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...

Saturday, June 09, 2018

notes & things | 6/9/18

Image may contain: indoor

Yesterday was probably the closest I've ever gotten to bittersweet.  I had some really amazing writerly news about manuscript  #8, SEX & VIOLENCE (which I will spill particulars as soon as contracts are signed and details worked out.)  I was sitting at my desk in the library when I opened the e-mail and then spent a good 10 minutes sobbing quietly to myself that the first person I probably would have told, would have been my mother.  Sure there's my dad, who I will talk to tomorrow, and most likely I just would have face book messaged her instead of calling, but still it was weird. And there are friends and J, who I will tell when I see them in the next few days, but it's somehow different.

It's also weird that this particular book was the one that I focused my energies on pulling together all last November in the weeks after her death.   The poems already existed, having been written from about 2015 onward, , and while I was still waffling over ready they were read through the early fall and finishing  up the last of them, but I decided  I needed to keep busy to keep from slipping deeper down the depression road, to get it done in time to submt to an open reading period ending at the end of the month. The book itself pulls in the blonde joke pieces, the love poem series, some slasher movie pieces and poems about Salvadore Dali, as well as the shorter version of the Plath centos.  It's all about male/female power dynamics and love and sexuality.

So far it's a rainy weekend, so I am determined to do some more work on the latest longer book project in progress  as well some editing on the EXQUISITE DAMAGE pieces I've been drafting this week for my daily writings. But despite having drank a bunch of coffee and eaten 2 blueberry muffins the size of my head, really all I want to do is take a nap at the moment, so I may do that .   Also, tomorrow,  some monotypes with some floral detritus I've been collecting this week. And finishing Riverdale and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I have been switching back and forth between. (mostly becuase I'm pretty sure IZombie and Supernatural have new episodes available.)  Part of me always feels like I waste my summer by staying inside way too much, but the rain somehow gives me permission to not feel so bad about it at all.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

some new Chicago Crypto Society designs are in the making and possibly a new zine project..
view more here...

Saturday, June 02, 2018

notes & things | 6/02/18

After a few rather swampy days last week, the clouds have moved in, the wind off the lake, and it feels like fall more than the beginning of June.  So thus, I am staying close to home and making soup.  I have spent most of the day organizing problem sections manuscript #9, which despite my hesitation a few weeks ago, seems to be becoming more and more likely a thing. #8 is still out there in the wind, of course, and I've only sent it to one place, but the idea of another manuscript in submission seems too much work at then moment, so I may wait and let it settle a few months before sending it out, especially since there is the impending LITTLE APOCALYPSE release and a million other small projects making their way into the world.  (and also, since there are about three projects that may turn out to be full-length--the zodiac pieces, the horror stuff, and that long neglected roadside motel book).  I've been very diligent about writing daily, but there are alot of fits and starts and random beginnings of other things in there to keep things buried, but digging in is a challenge.

Yesterday, the dgp summer reading period opened and already my inbox filling with manuscripts I look forward to reading in about a month.  I am still working on catching up on orders and author copies and getting things to a manageable calm during June that has alluded me since last fall.  I am still going back and forth on the open studio I'd planned for this week.  I have a lot of prints and zines and such, but am woefully understocked on paper goods and out of linen stock to make them.  But then again, I really just need to do it.  Especially since I have a lot of originals I'd love to move..

At the library, things are aflutter due to a staffing change, but I am determined nevertheless to have most of our fall programming locked & loaded before the end of summer. I'm also working on a promo poster for the library in general..something visually cool enough for students to want to hold on to it and possibly hang it on their dorm room walls. With the new student center on the horizon, we've been thinking about ways to make it clear what the library is for and how it differs merely from the de facto student center some  people consider it.