one exhibition, then another.  The introduction of our small works vending machines. The introduction of the blog. All along, we were fine tuning our mission and means of execution. Suddenly, there was less of a disconnect between working life and creativity. Sure, I still spent much of my time at work processing reserves, shuffling excel files and dealing with circ desk trivia, but I also got to do some really cool stuff at the same time--develop blog content, plan readings/discussions, set up displays & exhibits, design promotional materials. In many ways, this stuff mirrored and built on what I was already doing outside of work with the press, so I felt like I was actually using things I'd learned, just in another environment and even better, getting paid while I did it.  And maybe it's the investment factor that's changed.  For 14 odd years, I really wasn't all that invested in the place I spent 8 hours every day and that gave me a paycheck.

For the first time in 15 years, I don't just roll myself to work out of routine and financial obligation, but with a growing sense of excitement--a need to get to work and dig in. We were really gaining some traction by last summer and for the first time, I feel like we are really having an impact in the things we were doing, exposing people to the possibilities the library offered for artists and creating a community that connected creative people with other creative people and the resources they needed. A few weeks ago, Aesthetics hosted a selection of Columbia related publishers, authors, zinesters, illustrators for the Little Indie Press Festival and it was really sort of amazing, the ways people connected and networked.  Even though the turnout was small compared to what I hope it becomes eventually, I got really excited by the synergy and the future possibilities.

There's so much more we're working on for the spring semester, so many cool ways to connect Columbia artists with the things we need, for the first time in 15 years, I'm excited about my day job.

 

Friday, November 20, 2015












This week, some of the collages from a new series incorporating collage and watercolor pencil made their way into the most recent Art in the Library Exhibition.

You can see more of them, here:

Monday, November 16, 2015




Much of my attention this fall has been on Library and Aesthetics of Research related things, which have really started to take off.  It's a project that has spread from merely a wall exhibit on the first floor to vending machines. the zine exchange, and all sorts of other adventures (the Easter Egg Art Hunt, ARTCACHE, the Library Sketchbook Project, How-To Workshops, The Little Indie Press Festival, and other events. )  Its finally brought a little bit of the creativity and fun I have in my outside-of-work life into my work-life and it's really nice . There's no longer such a weird disconnect between the two of them. Art work vs. grunt work.  I still do all the boring library tasks I've always done like invoices and reserve processing, but we get just a little bit of shenanigans thrown in.  This weekend's Little Indie Press event was really amazing, to see so much happening in all corners of the print word--book arts, illustrators, comics, zines. We've got a couple more endeavors planned out for this semester and a whole slew of them lined up for next semester, so stay tuned....

Sunday, November 08, 2015



It's been a weekend bound to the library, but nonetheless a productive one, albeit on work-related tasks and Aesthetics plotting (also our horror movie trivia night questions for next Friday as well as finalizations on the Indie Press Festival coming up over the weekend. )

But the most fortuitous thing is that I managed this week, after a couple months of avoiding it entirely, to finish up the strange machine series, which means I am closer than ever to finishing the apocalypse book.  I kept my word about forcing myself back into the words once November rolled around, and I kept at it, even if it meant getting something down even when I was half asleep.  There is still a bit of polishing and ordering to do, but otherwise, the zine project release is nigh and heading toward layout, as is the completion of the longer book as soon as I finish up the zombie girl poems (these are infinitely easier to write  since they are not so much historical and researched based as strange machine.)  If I keep going I may finish it before the holidays, which would make up for my dragging my feet though most of the summer and early autumn.  Hell dragging my feet for the last couple of years.  Lately, the books seem to come like that, slowly, then all at once.

Then of course there are the other things I am dragging my feet on completing--the blonde joke series, the Dali inspired pieces, the hotel project I have all but abandoned since last winter.  But I am comforted by the fact that there are to many projects, too many directions, rather than a slow trickle of them.  At least I can move back and forth when I get stuck, the importance is to keep moving.

I realized a week ago that it had been 15 years since I interviewed for the library job to the day.  In a couple, it will be the anniversary of accepting the job (absolutely terrified that I couldn't pull it off--get an apartment, move all my stuff, afford to even move to after making so little at the previous job.)  I was off Friday and couldn't go to the 15 year Service Luncheon, but it happened nonetheless, and while apparently I have, in fact,  been here that long, it certainly doesn't feel like a second more than 5.  (I think I fell into a hole some of those years..)  I just now realized that today is the also the  10 year anniversary of my first book being accepted. The thing I thought would never happen and then somehow did.    The other books have been easier to get published, and most of them easier to write and pull together, so at least there can be something said for time and experience, even if neither of those things seem at all logical.

Sunday, October 25, 2015



Yesterday was one of those really, truly perfect fall days, not because it was sunny or mild, but really because it was it was rainy and cool and the trees in Grant park were in full color and just about to drop, and what had already fallen was littering the sidewalk picturesquely.  I was downtown early in the morning for Parent's Weekend mask workshop, which followed a rather successful Wabash Arts Corridor Crawl, where we unveiled the Creepy Curiosities, exhibit and the attendant installation, as well as the entirety of my unusual creatures series and some similarly themed dgp work. What delights me so much about it I think is it's prettiness and, at the same time, it's darkness.  But I feel the pull toward sleep that this season dictates, so I came home and slept away the afternoon, then got up and caught up on Vampire Diaries cheesiness.



It was a good week, filled with getting that on the walls and the amazing delight of my full-page interview on dgp in The American Book Review. I'm anxious about all the things I am usually anxious about--money, time, not falling behind, but am still saying afloat.  The words are still elusive, but I'm giving myself a pass until November since I am busy with other things.  Halloween is next weekend, and while I don't have any definitive costume plans, I do have one blank paper mask saved from yesterday that may wind up useful.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Creepilicious


This Friday, the last of the unusual creatures collages made from old family catalog cards will be going up on the walls for the Creepy Curiosities exhibit, along with the work of dgp poets, some photography, and an interactive exhibit of  creepy odditiies.   There will also be some collectible cards in the small works vending machines. We'll be hosting a little informal opening on the 1st Floor with some Halloweenish snacks during the Wabash Arts Corridor Crawl , so you should stop by...



Monday, October 19, 2015

Had to work on some questions today for a class that are studying my James Franco poems and felt a little of the writing spark starting to return.  Mostly, I am hella-busy, with makes me anxious with all the not-writing happening.  Art seems easier and faster and not as much of a commitment when I'm swimming through a sea of press-related doings (layouts, orders, cover designs, manuscript reading)  AND library-related tasks (the general fall reserves rush, performance evals, and Aesthetics planning/happenings.)  But talking about things I've written, while sometimes they feel very far away helps.  Re-reading and remembering I'm actually a writer helps (sometimes, I swear I forget or seem to want to forget). Remembering the WHY and the HOW helps too, especially when I'm stuck mid-project and wanting to bail.

One of the questions they  asked me was about being the creative misfit in a family of non-artists (actually both me and my sister are) and I started thinking about my mother and her painting all those porcelain or bisque figures when I was a kid.  Large white persian cats.  Clowns, Victorian ladies. (Figures and statues that many of my relatives and my mom's friends still have, though I actually don't think any of them given to me survived past adolescence without getting busted.  I'm not even sure my mom has any of them anymore. ) Both me and my sister begging to paint with her (usually to no avail--the supplies were sort of pricey to be wasted on kid antics.)   She would paint things FOR us though, walking us through the OFF THE WALL store picking out the things we wanted. For our bedrooms.  For her frends, for various relatives.  I remember how they smelled, the tiny colorful smooth jars. . Both the paints and the stinky varnish you put on them afterwards.

Of course this was prior to her going back to work when I was 11 or so, when she mostly babysat other people's kids for extra money while my dad worked, but was home all the time and aside from keeping an eye on the kids and making lunches, could do as she pleased. .  Once my dad was laid off and she went back to work, the painting mostly stopped and she'd arrive home exhausted, fall asleep in her chair with the tv on.  I never made the correlation til just now, but it makes sense.

As I grew up, that was perhaps the thing I feared without knowing that that was what I was really afraid of.  How much the things you have to do take away from the things you love to do. I've got it relatively good in that my day-job demands outside of time are lighter than hers, I'm only taking care of myself, not a husband and two kids,  and and I fight like hell to make both things happen, but it's never easy.


But I do find that talking again about writing makes me want to do it.  Thinking about it.  Being immersed in it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

octoberish

Today was one of those dark clouded over fall days where it's really hard to pull yourself from the warm bed, so it was a late and disorganized start to the day, but I did manage to finish the framing I was doing in the studio and turned my attention to filling a batch of orders ready to go out.  It definitely feels like fall now, the leaves having given up the ghost and most changing if not already falling. They've put the wooden erosion fences up along the beaches so I suppose there is no going back. Mid October already and today I spent some time doing some catch up on layouts (we are always behind on releases by fall, so actually compared to some years, I'm ahead of the game.)  We released Carrie Bennett's third dgp chap as well, The Affair Fragments.  I always feel fortunate that we have a strong stable of repeat authors and there are more of them to come, both this year and next.  My other task has been working my way through the remainder of July submissions and sending responses.  I still have August, which includes the swell that came in right before the deadline, but I've definitely made a dent in them.  I was hoping to have everything cleared out before the end of this month, but that might be more like the end of November.

The remainder of this week is plotting out our Creepy Curiosities exhibit which needs to be up by the end of next week, as well as fine tuning more details on our other Aesthetics events coming up in November and December.  I've been trying to focus on one major thing each weekday (well, the press gets two days..Tuesday and Thursday, but Aesthetics biz on Wednesdays, Art on Mondays, and Writing on Fridays.  (though my Fridays keep getting eaten by other days, so I might have to rethink that. )


Monday, October 12, 2015


As I mentioned in my previous post, much is afoot in the visual arena, including some pieces up in the Columbia Alumni on 5 Show (see above) and some zine projects on display in the Words|Matter show @ Art on Elston (below).  I've also been working on the reminder of the Unusual Creatures pieces made from old cabinet cards that will be going up as my contribution to the our Creepy Curiosities exhibit (which also incldes some dgp poets and an interactive installation involving creepy artifacts (real and faux).  I've also been working on some amazing dgp covers I can't wait to show you...



I've been making a concentrated effort to get more artwork out there, both into the world and just out of my hands.  A lot of it is design work, either for the press, or for the library, but there has been some collages, some watercolors (both paints and pencils, which are my new love.)  That said, while I've done a little clean up on the dirty blonde pieces, not much has been happening with the manuscripts in progress.  The scary thing is I sometimes feel like the writing goes away so far that I am almost relieved with the thought of it not coming back.  It does, eventually something moves, something catches my fancy, and I can't not persue it.  But NOT being a writer sometimes feels like a a good space to inhabit.  There is always that quote about writers HAVING to write, that you shouldn't unless you feel absolutely compelled to do nothing else.  I can think of a million things I would rather do than write sometimes--paint something, make something, read something. Go somewhere, do something, eat something. Sleep, which I have named chief among pleasures and indulgences lately--more than sex, and definitely much more than words.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

We've hit the first cool snap of the season, with voracious howling winds that last for three days and not only moan outside my windows all night, but send serious waves crashing in off the water that speak more to the Atlantic than Lake Michigan.  Except for those rare trees that change suddenly and drop all their leaves in early September, everything else only has that slight tinge of yellow to it that foretells the fall colors.

Again, I have been remiss in my blogging, and time itself seems this whirling, howling thing I can't quite get a handle on. In the two weeks since my last post much has happened, including a great reading at Women & Children first w/ Carleen Tibbetts and Sara Henning, hosting an awesome reading with LGBTQ authors for the History Week Kickoff in the library, and the launch of ARTCACHE (which has already had some participants come through.)  In library-land, plans are afoot for other Aesthetics adventures--the revival of Unusual Creatures pieces for our Halloween exhibit,  participation in  The Gathering Halloween parade, prep for the Indie Press event in November, possibly another How To Tuesday workshop thrown in for good measure in November.  We're also plotting things for spring semester (all of which makes my day job drudgery much less about drudgery and more about fun...)

Along the way, there are art projects I'm contemplating, writing projects I am stuck in the middle of (I'm trying not to get freaked about this because I seem to be living in  very visual state of mind these days and my efforts are pointed in that direction more than words.)  There's the dirty blonde poems, the apocalypse manuscript, a short series on a Dali Painting-- All waiting for me to get back to them. Plus prep for the upcoming book due out in the spring, which I've been talking cover ideas (it is going to be AMAZING) and blurb gathering.  We're gearing up for a slew of releases of in-progress books for dgp, as well as getting the mermaid anthology ironed out and submissions for next year under wraps.  It's all overwhelming, but the good kind of overwheming, the kind that has the gears turning constantly.

I'm still trying to preserve the sanctity of weekend time, however, staying close to home and relaxing, watching Netflix, maybe a little artmaking (well, except last weekend where I was doomed to the library.)  I think a little downtime makes sure I can dive in and get shit done for the week more efficiently.

Sunday, September 20, 2015



So we have settled into something like fall.  Yesterday, I spent half the day snuggled under my comforter and the other half drinking coffee and finishing up the poetry book organization problem on my bookshelf, which while it may not be quite alphabetical, at least all books by authors are grouped together.  I also found a signed copy of a friends book with the above inscription and it made me both laugh and want to write VERY IMPORTANT THINGS, which I hope to get to later today. I've also set aside some duplicate copies or things I no longer want for the free table at the library--I've somehow amassed a lot of random books that I don't see worthy of taking up valuable shelf space. I've also done un-fun things like scrub the grout in my shower and recaulk the tub, which is a sad way to spend a Saturday night, but that's just how I roll.

Mostly, I am unwinding from a crazy couple weeks and amping up for another couple and just hiding from the world.  Last Tuesday's Bookwrecking workshop went splendidly, and even I came away with some new collages I will show you soon.  This week I have a reading coming up at Women & Children first and will be framing/prepping for a couple upcoming art things, including the CCC Alumni show and sending some books to Art on Elston for their Words | Matter show.   I am also getting things ready for the Library's Chicago Artists Month ARTCACHE endeavor, which I am still working on clues for and need to finish up this week. Lastly, I'll be hosting an LGBTQ reading next Wednesday, part of a whole week of programming kicking off October's History Month. All of this in addition to general press business and the dregs of Library reserves processing..(which this week has dwindled to normal levels after the beginning of semester rush.) So needless to say I'm busy, but happy in my busyness..

Fall though and I start wanting apples..mostly sour ones baked into a pie or greasy fried ones or apple cider donuts by the dozen.  I'm not all that much about the pumpkin or the pumpkin spice, but I do start craving warm beverages--hazelnut lattes &  hot chocolate.  Start wanting to invest in throw blankets--fuzzy sherpas and sweater knits (which never fare very well with the cats.)  My fall sweater dresses have been languishing a few weeks in my closet since the season switch-out and I am anxious to get into one.  Last night I dreamed about looking for fall florals. Remind me of this in a few months when I'm crying over ceaseless winter...


Tuesday, September 01, 2015



So once again, I find myself at the end of summer, and once again, trying to determine exactly where said summer vanished to, but this season has actually been quite full with summertime things like cookouts and camping trips, road trips and ice cream. We've reached a bout of steamy hot doldrums, so I am actually pretty anxious for fall to get here, having already switched out my summer clothes for fall ones and  set my mind toward very.serious.projects. which include finishing both the dirty blonde manuscript and the apocalypse book. Which includes more art projects and crafty things for the shop.  Which include the  mermaid project and more decisions on chaps for next year's series. Which includes other things I may have up my sleeve in the vein of the very serious and not so serious.

I'm in Rockford this week for a little vacation before plunging headlong into the new semester, preparations for which have been hectic with the reserve morass and plotting interesting and fun things for the Aesthetics of Research .  I am looking forward to having my morning's free, since I'll be logging studio time early in the day when I'm fresher and more productive than  I am after working 8 hours. Meanwhile for the next week, I'll be napping and thrifting (see above) and maybe some writing..see you on the flip side...


Saturday, August 15, 2015



A dog day heat weekend that started inauspiciously with some foiled plans to go to a spooky film screening (in a CEMETERY!!!)  Apparently way more people showed up than they planned, so I actually wound up out at the lake for a night picnic as a rather spectacular summer storm rolled in (that incidentally canceled the film screening mid-way, so it all worked out).  I have decided to spend the weekend mostly painting and maybe writing and drinking coffee in front of a fan and plotting fall projects. Despite my laziness, there are still new pieces up at wicked alice and some new titles under assembly in the studio.  This week's endeavors include some more cover designs, some layouts for dgp, more reserves processing fun for the library, more clues for the ARTCACHE project, preparation for some other Aesthetics programming. Also  ice cream eating, sundress wearing, and squeezing what I can from the remaining weeks of summer before September hits (and it's back to the semesterly grind.)

Thursday, August 06, 2015




So the remainder of July slipped stealthily down the rabbit hole, but I am still here and have not been submerged just yet.  Some personal things (very good things) seem a little surreal & dreamy sometimes, but other endeavors are traipsing along at a  steady clip.  dgp releases and general bookmaking.  Fall plans for The Aesthetics of Research, some of which actually involve poetry.  Library Fall Reserves processing and it's attendant color coded spreadsheets. Reading submissions for next years chap series (though I am holding off making final decisions til I plot out a schedule of sorts.)  Reading submissions for the mermaid anthology, which I am hoping to have finished by November.

I've also been rather intent on home things lately, including making my awesome Alice table and securing a bar cart (because yes, apparently my vices now require furniture of their own.) Also some new vintage chairs and stools for the dining room (since I've hated the ones that came with my table since like forever.)  A clothes hamper,  A tabletop easel.  All things I usually push down the tiny-disposable-income-to-buy list in favor of dresses but I finally bit the bullet.  (well, there may have been at least one dress.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

new @ dgp



Check out all the new lovelies available @ dancing girl press!

https://dulcetshop.myshopify.com/



Saturday, July 18, 2015




Today, the heat broke in a magnificent storm and downpour, but by this evening the sun had reappeared.  I slept forever into the afternoon with the fan on me, recuperating from a week in which late nights kept me up (in a good way) and early-ish mornings offered no reprieve. I'm mostly recharging this weekend, organizing and cleaning.  Maybe some writing, maybe some reading. So far I've eaten an entire pound of strawberries and organized some clothes into underbed bins.  We've reached t the mid point of summer where I inevitably get a little nostalgic for fall sweaters, but I will not be deterred.

I am still working on squeezing as much out of summer as I can, including last weekend's camping trip that included s'mores and tequila and a remarkably comfy air mattress. There was also some more thrifting which procured me some more dried flower frames, a metal cocktail shaker, a vintage blue floral serving plate, and a NWT cream colored dress in the perfect size.  Also a trip to Monroe (see photo above) for cheese and petit-fours and gourmet sodas.

I've had some good writerly things happening of late, including an acceptance for some blonde joke poems in a print journal for early next year; (in addition to the one that appeared at HOUND recently)  a review of major characters in minor films @ Atticus Review, and some early prep for the release of my Black Lawrence book next spring.   I've mostly been playing catch up with press orders  & author copies this week, but I'll be delving into new layouts this coming week.   Until then...




Monday, July 06, 2015


I find myself firmly ensconsed in Rockford for the holiday weekend & the next few days after a busy week attending to all the things, including making some new zines for the rather lonely zine exchange and launching our new music feature on the Aesthetics blog.   In press news, we've closed submissions for the mermaid anthology, which I will be making my way through in the coming weeks, but are still open for a two more months in our regular reading period for chapbooks we'll be publishing in 2016.  Otherwise, there are orders to get out, new layouts, some books waiting for finalized proofs. We've hit the point where I usually fall a bit behind in the schedule, but I should remedy it by the end of the month with a bunch of new releases.

The holiday was filled with the usual picnic festivities, which increasingly are a little bit Cinco de Mayo, a little bit 4th of July (pinatas, tequila drinks, fried chicken, potato salad).  This morning is rainy and humid and it's harder than usual  to sleep here.  I miss my comfy bed, my lake breezes and giant windows.  There's been a little bit unsanctioned wildlife in the form of a tiny snake that must have hitched a ride either in the open pocket of my luggage while it was sitting outside for a bit the night I got here, or in the depths of the vintage sleeping bag I acquired for next weekends camping trip.  I'm not actually afraid of snakes, but this one creeping over my suitcase was a bit of a surprise and despite my rural roots, I've never actually dealt with one in person  (they're sort of rare this high away from the river.).  I shut him up in the suitcase swiftly and he escaped out in the yard, but not before all my dresses were comicly strewn across the lawn trying to find him.




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The humidity has blissfully broke, which led to remarkably excellent sleeping weather.  I was awake early and lolled in bed for awhile reading blogs on my phone and pondering my day.  I'm feeling calmer and more organized, though eventually even that becomes a little short-lived and I wind up in the chaos swirl again.  This is the crazy part of summer, where the temps & humidity rises and breaks every day at the end of the day like clockwork, where the storms come sweeping over the city from the west (and occasionally setting of tornado alarms like last week) but it looks like we're in for a bit of mildness for the next week or so, clear skies and 70's which is exactly where I like it.

Today included a little press business, but the bulk was planning a little bit of shenanigans for the The Aesthetics of Research series in the library in the form of a hidden art exhibit / scavenger hunt / geocache that has participants solving riddles and clues and using the library resources. (The library is pretty slow in the summer and we need something to amuse ourselves with...)  The cache at the end is a box filled with all sorts of art goodies for the taking and trading..(right now, to start off, some photo prints, mini-drawings, and some pendants.)  We're hoping to fine-tune and repeat it in the fall and for it to grow  (and also help us curate artists for future Aesthetics shows.)



The other bit of art-related business was the re-emergence of errata, a chap I published about 10 years back in a very limited edition and which comprised a section in my second book , in the bird museum, but only exists in its full form in the chapbook itself.  It explores all sorts of Victorian genre conventions. Since it's out of print, I put it up as a pdf file for your reading pleasure.  2005 was around the time I feel I was really beginning to write the sort of things or the sort of ways I do now and this project was sort of the hinge between pre-2005 writing and post.-2005 style.




Monday, June 22, 2015

A humid, greenhouse-like start to the week, but I plan on filling it with layouts on new books, mermaid anthology project submissions, and general studio business.  There are collages and paintings that need matting, author copies that need folding, orders that need processing.  The weekend was a relaxing one and I only left the apartment once to wander to the store, the weather not exactly being condusive to outdoorsy sort of fun, so I gave it over to lazyness and debauchery, to reading and napping and binge watching Pretty Little Liars on netflix.  I am already making plans for another trip away, this time for Independance Day hi-jinks and another short camping trip to Wisconsin. I did manage to sign the contract for the new book over the weekend and send it on it's way back to Black Lawrence, which  kicks off all sorts of prep work on the book, including gathering blurbs and such, since next spring will be here before we know it.  In the realm of books already out in the wilds, there is a really good sale on major characters in minor films at the Sundress store for a limited time, as well as a Spotify list up for  music that informed my writing/mindset/aesthetics while I was working on the book.





https://player.spotify.com/user/sundresspublications/playlist/69U07CUF43YCXgxO75Mkkl


Music is this weird thing that is less important to me sometimes and more important to me others, but I do consider it an element of creative process.  Sometimes, certain things have soundtracks. I wrote most of the poems in major characters...over the course of about 5 years (2006-2011), years in which a lot of things were shifting in my life. (and during which writing actually took a backseat to other things like the press and the studio, so it took a bit longer to actually pull the book together.) Nevertheless, this is the soundtrack  that formed it, or maybe the soundtrack that it formed during those years.  Enjoy!



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I woke up this morning thinking about summer camps.  My sole experience was not at all positive and even less positive in retrospect than while it was actually happening (I was a counselor for one week at one of the MDA camps,  and not really at all prepared to deal with the campers who needed far more emotional maturity and experience with disabled kids/teens than  a 16 year old can provide.) I realized with a start that it was 25 years ago, which seems highly impossible, and yet it was.  There was a lot of crying about not being able to cope.  First kisses behind boathouses and a general tendency to freak out about things. It was also the summer I got my driver's license. The summer of 17 year cicadas.  The summer where storms kept taking out the power like clockwork.  Where me and my sister learned to make strange hybrid peanut butter cookies that were more like peanut brittle than like cookies.  Beyond those first weeks, the summer loses focus and I remember maybe one of two more things..tent slumber parties with my friends. An awkward cookout with other camp counselors later in the summer.  There are definitely summers I remember better, but it struck fear into me that I've no doubt forgotten so much of the less impressive moments.

Last week, my mother was talking about my father and the journals he used to keep/ possibly still keeps.  Simple daily records.  My grandmother, as well, was prone to small diaries with rather short, ordinary entries like "Ironed L's shirts.  Went to the store."  They were dispersed among the family, but I managed to land two of them--one in peices and since repurposed in collages and another small diary sporting a kitten playing with a ball of yarn.  As someone who has pretty much always kept diaries or journals, even if rather halfazardly and inefficiently  of some sort since I was 15, those small brief entries seem woefully insufficient and yet somehow more effective at capturing ones' life than the sort of writing I've always done---more in depth but also far more sporadic.

Every once in a while I get it in my head that I am going to blog everyday and fill this space with more detail and everyday, such blogging gets pushed back by other obligations until the next thing I know it's been two weeks since my last entry and so much of life has passed I may have already forgotten half of it. There's also that tension between public and private and how writing in this space (or any online space beginning in 2003) and writing in those old Mead composition books I used to fill in my 20's.  While I am hardly one who would censor myself really, there is a different feel to writing for any sort of audience vs. writing for my eyes only.  Not in the details maybe, but in the tone, the subject matter.  And maybe the internet has thinned that membrane between public and private to barely a film anyway. We live our lives much more publicly these days, and it's hard to even remember what not doing so was even like at all anymore.

Those print journals felt more like space for working things out inside the self and the blog has always felt maybe a little like that but more about expressing the self.  But I do still long a bit for the mere documentation of life.   Like the fact that I was thinking about camp and later,both of my grandmothers on the ride to work.  Like that a couple of days ago, I put a charming strawberry colored streak in my hair.  That I am mid-point on the apocalypse manuscript now and should have it finished by the fall.  That I just got the contract for the next book in the mail as well as a case of Raspberry New York Seltzer. There is some darkness at the edges, but things are mostly good.  Oh summer, you spoil me.  Over and out.


Monday, June 15, 2015

In the realm of interesting little side projects, I've been sort of idly working  working on an illustrated zine project of text/image pieces that entail by google search engine history during a given span of time....here is a list of what I have to work from from April and May...


fata morgana

superior mirage
tea tin containers
fancy cats tumblr
cat sipping coffee
milkmaid caramels
chicago fire map
derby hat
strawberry sweater
what does jack steal
vintage doll
cupie doll
geocaching
evil otter eye
pinstripe dress
red pinstripe dress
space cat meme
piano made of books
alizee
plus full-length cream slip
nordstrom
wraps and scarves organization
famous spinsters
Dean Winchester jacket
butterfly clip
chloe sevigny
olive oil hair treatment
caramel blonde hair color
rhyming dictionary
peach cocktails tequila
peach cocktails vodka
embroidered vintage purse
writers who are polyamorous
wisconsin state fair
mermaid tattoo
plus bandana dress
Aveeno sunscreen
Viewmaster viewer
handmade book fair
sloths in space
pigs in space
koalas in space
makers mark and coke
Tennessee Williams

Friday, June 12, 2015



We're hitting Mid-June now, and the weather has been alternating cool and hot but seemingly muggy either way.   It's chilly outside, but very greenhouse-like inside everywhere I go.  I spent last weekend at a bbq in Iowa and then a couple nights under the stars up in Wisconsin, briefly wandering through some old stomping grounds that exist mostly in childhood memory--the beach near the campground where my grandmother's camper resided all summer every summer.  Now recognizeable only by the hilly horizon, the sand having given way to boat docks and a bar.  But I'd know it anywhere, having spent a good part of my early summer floating on intertubes and rafts staring up at it.  We didn't visit the old campground this time around  (which actually hasn't changed all that much--the same worn covered playground, the same dingy showers, the same, narrow sandy gravel paths.)  But did take a brief drive down surrounding roads and into tiny towns, and for a second, with my cousins in the car and the Eagles on the radio, I was 5 years old again, in that murky area of remembering/not remembering.

Because my grandmother parked her old Jayco up there, we spent a good part of my summer weekends up there until she died, my parents and I first in a truck camper and later in our old blue ford van, where me and my sister would spend hours with candy and coloring books and magic slates while my parents played cards underneath the awnings colored plastic lights.  This time, we were in another campground and slept in a tent, but that sky is still so blue and clear and the nights so amazingly starlit.  I did have a couple of Friday the 13th flashes when I went to take a shower up at the bathrooms alone, but it was a good trip and hopefully not the only one this summer (we have our eyes on some cabin rentals).  I'm hardly the outdoorsy type, but as long as I have access to a shower and a reasonable comfy place to sleep, I'm good, and it was actually refreshing to be rather cut off from technology for a couple days (there was reportedly wi-fi available, but only in certain hot spots.)  There was a swim beach and ice cream, a campfire and s'mores and good times with extended family (my Dad's) I don't get to see very often.


Friday, May 29, 2015





Another early summer weekend, and I have already made much of May, backyard cook-outs and lakeside weddings and tiki bar expeditions.  This weekend will be a quieter one, with a little mexican food/margarita action tonight, but probably mostly just housecleaning and mental mantainance this weekend.   April was a bear and May still had me running, so I need a two day span of solitude to recoup.  Otherwise, it's the usual layouts and cover designs and maybe a little writing when the wind is right. It's been raining all afternoon, and muggy. but it's supposed to clear to more mildness later. It's still my favorite time of year, summer, but not quite yet summer, but not really spring.    In a couple weeks, I have a weekend in Iowa planned, a short camping trip to Wisconsin, talk of a possible Michigan visit in July, then Independence Day hi-jinks, then a short vacation August,  and then like that it will probably be over and deplorable winter again.  But I am taking refuge and solace in these early sunrise-mornings, these long, lingering evenings.  In my routines after I get off work at 7pm and still actually have some daylight left at the end of the day..


Thursday, May 28, 2015

new titles



Just a sampling of what we've been getting up to this spring @ dgp...

https://dulcetshop.myshopify.com


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 them.  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.


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.




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.

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.



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.




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.





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...}







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.


Friday, April 10, 2015

the writing life: notes on the mfa experience

On this weekend of AWP happening up north, the mothership of academic poetry, it somehow feels fitting to be talking about MFA programs and the benefits and drawbacks.  When I enrolled in the fall of 2003 in Columbia's inaugural year of the Poetry-MFA, there were two defining factors.  A)  I already worked for the college library and was on campus all the time anyway, so why not? and B)  I got a 6 for the price of 3 credit hour deal as part of my employment benefits.  By then I already had an MA in Literature I'd gotten fresh out of undergrad when I was still intending to teach, so prior to that, I hadn't even really considered an additional grad degree as an option until they announced they would be starting one the next fall.  I quickly applied in an unusual flurry of ambition, pulled together recommendations letters from an editor I'd worked with and one of my MA faculty members, and somehow got a spot in the first class.

At that point, I had already been submitting and publishing pretty widely, had already been editing  wicked alice for  a couple years, had already had landed a chapbook acceptance from a small, local feminist press. Logistical reasons above aside, there were other, murkier, factors at play--a desire to gain some perceived professional credibility as an artist that an MFA provides, a chance to actually interact with other writers (I was beginning to do this a bit locally, but I could count on one hand the poets I actually knew in real life), a chance to test the waters and get some feedback before the poems went out in submission.That fall, I felt a little out of my element since most the of the other students were more at the beginnings of their careers or writing pursuits. (this actually changed as more students came into the program with a bit more experience under their belts.)  One one hand I loved that the courses, particularly the craft seminars pushed my work in different ways and generated projects that otherwise might not have happened without them--the Cornell project, errrata, my Resurrection Mary series. And  I had some really great experiences with some the visiting faculty in those classes--most notably Karen Volkman and Stephanie Strickland.

On the other hand, the workshops were sort of frustrating. I'd been writing on my own for long enough that I had some definite ideas on what worked and what didn't and listening to other people, most of whom I did not share a similar aesthetic in any way, seemed counterproductive.  I was also older, on the verge of 30, and not much younger than my instructors, so I never really had any yoda-like mentor-me inclinations.  Those first couple of semesters, I wasn't sure we could all agree on what constituted a successful poem, let alone give each other advice on how to construct one.  I've also never been much for revision, at least on the draft level, most of the revision happening as the poem was written, so by the time I showed it to anyone, outside of some tweaks in tenses or rhythm, it was pretty much done.  The first couple of years were rough. I nearly quit several times--out of boredom or apathy or anger. Luckily, the longer I stayed in the program (I was doing it part-time, so four years) the more poets came in with similar aesthetics and whose work I found interesting, the more people filtered in who were able to offer useful input (well, something beyond "Please write a different poem." or" This is too easy.")

I was working full-time, 40 hours a week and just starting dgp, so there were probably many more instances of the desire to flee. but eventually I actually settled in to the routine of balancing classes and work and the press.  Once I'd met the workshop requirements, I even sort of started to love my lit and craft seminars.(yes even the Chaucer one I nearly slept through due to a battle with mono.)   I was producing a lot of work during those 4 years , the tail end of the fever almanac, (which was published my final year in the program) the entirety of in the bird museum and, of course, girl show, which was my thesis manuscript.  I'm convinced that while I may have written one book in that time without being in a program, I probably wouldn't have written two and a half (and actually a few pieces that wound up in major characters in minor films now that I think about it)

I also sometimes feel like the program itself was still finding its feet, and while I felt lucky that CC in general seemed to be a department that leaned toward innovative work as a whole (and thus broadened my reading in ways that wouldn't have happened as much on my own) it was also still very much sodden with status quo attitudes re: po-biz in general, ie. poo-poo-ing indie startups and self-publishing. worshipping at the same old gods & institutions, passing off occasionally moribound advice as mentoring--publish here, not here.This contest, not that one.  People talk about the networking prospects of grad study, and while I can't say I felt like doors were opening that I couldn't just open myself, I did meet a lot of cool people who went on to do really cool things later , people who I like the idea of having studied elbow to elbow with at one time. (Also, I managed to wrangle a number of the ladies into letting me publish their work through dgp..lol..)

The strangest phenomenon was actually what happened AFTER I graduated. Granted I was moving full-steam on the press/shop and moving into the studio space and most my creative efforts were pointed in that direction, but there were about 3 years where I was writing very little.  Things were happening in those years on the surface-- my second book coming out, finding a new publisher for #3 after Ghost Road collapsed,  collaborative projects, lots of readings, but only a few new poems generated & submitted, only a couple publications. It was almost like I couldn't get the strange sensation of all those eyes looking over my shoulder as I wrote. All those fingers in my poems.  The freedom was suddenly exhilarating and terrifying. I anxiously read articles that talked about post-MFA lags, about the overwhelming number of people who graduate and move completely away from writing altogether.  I fretted.  I published other people's books and made lots of art and crafty things, but the words were hard to find.   When people asked me how the writing was going, I got even more anxious and self-conscious about it.   I  would occasionally get something down (and many of these loose pieces are in the new book), but I was sort of treading water in the poem-world.  For a while I was working sort of half-heartedly on what became beautiful, sinister, but couldn't finish it.  Funnily enough, it took the James Franco pieces (which I kept telling myself were completely a lark and not even "poetry") to get things really flowing again...

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