Tuesday, December 31, 2019

sayonara 2019



Though I did a recap post on the past 10 years earlier this month, I feel like NYE requires a brief round up of this particular last year, though it was at times highly enjoyable and at times slowly terrifying.  According to this blog, as in most years, I published some poems, released a few book projects, made some art.  I wrote some things (good and bad). I failed both napowrimo and my 100 rejections project but am totally okay with it.  I watched GOT and mulled over the idea of a tattoo. I turned 45 and did not get said tattoo. I fell in love with the lilac bushes in the park and hosted some really great discussions on small presses and strange little girls in popular culture (not in the same panel, but that would be cool).  I taught workshops on bookwrecking, paper flowers, and paper quilling.   I ate lots of things, including  many things covered in raspberry jam (toast, English muffins, frozen waffles.)  I procured two demon siamese kittens who are just too much in their cuteness and firmly cemented my cat lady status.  I,  at times,  questioned my commitment to sparkle magic.  I watched some really good movies whilst high in theatres, including Midsommar, which informs my current theory on sad bear boys. I went to karaoke, which is one of my love's favorite things, but did not sing.  In July, I got a little too drunk on tequila and too little food and may have thrown up, college girl style, in the front yard at my dad's house. I presented at a couple different library conferences (on zines, on curated learning) and won a pretty cool award for creativity in libraries.   I finished my 9th full-length manuscript and began sending it out. I published my first piece of creative nonfiction in The Journal. I had a financial panic episode in September and made the decision to leave the free-flowing drain of the studio if I was going to right the ship.    I over-scheduled October and barely made it out alive. I read at the Field Museum and wrote a bunch of poems for it that are very good.   I moved out of the studio and then discovered it was probably the best decision I've ever made. (due the fact I can now make chapbooks in my pajamas while watching try-ons & closet organization videos on youtube and this makes me very happy.  Also money..I occasionally have it. )  I watched a lot of trashy holiday romances pre-Christmas and received grown up presents like crock-pots and cold brew pitchers, but also tequila liqueurs and witchy oracle cards. I am ringing in the New Year organizing the mess of the new studio set up in my dining room and making pizza--all good things.  So peace out, 2019.  You were probably more goodness than white knuckles, but only in retrospect.  Bring on 2020....

Sunday, December 29, 2019

love & fear



As we inch closer to 2020, we also inch closer to the impending release of sex & violence from Black Lawrence and some attendant festivities..I am determined to make a book trailer in the next few weeks, and get a start on planning some sort of release party in early summer. I've talked a bit about the genesis and nature of the entire book before here, where I wrote:

It was on the heels of some weird and troubling times for women in general, during which I’d been working on some prose poem series centered on some of my favorite things—Plath, horror movies, the work of Salvador Dali, while also working on a series of pieces about relationships and how difficult it is to reconcile love as a straight woman with male privilege and violence. I started to notice threads of ideas connecting all these disparate bits and suddenly had a manuscript that made sense thematically as an encapsulation of all sorts of anxieties that I foster as a woman in the world-about love, about violence and fear, about artmaking itself.   

And it's true---so much of this book and pulling it together was shaped by a few things that were coinciding in 2017 as I was finishing it-- our visit to the Death Museum in New Orleans (very much a church to the terrible things men do (usually to women), the Me Too movement, mass shootings, my own relationship and anxieties (all of these explored in the how to write a love poem in a time of war pieces).  The dirty blonde section, which is older,  is about uncomfortableness with female sexuality and agency.  The Plath centos in honey machine are about domestic routine and the idea of "the wife." The Dali poems are told from the point of view largely of Dali's wife in the guise of the ghostly little blue dog.

What results is hopefully an amalgamation of what it feels like to be a woman (or at least a mostly straight woman) who has to love a gender that she should probably really be afraid of given statistics--maybe not even just physical violence, but different types of agression, gaslighting, and erasure that plagues women in all settings.

You can get your hands on a copy by pre-ordering here...


Sunday, December 22, 2019

art and productivity | 2019

Today, I repeated the same ritual as last year.  Foraging through google docs and running blog entries, through dropbox folders and random files,  to assemble and print out the year's writing output.  Closing up the year, I was well aware I was not as productive in my exploits as 2018, when I finished the year with around 150 new pieces spread across various projects--and the better half of two different book manuscripts. While last year, sometimes the only things that kept me going through grief was that daily writing. So maybe I needed it less this year. so it didn't always happen. I would chug away on a project sometimes then drift away--get busy with other things at the start of my day. All the while, I kept telling myself it was okay to not be producing so much and that it'd be better served by slowing down.  Though occasionally the panic of that lack of production would set in, as it always did during fallow periods. Especially in light of many half-finished projects and ideas that sit idling for years sometimes (this is true of visual art as well.)

When I printed them all out this afternoon, I found close to 80 pieces written this year, across  5 different series--nothing to scoff at to be sure, and certainly more than I was tallying in my head. This also did not include the last batch of zodiac poems I can never keep track of, so probably approaching 100 more likely. Poems about changelings and body image, about serial killers and mass extinctions. With so much in flux this past year, and the niggling feeling I am doing so much, but only a little bit well, I am happy to see something solid and good to show for it, especially since my visual exploits have been more stagnant outside of cover designs.  I've never been much for numbers for the sake of numbers, but I'm aware that the higher number of things you write in a year, the better for the actual quality--like running laps or situps--even the less inspiring ones make you stronger.

I will do another beginning of the year post with what's on par creatively for 2020 (though looking at last year's, I barely scratched a lot of surfaces.)  I hope to continue my latest string of daily writing in January (though I am taking some time off while I am on vacation to turn to some editing & compiling these next two weeks.) Publication-wise, there is the release of Sex & Violence to look forward to in April, as well as some fragments from unusual creatures that will turn up in the next Tupelo Quarterly. (and that project itself a squirrely mass that needs to be tended to when I can concentrate on it.)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

courting darkness




I was reading something recently that talked about the lost monsters of Christmas, at least in the US, where we are much less likely to celebrate the Krampus or Black Pete in favor of reindeer and Santa Claus.  Christmas being a season of light rather than dark, though today's solstice tells us otherwise.. I am not a Christian, but the holiday to me has always been a cultural one--a holiday of family gatherings and gift-giving at this coldest, darkest time of the year, and therefore probably much more pagan in it's impulse.

Though I knew A Christmas Carol was a ghost story, imagine my shiver of delight in a grad school victorian novel class that in Dickens' time, it was far more appropriate to tell ghost stories whilst roasting chestnuts round the fire than not.  Things are scarier in the dark, and these are the darkest days of the year. Of course, we fill them with monsters and ghosts.   I also can't help think of the opposite the summer solstice, and it's weird magic and lore..the fairies that will abduct you if you fall asleep in the wrong spot.  The in-between-ness, that seems similar to Halloween in the thin-ness of veils. Then, there is too much light, and afternoons become far more treacherous than midnights.

I am awaiting a grocery delivery and getting ready to make some cookies when I have the ingredients, but I think I'll settle in with some scarier holiday themed fare tonight than the past couple of weekends Lifetime/Hallmark romances.  Black Christnas,  Krampus. Silent Night, Deadly Night.  It will be pitch black by 4:30 and a long, long night since I slept rather late today, the first official day of my winter vacation.  I also will have ingredients for chicken soup, which seems appropriate solstice fare, though lately anything is an occasion for soup (mostly since I can just throw everything in the pot and work on other things while it's cooking.) I have a bunch of books I am finishing to ship out Monday before I leave town, so I'll be working on those as I watch movies and drink my way through this new box of mint hot chocolate.  I also have a shiny new sketchbook/planner to move everything into to get ready for the new year. I am so ready for 2020.

Friday, December 20, 2019

stories and poem-making



In the past, I've occasionally mentioned one of the most (and perhaps one of the only truly useful) moments in my MFA workshop days.  We were heading toward the second half of the semester, and the instructor made us go around the room and talk about WHY we wrote the poems we'd brought--or perhaps why we wrote poems at all. The answers were various--self-expression, capturing a moment, making a point.  But I think I was the only one that said I wanted to tell a story--and several people seemed surprised by this. Not only surprised, but confused.  We quickly moved around the room and then ran out of time for more discussion before we had to turn to that week's slew of poems up for critique, but I found it to be a fascinating indicator of what we should expect from any given poem.  Not only what we value as writers of any given piece, but also what we value as readers (or even what we want our readers to value.)

Maybe it's my beginnings.  I was a fiction reader long before I read a lick of poetry.  My 11 year old self in love with horror novels no doubt very much informs my poet self.  The first thing I every tried to write creatively was a haunted house story for a district-wide creative writing book contest in junior high.  I distinctly remember fiddling in a notebook for it for weeks until I struggled and caved, turning in a simple counting book instead for the assignment.  When another girl in my class placed in the contest with some variety of teen story, I was insanely jealous and regretful that I hadn't seen it through. I discovered poems my freshman year of high school and subsequently filled my diary pages with them--poems about kittens, the moon, and unrequited love, . A poem was short--less pressure, less endurance, and according to my teacher, I was pretty good at writing them (this opinion based on a killer poem about flamingos I believe.) 

I was good at writing in general--five paragraph essays, papers on aliens and the u.s government, essays about the first amendment, articles about the environment for a Seventeen contest. .  Such things respectively won me good grades, an American Government class award, $300 from the Illinois Bar Association, and a big bag of free Noxema products. I would go on to write long winded editorials in my highschool paper about things like sea mammal rescues and animal testing (I was at that point, planning to go into marine biology upon graduation.). I didn't return to poems until my first year of college, and by then, they were slender and minimlist and more about societal ills than furry animals or love.   Amid lit and theatre classes, in  second spring in college, I enrolled in my first creative writing class--short fiction--and while I enjoyed writing the  stories, the teacher told me my sentences were too long--too lush and filled with commas, and that perhaps I'd be better suited as a poet. He talked about the Hemingways vs. the Faulkners of the writing world--and I was definitely one of the latter and this was trickier to wield well in the world of short fiction, where I mostly just ended up confusing and exasperating my reader.

In poetry, all bets were off. But the urge to tell stories did not go away. Some projects are obviously more narrative driven than others, but then you could probably say they all have this as a driving force behind them.   Even my first book, the fever almanac, hiding behind it's lyricism, propels itself on the story of women whose journeys mirror my own in many ways. Sometimes the stories are my stories, sometimes less so. But the point is the stories usually--especially in those projects that combine visual elements. Over the break, I'm hoping to start compiling and ordering the dark country manuscript, and this is especially true here--where certain more narrative projects --the taurus poems, the slenderman pieces, and beautiful sinister, are combined with the more lyric-essay-ish  exquisite damage. But even the latter is a story--a more personal story about growing up in the midwest amid kidnappings and horror movies and the darkness that hides under the surface of shopping malls and parking lots.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

taking stock of the 2010's



Around ten years ago, according to this very blog, I was marveling what a decade can do. How much happens in the span of ten years--mostly good things, but also some sad things.   As 2010 began, I was 35. I close this decade solidly in my mid-40's.  Since it my head, I am perpetually around 26, this fact always takes me aback.  Once in a while I will tell a story and say "A couple years ago" and realize it was in fact, more like seven.   Sometime in my mid-twenties, I blinked and 20 years passed.  But they were a good and prosperous two decades, the last of which was less about way finding and more about developing and flourishing.  So much has changed and yet so much has really not changed at all in the intervening decade.

In terms of library work, I am still in the same job, but also not in the same job at all--some duties having remained, but many added and developed.  I was still in the years of " keep quiet and collect the paycheck" but the last decade, particularly the latter half, have boasted many promising and fun developments with our AofR programming, and exciting new job title and raise coming around the corner, new things with chairing the Programming, Events & Promotion committee, a large amount of library related writing projects, conference participation, and such. All of which make my time there more engaging and interesting than it was a decade ago.

In terms of creative work, I feel like I am much better at writing more regularly.  I was still in a dry period as we came into the decade, and it wasn't until about a year later that I was able to break the ice on new work. I also settled into working equally in text & image--with a larger number of projects incorporating both. The decade has bought over 25 artist books & zine projects (more if you count little randoms I make for zine nights and Crypto Society that aren't available online and only through the zine exchange in small numbers.)

When it comes to writing, I've published 4 full-length (the shared properties of water and stars, girl show, major characters in minor films, and salvage), 3 of which were written in this time frame, with another two due out in the coming year (little apocalypse and sex & violence). Another 3 new longer collections compiled and in various stages of finalization (feed, dark country, and animal, vegetable. monster). Another about half done (automagic). Around 60 journal publications and a handful of anthologies. And so much great attention to my work in terms of reviews and interviews, so many reading invitations to series and events.  Including the Field Museum, which was the absolute end-cap to an excellent decade. I feel much happier in my writing skin nowadays and more focused in my work and what it's actually trying to do as whole.


As an artist, I picked up a hell of a lot more skills and techniques, many developed through actually having to teach them in the library--printmaking, ink painting, bookwrecking.  I love monotypes and hope to do another round of them over the break. I also have so much planned  I've barely scratched the surface on (including my virgin Cri-cut machine that is now securely back in my possession.)    I want to do more with the tactile pleasure of books, more box projects & such.


In terms of the press, we've grown so much in the decade, from just a handful of releases per year, to over 50 on the schedule (and sometimes even more.) Along the way, I have gotten to work with so many amazing authors and artists and get to know so many of our readers.  The publishing arm was smaller and the art/craft larger, but we've done a complete reversal, though I still like to make things on occasion for the shop (look for more as I settle into my home studio after the new year and get the dgp orders under control.) More prints, more paper goods, new flasks, totebags, tattoos, etc.  I am working through the submissions and acceptances for next year and they are the usual delight, so keep an eye out for those.


Personally, the losses outnumber the gains.  My mother.  My aunt. Three older cats (though they have been replaced by six (!) new ones somehow) Probably around four relationships (at least two that needed desperately to be done)  The studio space I really should have moved out of  much earlier. At least 3 phones, a few laptops/tablets, a half dozen printers,  A 20+ year old apartment key that snapped off in my hand a couple weeks back. Around 70 lbs. A couple umbrellas.  At least one really toxic "friend".  The gains however, are pretty great--the first healthy relationship in a longtime.  A renewed sense of what is really important and more importantly, what is not.  A better relationship with eating and my body.  Better ability to shop and find what I like in terms of clothes and just about everything.  An appreciation of Taylor Swift (begrudging), Lana del Rey (less begruding), and Marin Morris (not at all begrudging). An ongoing appreciation for guacamole (see that earlier link above) and a newer love of tequila  (and other soon-to-be-not-so- illicit substances I didn't really try til the past 5 years.) Overall, all good additions.





Wednesday, December 11, 2019

on tradition and loss



Until the past couple of years, I'd always approached the holidays with a certain level of excitement. Excitement for festivities, for presents, for family gatherings. I never wanted to rush it--relishing that after Thanksgiving, up went the tree and decor and thus began the shopping expeditions.  (Somehow for all that shopping, I was, and still am, a last minute gift shopper, even online.)  So much of Christmas was tradition--when we put the tree up, when we went to look at lights (this happened less as we got older, but it still occasionally happened as adults.)  You take a fundamental person out of these equations and the whole thing tips sideways.  Things change, entire family dynamics shift.  As such, I find myself trying to fake it til I make it terms of holiday joy, and it's a little exhausting sometimes.

And yet, new traditions take the place of old ones. For a while I try to set aside a day for my apartment decking out, though, some years are more spare than others (my tastes are changing toward more simple, minimalist decor (not to mention the hazards of two demon siamese.)  This year, I have a tiny tree with lights, some window snowflake decals, and a eucalyptus wreath on my apartment door. While I put everything up, I started watching terrible Hallmark-ish holiday romances and kept up the marathon through the rest of the weekend--while I cleaned, while I made books.  I've done this for the past few years, even before we lost my mother, so it's oddly comforting and something I look forward to.

Now, since my Dad's side of the family celebrates earlier in the month, we spend Christmas Eve with my sister--last year that included a trip to the Chinese Buffet and then presents & dessert at their place. And my Dad will cook for whoever is around on the holiday proper. It's not at all the same as it used to be, but mostly enjoyable if you can get around the hole that opens in the fabric sometimes and swallows you.  It doesn't look at all like it used to, which casts a wide shadow, yet you muddle through.   There are gatherings and parties that lead up, some of which I actually get out to--work stuff, Jonathan and I celebrate around the new year when I'm back in the city, all things to look forward to. But it's hard at the same time to approach it as eagerly as I once did.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

daily writing successes and fails



I am trying, now that things have settle down a bit, to get back to my daily writing.  I've been picking away at some poems meant to accompany my series of collages, eleanor and the tiny machines, and they are going well, but at the same time, I also have no idea where they are actually going, like what I'm actually doing, what story I am trying to tell.  Often I can fake it until I make it--when the thread that ties everything together becomes apparent enough that I can take hold of it and pull it together. There are only a dozen or so and I am still adrift a bit, and looking for the thread, but I suppose it's important to keep going until I have it.

I have not been overall as productive in 2019 as I was last year, when I finished the year with a big stack of poems and the better part if two book manuscripts.  This year, I worked unsteadily through the sping and early summer on various smaller things (including the summer house and licorice, laudanunm), then dug in on the extinction event series for a few months.  By then it was October and life was much in the way of chaos, so only in the last month, have I gotten back to even trying to write daily.  I am pretty much okay with that, but getting back into the habit always seems harder after you stray.  Especially since there are so many things that seem to need more attention than writing--like work and the press, which involve commitments to the college and to other people vs writing, which mostly benefits no one but me.

Even still my output for the year, when taken as a whole, is not too shabby.  Even my 100 submissions fail garnered me more acceptances than I might have had without it. After the new year, I hope to have a bunch of more recent stuff ready to submit, so we'll try again, if not for 100, then for a much smaller number (I don't do simultaneous subs for logistical reasons, so I actually don't think I have enough to submit to make that happen in a span of a year.)

I am also at work on revisions and polishing for the zodiac poems over this week and during the longer break, which will be making a print debut right after the new year, so watch for that..as well as some pieces from the unusual creatures box project in the next Tupelo Quarterly. 

Monday, December 09, 2019

from the submission pile wilds




This week,  I am rounding out my reading of dgp submissions for the summer and hoping to get all responses on their way by the end of next week in time for the holidays..It's been a rough, chaotic fall, and I am behind on just about everything, but am still making more progress than I was before the studio move. This round of submissions had me facing some hard choices about how much is too much in terms of releases, as well as timelines.  I feel sometimes like I need to be more realistic on whens and hows and how many, and then I just keep dropping balls and getting behind.  Being able to work at home helps immensely, as does taking on less manuscripts than the past couple of years.   I want to get the shipping backlog more under control as we come into the new year, as well as be able to expedite author copy orders more efficiently so there is less wait.  I just feel like there is a need to slow down and enjoy things more. I have about 10 already accepted, another  20 or so manuscripts in my "yes" pile,  and a few more I am thinking about adding in.  This will be enough, especially with a few stragglers held over from this year that I am still working on.  There is a little of room at the beginning of 2021 if I find more in what's left I'd like to take if folks don't mind the wait.  I want much less chaos and much more order, more intention, more deliberateness rather than careening from one thing to another, which pretty much describes the past decade.

Even still so much of what we get in the submission queue is amazing, so decisions are so hard.   I recently read first round for a larger press's chap contest, and the quality was all over the place, but I would say 80% of what I read for dgp is in the realm of publishable had we the room.  In past years, the acceptance rate was running about 10%, which is comfortable for me, maybe a little less this year.   But it's hard, especially as I start scheduling things in the latter half of the year, where it gets tighter and fewer spots left. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that dgp is still very much a word of mouth press, since we don't really advertise anywhere.  Also I'm not sure I would want to read more than what we get in a given year, so I won't be rushing to do that anytime soon...lol..


Friday, December 06, 2019

snapshots | december


1979

I start kindegarten and learn to read.  Kindegarten tastes like graham crackers and milk in cartons. My mother chooses my dresses meticulously and matches them with tights.  I get chicken pocks during the Christmas party at school and am bitter I didn't get to celebrate with paper chains and stockings sticky with glitter and cotton balls.  I am pretty sure my favorite song is about a sad Christmas tree, which I make my mother play over and over on vinyl while I cry in the middle of the room.  


1984

I'm 10 and in my first semester at a new school.  I immediately befriend another, older girl in my neighborhood.  We go to her house after school, where we drink regular soda and strange things like butter & sugar sandwiches every day while we watch Nickelodeon.  Her mom has a VW Rabbit and takes us to the Minute Man to buy jelly bracelets in mass quantities. . She has a rainbow bedspread and knows how to put on eyeliner, and I'm sad the next year when she goes to junior high and mean-girl-like ceases to be my friend. At school we have Colonial Day, where we make sad rendition of bread from yeast and churn our own butter.  I am still in my Rick Springfield phase, and spend most of my time at home playing children's things with my sister & cousins, or zoned out in my room with my walkman.  That year, .I stop wearing skirts, which up til then had been my favorite, mostly becuase the boys like to pull them up and they attract too much attention. 



1989

I am a high school sophomore who is extraordinarily smug about my ability to knock out the 5 paragraph essay every English teacher dreams about.  I'm really into listening to Bon Jovi and assorted 80's hair bands--Def Leppard, Skid Row, Warrant--in an attempt to distinguish myself from the musical tastes of my friends (and me a year before) which mostly consists of Paula Abdul and Belinda Carlisle. I like mostly jeans, sweaters, and faux white Keds, laundered weekly in the washing machine.  I still french cuff my jeans & fight with my mother a lot. I remember movies and sleepovers with friends, but mostly we played board games and drank  a lot of Mountain Dew. Mostly I think of these years as a sort of restless limbo which I hoped would be abated by getting my driver's license the following summer and some false sense of freedom I imagined it entailed.


1994

I'm in my second year at college, just beginning to work in the theater department and taking some demanding lit classes.  I wear a lot of black clothing as such, and spend my time listening to Tori Amos on repeat and re-reading The Bell Jar and Plath's letters in some attempt to guide my path as a writer.  (Basically, this describes every 20 year old English major in the history of the world.)  I live with my parent's who I see rather infrequently given our schedules, but I am mostly in rehearsals or the library between classes.  I also keep rather late nights in front of the sole tv after my parents go to bed watching a lot of randomness and working on poems propped between the coffee table and the front of couch. 


1999

I'm 25 and just out of grad school and into my first real job at an elementary school library.  It has ridiculously early hours and startlingly low pay, but I weirdly love story hours and preparing bulletin boards and displays even still.  It's stressful and exhausting, and paid so little I still had to live with my parents, but it eventually gave me the requisite experience to land the job I still have today. I still wear a lot of black and gray sweaters and jeans or long skirts with boots or chunky shoes, as per 90's guidelines. My musical tastes were still rolling amidst girls with guitars and 90's bands from the years prior. A year later, I would be back in Chicago. 


2004

These are the years that blend together.  I know I am in grad school (again, this time the MFA.) and working on the errata poems.  I'm pretty sure my 1st book fever was running high that fall, so there is a lot of compiling and sorting and sending to contests..  I had also just begun the adventure that is dancing girl press with an earlier chap of mine and our first official release that November.  Because I won a decent sized local award in the spring, I'm doing a lot of readings and beginning to get comfortable in the poetry world a couple years into publishing regularly and sending out work.  I am also just beginning to delve into the visual art, and mostly making rudimentary collages in secret.  I'm about 2 years into a relationship that mostly consisted of occasional visits due to distance and torrid, saucy e-mails back and forth in the interim. I am still wearing black sweaters and long skirts with boots. I listen to a lot of Damien Rice and (still) Tori Amos and don't have a computer at home for another year.  I read a lot more then, mostly fiction, and still work at the library, though I couldn't really tell you what I was doing in those years besides occasional paperwork and talking to a friend who worked in ILL. 

2009

The etsy shop is in full-swing, so mostly I am exhausted making and stocking stuff for that & packing orders in the studio, which I'd moved into a couple years prior. My efforts are pulled in various directions--books, art, jewlery, soap & bath stuff, and I was making good money, but also feeling like I wasn't able to devote the energies to the things I needed to.  I was barely writing--a poem or two every couple of months, and was still in a weird post-MFA paralysis where it felt like too many fingers had been in my poems.  I am in a relationship with someone I shouldn't have been, and it's high drama and angry e-mails with his wife, and super good when it's good, but horrible when it's bad. . Because I had a hard time connecting to anyone else as well in those years, I try to hold onto it, but it keeps cracking up. Later I write a bunch of poems about it and chalk it up to my misguided 30-something doings.


2014

Mostly what I remember about this year culminates a in bad pinched nerve situation in late fall that leaves me bedridden for a couple weeks.  I deal with the scaredness and depression by binge watching holiday romance movies and buying too many coats online. When I return to work, I can still barely walk or stand for long until into January. The year until then had been good--a nice summer, new kittens, pretty dresses.  But fall also brought the end of 4 year on & off relationship with someone much younger due to him moving to another city. I am really completely wholly single for the first time in years and it's weird, but also kind of nice.  I lie in bed and work on proofs for major characters in minor films, which will be out the following February. Musically,  I listen to a lot Lana Del Ray. 



2019

Yesterday, I think again about how nice it is to be able to work on books at home and how much less stressed I feel since giving up the studio space   I am overloaded at the library, and we are vastly understaffed  , but I feel the things I have to do are mostly good things--exhibits and planning and such.  At home, I plot out a few Christmas decorations and weekend plans to watch horrible christmas movies.  Earlier this week, I send off the manuscript for book no. 9. I find myself weirdly in a stable, even healthy, relationship with someone who seems to suit me exceptionally well for the past 4 years. I mostly still wear dresses, and they're not at all black all the time, but only sometimes.  I find myself listening to a lot of country music, new and old, and am much less self-conscious about this fact. I determined 2020 will be the year I give up allowing mental real estate to people who are assholes.   

   

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

lizzie borden took an axe



This week has been thick with Lizzie Borden research and planning for our Library murder mystery this Friday, the sort of game-making I love ( I am much less of a player and more of a maker, so I'm not sure what that says about me.)  I love the narrative and twists, to be orchestrating rather than orchestrated, and it's a lot of fun, plus good for getting people familiar with the library in a way much more interesting than an instruction session. It's our final event in our Lethal Ladies programming schedule--I hate to see it come to an end, especially since the exhibit looks amazing and I hate to see it come down after the holidays.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

writing & art bits | november edition




*Several images and text portions of my summer house series are in the latest issue of Tupelo Quarterly

*My first official piece of creative non-fiction, the hunger palace,  landed earlier this month in The Journal, and can be read here ,

*I am continuing to work on digital offerings of some older projects, the most recent of which are ghost landscapes: a travelogue, havoc, and ordinary planet.  Watch for more before the close out of the year, as well as a new print offering in the poets zodiac.

*Preparations and final proofs are done for next spring sex & violence release, which is already available for pre-order from Black Lawrence Press.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019



Want to learn how to make awesome DIY snow globes to feature your art & other creations?  To give as gifts?  To line your window ledges three deep?  Join us for the latest How To Tuesday workshop, where we will learn how to make simple snow globes and explore all their creative possibilities. We’ll furnish jars of various sizes, materials, tiny items, and a laminator (for paper images.) You bring imagination, inspiration, curiosity, your own items you’d like to include.

The Aesthetics of Research is an ongoing project dedicated to exploring the role that libraries and their collections play in artistic process, creative community building, and resource-sharing in the arts. How-To-Tuesday is a monthly series exploring the Library's vast collection of art & craft how-tos.



Monday, November 25, 2019

over and under the transom


Earlier, I was sending off a submission of the newest full-length project  (to a press I already love to work with and happens to have an open reading period happening this month.) and I was thinking about how strange and momentous the process of sort of thunking that book over the transom really is. How it's almost like sending your child off to kindegarten, but a kindegarten they may very well be send home from with a "no thanks."

I've been extraordinarily lucky that my books, despite the endeavor of landing that first one which took a little longer, have found really amazing homes without too much herculean effort.  And still, there's a bit of self doubt everytime a compile a book.  Sure, the individual poems do well, even the smaller chap projects that may make up the book are generally well recieved (I usually issue these on my own to sell online, give away at readings, trade with other authors  and send out through the Books & Objects Series, and people seem to get excited about them. )  On one hand, I could say I've gotten very good at compiling a manuscript, having done it many times.  On the other hand, I could say that I sometimes still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.  And even though I often help other writers compile their books, it's always easier with that distance.  It's not MY work, but someone else's.  Someone else's kindergartener trotting off to the bus stop.

Every once in while, I'll read someone else's pointers on compiling books, on submitting, on publishing. I start to get nervous, becuase there are sometimes things I never even would have thought of doing, approaches that didn't occur to me. Lately, my books are thematically strung together, but not really "projects" in the literal sense. (girl show was a project book, as was the shared properties of water and stars)  but I would consider the others more like collections that constellate around similar themes and concerns, particularly the last couple and the ones I'm in the throes of now. I feel like the approaches to compilation are different, and even more so the more disparate the poems and the threads that bind them together.  That first book is always hard, yo, especially since you are usually trying to figure out what sort of book you even want to write.

Last week, I was unpacking a stack of my own  books I'd brought home from the studio, and they were so strange to me..that I have written this many books, let alone found someone to publish them, is still a little surreal sometimes. In some cases they were written over many years, in some, barely any time at all, but they seem at times massive and unruly, though I'm pretty sure even my longest book taps out considerably before 100 pages.  I couldn't imagine what one would do with a novel.

So I polish the cheeks and send my little feed manuscript off into the world. It's an odd little bird, and feels extra vulnerable, given the subject matter (mothers and daughters, food issues and body image).  It begins with the line "Every so often, the snake eats the spider.  The spider eats the fly." and ends with a bunch of stolen dead birds in a fridge.   In other words, it pretty much encompasses my aesthetic to a tee.

Friday, November 22, 2019

notes & things | 11/22/19

It was a busy week with Library things, the opening of an exhibit on the 2nd Floor and hosting a Career Center event, but I've had a day off today for working last weekend and slept luxuriously into the afternoon.  Next week is a short one, but I'll be heading to Rockford over the holiday weekend, so am enjoying my downtime this weekend--making books and listening to trashy music today amidst acrobatic cat antics on the part of the siamese demons who are startlingly seeming to be larger every time I see them.  Later, I'll make pizza and find some good things to watch. I am still largely ambivalent about holidays in general the past couple of years.  I know my mother's absence has everything to do with this feeling, so hopefully it will go away as years go on. Still, I try to trick myself into having fun by going through the motions. Not sure on decorating this year,  but definitely no tree (see the aforementioned demons) but maybe a new wreath and some lights.   

The weather circled back around, after that cold snap last week, to something more like usual November-ish. Which means if we can hold of true winter through December, it might not be too bad. It's the arctic chill (X) snow cover (X) time length (=) my winter unhappiness.  If any of these are on the lighter side, I can deal with it and don't get too wintery blue. I'm fighting my urge to buy more winter wear, my coping mechanism for staving off those very same blues, especially since coat storage has reached the critical level and it gets harder to pull them from the closet when the rack is too full.

Someone mentioned on social media recently that we are at the end of a decade. Which seems crazy to me since I feel we were just ringing in the new one.  In later 2009,  I was amidst that period of etsy shop holiday season crazy.   I was making decent money selling jewelry, soap, and vintage,  but  I wasn't really writing or making all that much art on my own though.  Things were still hectic on occasion, but my day job less exciting creatively than it is now and more routine. Personally I was sort of lilting romantically from thing to thing and back into bad habits on occasion.  2009-2010 are less memorable with less to show for them.

As for the decade, since then I feel like a better capture of the last 10 years requires it's own entry, so watch for that in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

ghost landscapes: a travelogue



"Now, I'm all void and riverbeds, the inside/outside game where I lose every round. Where my molars are aching and useless and as large as a thoroughbreds when I bite down on the conductors thumb.  When I take the bit and fall asleep for days while he slowly strokes my hair."

___


This weeks digitization project is a short series of prose poems and painted landscape postcards from the Books & Objects series in 2014.  Enjoy!

http://www.kristybowen.net/ghostlandscapese-chap.pdf

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

new ways of working and letting go...



Last night, assembling books at 1am before I went to bed, I was struck by how much calmer I am now than a couple months ago.  It's a realization that strikes me, especially when I am able to finish a batch of books (or several) during a time like overnight when I normally would have had to sandwich all of them into the couple hours I was able to be at the studio.  It does occur to me occasionally that I'd have been better served to have never rented the space, the only thing sustaining me being some more storage space for supplies (and having the whole operation & big shelves at home has proved less taxing. The dining room is a mess right now, but it's just a few unpacked boxes I'll get to this weekend.) There was the dream, of course, of events and open studios, but there wasn't room for anything more than the occasional open studio (which never really happened that frequently.)  And perhaps that is the need that needed to be cast off--that little dream at the back of my head that I would one day have a little public space, a little shop, maybe, somewhere to sell books and art and maybe host readings and workshops. Maybe a bigger space there in the building (which is hilarious since I could barely afford the one had most months.) 

At the same time, months would pass and no open studio materialized.  There were a few multi-faceted reasons for this:  The schedule didn't really work with my Friday library shift, which didn't allow me to leave until 8pm.  I really didn't want to extrovert having spent all day doing that already at work. Most Fridays, I am so tired from the week I just usually want to go home and fall exhausted into bed.  Usually,  the studio was a litter of half assembled books and trimmings and less than presentable.  Because I needed to make books when there, my inventory of the sort of things that actually SOLD at open studios (art, paper goods, accessories) were embarassingly thin, and therefore not worth the effort of having open hours.   

And ultimately, this one took a while to come around to.  The fact that I really don't like people in my space.  There were many instances, when I did have open studios, that people annoyed me deeply--children spilling things on paper goods, folks rooting through the hair clips and asking to switch the sets around.  People looking through the art and saying dismissive things like "Well, I could make that on my own.  This one probably indicated that while the idea of a shop was nice, the reality of it wasn't suited to my temperament.  Years ago, early on, I enjoyed having a couple workshops, salons and readings when there was still room, and the poetry people were delightful and mostly only interested in books.  But the general grabby masses during the crazy crowded holiday open studio.  Not so much.

All of the gains didn't really balance with the negs.  I can still host plenty of workshops and readings in the Library, where I've already been doing it for years.  I can make & ship books from home, where I would much rather spend my time. If I want to do book fairs and craft fairs, I can (and being less exhuasted financially and mentally, I am more likely to WANT to. ) Also, everything is in one place in terms of supplies and everything I need, which just makes me feel better and more focused.   Not to mention, that several hundred dollars that I won't be spending on rent, means I can buy more paper and supplies for the special projects that I've been waiting to get to when I had more funds.  And, of course, the crisis point that needed to be solved, to not be dipping into my bills, rent  & living expenses to pay that rent.  dgp makes plenty enough to keep me in toner and supplies, but it's never made enough, even in our flushest months, to pay the entire rent unless i sold a whole lot of other art stuff or had a larger number of author copy orders than usual. 

I don't wake up each day feeling overwhelmed and trying to figure out how to cram all that work into those few precious hours.  If I don't finish something before I have to leave for work, I can finish it that night. It's a much calmer way of existing in the world and I m relishing it. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

dgp notes | november edition




I have been settling back into press duties after the upheaval, and despite occasionally not being able to find things--tape, the staples, covers for books in progress--shuffled during the move, things are going well. I am working on the late summer orders that were waylaid during October and digging into September, all of which is much easier now that I simply have more time and can double task with regular life things.  Also, weekends are super helpful to be able to work for a few hours, take a break, and then come back to working. I am getting out author copies and making progress on a couple larger orders. 

I am also set to settle back in to reading manuscripts for next year, which I have fallen dreadfully behind on in the chaos. I'm hoping to have responses out by the holidays.   I have a burst of late 2019 books that will be coming as soon as I finish the layouts as well, and those will be in production throughout December and January. 

I am still battling printers, of which I am less than happy with the cover finishes, and am shopping for a good color laser with a smooth finish-I have my eye on a Canon ImageClass model that seems to be more what I'm looking for (the Brother is good for insides, but the color seems a little chalkier than I like.).  Meanwhile, I have a stock of the last covers printed on the Lexmark for the latest titles before I tossed it and the little Epson inkjet, which works for some things and has a scanner/copier if I need it. But I need the new probably within the next week as I run out.

I am also just happier to be working at a more efficient, but still more leisurely pace than my studio time used to allow. Now, if I can't finish something before I go to bed, it's easy to make time in the morning, and not lose a whole day until I can get back to it. So much progress was stalled by limited time, by stops and starts, and while it took me a long time to admit that I really had to do what I had to do, I am certain it was the best decision. The stranglehold of never having sufficient time in the workspace that I've felt for the last 12 years has eased a bit, and already I feel like I am the better for it. 


ordinary planet





As we begin thinking about next semester's A of R focus topic--dystopian societies from the margins--it seems fitting that this week's new digital version is my little Ordinary Planet series, which I describe as a mix of steampunkiness and victorian spiritualists..

Monday, November 11, 2019

insect dreams, ghost cantos



Earlier this year, I mentioned it was the 15th birthday of my first little chap Bloody Mary. Because new work was piling up like hotcakes in the fall of 2004, it is also the anniversary of another slim little self-issued volume called belladonna. At the time, I was still waiting on the publication of The Archaeologists Daughter, which wouldn't be out til the next year, but I was doing a lot of readings on the heels of winning a prize from the Poetry Center of Chicago and had burned through two printings of Bloody Mary.  It would be another year until the fever almanac was even accepted by Ghost Road, and another until it was published..   I decided, since I was getting into the full swing of chap printing as dgp issued its first two titles, that I'd release another small edition of more recent work to distribute at readings and such.

The poems inside are work written in the span of 2003-2004, a time in which I was just beginning my MFA studies--which means they are a little weird in their straddle of more lyrical work I was doing up til then, and a little more innovation I was beginning to attempt as I read a bit more widely for my coursework.  So some of it is a little rough.  Since I'm working on digitally making stuff available, I thought I might do that, but then realized there is very little in there of quality that did not wind up in the fever almanac, save a few random pieces, including the one below.  This is, in fact, one of the pieces that landed me the aforementioned prize, but I remembered my entire MFA workshop, including the teacher, hated it. It didn't really fit in with the first full-length book, and then, later, didn't really fit with the subsequent one either, so never quite made it anywhere else.  While the poems are sometimes a bot heavy handed and wrought, the cover features an image from Alaina Burr-Stone, who later provided cover artwork for the fever almanac.



invention
 
They live on fire, the burning girls,
trade winds, broken fibula,
 
impossible symmetry.
Think exclusion: five disciplines, ordering,
 
my fingers raw, this curving away 
from stillness, how a body becomes
 
an apology, 
bend, bending.
 
She is only this dark
feed across canvas, a furthering, 
 
azaleas harbored, languid anklebone,
sudden water.
 
The daughters are heavy
as breath in darkened rooms,
 
the flutter, the flutter, the feud. 
A translation of insect dreams,
 
ghost cantos,
circadian crescendo.
 
Still they love the hunger
poems, compendium,
 
the difficult swimming.
In syllables, distortions,
 
night makes a landscape
ecstatic, a prayer.
 
Her wreckage is lineage.



Saturday, November 09, 2019

books seeking homes



I realized last week that I have not one, not two, but three full-length manuscripts currently in a completed or just shy of a completed state. feed is pretty submission ready, but the other two, dark country and animal, vegetable, monster need a little arranging and proofing for typos.  I am going to submit at least one to presses I've worked with before, but the other two, I'm not sure. Overwhelmingly, they show how productive I've been over the past two years, during which most of them were written.  And they have a span of topical concerns: feed  (body image, eating disorder, mothering in general)  dark country (suburban & midwest gothicism) animal, vegetable, monster (monstrosity and art-making).  They contain everything from my swallow series about body image to that strange minotaur series I wrote last summer.  From the hansel & gretel series to poems about 80's horror.  The oldest of the poems are the beautiful, sinister series began more than a decade ago and previously published as a stand-a-lone chapbook, the newest, the extinction poems, finished in early October.

My thoughts have been turning as to where to send the other two.  Presses with open periods? (there are not that many of them, but a couple I like.) Contests?  This will be more costly than I'd like and probably not produce results for awhile (if at all.)  I'd self publish if there was an urgency to get them out , but there isn't. Right now, with other things coming down the pipeline (sex & violence out next spring, many smaller chap, zine, and artist book projects) , it's not terribly urgent.  So I'll be mulling the next couple months what I might like to do with them after the new year.   There is actually a fourth, half-ish mss as well under works and still in that miasma of formation. I sometimes wonder if compiling full-length books is something I need to even do, since my work as writer is so tied up in the visual, and the smaller issues probably give a better idea of the work as it was initially intended. But I like the weightyness of a volume, how it almost feels like an encapsulation of various projects in a given span of time and theme. And perhaps reach in terms of working with publishers, getting in bookstores or libraries, the things that full-lengths make easier than if you are just doing little books on your own. And the poems can stand on their own without the visuals just fine, they are just an added bonus in their initial incarnation.

We shall see...

Thursday, November 07, 2019

lovely messes


Despite it's chill, so far November has been mild, and I feel the stranglehold of October loosening.  Yesterday, in my mailbox, copies of the latest issue of THE JOURNAL, which contains the entirety of the hunger palace.   There was a surrealness to the fact that it, a journal containing a lyric essay-ish project about my mother's death appeared exactly on the second anniversary of that event. I wasn't in the mood to read it, and had books to fold and laundry to assemble (or vice-versa) so I spent this morning reading through it.  It was heavily edited, tightened up to be ore essay-ish and less rando poetry-like, so this version is kinder to the reader, but less poetically scattershot than I generally prefer.  Less messy. It makes more linear sense, but I fear may lose something. I will probably, after the issue is older and forgotten make it available in a zine format, since there are illustrations that were made to accompany it initially. It's also a segment in the feed manuscript, which I am set to begin sending out at some point, since it is, for all purposes complete.

Earlier in the year, I decided to submit some of the more lyric-essay, CNF pieces to journals in that genre instead of poetry, and this is the first to land.  I've submitted short prose before, which can be looked at as either prose poems or short shorts, not something firmly under the umbrella of non-fiction, and it's weirder still to see my name accompanied by a new, different genre.   And truly, sort of like the exquisite damage poems, which jump back and forth between autobiography and fictionaliization, I am working more often in this in-between space these days.  Thus, a lot of messy, but sometimes some gems in the mess.

[ Edit:  I did just discover that they do put their content online, so you can read it online as well:
http://thejournalmag.org/archives/17340 ]

Sunday, November 03, 2019

notes & things | 11/3/2019


October is over, and while it seemed at times to be going to kill me in terms of stuff going on (library events, mounting exhibits,conferences, moving the studio) I made it out intact.  Friday, I got the big shelves back from storage and some of the book supplies. Trying to move an entire studio without a car, not easy, but the storage/delivery service is actually really effective (and far cheaper than movers.) I am mostly back in business, though my new Brother is not so hot on the cover printing--sort of drab and lackluster, and the colors not as deep, so I'm looking into maybe another inkjet, possibly another Epson.  (The Lexmark was a beauty, but ate toner like you wouldn't believe with no option for cheaper refurbished cartridges. It was a $100 printer, but cost $ 200 each time I needed to replace all the cartridges) While at first the Brother seemed slow on the interiors, it doesn't seem to jam at all  and is reasonable on toner, so it seems to be working.

My Halloween was fairly low-key--I did have a costume (a bird mask and a cool feathery cape.)  There was a little bit of candy, but otherwise, just working most of the day.  Later, we went to see the new Zombieland, and the theater (all the theaters) were empty and eerily quieter than I would have expected.  I am pumped to see Dr. Sleep this month, though, so we'll be making a return trip.

I already feel more relaxed, having everything I need to work at home.  Lately, I've been assembling books at night and then shipping them out in the morning. I also like being able to have the printer running while I do things like cook breakfast and clean the apartment. Also, just not having to run around quite so much in general, rushing from one place to another.  Already, I feel like things are speeding up in terms of the backlog, so if I owe you something, it will be coming your way.

Friday, November 01, 2019

havoc




I am still working on making digital versions of work available, especially for older, out of print releases, including this e-chap version of my 2011 chap, HAVOC. Most of the poems eventually wound up in segments of my major characters in minor films book, but this was how they appeared originally in one volume, most of it written either right around the time I was finishing my MFA or  in that weird, less productive period immediately after.  So much of these poems are drawn from a troubling bout of relationship drama around the time. (actually several concurrent dramas from around 2007-2011).  I was still trying to get my poetic mojo back after graduating and feeling like there were just too many fingers in my poems, but oh the things I had to write about! I kept myself busy with visual art and the Etsy shop, and the press, but occasionally poems were soaking through onto the page, and these are them.

http://www.dancinggirlpress.com/havoczine.pdf

Thursday, October 31, 2019

talking to the dead

As we near up on the second anniversary of my mother's death, I still feel a need to circle around it carefully.  To test the wind, the barometric pressure of the first couple week's of November, unsure of how I will fare.  The other day, I was discussing every mother's tendency to over worry about threats in any proximity to their child, ie, my own mother, whenever she heard that something happened in Chicago, would assume I was in some danger, even if it was literally the very opposite end of a pretty large urban area.  When I said the words "my mother used to.." the tenses seemed weird, and I have a general tendency to begin every story in presence tense, as if she were still alive. Or maybe it felt weird that it feels less weird as time goes on.Not that it gets less strange, less painful, only that maybe I avoid tripping in the hole of it better. 

And in fact, it always feels less than real here in my general daily life..as if I could easily pick up the phone and call her.  More real when I'm in Rockford, where the tangibility of her absence is something I've grown much more used to.  And yet, I find myself thinking of every good story in the way I would tell her.  Stupid things like stuff I saw on facebook, or things the cats did. What I bought, or movies I watched that she would like.   Saturday, I made her ghoulash recipe, as close as I could get it. But it's never exactly right, and I know, in years past, when I tried I would have to ask her next phone call how much of this or that.   I use too many tomatoes or not enough.  Too much pepper or not enough.

Or whether or not a memory or a story I remember actually happened the way I remember it.  Without a mother, you sometimes lose a good part of your own history if you haven't written it down somewhere. Mother's remember everything, even from the years before you remember anything.   Sometimes I picture scenes from that period, before I was 4 or 5, and they are not so much memories as they are her stories that I visualized in my mind as memories.

And what of now, when sometimes the only person a given story or experience is good for would be her ears.  Who do you tell it to, and if you never tell it, is it lost forever?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ghost stories


I've been working over the past few days on a series of pieces that will accompany the  eleanor and the tiny machines collages I made months back, which have been waiting patiently until I could get to them.  Maybe it's the season, maybe it's just my general penchant for the gothic, but it seemed like they called for a ghost story, in the same way the summer house series did somehow--the changeling story of that project.  They are actually going into different longer book projects at this point with different focuses, but they both have in common that they started visually then moved to written (as opposed to the other way around, which is more how I work in general.)

If you haven't watched the Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, I more than recommend it, it straddling so well the border between the truly supernatural and the emotional reality of family. I think I best described it as the sensation of watching someonething with your heart in your throat, then something spooky happens and it jumps into your lap.  I love it so much. Because it is not just a haunted house story, but a family in crisis story.  On the surface, a group of sibling's reeling from the earlier suicide of their mother, and the current suicide of their younger sister.  But it's so much more.

And so beholden to the ghosts that walk among us--addiction, madness, loss--the real things that haunt.  Stephen King has always been a master at this, though sometimes he gets too into character development and loosens the wire too much on his horror, which then gets dragged along. (i started watching Castle Rock last night, which is probably why I am thinking of King so much this morning.) But I am most interested where our own ghosts and the supernatural ghosts inhabit and rub up against each other and cause static--the best horror comes from that place.

writing & art bits | october edition







*In pure Halloween fashion, there are a few pieces from EXQUISITE DAMAGE:  A MIDWEST GOTHIC appearing in Midway Journal and the previous issue of Elsewhere.

*Also in spooky fun I made an e-version of /slash/ available for your reading pleasure, as well as a brand spanking new series songs for dead girls (these are part of the apocalypse manuscript, but haven't seen much daylight on their own.)   For even more spooky goodness, don't forget the archer avenue poems, my ode to Resurrection Mary and vanishing hitchhiker lore.

*Our Lethal Ladies exhibit will be up through January, and you can still catch an installation of the visual/text pieces from {licorce, laudanum} on the Columbia College Library's first floor.  You can also get a sampling in the last Tupelo Quarterly.

*The very first pieces from the ARTIST STATEMENT project dropped in the latest issue of Typehouse.  You can read online or order a copy here. 

*`My upcoming full-length, sex & violence, which is due out in April 202, is officially available for pre-order at Black Lawrence!

*There are some of my collages in the latest Radar Poetry, accompanying some amazing work from Quinn Lewis




Monday, October 28, 2019

on new routines



I realized now that I have the freedom to make books at all hours of the day (ie. lately around  midnight), it requires an adjustment of my morning routine, which can start a little later if I desire, and which will be less about dashing out of the house at full speed and downtown to squeeze in time there.  Since I don't have to be to work til 2pm, the morning so far has been a more leisurely breakfast, coffee , and writing--the start of a new series that I'm not sure what will come of it.  I fell out of my habit of writing first thing at the studio, mostly since my mind has been in chaos since late summer.  The extinction poems were written haphazardly and in spurts on weekends, but it;s been months since I've engaged in any sort of daily writing ritual.

I want to get back to that and poem tending.  Maybe even submitting--while my rejection endeavors stalled out midsummer, it did yield some fruit in terms of publications--including recent works in Typehouse, Midway Journal, elsewhere, decomP, and The Journal. There are also some edits to be done on the extinction poems, and some proofing on sex & violence galleys I am behind schedule on, all of which has fallen by the wayside during the recent shuffle.  Also, one book mss. that is finished and ready to send out, another two that just need to be compiled.   Also, several little book projects I want to make happen and may actually have some time and energy to devote to.

Here is to a productive fall and a freer, kinder schedule.  Already I appreciated being able to work on press stuff at my own pace throughout the weekend, as well as the ability to multi-task (ie. cleaning while the printer runs, watching movies while I fold & assemble) all things I couldn't really do in the studio, so I am already feeling my stress starting to loosen, and I haven't even fully moved everything back here yet (the shelves and some necessities are arriving Friday from storage, and I'll be bringing the rest as I need it and make room.  The apartment is a chaos of boxes, but the siameses are having a grand ole time playing in them.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

some thoughts about day jobs*

It occurred to me this week that it has been approximately 20 years since I started working in libraries, which seems fitting given that this past week bought a couple library-related wins and endeavors, including presenting at not one, but two professional conferences. I was laughing the entire time because every time I needed a business card amongst other librarians, I never had one, and a couple times just gave out my writing/art one with the press e-mail address. I actually do have a stash of CC cards, the bland orange backed standard that has "Access Services Assistant / Course Reserves Coordinator" that I mostly give to faculty when they need to contact me about putting materials on reserve. They don't get much use, since most faculty just fill out the online form just fine and never have to get in touch.  And there is a lot of unofficial things that card doesn't capture. Interlibrary loan duties, which I've been overseeing temporarily the past year.  Our A of R initiative and the programming and exhibits we do there.  My new heading of the Programming and Events Committee, my increasing involvement in social media stuff.  We've talked and daydreamed about new job titles and pay increases, but not just yet (and subject to the sort of red tape that plagues all of academia) 

While I have always had rather nice writing/art/press related cards, I never gave much thought to my professional print collateral when it came to libraries, since I was never sure I wanted to see it as a profession.  For one, my efforts & endeavors have always been elsewhere--the library was a fine, bookish place, to make money when the other things I wanted to do did not.  For about the first 15 years or so--I showed up, did what I was supposed to do to collect my paycheck, hung out with some cool people, then went about my creative work on the side.  Two, there is always that arbitrary divide between degreed librarians and those of us without (my grad degrees are in lit and writing, not an MLS.)  Even if I'd wanted to feel like a professional, everything in how some MLS'd librarians treated those of us without indicated I would never get there unless I was willing to get that particular degree (which just seemed like a technicality and not something I felt I'd like to study in depth--also that over 20 years had probably granted me more than a classroom every could.)  The eventual gains actually weren't all that promising either, all that jumping through grad school academic hoops for a third time and even degreed positions (both public and academic)  were not particularly raking in the bucks. Nor were they guaranteed--esp. as more libraries were shrinking their degreed staff for people they could pay much less in theory. 

About five years ago, it started to change a little as I found a vein in the rock I really wanted to follow. A of R has not only been really fun to work on, but I think it's important work in connecting resources and libraries to art students in a way that has always seemed more tenuous at a place like Columbia, where everyone is less concerned with traditional scholarship and more with making things. I want to do more things there, to write about our experiences, to be a resource for other libraries.  (thus the conferences and writing projects). It definitely makes the time I spend in the library collecting that paycheck more enjoyable and integrated to my interests & abilities. We've been short-staffed this year, down by 50 percent (and of course,  dreadfully underpaid, especially given all doubling up)  but at least the work feels important, enough that I'm willing to hang in and hope things get better in the coming year. 

Also, it melds well with my outside pursuits--running things like zine programs, hosting readings, discussion panels on topics that interest me creatively.One of the reasons I originally eschewed teaching was that I hated the idea of having to struggle to get college students to care about writing and literature when it's a hard sell sometimes--esp. since I'd likely be teaching a whole lotta composition courses as do most writers I know. A noble and far underappreciated endeavor, but a terrible hell for me and my impatient nature (I totally chalk this up to being a Taurus). This scratches a similar itch and yet the audience is totally self-selecting and engaged every single time. 

Nevertheless, I always think back to my panicked 24 year old self, when I decided I didn't want an academic career, didn't want to pursue that Ph.D I was midway into applying to,  and if not, what the hell was I going to do?  Or a couple years later when I took that job in an elementary school library after months of searching --not just libraries, but bookstores, newspapers, museums. I think she'd be happy to know that it actually worked out pretty well in the end, day job-wise.

* technically, my day job is actually a night job..I write and make books in the morning/early afternoon and do the evening shift at Columbia.  This also appeals to my sleep-loving Taurus nature, since you will rarely find me outta bed before 10am. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

curated learning and the library



Today, we took the A of R show on the road again out to Tinley Park for the Illinois Library Association conference, where we were hosting a poster session in the exhibit hall titled "Curated Learning in the Library".  In the summer of 2018, we were doggedly in search of a phrasing for what we were doing in our pursuit of tying library resources to creative practice. We found the phrase above occasionally used to describe the act of setting up circumstances in which learning happens--like the arrangement of a classroom, or the layout of a museum exhibit.  Also, in a curated online content context, where content is chosen to be educational rather than for entertainment or recreation.  Since so much of what we do in the library is setting up learning opportunities in relation to resources, we thought it a fitting terminology that covers the endeavors that bridge programming in libraries, particularly academic libraries,  and learning beyond the usual bibliographic instruction model.

It is sort of an umbrella term for what we do with the initiative, as well as some other library programming endeavors that fit under it in collaboration with other campus units and with faculty.