Monday, January 30, 2017

and done.

The acrylic I have been working on since I arrived back from the holiday may in fact finally be done.  Or at least I'm calling it done. In some cases, the piant was applied and scraped off at least two or three times.  I also, put it in the shower and doused it with nail polish remover to get a worn effect on some of the flowers and then painted more over them.   I'm still not completely comfortable working with the larger canvas, almost as if there is too much space to fill.  I am also typically less happy with canvas than I am with paper, so there's that as well. Nevertheless, I think I may be liking this.

Friday, January 27, 2017

notes and things

Image may contain: cat

So another week has gotten away from me, but is mostly filled with good library things like planning for our HOAX! CONSPIRACIES, ILLUSION, AND OTHER CREATIVE HIJINKS week coming around the bend in late March (which features an exhibit, an artist panel, and a Found reading.)  Also, our February Salon Series, which is featuring some Lettered Streets Press Authors. Also a lot of tricky track things like our spring brochure and general planning that will take us through May.  And of course, Reserves, which are hopping now that the semester has kicked in.

In press news, I am moving solidly into 2017 books, so watch for the first of those to be making their way into the world soon.  I've been doing layouts in batches, so I've got alot of irons in the fire all at once and am trying to decide whether that is to my advantage (ie more effective) or disadvantage (ie more confusing).  My vow to keep steadfast in updating wicked alice is going well and I've just published the first of a series of recommended reads titles I hope to continue and have been sourcing FB for recommendations.  I've also been working on some new covers that are original designs, including this little beauty for Anne Bretell's upcoming book that I'm loving.

On Rage and Begetting | Anne Brettell

Writing and art wise, I'm smack in the middle of a little lyric essay in fragments on love poetry, that is both a sort of personal Valentine and something for a wider audience  (which is a weird territory to tread creatively-how personal is too personal, isn't everything personal, how closely does one mine reality for details when the relationship is still intact and happening vs. when it is long over and the pieces are being collected by memory. ) It's weird, but I like it.,

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Library this week was granted some amazing news re:  the ACRL award that took up much of my attention this November..writing intros & transitions, collecting information from various departments, piecing it all together into something coherent with a few other folks and sending it off. I kept the thinking the whole time we HAD to win w/ no other option  (I was, in a way, probably having an annoying  Rory Gilmore moment of over confidence, but it did pan out in our favor).  I figured we would win, or there was actually never any hope of us winning ever. On one hand, we've done a lot of awesome things over the past few years in terms of content,--programming, faculty collaborations, both through our own little corner of AofR and other departments & endeavors in the library in general.  I may have never realized exactly how impressive until I saw it all in one place in writing.    We focused  a lot on how we excel as a a library smack in the middle of an art school--how the things we do  (our spaces, our collections, our classroom involvement, our programs & events)  reflect that and set us apart from different kinds of academic libraries  It did not hurt (and I expect actually won it for us)  that we had some amazing illustrations from one of our student artists, that made our application look very different from our competition.  And so we won, and the prize is a big shindig and awards presentation. So that is on the horizon and in the bag.

I am also in the midst of hanging our winter AofR show, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, of which I have some pieces in (see above).  I am hanging a little bit each day and will hopefully be finished by Monday and the beginning of the term. I am currently awash in reserves and other pre-semester prep, so hopefully I can find my way out of this pile of books on my desk by Monday to finish up and avoid feeling like I am behind the game before it even starts.

Friday, January 13, 2017

This week, I've been doing some work on updating wicked alice, that older, yet smaller, sister of dancing girl press--reading submissions, posting some work I accepted before the mini-hiatus.  It's rough, the journal gets far less of my attention these days for pretty much the last few years only with occasional spurts of new updates and work.  there doesn't seem to be enough time at the end of my days to do even half of all the things I should be doing, and like blogging, and heck, even my own writing, wicked alice falls somewhat low on the priority ladder.  I once mentioned to my sister that I was thinking about ceasing publication, to which her response, vested as she was by the recycled art history essay I published by her in our very first issue (mostly because I really needed work to publish and she let me) was "You can't close wicked alice!"

And she's right, of course. wicked alice was the very beginning of everything dgp.  In the summer of 2001, I needed to do something.  I had recently moved back to Chicago and started working in the library--a job which, given my night-shift tendencies, planted me on the front circulation desk during rather slow, slow hours.  I was getting that itchy feeling that I should being SOMETHING writerly related with time, something more useful than staring blankly at the library catalog or internet, and while I was still on a strong streak of writing and just beginning to send work out to the online journals I was discovering, I found I could't really do any sort of creative writing at the desk.  I wanted something more.

I was also feeling strangely unfocused and unmoored in a literary sense, having abandoned a teaching career post grad school, abandoned fledgeling PHD plans, and set about looking for stable, bookish type work I could do while focusing on writing. Thus, the library--first an elementary school, then a college.  But I still felt like there should be more to it, to my life--than shuffling papers and checking out books--that I should channel all that money and energy I'd spent those years in college and grad school into something more, well, literary, I guess. It didn't seem enough to handle the books, to appreciate them in a museum like way.  I needed to make them happen. .

The landscape of online journals was still sort of shiny and new and woefully under-respected in those days..  Because poetry blogs were still in their infancy and social media a brief twinkle in the eye of the internet, there weren't a lot of ways to connect to other writers the way one can now--the online journals allowed this sort of synergy to happen.  I'd publish a poem and get more than a couple e-mails from fellow contributors about how much they liked it.  Word would spread and writers would follow each other to journals, discovering new venues via contributor bios.   Outside of listservs and discussion boards, which were thriving, it was a cool new way of building literary communities (one that has, unlike the others that have dwindled, persists still.)

It seemed sort of obvious that I should start a journal devoted to women-centered work, not necessarily only by women, but with a certain feminist spirit in mind.  Armed with angelfire account that still was running ads and had pretty simple templates,I launched our first issue on September 5th of that year, about a week before the world shattered and changed quite a bit.  But we went on, and in December, there was another issue, and people actually interested in submitting. Then more issues, and the templates adapted to something less horrible by my burgeoning html skills. .  By 2003, we were publishing on the regular and linked up with Sundress Publications, and by the next year, I had started dancing girl press as an accompanying print endeavor.

I am sometimes a very neglectful journal editor. We'll publish spurts of activity and then dwindle to only the occasional post of new work.  I moved away from single issues back in 2012, and have doing a blog-like format on tumblr (which allows posts to be easily subscribed to and shared). I'm perpetually horribly behind on submissions for up to a year (though we do allow simultaneous submissions, so  I feel less bad about holding work for that long and a lot gets picked up elsewhere before I even get to read it.). I'm hoping to change that  this year and get back to a more regular schedule and a bit more content in addition to the creative work, including reading lists, interviews, short reviews, and a whole lot more art. There is regularly a lot of slush in the inbox to deal with, but there are occasional new gems, new authors I've never heard of whose work excites me tremendously.  It's also a nice sort feeding pool into dgp--putting authors on my.radar and into the dgp/wicked alice fold-- many dgp authors I find through the journal or find us through the journal, so it's something I can't quite give up just yet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


The past few hours, I've been plowing through press tasks--several cover design finalizations, correcting galleys for new releases one more time before printing, and looking toward starting layouts on the first of the 2017 titles coming shortly around the bend.  Perhaps it's merely the warmer weather (warmer being completely relative and it being sort of grey and windy as hell), but I've been in a good mood today, designing & editing things I'm so excited to share. I've also been thinking a bit about the classroom--how so many dgp titles and my own work are being taught and it is ever so lovely hat my words and the words I help put out into the world are being discussed and analyzed in the classroom, and maybe even moreso that tiny shoe shoved through the door of the canon and the gap that gets bigger year by year.

I was blessed with an undergrad education that was dominated by women professors, all of them committed to teaching work by other women. While there were a few male profs who were of the stodgy "established canon"--most noticeably a Survey of English Lit Prof who was a notorious asshole, an older, but kind, Shakespeare scholar, most  of my few male profs were of the progressively literary variety (one even allowed me to geek out and write about Plath in a boring Expository writing class that wasn't even necessarily supposed to be literary-focused.)  Instead I took classes from female professors who ere experts in Southern Women's writing, in contemporary women's novels, Jane Austen, and other women heavy decade era classes.

When I landed at DePaul in 1997, it was under similar circumstances, and while I had to take the usual span of period literature--Medieval Romances, Milton, The Romantics, Victorian Novels--I delighted in a program of electives that engaged my yearnings for women's words.  My final semester, I took a course titled Writing as a Woman's Profession,which probably ranks up there as an all-time favorite classroom experience, particularly as it roughly coincided my decision to change my future plans from pursuing a teaching career, the plan when I entered grad school,  and as moving toward wanting to channel all my efforts into writing, which was beginning to not suck quite so much. Of course the circumstances of the writers we studied were vastly different from my own, but it began to seem even just a little possible.  Even if I had to go the dayjob route, to center one's life around the writing nonethless.

Canons and the writers typically studied and discussed in academia are a slippery lot.  So many times even the dead white men rise and fade in popularity, the women and poc (if there are any) even more so.   Open an anthology of writers from the 1950s and while some familiar names spring out, a million more are never spoken of again.  I imagine all of us fear this, perhaps even more than never rising to prominence at all, that we will reach the top and collapse under our own weight.   Sometimes I wonder about legacy's and realize that while my own work will likely fade into obscurity, hopefully some of the authors we publish will not, hopefully the press and its endeavor to spread and encourage  women's voices will not.

 I guess I'm also thinking that so much has changed in 20 years in the classroom, and how very cool it is that current & contemporary authors are and being taught & discussed even more now than then--when I was in my MFA Program in the early to mid-aughts, the shift was already happening and keeps happening.  And how very awesome that dgp gets to be a part of that.   And how lucky that 22 year old me, with her ragged backpack full of Margaret Atwood, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jean Rhys gets to be a part of making that happen.

Monday, January 09, 2017

things not to do in January

Someone on facebook mentioned this week that today is known as Blue Monday, that annual celebration of January funk (and not the cool George Clinton kind.) The sort of funk that causes a noticeable bump in suicide and depression rates.   It makes sense, we are still, no matter what your climate in the dark days surrounding the winter solstice really, and while the days are getting slightly longer, it's unnoticeable and probably only by seconds at this point.  The deep freeze in most of the country does not help, nor does that sort of post-holiday deceleration. I have always been careful to not let my anxiety tendencies turn into depressive tendencies, but once, when I was 23, I spent the entire month of January alternately sleeping til sunset and then sitting in the dark and crying all night (there were factors, mostly to do with uncertainties about life choices) all of which sort of steamrolled me into a bad patch that I have been careful never to repeat. (or if I feel it starting to replay, to get that circling the drain feeling, which comes and goes, to make efforts to stop those thought patterns and just be kinder to myself and focus on other things.)  It's partially the everyday anxiety blues, but also a touch of seasonal affective disorder I imagine, so January can be a doozy for a lot of people already prone to these things.

To be truthful, December is shaker ground for me than January lately (mostly because January at least is past the stressor of the holidays and somewhat on the way to springtime (while those seconds are infinitismal, don't think I'm not counting. Still I find myself avoiding a lot of things to keep myself sane..the news, politics, the dumpster fire that is the soon-to-be regime.  I'm wading through a lot of other folk's weird battles and insecurities that nonetheless have ramifications for me (as much as I try to distance myself from depending or relying on other people too much.)  Therefore, here come the  unsettling dreams about trying to run a ridiculously complicated karaoke contest in  an indoor swimming pool all by myself.  This morning I actually intended to get started on a collage project for our upcoming MY BLOOD VALENTINE exhibit  that will be going up and realized that hunting down vintage murder scene photos was very much not a good idea in this mindset.  It made me sad and panicky in a way that did not bode well for the rest of the day. So I've been rethinking the project in other ways. 

Focusing on good things helps--writing projects (at least ones that are going well.  Some more ink paintings and watercolors over the weekend (my kindest and most forgiving technique.) Also minor dumb things like coloring my hair and painting my nails and eating enjoyable food smooths things out and makes the days a little less ragged.  All I can do is keep my head down until it all blows over, I guess, or all blows to hell if that's the case,  

Thursday, January 05, 2017

order and disorder

I am still working on getting my bearings back after the break the past couple of days, but have made progress on a number of chaps that were in the finalization, printing, and assembly process, including the batch of titles that released right before I headed out over the holiday.    There is something soothing about correcting and proofreading galleys and saving them that final time (actually the nice thing is is that barring copies already printed, we can always go back in and make adjustments if we missed something the first time ( the benefits of POD model vs.larger print runs.)  I have a few stragglers from 2016 that will be unveiling soon that are in the final stages of layout, but will soon be starting in on the first of the 2017 titles and starting to work on covers.   Crazy hamster wheel mind, of which I seem to have been afflicted with the past week or so (part of it my own internal border collie running rampant and some other external factors I'd rather not go into) needs order and procedure and the simple finite  task of tending to layouts and proofreading marks. I guess it's the difference between editing work and creative work that seems to help slow down the hamster wheel.  Or at least steady it a little.

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Fortunately, theres a certain similar soothingness in some of my day job tasks that are luckily needing attention, spreadsheets and bookstore lists and reserves purging, all of which allow a certain amount of focus and routine, some procedure that gives structure.  I think after a certain amount of time off, that structure seems ridiculously important somehow. It might be winter, it might be random circumstances, but when I feel a certain amount of mental slippage, it helps to have these things and that that procedural checklist of tiny post-its in my sketchbook.

Monday, January 02, 2017

So tonight is my last night of freedom before it's back to the library.  I am trying to do as little as possible in the way of obligations in this obligation-free space since I'll be plunged back into the brisk waters of reality soon enough, so tonight, I am ordering Chinese and being lazy, but I also vowed in some loose resolution, as I do every year, to use this space more,. to blog more, to take more pictures, and as always, to be more present I guess in my own life.  (I'm better at this than I used to be, but it always needs improvement.)

Since this blog is the very back of the yard when it comes to mowing through my daily tasks, it is oft neglected for weeks at a time.  Sometimes, I forget I even have a blog, Sometimes I forget to forget. Even though I've been writing one for nearly 15 years or so (first on xanga, and on blogger since 2005), I am bad at keeping it up on regular basis, and over time, my yearly number of posts have dwindled from over 250 to under 50.  I imagine social media is partly responsible, and I once used this space in the way I use FB now for minor musings and updates.  I also have a tumblr that is the news page for my website, so that gets updated with writing/art news regularly with new material.

But here, things can be longer, more introspective (note I say CAN, not that they always are.) I used to be more thoughtful in my posts in the days where I was figuring out things about my own writing, about po-biz, about creative life in general. At one time I posted drafts of work, po-biz, MFA rants.  These have all gave way over time to more updatey posts on work in general, more like letters to myself (well, readers too, but probably mostly myself)  on what has been happening in the in-betweens. They seem important, important in that way, but somehow I want to do, I dunno, MORE. Daily blogging while sometimes something I promise becomes highly unlikely, especially on days I find it hard to even get to my own creative work, but I'd like to try again.  Or maybe even a couple updates a week, even of they are just photos.

I was thinking about what to write about today and staring at a painting I've been kind of working at since I arrived home from the holiday.  I came home with some larger canvases and quickly primed them with a heavenly aqua, intending to do some sort of abstract florals (as these are my obsession of late).  As a writer, I am not much of a reviser.  Maybe once, in the beginning.  But now, with a few tweaks, poems seem to develop differently.  I approach the page with few expectations about where I want things to go, and in that, there is a great sense of freedom. Of play.  Not that things come out perfect or full formed, only that I am usually mostly happy with what I get.  Art is similar, and in fact, this change in my writing, as I often say, developed simultaneously with my visual practice.

When I was in my mid to late 20's I would sit down and say, okay I am going to make a birdhouse. The birdhouse would be, of course, imperfect at first, and I would try to make it as sound a birdhouse as I could. And birdhouses were okay.  Some readers and some editors and publishers loved birdhouses. The change came when I stopped trying to make birdhouses--when I would sit down and say, well okay, maybe I'll make a birdhouse or maybe not.  Maybe I'll get a boat.  Or a butterdish.  Or even just a bird that doesn't need a house.   Things got so much more interesting to me, then, so much more enjoyable.  What would I get?  Would I get anything?  Something really shitty, but maybe the roof could be salvaged?  There weren't really any expectations, and some of my best work, both writing and visual, have come from this no man's land. I still say one of the truest things I've ever written are the James Franco pieces, which started off as a joke, a game, something I tricked myself into writing.

And you could probably say there are some greater life philosophies at play.  The chief complaint I've heard from people unhappy in their lives is that things have not turned out the way they planned. I mostly, had only vague plans and mostly have only been very happy that things have developed they way they have--that I've been lucky enough to be able to live the way I do, to have been granted a fruitful, if not always smooth and clear road. Turning 40 a couple years back and I had done most things I had every set out to and so much more I'd never even knew was possible.

So for the past couple of days I've been trying to make myself think this way.  My mistake is that I am probably taking it too seriously and probably working too much with what I'd like on that canvas in my mind. For one, canvas is spendy and the big ones moreso.  I hate to scrap it, or start again by painting over. When working on paper, I regularly throw out the uninspiring and keep the good stuff.  Writing is this way too. A lot gets thrown out, cast off, rolled into other things. And maybe the trouble here is that I can't decide whether I want a boat or a birdhouse, or any of those things at all. Or something new at all.  Maybe it's time to move away from the florals and toward something else.  I guess I'll wait and see what I get.