Sunday, October 31, 2021

notes & things | 10/31/2021

With Halloween on a Sunday, it almost feels like it's over before it began.  All the candy eaten, horror watched, the building humming all weekend with parties and elevators stuffed full of costumed Loyolans. Friday night date night, rather than brave an outing we decided to stream the new Halloween from the comfort of the couch instead of a possible crowded theatre.  I was exhausted from the week anyways, so it was a nice respite.  I slept late yesterday, had a zoom call with a class to talk about chapbooks, then spent the evening assembling them and making soup and baking. I intended to curl up in bed and watch more horror, but fell asleep pretty early and woke this morning to coffee and lemon bars that cooled in the fridge all night. Somehow, tomorrow it will be November, which seems impossible.  

Tomorrow, I also have an appointment for the booster and flu shot on my way to work, which compared to scheduling the initial in the spring and all the anxiety was markedly easier.  I wanted to get it done  as soon as I was eligible and before it's approved for younger kids, which may mean appointments will be harder to come by. Despite the world that seems to just be going on about it's business this fall, occasionally it occurs to me how many people are still dying daily but it barely registers in the headlines. On campus, much is business as usual. We hosted our yearly Frankentoys workshop to a full house--more students in one space than I've seen in almost two years. Classes are meeting and the library is hopping as much as it ever was. Most of my week was spend finalizing the build on a faculty virtual exhibit, and this week, I'll turn to the one for Bad Art and planning our artist panel. We are, collectively, in a much better place than we were a year ago, which is something.

Personally, it's been a flurry of conflicting impulses and shifting life decisions on work. Daily, my plans shift for the coming year. I keep thinking of the day I came into the city on November 1st 21 years ago.  How I stood outside the library the day of my interview trying to decide whether or not to bother going inside.  I'd been working at the elementary school for a year--my first post grad school job.  I was miserable but trying to convince myself it was ok. I was working a terrible inhospitable schedule for peanuts and living with my parents. And would I even be seriously considered for this job?  Was it even worth it?  We'd had a nice little trip for shopping and lunch into downtown on the bus regardless, my sister and I.  Maybe that was all I needed.  But I went inside--had a strange but not all that impressive (on my part) interview--and 10 days later was offered the job. It changed the course of my life remarkably and I've been there ever since. 

But now, I wonder at my tendency to stay somehwere becuase it's comfortable--because its familiar. Because its safe.  I am a Taurus after all. Am I still standing on that sidewalk and willing to settle for something less than what I want?  What do I want? In the moments where I am convinced I am staying, that I want to, am I just settling? Because it's safe and familiar and the alternative is uncertain and scary? Running a small business on the side  its exhausting sometimes, but I imagine the hustle to make it your sole gig would be even more so. Would I be making my life better or worse by ditching my day job.  Sometimes it also feels like I've been holding on to the edge of a swimmming pool for a decade and scared to let go. There are some floaties just out of reach, but I am still too scared to try. And the water here is warm and familiar, though sometimes there are sharks that take off a finger or a toe.  What are you gonna do? 

I still don't have the answer. There are reasons to stay--as many as there are to go.  Personal relationships--working downtown--the campus communiy. The potential for doing good things there. On a local level, I mostly like the people I work with directly.   There are also reasons to go--money of course, feeling like I am being taken advantage of, forever dangling carrots, increased responsibilities, inequities galore. I know pretty much I don't want to go elsewhere, but I have to wonder if it's not time to branch off on my own. It would certainly give me more time to work on the things I am passionate about rather than spending my days bogged down in ILL duties (a position that it seems is unlikely to be filled anytime soon while meanwhile I am vastly underpaid at my own job and haven't had an increase in over a decade, have taken on responsibilities of other people because they did not/ could not do them. (fun work I like doing, but work nonetheless.) But it's made me mean and bitter and inflexible in a way I am feeling now more than ever. I don't think it's good for my mental health.  And I also don't think, despite assurances for the future, that it will change.

There are things I could do for money, that along with amping up shop offerings to the levels they were in the etsy days, could give me a subsistence level income, esp now that I don't have the overhead of the studio.  Add in some design and manuscript work and I could eke out a living for sure, but albeit one without the tiny luxuries I am used to.  Lattes and new (to me) dresses.  Takeout and fancy bath gels. but (again Taurus) I like my little luxuries and am not sure I want to give them up. Sometimes, there are leaner months and I'm not sure I would like that leaning hanging over my head with no safety nets. When you give up your day job, and your passion becomes your job, what is lost? What is gained? The library and my work there provides a structure--a framework for my days--and what happens when that's gone?

I don't have to decide right now of course...but in the coming months I'd like to format a plan at least. If I stay, I want to make an actual decision to do so.  It's a nice little dream--to forge out on one's own.  To spend your days writing poems and making art and editing books.  But also sometimes, it's nice to spend hours on programming and social media and exhibits at the library. Sometimes I don't even mind the drudgery tasks because they've become familiar enough that they aren't too taxing.  I can think about other stuff or socialize with co-workers/student workers.  It's not even time so much as bandwidth, how many jobs I can keep up with in my head without feeling burned out all the time. To actually feel like I'm doing any of them well or have anything under control. If I stay, I need it to be an intentional choice to do so.  Not just that I feel I'm stuck or that I have to. 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

#31dayofhalloween | spooky little girls


I figured I would round off the month with a peek at one of the new designs that will be unveiling in the shop in November along with all other sorts of goodness in the form of prints, stickers, and paper goods..keep an eye there for new additions this month.

Friday, October 29, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | 12 good horror things

While I try to cram as much horror into spooky season as I can, much of the best in the genre I encounter through various months of the year.  This is a collection of my favorites in the past 12 months or so...

Crimson Peak

I was a little late to the game on this one, watched during my Del Toro marathon this summer. While I also appreciated The Orphanage and Mama similarly that he had a hand in, this one wins for it's beautiful sets and effects.

Things Heard & Seen

I watched this one a couple times, not only for it's old school haunted house feel and vintage vibes, but it's a great piece of dread horror shot for shot.

Fear Street Trilogy

These I also watched a couple times each for their 90's & 70's nostalgia factor (also 1600's).  Since I was a fan of these sorts of novels as a teen, it scratched that itch particularly well.

Blood Red Sky

I did not know this was a vampire movie, or even a horror movie, when I started watching it, but it proved to be a bloody, violent romp of "Vampires on a Plane!"

Monster Party

This was also one I didn't know what I was going into, but well worth the journey.

All the Creatures Were Stirring

Technically, part of my Christmas movie watching, but in line with the new Creepshow episodes and other similar horror shorts with great stylized sets and stories.


While it may not technically be horror, I really loved this one.


A lot of folks hated this remake and again, maybe not exactly horror, but great psychological twistiness.


This one took a lot of hits for it's subject matter and racial concern, but the experience of watching it was terrifying on all fronts.


This one, since I have a lot of anxiety around getting older and dementia and such things, I almost stopped watching, but I am glad I saw it through--a great piece of psychological horror.


I expected this to be bad, being of the sort of genre that usually is, but it was a little better wrought than many of it's competitor's and with a satisfying end. 

Midnight Mass

Mike Flanagan could pretty much direct a Gieco commercial and I'd tune in. This did not disappoint.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | the bird artist

 As promised, Fridays in October bring new things, and this week's offering is a little series of creepy poems I write back in the spring and paired with a set of collages. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | girl show


My 4th collection of poems, GIRL SHOW (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)  was all sideshow women and spooky sisters in Nebraska and perfect for today's #31days offering... 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

the great resignation

Since I spent a good portion of the summer finishing, in fits and starts, the manuscript I started during lockdown last spring, I've taken October mostly off from writing--choosing what I want to work on next.  It occurred to me I could probably just stop writing forever and maybe no one would even notice--ridiculous of course, but it jives with a certain amount of burnout I am feeling, that doesn't necessarily have to do with writing at all, or the press, or any of the creative work I do, but is filtering in from other completely unrelated things. I started some fiction exploits around the beginning of the month, to loosen up the gears, but while they were okay, I couldn't help think if I am going to write, I'd much rather be writing poems. 

Sometimes, I look at my work and try to summon something. My teen self just beginning to scribble verses that I dared call poetry.  The excitement I felt when I first began writing poems that were good. First acceptances--both print and online.  My first fan letter. My first chapbook. My first book.  My first reading in public. The way sometimes I re-read things and they feel really good. It's a kind of magic, but I can't always summon it. I vascillate between feeling like I write too much, or sometimes not enough. That I am constantly putting too much out there. That more reserved, less constantly churning poets seem to get more readers. Am I too much?  Am I too little? Is everyone sick of me?  Am I sick of my own voice? Is it gross to be all "look at my poems!" while people are still struggling en mass. Granted, I also feel like my poetic world has gotten smaller--especially with the pandemic--even though I only occasionally socialized with poets or read my work. I have less perspective.  Social media is quieter.  Conversations scarcer.  The people who are on social media use it differently now, though I can't really explain how. 

Sometimes, it seems like you walk into a room, put yourself out there, your work, and the crickets are deafening. I don't know if it's a shift in medias, a shift in attention spans. Obviously everyone is crawling under their skin for all sorts of reasons. We are not alright, even those of us who seem to be holding together at the seems. I try to summon the girl who had such enthusiasm for everything--for reading her work and others, for submitting poems, for sharing her work and I cannot get back there. It's by no means all about poetry, but I feel it there most accutely since it's such a vast divide. Is it a middle age thing?  A mid-life poetic crises? Is it a stage in my life?  Or a stage in all our lives?  I keep reading headlines about the "mass resignation."  How the pandemic shifted our goals and priorities.  Sometimes it feels like the pause--the shock of something like this even happening in our lifetimes--left us a little broken in many ways and deciding how to put the pieces back together. So much in the months before was routine and habit and the rolling that once set in motion just keeps going. As we put things back together, what do we take with us? What do we leave?

On other fronts that may mean leaving a job where you are underpaid and overworked.  But writing is not usually paid at all anyway--so any questioning of your endeavors doesn't make that much sense in a bottom line type way. While at times, it seems easy to not write, at others, it seems impossible to stop.  Where do the words go?  Where do you hide the stories?  When I was in my twenties and thirties, I wanted to always make sure that I was living the exact life I wanted--whatever the consequences-- but even that seems to be something you question.  I once dated someone who was having a mid-twenties crisis over choosing to study mechanical engineering.  I smugly thought, in my late thirties I was beyond such questioning. I had traded career and financial security, but my life was creative and interesting.  I listened to him, but secretly acknowledged that I had chosen the right life.  Now I'm not so sure. 

Obviously, I won't stop writing--but it frightens me a little that it's even an option.  So easy an option.  Stopping being a poet is far easier than becoming one.  And that is fucking scary.

#31daysofhalloween | radio ocularia


One of my favorite things to work with is creepy vintage anatomical images--both for my own projects and dgp designs. In 2014, I created a series of collages and poems called radio ocularia based around some collages utlizing and inspired by those images.. While the original print zine is long sold out and not yet archived on online, you can read the poems in my full-length collection SALVAGE (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and check out the images here

#31daysofhalloween | little apocalypse

My little collection of little apocalypse poems never quite made it to print before its original press ceased publishing (which seems fitting given the subject While I plan to perhaps issue a print version on my own down the line via POD, you can still read an e-version of the book in it's entirety.  50's sci fi women, zombie girl's, bad relationships in apocalyptic scenarios--what's not to love?

Monday, October 25, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | strangerie


In 2018, I created a series of collages and accompanying poems for instagram called STRANGERIE.  You can get a peak at all of them here.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

#31daysofhalloweeen | licorice, laudanum


A while back, I completed a text and image project called licorice, laudanum that took on Chicago's most infamous serial killer HH Holmes. The fun part was the artmaking and the research, and sometimes the writing, though the less fun part was finding out that he was less a crazy psychopathic genius, and more just an opportunistic grifter who killed people who got in the way--mostly women. The same toxic male bullshit that is everywhere.  Nevertheless, it's a fun little project you can read here..

dancing girl press notes | october 2021

I've reached that point in the submissions cycle where I am whittling down my list, doing second reads, and getting ready to send out some responses.  I've spent the weekend this far drinking a lot of coffee and knee deep in the inbox, where there is so much goodness it's heartening and a reminder that while it isn't always easy--this work--it's worth it.  Because I am in a mindset where I am questioning all my choices, it reminds me that this one is a good one (despite feeling like I go to a job where I do three jobs for barely the pay of one, then come home and do a couple more interesting ones (including the press and my own creative work) in the off hours and weekends. Which brings it to about five jobs total--and still no financial rewards or safety nets. Also, working even during downtime--whatever that is.  Lately, it's pretty much only in small, almost imperceptible doses. 

And of course, as anyone who runs a business knows, you do not just do one job--there is the manuscript reading of course.  There is the corresponding with authors, the design work, the layout work.  There is the proofing and editing.  Then the website work.  The printing and assembly and fufillment.  And of course the marketing, which has taken a backseat this year, but I hope to get back to a better schedule of social media and promo content (something had to break these past months and it's been this. I streamlined some things regarding platforms, but even the twitter has been neglected since spring. More book content for my own instagram.  More press-related posts here. I've taken on more social media related work for the library, so much of time is spent in those accounts, with a sliver of time to tend to my own, so the press was the neglected one.

The most recent developments have been that I am working to get to a point where I am mostly outsourcing cover printing to the professionals.  There have been many hiccups over time--shitty printers that had cheaper toner, great printers, but whose toner was ridiculously expensive.  Jams and streaks and weird defects. Lately, the Canon was doing the job, but the colors were not as vivid as I'd like. Small inexpensive inkjets are lovely sometimes, but they guzzle cartridges like fiends.  I'd been using one passed off from a co-worker, and she was lovely, but I worked her into the ground and she's a goner.  The canon is good for insides mostly, and faster. The outsourcing has been lovely thus far, and while it ads a bit more to the production cost per book and some planning ahead for ordering, I've been adjusting prices on the new books as I implement. Also watch for some other things--candles, prints, jewelry-- in the shop in November that I'm hoping will pick up some slack.

 As for submissions, I am more or less on schedule to have everything cleared out by Thanksgiving, though its slow going. I've sent some no's already, so if I still have your manuscript it's still in the running and still being read with interest. I am gageing how on schedule I'll be come December for this year's titles (and the very last ones delayed by covid elast year.)  Those releases will determine whether or not some will spill into 2022 and whether I need to take on less.  So much other stuff is also in flux for the coming year, with decisions being made elsewhere that may have impact on how much to accept for the coming year (in a good way.)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | spooky friends


I've been working on some fun things for a big shop update in November, one of which is these little spooky siamese twins prayer candles.   There will be other designs created from vintage images so keep an eye out for those, plus new paper goods, jewelry, and art prints in the shop...

Friday, October 22, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | mooncats


For our BAD ART:  KITSCH, CAMP, & CRAFT Exhibit, I created this just-for-fun zine of post-apocalyptic moon kitties. If you happen to be in the CC community copies are available at the 1st Floor Zine Exchange in the Library.  Or you can view it online here.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

the reader

This morning I was thinking about books and time and the way we change as authors--not only in the style of our writing, the subject matter, our obsessions, but also how we approach the art form--the commerce (or lack-of)--the bizness of this thing called po. The poet who wrote the fever almanac, who compiled various versions, combined and recombined manuscripts.  Who sent it dutifully off to first book contests and handed over those shiny paypal funds. She wanted to gain some sort of entry so badly. Wanted legitimacy, whatever that meant. And doors opened,  not at all where she expected.  

But once inside (I say this as someone who probably only made it into the foyer of the poetry establishment, not the house proper.) things weren't all that different. Most people in her life barely new she wrote--let alone a book. She still went to work and cleaned the cat boxes and cried on buses  The poet who writes books now, wants something else, but something almost just as elusive--an audience.  Sometimes, those two things go hand in hand.  One leads to the other--and sometimes it flows both ways. Sometimes, you get stuck between. 

I like to write now, not with an eye to the editors, the gatekeepers, the people who will grant permission to various hallways and rooms, but my perfect reader.  I like to think she likes the same things I do.  The weird and spooky and heartbreakingly beautiful.   Maybe she's a poet, or maybe just some other creative soul in another discipline.  Her age doesn't really matter.  She's something between an old soul and a child of wonder. She lives mostly in her head, though sometimes, through reading, inside the heads of others. She wants everything and nothing, but mostly a lot of sleep. A cat (or several). Some coffee. She probably has a job--something bookish. Or arty.  A librarian or an English teacher.  She's seen a lot of bad relationships but also some good. She has a couple friends or many in a loose sort of way. Many would say she's quiet, but can be quite loud when she wants. 

As I think about my books, the ones I've written but have yet to publish.  The books I've yet to write that are no more than an idea.  A scent in the air. A change of wind.  I picture her, probably not in a bookstore, but opening an envelope in the foyer of her apartment building and slipping out a book--my book. grazing her finger along the spine. Because she probably reads a lot, she won't read it straightaway, but stack it neatly with others. 

I have never considered NOT writing poetry as much as I have in the time since the pandemic began--not since I was in my early 20's and still feeling my way out in the world. When I was 24, the key turned over and I hummed along for years.  But in the past year and a half, I've asked some serious questions.  What use is it?  What does it give me?  What can I gain?  What is the point? I've considered chucking it to write horror fiction. Grants for libraries. Social media content. To go to grad school and study horror films and cinema studies and forget this life as a writer. It's amazing how easily I could do it. Just stop, like one stops drinking or smoking. Cold-turkey mostly. 

But she's there in the lobby of her apartment building. Probably tired and a little sad. So I'll keep going if she will. 

#31daysofhalloween | creepy curiosities

 By far, my favorite installation I've ever can see more on flickr.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | necessary violence

A couple year's back, me and my sister, Becky Webster, collaborated on this little zine of Slenderman poems, or more accurately the infamous Slenderman-inspired stabbing in Wisconsin. You can read the e-version here or pick up a print copy in the shop.  The series was also part of an installation in the Library's Strange Fevers exhibit in 2019.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | overlook


During the early half of 2020 amid lockdown, I started a series of poems based on my favorite horror film The Shining, which seemed appropriate in some way. Also,  what started out to be about about violence and abuse, wound up not only that, but also a book about capitalism and artists. 

read the whole series here...


Monday, October 18, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | mr. potter's museum of curiosities


During NAPOWRIMO last spring, I wrote this little series of poems devoted to everyone's favorite British can read it here..

the bird artist


Sunday, October 17, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | dark country

Today's spooky offering, of course, has to be my latest progeny. --dark country-- which is full of urban legends and slumber party shenanigans. So much of this book speaks to the girl I was--the one who would return from the video store every Friday night with stacks of VHS..who if you asked, at 10, would have told you her favorite movie was Sleepaway Camp. Also, which alarmingly, I insisted all my 5th grade slumber party guests at my new school watch even if their parents prohibited horror. To those same partygoers wandering around outside in the field by my house in the middle of the night playing Bloody Murder. To the ones brave enough to play Bloody Mary in the bathroom. (which I was not.)

You can get your very own copy here:

Saturday, October 16, 2021

notes & things | 10/16/2021


It's been a crazy week, but then, I expected it.  One deadline was moved forward a couple weeks, which offered a little reprieve, but the end of this one found me hanging an exhibit over the span of two floors, meeting with the college paper for an in-depth interview about it, and  giving an hour long academic talk about zines (thankfully, even paid!).  All the while trying to do, you know, my regular duties in the library, so things felt a little sideways as the week wore on.  Yet still, this morning, I was awake early with coffee and a delicious raspberry danish, making plans for the coming week and settling into a day of chapbook making on new titles. It was so chilly, I had to close all the open windows--a first this season--so it does seem we have moved fully into autumn. It's two weeks til Halloween. Three weeks until that weird first week of November anniversary that plagues me even four years later. My dreams get weirder as we move through fall, sometimes involving my mother, sometimes not.  Last night, I dreamed I was harboring a small horse as a pet in my apartment.  Shit gets strange.

Sometimes,  I feel like the day to day vascillates between dead ends and possibility. Ways in and ways out.  I don't have a plan any more than I have a possible trajectory over the next few months. A way of traveling I hope will lead to better things. It's scary to be working without a safety net, and yet, if you rely too much on the safety net, you never learn to balance.  I've been on a break from poems, a little bit to work on the fiction I've been dallying with, also just because my head is full of so much, there is less room for words.  I am also hovering between larger projects, so there is a moment of pause as I choose where to go next.  I feel like I am missing the motivation I used to have for certain things but gaining in others. 

Something I haven't really done the past few years is decorate for Halloween, though it's a holiday I love, my enthusiasm for that time of year has waned.  This year, I actually decorated a bit--velvet and wicker pumpkins, articulated skeletons, some paper bats bedecking the windows. It's a little bit of joy, so I will take it where I can get it. 

#31daysofhalloween | /slash/


read it here.

Friday, October 15, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | the working girl's grimoire



spell for the wicked 

Blessed be the exes. Sex damp and wasted. Fastened into feathers and plump with whiskey. The sticky bar back with his twisted fingers. Double fisted archivists and mad chauffers. Real estate brokers and floaters. The grifter with his busted spine, a line of stitches sewn up the back of him and stuffed with rags we set fire to one by one over the city.  Everything was burning sometimes, the building a block over that turned the sky black as a headache.  You were so sick and so lovely when the ashes found you, settling over your dark coat. Floating over the river.  The construction worker had no furniture, so you fucked on the floor. Harbored windswept spaces in all your cavities. The vending machine owner who bent you over the couch in his highrise. The city lit up outside like a circuit board. 

read it here..

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

#31daysofhalloween | ordinary planet


read the entire project here...