31 October 2012

The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review

Gorgeous cover illustration for issue #17.
My two poems "Women and Children First" and "Red market" are in the Fall 2012 issue of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review! These two were accepted just about a year ago, when this literary magazine was still known as Moon Milk Review. This is my second magazine publication. Keep writing and submitting and writing and submitting.

Happy Halloween!!!

Happy Eckleburg Issue #17!!!

30 October 2012

Thinking and driving

One of the fabulous perks of my new job: meeting contemporary writers on a regular basis as we host them for readings or lectures at the Literary House. A couple weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting Dylan Landis, author of the novel-in-stories Normal People Don't Live Like This. As tends to happen when a successful writer comes to visit an undergrad Creative Writing program, during the Q&A following the reading, a student asked the dreaded what-advice-would-you-give-to-aspiring-writers question.  

Is it mean that I always cringe a little on the inside when this question is asked? I mean how many different ways can a writer be expected to iterate the same basic principles? Write early and often. But Dylan offered up something refreshing on that same theme. Her advice was very specific and addressed that most nagging problem: time management. 

1. Set your alarm an hour earlier in the morning, and use that hour to write before the obligations of the day ahead begin. 

As sound as that advice is, I have a hard enough time as it is dragging myself out of bed an hour after my alarm goes off. Which is why I already set my alarm an hour before I need to get out of bed in order to get to work on time. I don't think this piece of advice will survive my body's natural inclination to early morning lethargy. But I certainly recommend that other, stronger-willed persons give that a try.

Dylan Landis did not advocate writing while driving. That's dangerous.
2. Turn off the radio in the car, and use that driving time to think about whatever draft you are currently working on. Sort out the things that have you stuck.

Eureka! Here is time I am already wasting. It's already built into my daily routine, so why not utilize it? While driving 45 minutes to my eye exam one morning, I propped my little notebook up in the dashboard (I drive an automatic, do I really need to stay on top of RPM?--utilizing waste of dash space!), and had that open as a reminder of the poem fragment I had been trying to complete. With the radio off, I had enough quiet to think and work through the possibilities. And because I'm also concentrating on driving, I don't suffer from that blank-page-fright--the same way taking a break and working on chores may help you reach that eureka moment.

3. Turn off the television in the evenings, and WRITE!

To be honest, I came to that conclusion on my own a few years ago. When the national switch to digital was mandated in 2009 by the FCC, I made the conscious decision not to upgrade my hand-me-down analog set or even grab a discounted conversion box. I decided this was a great time to cut that time-suck out my life. Because the thing is, even if there is nothing on, if I was bored, I would still channel surf and settle on something just to pass the time. If I don't have that option, it follows that I would be more likely to do something more productive with my time: read a book, WRITE, or move forward on some other creative project. How liberating! I must confess, I still spend a bit of time catching up on certain shows on Hulu, but it is taking up far less of my time. It was a lifestyle change that has been nothing but positive.

23 October 2012

A festivus for the press(ed) of us

Because I no longer have to work weekends (thanks to my new job), I was able to make an excursion to Oak Knoll Fest XVII in New Castle, Delaware. Here are a few of my favorite things from the exhibition on Saturday, October 6, 2012.

1. Sherwin Beach Press (Chicago, Illinois) :

The first table to stop me in my tracks. In particular their limited edition fine press book Poisonous Plants at Table: an artistic compilation of two pre-existing texts and an exclusive third text. It includes selections from a 1901 text called Poisonous Plants in Field and Garden by the Reverend Professor G. Henslow, along with creatively inserted party menus from a previous Poisonous Plants at Table by Dr. E. Coffin (pun intended?), that use the aforementioned poisonous plants in the serving of meals to guests. 

Even stopping here, this book absolutely reflects my own dark, Edward Gorey-esque sense of humor. But then there was the exclusive third text written specifically for this book project by the author, illustrator, and book artist, Audrey Niffenegger! This book includes a new short story from Niffenegger called "Prudence: The Cautionary Tale of a Picky Eater," complete with full-color, fold-out illustrations painted by Niffenegger. My jaw dropped. I was in love. 

Although I first discovered her after stumbling upon The Time Traveler's Wife (long, long before the movie came out, I assure you), I then dug a bit deeper and found her two previously published "novels in pictures:" The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress, and then later, The Night Bookmobile. I would describe those first two as also possessing that same Edward Gorey-esque sense of dark whimsy that had me captivated. They were so strange and so beautiful. Have you read them? You must. 

Lucky for me, this gorgeous art book from Sherwin Beach Press was already sold out. Otherwise, I would be $1200 in the hole right now. But I now have a new press to keep my eye on.

2. The Lone Oak Press (Petersham, Massachusetts) :

Mimpish Squinnies!!! Another beautiful art book that I have been lusting after that is also long sold out. I did not realize before browsing the exhibition tables that The Lone Oak Press was to be at Oak Knoll Fest. What a wonderful surprise! So even though I could not take a copy home with me, I could see it up close, touch the pages, and look inside at all of the beautiful and odd engravings by Abigail Rorer. 

If you are not already familiar with this wonder of the book arts world, allow me to introduce to you: Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants, with engravings by Abigail Rorer (The Lone Oak Press) and introduction by Maureen Sanderson. Are you also noticing a pattern here in my fine press book attractions? Why plants? I cannot tell you, but strange, dangerous, anthropomorphized (even worthless) plants have my undivided attention. I'm sure it also has much to do with the artistry and craftsmanship of these spectacular literary objects.

3. Ladies of Letterpress (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) :

Kseniya Thomas (and over her right shoulder, Abigail Rorer)
I have been a Lady of Letterpress for about four years now, but I was finally able to meet one of THE two Ladies behind the fabulous social network/international trade organization, Kseniya Thomas. I have been sad not to have been able to attend the LoLP Letterpress Conference the last two years, but I hope to make it to the third one coming up June 27-29, 2013 in Iowa! They are already advertising for this next conference with beautiful "Type on the Cob" postcards, letterpressed on extra heavy card. It was really great to see them in person while they were so nearby!

4. The stuff I bought to take home (Chestertown, Maryland)

Type was in the air, and I couldn't help but be swept off my feet. My two take-home books? A Typographical Romance from Harsimus Press (Jersey City, New Jersey) and Pantone Love from Bowe House Press, Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia). I also bought a new LoLP T-shirt (charcoal and blue).

This was my first time visiting the famous (and rather prestigious) Oak Knoll Festival, and I will definitely be going to the next one.

16 October 2012

Stationery for your portable (typewriter)

My next mini-project in preparing for my Type-In & Letter-Writing Social co-hosted with Scribbling Glue, was to letterpress some type-able special-event stationery. I had some great paper scraps from a previous broadside printing that were begging to be used. I mean, these are decently-sized Rives BFK scraps I'm talking about here. Plus, whatever other paper bits I could find.

Annie (of Scribbling Glue) came by this weekend to try her hand at some printing, so we got going on this project. I set a line of text to commemorate the event alongside a kitschy little typist block (in the picture above). 

I think she had fun, don't you? I am very pleased with how the stationery turned out. I even gave it a little typing test, the morning after. 

We are getting really, really, really excited for "Type-In Type-Out." Are you?

09 October 2012

Nesting (again)

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post titled "Nesting" when I was preparing the space in my living room for the printing press that would soon be arriving. Since then, my press has moved-in and moved across the room (which required the assistance of two able-bodied men). Now, I find myself nesting once again, but this time the space is for me--in my new lavender office on the second floor of The Rose O'Neill Literary House.

My first day I brought Hermione (my baby blue Royal Futura) and a small potted succulent (a kalanchoe--that should be relatively difficult to kill) in with me. Both Hermione and the invincible, unnamed office plant live on a small window-side end table. But there are still lavender walls to be decorated. So I did a little shopping...

1. "Creative & Curious" screenprinted felt pennant
I discovered Uppercase magazine a couple months ago and fell in love with it almost immediately. I adore their motto: "a magazine for the creative and curious." So, when I decided I could afford to treat myself to a subscription (because of my new job), I threw beautiful teal and orange, limited edition Uppercase pennant in the virtual shopping cart as well.

2. Pride and Prejudice alternative book cover illustration
I have admired Nan Lawson's illustrations & prints for a couple years now. They've just got so much character (excuse the pun). This seemed like the perfect excuse to indulge in some of my Etsy temptations.

2. Franny and Zooey alternative
book cover illustration
And then I thought, "Wouldn't these be better as a pair?" Two of my favorite books (granted I have quite a few of those). I like their stark contrast in atmosphere and personalities while sharing the same style and playful design sense.

I'm sure I'm still missing something absolutely essential for literary office happiness, but I don't know what it is yet. What else do I need here?

05 October 2012

Interrupting your regularly scheduled program

My new favorite discovery in the independent publishing world, hands down, is UPPERCASE magazine. Their tagline--"the magazine for the creative & curious"--grabbed me by the gut right away (that may not sound like a pleasant sensation, but it was). It is one of those objects that is so much more an idea (but still so tangible) that I don't know how else to describe it properly except to point you right back to their tagline. Today, I am excited and flattered and humbled and proud to be given the spotlight on the UPPERCASE magazine blog for their typewriter-themed Friday series, "Girl Friday." Read it!

02 October 2012

Printer's Devils, Apprentices, Journeymen

That's me in green at top right (c. 2008)
I have often wondered about what the appropriate title would be for someone like me, in regards to letterpress printing. To ever become a Master Printer (like my wonderful teacher, Mike Kaylor), you have to complete a full-on apprenticeship of about seven years under another Master Printer, and that's just the beginning. 

I completed the free workshops offered at my alma mater, Washington College, and continued working in the Print Shop just for fun my last year of undergrad. I even occasionally came back to work on projects of my own or to help with what ever Lit House Press printing projects I happened to walk in on (that sounds a bit more scandalous than it ever actually was). Then, I got my own press at home and have been operating that for a year now as Thread Lock Press (for which I've had two commissions thus far, and another in the works).

So, during my first real day at the new job, settling into my well-windowed office in The Rose O'Neill Literary House, I was looking through the files in the file cabinets, trying to make myself better acquainted with the lay of the paperwork. I stumbled upon a manila folder labeled "History." In this folder I found a packet of square photos of the first Print Shop move-in day, featuring dark-haired versions of professors and teachers whom I had only ever known with gray and silvered heads. Behind this group of pictures, I found an old, much-folded piece of paper laying out the hierarchy of the Literary House Press. Here it is in its entirety:

 The system of promotion for Washington College students who are interested in working on the O'Neill Literary House Press is taken from the ancient Printers Guild. Although in the printing profession it would often take as many as seven years to go from Printers Devil to Journeyman, good students of the press can earn their key to the press (by which it can be operated) in a year. Not that you'll be a great printer in that time, but at least you'll be a safe printer; and, with some patience on your part, a decent job printer. Our procedure is as follows:
1. Beginning students (Printers Devils) enroll in The Press Workshop taught by a Master Printer where they learn something about the history and craft of letterpress printing. Typically workshops start two weeks after the semester begins and last until two weeks before final week. Workshops meet twice a week for two hours in the evening. The workshop demands dependable attendance and requires patience with tedious tasks, but for interested students is it great fun.[sic]
2. Printers Devils become Apprentices when they successfully complete the Press Workshop. Apprentices are then expected to complete a second semester of job printing--assisting the Master Printer with such Writers Union projects as chapbooks, Broadsides, and posters. Normally, the Master Printer will assign one or two apprentices for each job, and the Apprentice will see the job through to completion. In general, Printers Devils are expected to complete their Apprenticeship in the semester following the Press Workshop.
3. On the recommendation of the Master Printer, Apprentices become Journeymen Printers, and as such have full rights and privileges and obligations pertaining to the Literary House press, including a key to press.[sic] Journeymen are expected to run specified jobs for the Writers Union and in doing so earn the right to run approved job work for their own pleasure or profit. Journeymen printers will be paid a modest wage for all their work. They are also expected to assist the Master Printer in training the Apprentices.
Such is the system of Printing and Press Workshops at the O'Neill Literary House at Washington College. Students who are interested--and they need not be writers or members of the Writers Union--should contact Kathy Wagner, Director of the Washington College Press at her office in the O'Neill Literary House." 
Cool, huh? So I think, by such standards, I can call myself a Journeyman. Makes me feel like I should dust off my passport and just go. Anywhere.