Sunday, July 15, 2018

notes & things | 7/15/2018

The forecast for the past two days has indicated stormy, but outside of a brief shower and some clouds yesterday, I haven't seen much of it, which means it's been sort of gross and steamy with high humidity and completely sunny at the moment. .  I am back to another free weekend after some Rockford action last weekend that involved some outside bbq fun and a lot of tequila, a sort of belated 4th of July celebration. Summer is half over and I am stil completely content to hide out on the weekends and not leave the apartment, working on some more creative projects and manuscript critiques. Today, I've been combing fashion blogs and instead thinking about fall, which when it's here, I'll be dreading winter and mourning the summer, but such is pretty much every season.

Much is aflutter at work with staff changes that are hopeful and maybe very fortuitous, but which also involve a little more work than summer usually brings, as well as some remodeling and switchouts of spaces.  Lots of planning as well for fall, which brings so much goodness in terms of programming--including our month devoted to women in horror, how-to workshops, art-biz panels and more. We are also in the midst of re-thinking branding for the library--talking points and elevator pitches and such, which seems promising.

A couple weeks ago, I retweeted a call for submissions for an as yet un-homed Slender Man anthology, mentioning my notes for a future project devoted to the Waukesha stabbing incident.  I've not only been working a bit on a series devoted to that, but have agreed to issue the project through dgp, of which the first volume will be out before Halloween. All of this is thanks to the strange universe of Twitter, which I am still acclimating myself to.  This is actually the 2nd collab effort will be doing this year (Jen Rouse's RIDING WITH ANNE SEXTON is due out soon in conjunction with Bone & Ink Press.) So watch for that as well.

July's offering in the subsciption series is a little accordian book of collages,  the GARDEN series, of stange surrealistic little botanicals. We are halfway through the year, but you can still get in on subscription series of bookish lovelies and get everything issued since January and the rest through the end of the year (which includes the Cryptotaxonomy zine, the Poet's Zodiac scrolls, the Grimm anthology project, the Tattoo Cat mini-print, honey machine, how to write a love poem in a time of war, and /SLASH/  (plus the forthcoming LITTLE APOCALYPSE).

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

on creative beginnings

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I've been thinking the last week or so on the roots of the creative self. What makes us who we are in terms of artists.  When I was 4 or 5, long  before I started kindergarten and linked the alphabet song my dad had taught me with the strange glyphs over the chalkboard and was able to begin to break the code of that thing called "reading", I suppose  I was already a writer.  My favorite thing to do was to scavenge paper, my dad's work cast-offs, the blank end pages of books, and fill them with scribbles that in my head approximated the cursive I would eagerly learn in the second grade. But then, my"stories" were untranslatable to anyone but me. I already was developing a paper and pen fetish, and my favorite x-mas present  in those weird years where memory is still sketchy, was a totebag filled with notepads, folders and spirals, and pens in a bunch of different colors (which then was really only red, green, black, and blue. )

As I started school, I was impatient over pencils and lined newsprint and wanted the smooth roll of ink on college lined sheets. My mother used to read to us at bedtime, from the same few things-mother goose, a children's bible (even though we weren't exactly religious.)  The books were holy, especially before I could read them, and then in a different way after that. The first thing I ever remember being able to "read" was the sign above the Jewel where I waited in the car with my dad for my my mom to shop, that rush of a whole new world coming at me.  I was unstoppable then, reading kids books, that grew longer and more complex. Some of my favorites were the glossy Beatrix Potters from the school library.  A box sets of illustrated classics, not all of which I remember, but War of the Worlds was my favorite. (and probably one of the reasons this is our upcoming year's Book to Art I loved Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary and waited patiently for the newsprint amazingness of the Scholastic Book order every month.

When I wasn't reading, I probably did a lot more daydreaming than writing, but then again, that is somehow still part of the process. I was still fascinated by notebooks and pens and school supplies, and remember occasionally writing out the outlines of these elaborite gothic family trees and stories well  into adulthood. While I bucked a little at learning grammar rules, which I must have picked up intuitively somehow later on, I was good at spelling, a spelling bee champ, and eventually really good at regurgitating facts back out on essay tests while everyone else in classes was freaking out.  My reading tastes got more complex, but age 10,  my aunt was already delivering grocery sacks full of horror novels she'd bought and read already, ostensibly for my dad, but I usually got to them first.  It was then, in a move,  I uncovered a copy of Amityville Horrror and spent the first night in our new house reading it cover to cover.    (I was already well versed in the movie, my fascination with scary movies happening much, much earlier around the time I was learning to read.)

In junior high, I set off to turn these gothic stories into a young authors book contest attempt, but caved under pressure and turned in a children's counting book instead.It was probably my first experience with caving under a deadline. It would be another year before I started writing poems, probably since I barely knew, outside of Shel Silverstein, that poems were actually an option--something that was still written by people and not some dusty anachronistic form. I tried--wrote all sorts of horrible rhyming verse in the next couple of years, but still felt like a dusty, untouchable thing.  Would be, for a good long time after--even though I was still doing writer things--writing passionate edittorials about dolphins and animal rights in the school paper, entering and winning esssay contests rather easily, perfecting my 5 paragraph composition form. These were things that came easily--probably all those horror novels teaching me how to write without me really trying--the very best argument for learning to write by reading.

Poetry was slippery--and not something I would feel I had a hand on for many years after (and sometimes not even now.)  But I tried, especially after I turned my attention back to books where it always should have been. I went full-tilt the summer between my freshman and softmore year on submitting work to the kinds of places in the back of Writer's Digest, checked out from the public library, or on occasion, bought with whatever money I'd scraped together from the mall's single bookstore. There was more writing--lit class papers, workshop poems & stories, film reviews for the college paper., but I was splitting attention between lit and theatre for a bit there, so I didn't come back full-force til my final undergrad year. I was getting better, but it  would still be a couple years til I was anything like good at it. But I committed in some way in those years, pursued my MA in Lit, came out of that writing better than ever.  It would still be a couple years before regular publications, before chapbooks and books, before applying to an MFA, but the seeds were growing even then.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

notes & things | 6/30/2018

It's the end of June and we are 1/3 of the way through summer.  It's the end of June, and I am finishing up a final-ish draft of the EXQUISITE DAMAGE series. which is running at about 22 pages.  It could be longer, but I think I've covered everything I wanted to. I'm not sure if there will be a visual component to the project, or what that may look like in the end, but the text has been wrangled into something like finished. I'm still not sure what to categorize it's memoirish, but also contains non-memoirish vignettes and directly addresses the reader.  It's a mix up of horror movies and gothic novels and the concept of middle class fear. I guess it would fall into the lyric essay category, but there is some more imaginative made up stuff in there. But then again, there's a line

"Ultimately, I am not to be trusted.  I once read too many 
novels and now I'm very twisty with the truth."

I might be sending some pieces out for submissions, but you can get a peek at the rest if you subscribe to my Tiny Letter.

It's hot the past couple of days, hot enough to stay close to the fan and not move around too much.  We're coming up on the 4th, and while the days of family picnics and fried chicken are probably over forever, I'm not sure what they will be replaced with (it's midweek this year anyway, so it doesn't exactly matter.) I think there might be some festivities in the city with friends, but part of me just wants to stay home. Maybe it's the weight of extended family weirdness, or maybe it's just I'm not very proud of being an American the past couple of years.  Last year, I was home for about a week around now and it was the last time my mother was mobile and in good spirits.  The last chunk of time, outside of hospitals and nursing homes that I spent with her--her usual self. Already the sickness & infection  that would take her was settling in though, and before I left, she would have the first of the confusion episodes that became more frequent through the end of the summer, having fallen asleep mid-afternoon and convinced, when waking, it was morning and not dusk.  This happened a couple times before things got much worse.

When it gets apocalyptically hot and doesn't cool down at night at all, I like to start watching apocalyptic movies, mostly pandemics.  The first half of the STAND is a favorite.  Plagues, zombies.  I'm not sure why--maybe some weird perversion of extreme temperatures.  In winter, when it gets cold, I start bing eating grilled cheese and watching Grey's Anatomy (which I have no desire to watch the rest of the time), so maybe it's just a comfort thing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

poet vs. imposter syndrome

I finally have a free weekend, so am settling into my Saturday with coffee, a couple of sizeable eclairs, and a manuscript critique I'm working on accompanied by some vinyl. I'm finding, despite how much I hated workshops as a whole, I do like the one on one work of examining a book, sussing out what what works and possibilities to make it stronger.    I've done this a bunch of times over the years for friends just on the fly, but have only recently started doing it as something that generates income. (I'm determined to make all those degrees and writing experience pay my student loans payment, that creep a little higher with each year (as they are income based)  and I will probably be paying until I die.  It also helps that so far, the manuscripts have been people whose work I already have familiarity with and like. So it's much less like work and more like fun.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about how, as you get older, you spend a lot of time in your 20s and 30's looking at situations and thinking you never really have a handle on certain things, certain skill sets, certain knowledge bases. Maybe it's a little bit of imposter syndrome.  I'm pretty confident, but then sometimes I feel so much like I'm making it up as I go along.   I think only in the last 4 or 5 years have I been ready to admit that there are certain things I actually do pretty well, and I guess pulling together a manuscript, even though the struggle was real difficult on that first book 15 or so years ago, has gotten to be more of a second nature. Or another example: Someone also asked recently if I wanted to be on the Library's social media committee, and when I considered it, I realized that I actually am pretty good at it in the context of my own work promotion (I've been blogging since 2002 after all) and the press (which thrives in part due to social media--or maybe even wholly).   A few years ago, when the ARTCACHE was included as part of Chicago Artists Month, a couple of us had to go to a couple sessions on marketing, and as I sat in the audience, I realized that the people up on the stage really knew no more than I already did, and actually, disappointingly for the time investment, probably less. I also have been marketing and promoting things for Aesthetics through it's own channels, so I'm pretty much already doing it.

But it's hard to claim that authority when you don't have a degree or a certificate to back you up (and even of you do).  This applies to other, more mundane library things as well..I recently took on interlibrary loan duties during a personel shift, and in the middle of a platform changeover and spent two weeks freaked out that cramming new system and procedures (well, mostly new, my last experience in ILL being over a decade ago and then only occasional backup) Sometimes it feels like there is so much already in my head and on my plate that adding new things will only result in frustration and disaster, but I'm feeling a good about it. ( we also have some crackerjack student workers who do a lot of the processing themselves, so I mostly just have to supervise them  & see to the non-I-share things.) I am also learning how to help out with the maker lab & the 3-D printer (the librarian who oversees it is going on maternity leave in August, and again I thought it would be hard to get a handle, but actually it's not so hard. ) There's always that feeling that good god, I'm never going to figure out this software or troubleshoot this machine. But, then , I have to remind myself that a lot of things I learned I eventually figured out...writing a poem, making art, handcoding websites in the early aughts )before you had nifty things like tumblr & wordpress that made it easy.) Running an online business (there was a huge learning curve when I was developing the etsy shop). Eventually I got the hang of things, but it's hard to remember those things in the panic of facing whatever new things comes your way and you're freaking the hell out.
And poetry, in general, has so much of this.  Particularly since the stakes are at the same time kinda high and not high at all. So much rejection, even when you feel you feel on (or nearly) on top of your game.  All the poems you send out that you think are amazing that no one wants (all the meh--things that people seem to inordinately like.) Also the weird markers--the top-tier journal pubs, the first book, the next, fellowships,  tenure, awards-- things that even the people who have them sometimes feel aren't enough. (and god forbid you eschew them completely, which leaves you flailing in imposter waters even more frantically.)  Even the work feels slippery if you focus on that instead of externals--today's genius, tomorrows garbage fire. it's rough, especially when money, which seems the ultimate sign of success in American society, isn't even much in the game.  People outside of poetry seem to respect you as a poet if you have turned it into cash, but I can still say of all my years in poetry, the most I've ever earned (including prize money, royalties & book sales, workshop & reading honorariums), probably doesn't even hit $3000 my whole lifetime. Respectable for a poet, but I've easily made 3x selling art & paper goods. When it comes to degrees and certificates, my MFA made me feel even less like I had a handle on poetry than the years I didn't have it.

So then what is success in poetry?  The internal satisfaction of writing something good (though see garbage fire above--who knows?)  I like to think it's readership, and people interested in your work, but those things are harder to track.  Sometimes, you feel like you're flinging words  into a big old void. Even those likes and hits feel small in the grand scheme of things.  When I'm feeling down, I start self-googling as therapy , and it always perks me up to find things like this (mere mentions on tumblr, but look at the notes on that first one! Which means that many people actually laid eyes on that single line from a kinda old poem!) I also get really excited over occasional reviews, and hearing that my books are being taught in classes  I nearly fell on the floor when I heard the James Franco Sundress chap hits were in the thousands--even if people were only interested in JF and not  One of the most amazing things in my early days of publishing on the web, was not even the appeal of the work to editors, but the really nice notes I got from readers on how much they liked the work, or the writer friends I made because of those connections.  Or a really good response to work at a reading. Again, less measurable than a book prize or a teaching position, but in the end somehow so much more worth it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I did a little modification of my inky collage series piece for a fun little 11 x 17 prints available in the shop soon...

Monday, June 18, 2018

notes & things | 6/18/2018

This weekend has been unbearably hot, even in the city near the lakefront, let alone in Rockford, where I spent the weekend about two feet from the a/c celebrating father's day and organizing EXQUISITE DAMAGE, which has about 20 existing parts, into something like a cohesive whole to determine what still needs to be written. As such, I have landed back in the city exhausted from poor sleeping in the heat and not really feeling like I had a weekend at all.

I've been doodling flowers in my sketchbook much of late. Twice in the past week, I have inhaled cottonwood seeds on the sidewalk and am any day now expecting to grow a tree. Tonight, huge spats of rain and some cooler air, but I am still very tired.  My new responsibilities (not only learning a system new to me, but transitioning to a system new to the library) also has me anxious and restless during working hours. It will settle no doubt, but there goes some of my low-key summer @ work working mostly on programming. (which will still get done no doubt, just with a little less focus.

My manuscript news last week was that Black Lawrence has indeed picked up SEX & VIOLENCE, the contract of which has been signed, sealed, and delivered and the release date set fir April 2020. This will be the third go-round of working with BLP and I'll most likely be furnishing the cover on this one which will be fun  (GIRL SHOW  was all me, but SALVAGE was an artfully modified stock image.)

As I mentioned on facebook, it still always surprises me that I managed to publish one book, let alone 8 of them.  About 15 years ago, I was just beginning to send out the first serious incarnation of a book (we won't talk about the one before that)  The book that eventually, with a large amount modification over the next couple of years, would become THE FEVER ALMANAC. About half of it ripped out and reformed with new work I was doing in my first year or so of pursuing my MFA.  There were a million blog entries then lamenting my book fever, how I felt like it was never going to happen for me. And really, that first book changed nothing.  But then again, it felt like it changed everything. (Even if the publisher went under and it's out of print.)  There was something formative about the experience of releasing it out into the wild.  It's very serious bookishness--glossiness and slick spine.  The heft of it (well as hefty as slim poetry volume can be. )  How I used to go into the Borders (the only bookstore around with a decent selection of contemporary poetry at the time( and run my fingers over those spines and imagine myself among them (of course, Borders itself would be gone before I even had enough books to really occupy a shelf.)  Even still, at home, every once in a while I line them all up on the shelf with their shiny covers and am amazed that it not only happened that first time, but all the times since...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Plans are under way this week for our fall focus topic, which (surprise surprise) is devoted to women in horror, which means soon I will be posting artist calls, arranging panels and readings for all of October (which I will probably blink and it will be here before I know it.  I've spent the last few weeks working on setting the schedule for fall zine nights and Book to Art activities (we are choosing War of the Worlds, as a potential tie in to our spring focus topic Strange Fevers: Mass Delusions, Illusions, and Obsessions.   Since one of our staff members are leaving, I've now also landed interlibrary loan duties in my corner, which will tighten up the reigns on planning time, but hopefully my tighter schedule will have the usual result of being more efficient than usual. So we'll see...

As expected, the topic intentionally ties in perfectly with some of the concerns feeding my own recent work, particularly EXQUISITE DAMAGE--and the whole idea of the feminine and the gothic bridging horror movies and literature...