Sunday, November 24, 2013

Woke up to another cold, cold morning, and spent some time lounging about until panic-mode struck regarding preparations for the big holiday open studio in a few weeks, which I am in no way prepared for in the least.  But then again, I never am.  So I baked a pie to warm up the apartment (pretty much the only reason I'd bake a pie), and then sat down with some tea to silently freak about about everything I have to do to get ready for it.  Luckily, I think I'm still pretty good in terms of soap supply and have quite a few candles.  I need to restock books, paper goods, and some jewelry things, though.  I have a list of some new things I've been working towards, but I don't know if I have time/money to pull them off.   

Otherwise, this week has been busy with lots of hours in the studio catching up from the big sale and getting author copies out on the new titles.   November is slipping away and next weekend, I'll be in Rockford and then it will be December when I come back, and then that brisk downhill slide into the new year, a year that will bring all sorts of press happenings and cross country train trips and milestone birthdays.  Poetry-wise, I'll be finishing some smaller projects and perhaps releasing them, and perhaps sending out a couple larger things in submission to presses (Major Characters in Minor Films and the manuscript I am calling Salvage). 

I'll be doing a round up soon, though of all the good writing related things that have happened this year and an evaluation/goal setting session of what needs to happen next, so more soon.. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


So today, much storminess wooshing its way across Chicagoland, and I'm afraid I slept through most of it. I woke up at one point and thought the thunder was just this long, continuous sound and noticed that it was raining in the window I'd cracked before I went to bed.  When I got up after 2pm, I barely made it to the market before it started in again, but despite my dress blowing up around my waist a couple times, I made it home in one piece.   Pretty much all the trees have shaken off / been shaken of their leaves, so it looks a little too much like winter out there for my liking, even though the air, though blustery, has been warmer than earlier in the week. I never like this barrenness, this early dark, so I'm trying to fixate on indoor pursuits and buying boots and sweaters and plaid dresses much to the unhappiness of my wallet.  I seem to be hemoraging money anyway on hot chocolate and lunchtime margaritas and mexican food, so I suppose I should start saving for christmas gifts about now if I'm actually going to buy any.

Otherwise, there is mushroom pizza to be made later and some general housecleaning, and maybe if I'm lucky, some painting later on.  I started a potential series with a cover design for a book earlier this year, and would like to see if I can continue it.  In most cases, deciding WHAT to paint is the sticking point, which is always counterbalanced with what I can paint that doesn't look like a grade school art project.  I am well aware I am still skirting / not working on ghost landscapes but I'm still having trouble with deciding the direction. I did send off some other pieces Friday to a journal, which is more than I accomplish most weeks, so this is a win.  I've gotten incredibly lazy about sending out work unless I'm asked for it and sometimes even if I am.  I think at one time I had a pretty good grasp on what journals would be amenable to my work, and so much shifts and changes and new things crop up that I'm sort of lost these days.  I'm pretty much only interested in online journals, but so many spring up and go under in a year, it's overwhelming.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

plan B, or how to find library books during a zombie apocalypse

We are finally back in full swing in the studio with the new laptop (the chomebook was a nice temporary solution, but it was insane difficult to actually print from and manage, so I've now secured a nice Acer Aspire (the same model I had at home before I accidently ruined it) and it's humming along nicely.  There is a lot of catch up from the past couple of weeks to get underway, so I'm in early tomorrow--labels to print and ship, books to make and assemble.  It's a used one, but no older than the one I had before, so we should be good for a few years. I've spent so much on printers and computers the past two months, it's ridiculous, but it feels like every once in a while, all the technology in my life that can goes haywire.  

Back in the spring around the time I lost Sophie, the mother board went out on my work computer. In the span of two weeks, two buses I was on stalled out, my printer went kaput, and my modem at home malfunctioned (this was temporary, sadly not before I'd already invested in a new one).  This is probably why I will never get on a plane, or rely solely on e-books or GPS-- shit breaks.  And around me, it breaks a lot.  A train may break down or derail, there may be a car accident due to a blown out tire or faulty breaks, and I would probably not be surprised, but at least I'd hopefully live through it.   If your plane breaks down, you're pretty much a goner.

I guess I don't have a lot of all or nothing faith in mechanics or technology.  There have been a few times when the system has been down at work, and in a library that pretty much depends entirely on a catalogue to even know where to begin to look for something, it's always helped to know your dewey decimal system, just a little.  But with so many thousands of books, it seems to be a slender little thread of zeros and ones, chips and wires that holds it all together.   The giant, hulking card catalog seemed more solid, more permanent and immutable, but I can't even begin to conceive of the size that would be needed to hold a collection the size we have. 

When I worked at the elementary school library, my job before this, it was in those weird late 90's days when most libraries were in transition (or at least underfunded public school libraries were)  There was a still a card catalog, but it wasn't updated, so all of the new records were searchable, but on the measly two pc's that were available (and it was a temperamental  black screen system, not web-based.)  It was a job that was seriously underpaid (and a bit stressful), so there was a lot of turnover before I took the job (and a lot of turnover after I imagine.).  When I arrived, they were still charging out books old school, each student filling out their name on the cards, which were filed carefully in a wooden box by class, alphabetically, on the corner of the librarian's desk.  There was something rather re-assuring about it, the same way I'd checked out books as a grade schooler, all those copies of Beverly Cleary and Judy Bloom books. The battle over the Shel Silversteins (a battle that was still raging in 1999.)  Writing your name carefully on the card, a certain seriousness to being able to take a book HOME with you, to possess it even for a while.   I'm a library geek, probably why I ended up where I am today. We transitioned to having barcodes for the students and installing them on all the books (luckily the district did all of it's cataloguing, so it was a matter of just linking everything up and using the system).  By far it was infinitely more efficient, but it took some of my bookish joy away.  By the time I abandoned it for a liveable wage and the city I needed to return to, we were mostly digital. 

As someone who basks in the technological amenities quite often (the internet, e-mail, Netflix), I always take comfort in the back up plan..the stack of books that line my apartment, my rather archaic never-used landline, my weirdly accurate and extensive knowledge of Dewey. I always have a plan B (zombies or no).

Monday, November 11, 2013

So it happened.  The first snow and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  It was pretty for a second until I realized it was actually sticking to the ground and might stay there for a while.  It's just a dusting, but with temps in the 30's the next couple of days, it will no doubt take a while to melt.   I , of course, celebrated with some hazelnut hot chocolate (or soothed my discontent, however you look at it.)  Regardless I spent the afternoon working on some layouts for books from Jessica Ankeny and Lesley Jenike, and then some more time wading through the tangled mess that is the inbox.  Having gotten all the 2014 submission business squared away, I'll be turning next to the typewriter anthology submissions and some more wicked alice updates.  I'm also in the in the planning stages some holiday shop additions, possibly calendars and some new flasks and necklaces which will be debuting right around thanksgiving and in time for the big holiday open studio. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

on submissions and slushpiles and chaos

I have been working the last couple of days to make final decisions and get out the last of the dgp responses from the summer's open reading period.  It's both wonderful and frightening (and a little exhausting) how many manuscripts we get that are so in line with our aesthetic --the slush pile for WA is ever so much slushier, but perhaps the more word of mouth orientation on the press front makes for a stronger, better pool of submissions.  I know am doing something right when I see submissions, completely unsolicited, in the mailbox from some of the poets whose work I've admired elsewhere.  I also know it's good when so many new voices, poets I've never heard from send me the most amazing things (especially when those poets are very much unknown and have been publishing very little so far, and usually this is their first chapbook.)  Every year, even if we don't take everything, I am introduced to so many authors whose work I want to become more acquainted with.

 Of over 500, there were probably only 200 that were definite "no"s on first glance, another 100 that were sound, but more traditionally lyric and not for us,  another 100 that were "maybe-- but with some edits or changes", and another 100 that could have been "yesses" in an ideal world,  but that I had to choose my 50 odd favorites from amongst.  This year it was actually closer to 70 since we will be pushing into 2015. The nice thing is that we've gotten to a point in the past few years where we are financially sound, so each book pretty much pays for the titles following it and helps with the overhead (printer maitenance, studio rent, etc..)  We have slower moving books, and faster ones, but it all pretty much balances out.

The stumbling point, is of course, time.  We are still a long way from making any sort of money that would allow a living from it, so it becomes a crazy juggle of the day job obligations, my own creative work, errands and commuting and general time suckers. I typically put about 4-5 hours a work in daily in the form of mornings and late nights  on the press business, so we can publish as many titles as I want to, but there's a definite tipping point I try to avoid between "busy" and "overwhelmed".  I am pretty good about time management, but things still happen and we fall behind, machinery malfunctions, personal dramas.   I always vow to be better about allowing myself writing time daily, but it usually ends up being more like a weekly block of time. I am still way to much of a control freak and solitude-lover to bring in any sort of help, so I find ways to make it work. Way to shave time off of things.  Ways to multi-task and remove unecessary obligations.

Despite the juggle and the sometimes freak outs over technical malfunctions it's still making me enormously happy to be doing this.  I am excited about our upcoming 10 year anniversary, our trip to AWP, all the good things that will be happening in 2014. Just you wait and see...

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

So, another week and another to-do list.  Another set of awesome new poems for wicked alice.  Another batch of cover designs, involving things like moon jellies and maritime schematics.  Maybe some submissions to go out, of which I have made up a list of (mostly web) journals I'd like to send to.  I've also re-assembled major characters in minor films after having disassembled it and am plotting places to mail to off to.  I feel out of the game in submitting full-length projects from scratch, or submitting manuscript projects at all I guess . It feels good to have it all neatly printed out and so large and solid and substantial (it's a whole 61 pages, which feels heavy by poetry book standards, or my poetry book standards). I feel like I've finished something. Something big (or at least a big collection of small things.)  I plan on giving it a final comb through this evening at home.  

Of course, futzing with that manuscript is making me feel less anxious about the ghost landscapes poems, the  project I am not finishing that I hoped I would be done with by the time November rolled around.  I keep pushing quality time with them til the end of the day when my brain is fried and should be doing just the exact opposite.  I rarely use my mornings for writing since it seems the best time of day to get more practical things don e, but perhaps writing would, in fact, be the most practical and sound thing I could be doing then. 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

fall color and other distractions

(warning:  frivolous girly girl post)

While I still love my blacks and greys, this fall, I seem to be more attracted to color (or maybe it's this year, since I found myself eyeling alot of yellow and orange over the summer as well)...I've been playing a bit more over at Polyvore with color combos and these are my favorites (well, I have cheaper approximates of most of these outfits, but it helps me determine what goes with what and what looks crappy together..)...The pumpkin orange and navy is a fave so far, and I've tried it with the denim dress I bought this summer, as well as a blue polkadot shirtdress and a steel grey/blue one.  I tend to go gravitate more back toward neutrals over the winter and then maybe pastels in the spring.  I am actually missing all my summer dresses already at this point, which have been packed away in suitcases to get them out of my way.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


So lately, I'm all about it.  Last night I convinced myself that if I went to the studio and got out some more orders, I could buy the black lace up boots I'd been wanting.  Later, I talked myself out of ordering my food for the week via peapod (which cost double for the same things I can get myself at Aldi) by promising myself I'd order about 80 dollars worth of tights today, which should last me all winter. Earlier, I made myself go get a bag of cat litter by bribing myself with coffee and a croissant.  Later, if I finish drafting three pieces of ghost landscapes, I can binge watch all the episodes of my trashy tv show favorite.  I plan to clean apartment tomorrow, so who knows what trouble I'll get into.  So it goes...

I am having a hard time prying the lid back open on the manuscript, or maybe more, finding the voice of it, the tenor.  The pieces so far are similar, but I'm still waffling on what exactly is happening.  Usually I just close my eyes and point and whatever direction it goes, I follow.  But this seems reluctant to get out of the gate.  But nothing gets done by blogging.  I am happy to finally have a more portable laptop, which means I can bring it home.  I guess I hadn't realized how much my process has evolved in terms of what is handwritten and what is typed.  I'm heavier on the latter compared to ten years ago or so and more likely to get something to take shape on the screen.