Tuesday, August 22, 2017

cover love

We've been moving full-on through summer releases for dgp, and I've gotten to design a few more cover designs from scratch since the last batch.  These were all done digitally from suggestions from authors what they were going for,  and I am a little bit  in love with all of them, but especially those twins, tho...

all of them are available now in the shop...

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Yesterday morning found me at the Field Museum, getting a chance to see oversized dino fossils and some of the collection in the museum's library, including the giant Audubon (that needed an Audubon Ottoman it was so big) and some gorgeous botanical books that set me dreaming of flowers and itching to break out the new markers I've yet to christen. I'd initially planned to spend the afternoon at the museum, checking out the Specimen's exhibit, but my feets were tired and I was lured away by dim sum, so it will have to await another day and another visit.

Next weekend I will be in Rockford for a visit and then the week after that, getting ready for the semester to begin and summer will be gone just like that. I always am of mixed feelings about this time of year, or maybe it's the last month of any extreme season (summer or winter), anxious to get to fall or spring and my more favorite parts  I'm a spring baby, so I probably prefer it more than fall, but I also love fall's colors and coziness (and the clothes are always the very best--I once again have my sights set on rich fall florals and boots and sweater dresses, oh my!)  Of course, remind me of this in February when I am whining about winter...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

a peek into dgp

Summer is slipping out from under me, both swiftly and slowly at the same time, and I am reaching the point where I am approaching a third of the way through  the incoming dgp submissions for next year.  There are days when I have to stop reading because I want to take everything.  There are days when I stop reading because I'm flipping through and nothing is catching my fancy. Somewhere there is a happy medium and on those days, I make hard decisions about what I can possibly fit into a given month. By now, we are already chock full for January, February, March, and most of April, which is where I want to be at this point.  There are also a stack of maybes that languish until the end and I fill in where there's room, though the past couple of years, my maybes had to be rejected. We'll see what happens this year.

I would like to say I read everything cover to  cover, but with coming up on 500 books, I know that's not possible.  So I read about 5 pages into each, longer into the ones I'm digging, all the way through the maybes and the yesses,  Some are easy--a quick no--usually not due to any sort of manuscript integrity  but more do to writing style. I don't even get a lot of really bad cliche stuff anymore (maybe 20%) , but some are definitely more straightforward lyrical or narrative poems that don't really excite me all that much (another 30-40%.)  Stuff in this vein only when it surprises me or gets weird, or the voice is fractured or unruly somehow. There's another 10-20 % that don't seem to work as chapbooks, or are too random in their construction where I usually like a tighter focus. Another 20% that are structurally sound and well wrought but are not my favorites.  And then the 10% or so that knocks my socks off and comes down ultimately to whether a not when I look at the book, I wish it were something I had written.  All of which sounds horribly subjective when we think of editors choosing the "best" of any batch of submissions, but truthfully, it's a very subjective task.

Yesterday I was having a day when nothing pleased me in the first hour of reading, but in the second  I managed to find a three yesses--(one this strange language collage of Tiana Lavrova (something so unusual to me that I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but by the end, was certain I kinda loved it) and chaps from Sarah Jones and Erin Salughter.  All very different books and voices but somehow all very undeniably dgp, which is very much about me and my tastes and also the collective voice that has developed through over 600 books. (and it's crazy to me to realize that's how many we've published in 13 years, and by the end of this year, even more.)

I always have been dedicated to going the maximum route rather than the scarce (go big or go home)--so we do take on a lot of books, probably way more than most  similarly sized presses  but I feel like they all somehow are animals moving in the same direction, maybe differently in terms of style and subject matter, but of the general species.  I determined that I would never put myself in the position of having to say not to anything I really loved .  Also that a flood is more effective in getting noticed than a trickle. Sometimes this means I fall behind, or freak out in the studio over time, or get behind on orders when things are moving briskly, but it's all good solid work and I am honored everyday to be able to continue to do it.  And probably it feels more important now than it even ever did before--to be getting women's voices out there and into the conversation, all 600 of them (well less because of of authors with multiple titles with us, but you get the gist..)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tiki Madness

Our current exhibit in the library is a love affair with all things Tiki, and for which I tried some pochoir technique prints and they didn't turn out so bad...Below, is the promo film I cobbled together as a sort of experiment/promotion for the exhibit.  It did turn out bad, but it's a good kind of bad...enjoy!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Summer seems to have swallowed me whole on occasion and this is one of those occasions.  Still there has been chocolate cake for breakfast and an acceptance for an article on our library gaming program from Library As Incubator.  There has been mothman / Lolla mashups (the two most notable things happening downtown at the moment.)  There has been ALA panel brainstorming and another programming writeup on murder mysteries. There has been folding--so much folding--in the studio getting out orders and author copies and right now it looks like there very well may have been a tornado come through.   Today, some manuscript reading and some responses (good and bad) sent along.

Tomorrow, Friday, and the day I focus on my own writing.  Mostly I'll be typing up and submitting the last of the love poems that have been languishing in my notebook since I came back from vacation.  They're good.  Frightfully good.  And though I know the shiny usually wears off on whatever project is newest, right now I am reveling in them. There is also the notebook full of UNUSUAL CREATURES pieces to tend to and type up, easier now that I have a laptop at home. I am also very close to getting out the DIRTY BLONDE zine for the zine series (see above), ..collages and poems and blonde jokes aplenty...watch for it in the shop soon..

Friday, July 21, 2017

frivolous friday | vintage obsessions

I've been thinking a lot lately about collections.. Since pretty much the entirety of my household has come either via thriftstores or  secondhand over the years I've managed to amass some pretty cool stuff, including two mid-century avocado media cabinets, a battered old workbench I use for painting, a small collection of industrial stools and office chairs that are much much  cooler than any new dining room set.  I do have a few pet collecting  passions I've been taking  some shots of recently, including mid-century dishware, vintage purses and framed flowers and crewel work.  I'm fast running out of room to indulge the hoarding, but I did recently procure another leopard print bag and a cherry print needlepoint purse, on top of a couple more pyrex mixing bowls.  I also indulged a new fascination with black velvet kitch paintings, that may become an entirely new obsession.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Image may contain: plant, bedroom, table and indoor

Long time, no blog, but things have been insanely insane for the past few weeks that were filled with many things  (vacation time with my folks, 4th of July festivities, all sort of prep for the fall semester in the library,  lots of bookmaking in the studio)   I  came back to the city still reeling from losing Zoe, one cat half of the gingers, trying to catch up on work I'd missed during my time away, and have been just trying to keep my head above water.  

Things are slowing back into their normal routines, and I've been doing a little studio re-arranging (I did a huge supply buying binge over the weekend and picked up a new partition to hang artwork on since the wall space is pretty much occupado with shelves and furniture these days,  a rack for prints, ample cardstock and all sorts of other supplies like printmaking ink and paper. It was the first time I had a little financial breathing room since my New Orleans trip in the spring, so it was a bit cathartic. This of course was a bribery strategy to force me into doing an open studio in the fall--probably in October--so more on that as it gets close.

While I was in Rockford, I was able to put final touches on the HOW TO WRITE A LOVE POEM IN A TIME OF WAR series AND dig quite deep into the pieces that accompany the UNUSUAL CREATURES collages that will eventually be a sort of box project.   I was writing longhand, mostly since all I had access to was my small tablet and no keyboard, but it was an interesting variance for someone who mostly, outside of initial notes, composes on a screen and has since around 2005 (though I less looking forward to all the typing of drafts--it's a hefty chunk of text. )  I was able to get into a certain zone on the second project that I can't usually manage when I'm working all the time, so hopefully it was fruitful (I haven't yet looked at it since I got back, it all may be garbage.)

Plans are afoot for the fall term, and so far include a week devoted to tattoo art, zine night, a black light painting workshop, and a street vs. studio art battle and that's just September. Plus some fun gaming shenanigans on the side, including an Old Hollywood themed murder mystery in December.

In press doings, I am soldiering on through the summer releases (which I am only slightly behind on as usual) and looking toward fall.  Also doing some reading in the submissions queue, which is looking promising (and already worrisome in its size and bulk).

Summer has been alternating between oppressive and mild just enough to be mostly comfortable, and, to boot, has been extra stormy this year, which I appreciate (unless I'm trying to go out in it and wind up umbrellaless and drenched like last week on the way to the library) There's something exciting about a certain kind of heat that breaks every night with crashing, calamitous weather (well, not too calamitous.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

dgp : recent cover designs

In addition to a few collage covers, the ones I have been working on for dgp of late have largely graphic or typographical in nature and a lot of fun to create. Here are a few of the most recent...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

summer obsessions

The last few days have been coolish, mild delight and the perfect sort of summer weather.  Meanwhile, AofR is gearing up for our summer tiki exploits (including an exhibit, a matinee of trashy old tiki horror films, and some pop-up workshops.)  Meanwhile, I have been obsessed with atomic era tiki patterns like these and determined to work them into some collage action and maybe some dgp cover designs.

Image result for TIKI ATOMIC


Image result for TIKI ATOMIC

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 family..lol..) 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. 

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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)....so 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

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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

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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 ripple..so 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

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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.

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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..