Tuesday, March 19, 2019

bookwrecking workshop exploits

I've been  hoarding an animal book for the past couple of years that I finally got to wrecking tonight.  It's a pretty big book, so it's going to take a few gos at it, but I am liking the results thus far. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

dgp cover love | reworking the classics

Something I've been doing a bit of recently is designing covers using existing oil paintings in the public domain.  Usually, these are suggestions from the authors as to the particular painting we use, but I love taking something so old and classic and adding a more modern element by use of text and layout. And the colors are the sort of heavenly amazingness that only exist in old oil paintings...

Sunday, March 17, 2019

encore une fois en francais

Last night, on a rare weekend night off for J, we went down to the Century to see the horror/dance film Climax, and I was struggling the entire time, despite it being a really weird film and me being a little high, to see if I could understand enough of the French without looking at the subtitles (I apparently could not).  In high school, I took four years of it, then an additional course of it in college to meet the gen ed requirement for a BA, but I seriously would not be able to understand much of anyone speaking it.  One time on the bus, there were women speaking slow enough for me to understand a little, and I can read  little.  (I'm fuzzy on tenses, which I never had a good grasp of).  Because I know french, there are bits of other latin-based languages I occasionally to make out--some spanish, some italian. 

A friend and I always joke about kinda basic girls and their love of Paris.  Their tendency to decorate their apartments with french poster art and pillows emblazoned with Eiffel Towers.   Of course I say this having once owned at least a half dozen of french posters and still have two (see photos) hanging in my living room and even sorta named the press after another  I no longer have..  A few weeks back I posted about the allure of a certain french decrepitude that appeals to the literary minded courtesy of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. There is something exotic about France (language and culture, maybe even slightly a bit more than even Italy.  There's a reason people go to Paris on honeymoons, even though many European cities are just as romantic. Basic or no, there is something breathtaking about the idea of an expansive Paris apartment, with giant windows, herringbone floors, and a juliet balcony. With filling your apartment with fresh flowers from the market and endless croissant.  You can do all these things right here in Chicago, but somehow they are far sexier when you're speaking french and smoking Gauloises. 

I was super into it in high school though, learning the language and the culture--I was french club president my final year, did immersion days at area colleges, was inducted into the French honor society.  It was unlikely that I would ever be much for actually making it to Paris. I wasn't as anxious about flying as a teen and did, but I still didn't have the sort of family financials that would ever allow a trip. Maybe this is one reason I love New Orleans so much, it's french flavor, but home grown with blues and jazz and a little voodoo thrown in for good measure. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

strange fevers update

Plans are still churning away for all of our Strange Fevers:  Mass Delusions, Confusions, and Obsessions happening in April.  Today, I sent acceptances to an amazing line-up of visual artists for the 1st Floor Exhibit (which will also include necessary violence, the Slenderman collaboration with my sister,  in it' full glory, both texts and visuals, up on the wall.)   This year, as I've mentioned before, we wanted to try, instead of individual events, to condense some of our programming into a single day with panels, readings, an expo and more...so thus was birthed what will hopefully be our spring big event--our Artists & Scholars Colloquium.  My contribution to that afternoon is pulling together this very fun panel discussion:

 "Adolescent girls are often the subject and impetus for strange and violent occurrences—everything from poltergeist activity to the Salem Witch Trials.  This discussion delves into the power and agency of teen and pre-teens throughout popular culture and art, as well as how artists in multiple genres use this particular trope to explore new paths into our understandings of feminism, theory, and culture."

We're starting small, with only a couple panels and a reading, plus the developing Weird Science Fair we've wanted to try for a bit, which will be happening while the other stuff is going on. We're hoping eventually it can be a day long event.  We have our monthlies & bimonthlies (How-To Tuesdays, Book to Art, Zine Nights), and our semesterlies (the Hustle Panels), but spring has lacked a larger event comparable to Indie Press, so this works out perfectly.  We didn't issue a call for more formal academic papers and such, but we'd love to include that aspect in the future as we build on it.   

reading promiscuously

I've been working a little on the relaunch/revamp of wicked alice after a brief hiatus. With everything in chaos with the press after last year, something eventually had to give, and it was poor little alice. I needed a logo, and one idea spun into another (I wanted something like my "hell bent she-devil" design, but it also ended up resembling my very favorite octo lady.)  The tagline is a bastardization of a Milton quote on how people should be promiscuous in their reading habits--and me with my piles of half-finished and barely started books I mean to get back to-I figured it was appropriate.   I've also been trying to decide if I should move the site off tumblr, but its staying put for now (since it's mostly text, I doubt I'll be running into the flagging problems other things were suffering.)

curvy girl fashion | the perfect black dress

Things have been fiscally tighter since the beginning of the year, so I haven't been perusing online retailers in the way I typically do just to keep temptation out of my path. this week, I've been bribing myself to exercize every day with the treat of a dress purchase at the end and, with a 40 percent off code,  decided on this one last week from eshakti, which I've been wanting to buy since before Christmas. I own a shorter sleeved yellow version I bought in the fall, but which is too summery to wear in winter, but this one will be good for all year round and even in more formal scenarios (I never have those really, but I like to plan ahead just in case.)  The ruching makes the to super flattering and I love a squarish neckline in general. Also, since the yellow one, I'm assuming it's a really nice mid-weight jersey knit that seems unusually immune to getting cat hair on it, so win! I

I have my eye on some others for future buying if I continue to hit the stationary bike on the regular and stop being my lazy winter self..

Thursday, March 14, 2019

another round of bookwrecking

On Tuesday night, I'll be taking the box cutters to more discarded library materials and you should
join us!  Collage, book sculptures, and more!

How to Tuesday:  Bookwrecking and Collage
Tuesday, March 19th
624 S. Michigan | 1st Floor
Columbia College Library

sometimes the world writes itself

I happened upon this great piece from Susan Minot this weekend and it got me thinking about not so much how we write, but how the world, in fact, opens itself up to us in possibility every day.  I'll be sitting on a bus, or pushing a cart of books through the library, and there it is, that shimmering idea.  Or in that weird morning space between waking up enough to look at my phone to check the time and the alarm actually going off.  Admittedly, so much is lost because I didn't write it down.  Didn't force myself to commit it to memory for later when I had time to consider it as creative impulse.  This week, one night, I was up in the stacks and heard strange inexlpicable noises a few rows away and got to thinking about the plot of a horror movie or novel where a woman is haunted by the ghost of herself from the future. She would then have to solve her own death like a puzzle.   Or a title for a poem, or a concept for a book will come to me. Friday, I was tweaking the dgp website and for a second "&nsbp" or "non breaking space" seemed like a great title for a book of poems written in html code style.

A few years back as our A of R initiative was developing, people kept commenting that we had such great ideas.  The truth was we had too many ideas to make them happen.  Everything is inspiration, everything is fodder. Hell, I introduced our annual snow globe workshop because I'd seen them do something similar on Pretty Little Liars, which I was mid binge-watch  How can you not notice it?  The things that connect to other things.  The things that  can be re-mixed, retooled. In fact, there are too many ideas and sparks mostly.  This is what we bemoan consistently, the ideas that we will never actually get to, because there is too many, and like bubbles, they keep floating beyond our grasp.

I suppose we grab what we can and write them down in our sketchbooks and our notebooks and hope for the best.  And maybe this is why the Lit Hub piece is great, all of those threads there, each of them, a poem, a spark, the idea for a story. I don't know, given the title, if that was Minot's intention, but I found myself thinking that so much writes itself in the world,  even that piece, a list of fragments and thoughts That we just need to notice it and grasp it wriggling in our hands.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

tiny empires, big world

Another A of R Hustle panel put to bed and the biggest takeaway from tonight's discussion was the amazing breadth of the publishers/editors coming out of Columbia College on a regular basis.  Represented were Lettered Streets Press, Ghost Proposal, and Hotel Amerika & Switchback Books, all Columbia originals.   Someone asked if that sort of legacy of start-ups was distinct to Columbia among other area institutions, and maybe it's not, but I don't see as much DIY action coming from other Chicago grad programs.  At least not enough to host a panel and still have others out there I do not know about or are probably developing even now.  I don't think it was anything about the program itself that may have caused this--at least curricular-wise.  I jumped over to an elective in Fiction for that Small Press Publishing class, but that was atypical, and eventually not allowed. It was still a really young program in its first few years getting its bearings.  But slowly people began doing things.

I started dancing girl in the fall of my second year.  Other batches of students came in who launched Switchback Books soon after.   After I graduated, more presses continued and sprung up. (Susan Yount's Arsenic Lobster, for example ) Not just presses, but reading series (The Dollhouse, Revolving Door, among others.)  Columbia always did a good job placing students in internships in places like local lit mags and the Poetry Foundation, but also so much was happening in the realm of DIY initiatives, either individuals or collectively.

Looking back over all the things that have developed in that incubator, you have to be impressed by the depth and number.  Also how people float between projects and how some flow into and influence others. There seems to be a great swell in that sort of energy regardless of whatever sort of writing the students are doing coming into or out of the program. Maybe it's a certain  "get in the muck and do things" unique to a place like Columbia--that makes me immensely grateful I both get to work there and got to get my degree there.

on loneliness

The thing I perhaps was not prepared for when it came to losing my mom a little over a year ago was how lonely I would end up feeling. Like all the time and unceasingly.  I am still surprised at the intensity.  After all, we lived in different cities for the past twenty years, and usually only talked on the phone twice a week, Sundays and Wednesdays.   I spent occasional weeks in Rockford, a few scattered trips to Wisconsin or Mississipi with both my parents.  But the sum total of my time with her or interacting with her was actually quite small given how much time I spend doing other things--even talking to other people.  But there was a solidity in knowing she was there, and that unmooring is perhaps part of this general malaise since that feels like the worst sort of lonely.

In my times of ultimate wallowing and self-pity, usually when I'm fighting the downward spiral, I am occasionally floored by this feeling and can't breath because of it. I still have other family, obviously, and talk to my Dad twice a week, my sister randomly via messages and social media.  A best friend I see every day and a boyfriend I see every week. Other folks I interact with online or at work or in the poetry world.  A rambling mass of extended family I see on holidays and such. People I appreciate greatly, but there is still this huge, gaping hole at the center I don't quite know what to do with, let alone how one would go about filling it up  It's this part of me that freaks out when I think about how much loss is still coming my way--all of our ways.  This is the part that makes my throat ache.

I've always considered myself rather self-sufficient.  I moved to an entirely new city with only a job and an apartment and then met other people along the way--at the library, at readings, in grad school. It was a slow process, but I would never have told you in those years that I felt remotely anything like loneliness.  Since I'm sometimes in super-introvert  my social circle is smallish and mostly disparate these days--small groups of people having coalesced and drifted apart over time. I probably dated far many more people in my life than I have considered close friends.   The odd gaps where I was more single than not, I was actually a little relieved by the breather in how I spent my time and mental energies.  I might have occasionally wished for a target of my affections, but that is surface level shit compared to this. Not at all serious and usually easily remedied by some sort of action(sometimes healthy, sometimes unhealthy).

But in the time since losing my mother, I've often wondered if so much of my never feeling even a drop of loneliness was because she was always just there.  Someone who had known me my whole life.  My whole existence since conception if you think about it. . There were many things in my life I didn't share with her, mostly since I am sometimes weirdly private about some things and not others.  I'm not even sure I asked for or took much advice from her, or anything that would look to an outside like support.  I mostly didn't like to worry her---health scares, money issues,  relationship drama. And she was a record worrier by nature, so I spared her a bit on my end.  Our phone calls were mainly stories about what was going on on each end--things we'd watched on tv.  Stories about the cats. She was my perfect bitchy parlay partner on the phone and in person, and the lack of this very thing sometimes is when I miss her most acutely.  But she was also a solid presence when everything else felt very fluid and churny.  I have a good relationship with my dad, and probably have talked to him on the phone more in the last two years than I did in the previous two decades since I moved out.  Sometimes I find myself grateful for that time, because no doubt, it wouldn't have happened if she'd outlived him, her always relaying the contents to him during or after the call.  But its a different sort of dynamic.

And I feel now like maybe all that's left is to be my own solid. Or maybe more solid than I am. I'm not sure how to fix it, or if it can even be fixed, Or if things change over time. But seriously sometimes it comes out of nowhere and knocks me flat on my ass.  Maybe I dwell a bit more in the winter months when my mental health is less sound, so we'll see if I feel it less when the weather gets better.  Here's hoping...

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

beauty and terror

It's hard to be both pretty and terrifying at the same time, but we try endlessly.
                                                -   necessary violence

We've been firming up the galleys for the upcoming MANSION anthology this week, and I gave a final pass over my own pieces within and stumbled upon a line that I'd forgotten about, but that made me giggle, considering a couple weeks back when I was writing my artist statement draft, I had mentioned a similar idea there-about loving the pretty and the terrible, the beautiful and the horrific.  

Once when I was giving a reading, someone told me after that my poems reminded them as a mashup of Sylvia Plath and David Lynch, and I've always held the comparison close to my heart.  Think of the visuals in something like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, and the undercurrents of darkness.   Maybe it's latent goth girl tendencies, or being weaned on horror movies,  but I like to think of it as similar to the beautiful flower with the decay already inside. Hawthorne's Rappucini's Daughter whose kiss meant death.  Ornateness and decadence that hides the worst things.  Last summer, one of the reasons I loved HBO's Sharp Objects was it's beautiful southerness tinged with violence and rot.  The "innocent" girl who is the most horrible of all.  There are so many examples throughout pop culture. Last fall's Haunting of Hull House is a perfect example, so many stunning visuals, so much scary. 

Many people have mentioned that while my visual art tends toward the pretty, there is definitely a darkness there too. I'm not sure these tow things are always at odds, and in fact, sometimes one may lead to the other, or they are somehow dependent.  Why do we find roses so beautiful, is it because they are intrinsically appealing or is it that they are so quick to die? I've been thinking of this with a few more recent collage series--the combination of the light visuals and the dark poems of the summer house in particular. 

The best things are those which create a really pretty picture to look at  and then expose the terror. Sort of like lifting up a rug to see the teeming earth crawling with insects beneath it. 

100 rejections project update

As you know, I am following the advice of this Lit Hub article and taking an aim at getting my work out there a bit more than I have in the past.  After a few years of submitting very little and usually only by invitation, I am taking a more pro-active stance in my submitting this year--100 seems like a lot, and I probably won't make it there (it's probably more than I have poems to back it up with and there will of course, be some acceptances (hopefully many!), but it's a nice thing to work for, and as I said on facebook a couple weeks back, already a success in just getting the damn poems out there circulating. And I have a good amount of work from the past year to actually send.

So far, my results are 1/1--an acceptance for two pieces (Radar Poetry) and a rejection (Posit). I think I have about 10 others still out there in the ether.  I also took a gamble last week and applied for a prose NEA Fellowship this year. I have enough prose and hybrid published work to qualify, a good sampling of a lyric-essay project (exquisite damage) and thought what the hell. I applied for poetry one years ago and sort of figured I'm not the fancy sort of poet who gets such thing. And I'm probably not fancy enough for the prose world either, but the work is good and solid and maybe something of interest on the other side of the fence (since I spend a considerable amount of time straddling it.)  Most likely it will just be a rejection to add to my tally., but still good in that respect.

I also plan to start sending out feed later this year, so that will no doubt add to my numbers, so we'll see how that goes. I've also hit up some print journals that have low acceptance rates, not necessarily because I think they are better (I hate people who tout exclusivity as the key to quality), just in that they are harder to crack.   I think I definitely chose ones I really like and respect and think ARE better journals, but not just because they have low acceptance rates, but that I like what they publish and would like to be in there--places like Black Warrior, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast) In my early days as a writer, I spent a lot of time submitting to exclusive journals I actually don't really fit aesthetically in, but because everyone was saying they were the prime places to publish.

I still plan to hit up the places who've been awesome and published my work before, some newer interesting publications I really like, and some of my old standbys for certain rejection--Sixth Finch and Collagist I am looking at you...lol.

When I was submitting like mad to online journals back in the early 2000's, I quickly volleyed rejected poems right back out there, so last Friday spent some time sending back out what the responding journals either didn't take or didn't want back out somewhere else. Each week, I also have a new round of stuff from the previous week of daily writing that I've revised over the course of the next week and then start sending out.

I'll be back with another update in April..so until then..

Monday, March 11, 2019

exquisite damage: the visuals

Ever since I finished my exquisite damage series last summer, I've been aching to make some accompanying visuals. I've had some fits and starts, and for awhile, nothing seemed right, but over the past couple of days I've had some success. The series itself is sort of memoirish and about horror movies and growing up in the shadow of them, so these seem the right balance of nostalgic and a little dark.

some notes on ordinary planet

I wanted to write a bit more on the new books & objects offering, ordinary planet, the series written in response to accompany the set of victorian-ish colllages I finished last spring, but also inspired by the faux fortune-telling experts of the Fox sisters.  The written parts of the series imagine a fallen, dystopian, world.  What would happen if the lakes and rivers rose and people were left on an island and men would be making the decisions? The speaker of the poems was once a "a teacher, a baker, a teller of lies"  but now reads fortunes and talks to the dead, albeit fraudulently. Perhaps there is a little of a Handmaid's Tale feel to it, to a world shattered and then rebuilt as men desired it.  I loved how it worked in a little bit of a steampunk vibe as well, where technology is regressive.   As I mentioned above, because of the mother/daughter subject matter, thought it might be a piece of the feed manuscript, but I feel like it might fit better elsewhere.  But the emphasis is more on the dystopian elements--the imagined world where "at first the men were kind."  Until they were not.

This is also the only recent project where I was writing actual verse/ lined poems--in this case mostly tercets, though it varies throughout.  I feel like there is rhythmic element that plods along nicely at a gallop that offers a bit more than prose would.  I use a bit more internal and slanty rhyme in these than usual as well.  The form also allows some space around the denseness and heavy of the language.  So much of what I do is prose nowdays, it's unfamiliar to work in verse, especially a little shorter in line than I've done in the past decade  The lined parts of shipwrecks of lake michigan, for example.  Or the strange machine series poems. All much longer and looser in construction. But I did like the results here.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

notes & things | 3/9/2019

All this week, I was aching to get the weekend, these being my absolutely favorite kind of days, where mostly I drink a lot of coffee, sleep as late as I desire,  cook some actual food after a week of frozen dinners, edit and read through poems.  Perhaps the days I feel most like an actual writer.  The past few weeks, I've been kicking it off with Friday afternoon's getting the business side of things out of the way--sending submissions, printing out pages of the week's output, and then leaving the weekend for more in depth work.

In the studio, I am steadily working getting books off to authors before AWP and playing catch up on some things that have been sliding through the cracks. I'm not going this year, but there are authors who will be toting their books and a reading hosted by some of the area's native dgp-ers.  I really need to straighten up before I am subsumed in a wall of paper shavings. This weekend, I also set away some time to work on panel questions for Wednesday's Forging Your Lit Empire panel, which is shaping up to be awesome.  It feels like a do-ever on a panel I hosted in 2009 about DIY lit endeavors that no one came to, but less bound by red tape, which is really nice. I'll be teaching a bookwrecking & collage workshop the next Tuesday, which will be the usual sort of fun. 

I'm also excited by the plans turning for the Strange Fever's colloquium mid-April.  Just now, we are going through and choosing art for the exhibit going up in the last week or so of March. My contribution will be hosting a panel devoted to the trope of the sway of young girls, whether it's poltergeist phenomenon or the Salem witch trials.

Spring break is in a couple of weeks, which will give me some more studio time in the evenings.  My mood has been in and out, but the days will soon be steadily warming and lengthening, which feels like it will be immensely good for my temperament.

horrific domesticities

In working with the summer house series, and the same to a degree with other projects like taurus, I've been thinking about horror in a domestic context and what role that plays in my writing.  When I was an undergrad and read "The Yellow Wallpaper" the first time, I was struck by the ability of domestic situations to hold their own power of terror- or even gothic-oriented novels--the Brontes and Henry James.  I touched on this a bit in projects like girl show and more modern-set pieces like terrestrial animal, where the pristineness of the underground house is teeming with the horrific natural world that surrounds it.  Or all my work where the inside world abuts the outside world, when the outside makes it's way inside and becomes somewhat gothic because of that context--the bears that crawl through the shared properties of water and stars, for example. Or the role of the encroaching animals in the hunger palace.   The transformation into animals in girl show and in the bird museum, or something like strangerie, which will eventually be part of a future manuscript about monsters and monstrousness.

Also,  the monsters that exist within domestic spaces. Or develop because of them.  The crucible that transforms one thing into something else.  In taurus, the monster is less actual monster and more metaphorical.  The house and family that the monster exists in becomes a monster in and of itself.  I've been thinking about this as I work on my notes and a few pieces about the HH Holmes Murder Castle, where the hotel is in itself, wholly monstrous.  So then how does a house, in the context of something like the summer house, itself both breed monsters and become one?

Saturday, March 09, 2019

notes on the current longer book project

This week, as I working through the poems for the summer house series, which are actually really quite nice, I realized with a start that they are possibly the one piece I was missing in the feed manuscript.  Initially, I had them earmarked as something for another project in development, thinking the current one was just about ready to go through a final round of edits and start submission rounds this summer.  But now, I see they echo some of the themes in other sections and balance nicely in reflection of the Hansel & Gretel pieces. Almost a prequel of sorts, but more contemporary.  Also, very much in line with child/mother dynamics in the book.

Sometimes, I'm slow to recognize the pathways in even my own work that lead to one another.  I was initially thinking ordinary planet should be part of the manuscript since there are many  mentions of mothers and daughters, and I was writing it with that potential constellation of work in mind, but earlier this year, I decided that the concerns in that project are wholly different and maybe something else entirely. It's more about the women in the context of that dystopian island, so I took those poems out.  It left a bit of unbalance in the feed mss, though, only four sections when I really like odd numbered things (not scientific at all, just my usual preference.)

Today, I sat down with a draft of the entire manuscript and read through it again and I am loving the new addition.  Since I have a couple of books coming out in the next year or so, I'm going to hold off submitting til summer.  I'm still wary of contests, and really can't afford reading fees if I wasn't against them on principle (unless you get something like a copy of the winner or another book.) so I'm looking for open reading periods perhaps at presses I've been admiring from afar.

Friday, March 08, 2019

ordinary planet

I've finally been able to get all the things in place for my little steampunky dystopian project-- ORDINARY PLANET, to make its way into the world.  It's filled with faux fortune tellers and  creepy landscapes and  has poems and collages (including octolady). This was the last bit of actual verse I delved into and might be the last for awhile, but it seemed to fit the content. It's actually the slightly tardy February offering in the Books & Objects series (available by subscription) or in single copies in the shop.  Get one before they're gone...

vintage obsessions | dishware

One of my biggest vintage collecting passions is dishware.  Since I (and the cats) break a lot stuff, it's always been hard to keep a full matching set of dishes, so sometime in the past 20 odd years I've been on my own, I stopped trying and set about collecting bits and pieces of mid-century stuff, mostly florals--usual the sort that are less ornate and fussy, but still pretty.  (Steubenville and Taylor Smith Taylor are a couple of my favorite brands.)   As time goes on and the stuff filtering into thrift stores changes into 70's-80's-90's cast offs, my favorites are harder to find, but ebay is still a good option. For awhile I kept finding TST's Bachelors Button pattern everywhere, and actually sold a good amount in the etsy shop having came across a sizeable set of teacups.  My mother said they had been sold at grocery stores, piece by piece, in the late 60's, and that she had had this very pattern around the time she got married, but that my dad and I as toddler had made quick work of breaking every single one. This probably explains the weird near unbreakbale plates of my 80's childhood and the clunky, chunky 90's pottery still in those cupboards.

I have a few pieces of vintage pyrex that I spend my time trying not to break--including some lovely brown ones and a large green one.  (Also a big brown one I use only for cat food.)  I also love tiny jelly glass jars and we occasionally use them as shot glasses (go big or go home).  They remind me of my great grandmother's kitchen.  Otherwise, my dishes are mostly restaurant generic--white coffee mugs, which I break a lot of), some Pier 1 white plates I bought when I moved in, some random grey/blue noodle bowls I picked up at the Salvation Army. I have stemmed water goblets my sister bought me that I use for wine, and a set of simple cafe style glasses.

There is something about vintage things that carry a certain home-ness of the past in a way new sets from Target somehow do not.  Which isn't to say everything does.  In the china cabinet in my Dad's house is a set of china that belonged to my grandmother that reportedly he gifted her sometime in the 60's.  It's definitely more of a fancy set, floral, but not audaciously so, but in that way kind of boring.  When my step-grandfather died, they came to us and have sat for over 30 years in the corner china cabinet in the dining room, mostly collecting dust, but occasionally hauled out for Thanksgivings or Christmas meals through the decades then put carefully back.  Since I have no recollection of associating with my grandmother (she is remembered more for her amazing salt & pepper shaker collection) They don't carry much charm for me.  My mother, over the years kept trying to pawn them off on my both I and my sister to no avail.  They actually look more contemporary than vintage in a sort of timeless generic way. Therefore, are mostly unappealing.  On the other hand, I am still looking for some atomic thermal mugs my other grandmother over the years to no avail (as well as a replica of her atomic starburst clock that isn't ridiculously expensive given current trends.)

Monday, March 04, 2019

eleanor and the tiny machines

shop lovelies, old and new

I'm trying to do a better job stocking and promoting the things in the shop that exist alongside the books.  While there are not quite as many offerings since we ditched the etsy shop, there are still a whole bunch of paper goods and prints available, as well as a few crafty things like the hairclips above. while I've had better luck selling originals in person rather than the shop, I still have a few older assemblage pieces listed there. There are also still a couple of the fox pencil boxes, which are a personal favorite of mine. I'm also excited about a larger version of the hunger palace prints (more of the 11x17's and a set of the small size ones are coming soon.)

I was thinking on Saturday about how instrumental selling the non-book items were back in the early days, especially after we moved into the studio and I suddenly had an extra rent to pay.  Much of what we peddled was thrifted vintage, but I also moved a lot of paper goods and some artwork. (as well as soap and some other bath stuff when I was still making it.)  I did stumble upon a bunch of paper weirt blanks when I was straightening the studio, so keep an eye out for those, as well as some new jewelry pieces.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

artist statement

It's been a long while since my website has contained anything like a cohesive (or even coherent) artist statement.  In fact, I've been making funnies over at Twitter (mostly because I have no idea what to do on Twitter) and even plotted out a zine of funny fake artists statements that may still happen.  Or maybe an artist statement in poem fragments.  The notes for and ideas thereof have been scattered across various interviews and blog entries and elsewhere, but since the early days of my website, I hadn't put everything together.  Since I was waxing yesterday about some similar subject matter, and making notes for a podcast interview I gave earlier today, I thought I'd give it a go.  Sometimes I feel like one is not enough, so maybe the goal is a string of statements that form a whole, but this is the first...


Artist Statement

A writer and book artist, I am interested in the ways visual elements and text work together to tell a story--sometimes linear, sometimes circular or fragmented.  My education and early career was devoted to words and language. I came to visual arts later--primarily book and paper related forms--collage, assemblage, printmaking, book sculpture.   Over the past decade,  I've worked to fold both visual and written elements into my process in new ways.

My work typically manifests in a printed medium--artist books, zine projects, chapbooks-- as well as occasional exhibits and installations. Over the years, these projects have constellated into longer manuscripts of poetry/prose hybrid work.  My aesthetic approach explores certain cultural veins--gothicism, horror, surrealism.  My themes closely align with my slant as a feminist --knowledge and danger, domestic spaces (safe and unsafe), suburban unrest, women as muse vs. creators, language and the body, mothers & daughters, nature vs. civilization.   My subject matter reflects ongoing passions and obsessions --victoriana, sideshows & carnivals, zodiac signs, horror movies, taxidermy, monstrous women, science fiction, mythology,  fairy tales, ghost stories, urban legends.  I love that which juxtaposes the beautiful and the terrible, the pretty and the horrific. I am also interested in the midwest as both place and concept, and much of my work finds its roots there. 

Stylistically, I am interested in fragmentation, polyvocality, and distortion of narrative.  I tend to work in the grey area between poetry and prose. The tension between the visual and the written and their combined effect.  I love appropriated and misused forms--epistolaries, footnotes, indices.   In current projects , I am fascinated by the possibilities of the lyric essay as medium for memoir.  I am very much about utilizing ephemera, found elements,  and collage in both my written and visual work., which manifests both in my mediums and my approach to composition.  

Saturday, March 02, 2019

writing, art, the vast in-betweens

Sometimes I feel I spend most of my time balancing and straddling different worlds.  There is the world of the library and the creative world.  The balance between poetry and prose and the task of writing in hybrid genres. Also the worlds of writing and the worlds of art.  Of editing and writing of my own.   My work forever how to get them to bleed effectively into and out of each other.  How to balance your time between them and bring them together.  Whenever I spend too much time leaning in one direction it is usually accompanied by a listllessness when it comes to the other.  There are some things that seem to fully bring things together..doing creative programs and exhibits in the library for example. Or creating my zine /artist book projects that successfully meld those things together.

Since I did those summer house pieces, I was struck with an urge to do some writing to go along with them, and what has emerged is rather interesting--a sort of domestic ghost story involving a changeling.  I'm five pieces in and liked them so much I decided to send them off in submission to see if anyone else takes a fancy, mostly because even independent of the visual aspects they are pretty sound writing.  I do still always feel however, that lately, the places where my work is most true, most pure, is in the interaction of the visual with the text, but there seem to be rather limited places for that sort of hybrid work.. I do try to exhibit both visuals and text at the same time, but as far as lit journals, only a few are specifically interested in cross-genre work of this kind.

This week, I've been putting finishing touches on ordinary planet, which combines poems and images in a short artist book project. (more pics of this soon). The poems themselves appeared in a few places recently and seem to hold up well without the images, but the images definitely augment and perhaps change your interpretation of the written pieces and vice versa.  I love the friction they cause between each other, similarly in the summer house, where the written aspects are much spookier and darker than the collages, which are actually more pretty and light than their text counterparts.

Granted, sometimes I still definitely make art without text elements (most of my printmaking and painting projects fall in this vein). Sometimes I still write without visuals (this happens less and less, since mostly I find myself thinking what visuals might accompany what I've written (exquisite damage being an excellent example of this--I'm still trying to figure it out.)   I'm also, excited when my visuals or my my written pieces interact with the work of other artists and writing.  This is probably why I love designing covers so much, why I loved making my contribution to this project and the slender man project I am working on with my sister.

I've talked about my late entry into practicing any sort of visual art, not until I was around 30, having spent most of my efforts up til then on writing and, when I was in college, on theatre (I was mostly a backastager--stage managing, running lights, overseeing costumes). After undergrad, I pretty much focused on writing for about a decade (well that and finding some sort of way to make a living.)  My 30's in general were very much about throwing things at the wall and seeing if they would stick--learning new techniques and skills and applying them to the work I wanted to do.

It's strange to think of the writing I did prior to around 2004 had no interatcion with the visual arts, or maybe it was always firmly embedded in mental imagery that I didn't know how to translate.  I've often mentioned that my collage work impacted my writing style heavily in the years that followed, but I sometimes wonder how much my writing has an effect on my visual pieces (not in the obvious way of combining them) but maybe in the way even the visuals are sometimes working to tell stories.

Friday, March 01, 2019

spring wardrobe wishing

Today is the first day of meteorological spring, despite the ungodly cold outside. so around St Patrick's Day I plan on hauling out the spring bins from under the bed and switching up my wardrobe. It's still pretty chilly well until near the end of April and my birthday, but I can lighten things up a bit--some more pastelish florals, lots of stripes, maybe shedding the tights and layers a bit and some lighter jackets.

There is something to be said of just slipping on your shoes and walking outside (rather than tights and leggings and boots under dresses and skirts.)  Even my love of winter outerwear starts to wear a little thin these days.  Spring and we're one step closer to summer sundresses and at most, a cardigan. (And you know, being outside for longer than 5 minutes without dying a little inside...)

For more spring wardrobe goodness, check out my Pinterest...

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

panel discussion on publishing @ the library

I will be moderating / joining in this discussion at the Library with a whole bunch of other fellow CCC alumni  (all of whom also happen to be awesome dancing girl authors..)


Join the Library and the Aesthetics of Research for a panel discussion with Columbia College Chicago alumni who have forged their way in the indie lit community from the ground floor up, founding and working for new presses, journals, reading series, and more.

Panelists include

ABIGAIL ZIMMER is the author of girls their tongues (Orange Monkey Press, 2017) and two chapbooks: fearless as I seam (Dancing Girl Press, 2014) and child in a winter house brightening (Tree Light Books, 2016), which received the 2016 Poetry Award from the Chicago Review of Books. She is editor of the Lettered Streets Press.

NAOMI WASHER is the author of two chapbooks: Phantoms (dancing girl press) and American Girl Doll (Ursus Americanus). She is also the translator from the Spanish of Experimental Gardening Manual: Create your own habitat in thirty-something simple steps by Sebastián Jiménez Galindo (Toad Press). Her work has appeared in Gold Wake Live, Pithead Chapel, Asymptote, Passages North, Essay Daily, and other journals. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, Studio Faire and Chateau d'Orquevaux in France, and Columbia College Chicago where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Ghost Proposal, a post-genre literary journal and chapbook press.

COLLEEN O'CONNOR received her MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of the chapbooks THE PRETTY THING TO DO (Dancing Girl Press) and CONVERSATIONS WITH ORSON (Essay Press). Recent work has appeared in Glittermob, Pinwheel, and Barrelhouse, where her essay "Cautionary" was a featured novella-length essay. She lives in Chicago where she was recently the managing editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, and is currently an assistant editor of Hotel Amerika and co-editor of The Lettered Streets Press.

JENNIFER TATUM's  work has appeared in 1913: A Journal of Forms, Another Chicago Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, South Loop Review, and other journals. She received an MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago where she was the recipient of a Follett Fellowship. She is the Managing Editor of Hotel Amerika and lives and works in Chicago.

A writer and book artist, KRISTY BOWEN is currently a Library staff member and co-curator (with Jennifer Sauzer) of the Aesthetics of Research initiative. She received her MFA in Poetry from Columbia College in 2007. She is the editor/designer or dancing girl press & studio, which publishes a series of chapbooks by women authors. Her work has appeared recently in Hobart, Paper Darts, and Tupelo Quarterly. She is the author of a number of chapbook, zine, and artist book projects, as well as several full-length collections of poetry/prose/hybrid work, including SALVAGE (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and MAJOR CHARACTERS IN MINOR FILMS (Sundress Publications, 2015).


"Get Your Hustle On" is a series of panel discussions, workshops, and other activities that bring practicing artists, writers, editors, curators, and other creatives to the Library to explore practical and applied topics related to a life and career in the arts, including making a living as an artist, submitting your work, building your art business, self-promotion, as well as how the Library and its resources can help you in these endeavors.

russian doll

One of my favorite moments is a few episodes into Russian Doll where, convinced she is losing it, Natasha Leone's character, talking with the woman who mostly raised her, utters her safe word for mental health.  I found this a nice idea--a single word that would show the people around us that we were in a bad space that required help.   I don't think I've every been quite there, but part of my weird anxious brain worries that if I ever were in need of help, I wouldn't be able to convey the difference between an ordinary kind of brain wonkiness and something that bordered on dangerous.  And truthfully, the weekend I sat down to watch this show the first time, I was in a weirder place.  I made it through one episode and it made me so undeniably anxious that I had to stop.  I went back the following week, and was glad I did, because it was so, so good.

And really, there was something so similar about the characters repeating groundhog day experiences and life pretty much--days spent doing mostly the same things with variations.  This is probably why I found it initially super anxiety-provoking, the routine and the missteps that could lead to disaster.  How each choice sets off a chain reaction of other choices.   If you  change A, the B happens, avoid B then you skip C and move ahead to D. It makes every choice unbearable sometimes thinking 10 steps ahead of everything.  And I guess, welcome to my brain. And particularly, my brain on winter. 

The show, though is definitely worth watching. Lyonne is as always, super amazing and everyone else is really great.  They also manage to make a kind of super-depressing context into a rather uplifting ending. A few months ago, I was wandering away from Netflix, but they have been knocking it out of the park lately, so I'm glad I stayed.  

writing & art bits | february

* This month, I managed to round off another segment of the poet's zodiac pieces, which I will sharing on instagram as we go.  The winter ones are a little darker than what comes before them, but this is to be suspected.  I am 3/4 of the way through the entire project and may be able to finish it within the next couple of months if I keep up the daily writing, so here's hoping.  I will also be doing another round of scrolls in the summer to give away at zine fest and other things  (last year's included only the spring ones). 

*Having wound up the short series of swallow poems, I'm currently scoping out projects that might be good for the Tiny Letter subscription format. So more on that soon.  There are a few irons in the fire, but I'm not sure which is burning the hottest just yet--lots of starts, but nothing has caught wind in the last few weeks. I'd like to go with something a bit longer this time.

*My 100 rejections plan is off to a good start, or maybe I should say an inconclusive start since I've sent of 9 subs and still have no responses.  But I was thinking I'd already sent off a few more than I did the entirety of last year already, so I am already a success no matter what happens to the poems in the long run. Because I am horrible at record-keeping, I'm trying to keep it simple and just send stuff out to one place at a time. So we'll see how it goes.

*Thank you to all for the amazing response to the new collage series, the summer house (see above) on social media.  I, too,  am really loving them, and already have written a couple text pieces to accompany them in some sort of future zine project. I was thinking how much I love how the visuals and text pieces work toward telling a story together an love how that plays out, so more soon.

* And speaking of zine projects, both tardy  January & February offerings are just about done..the animals accordian book and ordinary planet, which is all set to print this week.   You can still get in on the action by subscribing here.   I've been waffling over what is next and it may be a print version of taurus with the collages (currently the online version is just text.) There is also something I plan on doing with the strangerie pieces that might be cool if I can swing it, more on that later...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

indie press basics 101

[the baby beginnings of dgp in my dining room]

There's some quote (Gandhi maybe?) that says be the sort of change you want to see in the world or somesuch.   I think about this often when I think about the missions of small presses and other labors of literary  love...how much one lit journal or press can, by its mere existence, change and inform the culture in positive ways. I started dancing girl about a year into my MFA program and people seemed surprised when they heard about it (granted, the whole endeavor those first couple of years was a small, private thing that I was doing on the side and only a few people around me knew was happening.)  Editing was not new..I had worked in that capacity for wicked alice for about 3 or 4 years then, but I was kinda mostly faking it til I was actually making it.  I ran around saying I was starting a press and then suddenly I was. 

The logistics for staring the chapbook series was amazingly simple--figuring out how to do layout and print/assemble the books was in no way as difficult as actually finding writers who wanted to be published or readers who wanted to buy our books. This would be the big challenge those first few years. The first book we published that wasn't my own chap was the late Adrianne Marcus' The Resurrection of Trotsky, a book she had asked via e-mail, having been a repeat wicked alice contributor, where she should send it to. I think she was surprised when I told her my plans to start dancing girl press and that she should let me publish it as our first official title.  That year, I opened my first round of submissions and there were maybe like 10 of them, of which I chose 5--mostly folks who were publishing in the same journals I was and caught wind of our existence via my blog  or my online publication bio mention (this being considerably pre-facebook). The second year, the submissions tripled, and then just kept increasing incrementally, then jumped crazy after 2007 or so til we hit about the 500 hundred mark where it's stayed steady the past few years.

Once you have the means of production and work to publish, it was actually pretty easy and I probably produced those first few chaps for under a $100 each then rolled the profits back into the next book. When people would ask how I managed to do it, I could explain to you pretty easily the logistics and how probably anyone, with some printers and staplers and people willing to let you publish them, could do it pretty cheaply.  Also, if you're only putting out a handful of titles a year, it's easier to manage your time and adjust as needed if you don't have a lot of time to do it in.  Technology and duplex printing and streamlined tech stuff has increased the speed of everything from layout to production, so even I spend less time than I used to on things (layouts to print double sided manually used to take FOREVER. (that factor and being able to fund more titles being why we've increased the number of books we've published over the years dramatically.)

Around the same time I was hatching my plans, in the spring of 2004, I took a small press publishing class over in the Fiction Writing Department that helped me more on the business side of things.  Actually, I've probably never been as organized on projects as I was taught to be in that class, but it was nice to have that sort of background knowledge, even if I didn't use it all.   The thing I noticed about most of my classmate's projects was that they were too grand...expensive, unruly, involved a lot of people who had to deliver.  My goal that semester was to put out a print annual of wicked alice, which I did for a couple years, but I was also putting out my first chap, Bloody Mary, as a trail run for Adrianne's book that would be issued that fall. I hadn't yet discovered cardstock suppliers beyond the kinda spendy Paper Source, so I used fancy papers from the art store on Michigan. I discovered later that Staples has a heavier stock that is actually pretty nice if you want a matte finish that will fit in any printer.  I also had no actual overhead beyond supplies to make books pre-studio days, so it was easy to just keep rolling the proceeds into growing larger.

But what people asked me about more in the beginning was almost the how to take  on that sort of authority for yourself, or maybe the confidence to say I can do this--that I have something--a voice, a vision--that I want to put out in the world.  Along with a lot of other things in those days, I felt more self-conscious about it than not.  But I kept trying to explain really that anyone could do it, at least on the tiny scale that I was doing it those days.  All it took was some serious commitment and a little bit of cash (though not that much--I was operating super bare bones and using cheaper papers/printers.)  So many other presses were already paving the way--Horseless, Effing, Octopus, Big Game Books--and doing it very well. I worried no one would submit work, or no one would buy the books, but I never worried about the endeavor itself.

I think so often (then and now) we feel like as poets we have to wait for someone to give us authority.  To say, here, work for this literary journal or work for my already established press if you want to be an editor. But most presses, except for big operations or university affiliates were probably the work of one or two people who made that initial jump and claimed a little corner of the publishing world for themselves to do what they needed to do.  You say you have a thing and suddenly, after some work, you have a thing and it's really pretty awesome.

Monday, February 25, 2019

my throat is a lovely murder

"Soon, / I'm a treble clef, a tangle, / all white hair and ribbons, / the sky gone up like burning copper."
 - "carnival season"

I realized today that I nearly missed another book birthday...girl show, the third book I wrote, the fourth one published, debuted in February 2014.  There was a long haul between when the book was finished as my thesis in 2007 and when it was actually released.  It had initially been snapped up by Ghost Road, the publisher of my my first collection, but the press folded in 2010 and left it back in my lap.  Later that year, I sent it to Black Lawrence, who wound up accepting it the following year.  I always think about how it was almost a good thing--the press closing and landing with another, even better, publisher with a huger audience, but at the time I was sort of listless in my writing pursuits and not sure the book was ever going to happen.  It had been a fallow period, post MFA, and my attention was everywhere but writing.

girl show was conceived around 2005, when I had completed an early set of collages (not so great) under the title and wrote the title poem.  They were never really meant to go together, really, my mind not yet toward combining text and image, but both partially inspired by AW Stencell's GIRL SHOW:  INTO THE CANVAS WORLD OF BUMP & GRIND. That first poem came pretty easy, the rest of the book hard, but I knew I had my title then and there even if I barely had a project.  Over the next couple years, as I finished my MFA, I finished the poems.  By the fall of 2006, when I landed in my thesis seminar, I had most of the entire book written. With the help of my classmates, I had wrangled it into three sections by spring and it was pretty much finished.. I did a little tweaking in the spring at the bequest of my advisor to get approval (much of which I later undid before sending it out for publication, angry that it took me so long to realize that know my own work best).  Somewhere in the bowels of Library archives, there is the version I turned in for the degree, but then there is the version that exists in print. (*note to future lit scholars in the event I ever become famous, just burn that one, kay?..lol..)

"My body will go on giving /  things up: pink scarves and the ace of spades."
-"dissassembling maria"

I sent it to Ghost Road later that year, who had done an amazing job with the fever almanac, but the press was already on the verge of dissolving.  The editor I'd primarily worked on the book with and who'd enthusiastically accepted the second, had left by 2008, and though the existing editor had tried to make a go alone, health issues forced him to shutter. It's a common story in a world where such presses exist woefully underfunded and understaffed.  I was devastated, of course, but, because of my feelings toward poetry and po-biz at that time, not all that worried about it.  I did divide it up and submitted part as a chap, that placed as a finalist in a journal contest, but the only other place I sent the full mss to was Black Lawrence.

I'm so happy that they picked it up, and that it started this amazing relationship with that press that has already produced two books, and a third coming next spring.  When it came time to choose the cover, I had been working on my spectacle series of paper cut-outs, and somehow the bareback rider just seemed very right to grace the cover of the project. I also got some amazing blurbs from two of my favorite poets, Mary Ann Samyn and Carol Guess. There are a couple things that distinguish girl show from other projects, one that it's one of the last projects that was mostly verse.  I had already started writing mostly prose poems in the intervening years.  Also, it was probably my most intensely researched (I even thanked my my bestie/boss Jen for pointing me in the right direction when it came to source material.)  Most of the carnival women were inspired by real life stories.  

Perhaps one of the more important things about this book, was that it's acceptance re-ignited my writing passions and gave me impetus to continue.  It was accepted in the fall of 2011, a point when I was very much occupied with other things (press doings, shop doings, unrequited love dramas) and I suddenly was able to snap a bit more back into focus (ironically with a very unserious project with the James Franco letters, but it worked.)  And soon I was writing the shipwrecks of lake michigan poems and I was on a roll.   It probably just gave me hope that I was still on the right path, despite the enthusiasm I lost post MFA and the way I felt very anxious about writing, but also anxious about not writing.

*get a copy of girl show here at the Black Lawrence site..
*read a review at American Microreviews and Interviews
* sample at Verse Daily