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


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.