19 December 2011

10 December 2011

Have yourself a bookish little Christmas

I have come across a few neat alternative Christmas tree ideas in my web wanderings over the past week or two, but there was only one that really caught my interest. And let me add: I am not really one to decorate my house for the holidays. Growing up, it was great fun and I've always loved the cozy, warm ambiance it creates. But as an adult, I really don't have the energy or inclination to drag out a bunch of seasonal decorations every year, assemble it all, plug it in for a month, and then tear it all back down. All that for just me and the cats and the dog? I can hardly bring myself to sweep the floors once every couple months. But a Christmas tree made out of books? (or this one!) That's a project for me. 

So, while working a slowish afternoon at the library, I scanned through the shelves of discarded and donated books, and grabbed all the green-covered ones I could find, in various sizes, plus a tiny one (color unimportant) for the tippy-top. I even managed to collect some green books with actual Christmas-ey titles. I decided to build a tree that was a combination/variation of the two shown in the previous links. After brushing glue on the outsides of the textblocks to keep the tree sturdy and together, I stacked the books in order of size, catty-cornering them to create that impression of layers of foliage. Then I shot hot glue between each book (I used a decorative box I had laying around as the trunk). 

Then for the final touch, I took the tiny book I had snagged earlier and splayed open its pages until they created the triangle shape I wanted, and hot-glued it in place at the top of the tree. I also thought the title of the book was perfect for the treetop: The Little Book of Magic Tricks! I am quite satisfied with the final result and decided it would look perfect on top of my gorgeous card catalog (genuine vintage library artifact). I was right. Now I'm beginning to feel a bit more festive.

07 December 2011

LibraryThing Early Reviewers: Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer

As excited as I (always) am to receive free books through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, I am ecstatic when I am lucky enough to snag whatever is newest from Pomegranate Books (especially when those books are Edward Gorey written/illustrated). I was particularly happy to have won a copy of Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer.

This book offers a privileged glimpse into both the writing and illustrating process, and the personal relationship between two extremely witty men who hold each other in the highest esteem. I enjoyed reading about their collaborative work in creating the Donald books and learning how much each influenced the other's parts in the projects. 

The juxtaposition of their whimsical ideas, words, and drawings with the humdrum realities of their everyday lives is captivating and comforting. I was glad to have the inclusion of facsimiles of a few of the wonderfully rambling letters and postcards, especially the fabulous envelopes that Gorey illustrated before mailing off to his friend. And the stoej-gnpf, that hybrid creature on the front cover that Gorey decided was part himself and part his friend, and became a secret symbol between them of their like-mindedness and collaborative magic. 

But how does one review the personal correspondence between two friends, who just happen to be writers and artists? One doesn't. I have been merely eavesdropping, but the things I overheard were fascinating. I only wonder why they ever stopped. Thank you so much, Mr. Neumeyer, for sharing these letters with the rest of us.


P.S.
While reading this book, I was reminded of another book I read (and loved) about two years ago, Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. I think I may have a new favorite book genre: collected correspondence (or whatever more eloquent title it may have). 


P.P.S.
Letter-writing must be in the air! If you are also a fan of reading and writing letters (be they addressed to you or someone else!), you must have a look over at my friend Annie's blog Scribbling Glue. You'll quickly get back in the habit.

20 November 2011

You can quote me on that

I was one of three poets interviewed by The Coachella Review this fall for their blog. I got to talk about writing and reading; and well, what else is there to talk about?

 
You can read my interview here.




Also interviewed in this series were Peycho Kanev and Joanne Lowery.

12 November 2011

Post script, or ask and you shall receive


A couple weeks ago, I mentioned here that a certain picture looked like a postcard and one that I would be happy to find in my mailbox. Remember that? I do. Anyway, after writing that, I didn't think much of it. Went on with the everyday things. Then one day last week after finishing work and running errands, I come home to find this friendly thing waiting for me in my mailbox:





 Sometimes the universe is listening. Sometimes I just have wonderful friends like Annie. She is also a bibliophile and crafter, and a general fan of writing and quiet moments to oneself, or with a friend and a cup of tea. Annie is hoping to start a quiet sort of revolution devoted to writing and sending actual letters and little bits of papery ephemera. 

You can certainly count me in.

01 November 2011

Forthcoming, part deux

For Halloween this year, I got a second (and quite unexpected) acceptance letter. I had already resigned myself to being rejected again from this literary magazine, but the emails came in yesterday: my poems "Red Market" and "Women and Children First" have been selected for publication in the next issue of Moon Milk Review!

I was first drawn to Moon Milk Review last fall when I stumbled upon them in a lit mag search. When I learned that their namesake is taken from the writing of Italo Calvino (specifically, his short story "The Distance of the Moon" from Cosmicomics), I was in love. I first discovered Calvino during my junior year of college with The Castle of Crossed Destinies; and I was so enamored that he became one of three authors I studied and wrote about for my senior thesis. Even now, whenever I go to a bookstore, I scan the C section for his name. A magazine run by editors with reading tastes as snobby as mine, now that sounds like a place I want to be. So I submitted a couple poems then, but they weren't quite up to snuff. And I went on with my daily life, writing more poetry when I could find the time in between everything else.

So, then came time to start submitting again this fall and I thought I'd give it another go at MMR. I'd written some new poems over the past year that I thought were more along the lines of what the magazine was looking for: magical realism, surrealism, slipstream with a Calvino flavor. Don't misunderstand, I didn't write these poems to match a certain editor's preferences. But after another year of writing, I took a look back at the poems that came out of it and found that a few I had written might be a good match this time around.




I am more than honored that two of my poems have been chosen for this magazine. In the meantime, I will have a good read-through of their latest issue, also released yesterday. Happy poetry season!

28 October 2011

I feel fabulous

For my first time, I have to say that my experience with The Coachella Review has been all a girl could hope for. Not only did they accept two of my poems for publication, but their Poetry Editor was completely wonderful to work with, the suggested revisions were very, very minimal, and there was fast turnaround between both submission and response & acceptance and publication. And I even got a call the morning after


















 Am I blushing?

20 October 2011

A coach named Ella

The Fall 2011 issue of The Coachella Review is up and at 'em! I particularly adore the cover photo by Katie Keller, which, I believe, features a coach named Ella? Perfect. Looks like a postcard I'd hope to find in my mailbox. My poems "Vespers" and "Studies in Still-Life" feel quite at home here. And I can't wait to read all of my fellow Fall-2011ers!

13 October 2011

LibraryThing Early Reviewers: Paper Covers Rock & Triplicity











Two poetry chapbooks in one from Indigo Ink Press: Paper Covers Rock, by Chella Courington and Triplicity: Poems in Threes, by Kristen McHenry.

The chapbook form is one I particularly love. There is a great romantic history behind them as the pamphlets and small booklets of ballads and legends sold by traveling chapmen. And there is so much artistic potential in their diminutive size, their general brevity. But this is the first time I've enc0untered a dual chapbook; and I'm not sure that it does the writers or the work any favors. My favorite attribute of the chapbook is the way it can be used to encapsulate a particular experience. Whereas poetry collections tend to span a greater range of subjects, a chapbook can focus on one of these and capture a single story in a dozen or a couple dozen poems. But with two manuscripts and two different poets vying for attention within the same binding, it feels a bit too crowded here.

But on to the poetry! Chella Courington's title poem "Paper Covers Rock" is probably my favorite from her side of the book. I love the way it plays with the idea of the children's game and that each short section of the five-part poem explores an obsession with the one item not mentioned in the title. Scissors are innocent as physical objects with their utilitarian purposes, but they become frightening when turned on the body. With each section we cut a bit deeper into the speaker's underlying emotional struggles. The image is explored from many angles and to great effect. I would like to see more like this.

I like the idea of grouping these poems into threes, but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the result in Kristen McHenry's Triplicity: Poems in Threes. Some of the sections work well together. Maybe it's the titles of the sections that I find unsatisfying? I think they might work better as untitled sections, let the reader find the connecting thread for him/herself. I felt a little too guided along, I think, and it left me feeling cluttered. Aside from form, there were many captivating images and phrases to be found here. In "Letter to My Second Sister," the addressed sister is described: "with eyes glass-green and deep as trees," an image that recurs two poems later in "Drowning Girls." But it was a repetition I found soothing and beautiful. In fact, this was probably my favorite section of McHenry's collection, the last but not the least.


28 September 2011

Forthcoming

No longer am I just on the cusp of publication. In the past, I've shared with you my favorite rejection letters. Now I get to share my first acceptance letter!

















So there it is! My two poems "Vespers" and "Studies in Still-Life" will be forthcoming in the Fall 2011 issue of The Coachella Review. It all starts here, people. I am forthcoming.

26 September 2011

She's here! She's here!

This very afternoon my beautiful Chandler & Price tabletop printing press was delivered! Mike (who looks coincidentally similar to Santa Claus) and his two Chinese exchange students (who sadly do not resemble elves) pulled up in a pickup, unloaded her from the bed and settled her in her spot. Here she is:


















Eventually she will perch on top of a type cabinet in this very floorspace. So next, I must commission my contractor stepfather or some other carpenter of my acquaintance to custom build a cabinet that will both store type cases (full of lead type!) and hold up this (quite heavy) cast-iron printing press.



















P.S. 
I am still deciding on a name for my press. I would like to have her keep the initials C.P., which has made deciding on a name more difficult. Any suggestions? I'm just waiting for inspiration at this point.

P.P.S. 
If you hadn't noticed, this blog of mine has had a little makeover. I felt it was time to update. I hope everyone likes the new look!
 

01 September 2011

Nesting

While I scrimp and save and dream about my printing press, whose due date is somewhere in the vicinity of October, I have begun preparing a cozy space for it in my living room: a narrow, just-the-right-size area between the tall bookcase and the kitchen doorway. Today, I picked up a letterpress print that I got professionally framed (as both the occasion and the gorgeous print, I felt, called for this little indulgence). 

My "Rules of the Press" art (handset and handprinted by the lovely Jen Malat and Marian Robbins in the Print Shop of the Rose O'Neill Literary House in 2008) is now hung on the wall directly over where the press will be. 

Jen and Marian's Rules of the Press

1. Don't die.

2. Don't lose any limbs. Addendum: Avoid paper cutter.

3. Wheel before ink.

4. Shift, don't reach.

5. Have fun!


It's all very good advice, really. Also there are cowboys and horses. What's not to love, right?

18 August 2011

Librarian's got a brand new bag (well, sort of)

Not really new, per se. Repurposed. One of my favorite things!















We were going to throw out this old mailbox-library bag because the protective plastic around the address label area was extremely tattered. The label would not stay in place. But on my way to garbage bin, I had an idea. So I took it home with me instead. After washing all of the gunk away (that took a bit of scrubbing), I added a fabric lining to the inside, attached a pocket to the front where the fabric was discolored due to the address label, and then some straps, repurposed from old belts. I even added a zipper pull to match the lining and the pocket.
















I brought it back in to the library to show off this transformation to my library coworkers. And I ended up with commissions for more! If anyone else wants in on this exclusive new library fashion accessory, let me know. I'm here teaching old bags new tricks.

27 July 2011

Still on the cusp













I just received another rejection letter from Fairy
Tale Review. I was really hoping that this time would be it, but alas. Again I received the nicest, personalized response, which I am taking as encouragement. I try not to let these things get me down. If any writer gives in to that feeling, there really is no hope of getting anywhere (think the Swamps of Sadness in The Neverending Story--oh, poor Artax). Anyway, I know I'm getting somewhere, it just might take me a bit longer.

On a related note, Alissa Nutting, the guest editor of Fairy Tale Review's The Grey Issue, who writes such fantastic rejection letters, has a book of her own. She's a very talented writer of prose and I highly recommend her short story collection, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. I keep my copy on my fairy tale shelf.

22 July 2011

Of festival friends and small press love

During my stint as secretary of the Chestertown Book Festival (2009-2010), I got to help bring together some great writers, illustrators, reviewers, and general book enthusiasts. Last year, in particular, we had Washington Post Book World reviewer Michael Dirda as our opening act, and among the other festival events he perused, was a presentation by my friends Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson of Idiots'Books. After Robbi and Matthew finished their event, Michael introduced himself and there was a meeting of like book-minds.















(photo courtesy Andrea B. Neiman)


Recently, Michael Dirda wrote a Reading Room column praising the ideas and books coming out of small presses. And who was his first example of excellence in the small press world? The Idiots! I, myself, am a huge fan of the small press (as I'm sure you know). In May, I posted about, what I hope will be, the potentially mutually-beneficial relationship between small press publishing and the rise of the e-reader (or mutually-exclusive, at the least). Are Michael Dirda's tastes a sign of a movement bolstering the small press publishing world? I can only hope.

If you are interested in finding all these wonderful sorts of books, but are unsure where to start (one of the limits inherent in this area of publishing is that they aren't available wherever books are sold), a great market is Small Press Distribution: a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting small press books into the hands of readers. Of course, not every small press book is listed here (some presses have their own independently managed sites, like Idiots'Books); but it is a great place to get acquainted with the sorts of things this world has to offer.

18 July 2011

Meet the press

Despite my claims of poverty, I soon will be acquiring a printing press of my very own. A Chandler & Price, no less. Master printer, teacher, and friend, Mike Kaylor, found a tabletop C&P that needs some minor cleaning and repair that he is willing to sell to me at a modest price. Think of this model as the laptop equivalent to the desktop computer--although I would never attempt to set this cast-iron beast on my lap:















Here's her make and model:















She even comes with a (very) brief introduction to the history of the printing press. Although Mike's stories are much better:















So, truth: No, I didn't win the lottery. Yes, I am still poor. But the possibility of realistically owning my own press motivated me to be even thriftier and put a stringent savings plan into practice for the few months it will take me to earn this beauty. What happened was, word came down, the way it does, that Mike had a press he wanted to sell and so I said, "Wait! Wait! How much? I want it!" And Bob's your uncle.



















So... by October, I should have the money to purchase her. Then I'll have to save a bit for the things I'll need to outfit her. She should have a bit less sawdust on her then, as well.

LibraryThing Early Reviewers: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

An absorbing adventure that begins in the realistic and gradually builds into a convincing carnivalesque story of time travel and an island of misfit kids. The black and white photos included in the text of the novel perform their duty well, revealing the curious abilities of the characters while amplifying the atmosphere of mystery and strangeness. I was completely captivated by this dark fairytale of WWII orphans in the Welsh bogland, trapped in time just like their photo counterparts.

I gave it 5 stars.

27 June 2011

A table fit for a printer

One serendipitous day, I found a teetering stack of letterpress job cases in front of one of the local antique and furniture shops at unbelievably low prices. Most of the time, these trays go for anywhere between 30 and 50 dollars, depending on size and condition. But I snagged some large Hamilton-brand California job cases for 18 bucks. Quite a find!















My friend Emma helped me turn one of these into a s
nazzy, shadow box-style coffee table. We went hardware shopping at Lowe's for some prefab table legs, wood stain, heavy-duty top plates (to brace the legs on the bottom of the job case), a sheet of plexiglass, and bumpers. I also borrowed a power drill and the accompanying bits from my stepfather.















First, I stained the table legs to get them close to the color of the job case.
I let them dry completely overnight.


































Second, with Emma's assistance, I drilled holes into the bottom of the jo
b case so we could screw the top plates into place. This was probably the most involved part of the process. (Note the gorgeous ring I recently bought for myself from Compass Rose Design--it's made with an antique typewriter key!)















Third, we screwed the top plates into the job case.



































































Then, we screwed the table legs into the top plates.




















And we have a table!




















Now just for the finishing touches. We add bumpers to the corners and edges of the plexiglass sheet to keep it from sliding around too much (a necessary precaution when one has a large maniac dog and two nosy cats). Finally, we fill the slots with bits and bobs, then slide the glass into place.
















































And to think I used to
hate when my dad would drag me and my brother to Lowe's for, what felt like, hours. Oh how things change when we grow up. I also like pickles, mustard, and onions now (and sometimes all at once).

08 June 2011

Hildegard in the wild (because you asked)

My friend Angela requested some outdoors pictures of my beloved typewriter. So Hildegard and I ventured out into the backyard and took some glamor shots.


































And her close-up:




















As you wish, Angela.

31 May 2011

Me and Hildegard

Inspired by my past post about the writers-and-their-typewriters photo gallery, my friend Annie and I thought it would be a fun idea to shoot me and Hildegard. So yesterday, Annie came over with her camera.




















































And then Kevin wanted to see what all the fuss was about.






























He decided it wasn't really for him. Silly boy.















I keep playing my typewriter music anyway.