Wednesday, February 27, 2019

panel discussion on publishing @ the library

I will be moderating / joining in this discussion at the Library with a whole bunch of other fellow CCC alumni  (all of whom also happen to be awesome dancing girl authors..)


Join the Library and the Aesthetics of Research for a panel discussion with Columbia College Chicago alumni who have forged their way in the indie lit community from the ground floor up, founding and working for new presses, journals, reading series, and more.

Panelists include

ABIGAIL ZIMMER is the author of girls their tongues (Orange Monkey Press, 2017) and two chapbooks: fearless as I seam (Dancing Girl Press, 2014) and child in a winter house brightening (Tree Light Books, 2016), which received the 2016 Poetry Award from the Chicago Review of Books. She is editor of the Lettered Streets Press.

NAOMI WASHER is the author of two chapbooks: Phantoms (dancing girl press) and American Girl Doll (Ursus Americanus). She is also the translator from the Spanish of Experimental Gardening Manual: Create your own habitat in thirty-something simple steps by Sebastián Jiménez Galindo (Toad Press). Her work has appeared in Gold Wake Live, Pithead Chapel, Asymptote, Passages North, Essay Daily, and other journals. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, Studio Faire and Chateau d'Orquevaux in France, and Columbia College Chicago where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Ghost Proposal, a post-genre literary journal and chapbook press.

COLLEEN O'CONNOR received her MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of the chapbooks THE PRETTY THING TO DO (Dancing Girl Press) and CONVERSATIONS WITH ORSON (Essay Press). Recent work has appeared in Glittermob, Pinwheel, and Barrelhouse, where her essay "Cautionary" was a featured novella-length essay. She lives in Chicago where she was recently the managing editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, and is currently an assistant editor of Hotel Amerika and co-editor of The Lettered Streets Press.

JENNIFER TATUM's  work has appeared in 1913: A Journal of Forms, Another Chicago Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, South Loop Review, and other journals. She received an MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago where she was the recipient of a Follett Fellowship. She is the Managing Editor of Hotel Amerika and lives and works in Chicago.

A writer and book artist, KRISTY BOWEN is currently a Library staff member and co-curator (with Jennifer Sauzer) of the Aesthetics of Research initiative. She received her MFA in Poetry from Columbia College in 2007. She is the editor/designer or dancing girl press & studio, which publishes a series of chapbooks by women authors. Her work has appeared recently in Hobart, Paper Darts, and Tupelo Quarterly. She is the author of a number of chapbook, zine, and artist book projects, as well as several full-length collections of poetry/prose/hybrid work, including SALVAGE (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and MAJOR CHARACTERS IN MINOR FILMS (Sundress Publications, 2015).


"Get Your Hustle On" is a series of panel discussions, workshops, and other activities that bring practicing artists, writers, editors, curators, and other creatives to the Library to explore practical and applied topics related to a life and career in the arts, including making a living as an artist, submitting your work, building your art business, self-promotion, as well as how the Library and its resources can help you in these endeavors.

russian doll

One of my favorite moments is a few episodes into Russian Doll where, convinced she is losing it, Natasha Leone's character, talking with the woman who mostly raised her, utters her safe word for mental health.  I found this a nice idea--a single word that would show the people around us that we were in a bad space that required help.   I don't think I've every been quite there, but part of my weird anxious brain worries that if I ever were in need of help, I wouldn't be able to convey the difference between an ordinary kind of brain wonkiness and something that bordered on dangerous.  And truthfully, the weekend I sat down to watch this show the first time, I was in a weirder place.  I made it through one episode and it made me so undeniably anxious that I had to stop.  I went back the following week, and was glad I did, because it was so, so good.

And really, there was something so similar about the characters repeating groundhog day experiences and life pretty much--days spent doing mostly the same things with variations.  This is probably why I found it initially super anxiety-provoking, the routine and the missteps that could lead to disaster.  How each choice sets off a chain reaction of other choices.   If you  change A, the B happens, avoid B then you skip C and move ahead to D. It makes every choice unbearable sometimes thinking 10 steps ahead of everything.  And I guess, welcome to my brain. And particularly, my brain on winter. 

The show, though is definitely worth watching. Lyonne is as always, super amazing and everyone else is really great.  They also manage to make a kind of super-depressing context into a rather uplifting ending. A few months ago, I was wandering away from Netflix, but they have been knocking it out of the park lately, so I'm glad I stayed.  

writing & art bits | february

* This month, I managed to round off another segment of the poet's zodiac pieces, which I will sharing on instagram as we go.  The winter ones are a little darker than what comes before them, but this is to be suspected.  I am 3/4 of the way through the entire project and may be able to finish it within the next couple of months if I keep up the daily writing, so here's hoping.  I will also be doing another round of scrolls in the summer to give away at zine fest and other things  (last year's included only the spring ones). 

*Having wound up the short series of swallow poems, I'm currently scoping out projects that might be good for the Tiny Letter subscription format. So more on that soon.  There are a few irons in the fire, but I'm not sure which is burning the hottest just yet--lots of starts, but nothing has caught wind in the last few weeks. I'd like to go with something a bit longer this time.

*My 100 rejections plan is off to a good start, or maybe I should say an inconclusive start since I've sent of 9 subs and still have no responses.  But I was thinking I'd already sent off a few more than I did the entirety of last year already, so I am already a success no matter what happens to the poems in the long run. Because I am horrible at record-keeping, I'm trying to keep it simple and just send stuff out to one place at a time. So we'll see how it goes.

*Thank you to all for the amazing response to the new collage series, the summer house (see above) on social media.  I, too,  am really loving them, and already have written a couple text pieces to accompany them in some sort of future zine project. I was thinking how much I love how the visuals and text pieces work toward telling a story together an love how that plays out, so more soon.

* And speaking of zine projects, both tardy  January & February offerings are just about done..the animals accordian book and ordinary planet, which is all set to print this week.   You can still get in on the action by subscribing here.   I've been waffling over what is next and it may be a print version of taurus with the collages (currently the online version is just text.) There is also something I plan on doing with the strangerie pieces that might be cool if I can swing it, more on that later...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

indie press basics 101

[the baby beginnings of dgp in my dining room]

There's some quote (Gandhi maybe?) that says be the sort of change you want to see in the world or somesuch.   I think about this often when I think about the missions of small presses and other labors of literary much one lit journal or press can, by its mere existence, change and inform the culture in positive ways. I started dancing girl about a year into my MFA program and people seemed surprised when they heard about it (granted, the whole endeavor those first couple of years was a small, private thing that I was doing on the side and only a few people around me knew was happening.)  Editing was not new..I had worked in that capacity for wicked alice for about 3 or 4 years then, but I was kinda mostly faking it til I was actually making it.  I ran around saying I was starting a press and then suddenly I was. 

The logistics for staring the chapbook series was amazingly simple--figuring out how to do layout and print/assemble the books was in no way as difficult as actually finding writers who wanted to be published or readers who wanted to buy our books. This would be the big challenge those first few years. The first book we published that wasn't my own chap was the late Adrianne Marcus' The Resurrection of Trotsky, a book she had asked via e-mail, having been a repeat wicked alice contributor, where she should send it to. I think she was surprised when I told her my plans to start dancing girl press and that she should let me publish it as our first official title.  That year, I opened my first round of submissions and there were maybe like 10 of them, of which I chose 5--mostly folks who were publishing in the same journals I was and caught wind of our existence via my blog  or my online publication bio mention (this being considerably pre-facebook). The second year, the submissions tripled, and then just kept increasing incrementally, then jumped crazy after 2007 or so til we hit about the 500 hundred mark where it's stayed steady the past few years.

Once you have the means of production and work to publish, it was actually pretty easy and I probably produced those first few chaps for under a $100 each then rolled the profits back into the next book. When people would ask how I managed to do it, I could explain to you pretty easily the logistics and how probably anyone, with some printers and staplers and people willing to let you publish them, could do it pretty cheaply.  Also, if you're only putting out a handful of titles a year, it's easier to manage your time and adjust as needed if you don't have a lot of time to do it in.  Technology and duplex printing and streamlined tech stuff has increased the speed of everything from layout to production, so even I spend less time than I used to on things (layouts to print double sided manually used to take FOREVER. (that factor and being able to fund more titles being why we've increased the number of books we've published over the years dramatically.)

Around the same time I was hatching my plans, in the spring of 2004, I took a small press publishing class over in the Fiction Writing Department that helped me more on the business side of things.  Actually, I've probably never been as organized on projects as I was taught to be in that class, but it was nice to have that sort of background knowledge, even if I didn't use it all.   The thing I noticed about most of my classmate's projects was that they were too grand...expensive, unruly, involved a lot of people who had to deliver.  My goal that semester was to put out a print annual of wicked alice, which I did for a couple years, but I was also putting out my first chap, Bloody Mary, as a trail run for Adrianne's book that would be issued that fall. I hadn't yet discovered cardstock suppliers beyond the kinda spendy Paper Source, so I used fancy papers from the art store on Michigan. I discovered later that Staples has a heavier stock that is actually pretty nice if you want a matte finish that will fit in any printer.  I also had no actual overhead beyond supplies to make books pre-studio days, so it was easy to just keep rolling the proceeds into growing larger.

But what people asked me about more in the beginning was almost the how to take  on that sort of authority for yourself, or maybe the confidence to say I can do this--that I have something--a voice, a vision--that I want to put out in the world.  Along with a lot of other things in those days, I felt more self-conscious about it than not.  But I kept trying to explain really that anyone could do it, at least on the tiny scale that I was doing it those days.  All it took was some serious commitment and a little bit of cash (though not that much--I was operating super bare bones and using cheaper papers/printers.)  So many other presses were already paving the way--Horseless, Effing, Octopus, Big Game Books--and doing it very well. I worried no one would submit work, or no one would buy the books, but I never worried about the endeavor itself.

I think so often (then and now) we feel like as poets we have to wait for someone to give us authority.  To say, here, work for this literary journal or work for my already established press if you want to be an editor. But most presses, except for big operations or university affiliates were probably the work of one or two people who made that initial jump and claimed a little corner of the publishing world for themselves to do what they needed to do.  You say you have a thing and suddenly, after some work, you have a thing and it's really pretty awesome.

Monday, February 25, 2019

my throat is a lovely murder

"Soon, / I'm a treble clef, a tangle, / all white hair and ribbons, / the sky gone up like burning copper."
 - "carnival season"

I realized today that I nearly missed another book birthday...girl show, the third book I wrote, the fourth one published, debuted in February 2014.  There was a long haul between when the book was finished as my thesis in 2007 and when it was actually released.  It had initially been snapped up by Ghost Road, the publisher of my my first collection, but the press folded in 2010 and left it back in my lap.  Later that year, I sent it to Black Lawrence, who wound up accepting it the following year.  I always think about how it was almost a good thing--the press closing and landing with another, even better, publisher with a huger audience, but at the time I was sort of listless in my writing pursuits and not sure the book was ever going to happen.  It had been a fallow period, post MFA, and my attention was everywhere but writing.

girl show was conceived around 2005, when I had completed an early set of collages (not so great) under the title and wrote the title poem.  They were never really meant to go together, really, my mind not yet toward combining text and image, but both partially inspired by AW Stencell's GIRL SHOW:  INTO THE CANVAS WORLD OF BUMP & GRIND. That first poem came pretty easy, the rest of the book hard, but I knew I had my title then and there even if I barely had a project.  Over the next couple years, as I finished my MFA, I finished the poems.  By the fall of 2006, when I landed in my thesis seminar, I had most of the entire book written. With the help of my classmates, I had wrangled it into three sections by spring and it was pretty much finished.. I did a little tweaking in the spring at the bequest of my advisor to get approval (much of which I later undid before sending it out for publication, angry that it took me so long to realize that know my own work best).  Somewhere in the bowels of Library archives, there is the version I turned in for the degree, but then there is the version that exists in print. (*note to future lit scholars in the event I ever become famous, just burn that one, kay?

"My body will go on giving /  things up: pink scarves and the ace of spades."
-"dissassembling maria"

I sent it to Ghost Road later that year, who had done an amazing job with the fever almanac, but the press was already on the verge of dissolving.  The editor I'd primarily worked on the book with and who'd enthusiastically accepted the second, had left by 2008, and though the existing editor had tried to make a go alone, health issues forced him to shutter. It's a common story in a world where such presses exist woefully underfunded and understaffed.  I was devastated, of course, but, because of my feelings toward poetry and po-biz at that time, not all that worried about it.  I did divide it up and submitted part as a chap, that placed as a finalist in a journal contest, but the only other place I sent the full mss to was Black Lawrence.

I'm so happy that they picked it up, and that it started this amazing relationship with that press that has already produced two books, and a third coming next spring.  When it came time to choose the cover, I had been working on my spectacle series of paper cut-outs, and somehow the bareback rider just seemed very right to grace the cover of the project. I also got some amazing blurbs from two of my favorite poets, Mary Ann Samyn and Carol Guess. There are a couple things that distinguish girl show from other projects, one that it's one of the last projects that was mostly verse.  I had already started writing mostly prose poems in the intervening years.  Also, it was probably my most intensely researched (I even thanked my my bestie/boss Jen for pointing me in the right direction when it came to source material.)  Most of the carnival women were inspired by real life stories.  

Perhaps one of the more important things about this book, was that it's acceptance re-ignited my writing passions and gave me impetus to continue.  It was accepted in the fall of 2011, a point when I was very much occupied with other things (press doings, shop doings, unrequited love dramas) and I suddenly was able to snap a bit more back into focus (ironically with a very unserious project with the James Franco letters, but it worked.)  And soon I was writing the shipwrecks of lake michigan poems and I was on a roll.   It probably just gave me hope that I was still on the right path, despite the enthusiasm I lost post MFA and the way I felt very anxious about writing, but also anxious about not writing.

*get a copy of girl show here at the Black Lawrence site..
*read a review at American Microreviews and Interviews
* sample at Verse Daily

Sunday, February 24, 2019

unknown territory

A couple weeks back, I wrote about my gravitation to prose in general.  Recently, with the exception of the ordinary planet series, everything I've been writing is in prose format, including two pieces more in a more lyric essay vein--the hunger palace and exquisite damage, both personal and memoirish. Others, like  beautiful sinister and taurus, that are more like stories or novellas in prose format. There is also unusual creatures, which is a mix of epistolary pieces and journal/diary entries that follows three generation of women in a single family  There seems to be all this murky territory between prose poem/flash fiction/fragment/lyric essay that I wallow in much of the time these days.

At some point I inadvertently stopped thinking of myself as a "poet" and more just as a "writer".  It wasn't a conscious decision, both terms feeling hard to claim in the early days.  I used to, and probably still, feel a little self-conscious about "poet" and what it evokes in people's minds when you say it out in the wilds. "Writer" is a little better, but people have less of a stereotype--you could be a novelist, or  a essay writer, or playwright or a journalist. And truthfully, my writing goes beyond mere verse and probably always has.  I was thinking about the length of this blog, how much content I have poured into these pages over the years, probably more words in count than actual poems.   Or now, when I am doing some library-related writing projects. Now, when I am tending toward prose more and more.

And truthfully, more and more, it comes to me how similar all these word oriented things things are and how skills in one translate to skills in others.  I was working on a library article and was sounding out a sentence am always attuned to cadence of words and syllables--even subconsciously.   Or when coming up with exhibit and focus week titles, what combination of words works. How to condense complex ideas into a cohesive sentence. We've been working on a new job description for my position and I had to spend time articulating an entirely new idea that we are still developing. But words are also how I think things I develop ideas. In the early days of AofR, when we were trying to gain footing and figure out how to accurately describe what we were doing, I spent so much time writing out promotional material and getting the words just right. Ditto when I was pulling together the info and writing the ACRL application. So many of the things I've learned from my college/grad school experiences and as an artist are, to my amazement, sometimes totally applicable to other aspects of my professional life.

Thinking in terms of "writer" the past few years has opened up doors and creative possibilites for projects in all sorts of genres.  I'm still not sure I have the endurance for longer projects, but small parts can make really big things, as this year's page counts reveal.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

logo agogo

Because I'm crazy and like to get wild on Friday nights, I spent some time last night working on a new banner for the top of the shop, mostly because I'm pretty sure I hadn't changed it since I moved to shopify back in 2014. It's always hard to find the right balance of visuals that don't clash or compete too much with the covers. artwork, and product photos.  A few years back I made a simple circle logo that was a nice pale blue that I used on the webpage, as our fb thumbnail, etc, but always like the books to be a little cleaner on the back, so usually just use "dancing girl press & studio" written out.  Our unnofficial logo, and what I use for signs and such, has been my little jackalope that ate the fox image, still one of my favorites and one our best selling prints.  It seems perfect somehow--pretty, but a little feral.  Nothing to do with dancing, but still similar in concept.

In the early years, I fussed over logo and web design options endlessly.  The initial name for the press was inspired by a french can-can dancer poster in my apartment and somewhere there is a logo featuring a cutout of her that I never really liked.  I chose it mostly because I liked the idea of the dancing girl, as both observed and observer.  As sexual and sexualized.  As actor and acted upon. There was another design years later  with line drawings of ballet dancers.  There were doll diagrams on the page according to my file directory, and I remember I used to overhaul the whole look every few months back when everything was contained to the main site.  Over the years, it splintered off onto other platforms and the main page was just a landing spot that boasted whatever directory buttons I was using at the time.

They always talk about cohesiveness in branding, and while I've never been one for strict unifying images, all the visuals usually meld together nicely.  Even my own website has changed a lot over the years.  I don't like to limit myself to one design concept since things don't always work perfectly across the board--online vs. print.  Last year, I made the best little business cards using one of my ordinary planet pieces (the octo woman mermaid) to promote   I've designed many other logos for other things--I'm particularly proud of the periodic table inspired AofR logo and my design for The Chicago Cryptozoological Society,

Last night, after I had cleaned up the design of the shop page, still retaining the jackalope that we've come to be known for (and in nod to my quiet and agreeable co-editor), I decided to see if I could wrangle a new logo and it turned out rather nicely.  I even wound up using it on the landing page of the main site since I liked the simplicity of it.  It's small and unobtrusive enough that I might even be able to use it on books occasionally--and could make it varying colors to match covers.

Friday, February 22, 2019

style obsessions | mary janes

I always say my footwear choices have not changed much since I was five.   Sure, I varied for a bit, Elementary school was a  lot of velcroed sneakers with pastel accents. Junior high was all about pointy flats stolen from my mother worn with stirrup leggings and big flowy sweaters. I wore knock-off Keds religiously through the entirely of high school with my french cuffed jeans.  In college, I tended toward oxfords and doc-martinish boots in cold weather, flip flops in summer. Then there were those strange ubiquitous Steve Madden sliders in the late 90's early aughts.   As an adult for awhile, I tended toward rounder toed ballet flats, which I still have a lot of and wear mostly in the summer when I'm not wearing sandals. I have a pair of black oxfords, a pair of chunkier Mudd penny loafers I love, but I am mostly all about the Mary Janes.

Slowly though, I've amassed a considerably impressive collection of them, which unlike the flats, are much better on my feet when I have to do more walking.  I have a bunch in blacks and various browns, and more in colors--oxblood, navy, a nice olive green. Dansko makes some super cute platformy ones, other great suppliers are Clarkes and Born.  A few years back, I amassed several pairs of Born kitten heel T-straps that I adored, but kept turning my ankles in and had to ditch them after a couple of falls.   As such, I have to watch my heel heights (sadly no sexy vintagey MJs's for me) but I've found some good ones with platform even soles and another favorite, the ballet flat/mary jane hybrid.

I've spotted numerous childhood pics of me in t-straps or one strap mary janes and those toddler shoes are not much different than the ones I wear now.  And also, unlike some of my cuter, but heavier soled ballet flats, the strapping keeps them from slipping off (I have one foot slightly smaller than the other.) I also say, these shoes satisfy my need for comfort while also appealing to my 90's chunky shod self and my love of  30's/40's accessories.

Head over to Pinterest for peek at some of my favorites..

Thursday, February 21, 2019

telling tales

I've spoken before about the one truly useful moment in a workshop, where we went around and discussed motivations for our work--what we intended to do--what we wanted a reader to get from our work--and all very different.  Some wanted pure expression of self  and sense making, others to conjure the perfect image in the mind of the reader.  Others to convey abstract thoughts in concrete form. And poetry of course, does all of these things, can do all of them at the same time I suppose.  Or it can also do none of them.   When it got to me, I mumbled something about telling a story and people seemed surprised. No one in the group of ten or so shared that goal or paid it much mind. (it actually gave me some context to why I was having difficulty in that particular workshop.)

But yes, I am a narrative poet at my very heart, though I stumble occasionally into more lyrical I-based things.  Oh it's all fragmented, both kinds, but most of my projects set out to tell a story.  Or maybe that's not right, maybe more that story comes from the framework of the poems, since I rarely definitely know which story I am going to tell (or even whose voice (or voices) I am going to tell it in. But the fun of writing is oft in the hanging of the wash on the line and seeing what you've got. Perhaps it's my start as a fiction writer, but I always look for story and narrative threads in whatever genre I am immersed in, even in non-fiction.

When I was a kid,a teenager, and yes, even occasionally into adulthood, I spent a lot of time plotting out the plotlines for novels, usually horror, usually involving Bronte-like plots of spooky old family homes and women with terrible secrets.  There was usually a  history of hauntings, at least one ghost, and varying degrees of madness and murder.  It was probably the same basic story--orphans, changelings, absent fathers, I just changed up the names.  I rarely wrote anything like a novel, having decided I much better liked the creating the characters and plots and not much in the actual work of getting it down right on paper (and why I'm a poet not meant for long hauls.)  But I would have notes that I would eventually toss, only to re-imagine the story, or a slight variation of, again in a few months. This is probably why I love plotting out those semesterly murder mysteries so much.

In poems, and the sort of fragmentation I work with in writing, sometimes I start out and have no clue where I'm going.  Last year, I completed the chap-length sequence taurus, built only around the idea of the minotaur re-imagined as a teenage boy.  It's a story more told by the Ariadne and Pasiphae figures, but it varies. I only knew I was going in a general direction, but what happened developed the more I wrote.

When I was working on my first book, the fever almanac, the poems were a mix of things--of fictions and truths,  so it was challenging, especially putting together a first collection to make these things work seamlessly.  Subsequent books were very much rooted in stories and less in the personal until 2015 when major characters in minor characters was released.   This volume, and salvage, told some stories that were mine, some that were independent of me, but the sections kept them more nicely organized than in previous collections. So you had things like ghost landscapes, which is a little bit of fiction amidst things like the shipwrecks of lake michigan poems and radio ocularia, more rooted in the personal.

But then, some would argue there is very thin line between truth in action and truth in substance. My upcoming Black Lawrence book, sex & violence, operates in a similar way.  There are the relationship poems, but there are also pieces about slasher movies and Sylvia Plath.  It's probably more that I am always telling a story, just that it's more or less autobiographical to varying degrees.

I was thinking about this particularly since I am putting the finishing touches on the next zine project, ordinary planet, which is a strange little tale spun off the idea of faux fortune telling women, which is where it started, but soon wandered off into the territory of strange dystopian communities. A flooded world and how women were forced into roles (I probably have Atwood heavy on the brain.)  The fortune tellers had their own story and somehow the poems drew it out in my head, gave it a framework.  It's a contrast to the last project that contained written elements, the science of impossible object, which while yes, there is a story to it , it was more lyrical in intent.  I am especially considering these things as I work on my Hollywood starlet series and what will become my HH Holmes poems.

What is their stories, what is mine, and where do they connect and get the good sort of friction going?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

gatekeepers and the myth of the "best"

I always sort of semi-roll my eyes when I hear the term "gatekeepers" when it comes to the literary world.  I've said it's because once you are officially (or even unofficially) serving as one, you realize how subjective it all really is--the choosing of one piece of work over another. When I was first submitting work in my 20's and early 30's I thought for sure, getting acceptances from journal X or journal Y meant that that particular work was better or worse depending on the exclusivity of the journal (ie the rejection rates).  What was crazy was that what I thought was my best work, would STILL maintain was my best work, was more often rejected than things I was a little more lukewarm on. meanwhile, pieces that were sound, but that I was not all that particularly excited about, met with reasonable success.

Regardless, it's hard to tell what someone will like. You can read the journals and see what the editor's tend to favor, but even that's not always guarantee that what you're sending will pique an interest (or gain a consensus when it comes to multiple editors.)  thank god I run my own operation since sometimes I see something and love it and would have a hard time explaining to another editor why. I just do--for whatever mercurial chemistry of voice, tone, and subject matter that knocks me for a loop.  And of course, it sounds like mallarky, to say "I don't know, but I know it when I see it..." and it is much the same with the visual art that I find appealing, but again, might not be able to tell you why. Admittedly, I do take it as a badge of honor when an author admits they've been sending something around and I'm the first yes after a long time of no.

I've always experienced the role as a editor as more of a curator than any sort of gatekeeper. Or hell ,a bit divergent perhaps even from the traditional role of editors in the historic sense.   I very rarely dig my hands into the manuscripts in much beyond a copy-editing.  I might make some suggestions, but usually these are based on formatting and layout concerns.  And I tend to say no to things that might need a lot of editorial work, even if promising for other reasons.  There is already too much finshed, completely polished work that needs a berth.  I've had editors of my own work  that were more or less hands on/hands off and find both appealing for different reasons in terms of line edits or ordering considerations.  Both are useful depending on what you need and have their benefits.  Some writers feel more comfortable with an editor who can be kind of a final reader with suggestions on ordering and cutting poems.   Some authors are sending things they consider finished and don't need anything more from me than to get to laying it out.

So really in the end, as a curator, you take what you like, what speaks to you, what seems important to you.  The sort of work you want to define as your press aesthetic. And it does seem, over time, people know what to send my way.  I used to get into really heated arguments with men about the logistics of running a feminist press, how certainly I was losing out on possibly publishing the "best" work out there by only accepting submissions from 50 percent of the population. But really, I am always highly suspicious of those presses and journals who keep throwing around that word "best." According to who?  According to what?  My thought immediately goes to the upper middle class, white, male standards that have only now began to crumble.

Granted we can usually agree on things that are bad (limericky rhymes and cliched overdoneness usually don't fare well), but there is a huge lack of consensus in the various corners of the poetry world as to what exactly is good depending on your personal aesthetics inclinations.  And truly, if Rupi Kaur is selling millions of copies, obviously there is an audience for all sorts of an editor, you just need to go with your gut.

So maybe it's all we ever do, as so called "gatekeepers"  (and there is another entry for another day about  founding and starting presses and how important such things are in abolishing gates of any kind.)  And really, so much of what the rest of the world deems "best" falls rather flat on me (stuff like Wes Anderson movies, red wine, jazz) So really, it's not surprising that my literary tastes run slightly askew..

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

dgp cover love | inky goodness

My original cover designs  from the last few weeks have definitely erred more toward conventional collage, but these are a few of the more graphic ones I've been designing since the first of the year, all in my very favorite colors (and be on the lookout, there is so much more pink coming down the pipeline.  The expanses of inky black have been appealing to me quite a bit the past few months and I love how dramatic they are when combined with pastels. (and probably why I love my hunger palace series so much).  

the summer house

What started out as a cover design for an upcoming dancing girl  chap (Nomi Washer's PHANTOMS) wound up inspiring a bunch of spin-off far there are five, and who knows, maybe more, but it was nice to be able to play around a bit (this is the first visual stuff, outside of a couple covers, I've done since the analog collages at the beginning of the year and I was feeling a little unproductive visually of late.) 

you can seem more of them here...

Monday, February 18, 2019

ordinary planet

The next installment in the books & objects series is very , very close to being a real, papery thing (after a couple more rounds of proofing.)  It's my strange little steampunky dystopia group of poems I finished during NAPOWRIMO last spring..  Here is a sneak peek at the cover...

Subscribe here for all sorts of loveliness...

for a taste of the text pieces, check out recent issues of  Grimoire and Rust & Moth...

armchair travel

I have mentioned before that I am not a good traveler.  Part of it is that I am not really able to take huge amounts of time away from either the library or the studio--either vacation time considerations or work backlogging more than it already does. It also makes me anxious--particularly traveling where the bulk of financing and organization falls on me (which unless I was traveling with my parents, which I used to do fairly often--trips to Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, shorts jaunts to Wisconsin.) But,  mostly even then, I miss my cats and my apartment after a couple days and being away makes me feel panicky and out of control. And I can never really afford it, no matter how much I plan ahead, money becomes an issue. Various crises wind up in canceled plans and trips.  I also don't fly due to terrible plane crash dreams and anxiety around the endeavor, so while I adore road trips and train rides, my options are kinda limited to the continental US regardless.

I am a big fan of my own sort of armchair traveling via books and film and scoping out places I am curious about on things like Google maps from the comfort of my apartment.  Granted, not really the same, but I'm okay with that.  I occasionally do weird things like take tiny faux vacations to Paris--roam around Montmartre via google maps, watch French movies, read travel blogs, and eat too many eclairs.  One night I ate amazing tacos and roamed around Tijuana and SoCal (one place I actually would like to visit IRL).  So much us at your fingertips and doesn't cost a cent, but there are things that don't translates, the noise of a place, the scent of a place.  The intangibles.

There is also a charm to the state of being in transit, on the way to or from something.  When I took the train out to Seattle a few years back for AWP, I have fond memories of rolling through the darkness of Montana, completely alone and wide awake in the middle of the night, listening to Elton John.  On the way back, when we were stuck for awhile due to an avalanche ahead and delayed by almost a day, I spent a considerable portion hiding from a creepy seat mate in the lounge car and writing.  There I  witnessed one of the most awkward drunk girl scenarios, a college student who kept trying to kiss the older guy in a suit as he tried to politely keep her from falling over on her way back to her seat. Then she sat down across from me, noticed I was staring perplexed at my laptop,  and started talking about how she could help me with whatever I was writing because she was good at it. 

But no matter how much I enjoy the transit, nothing matches the relief of coming home. (especially after getting stuck on train for three days.)  In my head, I idealize  the fun of a road trip to the west coast, staying in weird vintage hotels.  And I love New Orleans, would move there in a heartbeat if I was less afraid of hurricanes and big bugs, and settle for occasional trips. Also the Carolina coasts, which I've loved since my first semester of college and have only been back to Myrtle Beach once.  And here's where I wish time travel was a thing, because I would love to see Las Vegas in it's glittery, seedier mobster days.  But I always like coming back just a little more... 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

on smallness

A week or so back, I got to thinking about this article and the joys of limited adventures.  When I started the press, I could have went one of two ways--limited or open editions, and having felt the frustrations of being unable to obtain things once they ran out, I went with the latter.  Still, there is a certain charm to smallness, to tiny editions, which is why I love issuing much of my work in editions under 100-whether visual or written. 

Poetry sometimes, itself, seems so small in appeal--compared to other art forms--music, movies, pretty much anything else at all. So to be even tinier in that tiny sea seems appropriate.  I think of legacies, what we leave in the world, and knowing that most poets vanish inevitably into the obscurity. Most poets live in obscurity.  For all the submitting and scrambling, the hustle and po-biz, most of us, even if we have a brief glimmer of notoriety while alive, will be forgotten.  We may live forever through our work, but it's afloat in a much bigger sea.

So really small endeavors seem inevitable and right.  Even larger things are small drops in the water--unless you are a best-selling novelist, most trade paperbacks are really only moving into a limited number of hands. Unless you are maybe, like an instagram poets with weirdly large appeal, you're world is already a very limited one.  We know this, and yet as artists there is always the struggle reach for more--more publications, more accolades, more audience.  All well and good, but sometimes pursuits for those seems hollow sometimes, like a game that is rigged but we like to play regardless. 

So how to go about creating the creative life, knowing the stakes are so very small?  Knowing that even while we are alive, there will be more work and attention given to the things we create than will ever be given it after it releases out into the world?  I guess then all we are left with is not quite legacy, but practice, the wonder that we created anything at all.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

do better

There is much discussion in the po-biz world over politically reactionary poets being rewarded in po-bizzy ways and whether that sort of work should be acknowledged, let alone given support. Sometimes I read articles and am pretty sure the claims of "censorship" flying around are not exactly using the concept correctly.  Inevitably those same defenses jump to Godwinning all over the place and just sort of being embarassing to watch. I'm pretty sure censorship would not exactly be removing your work from a publication (which an editor has every right to do) but more like imprisoning you and taking away your pen. Or forcing you to cross out every objectional thing in black marker wherever you post it.  Even if it's your own blog.

Regardless, sometimes the garbage people start to collect into tiny gross constellations-the reactionaries, the racists, the neo-nazis. That dude (white)who wrote in a problematic way about Michael Brown's death  and the woman (also white) who doing was something racist with Gone With the Wind quotes.  That guy who pretended to be an Asian woman.  Add in the creepers, the rampant abusers, the assholes of the po-biz world  and you have a movement against what they consider the "mob" of poets who dare question or call them out.   Also, pretty much the people who defend them and their work, of course, who seems to do so out of similarly aligned thought patterns of their own (usually disguised in, of course,  1st Amendment garb, but I see you for what you are....)  They call their adversaries "social justice " poets, but I'm not so sure it's about social justice at all and more just not being a trash person. They also like to bring up struggles to silence work in the past--usually of a progressive or daring nature. But aren't quite self aware enough to realize yes, writers historically fight against the silencing of work that is moving forward, but why would you want to reward work that is regressive.?  Is this not antithetical to the purpose of artists in the first place--to make us better humans?

I like to operate under the assumptions that artists, if anyone in this whole world, are the sane ones.  The good ones.  The better ones. Fighting the good fight. We're not always perfect, and the ability to say, "hey, I made a mistake when I wrote that, and I apologize and will do better." goes a long way. Why in the world, as an editor, as a reader, would I want to publish or support the work a horrible person.  So much is said about the "quality" being the only thing that matters. Bullshit.  It matters if you are a quality person, because if you aren't, no matter how good you're work is, I'm not going to read it, publish it, or support it.  There is no disconnect between the artist and the work--it's the same reason I won't watch Woody Allen films or support Louis CK's comedy.  I cannot divorce the work from the artist themselves. In anything. If my Uber driver is a mysogynist prick but still managed to get me home in one piece, yes he's good driver, but I'm not exactly keen to ride with him again.

If the lit community can't work toward being being better people, who will?

Friday, February 15, 2019

a little spring

Yesterday was Valentines Day, and J arrived at my door for our regular sleepover date with a bundle of the lushest, most heavenly smelling pink and ivory roses. I keep smelling them today and thinking about how much flowers of any kind have a strange power to lift my mood.  That one bleak winter two decades ago,  where all I did was sit in the dark and cry in my apartment, I was saved by a trip to the Lincoln Park Conservatory (or at least it seemed like it) where everything was pink and white and lavender.   I remember it only because I kept taking photos with a disposable camera and later developed them and think of it every time I come across one.

Of course,  I have no idea if it actually was the conservatory or just those things coincided, but I do wonder. It had been a bleak start to a year--stressed about my grad classes, about what to do after grad school (which was intended to be teaching, but by then knew that wasn't really my thing.) About money and a million other little hobgoblins I'm sure.  My anxiety, which is usually manageable without treatment went full blown and turned into depression for a couple months.  But by Valentines Day and that trip to the zoo and the to see the flowers with my parents, I was feeling infinitely better.

I've discussed with a friend whether or not summer or winter is more prone to random sadnesses and depression, since for  me, even actual legitimate reasons for being sad are harder to get too down about when the world is green and the weather mild. In winter, whatever seems bad exacerbated by the world outside being basically inhospitable to life.  Everything is harder (this week's icy nearly unwalkable sidewalks being a perfect example), When things are grey and bleak and bare, I feel similar in mindset.  My friend, on the other hand, hates how summer makes you feel like you should be happy and ebullient and it's extra tragic you're not.

Regardless, it's been a rough winter where I'm feeling it a little more even than usual. A little more like circling the drain. It comes and goes, but it does feel a little less hopeless now that the days are longer and spring is a little more in sight.  And flowers, even roses and their shortest of lifespans,  can make a huge difference sitting there on my table and smelling gloriously like summer for as long as they can....

an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger

Last night was our annual (mostly) Breton's Birthday celebration of Surrealism. This year, our theme was Surrealist love letters.  (Largely because the main event coincided Valentine's Day-- Breton's actual B-Day falls next week.) Mostly it's a chance for some collage artmaking, reading some poems, and a final zine project we've been collecting over a couple weeks and promoting some resources in the library. Because a portion of the event was an open mic, I wrote a new piece culled, collage style, from a discarded book with an essay called "The Reach of Imagination" by  Jacob Bronowski.  While maybe not a love letter per se, at least not to an obvious lover,  it actually turned out reasonably good with a couple killer lines (that one at the end of part one is really nice.).


i. into what seeming deserts the poet is born

wooden as a rain gauge or self-registering machine.
The temperature of bloodheat.
The conditioned reflex.  An animal cannot recall,
behave consistently.
The salmon and the carrier pigeon find their way home
as we cannot. The recollection of absent things
 is where the animal falls short,
trying to fix the light in the mind by fixing it in its body.

ii. beautiful papers on the random movement of atoms

an imaginary experiment:
suppose, said Galileo, you drop two unequal balls from
the tower at the same time. The drag or brake.
Your assumption, the contradiction.
The heavier ball falls more slowly,
falling at the same rate when they are tied together.
Speeded up, slowed down.

iii. the price we pay for living a thousand lives

A child begins to play games with things that stand for other things.
All chess players sadly recall the combinations
they planned and which never came to be be played.

*the title of this post is taken from Breton's poem, "Free Union"

Thursday, February 14, 2019

dgp round up | february

*A week or so back, the folks at Quail Bell Magazine interviewed me in regard to press doings. I talk a little about the aims of a feminist press in a crazy world and balancing the demands of running a one-woman it here.

* The Slender Man anthology project, MANSION,  edited by Kristin Garth and Justin Karcher is getting closer and closer to realization and should be available in the next couple of weeks.   It's a really exciting project that features a whole passel of delightful authors and delightfully creepy writing, including some of my own Slender Man pieces, so I am extra excited for the release.

*We're in the process of working through the last of the 2018 chap offerings and the first few of 2019, so keep an eye on the shop's front page for new titles available daily. I am in proofing mode on a few things I'll be finalizing up very soon.  I'll also be finishing up copies on some of the things that debuted right before Christmas and still need to go out.

* Keep an eye out on social media as well for some AWP happenings at the end of March featuring our authors. While I won't be making it this year, plans are afoot for some things organized by dgp-ers that I'll be sending books along for.. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

done to death

I spent some more time over the weekend with the hunger palace, the part of the FEED manuscript most in need of work.  Also the part I've yet to spend any effort in trying to submit it's individual parts and would like to soon.  One hand, the piece as a whole might need to be taken in as a whole, which eventually as a zine project it will be. Probably later this year, complete with the images I created to go with them.  But also we're dealing with the weird discomfort I feel over submitting pieces that are a) more personal than usual and b) leaden with a whole lot of baggage. Also, while their partially about mothers and daughters and food disorders, they are also about death, which always makes me feel like I'm treading a line between art and cliche. Death, as I always say, having been done to death.

But I'd like to get them out there a little. And I am determined to fulfill my 100 rejections plan, which of course means, at the very least, I need to send out 100 submissions to get rejected.  I've done a bit of tightening and minor edits, but I'm still stuck on pulling out some parts and general ordering. As a whole, they are definitely more essayistic than poetic. Which of course leaves me looking for journals who publish that sort of work. I have series of post-its in my sketchbook of places I'd like to hit up this year, but it sometimes seems you blink and 100 new journals appear, while another 100 disappear or cease publication.

I do like the ways that the more essay-like pieces in the mix with the prose poems in the larger manuscript, so I think they work well there.  Just on their own I'm not quite sure what to do with them.  Last year, when I finished them, they were too raw.  I felt kind of resentful, in advance, of putting them out in the world and them facing rejection.  It didn't seem to matter, whether or not editors responded to them--mostly since I needed to write them regardless.   Or more that I gave no fucks on whether anyone else would like them, only that I had written them.  With time, it's softened a little, and the tweaks I've made to them make them smoother and stronger as prose.  And I guess if I am aiming for rejections anyway--they might be the very thing to help get me to my goal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

velvet buzzsaw: art and slaughter

There is so much to love about this movie.  Even the horror plot line aside, it's an amazingly scathing portrait of the art in which you are left wishing you were like John Malkovitch's character at the end, drawing circles on the beach with a stick that washes away as quickly as you draw.   I can't say I have much knowledge of the fancy gallery world maneuverings, but from all accounts from folks who have peered into it's abyss, it's not that far off. Mediocre art but really good buzz can sell for millions. Collectors make the culture--where the money goes, contemporary taste goes. It's probably no different than other art forms--music or film, but it seems especially heinous when you take out the popular appeal factor.  Ie, yes people are willing to throw money at Beyonce albums and the latest comic book movie, but you're average person will not buy a painting this year, much less a giant abstract. So the wealthy, not the masses, form the taste. And, well, the wealthy are boring and predictable.   For a bit, it made me really happen that there is no money in poetry, or even book arts really, so the waters are less muddy between art and commerce.

As horror, it's really good.  And very original in a world where there seem to be a lot of remakes and spin-offs but little true, original horror. And of course, you might argue it's not original, part of the inspiration being a small history of haunted paintings.  Still it's a good watch even if you give no shits about the art world, and an amazing watch if you do.  It's also very lovely and artful as a film in terms of performances, scripts, and cinematography.  Netflix has been knocking it out of the park lately and I can't wait to see more. (The Haunting of Hull House and Russian Doll come immediately to mind ( the latter of which also deserves an entry of its very own.) I also very much like how they handled the final girl--almost invisibly moving through the carnage--and emerging out the other side intact. The final girl is always a witness to the horror, and in this , she is almost invisible, but important as a conveyor of gossip and information. With every body she comes across, her role becomes more comic and archetypal., and probably evidence of a whole bunch of gallery asst. girls who move in that world invisibly and yet survive.

Monday, February 11, 2019

notes & things | 2/11/2019

Two nights in a row, I dreamt about lions in places where lions should not be.  One my parent's backyard where we watched from the window, and the second night, in a schoolyard I was trying to escape from, but the lion kept approaching for cuddles, which I indulged a little, but all the while afraid it would kill me.  Somewhere, there is probably a meaning to this, though last night I dreamt about making out with other writers, male and female, at AWP.  (which I have never done, nor will I be going to the conference this year..) Not sure what this meant, only that someone mentioned AWP on facebook shortly before bedtime.

It was  a quiet but busy weekend..and I watched some good things on Netflix amid my writing-related things-most noteably Velvet Buzzsaw (watch for a post on this tomorrow) and Russian Doll, which last week was hard to get through the first episode without feeling panicky, but I was able to finish it off last night entirely. The light is noticeably longer and I am mostly feeling good about February, though I am still feeling weighed down by how much there is to do. This week will be busy in the library as well, with the pendant workshop on Tues and the surrealist love letters reading on Valentines Day.  Friday's Rom Com Trivia Night's  attendance was small, but it was still a lot of fun and featured the above trophy which seemed fitting.

Yesterday, I spent some more time with the hunger palace, as well as plotting some places to send fragments from it and other projects.  I wrote some blog entries for the week and planned out some press related tasks that will be coming up.  I drank a lot of coffee and ate pop tarts and kept alternately moving the space heater closer and further away from my feet. Today, there's waffles and tea and cleaning and maybe some monotype making. Surely some napping. 

I am impatient for spring.  For not having to pile on l the layers and swiftly remove them in the library before I overheat and am looking forward to tights-less days where I can just slip on a dress and my my shoes and head out the door. As much as I love my winter outerwear, I love my lighter jackets best. Or better, no jacket at all.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

editing, publishing, and technological witchery

It occurred to me this morning that the dgp chapbook series turns 15 this fall. Occasionally, I find myself thinking about my tenure as an editor/publisher.  What I know and how I learned it, and so much of it seems to have been picked up, scattershot along the way.   I guess it began digitally with starting wicked alice in 2001, my first shot at web design and curating content.  Or maybe it began in 2004 when I mastered the tricky figure 8 layout that was necessary for manual duplex printing. So much of it was, and probably still is, fake it til you make it.   I could say it started in high school--where I worked on the newspaper as an editor.   I could say it started in a desktop publishing class I randomly enrolled in my last year of undergrad.  Or the Small Press Publishing class I took at Columbia that made it seem possible that I could even start a press. All of these would be true, but not the whole story exactly.

But much of it is wrapped up on technology, in what was possible or not possible at any given time. In a pre-internet world, you could have started a press or litzine, but your audience & distro would have been limited.  Layout would have been old-school and more time consuming. Printing would have been left to the professionals unless you were going the photocopied zine route. So much of my own life in publishing depended on the exact set of technological circumstances that existed when I started doing it.  Otherwise, it might not even have happened.

As a kid, my relationship with computers all along had been pretty sketchy, the first pc I'd encountered having been my cousin' s Commodore 64, upon which we pretty much just played that olympic gymnastics game over and over where you chose your country and then had to stick landings using the joystick. Video games, of course,  were not entirely new, it being a great age of arcades in malls and Atari.  I even had a desktop Donkey Kong game I routinely ran out the batteries on.  But the home computer part was entirely new.   At school, there was one very clunky beige computer that they rolled from classroom to classroom in the upper grades and offered students time on it, but I never sought it out because, really, besides the gymnastics game, I wouldn't have even begun to know what to do with it.  In junior high, we learned typing in 7th grade (well, were supposed to learn typing) and something called "Computer Applications" in 8th.  All I remember of this class was somehow making a tiny cursor move around on the screen for no real reason.  Also that everything was excessively complicated--the codes you typed in to make things work, the order in which the machine had to be powered up lest it crash or explode or some other horrible technological catastrophe.  It pretty much quelled any interest I might have had and sent me back to completely analog world for a couple more years. At home we had a Nintendo, and I spent hours perfecting my Super Mario Bros game, but computers were still way too expensive.

I did wind up working on my high school newspaper as a junior and senior. So of course, there was typing up stories in the office on black screened monitors  (mostly rants against environmental and animal rights threats)  to print out and arrange with sticky wax on blue lined layout pages.  Things were just beginning to shift publishing wise, and by the final year, when I was one of the editorial staff, there was a shiny new machine running something called MS Word with a giant monitor and layout capabilities.  My co-editors would fiddle with it, but mostly we were still using the blue-lined mockups. I imagine by the next year, they would have fully gone over to laying things out entirely digital.  Because there were some conflicts in my schedule and I had to swap out some electives, I wound up in a another introductory computer class that met first thing in the morning, where we learned to type up letters and resumes and spreadsheets on that same black DOS screen. At the time, computers in general seemed like a clever, speedier,  alternative to a typewriter, but that was about it.

As a freshman in college, it was the first time I had heard the phrase "e-mail."  We were granted one should we choose to use it, but I didn't really. Definitely not that semester in North Carolina, where my communications were limited to notes on dorm room doors, long distance calls to my mother, and long snail mail letters to friends.  There was a computer lab of course, I even went there with a roommate once, but I mostly typed up my papers and writing exploits on the new typewriter I'd bought with my graduation money the spring before, and would continue to do so for the next three years.    My final semester as an undergrad, I took a desktop publishing class to fill a final sci/math/tech credit I was missing.  As a senior, I'd probably been in the RC computer lab two or three times previously.  There was huge demand for the two computers at the end of a long row, and there were whispers of the word "internet," but I wouldn't have been able to really tell you what that was.  I was starting to use e-mail, mostly to write a friend who had transferred to another college, but little else. All along, there were  rumblings of zines, talked about in places like Sassy magazine and in my sister's group of high school friends, one of whom must have had a computer and some layout knowledge.  But I was spending most of my time writing poems and doing theater seemed cool when she bought it home along with comics and other things she'd made  (I remember there was an artist book bound in glittery vinyl she did that was really intriguing) but it wasn't my world.

The Desktop Publishing class was teaching us the ins-and-outs of something called "Word Perfect" and I got really good at making things happen--designing attractive newsletters and resumes and brochures, which I kept in a tidy plastic-sheeted portfolio.   It turned out to be one of my favorite and most useful classes, and even for a one credit class, I spent a lot of time in that lab out of class perfecting my designs for fake businesses and literary newsletters. I was into it.  Obsessively so. Perhaps this, moreso than my high school newspaper experience was the real beginning of my editing/publishing life, where I caught the bug for it.    Word Perfect, of course,  was about to be swept under the rug by MSWord...those internet computers at the end  were already running Office.

A year later, I landed in my grad program at DePaul, and one of my first classes was a Bibliography and Literary Research class.  Because it was a bigger and a more technologically advanced school, they were quick to show us the ins and outs of database research and the internet the second week of class.  My undergrad paper-writing up til that point had been mired in a clunky humanties article database that crashed every 10 minutes and the huge print MLA indexes in the basement of the library.   The DP computer lab was huge, filled with brand new Gateways. speedy and slick, and I would soon learn that once you sat down, you could easily lose an afternoon, not always to classroom research, but also to list servs and literary discussion boards (I spent a lot of time in the Poets & Writers one.)  I still typed up my papers and then poems, so many poems, on a Brother word processor in my apartment, and still spent more time not in front of a screen than in front of one. But it was 1997, the world was changeing--anyone who could afford home computers were getting one.  E-mail was a common thing and AOL was in its hey-day.

After I finished grad school, I briefly landed back in Rockford without computer access for a bit.  It was hard, esp. becuause I was on the job hunt that summer and could have used it.  I worked briefly that summer as a production ass't for a local paper that still used the blue lined layout even then. When I started working at the elementary school library, when there was free time, which there barely was,  I would spend  some of it online at my desk.  There were two other networked computers and there was one teacher who would come down during her classroom breaks and after school, but most of the teachers were suspicious of technology. My subsequent job at Columbia, however, placed me in front of a computer constantly, and for long hours in the evening at a low-traffic circ desk.  It was here I slowly taught myself, via modifying Angelfire templates, rudimentary html for my personal webpage, which, as I was starting to publish regularly in online journals, seemed necessary to have.  wicked alice, of course, spun out of that.  And dancing girl press spun out of that.  I got pretty good at designing simple webpages, even without any fancy software or programs.  I got really good at laying out books in Word and still do.  Even the covers. For one, I know Word very well at this point and know the ins and outs and how to make things happen.  Two, I can work on things anywhere, on whatever computer--home. the library, the studio--without having to have design programs on all of them. This still works til this day.

Of course, over the past two decades, much has changed in the web design world, and now it's possible to get a really nice site going with no coding knowledge whatsoever.  I still have landing pages I laid out myself, but most of them link to blogger or other ready-made sites (or e-commerce platforms)  I've tailored to do what I need them to do. As someone who works with a younger generation, and younger every year, I feel like a grumpy old get-off-my-lawn man when they complain about technology's failings and have no idea how easy things really are now compared 10 years ago-even printers are so much better than they were--able to do double sided without tricky, weird layouts. Even Word allows you do more with it and much more quickly.  I get a certain vertigo thinking about how quickly things change--how easy things are that used to be so difficult. I spend about 80-90 percent of my day in front of a screen now and it's harder to remember a time when I didn't .