Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Given I will be once again back on the RC campus this Friday, I've been waxing a little nostalgic for the four years I spent there. It's still one of the prettiest campuses I've seen, particularly in the spring, tucked back off the main thoroughfare through town so much so that you wouldn't even know it existed. I spent alot of my time there in the arts building working on theatre related stuff, alot of time in the library between classes, either upstairs making my way through the collection, or in the basement napping amongst the periodiocals. Now I probably would have spent all that time online in some computer lab, but then, I barely knew what the internet was. My classes were heavy on women's writing, also with alot of theatre history and drama, and a couple writing classes thrown in. Through the middle years, I actually wasn't writing all that much, but a jag of it that started in the spring of junior year that continued through graduation. So much of my developing interest in women's writing, which would lead me to where I am today with my work and the press has it's foundations in that period. I was rather spoiled when it came to having amazing professors who made women's writing as central to the canon as men's, or who offered women-centered courses. I guess at the time I didn't realize how rare and wonderful that was, particularly at the undergrad level. I continued to seek those sorts of courses out at DePaul, of course, but the offerings seemed less abundant even though the department was exponentially larger.

It actually had it's start as a women's college a hundred fifty years before (the most famous alum is Jane Addams) and was once located downtown along the river. There are all sorts of archival photos of turn of the century ladies dong collegiate things like prancing around the maypole and rowing boats. They moved to the new campus in the 60's, so there are some interested mid-century buildings (at some point while my sister was attending they actually modernized alot of the classrooms in Scarborough Hall, but I sort of liked the weird built-in tables, greenish tinged walls, and institutional furniture. I wound up there almost accidently after coming back from North Carolina and fully intended to go somewhere else, but the next fall landed there because it was close, I could live at home, and they let me attend almost for free because my transfer grades were good. It was actually the perfect little liberal arts college I needed with very small classes and really great professors--a bit of a change from UNCW which was big and overly laid back (though by no means as huge as Chapel Hill) and where you could easily feel a little lost.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Today, the light was very fall-like, and dusk here noticeably earlier than even a week or so ago. A little hungover from last night's activities, I woke to rain early, went back to bed, and woke again only to have to shut all the windows due to the chill. This is probably my last weekend all to myself, since next week I will be in Rockford collecting an alumni award from RC, and then am doomed to the library the following two weekends. The weekend after that is a trip by train to Detroit again for this years Theatre Bizarre celebration. I am mostly decided on a Carrie costume complete with prom dress, tiara, and a whole lot of blood. The other possibility is a Spanish Dancer since I already have a dress that works and just need a fan and some accessories. Either way, I am looking forward to it.

Otherwise, my time is spent getting books ready and made in the studio and shipping orders out. We're set to release a new slew of titles in the next couple of weeks that are almost ready to go, including work by Stacy Kidd, Montana Ray, Kristina Jipson, Gretchen E. Henderson, and several more I'm working on layouts for. I'm also scheming over AWP planning and it looks like we'll be hosting both an open studio and a reading somewheres with some other small presses perhaps (in addition to the chapbook panel I'm on). I've recently finished up a set of collages (see a sneak peak above) and working on sections of beautiful, sinister. I also managed to successfully recover some lost random art images from old collages that I posted to Flickr. Fall always makes me almost manic in terms of hatching new ideas for things, and already I have a list of new little creative projects I want to do in the coming year...

Monday, September 19, 2011

@ dulcet

all through the rest of September, choose any two notecards, postcard, or gift tag sets and get another of your choice free (feel free to mix and match.) Just let me know which free set you would like in the notes section of your order...

wicked alice 10th Anniversary issue

is now online...

featuring work by Sarah Neal, A.E. Loveridge, Noel Sloboda, Jessica Rainey & Edward Smallfield, Sharon Venezio, Valerie Loveland, Jessica Young, and Leah Stetson.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

giving it away for free

Because I am tired of kicking this box of them every time I cross my legs under my desk at work, I am going to be giving away a copy of The Archaeologist’s Daughter to anyone who wants to take one off my hands (please, take one!) This is older work, circa 2000-2001 and put out by Moon Journal Press a few years ago. I wound up with a whole lot of copies and have been hoarding them and wondering what the hell to do with them ever since. Considering at some point we will moving the library and everything in it, I would like to get rid of them before I have to schlep them somewhere else. A handful of the poems wound up in the fever almanac later on in different versions, but most of what is in here is exclusive to this particular chapbook (and unless you were lurking around on several internet zines in the early aughts, you might never have seen any of these.) A lot of them are poems about history, mythology, art, literature, evoking everything from Pompeii, Gold Rush brides and Rapunzel to Columbus, Degas’ dancers, Salem witches, and Helen of Troy. Moon Journal made a very pretty book as well. Get yours now by shooting me an e-mail and I will send one your way.

Monday, September 12, 2011

from Pinterest

Today has been one of those days where I start a million things and finish nothing. It began with a poem shortly after getting out of bed. I am knee deep in the narrative project, which I am working on the structure of in blog form (well, private for now while it's taking shape.)I have alot of fragments, as well as ancillary texts that need to be woven in, also links to research, art, etc...so it seems to be working out wonderfully. I feel a renewed passion for it now that I can see it actually taking shape. I am built for story-making and this feels good, even though they are just prose poem snippets. Later in the studio, I was able to pack a few orders, but am stuck waiting on toner til tomorrow to do any serious printing and assembly. I also have the landscape/architecture zine project almost ready to go after I fiddle with the images a bit more. And the wicked alice issue mid-stride. I just keep telling myself not to panic, it'll all get done.

Otherwise, fall is creeping in a little more every day. Some of the trees down in front of the Congress Hotel have started to lose their leaves and are looking a bit brown around the edges.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

a peak inside dancing girl press

Since the Blazevox discussion has alot of editors talking about their various publishing models (all of which vary delightfully and offer potential authors a glimpse into different experiences), I thought I might offer a rundown of how we do what we do at dancing girl the best I can.

Of course, like many of other editors offering a glimpse behind the scenes, the we in dancing girl press is pretty much singular--mostly I mean me. I have occasional assistance in the assembly part, but for the most part, I make all editorial decisions, read all manuscripts, and handle design, layout, and publicity efforts. I have often thought of rounding up an intern or two, but am also a control freak and fear that having another person underfoot might be more of a hindrance than a help given the odd hours and catch as can time I tend to spend working on things. ( I work 40 hours a week elsewhere in addition to the 3-4 hours a day or so I spend on the press.) I sort of have a finely tuned production system in place (some might say an OCD system) so it’s not all as chaotic as it might appear. I like to think the we, though, also includes the of the authors we’ve published , who take a pivotal role in not only penning the works, but in offering suggestions (general or specific) for cover art, proofing, promoting their own books and the press in general (scheduling readings, interviews, suggesting placement of review copies.)

What We Publish

The bulk of our titles come to us through our open submission periods every year, typically during the summer months with a few solicited works thrown in here and there (usually these are manuscripts by local poets I seek out or work by wicked alice contributors that have caught my interest.) I read all manuscripts and sort them into three folders, basically a yes, absolutely file, a maybe if I can fit it in file and a no thanks file. Then I battle it out from there.

We tend to get between 300 and 400 submissions, and I usually aim to take around 20 manuscripts at a time, but the “maybe” file sometimes gets me into trouble if there’s too much in there that I feel I may want to publish. (which is why we weren’t open for as long this summer, I took more manuscripts and extended that schedule into mid 2012). I try to schedule only a year ahead, otherwise it seems rather long to wait for chaps, which feel like they should be somewhat more immediate than full-length books. I also try to take on as many manuscripts as I want and feel comfortable publshing, since I feel like the larger a press' reach the better the returns, ie the more authors we publish, the more corners of the literary world we invade, the better exposure for both press and all our titles and the better the chance of people finding us and taking an interest in what we do. It's alot of work, but very much worth it. I suppose it's the difference between a small drop in the poetry universe and a small trickle.


I do all pre-production design work, printing and assembly in our studio space (well, and sometimes during long lonely service desk shifts at my day job). Each title is usually started off with a run of about 50-75, with additional smaller batches produced as needed to fill orders and /or author needs. We try to keep each title in print for as long as we can, though some are limited editions (usually due to special material needs or author’s request.) Cover designs are usually based on author ideas and /or my own. I have perfected my system of layout over the years and typically have several projects afloat in various stages of production at a time. Late in the year, we sometimes fall behind due to variations in my own available time which fluctuates throughout the year, but I try to keep with in at least a few months of my predicted release dates (or do my best to.) Once the initial layout is completed, it usually goes to the author for proofing and any changes. I tend to accept work that I feel doesn’t need any sort of editorial suggestions on my part (ie that I am happy with from the beginning) but I may occasionally make suggestions for consistency or layout reasons (line length, page breaks, etc.) Once the final corrections have been returned to me, I will make the changes and begin printing and assembly, which usually takes me a week to two weeks, during which I make the book available on the website and push forward on marketing efforts. Typically, we see an initial burst of sales upon release which tempers off to a handful every month on each title. It would be hard to pin an average on books sales. Some titles do only sell around 30 copies total while other popular ones sell 300 or more. A lot of it depends on the author’s notoriety and support network, as well as how well they market their work in the period after their book is published. Since our goal is to publish new & emerging authors, some of whom lack an initial following at this point in their careers, I’m willing to invest in some slower moving books in order to get the work out there. Sometimes those slow sellers hit a burst of sales later on as the poets gain a wider readership.


In the beginning, the entire endeavor was funded totally out of pocket and remained that way pretty much for the first three years. In 2007 we broke even, and with the help of the other paper and craft items I was selling, we were able to rent a studio space, which allowed for expansion in terms of our number of books per year. Other expenses usually include printer maintenance, utilities, paper, postage, and shipping supplies, other art & craft supplies, etc. We continue to mostly break even on the books, and as a whole with the other things we sell besides books, usually make a small profit (about a $800 each of the past two years when all is said and done.) Ideally, the goal would eventually be to make enough to pay myself a salary and quit my day job, as well as pay the authors some tiny royalty, but as you see it might take a while. Tax and business-wise, we are considered a sole proprietorship and a for-profit business.

We never require or accept any sort of subsidy or fee from authors either upon submission or acceptance. I tend to like to keep the art and commerce separate, and feel like even contest fees (or the lack of them) hinder some artists from being able to afford to submit (just the sort of author I may want to publish.) Also, contests seem like a logistical nightmare, so I would rather not run one. While we can’t yet afford to offer the poets monetary compensation, we do pay in initial author copies and a steep discount on additional copies needed (which some of them sell for full price at readings/events which does allow them a little income for themselves at least.)

Publisher/Author Responsibilities

We try to do as much as we can to promote each book upon its release, including promotional work, social networking, press releases, placement in some indie bookstores, distributing review copies, and hosting readings for local and/or visiting poets, etc. I’ve been trying to use our facebook page lately in particular as a way to promote our authors both before and after the publication of their chaps by offering links to new work, new publications, interviews, etc. Still, as with most small press publishing a lot of the burden falls on the poet to find opportunites throughout the months following release, but we do whatever we can to help.

I think dgp is very fortunate in that we have managed to build a good steady audience base for our books that seems to grow with each new title and that are books seem to find their readers even if it takes a while.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

notes on the legitimacy goblin and self-publishing whoredom

About six years ago I was in the midst of a dilemma. I had finally finished my first full-length manuscript (well, I had declared it finished a couple times in the previous two years, but it wasn't quite). I was pretty frustrated and had spent a small fortune in postage and contest entry fees, and while the poems had all been published in journals, and I was declared finalist or semi finalist in some contests, no one was biting. All in all I was lucky since I was only at it for a little over two years from initial version to acceptance (Fall 2003-Fall 200), but at the time it was an unbearable waiting game. I felt like it was a hill I needed to get over to be "legitimate," whatever that means, before people would take me seriously as a writer. I had some chapbooks at that point, both published by tiny local presses and self-issued, largely becuase I needed something to distribute or sell at readings (also, I was dipping into chapbook publishing, dgp's first trial was my mss., Bloody Mary in 2004.) Around me, alot of poets, frustated by the same factors as I was, the publishing bottleneck, were also starting presses and releasing their own work via these venues. On one hand, I was applauding them and loving what they were doing, but on the other, I was unsure if I could do it myself.

Chapbooks were one thing, but to invest your whole "career" in issuing your own work and the sure criticism you might get for it seemed a little too brave even for me. "Legitimacy" was a scary little goblin that whispered in my ear every night, was fed and fattened by MFA program bullshit, by Po-Biz establishment, and comments by some people I even consider friends. And I secretly still of wanted certain things--grants, honors, awards, poems in the right journals, the right websites, recognition by the right people and editors. That sort of pedigree definitely didn't jive with self-publishing in any sort of way.

Eventually Ghost Road took my first book, and shortly thereafter Dusie took the second. I felt like I had been saved at first, but then of course nothing really changed. It was awesome to have pretty, shiny books, but getting them out there and read was the same challenge that the books I'd issued on my own (and it was costing me more money to give away copies to reviewers.) The moment of truth came shortly after I had released at the hotel andromeda which is still one of things I am most proud of creatively, a 3 year long project that speaks to everything I am as a creative person. Someone had asked me to fill something out about recent publications and projects and there it was in big letters DO NOT INCLUDE SELF-PUBLISHED WORK. I was stuck and a little pissed. I decided to just not finish answering on principle.

I continued on for awhile and wound up sending what was then my third longer manuscript to the press who had published the first, where it was accepted, and then sat waiting for three years before the publisher canceled the contract due to going out of business. I was crestfallen, and suddenly felt this need to start issuing all of my own work, having complete creative control over design and print run. On one hand this seemed a better alternative fiscally. I could at least a make a few bucks off my own work, which no doubt beat my teeny tiny royalty checks from other publishers. On the other hand, something was still holding me back. I could either go with the expected, sanctioned course, spend lots of money and energy finding another publisher who may or may not put out the book that I want (or when I want which is a whole other problem). Or I could just release it myself. Part of it was also just a hard dose of practicality. I regularly see the work that is out there, know my contemporaries, everything I would be in competition with. Alot of it is absolutely amazing. Book submissions are such an endless crapshoot, guaging what will appeal to a given press or editor, each batch of first round screeners. Why not just issue my own work since I run a press, have all the accroutrements at hand, can do all my own marketing and promotion to my audience base? I also feel like I am a pretty good judge and editor of my own work these days, which wasn't always the case.

Of course, some people were horrified. I got both wary and weary of talking about it among poetry friends, at publishing panels,and eventually just stopped about talking about it at all. It was like I was breaking some huge faux paux in the literary world even thinking about it. My fear was that people would suddenly stop reading or caring about my work once I didn't have other publishers backing me, which is probably ridiculous, but this is pretty much what some folks said point blank when I mentioned issuing my own work. And of course, in some ways, I was still the same girl who wanted all the cake (the prizes, the residencies, the prime publication slots in bigtime journals) but slowly I was realizing I didn't want to be her anymore, that I didn't need those hoops and should just leave them for the people who actually want to jump. I also realized the more I started to socialise with people outside of the poetry world,the less important it all started to feel. Call it perspective. The more I talked to people in other arts, the more ridiculous the stigma against self-publishing seemed to be. Also, the more energy I put into the press and publishing other peoples work, the less I felt a compulsion to divest extra energy in running all those hurdles-the contests, the brass rings, the hard push to get the right sort of recognition. I started to focus more on the work itself, on building an audience in new ways and less on the things I wasn't all that interested in so much anymore. I stopped constantly knocking on doors and my realized my knuckles weren't so bruised, I stopped ceaselessly comparing myself and my achivements to other poets and got alot happier, I also stopped expecting so much from the work and in turn my relationshop with it got alot friendlier.

Maybe, mostly I began to see that my poetic path doesn't need to follow the circumscribed one I always thought it had to. That there are all sorts of ways to "be a poet" and put work out into the world. Differering ways to find readers, especially in light of social networking and the web. Once I cracked it open, anything was possible. The reason for this rather lengthy diatribe was the completion of my latest project and the waffling of late over whether it will be a full-length or a chapbook, over whether to send it out (which I havent yet attempted) or whether to release it as a dancing girl title (and maybe subsequently all of my titles, all of which are chapbook length at this point and some of which have elements that don't make them feasible for other publishers.) I found there was alot of fluff in some of the longer projects that could be chopped, so I have several shorter projects nearing completion over the next couple of years and have basically decided to issue them via dgp in the schedule of books. I am hoping to still share alot of the work in journal publications to get it in front of people and promote the work itself, but the actual book manuscripts will be self released and designed in limited editions. I am excited about this and there is a certain breathless sort of freedom I'm feeling about this lately, sort of like stepping off a treadmill I wasn't sure I wanted to be on.

Friday, September 02, 2011

10 resolutions for fall

1. get through the amazing fall dgp chapbook lineup (and the summer's remaining titles)

2. schedule a reading at Quimbys for November.

3. major restocking of shop before holiday shopping rush begins.

4. make alot of soup and freeze it (Paula Dean's chicken noodle recipe, greek lemon, french onion, chicken, mushroom & wild rice, baked potato, cream of artichoke.

5. finally, really, teach myself how to knit.

6. release both the landscape/architecture zine and the havoc chapbook.

7. complete the novel in verse manuscript (tenative title beautiful, sinister)

8. find the perfect a-line knee length tweed skirt and a black cardigan that will neither fade upon numerous washings nor collect cat hair like it's going outta style.

9. come up with a kick-ass Halloween Costume

10. host a party devoted to drunken board games

Thursday, September 01, 2011

swansong for summer

Summer is always the sweetest, shortest season for some reason. As I predicted, suddenly it's September and where did it go? It was a busy summer as usual, full of hectic chapbook assembly that started with the book fair prep and carried through the release blitz that lasted most of the summer (and still continues as I try to catch up). In between there were all sorts of fun things like pinatas and lakeside picnics, drunken revelry, perfect dresses, key lime pie, impromptu living room forts, trashy novels, and very productive thrifting excursions. Creativity-wise, there was re-ordering the havoc manuscipt, some new collages I will unveil shortly, some work on the novel in verse project. Also some not-fun things like tiny unrequited crushes and general romantic unrest, minor money woes (never enough to do all the things I want to do it seems) and a bit of ridiculous WebMd/Google fueled health obsessive-compulsiveness. But all in all the bad were minor and temporary and otherwise it was a damn good summer.

Labor Day signals the end, and this year I am in Rockford for it, so will be partaking in some yearly family cookout/fish fry fun. I am going to try making a simpler, less intensive version, of white sangria for it that hopefully, without all the hard liquor, be less likely to get me quite so drunk quite so fast.