Thursday, January 30, 2020

january confessions

1.  I've been spending my weekends assembling chapbooks, drinking lots of coffee, napping (which I still can do with all that coffee) and watching #vanlife videos on Youtube.  While they appeal to my love of travel documentaries and sometimes go to really cool places.  The bans and vanners themselves very from the super outfitted like a house and bougie to the bare bones, poop-in-the-woods sort of set up.  While I love camping provided access to some sort of shower, I don't think I'd be willing to shove all my cats, books, art supplies, and dresses into such a small space and not lose my mind.  So I guess it will continue to be #apartmentlife for moi.

2.  I've been cheating a bit on poetry in the form of something that may be a short story, maybe something longer.  I regularly have a hard time telling what is prose, what is prose poetry, what is cnf, what is just fictional.  Bit I've been working , along with two other things, on something that feels more prose-ish and less poetic in general, and it's actually not too bad. We shall see what comes of it.  Meanwhile, I am loving the dog-girl series, and it's taking all sorts of twists and turns and p-o-v's I did not expect.  Keep an eye on facebook and twitter where I'll probably be sharing some bits as I go along.

3.  It's January, so of course, like last year, I should not be allowed to make decisions in my middle tundra of winter funk.  While last year this time I was conteplating a Ph.D in Library Science, this time it was a sudden desire to be either an evolutionary biologist or a cryptozoologist, with enough of a spark to have me googling career and education options. Even though I spent my last two years of high school and first semester of college intending to major in marine biologist, even now I realize it's a poor fit, but there is something about winter that has me imagining future and/or alternative lives. Perhaps it's just winter blues that have me contemplating a different life, even though I usually would say I'm pretty content in the one I possess. Drastic career choices aside, maybe my mind is telling me I want more science subject matter in my writing, which I am all on board for, especially after the extinction event poems went so well.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

tiny studio, vintage storage strategies

It's been a hot minute since I posted about frivolous things like dresses and housewares, all things I think about quite often, but never commit to paper.    I've been thinking a bit about stylish storage in particular lately, so I thought I'd go there. Since the studio is now back in my home and still in a bit of disarray, I thought I might on occasion share some shots on instagram as things tidy up.  Combining two spaces, even one as small as the studio footprint has been a challenge, and thank god for giant metal shelving, which has bore the brunt of the stuff that accompanied the move. It's about 1/4 the space, and was already housing my at-home art & craft supplies (paints, jewelry making materials, sewing supplies.) so it's a tight fit.  Some larger things (the cushy chair, the dress form, the pegboard screens, the velvet ottoman) have spread into other parts of the apartment.  Other, more sales-oriented stuff like the chapbook racks and folding table are shoved behind my couch waiting to be stashed in my entryway closet as soon as I make room. ) There are still a couple boxes on the floor that need to be dispersed, but a handful of things have made my life much easier and some storage solutions I rather like.

1. baskets and wine boxes

I've acquired these over the years, both for at home and in the studio, and the larger wine boxes and cigar boxes are perfect for storing collage fixings (ie the mound of paper that threatens to overwhelm me.)  The baskets hold bigger things and  more important HIDE so much and keep it looking tidy even when it's really not.  I seem to have hoarded so much in terms of supplies and these help keep things straight and accessible.

2. old wooden tool boxes

I have a couple of these.  The green one on the table is my go-to for holding scissors, glue sticks, markers, pens, business cards, tape, staples, and on and on.  Its kind of battered, but was painted green when I spotted it on e-bay about a decade ago, which is my color obsession at the moment.  The second is a new one made to look old and holds brushes and bits on my painting work table in the corner. I also have some old file card holders that I inherited from the library as they became obsolete that work good for holding books after assembly.

3. document & file boxes 

Before I moved into the studio, I invested in some document boxes (I think from the Container store, but I may be wrong, ) They are also good at keeping the paper mess tucked away, in this case, my stock of notecards and extra covers.  I also inherited the larger file boxes during various library cleanups that work nicely for storing extra book stock and artwork.

4. tiny drawers

I swear by my little ikea metal drawer set (which is falling apart because I put it together) but it holds my supplies of packing tape, press postcards, business cards, etc. , I also procured a  strange steel vintage file box I procured via ebay last year.  It was meant to hold horizontal long file cards for something decades ago, and for awhile was a good display case for paper goods in the studio. Now it houses ALL my acrylic and water color tubes and has room for more, which could be a problem when I get on a supply buying binge for things I barely have time to do.

5. table top display

Because I have only one large corkboard at home, already full of postcards and collected ephemera over the years, and a whole studio of stuff I used to have taped to the walls..I turned the table (which was initially covered in Alice in Wonderland pages) into a sort of flat ephemera storage--postcards, photographs, random paper bits fit nicely under the plexi-glass and can be piled on indefinitely. Becuase I did some damage to the modpodged pages (hello, the bottom of a hot pizza box) and wanted a smoother surface, the plexi is perfect and easier to keep clean and impermeable to damage.

6. vintage chairs & stools

Not storage, so much, but still very useful. Granted I am usually the only person around, I really don't need as many chairs and stools as I have, especially now that they have been combined in one place, but I love me a vintage propeller chair. And don't even get me started on industrial stools. I started collecting them after my original dining room chairs were on the outs.  Pretty much I have seating for a good half dozen, when at most, there are two of us., plus a couple of stools that serve as end tables in the living room. I have a problem, but like kittens, I can't just leave them in the thriftstore, can I?

At some point I'll give a proper studio tour when the dust settles, so stay tuned for that....

Monday, January 27, 2020

cover love | variations in winter

Sometimes, we get the opportunity to utilize the work of other amazing artists on dgp covers and the results are always beautiful and unexpected.  Check out some of the artists below who were recently kind enough to let us use their work and join the dgp family (and also past dgp-er Laura Page)!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

ekphrastic desires

As I've been looking over the old poems from my ekphrasis class all those years ago, and working on the renaissance dog-girl project, which encompasses not just Antoinetta Gonzolez herself, but also the artist Lavinia Fontana, her portraitist, I've been thinking a bit about how I write about art, especially given how much of the time, I am always engaging the visual, even when the artist is just myself.  Or, the opposite when I am "arting about writing"  The two things being inextricably linked for me.

The urges were always there, as my earlier poems attest.  While I was hitting on a lot of subjects in that early work--history, mythology, fairytales, literature--I did early on write a poem about Degas dancers, variations of which I had hanging in various places during college and grad school.  While I will always love me an impressionist of any stripe, Degas was in those years my favorite.  What always intrigued me was not the dancers, but the men who watched them from the shadows. Whether the voyeur or the "despotic master."  I liked it enough that  was one of the few pre-2000 poems that wound up in The Archaeologists Daughter. 

During my first semester of my MFA program, Karen Volkman, who was a visiting writer teaching a craft class I've forgotten the name of,  took us specifically to see the Cornell boxes at the Art Institute and I was hooked. I started writing about them, sneaking over to see them occasionally on my writing days (ie the days I had only classes and no library shifts),  It was a time when the museum allowed pay what you can, and since I usually was there in the afternoon, I felt confident paying a couple bucks and wandering through the museum's wings, but mostly hanging out around the Cornell boxes. Years later, the Institute built a monolithic modern wing and shoved all the boxes in a big glass case all together and basically ruined everything, but at the time, they were strung through a series of small rooms, which allowed you to encounter each one singularly. To sit down in front of the tabled ones. I spent a lot of time there, working over the next few years on what would become at the hotel andromeda.

It was while working on those pieces that I filed away my encounter with Dali's Invention of the Monsters, which was hung in a room I had to pass through to reach the Cornell;s and had a bench upon which I often sat to jot down notes.  While Cornell was icy blue and haunted, Dali was all wild and in flames, and just really weird in a way I appreciated.  It took me years to return to that painting as subject matter., and when I did, it turned into a sort of meditation on the ghostly little blue dog in the corner and Dali's own wife, who occupies the painting with him.

An of course, there are still the planned series that may have tiny beginnings or preliminary plans, but nothing much yet.  I'd love to write about Gregory Crewdson's work.  Also Francesca Woodman, who has been a muse in so many ways. If you expand ekphrasis to other media, I've toyed with a series about my favorite film, The Shining.   (there is so much there not only tickling my horror bone, but also domestic abuse and the writing process.)  I'm also intrigued with approaching non-existing and made up artwork as a project. Of exploring various aspects of "ekphrasis."

Sunday, January 19, 2020

some notes on lost (& found) poems

As I mentioned last post, I have been delving a bit into older blog entries.  Unlike my old print journals that I plan to burn one day before I die, the blog provides a less embarrassing (mostly) view of the past 15 or so odd years.  As time passes you forget so much--things that happen, random thoughts, poems you wrote.  As I paged through 2006 and 2007, I found quite a few forgotten things--some written in that weird in between books time. Many later poems that would seemed to have fit better into the first book but seemed wrong for the second.  Others written as class exercizes--a forms class I took in 2006, and ekphrastic seminar I tool in 2007. Not of much use beyond their immediate gratification of the assignment.  Ballads, sonnets, elegies.

I used to have a super sound archiving system for poems, and in the drawers next to me even now, there are folders of poems, most of them never having or no longer existing in digital form.  There are the high school pieces scribbled on the same Lisa Frank stationery I used to write pen pals. More in that blue diary tucked somewhere. There are the college poems in another, thicker folder.  Some typed on the electric typewriter I got with my high school graduation money.  In some cases I kept the original handwriten draft on notebook paper, or a photocopied version I took to class. Some of them are dated with completion details, and many are from the time when I was writing awful rhyming poems, though I sometimes wonder if even awful, they helped me intuit rhythm and sound. They're mostly really bad--all pretty bad, but at least a few got me honorable mention for the Academy of American Poets Prize my final year.  Nevertheless, all of it was bad--overwrought, cliched, some rhyming (yikes).

The grad school folder is thicker, written between 1997 and 1999, these mostly still composed by hand, but then banged out on a word processor that was my best friend in those years. I was better at dating my drafts in real time--so they attest to that rise in output over the fall of 1998. There are things that surface there in later poem, the mythology, literary, and historical figures that appear in The Archaeologist's Daughter--Little Red Riding Hood, mermaids, Salem witches..  Some of the actual pieces held up even for that collection--poems on "Columbus", "Uncreation", "Undertow."  A remarkably large number of poems about literary figures, real or fictional--Guinevere, the Bronte sisters, Macbeth's wife, Romeo & Juliet, Sin from Paradise Lost (my first officially published piece). There are even multiple drafts of the same pieces reflecting revisions over time.

For a few years after, I was good at keeping yearly files, but eventually, those become more manuscript oriented. At some point I made an index of everything, but it too is not up to date past a certain point.  The 2001-2002 poems are mostly print outs of email saved work and online publication tear sheets, with a few scribbled drafts probably written while I was on the circ desk. As soon as I started my MFA program, there are randoms that never made it into books--a long hypertext sequence called the dream alphabets, a sensual poem incorporating Georgia O'Keefe and the North American Guide to Wildflowers.  Some are more promising than others--one called "High June" that is very WCW..a simple image of a girl and a wasp crawling through a hole punched through a screen door by her father. They are also erotic more than not, this being the years of wanton e-mails. Lush and filled even more than later work with birds and trees and just words like transatlantic, glancing, exoskeleton, wheelspoke, acoustics. 

                                            You were never more beautiful
                                           than when you were running away."
                                                                                     -the dream alphabets

By 2004, I was full manuscript compilation mode, so already things were coalescing into book projects.  The work from 2000-2004 mostly became the fever almanac, but with a few odd poems tucked in the chapbooks issued around that time.  What's interesting as I look at the files are moreso the things that never made it into the collections--the oddities, forgotten even by me. Written and discarded as trash, or written to fill an assignment but not interesting enough to carry forward. ...As I moved into grouping things by project, and no longer working by hand, many of these odds & ends might have been lost (( have no idea how many) but some still exist, only because I shared them on this blog.  The sonnets and ballads I wrote for class..a poem inspired by a Gregory Crewdson photo. BIts and pieces I can see as the rough material from which finer, more polished work came from.

At some point in my mad indexing, I counted exactly how many poems I had drafted in my lifetime and it was a lot...some of which I barely remember having written, but so any of which point to obsessions and future projects.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

poetry and careerism revisited

I've been rustling through some older blog posts from 2005-07, and there are quite a few posts that seem to attempt to navigate the world I found myself fully immersed in, enthusiastically or reluctantly--the more business oriented side of writing--with it's submissions and contests, it's haves and have nots. Apparently I obsessed quite a bit about it, enough to mention it every few posts, which makes me feel like I should revisit it--now on the other side of hill (or on the hill, in the hill, under it.)  If there is such a thing as mid-career, how do I think about these things now compared to then?  While I talk about submissions and publishing efforts frequently,  I don't write those posts anymore--maybe just because I think of them less urgently these days.

When I was in my early to mid 20's I was feeling out so much, mostly by reading Plath's journals and issues of Poets & Writers. I submitted to the sorts of places it seemed were important--The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry. Also smaller journals I caught mention of in those markets.  From the time I was 19, I was playing the game, but sort of blindly and not very well.  I had an undergrad professor at RC who had published one book, and cache of visiting writers who seemed to be moving/shaking somewhat, but my knowledge of actual writers, or how to become one, was mostly nil.  My lit profs at DePaul's MA program were excellent in their field, but " literature" was a set thing--something encased in glass and set aside to be studied.

Sprung from that degree, and still writing in 2000 or so, I was now spending large amounts in front of computers,  and discovered the world of online journals.   They seemed open to new voices, endlessly accessible, and a possibility for real time response. The first couple or so years of work that I landed in online, it was amazing to get fan letters, to connect with other contributors, at a time that knew no other writers in real life. As such, I amassed a good amount of publications, and buoyed by that confidence, began doing other things--assembling chapbook mss., seeking out opportunities to read.   I felt, for the first time, that I was really good at it.  I also had a measurable level of success and response to that work that encouraged me to go on.

And of course, if you're good at something, you want more. In 2003, Columbia decided to add an MFA program specifically devoted to poetry and I applied.  I somehow got in (though it was a new program, so who knows how much competition there was.)   As those blog entries for the next four years attest, I was an oddity in the program--which was mostly folks who hadn't been writing long, much less had been published much of anywhere-especially that first year.  I felt conspicuous and self-conscious about all sorts of things in those years that impeded my learning and enjoyment.

I remember hearing a whole lot of discussion..on one side the writers who felt too new to the game to be focusing on anything publication related.  The other side, those who were eager to get started told by many faculty members that they shouldn't. The word "careerism" was thrown around a lot, on all sides. And not just there, but here on the interwebs, in the poetry blog and list-serv world that seemed full of folks, including me, who were struggling to make their way via journals and first book publications that seemed incredibly illusive.   I was an odd duck, having already been out in the world and having done a lot of things that were probably scoffed at.  I published my own chapbook for one.  Also, had been publishing widely in forums that, in many people's eyes, weren't legit unless they were in print format.  I had a personal website, a poetry blog with reasonable reach, had started a lit journal, was on the verge of starting a press. Others were still cutting baby poet teeth on journal publications and just starting out.

My work generated a bit of love/hate from classmates, that probably boiled down to stylistic tastes more than inherent quality (which wasn't all that great, but definitely a bit more sure-footed and polished than the work of younger poets.)  After all, I was older-- coming up on 30 and 15 years of writing--even if most of it wasn't well.  But still, as much as I heard "careerism" thrown at others, I knew for sure it was whispered about me, esp. after certain things fell into place for me during those years,  which was hilarious given how little I cared about that actual "career" but only about reaching audiences and readers. If anything, those sorts of discussions put me more off of things--that this journal or this award from more important/impressive.  That this MFA program or residency was more prestigious. The unspoken rules and arbitrary classifications.

It left a sour taste in my mouth and for awhile,  made me not want to engage in those aspects of the community.   I do understand I am in a more fortunate position--my writing is not necessarily tied to my livelihood.   There isn't a push for tenure--that taught wire, that shiny C.V. There are so many reasons writers need to take those things into account.  But for me, it was all far more about audience--what gets the work you do in front of an audience and allows people to engage.  And that can be anything from courting the attention of journals and presses to open mics and self-publication. I sat in a panel with academic poets once and argued over whether the latter of those was a valid undertaking and I still think it is til this day.   While I would eschew vanity presses, not for the "vanity" part but more in that you are paying someone to do what, if you wanted, you could do much cheaper and better, Truth be told, so much of what gets published behind the veil is because of connections and freindships and networking.   There's a bottleneck, even in the presses that accept things over the transom.  If you are a writer and are confident in your work, esp. if you have people interested in reading it and indications it's good (support from other writers and editors) --just do it if you can.  Hell, out your poems in bottles and ship them off to sea.  All methods of publication are valid-some just with greater reach.

I like the idea of traditional publishing in that it gives an editorial eye. I appreciate that extra once-over and perhaps a bit more publicity support and wider reach than doing it on your own. Also the comraderie of fellow press-sibling authors and that feeling of belonging.  Editors work really hard, and obv. as an editor, I appreciate that.  But you could also have a friend edit your book.  You could pay a publicist yourself. (Literary presses in general are strapped--no one is doing this for fame or money.) There were a few models that were collective initially that I really liked the idea of--people chipping in to publish others books along with their own. So many ways of getting that work out there.  Which is why it makes me sad when I see writers who have really good books sinking money into contests they lose year after year that seem so much like lotteries.  Or worse, that they will never find their audience and give up.

You might look at instagram poets.  While I don't necessarily like the work I see there sometimes, I also don't like what I usually see in the The New Yorker, so there's that.   Neither one more valid than the other, but I would argue that one is far more successful in it's reach than the other.   I would take instagram fame in a heartbeat over a magazine geared toward the Lexus crowd. Someone like Rupi Kaur's reach is enviable, if not for the work itself, but it's audience scope. The academic may scoff and dismiss, but hopefully there is something we can learn there.

I do like books and presses and journals, but only moreso becuase they get things out there a little farther and engage me more with community.  I love my little zines & objects series, but I have only a handful of regular subscribers. yearly. I sell more online separately throughout the year and give many away and trade them at readings . I post a good amount of work on social media and subnit/publish in journals, to generate interest.   But I also like putting pdf versions online to get more eyes on them eventually.  I feel like the most read thing I ever wrote my James Franco e-chap @ Sundress.   That and probably my poets zodiac poems--all of them published on instagram.  Poetry publishing feels like an experiment to find that sweet spot sometimes..and I'm not at all convinced it's landing in the "right" journal or with the right press, but more catching an audiences eye at the perfect moment in the absolute perfect way.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

the book of yes

I got to thinking about this Lithub essay the other day, and about what I would consider my biggest "YES" scenarios-- some of which are what you would think, some of which are not.  Even still, it's a fascinating indicator of those sorts of formative experiences as writers, some marked by typical, expected trajectories, others less so. Do you define it by externals, what the creative world gives or does not give us, or is it by something internal?  Some personal measure?  While I don't have many of the things that would mark me as a fancy sort of poet--book prizes, grants, fellowships --I consider myself pretty successful as a writer (esp. given where I started.)  While I wish I could make some more money doing what I love, I long ago severed the expectation that those accompanied each other, so where does that leave you?  Particularly in a society where art is ignored and mediocrity rewarded? And where cash is king.  By those standards pretty much only Rupi Kaur is a success.

A little over 20 years ago, in the fall of 1998, I found myself writing the first spurt of writing that actually probably had any quality at all.  I was a poet nearly a half decade before that of course, but it was all really bad, despite what I told myself at 19 as I eagerly sent out work to places that, thankfully, did not publish it. By 1998, I was in the midst of my MA in English, and finally admitting to myself what I'd suspected all along but was too terrified to say--that I wan't cut out for teaching in any way. And yet here, I was, getting a degree, applying to Ph.D Programs with that very thing in mind.  That fall, at age 24, I had emerged from a serious bout of depression in the spring (both related and unrelated to the teaching quandary), But I was suddenly writing and reading like a fiend. I blame the The Wasteland, for laying everything open that fall--for giving me certain permissions in poetry.     As I made my way through that last year of grad school, it became very apparent that I really just wanted to spend all my time writing poems, and if I had to find some other sort of job to do that, I could. Subsequently, I abandoned my Ph.D prospects, finished the degree, and set out to find a job, turns out, in libraries, where I have been ever since. 

While my first acceptance followed in February of the next year, that "YES," while important, and to me evidence that I might actually not be deluding myself, seems smaller in importance to that previous fall's decision. In retrospect, it's interesting that it is the sort of "YES' that I gave to myself, rather than from some other sort of acceptance, but I've found those are often the most important--the self-dedications and permissions we eventually have to give ourselves and so much of the artists life revolves around these. 

And yet, there are some important "YES"es that came from others that are to be factored in, some more serious than others.  My first online journal publication was a big one  (Poetry Midwest), since I was only very tinily published in print at that point and still trying to figure out my work.  The community I found online in the early 2000's was (before my MFA, before I started doing open-mics around town in 2003) all I had and therefor very important--the acceptance I found there. . While I wouldn't say my MFA program acceptance was as heavy in weight, the local juried reading I won a year or so later definitely went a long way in affirming that I was on the right track.  In my head during this time, getting that acceptance for my first book seemed to be a "YES"  I badly needed to make myself feel like I was making it as a poet, though in retrospect, it wasn't perhaps as weighty as I made it out to be. I sometimes think that if Ghost Road had not taken the fever almanac, I would have likely started a career of self-publishing all my full-lengths (and the book would actually still be available instead of out of print when they folded .)  While I would have given up the chance to work with some really cool editors/presses, my "career" as a poet wouldn't be much different--my work & distribution methods mostly unchanged.

This fall's reading at the Field Museum, the invitation to do it, felt like a big "YES" exactly when I needed it (I think so big because, a)  I love that place and it's significance to my life in Chicago, and b) it's a non-poetry specific, high profile place where I felt like it was an honor to be invited into.  All of which made me feel a little more confident in some things where I was feeling less so. (I blame this on producing so much work in a relatively short time, some of which I was less comfortable with. )

There are so many little "YES"es that don't feel particularly life-changing momentous, but are really, really nice--book acceptances, journal acceptances, invitations to read--all of which go a little towards making you feel like you are really doing this thing--being a poet--which sometimes gets lost in day jobs and survival. Also the internal ones--a new stylistic approach, an interesting project, even a permission to fail--that turn out really great in the end.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

notes & things | 1/11/2020

Today, the wind off the lake, combined with the steady hum of the space heater, is drowning out my laptop speakers.  While we've been lucky overall, winter, outside of  few early snowfalls well before December, has decided to descend upon Chicago in one fell swoop--high waves on the water, snow flurries, wind that I have expect to be carrying a witch by on a bicycle. I am luckily tucked inside for the weekend, filling book orders, working on edits for the poets zodiac, and watching thrift haul videos on youtube, as well as season two of YOU, to which I am addicted.  I don't think I've ever been quite as grateful for groceries that come directly to me as I was this afternoon, and am now stocked up on coffee, chicken soup ingredients, and general food for the next two weeks.  (sometimes I just get the heavy stuff like cat litter and food delivered and opt to trek to Aldi for the cheaper groceries, but not this week.)

The past week has been a readjust after an entire two weeks away, and one week totally staying home and not leaving my apartment, which is my very best hobby lately--"not leaving the apartment," which I am very good at and hope to do more of in 2020.  While previous years would have been split, even when off from the library, with a need to go downtown to the studio, now there is absolutely nowhere else I need to be now. I can make books and art to my contentment in the middle of the night and then crawl into my comfy bed without having to get fully dressed at all.  It's amazing.

During that break, I managed to catch up on fall orders that I was super behind on, organize my dining room into something like an orderly home studio, and organize both my coat closet and my clothes closet in the bedroom.  There are other tasks I hope to take on in coming weeks--regrouting my bathtub, organizing my desk drawer mess in the living room, but they aren't urgent.  I also managed to tardily swap out my fall clothes for winter ones (though this is my least favorite swap, but I do like that it has more velvet than other seasons.) The fall swap came late due to temps staying warm through Sept. and then I've just been behind on wearing things for the past two seasons.

About 1/3 of my closet is always being switched out, so I try to make sure I actually wear the stuff while it's available--otherwise I get rid of it. The everything goes back in the bins for another year--things like flannel, velvet, winter florals, dresses too short to really wear without tights, etc  The bonus is feeling like I get a partially new wardrobe every season and sometimes the delight of forgetting I put away something cool. My favorite thing about winter, though I suppose also fall and early spring is sweater dresses, which occupy the suitcases on the bottom of the dress rack, two more of which I procured on sale right before Christmas, one in black,  the other in my new obsession color, dark green. Keeping them tucked away does spares them fom many hazards, including saggy shoulders from hanging, the errant moth, and dangerous siamese claws.

cover love | pastel edition

While I always love the cover design process for dgp--the scouting out ideas, collaboarating with the author-- one of my favorite things is designing something from scratch. Usually, the author will send me inspo images, or choose past covers that they like as guides.  Or, in some case, simply give me some suggestions of what they'd like to see.  I will come up with a design, then we tweak it to get closer to a finished concept.

The ones above went through a few iterations.  For Anagnorisis, the author had sent me some samples of street stencil art and a pinterest board of ideas.   This was actually the second thing I wound up mocking up--the first similar, but  a different perspective of the girl and a whole other color scheme--a dark green and white.  Eventually we got to this. The circle behind her was initially a formless blob and a friend of Effie's suggested the change.   Both of us liked how the circle evokes the moon. 

For the second book, the author sent a suggestion of vintage compasses. and I wound up creating a more modern, simple graphic version that wasn't working for her  I found this more antique compass, added the collage elements (kraft paper, an old ledger segment) and it was better.  Finally, we simplified what was going on by making the color more unified.)

Both books turned out beautifully and I'm loving the pastels.I tend toward that blue a lot, it's among my favorite shades.  The pink is super delicate &  girly (and reminds me of my childhood bedroom at a certain ag), but the black/white image makes it a little edgier & modern as a whole. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

future tense: imagined worlds from the margins

This semester's A of R focus topic is devoted to imagined future worlds through the lens of people on the margins (women, LGBTQ, POC, disability). Initially, we were thinking dystopias, but opened it up to all re-imaginings of a future, better or worse, nightmarish or ideal.  . We already have some Afrofuturist zine nights planned in collab with Chicago Public Library, a workshop on faux propaganda, and a Book to Art selection of The Handmaid's Tale, as well as artwork already filtering in for the exhibit like mad, so looks like it will be an interesting semester.

Planning for it got me thinking about Ursula Le Guiin's "The Ones Who Walk way from Omelas"  When I was in my freshman 101 English class in North Carolina, I had an unusually forward-thinking professor (I remember very little about him except that he was a younger dude.), who had us reading all sorts of things I might not otherwise have encountered, even as an English major later on. The premise is a perfect society, happy people, a city thriving financially, food for everyone---all at the expense of a single child kept chained in a basement in misery.  Basically, what the cost of utopia is and how bearable that cost and by who. (We also read Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," which is another of my all-time favorites.) 

As for my own work, the subject matter dovetails nicely with my ordinary planet series (from which I took some inspiration for the poster, as well as the background & cover concept I did a while back for Katharine Diehl's The Fourth Wave.) Since I usually like to contribute something of my own depending on if there is some extra wallpspace, I might be able to finish beforehand another series of more futurist collages made from some old Time magazines I began last year and then abandoned. 

Hopefully, the topic this time will be a little less bleak than our APOCALYPSE, USA semester a couple of years

Thursday, January 09, 2020

the interior world

Sometimes, I think my desire to become a writer rested so much on the fact that I always, from the youngest age, was the sort of kid that lived mostly in my head and only part of the time outside it.  For the first four years I was an only child, my mother at home to look after me, but mostly the sort of 70's mother who was only tangentially involved in what I would do all day. She watched me, fed me, and occasionally would play board games with me as I grew older, but most of what I knew as "play" occurred on my own, and therefore, mostly in my imagination.   My favorite thing to do in those years was to have her drape a sheet or blanket over the coffee table, under which I would pretend to "camp", which mostly meant lying underneath , surveying my tiny private space and either coloring / drawing or watching the tv through a small gap in the front. After my sister was born, still very much of our play was non-toy related.  Me, my sister, my cousins played many rounds of "Let's pretend.." even as we got older.  Lets's pretend we have different names, lets pretend we're detectives,  let's pretend we are in the The Lost Boy's movie. While we led each other on these creative pursuits and they were fun, I also very much liked my imaginings when I was alone .  I would concoct stories in my head based on movies or books I'd read.  I would listen to my Walkman and live out the songs in my head.

But then there were always stories unwinding. .  They's sometimes be brief, but sometimes went on for days, transforming, becoming other stories. Or maybe these are what we would consider "daydreams" --which were almost as vivid and real to me as my night ones.   I had a crush on a boy in 7th grade and I imagined us in a horror movie summer camp scenario--how he would save me from drowning, but also would somehow turn out to be the killer.  My internal stories were fueled by Hollywood, but also by books--mostly horror that I was, courtesy of an aunt that passed them on to me, reading by the dozens. Though I didn't always write them down, I had endless plots going through my head. The summer camp scenario was a favorite, but another favorite in junior high was that I was teen pop star/ ice skater who was reunited with her childhood sweetheart--a teen I would pretend to be whilst lipsyncing Debbie Gibson in the mirror.  I think the most troubling thing about this story was that I was dying--mortally ill with cancer or some tragic disease that made my story even more poignant.   I would also concoct large historical family trees revolving around fictional mansions--decades and generations of families--always wrought with unfortunate deaths and madnesses (in some ways, I feel these were a pre-cursor to things like my unusual creatures project.)

It was the sort of world building I still love to do--through writing projects, through visual projects, through other things like the murder mysteries I design for the library.  I am still occasionally angry when I am pulled away from my internal wold and have to engage with the actual one. Still wish I could spend more time in my head than outside it.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

new year, new planner

Over the holidays, I watched a number of YouTube videos on organization--closets mostly, but also cupboards, bookshelves, pantries. It's probably akin to everyone making New Year's resolutions about staying and maintaining some sort of organization system that makes you a little less chaotic and crazy.  My favorite, which I binged nightly over my Christmas visit, were bullet journals--a seemingly intricate system of planner/journals/scrapbook that is intriguing, though at times seems a little obsessive and fussy.

When I came back, I was blessed with a brand new shiny sketchbook, my previous one, slightly larger, having served me well for at least a couple years of post-it planning and organization. Thinking as I laid out my usual system, I might incorporate some of the aspects of the bullet journal aspects into my sketchbook--places to include monthly goals, weekly outlooks, etc.  While I'm not sure I'm willing to commit to mood trackers or exercise. trackers like some of the folks on YouTube, I do think maybe seeing the goals and writing them down might make me remember that I actually have them.  Or, at best,  keep me pointed in the right direction and less adrift mid-year.  As I mentioned in some previous posts about overall goals, it was good, for the first couple of months to break them down into more manageable parts.

While I used to just be an avid maker of to-do lists and kept a traditional planner/calendar, both in print and digitally, my post-it strategy started in 2014 and changed pretty much everything.  I have this tendency to think of things I want to do--whether it's a potential writing project,  a new art technique, an idea for library programming. The problem before is I would lose track of things, forget about them for months if I didn't write them down. Then there is also the morass of dgp--easily tracking which books are in which stage of development--layout, cover design, proofing--when several are underway at the same time. We were having some communication/execution problems in our library department and my boss had experimented with a board, divided by staffer, with post its designating what people were working on.  I liked being able to look at the board to see what was on deck next, what needed to be done, but wasn't mission critical.

I didn't need a giant board on the wall for my own planner, obviously, but I liked the post-its, to be able to write something down, to move it around if need be, to jot down an idea for later when I had time to consider it.  I tend to use the first part of the book for planning out the week.  Then there are pages for "Next Week, "Next Month", Two to Three Months," and "This Year".  I usually move divide the post-its into their relevant days, along with reminders (meetings, events, appointments), and can, with a flip of pages, see what's happening any given week or day.

The second section is "Projects,"  which is divided into sections for Writing, Art, Press, Shop, & Library. Then a separate dgp section with columns for pre-layout, layout, cover design, proofing, finalization, and ready for release, ready for shipment.  It's followed by a section designated "Promo & Marketing, which includes pages dedicated to social media ideas, future blog posts, places to submit work to, submissions out, and forthcoming publications. Then "Personal, " where I keep track of home projects, books to read, books read, movies/shows to remember to watch, etc.

The addition this year was a "Goals" section, with a page for each month that I will fill as I go along. Then a "Weekly Round Up" to combat my feelings that I am always treading water, but am actually getting quite a bit done (ie, that my post-its are disappearing, that things are getting finished, but it's always met with more post-its).  The rest is just for "Notes" which so far, just has a list of things I need to get to stock my bar cart appropriately (I seem to have a lot of liqueurs and endless tequila but lack other basics like a good vodka and bourbon)..but will eventually also include things to remember for various projects, research notes, relevant quotes.

I do feel a little self-conscious every once in a while when the student workers find me, post-its all over my desk arranging my work week (though admittedly I have led at least one down the path of adopting a similar strategy who was trying to keep his fashion-design details organized.) It might look a little obsessive, but then again, maybe it is, but it does work.  I don't feel so much like everything is mounting up and slipping away.  If I don't finish something, I simply move it to the next day or the next week.  At the point where the post-it looses it's stickiness is probably where I need to either do the damn thing or let it go.

Monday, January 06, 2020

on research and renaissance dog-girls

I have always been the sort of writer who is in love with research .  There is something incredibly exhilarating in starting a project and seeking out every single detail and nuance. In immersing yourself in the process.   Perhaps it's the librarian in me, but it started long before I started working in libraries. Through college and grad school, I would put off my paper writing exploits to the very last minute, but the research had always been started much earlier--usually manifested in a mess of notebook scribbles and ragged print-outs carried around in my backpack.  It speaks to certain obsessive tendencies that serve me both well and sometimes not so much, but when channeled toward creative things, it can actually be highly enjoyable. 

 Though the intervening years have made such research more accessible and my notetakings more digital than not., I still resort to paper, usually loose sheets grabbed and then folded into my project sketchbook, where they usually stay until I make something of them, or clean out the notebook and stash them elsewhere. It's actually resulted in a weirdly specific knowledge about certain things--the Slender Man stabbling (necessary violence).  HH. Holmes' murder castle ([licorice, laudanum]). urban legends (archer avenue) and taxidermy (unusual creatures.)  There are others that I delve into every once in a while--Hollywood ghost stories, roadside motels.

This morning, on the first functional day of 2020, I found myself scrambling through a collection of file folders in the bureau next to my desk looking for the bulk of my written notes on Antoinetta Gonzalez, the so called "dog-girl" of the Renaissance.  Given my love of "monstrosity" and women, and in particular how the female body is often seen as monstrous, it was natural that it would catch my interest a couple years back.  but only now do I have an open slot in terms of projects.  So this morning over breakfast, I scanned through my notes and opened a new file and drafted something that I'm really liking so far and hope to continue working on in the coming couple of months.

So much of the work we do in the library wit the A of R initiative is about turning research into artmaking, and this is perhaps where the difference lies.  My reluctance to pen essays through six years of higher ed (and then even more later when I got my MFA) probably was more that the end project did not particularly excite me.  I mostly wanted to be able to read books and talk endlessly about them, not write rote and formulaic essays.  (I did not then really know how to write them any other way.) Had I been given a creative project to distill all that information, I think my enthusiasm would have been much higher, and perhaps my learning more enriched.  Which is something good to think about when it comes to education in general.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

hello 2020 | personal goals

1. While I'm feeling pretty good in general about my health, I can always do to drink more water and get more exercise.  I'm loathe to talk about diets and diet culture, but eating better in general is always good with some decidedly not-healthy-at-all thrown in in moderation, ie. more fruits and veggies, less donuts (but sometimes donuts.).  Curbing that decades old desire to binge whatever is on the plate. But nothing is more boring that talking about what people eat or don't eat.   I do like to resolve to get more exersize, only because I feel stronger an better physically and mentally when I'm moving on the regular.

2. There is always a struggle to balance the need to recharge my introvert nature and the feeling that I don't get out enough and turn down invitations way too much.  I like being at home, but sometimes even that seems pathological and unhealthy.  I cherish my weekends at home, but that doesn't mean I need to be crazy about maintaining them and miss out on other things.  I feel a little bit of easing on this with having given up the studio.  Since I'm not split in so many directions and less stressed in general, I do get to spend more time at home during the week so maybe this will help me feel better about being a little more socially amenable.

3. And the biggest goal for 2020, perhaps even bigger than creative or professional goals and something I need badly, is to resolve to give much less mental real estate to assholes . I had a work situation in December where I found myself trying to bed over backwards to prove that someone was in the wrong and trying to flip it back on me. There could have been passive aggressive e-mails arguing this in a fear that it absolutely needed to be established they were in the wrong (even though I doubt anyone else cares), but I decided not to.  Years ago, I would have worried that the narrative would have then been that I dropped the ball (which I do, totally sometimes, but not here, and this person has a record of broadcasting other people's failings to hide her own deficiencies).  Normally this would have had me stressed about about it for at least a day. And you know what?  I chose just not to care.   I felt pretty good about it.  Let's hope for more of that in 2020...

4.  I read quite a bit of poetry..either collections or dgp manuscripts, and spend a good part of my live elbow deep in text, but what I never feel I do enough of anymore is reading fiction.  While poetry always feels a little like work, or more active reading in my field, fiction is like a passive pleasure for me.  I used to read a good amount of novels on the bus, but the last couple of years, I spend more time either zoning out or obsessing over randomness.  That time could be better spent with a book, which also makes me less obsessive in general.   I enjoy leisure reading so much and it's stupid not to take advantage of this time.

5. And my perennial goal to document more, whether that be through blogging or photos, social media, scrapbooks (which I used to do obsessively but now pretty much never).  This space helps, as does instagram, which encourages me to take more photos.   Also, things that just help me feel more present and grounded in day to life life.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

hello 2020 | library life goals

1. I have notes and half-finished drafts for a number of different library-related subject matter that I've been puttering away at in bits and pieces that I'd like to pull together more cohesively and send out for publication.   Curated learning, library marketing, how to use social media for learning & educational purposes, etc..

2. Like with everything in my life, I would like to be more intentional this coming year.  It will help that I'll be back to only doing my main responsibilities (we are supposed to be hiring the ILL position in the next month or so.)  The last couple of years, with everything stretched so thin in the department, I feel like so much is triaged and I have to table a lot of things and approaches in the interest of routine and time. There is also a new job title (and eventually, a raise) on the horizon, which will open up some new possibilities.

3. We have the possibility of a dedicated space on the 4th floor for workshops (and thankfully supply storage, things are getting scary in my cubicle.)  We'll be able to do larger things and not have to set up and take down, so people can work on things a little longer, let things dry, etc.  I want to amp up our workshops--even if they are things we've done before, I want to make them bigger and better and learn new things myself to incorporate.)

4.  We've begun planning this upcoming semester's programming already, including our FUTURE TENSE: IMAGINED WORLDS FROM THE MARGINS focus, for which we've already been plotting collaborative zine nights with the Chicago Public Library, so it should be an interesting topic.  I will also soon be posting our artist call for the dystopias exhibit, which I am excited about and plan to exhibit something--either from ordinary planet or something new I have up my sleeve.

Friday, January 03, 2020

hello 2020 | art & design goals

1.  Admittedly, 2019 erred more toward written things than visual outside of dgp cover designs. Some days it seemed I couldn't possibly make time for both art and writing at the same time.  While there were some fruits in terms of releases, publications, and exhibits, these were, outside of the last, things created in previous years.  (my one output this year, besides covers and poster designs, was the collages to accompany {licorice, laudanum}).  Therefore the primary goal this year is to make more art.  With all my supplies in one place, this will be easier I think., at least when working with more material things (vs. digital).

2.  The books and objects series of course is part of this, not only the written/visual projects, but also the purely visual ones.  I have a lot of raw materials--monotypes, prints, collages, that just need to be compiled and fashioned into something--zine, artist book, whathaveyou. Again, I intend to start with the poets zodiac, but there will be many just-visual things the horizon like the florographia series and night bloom.  Lately, when I run short of more book like things for the subscribers, I send more prints and postcards, which is fine, but I feel like I'd like to send things that are more substantial 90 percent of time.

3.  I like the idea of creating the more random zines on the regular--like the stuff I create for zine night.  These are usually less planned and designed and more thrown together from whatever we have going on---collage, cross-outs, etc.   I'm averaging about one per semester, but I'd like to aim for one per month.  They're mostly just for fun and to populate the zine exchange, but I like the variation from my longer term projects.

4. Even without the space to do open studios, I would still like to keep the shop filled with cool, non-book offerings, and have supplies for so many things I just haven't had time to make happen.  New notecard & postcard designs, flasks, keychains, totebags.   I finally pulled the Cricut I bought in April out of the box and am excited to see what I can do with that in terms of iron-in vinyl.  And of course, the tattoos that I've been working on and perfecting in terms of design and materials. Again, these things will be so much easier with everything in one place now.

5.  There are a number of things I would like to either learn or perfect--hand lettering, paper flowers and quilling, some new techniques for collage materials.  I'd like to focus on one new thing or technique per month to perfect these skills or try things for the first time.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

hello 2020 | press goals

1. With order processing times stretching way too long during parts of this year, I am working to close this window and deal with the backlog on some titles.  I'm aiming to have turn around time of two-three weeks, even on new titles that are pre-orders.  Having everything at home is already making a huge difference, and I have been working this break period to get to everything I still owe from the fall out the door before I go back to work next week.

2.   I am also trying to balance time/enerfy constraints with my desire to take on as many mss. as I want to bet getting out there.  I am still sending some responses for next year, but I had to reign things in a little on the numbers of accepted titles, and therefore had harder decisions to make in terms of yesses and nos.  Even with more production time, I'd like to have a little bit more of a tenable, less frantic publication schedule.

3.  With the two above goals in mind, I'd also just like to move more slowly and  with more purpose when it comes to the press.  When I get rushed and crazy, I feel trapped.  I also make dumb mistakes like printing/assembly errors, putting the wrong labels on packages, sending to the wrong address. All of which could be avoided if if I just slowed my roll sometimes.

4.  I'd like to make a couple things happen like the way overdue SWIM anthology project and another little mini-chap contest I think could be fun.   I also enjoyed working on collaborative projects (ideally chap-anthologies edited by other folks, much like the Mansion anthology.)  It's cool to be able to work with some other folks curatorial tendencies and make something amazing.

5.  There was a point this fall when I was completely overwhelmed and thought of putting a wrap on wicked alice in it's entirety, the planned realuanch feeling impossible in the chaos.  I'd even written a goodbye message, but then tumblr was giving me trouble posting.  A month or so later, I felt better about continuing, so I'm kind of glad I didn't announce that we were closing completely. I still would like to curate that space--the logistics of which I'm still working out. Also whether or not issues are better than regularly updated content.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

hello 2020 | writing goals

The second part of my usual NYE round up is always resolutions.  Or maybe more like plans than resolutions, or perhaps an equal mix of both.  I always have three main ones that I try to make guide the year:

1. Be productive
2. Be happy
3. Be healthy(ish)

These could probably be a template for all areas, from art & writing, from work to relationships, and definitely play out a bit in the intention setting I like to do in various areas of my life, ie if something no longer makes you happy, or if a situation/circumstance is toxic, move away quickly. Have good attitudes about rejection, professional jealousy, insecurities, how to  not let them run you.  Don't be affected by other people's insecurites.  Work hard, but also take time to actually enjoy the process not just the product.  To not just move on to the next thing.  For the year not to just be a series of checked off lists.  All good general guidelines, but I also like having a roadmap in terms of where I might wamt to go while keeping all these in mind. 

Since the post was running a bit long and unruly, I decided to break it down into more manageable bits addressing various areas I like to set goals in--writing & art, the press, library, and personal.  I'll be posting different parts throughout the course of this new week as we wander into it, beginning with my hopes for writing this year.


1. I would, of course, as much as I can get back to writing daily.  I miss the feeling of accomplishment it brings.  That even if a day was a total wash or disaster otherwise, I did write something I had to show for it, even if it was not so good.  And again, like a runner, I feel the daily writing made me stronger, better, in my work, even if it didn't always yield genius.

2.  I still have the entirety of two more longer books completed and just needing some work.I would like to get these wrapped up and maybe draw up some sort of submission plan for them. Since there are a lot of book projects in the mix, I don't know what that looks like just yet, but I would like to get a start on it.

3.  While my 100 rejections plan was ultimately a bust, I did get a few publications out of it I might not have gotten otherwise. Looking at Submittable I only sent out around 20 things, garnering 13 rejections and 7 acceptances.  Maybe I should just aim to get a given number of submissions out, wherever they fall, so perhaps 30 sounds do-able, 50 if I am feeling really ambitious.

4.  With the new book coming out in April, I'd like to be a bit more intentional when it comes to release and promotion.  My past few full-lengths always dropped in weird and chaotic times, so I've only occasionally even actually planned a release party. I'd also like to work at getting some more review copies in hands, a book trailer, social media marketing etc and actually have some sort of plan laid out beforehand for these. Also, just planning more readings in general in the aftermath, which I've never really done with purpose before.

5.  I still have bits and pieces underway of the library-related memoirish project, but I feel like it needs more work and fine tuning, and ultimately just MORE, so I'd like to do some work on this in hopes of getting something like a pulled-together draft by the end of the year.

6.  I think I always include that I want to blog more, but this past year, I actually hit this one out of the park.  I had upward of 250 posts--a high not seen since 2007 (and given, in those years, I used the blog much like I do social media now, this year's crop are definitely more full-bodied content. I'd like to aim for blogging daily.  It's probably not that tenable given general life things.  But it's a noble endeavor.  It might be as simple as being a little more intentional in my content-planning and having a ready list of things to write about so that when I have time, it's just a go.