Tuesday, March 29, 2022

the cusp of april

I've been going back and forth over whether or not to attempt NAPOWRIMO.  On one hand, I've just finished up unreal city and it would be a great time to embark on a new short series or zine.  On the other hand, I've been writing a bit more fiction of various sorts and am eager to keep doing that.  There may be room for both, but I may just be overly optimistic on my writing energies in any given day--especially now that I spend more time writing generally for paid purposes. I do have a tiny kernel of a project rattling around in my head that might be perfect.  I don't think it will take a whole month, but I have found my most successful, productive Aprils, even if I bottom out and don't finish with 30, have been the ones where I switch up projects a couple times through the month--either new things or continue working on something already in progress.  Last year, the yields were the Walter Potter poems and the beginnings of the bird artist.  The year before, though covid and lockdown stalled me out, I finally got around to The Shining-inspired poems, which I was able to finish later that summer. 2019 and 2018, the only year I actually finished completely, were similarly productive in terms of smaller series like licorice, laudanum and the poets zodiac.

The thing I have going for me this year is that not being at the library means there is no April crunch in terms of programming (April and October always being particular beasts.) Outside of what I've been working on in general the past two months, there won't be any huge change in workload on the horizon that makes poeming difficult and my head muddy. I will be releasing animal, vegetable, monster, so there will be promo work for that, and new chaps, and some other, new shop offerings.  It's my birthday month, and spring will be here, despite the temps today.  It always leaves me in a better, more productive mindset. 

If I do participate in the daily poeming, I will probably just post them here, or maybe bits on instagram, which seems a far livelier place than facebook these days, so watch this space...

Sunday, March 27, 2022

notes & things | 3/27/2022

 Spring creeps closer, though taking out the trash today, you would not have known it.  I woke up briefly this morning to crack the window, thinking it was too warm with the radiator's humming, but saw what I think was snow flurries.  Nothing is certain, least of all at the end of March, which sometimes comes in like a lyon but goes out like..well...a different lion.  At least in Chicago, where we are liable to have snow well into April. 

Most of my week was quandaries and thoughts about an eventual necessary move due to rehabbing--new places and plans--hopefully still in the same building, but if not, likely the same neighborhood. A decision I won't have to make for at least another year and several months, but one that is on the horizon.  The rehabbed units they've shown off so far are gorgeous in a newer, shinier, modern way and I could see myself acclimating to things like dishwashers and open plan kitchens in the same old art deco bones.  It's hard to think of leaving this apartment I've spent most of my adult life and would stay longer if I could (even while the paint peels and plaster crumbles around me.) The new units are enticing, but also entail more money, which seems a precarious thing to think about now that I am out here on my own without that steady, regular paycheck.   

The good thing is I can always work harder for more money--a luxury (or a curse) that I did not have as a salaried employee. And have the bandwidth to do so if necessary. So we shall see...comparable rents in the neighborhood aren't much shinier and certainly not as lovely.  I thought about buying, condos or house  but excessive student loan debt and abysmal savings aren't promising, nor do I like the idea of having to upkeep a home on my own (ie, the risk that your fridge breaks or heating system dies and you suddenly have to spend hundreds to fix it.) There's a safety in renting from unplanned expenses I've appreciated, as well as in-house fixers for shit that breaks.  I think I am destined to be a lifelong renter.  But these decisions are still a year or so off, since I'll likely be renewing my lease for another year and staying put.

In other news, I got another proof copy for animal, vegetable. monster, earlier in the week and we are very close to having a book.  I think there are just a couple margin issues I will fix and I'm done.  I've been busy with lessons and press work and just generally occupied this week, so my promo push will have to wait for early April when I will start posting content, trailers, and order info.  I'm aiming to have it released before my birthday at the end of the month. 

Other than that, I wait for fairer weather and am making my way through season 2 of Bridgerton, which is a sort English major Austenesque treat and design/dress porn rolled into one.  I've also been watching the posts out of AWP with interest.  I'm of conflicting emotions on a conference that costs writers that much to attend and only serves the writing biz/academic establishment, but have appreciated the feeling that everyone is in one place (well not everyone, but more people than usual in one place.)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

writers and value

Because I've been writing and reading for what seems like forever, I sometimes think it's not a thing of value. Or maybe more that it is valuable on an intellectual level, but not a monetary one. A capitalistic, economic one.  In light of, of course, investing tens of thousands of dollars on an education devoted to it, it's an extremely skewed view.  Because yes, obviously writing and words have value.  Otherwise we wouldn't do the things we do, read the things we read, write the things we write.

That value has always been an intangible thing.  We graduate from our lit programs and our creative writing degrees (I have both) and what do we do in this world where it seems nothing in our years of writing papers and reading books and penning poems applies to a world where other skills (clerical, sales, etc.) apply?  I hit the ground hard and rolled a few times post grad school and wound up in a library job--a job that was very fulfilling but exhausting, paid terribly, and I'm pretty sure planted me in a string of elementary school library clerks who revolved yearly. So for a year and a little more, I was running on a love of books, and hopefully instilling it in kids, and that was great. Pretty much the only skills I required were an ability to  keep a class in line and read a story, and I was good at it.  To check out books--either initially, old school by hand on tiny cards like when I was still in school, or later, on a computer right before I left. To shelve returns and make displays.  I did get to do some fun bulletin boards and reading enticements, and helped judge the district-wide creative writing contest. But I was so poor and perpetually exhausted from the early start-time.  So I soon landed at Columbia, where I spent the next 21 years.  I was hired as a circ clerk basically, and over time, expanded into other areas--course reserves, ILL, as others left, and then eventually all of these things for a while (mind you, in a department that was once 7 dwindled down to 2 or 3.) In the first decade. it was easy enough, and for a time, didn't pull my focus from creative things. Until it did.  It paid poorly, but so many writers I knew had worse fates--adjuncting and bartending and barrista-ing. I liked the college as a community, I liked most of my co-workers. I was able to get an MFA at a discount.   There seemed to be worse ways to spend ones days.  I can't say my writing skills helped or hindered me beyond the ability to write a good email to staff or faculty. 

But I also wanted to do rewarding things with my time there, and there seemed such a vacuum of things I COULD do in terms of programming and exhibits and making the library a cool, creative space, and we did.  For a while. And it definitely made use of whatever skills I have--communication, project development, organization.  even writing, which seemed like was always just a thing everyone could do with a good WP program, was my strength.  Visual design was my strength. I liked doing these things--things which more closely resembled things I was doing outside my day job / night job with the press. And sometimes they totally complimented each other--in terms of skills, programming opportunities, networking. They were great, except, unofficial, I didn't get paid for them. Nor for the extra more mundane work. Nor, because of union difficulties, even a cost-of-living raise for a few years. Nor was I earning market value for anything I did officially, let alone, doing them all at once. Despite discussions of rewriting and reclassifying positions we spent wasted hours on that never happened and did not, in the next few years, seem like they were going to.   But then also, as more and more of the work fell into my lap, as I still claimed more and more in the interest of doing that more rewarding, creative work, something began to crack. They began to effect my enjoyment of everything--those library things, my creative work, the press / shop work. I was burnt out on all fronts since around early 2019, but I refused to see it. 

It did not help that I continued on, in that state, with the hope and the carrot that things would get better.  But they didn't, and not for a lack of trying on anyone's part, especially mine, but covid drove a stake into a lot of things. The college had always been a vampire that would take and take and give very little, but was more so by fall of 2020.  A new title that better represented my role was off the table.  Any sort of raise. Also, no new hires that would help with the deluge of regular things or like, make it easy to take vacations or sick days. I started doing, and getting asked to do,  more web-based work--exhibits and social media coordination, things I knew I was far, far below pay grade for. What had always been an inequity between library-degreed staff and non-degreed (I have two masters but neither is an MLS) became more and more ridiculous in how the pandemic was handled.  As I came back from that initial lockdown, where I was reconsidering all my life choices, I thought to myself, I'll give it a year.  And then a year later, last summer, just a few more months. Maybe it will change, or maybe I just need to change. 

I also felt stuck. If I had to work somewhere at all, there was nothing wrong with where I was. Except there was.  But what did I have in the way of marketable skills to the world?  But scrolling those sites, it did seem like people needed things I could do.  Things I'd been doing for free and eagerly all these years. Writing. Design. Website Stuff. All the things I did just for my own interests and creativity, goddamn, people were willing to pay for! This would be obvious for anyone who didn't have major imposter syndrome like I do sometimes. Someone who always new I wanted to be a poet, but that, when you think about entry fees and submission costs and the financial output of being a writer in this particular genre, always seems to COST more than it earns. Maybe my perception as an artist was what was broken-of my own skills and abilities and what I had to offer.

Something also had to give, because it was effecting those outside things--the creative things that were the point of the working--so that I could DO those things. It was ruining my attitudes toward poetry, towards the press, both of which I regularly thought about abandoning. But I was looking at the wrong things. Blaming the wrong culprit in my own unhappiness. By October, because I felt I had to have options, I was scrolling freelance sites and thinking maybe I could do this.  Go out on my own.  Expand the shop back to the levels it was a decade ago and make up the difference with contract work. By Thanksgiving, I had made my decision. The past month and a half, not a day goes by that I don't sigh contentedly and think it was the best decision--even though I spent all last autumn making pro and con lists and freaking out about starving and hustling and backing myself out of what felt inevitable for both my creative and emotional health. 

It was not a cakewalk, of course.  I worried about not having savings (a problem actually remedied by being unable to take vacations due years of to under staffing--the payout gave me a decent cushion of a couple months living expenses in case things were slower out of the gate.) Also, health insurance, which is not cheap, but do-able, especially when you factor in changes in commuting costs and takeout I spent money on while working downtown. Also, just worrying about being too isolated and hermit-like, and missing people, and abandoning people I didn't want to screw over. Also just leaving somewhere that was a good portion of my adult life. Barring a handful of years in my early 20's, almost all of it. But, then again,  this post is not about the library, but more so, valuing my skills. So much of what I do never feels like it's marketable, but maybe I was wrong and just existed in spaces where it seemed like it was worth little. Even when I used those skills to win big awards and all sorts of library programming shinies I wasn't getting paid for. 

My days usually start now with freelance writerly things in the first few hours and editing/design work in the afternoons. While I've sold art & design & book things online for years, this whole getting paid to write thing is a delight and something I've never felt, so it's extra exciting that I get to do it.  That I can do it.  That someone actually, you know, wants to give me money for doing something that almost feels like breathing. Something I want to do anyway.   That is entirely new. Somewhere there is a lesson here for writers about valuing your work and the things you are able to do that not everyone else, at least non-writers, cannot. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

landscapes and interiors

Last night, we ventured down to the Century Landmark to take in a movie (and that movie, because we had to do a later showing, turned out to be Batman. Which has it's whole other entry surely on the importance of scriptwriters and  realistic dialogue to accompany your stellar cast and boom-boom effects, but it's not even worth it).  Nevertheless, it was nice to be somewhere not home or work and even for a minute, as I sipped my jack & coke at the theater's bar, and later, a hugely overpriced soda in the theater, not be wearing the mask--it felt odd, and I kept putting it back on.  Thankfully, it being a later showing and the movie out for a week, there were only a handful of other people in the theater at all, and barely anyone milling in the lobby.  The sad fact is the Landmark (originally a vaudeville venue before it was a mall) is one of the only of our usual theatres to make it, the Evanston one and the Arclight having never made it out of lockdown. 

As I rode the bus down to Lakeview, that long stretch of Broadway that meanders from my neighborhood and through the whole north side, so much changes every time--new restaurants, empty storefronts, entire buildings demolished and rebuilt. That particular corner of Lakeview on the border with Lincoln Park, where I once lived a few blocks south of a walk, is a favorite.  The corner used to be much grander and livelier, with a both a Borders and a huge Barnes & Noble. We used to shop the smaller stores that occupied the mall and have lunch at a place with really good cheeseburgers across the street from World Market (which is now just a Walmart.) But other things are still there--Cesars up a couple blocks, my favorite margarita place--and another locale I miss greatly. Then there are things that are new I would have loved--a close-by TJ Maxx at the corner, for example. I feel like those neighborhoods shift and change even faster under rapid development. I remember driving near Wrigley Field after not being there for a while and it being, besides the park itself, almost unrecognizeable. 

I still feel, even as things open up and masks come off, that all has not settled. It's still an uncertain future for a lot of businesses that managed to make it through the worst.  Michigan Avenue itself seems constantly torn down and rebuilt, even using the same facades protected by the Historical Society.  Last week, as I drank my coffee in the park, I was thinking the first time, another early March day, I ever drank coffee in that park (only it was a less a park then than some grassy area with benches and pigeons just north of Art Institute that abutted the train tracks below. ) It was 1995, and we were waiting around to catch a play at the Goodman (still at the Institute then) after a day shopping and wandering.  I did the math in my head and realized it was 27 years ago, which is an impossibility, no?  The coffee shop it was then was a handbag/luggage  stores for years until that too closed, long before the pandemic.   Every storefront, no matter what it is now, was, in 1995?, 2000?, 2005? likely something else entirely.

But then again, I am probably something else entirely..than that 21 year old excitedly seeing a play in the city.  my facade is still the same, well maybe a little older and smoothed out, but the interior is both the same and something rebuilt with each new set of years. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

hermit life and abroad

Yesterday, I ventured further than I have in over a month, taking the bus downtown to pick up a batch of prints at the Staples in the loop. Since I was there, I grabbed some coffee and sat in the park along Michigan across from the Cultural Center. It was chilly, and the landscape still bare and dotted with dirty, melting, piles of snow, but it felt a little like spring at least, especially when the sun came out from behind some skyscrapers. Or maybe, it was more that people were behaving like it was spring, lingering outdoors more than they do in the winter months and slung across park benches.  On the way back, I was thinking about how strange it was to be coming home in the daylight, which was usually only a summer thing.  I noticed new things on my trip--a statue in front of the Tribune Building, the popcorn shop that had been closed since covid once again open.  The lake, less voluminous than even last summer and back to a reasonable level.  No tulips yet, but no doubt soon. I hadn't left the immediate blocks around my apartment since early February, so it was nice to get out and feel like I was part of the world. 

I'm learning it's quite easy to become the hermit I've always been, sleeping and working strange hours.  I am getting a lot done.  Getting the shop ready for the update next week and keeping up with daily freelance projects. Catching up on things like orders and author batches and getting new layouts polished off in the afternoons. Even with a lot of stuff to accomplish in any given day, it is more purposeful and less chaos, which has changed so much about how I feel and done wonders for my general baseline anxiety levels. Even printing is more orderly and systematic and much less tearful than it used to be (this has to do with some outsourcing, but even in the interiors are less stress-inducing when I am not constantly past my deadlines already). I did not expect quite this much of a change, but I should have. 

As for creative work, I've stalled out a bit on my collage series, not really liking the results just yet, but need to spend time with the poems they accompany to get unstick. The poems I am happy with, the art, not so much. I did manage to finish up what will hopefully be the final proof on animal, vegetable.. monster, and barring any significant issues, should have it under wraps a couple weeks into April.  Which of course, means I now turn my attention to promo and trailers and such. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

hooked claw and tooth to land

Earlier this week, I spent a decent amount of time putting the finishing touches on the final galley proof of animal, vegetable, monster, including some time with the last section, and maybe the most central part of the collection, the extinction event poems.  I have no idea if they are my favorites because they are so core to the book and rather excellent as poems, or if they are my favorite (and there is much to love in the manuscript) because the experience of writing them was such a great experience. 

In late summer of 2019, that very last year when we were anything like living normal, I had a simple task--I would be granted access to the Field Museum , as many times as I desired, to find something to write about, and then give a reading in the fall. It was a crazy fall--including the financial issue that resulted in leaving the studio after years of trying to make something work that just was not. But I was determined, even as the upheaval unrolled through October, as I packed up the entire studio and prepared to jam it all into my apartment's dining room, to enjoy my Field Museum project if it killed me--the process, the drafting, the research.  

Granted it seemed kind of daunting--the reading was set to be an entire hour and just me, which meant I'd be reading far longer than most readings--and reading from a single series, which needed to be long enough to fill the time. So I was just pouring out poems all through September and early October. There was a lot of fluff I would trim, after the reading, but before I issued the zine project last year (which also included a number of photographs I took at the museum.) My initial impulse of course, had been to NOT write about birds, though the Hall of Birds is certainly my favorite spot at the Field (says the girl who wrote a whole book called in the bird museum. )  Of course, first trip, I wound up there, but later, spent time in the evolution exhibits and was struck by the lit placards, as you wound your way through dark rooms filled with dinosaur bones and prehistoric rock formations, announcing each major extinction event every eon or so. It was chilling that summer, in this era of climate change.  It would be moreso, in hindsight, as the next year brought the pandemic (not an extinction event, per se, but certainly an education on the possibilities of viral threats.)

So I wound up writing a series of poems about climate change, about birds and dinosaurs and museum dioramas. Also our role as artists and writers (and anthropolgists and historians) in capturing and rendering the past and our own framing effects.  It works so good in the context of animal, vegetable, monster, because of this. Because, ultimately, it's a book about art--the Antoineta/Lavinia poems of pelt, Walter Potter's animals, the strangerie peices, and, to begin, my artist statement series.  

As I finished my proofing, the book felt so  very completed and finshed, and correct margins willing, will be in my hands in her final form soon.

Monday, March 07, 2022

dancing girl press & studio notes | march 2022

a couple of new things coming March 15th...

It's been a minute since any kind of official dgp-related update, so I thought I might sit down and give some updates on this snowy Monday, which I currently a day I mostly have generally earmarked for corresponding with authors and plotting social media things (and eventually reading submissions when we're open.)  With my new freedom from full-time work life, and even with half the day devoted to other freelance work. I easily have entire afternoons to work on shop and chapbook series business, which will not only mean less harriedness for me, but better things happening there (general organization, communication, faster shipping and turnaround times) And also new things like increased shop offerings and cool things like collab and anthology projects, beginning with the mermaid anthology.

But here are some of the things to keep an eye out for in the next couple months:

*While releases for the dgp chapbook series were not too behind schedule through 2021, by the end, there were a lot of stragglers and some even older books delayed by the covid year in 2020, that are still on the horizon.  So watch for a whole bunch of new books coming late March and early April, as well as a smattering of 2022 new additions mixed in. I've already posted new books by Veronica Suarez, Madison Grace Harden, and Ashley Hajimirsadeghi, so check them out...

*I am plotting a shop update for the middle of March, in which I release a whole bunch of new things, some of which I've been waiting to unveil for a few months and haven't gotten the chance--pendants, candles, tattoos, paper goods, and more...In the meantime, I also have a sale happening on older prints to clear out some stock.  You can get 50 percent off with the code "PRINTMANIA" through the middle of March. 

*Since I am actually intending to have something like a plan for social media after no plan for awhile, keep an eye on both the dgp twitter and my own instagram page, where I will be sharing a bit more going forward, including snippets of new titles, old titles, shop news, and studio snapshots

*SWIM, the mermaid anthology that has so long been on hold will be happening this summer. I still need to touch base with authors before I set a release date, but it's coming. As is an exciting anthology project for fall I can't wait to tell you about as it develops.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

notes & things | 3/6/2022


Last night, after I tucked into bed to finish off some trashy t.v on streaming, the first real spring-like storm blew threw, that bent the tree in the courtyard and sent all sorts of bits flying through the air and driving the siameses insane. I was too comfortable to get up to open the window to truly enjoy it, and tonight there have been whisperings of snow, but it feels like spring is close. Very close. This week, I am headed down to pick up a print order and am hoping the tulips will just beginning to peek out of the ground in the beds along Michigan. I'm so ready for it. In a week or so, they will be dying the river green and after that, winter is usually banished for good. 

Though today was technically a day off, I still worked on some shop things, some packaging tweaks and photographing some new offerings that will be part of the March  15th  shop update I am planning (and actually the first one in quite a few years.  I am always adding new chaps to the storefront, and maybe bits here and there, but now is the first time I've had sustained time to work on new things, enough for an actual update, and it's been wonderful) There are tattoos and candles, necklaces and new flasks. Also some brand new paper goods. 

My other current in-the-works are a huge batch of chap layouts from later 2021 that will be releasing this month and next, my unreal city series of poems and collages afoot, and edits and final tweaks on animal, vegetable, monster, which is due out in April.  it's been glorious to actually work on things steadily and not always feel like I am chaotically careening one thing to the next. I still have a very long, long to-do list each week, but it's manageable and far more intentional.   

I've also been eyeing the calendar and contemplating NAPOWRIMO, as I do every year this time, and I'm not sure I want to do it, mostly since, while I finally have time, I'll be in the thick of trying to launch the full-length then, and maybe my efforts are better spent there, even while I'll be drafting poems daily if I can.  We'll see how I feel by the end of this month. There is also a question of what to work on, since I have far better luck when I have a defined project, though at the moment, I'm not sure what is next on the horizon. None of my vague ideas are shapely enough at this point to be able to stand on their own. 

Friday, March 04, 2022

nocturnal animals

It's been a busy week for freelance projects. On the art front--Dorothea Lange, Escher and Renoir.  This week, I've claimed a a couple of lit topics, including Gwendolyn Brooks and Doris Lessing. For the latter, I'd read a good amount of short fiction I've read at various points, but none of her novels, so may go in search of a copy of The Golden Notebook, which sounds amazing. I'm reading a lot for that work in the mornings, and editing poems in the afternoons, mine and others, so I haven't found where I might steal some novel-reading time (not that since covid I've been doing much leisure anyway.

There was a great article on night owl introverts at the Atlantic this week and I kept nodding my head yes as I read it.  So much so.  I don't think it's my introversion that makes me a night-owl (mind you, my mother says I was the only baby she ever saw that would not only sleep through the night, but also sometimes sleep til noon.) My entire family, when left to their own devices and without work schedules tends to night owl-ness, even my mom who was a total  extrovert, but would stay up pretty late after she retired. ) At the library, though, the nice thing was that no one was really around--no phonecalls, no emails really, so it was easy to work on stuff, even working the very slow front desk past 6pm. 

When I was in college (with summer's off) and grad school (with mostly evening courses) I would stay up all night quite often, even when I lived alone and no one in sight.  I love the city at night, when everything is less crowded --drugstores, movie theatres, the CTA. When the pandemic was rahing and i was home at first, then later working earlier shifts, I missed my 10pm bus people--the wait staff and retail employees headed home. The students freed from evening classes,. The theatre and symphony goers.  Many of these people were missing in those weird months the second half of 2020, when I was working, but a lot of places were still closing early or not open at all. But when thriving, it was like its own society. 

I do know that I need some social interaction--be that text or phone or in-person. I get lonely if I get nothng.  While I played with the idea during covid-times  that I would love to live in the woods far away from everyone, I don't think I'd like it as a long tern solution, but maybe a couple weeks would be heaven. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

unreal city

I've been working steadily on a project based loosely around TS Eliot's The Wasteland since the end of last year and just beginning to think about some collages to accompany the series.