Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Over the weekend, we lost my Aunt Ronda, my mother's sister and only remaining sibling after a few months battling some heart problems and other complications.  She was pretty much my default grandmother figure, mostly since my actual grandmother died sort of early but also probably because my sister and I were also close in age to her own grandchildren. Before my sister came along, my aunt lived in this strange farm house out in the middle of what was, and mostly still is, the middle of nowhere.    It was an age where details and my memories are fuzzy..I'm pretty sure she had birds that were always loose and flying around at the tops of the curtains.  A cat that I chased incessantly.  Also, like my grandmother, an actual bar in the house. (I have no idea if this is the home decor trend of the mid-seventies or everyone was just a bunk of drunks in our This same bar, later occupied the basement of her other house, the one that still stands behind that of my parents on my grandmother's plot of divided land, and me and those cousins played down there every party and holiday until we were teenagers, mixing fake drinks and pretending to perform on a small wooden stage my uncle had built. .

The basement also housed her beauty shop business, where I spent long hours while she permed, cut, and later colored my hair periodically, where all of us would congregate even while she working and probably bug the hell out of her.  Enormously generous, she was always sending us way with things--sodas, ice cream bars, later clothes she didn't want, anything else she thought we'd like or or put to better use. Over the years, there were countless sleepovers, camp fires in the thin strip of woods behind the property, shopping trips to the mall, movie outings.  Countless holidays where she always went just a little too far but it was always good--copious amounts of fried chicken, Easter baskets full of candy, hundreds of Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. Halloween trick or treating exploits even as adults where we left with bags stuffed with treats (and once a giant pink stuffed elephant--a long story..)

I always say that my favorite Christmas present ever was maybe when I was around 5 and she gifted me a canvas tote bag full of notebooks and different colored pens and pencils, which I proceeded to fill with squiggly lines I was certain was "writing". Fast forward 35 plus years and the last few Christmases she'd bought me painting things--this last year a set of Chinese watercolors I've been using a lot. It occurred to me over the past few days that while she always seemed to be sending us away with things, these things are mostly now, outisde of memories and photographs,  what's left now that she's gone --a set of watercolors, her giant blue loveseat that sits in my living room and is still one of the most comfortable pieces of furniture I've every had. A couple dresses she insisted on buying me when we were shopping and I couldn't afford them.  Somewhere there is a pink and white afghan she knitted about a decade ago tuucked away.  My high school class ring which my parents could not afford at the time, so she took me to get it. Her predilection for Elvis and the Beach Boys.  My mother's tendency to occasionally say to me.."You sound like your Aunt Ronda."

She was unruly and outspoken in the very best way, and as we all agreed at the memorial service, always right even when she wasn't. Even though some static with my uncle  has had my mom& dad avoiding some of the usual larger family gatherings anyway, I imagine, if those gatherings continue to happen on the regular , there will be this great gaping hole in the center of them. A great vaccuum at the center of everything that she so much used to be the center of. I told a friend in Chicago that while I was sad here, going home for the memorial service would be even sadder.  The house visible from my bedroom window where she once always was and was no longer in.  That particular group of family that she was always the middle of now without her.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Image result for open book

It's that kind of heat that borders on oppressive, as June does sometimes, but I am plugging away steadily this week so far on some new love poems and have even sent a couple off in the submission hinterlands. A couple weeks ago, I finally compiled the disparate pieces of my most recent manuscript project into one document and it's already cresting at 70 pages, and there are still a few more poems to be written. I'd like to maybe finish it by the end of the year and before little apocalypse makes its debut next year.

I've been thinking about book manuscripts in general and how they work--different approaches with my own books, ie the project vs.compilation books. the fever almanac was definitely a compilation of singular poems  that was then divided up into sections accordingly.  in the bird museum was a compliation of several small projects, as were major characters in minor films and salvage. (as well as the upcoming book.)  girl show and the shared properties of water and stars, however, were more tightly woven projects from the beginning.

Those projects books are always somehow harder to bring into being, to stick with for the long haul and not lose some sort of momentum.  Usually the smaller projects sort of constellate around similar ideas or themes or feels and suddenly you have a book on your hands.  I have two such compilation manuscripts in the works now, the one I mentioned earlier, currently titled  rough weather, and the half-completed animal, vegetable, monster book. There is also the hotel poems--a project book--that is sadly much neglected of late but I have hope to turn some attention to it later this year.  Also, the planned expansion of the beautiful sinister poems into a longer project I'd like to do. (I've been feeling that, as a chap, it's woefully unfinished and there is so much more there in the story.)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Summer has moved in full force, and the days are stretching longer and longer into twilight for a couple more weeks.  I've been keeping my eyes to the sky (mostly because the moon has been full and pretty and the night sky a velvety blue, but also because I may be subconsciously Mothman hunting (see entry below).  Last night I had an excellent time reading with three other poets at City Lit Books in Logan Square.  There was a moment where I saw copies of my book on one of the featured titled shelves and had this weird, euphoric "Is this my life?  OMG!  My Life is Awesome!" , especially when I get to thinking about 20 years ago when I was just beginning to publish and send out work an write anything even close to worth reading. I read almost the entirely of the "radio ocularia" series, which I had never really done outloud, not even one, not while they were new and I was working on them.   Next week I have a Poetry Center benefit reading where I'll probably be reading mermaid poems (somehow since mermaid poems always seem appropriate for reading in bars. )

I am also eyeing the dgp inbox, which just crested over 250 and we're barely a month in, which means I have a lot of reading to do to stay anything like ahead of the game and at this point I've barely dipped a toe in. This weekend, I'm hoping to get to some of those, also some cover design plotting on upcoming manuscripts, also maybe some wicked alice submissions, which I'm always behind on reading. 

Last weekend, I stumbled on a writing scrapbook, pretty much my whole writing career--highschool editorials on the environment and culture, indie film reviews from the college paper, awards and certificates, clipping about successes and readings, various writing and art related memorobilia.  All of it ends around 2004--which is not coincidentally the year I started dgp and everything has been a whirlwind since.  I also use to carefully keep printouts of every online publication starting in 2001-2004 and realize that stopped around the same time. It may have also been that I finally had a laptop at home and didn't need to print things out to read them quite so much.  Those scrapbooks were under other detailed scrapbooks-my school years (filled with feild day ribbons, picture day and class photos, all the shit I did in highschool--french club, student council, theatre.  My first smester of college in North Carolina.  Somehwere in my parents house, there are also ones for all the college theatre productions I participated in.  Another one for college in general. It seemed really important in those days to document things, though oddly less important now, though maybe this blog itself and facebook and such are a different sort of documentation and just a different species of the same.  

I also came across a few remaining penpal letters from highschool--a boy in Ireland, another in Germany, a girl in France.  Mostly I only held onto the interesting envelopes/pretty stamps, and the others were gone long ago, but they are interesting for their cultural & entertainment references, for the German boy talking ecstatically about being able to cross the Berlin wall for the first time. I remember excitedly waiting for letters to arrive in those pre-internet days, something that seems quaint and dated and yet lovely in a way things aren't anymore.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

the chicago cryptozoological society

When I was a junior in high school, I was charged with the task of writing a paper for my American Government class, and me being me, I, of course, chose not the legislative branches or the the amendments or judicial system, but, UFOS.  That is, American Government and its responses to UFO's from the 1950s on up.  It was great fun doing the research--which in those days meant not merely hopping on a laptop but instead tracking down every volume on UFO's in my high school library and at the Cherry Valley Public. One of those latter books contained a small section on Mothman lore  (a West Virginia cryptid from the 1960's mostly)  As someone who was just learning to drive on dark country roads at night, I was a little spooked., but merely added it to a long list of things I was learning to fear roadside--Resurrection Mary, random ghosts, hitchhikers, suicidal deer. 

Later, in college and beyond,  I heard about, but did not see the adaptations of the Mothman Prophecies book, but being a lover of all things cryptozoological, I would occasionally see mentions and it made my 16 year old self gleefully happy (probably the same teenager who for a while was convinced jackalopes were real because no had told me they weren't). Fast forward to a couple weeks back when someone on FB posted a weird news outlet siting of flying, winged, humanoids right here in Chicago--near the lakefront to boot.  It prompted a lot of library googling on the part of me and my AofR cohort Jennifer Sauzer, but then we saw this map and an idea was born.

Back in the spring, during our HOAX! week artist panel, the subject of documentation came up--how objects can create worlds and exert authority within those worlds. Particularly vintage sorts of media--VHS tapes, newsprint, old photos. (see Jess Weal's work from the show below)..  Further, I felt how amazingly interesting this was as I worked on the murder mystery documentation--police reports, newspaper clippings, yearbook photos. . For a subject like cryptozoology, which is steeped in pseudoscience and folklore and hoaxes in the best way. it seemed entirely possible that you could tap into that world and create something really awesome--a mixing of all things--part art project, part social experiment, part resource that could manifest in multiple ways--a blog, art pieces, public installations, folklore creation and documentation.   So we purchased a domain and designed a logo and took it from there. 

Image may contain: indoor

We've  started with some cryptozoological conjecture on the mothman story and some cool articles and legit resources (because of course, with any amount of shenanigans, you need some respectability alongside to lend things credence).  We are also hoping to open a fun little shop component to sell things like t-shorts and prints of some crypto related work to buy art supplies keep the project rolling...we also hope to bring on some other writers and artists to play with us. 

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

I just want to drink coffee create stuff and sleep Art Print:

Memorial Day weekend, marked not only by the official kickoff to summer, which so far has only meant horrible traffic and way too many tourists on Michigan Ave, but also beaches opening and summer clothes coming out of storage (though the actual temperature belies it). I am going to spend the weekend like all the very best weekends maybe doing some painting and writing and lying about watching RIVERDALE, which is my latest Netflix binge object of affection. (and of course as per above drinking copious amounts of my yummy New Orleans chicory coffee and sleeping.--you would think those too things would be mutually exclusive, but I am oddly usually pretty immune to caffeine's wakefulness, though it does help me concentrate and focus on whatever I am doing.  No matter how much coffee, I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat if given the chance..  )

Writing wise, I would love to get some more love poems down on paper or at least in my head if not down on paper. I am also getting the Surrealist coloring book tidied up and ready for release in the next week as part of the zine series.   And maybe some more of the drippy floral paintings I started a while back.  Next week, I plan to move on to some printmaking adventures for our  A of R Tiki Madness summer exploits (we'll be doing an exhibit/display and some fun workshops) stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

We are a only a couple weeks into May and submissions are trickling in at a good pace already for our summer open reading period, which bodes well for a beautiful batch of titles coming your way next year.  Before I dip my toe in that pool and actually start reading those , I've been lending a hand this month with submissions for Tupelo's Snowbound Series contest, and making my way though a batch of blind submissions, some of which are also awesome and I hope at least one of them goes on to win..(I'm not familiar with the work of this year's judge, Lawrence Raab, so I'm forwarding along what I like anyway from the submission and maybe one of them will stick.)

Otherwise, more correcting galleys and making books and such. I'm on an earlier library shift now, so my bookmaking switches to evenings, and I'm less fresh than at the start of the day, but hopefully I'll keep chugging along nicely.  There is also the mermaid anthology finalization, which I am determined to make happen by the end of summer hell or high water.   Plus other little projects of my own--new zines, the surrealism coloring book, florographia.    I am also hoping to do some restocking on paper goods by June and host an open studio once I do a little rearranging in the studio space, which will be happening over the next couple of weeks ideally. I'd also like to make some new prints and postcards happen (including maybe some glossies of the new collage above.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

#educating yourself means you know that there is almost something new to learn  #school #student:

"My poems are typically only parts of a greater whole, be it a chapbook, or a book, or just my body of work. Mine is more a cumulative, fragmented, disjointed effect rather than a striving to write one great complete POEM (The Wasteland or The Odyssey or somesuch). No one is probably ever going to look at one of mine and say this is an important, single life changing poem. But maybe they'll say it about a book, or my work as whole. And that's not how I think of them, not one big, honking rock that lands on your head, but a collection of interesting stones, glinting and relecting off each other."   (2007)

Today is Manifest, that perennial cap-off to the academic year and send-off for graduating students.  It occurred to me yesterday that is has been exactly 10 years since I finished my MFA, and while I didn't throw down for the pomp and circumstance of actual graduation (not being the ceremonial type) we did have a very nice reading of the graduating MFA-ers that even my parents came to.  It was one of the very few Manifests (including today luckily) where it wasn't pouring much of the day, so despite my perpetual weird whenever family & writing compartments cross into each other, it was a nice day.

I was trying to think about what I was writing then, what I was doing, what I would be doing.  The press was just beginning to get some footing--a good amount of submissions to choose from, people learning about us, our first AWP trip that spring, a small profile in Poets & Writers that Fall.  I was just about to move into the Fine Arts Building, just about to amp up the publication schedule from about 5 books yearly while I'd been in school to 15 (which has now increased even more).I was also building the Etsy shop then and diversifying the offerings (paper goods, jewelry, soap, reselling vintage)  in order to afford the studio space.

My thesis manuscript GIRL SHOW, was mostly done by that final semester except for some tweaking to appease my advisor (and most of those tweaks were scrapped before it was published after further thought.)  I was working on some new stuff that semester, what would become parts of MAJOR CHARACTERS (some of them can also be read in my Dusie Kollectiv chap that I sent out that year.).  I was also finishing up the Cornell poems and making that collab project happen with Lauren Levato that summer.  (which is still one of the most satisfying pieces I've put out in the world and the one I am most proud of.)

I still have all the old mixed feelings about my time in the program.  I still feel it was helpful, but I sometimes wonder financially (now, as I still pay my students loans each month, both from that program and my earlier MA in Lit) if it was actually, truly worth the expense. I started the program already publishing quite a bit in journals, already running wicked alice for a couple years, already had a chapbook slated to be published.  I never quite felt like I fit in, a combination of these things and others that aren't really all that important now in hindsight--my attitudes toward self-publishing, decentralizing,  Certain weirdnesses about the fact that I worked for the school (I called it my Good Will Hunting Complex)   Certain shit-talking that got back to me.  I was also too old (almost 30) and set in my ways to fall into certain mentor-mentee dynamics that worked for others. I had some great courses though with the visiting poets--Karen Volkman and Stephanie Strickland most noteably.  Other classes were useful in widening my reading and spawning projects (errata, archer avenue).  Others for introducing me to students who were invaluable as readers & editors (some of whom I would later go on to publish through dgp.)  While I hated the group workshops in general (I've often thought of it as a whole bunch of people who can't even decide what a poem is trying to tell you what to do with your poem.), between those and the craft seminars,   I did produce a whole heck of a lot of work during those years, the last of what went into the fever almanac, all of the in the bird museum and girl show.)  While I wouldn't exactly do any of it differently if given a re-do, I do wish there were things I'd know and certain bullshits I wouldn't have bought into during those years.

It's almost though that final semester was a brief frenzy of writing related activity right before a post graduation lull--a feeling that I hadn't liked all those fingers in my poems and now that no one was looking over my shoulders, I wasn't sure what to do, where to go next. (I called it post mfa syndrome)  Granted, I was busy with other poetry and non-poetry things, with the chapbook series, with the Etsy shop, so I only worried about it in certain moments of panic--like when people asked me what I was writing. I was technically writing a little, but not reugularly and barely at all compared to all the years before.  The press and visual stuff was enough to keep me feeling reasonably productive, but it was more like treading water creatively somehow. . As I've often said it took the James Franco poems to knock me out of the funk--and after that I was fine and even able to finish some of the projects that had been floundering before.

And admittedly things have actually worked out pretty well since then, or at least since I've gotten my groove back--more books, more publications, more writing-related opportunities.  I'm managing to both publish and write just about a book a year, which makes me feel much less like a failure with my time, which always seems to be a struggle--ie, despite having a full-time job and running the press and all the regular daily-life things that get thrown at you like commutes and errands and tiny mishaps. . Today is, after all, Friday, the day I devote to writing-related tasks, and while I don't have anything new to send out due to my self-inmposed April break, I did have two acceptances for new work in my inbox this week and a request for a blog feature. Plus new poems in HOBART today form the love poems series.  plus finally finishing assembling  the little book of Dali poems earlier in the week.  I'd say I've been managing well the past 10 years.  So, here's hopefully to 10 more..

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I have been moving like a shark through the week, or maybe more like a porpoise with a purpose, but I am reading manuscripts (a little for dgp and more for another chap series I've volunteered to help a bit with some preliminary reading) , correcting galleys, forging new layouts. I am assembling copies of the new zine project. I am preparing a couple big chap orders and getting them off for shipping and some smaller author copy batches I still owe people. It's Wednesday, and I still have tomorrow for more press business and then Friday for my own writerly hijinks. In that writerly news arena,  I had an acceptance today for some text/image pieces that were solicited from Tupelo Quarterly and my pieces in Hobart are due out very soon.

Last week, I did a little bit of culling in the HONEY MACHINE manuscript and feel I have something tighter and leaner and now chapbook length, so'll see what happens with it down the line. I'm trying to ease back into writing practice, but it's rough when I'm a bit rusty.  Again, I had the conversation in my head about whether or not I could just give it up entirely, having not really been able to say that I missed it terribly the past month and a half, but to be honest, as soon as I stopped that would be when I most definitely would need to keep going. It was nice to be free of the OBLIGATION to write, but the yearnings to do so, had I little extra time were still there. Those instincts don't go away no matter what I've allowed or disallowed myself.

Monday, May 08, 2017

I've talked a bit before about my short little series of Dali-esque poems and finally, at long last, have it all laid out, designed, and printed and ready to be read. It's the first in the 2017 zine series, which took 4 months in to make it actually happen, but it's finally ready. You can get a copy of your very own in the shop, or you can subscribe to a whole year's worth of text & image projects courtesy of moi. There are other goodies coming down the pipeline, including my surrealism coloring book, a zine of the CREATURES pieces I've been working, the blonde joke poems, and the florographia project, as well as other things I should be finishing before the end of this year, so stay tuned...

Saturday, May 06, 2017

It's been chilly as hell this week, even though the calendar says spring. I am coming up on the first day in over a month entirely and gloriously to myself and am feeling the drain of a lack of similar days.  But summer is coming and with it, the usual slowdown and weekend freedom in the library at least , though things in the studio will no doubt still be hopping.  I'm planning and open studio in June and a quick rearrange of things there, plus the usual chaos.  I desperately need those obligation free days on the regular or otherwise I feel especially ragged around the endges in the mental health arena and like I can't even get some time to breathe.   

Yesterday's prom murder mystery went off quite well, with only one group being able to nail down the correct answers entirely.   I was thinking on the way downtown this morning, that I will be missing all these characters now that we are done with them. the prom queen murder victim dating the closeted football star with a violent streak, the weird, drugged up, ex-bff who may or may not have been pretending to be the ghost of a friend killed a year earlier in a car accident that was the prom queen's fault, the sweet little brother of the dead girl who was in secretly love with the prom queen, the football star who was in love/ semi-stalking the cool, pot-smoking English teacher, incidently married to the Principal, who stabs the Prom Queen repeatedly with a letter opener to save her husband's and her own career, . The crochety Librarian who sees all. All with allusions and clues about Lolita and Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and music by the Police.  

it was a bit more complicated and complex than the Bundt Cake Bump-off mystery that  created for Edible Books last year, and I had this sudden real fear that I had overcomplicated things and made it to hard to solve, but apparently it was easy enough for one group out of four to get the right answers (motive, murder weapon, and murderer.) It was also all sorts of 80's music goodness in general and ton a balloons--a bit of low-key fun I desperately needed.

This Friday is Manifest, the end of the semester, and then summer.  I feel like I have been dragging my poor bag of a bodyover the rocks since winter, so I am just looking for a little bit of a reprieve. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Image may contain: sky, house, cloud and outdoor

I am struggling to gain some sort of equilibrium after landing back in town on Tuesday, the general chaos of re-entry, and then a flurry of activity leading up to last night's ACRL celebration.  Tonight, I'm headed to Rockford to collect the cats and spend the weekend there, with maybe a bit more birthday celebrating.  It was a weird actual birthday, mostly since it began on a train standing still in the pitch dark somewhere near Memphis waiting for a fright train to pass and ended with me falling exhausted into bed at 9pm.   I also managed to pick up a cough on the way to New Orleans, so I've been dragging that around with me, which doesn't help for general energy levels.

Of course, NOLA was lovely, and very warm for a couple days there. Our hotel, La Galerie, was right on the edges of the Quarter and had beautiful lofty ceilings, exposed brick,  and super soft beds. My reading at the Poetry Fest came off nicely and people liked the Shipwreck poems (despite me leaving Chicago with none of my own books and having to read off my Kindle like a douche.)  There was much, much walking--down to Jackson Square & The French Market to shop and loiter, over to Bourbon Street (though in small doses--the crowds are a bit much and it kind of smelled too much like garbage in the heat.)   There were Hurricanes and beignets (even though we weren't willing to brave the Cafe du Monde lines). We also hit up the Museum of Death, which was a trip.  I came away from the weekend with two new prints from Clay Davis (I picked one up last year, but wasn't sure who the artists was til now.) Also a poster from the Anne ric-ey vampire store and some chicory coffee. I did get a chance to walk around some of the less populated streets of the Quarter, all candy colors and wrought iron balconies. and into Marigny (including a near encounter with Banksy's umbrella girl if only I'd been paying attention (and had eyes in the back of my head.)  I did, however, get to finally ride a street car on the way back from the reading.

By the time we were leaving, I was ready to go and ready to just be home and back to my routines.  I usually find that as much as I like the idea of travel, it kind of wears me out. There's an inordinate amount of comfort in doing the same things everyday and the Taurus in me needs that more than sometimes remember.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

As I leave tomorrow evening for New Orleans, I am in that mad panic dash to finish some things up before I go, including a whole slew of new chaps that will be assembling when I get back to town--some stragglers from 2016 and some spring books from this year.  I am almost on schedule, or at least close to it, so watch for those books in the shop this week. Despite the mad dash, which is exacerbated by wonky printers and general chaos, I am trying to focus on getting ready--deciding on weather appropriate dress options, the music soundtrack for the train ride, what to read for Friday's reading at the festival, how many hurricanes I can drink before getting back to the hotel proves difficult.  

We are finally getting some spring-like weather, so Chicago may not in fact be dumped for NOLA  entirely this trip through--blossoming trees and tulips in the beds along Michigan.  By the time I get back, I should be able to shed those cold-weather coats for good.  It will also be my birthday the day I get back into town, so I'm hoping for just a little celebrating a la tequila and tacos and maybe some cake before its back to the grind on Wednesday.  

In writerly news, I've gotten some more good results from my submission binge last month from Sweet Tree Review, who will be publishing some more of the  Plath centos (the first of which just came out @ Pretty Owl Poetry. )  The manuscript itself is still out in the wilds in a couple places, so hopefully something will come of that.  I have been mulling over more love poems, but have been sticking to my permission not to write until I get back in town.


Sunday, April 09, 2017

Yesterday was the first day I walked out onto the sidewalk in front of the library and braced myself for a gust of cold that never came.  It was still chilly this morning in just my jacket, but I am absorbing as much of the rare sunlight as I can before it goes away again. I am back in the library again today, and facing down a couple crazy weeks leading up to my birthday and a little bit beyond.  a trip to Rockford for Easter, then mid-week, our New Orleans jaunt, where I'll be reading at the Poetry Festival for a reading with some other fine ladies for The Mystical and the Magical:  Women Writing the Metaphysical Worlds". I'll be there through Monday and we're staying in the French Quarter, where I love to do things like stuff my face full of beignets and those Bourbon Street daquiris that come in plastic cups and wander antique stores and hang out a bit in the Carousel Bar.   Me and my sister are traveling by train this time instead of car, which I always look forward to. (and which is hopefully a bit more on schedule and smoother than my trip back from Seattle a couple years back.) 

Then I'm back on my birthday, and a couple days later is our big ACRL award shindig.  And then it's practically May and I'll blink and the semester will be over.  Add in my mother having her second angioplasty soonish (minor but necessary), all sorts of tricky track things to pin down for various things, and a girl starts to feel a bit overwhelmed.  I think I just need to get to about Mid May and I'll be back to my usual rhythms.  It all seems very formidable from this point in time. But the summer holds the promise a freer weekends for the most part. 

With everything afoot, I've put actually getting any actual writing done on pause, but of course, when i officially grant myself that permission is usually when I most feel the need to write. (and I really do--more pieces for the love poem project, a start on something else clicking away in my brain.)  There are new poems due out soon at Hobart, Pretty Owl Review, and interrupture, though, so I'm feeling productive at least in the po-biz arena. My creative energies are mostly moving visually, but I have been plotting the Library's HORROR PROM murder mystery game, which involves the use of a similar skill set a bit.  I laughed when a co-hort in Gaming Society  asked me if I'd been working on the game and I was able to rattle off  the murder victim's whole life story and all the people around her that may have done it (which one I haven't yet decided) and what they look like, but still hadn't actually developed any of the actual game beyond a few preliminary clues. It's all very Twin Peaks meets Pretty in Pink meets Carrie.   That's just writer brain, I suppose. .  It's similar to how I used to occasionally take blank sheets of paper and plot out huge family histories and geneologies just for fun (perfect fodder for novels, but I don't have the endurance for the long haul work of writing fiction.)  I've also done this for the hotel poems project and the unusual creatures poems, but just haven't been able to wrangle those many pages of scribbing into anything anyone could actually read. 

Someday maybe I should collect everything together, call it poetry and make a book called  NOTES FOR NOVELS THAT I'LL NEVER WRITE. It could totally happen. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

books reading best-seller covers writers novels literature bookmark bookling inspiration motivation book cover:

Today I was doomed to the library, Open House day, and the Creative Writing Dept. was hosting info sessions on the library's 3rd floor like every other year, I am always amused by the baby writers, so young and hopeful and unformed.  And their parents, who are pretty much my age (yikes!) and how much I appreciate that they are encouraging their baby writer to go on and study writing and not something respectable like accounting or computer science or engineering.  Art school is a gamble, maybe more now than when I was myself a baby writer.   As I was passing through the back hallway, I flipped through one of the departmental brochures they had left behind and kinda wished I'd encountered such a program as an undergrad.  I was pretty much only lit in college, with a couple workshops here and there, but nothing as well-wrought as CC's program, not at the undergrad level.  So I was a rough poet until I really sort of figured it out on my own until I enrolled in an MFA program.  I've known some amazing undergad poets who've come through the program (and more from the grad program, both while I was in it and afterwards) and hell, have even published many of them through dgp.   I'm not sure if they start out that way, or get that way, but there are gems there if you look for them.

As I flipped through the brochure, I felt caught between worlds..not the baby poet, not even the grad student I was 10 or so years ago, but not quite the seasoned poets who were listed as faculty with details on publications and awards and such.  Maybe it's an academic thing,,I have an MFA but do not teach, so while I have just as many books and publications, I lack a certain cache, A certain sparkle. Sometimes I call some people the "fancy poets" who do things like residencies and win NEA Fellowships--many of whom are also amazing, but I feel always like the interloper who somehow wrote a lot of poems but secretly, with no one really knowing. I also know fancy poets who actually write very little and seem lucky enough to still be fancy.  I've published books with fancy presses, even on a fancy award at least once,   Even occasionally I wind up in a fancy journal by luck or timing or someone seeking me out.  But still the feelings of being an outsider.  And maybe this is good, to be on the outside of things--to have been always the rallying cry for decentering the lit culture and dismantling the academic poetry industrial complex.  To have fought for certain types of legitimacy as I sat on blog comment threads and even real-life panels where people looked at me with a certain disdain for saying you needed to do things like self-publish and start presses and not be anyone's bitch, least of all legitimacy's.

Sometimes I feel like I came through a long journey or a war against my younger poet self and out the other side. It's not bad, and actually sort of freeing, but a weird place to exist-neither here nor there.  My first years as a poet in Chicago were surrounded largely by the open mic set. we had readings and made our ownchapbooks and legitimacy be damned.  Granted most people were only there to read their own stuff, but there was an energy, even when the poetry as bad   Later, academia seemed to be holding onto it tight fisted and sort of pale as people talked about "top-tier journals" and "a-list publications" and "send to THIS press, not THAT one" it all made me sort of nauseous. I think its true that many people leave academia and never write again, either becuase they loose interest or get busy with real life, or find something lacking.  I've seen many of them move on happily with lives doing other things and enjoying them immensely.   Most days, no one I know in real life knows I write poems or would want to read them. So the cool part is the stakes are never high enough to make a I get to write about weird stuff.    Also like I'm getting away with something.

The press is similar, and I used to laugh when people seemed amazed that I had the audacity to start a chapbook series, some negatively so,  My tenure as a sort of gatekeeper has of course, made me less awe-inspired of other gatekeepers.  In the end, we all publish what we love.  I could say it's "important" and it is, but not in the way that some editors would have you believe straddled atop their cultural capital.  That's true whether your reading for the New Yorker or a little operation like dgp.  It's a person, or in some cases people, who have tastes  (or similar tastes) and something sparks.  It's important to get the work out there, but not always important simply because you put it out there.

But I hope the baby poets come to realize all this sooner than later, because the road is much less bumpy on the other side...

Monday, April 03, 2017

20 years later

No automatic alt text available.

It occurred to me a few weeks back that I have been living in Chicago  as of this spring for 20 years.  Granted a year and a half of that was an ill-fated brief return to Rockford at the very end of the millenium, but I actually first moved here initially in summer of 1997 freshly out of college and the kind of optimistic that only lasts a little while.  As I was flipping through some old journals from around then a couple weekends back, it was sort if surreal reliving in detail finishing up my coursework at RC and moving out on my own for the first time.

Of course, it was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. My tiny Lincoln Park apartment with it's mattress on the floor.  The broken table stolen from my parent's basement.  My bathroom shower view of the top of the Sears tower and nothing else.  It was just me and my high school cat, Chelsea, and a year or so later, the new addition of Sophie. There were  also an abundance of ants, tiny ones that crawled along the floor cracks, and, about a year in,  sizeable roaches that crawled under the hallway door until I covered it with packing tape (thank god by then I had a futon on a frame)).  But still in that barely there kitchen I learned how to cook on my own--fried rice, stuffed pasta shells, parma rosa.    That summer, I spent a lot of time wandering about after dusk and applying for jobs in bookstores that I never got. (I did have a brief sojourn working at Starbucks that summer.) I don't remember if I was writing much during the transition, that productivity  would come a year or so later, but I do remember submitting older work I'd penned in my last months as an undergrad to places like The New Yorker (until I realized my audience isn't exactly the Lexus driving crowd)  I'd just discovered Poets and Writers a few months before I graduated, so there was a subscription to that and lots of SASEs.

No automatic alt text available.

I was also still trying to figure things out.  I'd been admitted to DePaul with the expectation that I would either get a certification to teach HS English (which was what my mother wanted) or to get my MA and then my Ph.d to teach at the college level (which is what I thought I wanted).    About a year in, I was steadily realizing that I was neither suited for nor really wanted either of these things. My anxiety, which was actually kinder in those days still  made it hard to imagine having the wherewithal to get up in front of a classroom everyday and make it out intact. I am also neither patient or altruistic enough to be a really good teacher.   Those anxieties spiraled me into that ridiculous winter of 1998 and its attendant depression, but I emerged with new energies and focus, and that summer, began writing the first poems that showed any sort of promise at all.  

I loved most of my classes that first semester--seminars on Victorian Novels and a Bibliography/Research class that focused on the Romantics. I was also just discovering the internet for the first time and lost many a day in the computer lab on PW discussion boards which was all entirely new to me.  Since the internet was still very much a limited time thing and not the way of life it is now, I lived more in the real world and at the same time less. I, of course, continued to read a lot.  Novels.  Poetry. Issues of magazines like the New Yorker and boring things like The Chronicle of Higher Education.   Watched a lot of network TV and late night reruns of Seinfeld and X-Files.  Spent a lot of time, pen in my hand or my mouth leaning over the wobbly table and a notebook or my sad little Brother Word processor that fall. Music wise, that first summer was all about Fiona Apple's TIDAL, which I distinctly remember putting in my CD player the first night when I was finally alone and unpacking. I didn't sleep that first night, kept the lights on all night, on my own whollly for the first time and terrified and not that I'd be murdered or raped or eaten by tiny ants--but none of these things happened.  Besides the roaches and the rent that kept climbing, it was actually a nice little studio in a beautiful neighborhood that I missed greatly when I left.

By the time I returned after year and a half or so away, I'd moved to a cheaper, further afield, neighborhood and a much bigger apartment (with no roaches or ants and which I still live in today), but there is sometimes nevertheless, this weird nostalgia for that time in my life I can't quite put my finger on.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

spider baby

True,  this movie is very weird.  I almost felt the need to apologize to my student workers for making them watch it (in fact, held it on the first floor so we could watch it from the desk.)   Tonight was Public Domainia, where we raid ARCHIVE.ORG for the strange and interesting of public domain flicks.  On Halloween,  we watched Night of the Living Dead and House on Haunted Hill. Tonight, on the docket was Wasp Queen, which is all about female vanity, and Spider Baby, which was all about..well. what?  Feral young women?  Scantily clad murderesses?  There was a serious Picnic at Hanging Rock vibe.  Also a weird Charles Manson feel. There was this certain fucked-upness about all of it that piqued my interest and seems ripe subject matter for poem making...I am also madly in love with this poster and its taglines.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I've already accepted that this week will be a bear, but I'm hoping it's much more the cuddly kind with a picnic basket than the savage bitey kind.

Already we are a day into HOAX! programming, tonight's installment being a very awesome reading with Melissa Severin and Annmarie O'Connell  (and at which I read a bit from both the blonde joke series and some of the Plath centos (the first time I'd read them aloud for anyone  and Sylvia's words and cadences sound strange in my mouth).  The show has been hung (last week's endeavor) and some questions for the artist's panel Thursday plotted, plus some prep for the optical illusions workshop and the Public Domainia film screening that sort of got roped into the week's programming from earlier this month since weird sci-fi seemed to fit the theme so well.  This is our 3rd actual focus week now that we're doing them every semester and not just for fall, and planning so many things right in a row feels more aghhhh! than usual where there's some breathing room between events, but I'm managing and trying to stay ahead of the game and not leave things til last minute (which saves me so much anxiety and worry)

This weekend, I spent some time working on some more drippy watercolors--florals and trees, as well as plotted some more dgp cover art.  I've been very good about working on visual art things throughout the week (the creaturely series and the new surrealism coloring book (see above) but it helps to have some time off to play with paints instead of collage (and since a lot of my recent stuff more digital than not), nice to be dealing with something more tactile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

journals, adolescence, and what the hell was wrong with me?

It is not only the first day of spring break (which doesn't mean all that much except I get sprung a little earlier and a few extra evening hours in the studio, ) but also the first day of actual Spring, which is chilly and rainy but still nice compared to a week ago.  I am coming off one of my blissful retreat weekends where I do little but work on writing and art projects and plot cover designs for dgp. I also found myself paging through some old journals from both twenty years ago (which I'll talk about next entry)  and also my first semester of college fabric covered one, circa 1992-93. If anything is more embarrasing than my high school diary, it is probably that one.  I'd yet delved into anything deeper than useless crushes and roommate hating, but I suppose there are bits in there about writing--projects I set myself the goal to do, plans for stories and playscripts that I'm pretty sure rarely materialized. No actual poems, but I do know I was already typing them on my graduation gift electric typewriter and also spent some serious time in the UNCW library paging through lit mags and plotting submissions I could barely afford postage for.

I bought that journal days before I left town for that first semester, so while I don't talk about much other than insipid song lyrics in between all the boy drama and bitching (which is what happens when you convince yourself you are madly in love with a boy who is just about to come out of the closet, plus another random romance later in the semester that never got off the ground ) I can almost smell the fear coming off the pages and lingering in the things I DON'T say (the sort of fear that occurs when you're 18 and drop yourself many states away from your former life. ) Especially when you find yourself waffling on the subject you planned to study with such certainty--and in fact, realize you're actually pretty hopeless when it comes to the sort of science brain you need for such an undertaking. Especially when that subject is what landed you so far away from home.

The takeaway I suppose was a full semester of typical "college life" complete with dorm rooms and dining halls and frat parties. With rummy marathons and drinking games sprawled out on the floor of a suite. . It wasn't exactly for me (outside of my badness as math, most of my classes were easy and not challenging in the least, it was expensive for my parents and difficult to travel, I could study English anywhere, etc.) I was also lonely, though I got along with some of my roommates, I had only begun to make friends outside of that before I left.  There were highlights, mostly of the reckless kind, --drunken trips in the back of a pickup truck on Halloween.  8 people jammed into a jeep for a midnight beach jaunt.  An affinity for mixing rum in giant water bottles full of coke or pepsi.  A diet that consisted mostly of cool ranch doritos and peanut m& ms. If I occasionally doubt whether my friends are truly my friends as a grown up, imagine that in the emotional roll of adolescence. I also tended toward over exaggeration in my writing then, so everything looks rather hilariously overwrought reading it as an adult.

There were moments when I thought I should probably throw it out it was so embarrassing, but I'm hesitant to cast that 18 year old version of myself into the dumpster.  It's sort of like encountering a vain, semi shallow girl who the world has not really gotten its teeth into yet, who is still sort of sheltered, for whom everything is OMG!OMG! and who hasn't yet tempered her journals into anything but emotional venting and maybe occasionally talking about wanting to write things. By the time I returned to journaling in earnest in early 1994, at the end of my sophomore year,  in one of many black & white composition books I would continue to write in until I moved to a blog, I at least talked mostly about things I was reading in classes, what I was studying, things I was working on. I  still occasionally vented, but my temper and my tone had evened considerably. That 18 year old, though I'd throw her out, but damn, she's pretty entertaining in a car crash sort of way and I have a hard time remembering what it was like to be her...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

dgp cover action

Much of the time, I get to dream up dgp covers from scratch and lately I’m feeling a more flat, graphic vibe…keep an eye out for these in the shop..

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winter has snapped its tale back around and slapped us in the ass with a whole bunch of snow and cold.  The good thing is it's probably not long for this world, and technically spring starts in just a few days nevertheless. I am trying to adjust to a second week of non-stop library shifts, so I'm waning, but still soldiering through with the usual tasks, albeit a little slower than usual and more prone to distractions.  I've been making some more creature collages (see above and below) for fun, as well as plotting out our HOAX! Conspiracies, Illusions, and Creative Hijinks Exhibit and week of programming.  Also planning our Annual Easter Egg Art Hunt as soon as I get hold of enough plastic eggs.   Otherwise, it's the usual cover and layout activities and an overflow of studio tasks. and maybe some poems in there somewhere (hopefully).

I did garner another acceptance from my Saturday submission morning submission blitz, landing some  of the Plath cento poems in an upcoming issue of interrupture. (and since it came kind fast I almost avoided it thinking it was a rejection, which it totally wasn't. )  My dreams and moods are weird lately and I find myself avoiding anything unpleasant or taxing in the way of bad news (not an easy feat--the sudden winter not helping my mood.)  I feel more brittle and breakable and I'm not sure why--especially since I was in good spirits over the weekend despite having to work the entirety of it. But I'm consoling myself with tacos and new dresses and raspberry lattes and hoping it just goes away.  I just keep telling myself in a few weeks it will be April, which I will disagree with old Tom--not cruel at all...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

a peek at a new series of collages

things I write about

Image result for writing on paper

Every once in a while, people (usually non creatives, non-writers, or at least non-poets). when they learn that I am a writer, inquire as to what exactly I write about.  I used to just shrug my shoulders and try to explain that poets sort of use EVERYTHING as material, or more recently, I'll say I write about mermaids and james franco, but I was thinking a couple weeks ago about the subject natters of various projects either published or underway and what themes were at work in a deeper or just more cosmetic way.

rural adolescence
mothers & daughters
discontented relationships
Joseph Cornell
transgression and danger
ghost stories / urban legends
fairy tales
suburban unrest
nature vs. "civilization"
movies, entertainment, pop culture
james franco
women as muse vs artist
sideshows & carnival women
surreal landscapes
the apocalypse
atom bombs & science fiction
blonde jokes
salvadore dali
sylvia plath
marriage & domesticity
body image
1970's teenagers
drowned women
alice in wonderland
abandoned hotels
renaissance dog girls
creepy gothic families
love poems & politics

Some of the subjects closer to the end of the list are barely projects (the dog girl--Antoinetta Gonzalez is just research notes, for example and not yet actual poems).  The Alice erasure project has been underway and stalled out for a while, and a couple things are just one or two poems into what I imagine will be a longer series...I've also been thinking about the difference of approach when it comes to compilation books and project books and how the latter seem to be driven by intent from the beginning and the former take shape during the process, but that's a blog entry for another day I suppose.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

the submission wilds

Image may contain: indoor

After over 20 years in this writing (business?  passion?  madness?) sometimes I forget how nice it feels to place a poem or a group of poems in a journal. a very singular and simple pleasure, one I don't experience enough of in all the crazy. .  Sadly, I don't really send out a lot of work to journals anymore--mostly due to time constraints and efforts driven elsewhere and just a general difficulty in deciding where to direct my efforts.  

Also, much of what I write lately is tied tightly into series, which sometimes makes pieces out of context not all that marketable outside the whole of the project. Sometimes the poems are finished and sent out in manuscripts before I ever get a chance to try to place them individually.  Every once in a while I get this panicked feeling that I need to publish more and will send out a couple, but if they are rejected, I don't typically volley them back out in the world like I did in the early days of sending out work. Occasionally, I get solicited, so I usually send work then (which also sometimes gets rejected as well.) In the days before the press took so much of my poetry time and when I was extra hungry for getting my work out there, I would send out poems as soon as they came back to me, and then again and again. . I've never really been able to do simsubs, since I am really bad  at record keeping and one tme unintentionally caused a slightly embarassing snafu (and then I'd only accidently sent out two identical batches.) 

In the early to mid 2000's I would fling rejected poems back out into the wild as quickly as they returned and usually, even if it took a few tries, most stuff eventually found a home somewhere.   By the time the fever almanac was published in 2006, pretty much every poem but one of two had garnered some sort of journal publication beforehand, and it was a similar situation with subsequent books (except for the shared properties..which was entirely unpublished when the book was accepted and quickly came out a few months later. 

A couple weeks ago, I got that panic feeling again and sent off a couple submissions. As I was hauling myself out of bed early today for an unhappy  weekend shift at the library, I was thrilled to see an acceptance from Hobart for some of the "How to Write a Love Poem in a Time of War" series, the first of that series to find a home,  which definitely made the morning much more satisfying and I realized how I missed that satisfaction a little--to even have work out there--even if it gets rejected--to approach opening my e-mail daily with the same excitement I used to approach my mailbox in the lobby of  my old Lincoln Park apartment building (the last place I lived where snail mail subs were a actually a thing) or crossing the grassy field to my parent's mailbox back when I was sending work out in college.)

So I've spent a bit of time when I actually got to work this morning scouring journal opportunities and compiling a list of promising possibilities. (I've found an excellent way to find kindred journals is to look at the bios of dgp authors since most likely, if I like THEIR work, there might be some possibility that the journals are of similar aesthetics tastes to my own and therefore likely to be interested in my own work--some I did not even know existed. )  The result was 8 batches of poems from a couple different projects sent off into the hinterlands, more than I've probably sent off in a year as a whole, so we'll see what happens.  I'm guessing rejections will have just the opposite reaction, but hopefully bad news will always be balanced by good. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

women's day, women's work

There's been a bit of contentious discussion over the National Womens Day strike on the FB and whether or not the privilege of being able to strike (to take time off work or time off from obligations) is, in fact it's own kind of privilege which most women cannot enjoy.  And perhaps the best thing is not to strike to show your dissatisfaction (and there is so much to be dissatisfied with) but to SHOW Up and kick some ass.  I am taking the latter route, having no real extra vacation days to be able to take and no one else to close the library, but the rest of my day has been devoted to press work--laying out chaps, assembling chaps, and designing covers for upcoming books--all of which is good feminist centered work. I am not one for hashtag activism in general, or a joiner of much of anything, even causes I support,  so I just try to concentrate on what I can do as a feminist everyday to make things better on a micro level and hope it filters out into the macro, or that the sort of work I do with women's voices makes some difference in the literary world, which of course, is only a tiny corner of the world at large.  And not just the press, but my own writing and art (it's themes and subjects and obsessions) and even  the art-related programming, displays, and exhibits in the library, which are always female heavy and intersectional.

Tonight, working on some covers (for amazeballs upcoming books by Leila Ortiz and Andrea Spofford) I was musing on some of the arguments I've had over the years with male authors over running a press that publishes only women--the butthurtness, the snideness, the claims of the "quality" work by men we'd be ignoring.  Really, they are arguments I got tied of having a decade ago, and kind of refuse to even respond to now in the interest of not fighting with people on the internets (itself SO 10 years ago.)  My aim when I started the press was actually less of a politically driven one and more so one of personal interest.  My education, heavy in women's writing and feminism theory paved the way toward wanting to examine women's work and voices, in much an anthropological way.  Later, the more I became increasingly aware of certain inequalities and bullshit, the more the mission of the press took on a more activist bent.  What started as a focus and interest of my own became a cause of sorts--a call to arms.   A call that seems more important than ever now, when there seems to be a war on women, or maybe there was always a war, but the world we thought we lived in before that was getting better was, in fact very much not. I cannot forget the Stanford rape case verdict, or DT's pussy-grabbing, or a thousand other things that shake me as a woman and as a feminist. That while we hoped that we'd be alive to see a female president, we should have known better--that there is perhaps nothing more threatening to stupid (or maybe even intelligent)  men than a smart powerful woman.

We know this, and yet we wish we could forget...

Monday, March 06, 2017


Sometimes,  I think the most uncertain I ever feel about my own writing follows not ordinary rejections and setbacks, but after reading the amazing work I get to publish with dgp --projects that sometimes are so freakishly good sometimes I get that scared panic feeling that I shouldn't even TRY to do this whole poetry thing, you know, because  obviously other people have it so much more on lock than I do. It comes and goes, as uncertainty does, but this weekend, as I was re-reading some upcoming manuscripts and plotting cover ideas, I felt it.  Which was both disconcerting and kind of exhilarating.  I guess if I can't write the things I want to write how I want to write them, I guess there is enormous comfort in helping bring those books into the world regardless.

It's Monday, so I'm feeling extra gratey and overwhelmed with what I have to do this week on so many fronts. I do have a shiny new printer in the studio, and a couple new vintage bag impulse purchases on their way (as well as less exciting things like regular paper and cardstock)  My little retreat weekends are heavenly, but re-entry is a bitch sometimes.  I get spoiled by working on the things I want to work on and then have to put those on hold for other less fun things, like, you know, going to work and all.   I also had a moment of panic this weekend about the rather large queue of writing projects I've been plotting over the years, some of which I have only dipped a tiny toe into--the ridiculous feeling that I am getting older (well I guess I'm  only 42 probably at the halfway point of my life if I'm lucky.)  How I'm feeling the pressure to get things out and onto the page lest they never get them (which is ridiculous since I obviously have plenty of time.  but then what if I don't?  What if I get some terminal disease--or hit by a bus--or rendered blind or unable to type (and this is probably just the anxiety hamster talking--I've found the negative of time with my thoughts, is you know, sometimes well,  my thoughts)

The clouds in my head the past couple of days are commensurate with the clouds outside, though it's been a little warmer than last week.  It's March, so the forecast is promising, even though I do have to pull a double header in the library this weekend and therefore will be surrendering up my blissful weekend, but I'm hoping to get some serious, more concentration intensive work done, because it's certainly not happening today.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

editorial karma

No automatic alt text available.

I was going initially to write a long rambling, semi-ranty about editorial karma, about how late  last week I had an author, someone I do not really know, withdraw her manuscript from dgp's March line-up due to what she perceived as a lack of "enthusiasm" for the chapbook on my part.  I wasn't quite sure how to respond, mostly since I really had nothing but enthusiasm for the project--enough to plan on investing future hours and dollars into making it happen, but apparently that was not enough  I am not usually the type to fluff or over effuse--if I like something enough to want to publish it..I 'll say it straight out, but maybe I wasn't praise-worthy enough or too succint in my answers to her e-mails (we had already been talking a little bit about cover art a few days before, but weren't yet in the layout process.)

 I also got the feeling she expected something else--maybe a bit more of hand-holding or critiquing and editing pre-pub . I don't really do this, being more of a curatorial sort of editor and not a critiquer/workshopper type..if I take it, I pretty much like it as/is, so barring maybe some spacial considerations and formatting or consistency as we get it print ready, I don't really seek to change the work I publish. Otherwise, I wouldn't accept it in the first place if it was in need of revisions.  It's not my editorial style, nor I imagine what most of my author, who are pretty confident in their abilities, want at this stage in the process.  Maybe she was expecting something else and in that case, she really should go somewhere else who does approach editing in that way.

Luckily, she backed out before I actually had begun the layout process (but in my stories of snafus, that too has happened in a couple cases where the author decided they weren't happy with the poems anymore and wanted to scrap them (and in at least one case, sent me another project to consider that I loved.) I also once had an author balk that our covers were cardstock and not glossy and perfectbound, which apparently she did not realize until she actually ordered one of our books. Sso there was no winning that one.   I tend to be very flexible and informal with publication agreement, so no formal contracts, only written e-mail agreements (mostly since all rights go back to the author upon publication.)  I also wouldn't want anyone beholden to publishing their book with the press if they really didn't want to be there. Why would I?

Ideally, if someone needs to bow out--they do so early on as possible.  I've occasionally had situations where we've mutually decided not to go forward if a chapbook was accepted and due out as a full-length or there was a simsub snafu and it won a contest or something after the fact. Sometimes, projects get rolled into other projects.  Usually, if I like the authors work, I'll try to find a way to either work something out or take on something else they have available that I also love.

I spent most of Friday afternoon mostly just being hurt and cranky and wondering how anyone could imagine that I am not enthusiastic about the books I work on (you know, despite 6 million other obligations in the way of my day job and my own creative work that I am working around to make those books happen hell or highwater)    It was sort of that feeling that you are doing so much, far beyond what could be reasonable expected of you if you weren't quite so crazy, far beyond what you should do for your health and general sanity, and somehow, even that is not enough for some people.

That is, I felt that way until I opened up my facebook messages that afternoon  to find another amazing author (whose work had very recently appeared in wicked alice and to very enthusiastic response from not just me, but other readers.) querying whether or not I might like to see a manuscript.  And I was a little OMGOMGOMG! YES! (but I tried to play it So rather than a long, ranty-post, you get a short mini ramt and then I will instead direct you to the work of the amazing writer who will likely be filling the empty slot.  So even when interactions are kind of hurtful and far from ideal, 99.9% of authors are absolutely amazing and lovely. And this makes the rest of it worth it....

Friday, March 03, 2017

friday frivolity | spring wardrobe switercheroo

No automatic alt text available.

Okay, technically it's not yet spring.  And technically I'm a little early with my spring wardrobe switchout (I usually aim for St Patties Day) but it's been so mild off and on the past few weeks, I thought I would get a jump on my closet and put away those dreary winter duds for another year (when they will once again seem cozy and interesting).

Spring is hard to dress for. It's still chilly in most of March and April, so winter coats stay out for awhile and only mid-April to jackets begin to happen.  While I have put away things like flannel dresses and sweater dresses, I will no doubt be wearing sweaters with the brighter, lighter spring patterned frocks for awhile, and probably even tights for a bit longer.   Most of my spring clothes are those which are a little lighter and in the pastel ranges, plus a lot of my 4 season wears that can pass all of them depending on what I wear with them. Some things are definitely moving toward summer and I probably won't be able to wear them properly until April.

Some of my favorite spring things are filmy watercolor-inspired florals, an abundance of stripes, wrap dresses lots of soft greys and maybe some greens, pinks, and lavenders.  I picked up the cutest black halter dress with chrysanthemums last week on Poshmark that will either be for my New Orleans trip in late April or our fancy Library Award shindig around the same time. I also went on a bit of a shoe binge the week before last..I had been going to replace some boots that I'd worn out completely, but in lieu of those (I am done with winter anyway), I picked up several pairs of ballet flats and mary janes that should fill all my warmer footware needs.

I also did a little purging--though not as much as I anticipated..some older pieces that were either worn or two big, something I'd intended to mend but realized it was far too complicated a job.  Switching things out does have the the effect of streamlning a little each time it happens, which keeps me from holding on to things I either am not all that excited about or are well past their wearing days. A lot of it might be a certain amount of scarcity thinking.  I used to be about 2 sizes larger, so cute plus clothes were hard to come by and nothing really fit. I have a few more options now and things just fit better in general, but I'm still stuck occasionally in the attitude that there are so few things I like that I should hold onto everything (even if it's seen much better days.)

Monday, February 27, 2017

pretty, interesting things

No automatic alt text available.

Poetry, I usually get. It's not like I've always gotten it, and in fact, there were many, many years of NOT getting it before I got it, but I move about in the poetry world with a fair amount confidence mostly in my practices, tastes, and abilities. Feel I can somehow articulate and speak with authority when it comes to other poets.  Art, however, is a different beast altogether, and sometimes, I feel most our of my element within in, no matter what medium I'm working in.

I was always the girl who tried really hard in grade school art class, but for whom things always went slightly awry.  I would carefully craft my tiny clay pinch pot only to have one of the sides cave in before firing.  I once made a wire sculpture of a cheerleader whose one arm was slightly shorter than the other. Was a disaster when it came to messy things..glue, paint glitter.  (this is still true.)  My artist vision was always sound, always brimming with ideas and thoughts about how things SHOULD turn out.  I was very creative, but lacked a certain amount of skill or hand eye coordination or making magic.  I still cannot draw to save my life.

My sister was an art class kid--one of the malcontents who felt most comfortable among the turpentine soaking brushes of the art classroom in highschool and worked mostly in oils.  I was probably a newspaper kid. Or maybe a drama kid.  But I never took an art class in the 6 odd years after elementary school. In college, I did paint sets though, during my bout with the theatre bug, and was actually pretty decent at faux techniques--fake stone, fake wood, the shadowing required to make 2-D look 3-D, but always thought that while my skills looked adequate from a few rows back, up close, there was always a certain amount of imperfection.

I learned early on I was pretty good with words--could write papers and essays and stories without battling an eyelash, so I didn't feel too bad about my lack of art skills--after all, there are many things I am horrible at--math, cooking. Making small talk. I moved about in the world not even mourning the lack of those skills throughout most of my teens and twenties. But maybe there were yearnings and inclinations that I didn't even notice until afterwards. I did spend long hours hand coding my websites (which I had taught myself on a super-basic levl) until they looked just right (the right colors, the right amount of white space, balance, fonts, etc.).

A couple of things coalesced around the time I turned 30 that sent me off in a direction  hadn't even considered. and one was the emergence of a library arts series, whereupon we were urged, as staff members, to submit and display our work.  As a writer, I wasn't sure if that request even pertained to me, but my first stab, at a co-workers urging, was an unrolling roll of text that spanned the first floor and went up the stairs to the 3rd Floor and around the gallery space.  Another was sheets of muslin hung museum banner style and covered in text. I was trying, but felt limited in just working with text, almost as if there was a certain visually-oriented desire itching in my fingers and about to be born.   Those installations, however, gave me a little confidence, and in 2004 I wound up taking a summer workshop down at the Book and Paper Center on collage techniques.  By that fall, you couldn't stop me.  Drawing I sucked at, but I could cut and paste like a pro. Mostly I just made things for either the art shows or myself, but in 2007, I started selling a lot of the originals pretty successfully on Etsy.  It was of course the early days of the venue, when getting seen was a lot easier than it would become later.

The other factor was the press.  When I started dgp in 2004, I was initially mostly using readymade artwork for covers, either photos or artwork the poet had arranged for us to use, or simple vintage images and graphics. My design skills were pretty much limited, and only in the next few years, did I actually start designing pieces, either digitally or manually for the books we publish.  We still use a mix of approaches--sometimes other artists/designers, sometimes me, sometimes even the author themselves, but I do get to work on a lot of covers every publications season, which is one of my favorites parts of running the press. Over time, I've graduated from paper and digital collage to other things--printmaking, book sculptures, painting. I'm still learning when it comes to most of these and still very uncertain.  Tomorrow night, I get to learn silk screening for the first time for an AofR workshop, which I am excited about.

Art has always seemed a more satisfyingly tangible thing than poetry.  Whenever I sell collages or prints or even paper foods,'s simple..I make a piece, someone gives me money.  I make another.  Very, very different from writing, where I write a piece.  maybe someone reads it, maybe not, and no one pretty much ever gives you money for it. In fact, if you enter a lot of contests, you lose money on the whole endeavor.  But then there seems to be much more demand for pretty, interesting things to put on your walls than there ever is for pretty, interesting words on your shelves.

In recent years, I've been working more to merge these two identities--working on more visual/text projects where they were always mostly separate before.  Collage series that become poems, or poems that inspire visual exploits. Sometimes the stars align and things are created in tandem (like with my recent florographia project.)  The zine series has done a lot to get me thinking in these directions, in both directions simultaneously, a foot planted in both worlds. I'm still unsteady in my visual practices, but fusing them with the words sometimes helps immensely (and this could probably be said for my cover design exploits for the press as well.)