Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stick it to the (paper) man

My sister is working at a small print newspaper on the west coast. Like newspapers everywhere, sales and jobs are evaporating. She is aware that they want to find an excuse to fire her ass. They are monitoring her closely and clocking her speed. Only on racetracks is this a good thing.

They've upped the ante and started giving her difficult work that falls outside of her job skills in production. Yesterday they handed her a card with type on it. Victorian posies behind an announcement of a doodad show. She had to take the scanned image, turn it sideways, get rid of the type, and expand it's middle by 300%. My sister only knows basic things in photoshop, the simple fixes. This was major surgery.

We formulated a plan. She sent it to me at work when she got there in the morning. Back on the east coast, I spent part of my lunch hour using the clone tool to disappear the type, copy the border, give it a new middle, and move flowers around. I touched up with the healing brush and sent it west where it was still morning.

She tells me it was delightful to see their look of consternation when she handed in the acceptable image. That even though she has never once cheated in school, this felt less like cheating and more like spy vs spy. It put her in a good mood, a mood her pals at work caught, and they were laughing about little things as they worked. A mood not shared by the bosses.

When we talked last night, she wanted to know how I did the photoshop. I tried to describe it but... she needed to see it. A video is worth a thousand phonecalls, so I recommended free online photoshop training: podcasts such as Pixel Perfect with Bert Monroy, (the first 10 lessons are free in their vast arsenal of tutorials), and for comedy and real tips, "You suck at photoshop". Free, free, free. Throw her more mission impossibles and she'll learn new job skills. Take that mean boss people. You don't mess with my li'l sis.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm nominated!

Just found out my poem "The Bees" is being considered by the Pushcart Prize anthology! Court Green, published it and they could only nominate 6 of their poems to the P.P. editors. The editors at Pushcart accepted my poem for consideration. It is now part of the pool of 8,000 poems, essays, and short stories that are being culled for this yearly anthology that honors the best of the small presses. Lovely that Court Green sent my poem in, grand that it made it past the next hurdle to semi-finalist. Even if it doesn't get into the anthology, I feel honored.

With room for only 30 poems, I have at best a 2% chance... but hey, better odds than Lotto and it all happened mysteriously while I was writing poems and mortgage checks.

Now I finally understand why some people note on their flap copy "nominated for a pushcart." The nomination itself is an honor. Some people also note they were 4th runners-up for things like best mincemeat pie, and this is a level of far-misses I think best not mentioned in 50 word bios.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good news and free money

The president is giving away money and I had a great reading last night.

I had to slog through a freakish ice/slush/snow storm spritzing my face as I didn't see a single cab the whole width of Manhattan. But the eerie tunneled streets and mist rising from still warm sidewalks made SoHo into something more strange and beautiful than the trendy celebs that glide in and out of its shops. Who knew who anyone was in all that snow? People were the negative spaces, the street lamp and neon lit snow were the show.

As I walked further and further east, I wondered if anyone would show up. Would this Bluestockings bookstore be welcoming and hopefully rather dry?

My shoes took on more water and my purse strap broke but I still pressed on. I added my footprints to a dog's across an otherwise blank median strip and then I was there. The place was PACKED and I didn't know most of them. My husband Jim was there waiting for me (he gave up one of his cherished Tuesday nights of sketching with a live jazz trio, two models, and a bar). Glenn arrived, as did Gordon and Len and Roxanne. The bookstore is a neighborhood place that the neighborhood uses like a big book filled livingroom, with eats and teas. I read last. The fifteen minutes went by terribly fast and slow, the way they do when I'm exhilarated by having a responsive audience, a whole room full of (mostly) strangers laugh, or sigh in sympathy, and acknowledge the stories I shape into poems. I'm more confident when people want to hear where I'm going. I loved Julie Porter's poems about meat, she's the pitmaster of an amateur barbecue team. Thank you Meghan, Word of Mouth, and Bluestockings for giving us a good place to read. I sold three books.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Slides and whispers

My daughter Caitlin is applying to many colleges, several of them art schools requiring color slides. Remember those? Little cardboard edged pieces of plastic that one's parents put in a carousel and shined ghosts of summers past onto a wall.

She finished the last painting yesterday. I need them to arrive at the Rhode Island School of Design by Thursday. Two days.

If you, like me, have been so immersed in digital cameras, it is hard to remember how to do these things. I think in flash cards, keychain mini-drives, and printer's ink, which are sold in my drugstore, where do you go for slide film? And where is my old analog camera anyway? Don't those use little round batteries, batteries that have to be dead by now?

I discovered there are specialty photographic services shops that will take a digital image and turn it into a slide for 20 bucks an image for a 1 day turnaround... but my good digital camera still has Yellowstone National Park dust polka-dotting the sensor. I've been meaning to take the Nikon d70 somewhere to get it cleaned.... I wiped the sensor once--it turned out OK--but it was a sweat inducing horror that I don't want to experience again. One wipe too hard and 600 bucks of camera is scratched worthless.

My friend, the talented professional photographer, Lynn Saville, said her slide film had expired and I'd need to buy her new "daylight" film, and I would have done all that, but she had a class to teach and Caitlin couldn't get the film and portfolio to her in time.

Then through Caitlin's highschool (LaGuardia Arts) I got the name of a photographer, Peter Brandt, who snaps slides of art student's portfolios all the time. He has the film, the lights, the lenses, the set-up. He gets it developed. ASAP. Thank gawd. Of course, this costs.

So why was I up at 6:30 am snapping shots of her portfolio just in case? Because you never know. I should be thinking about my reading tonight... Shhhhhhh, just one more spotty shot, bracketed...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interstitial serindipity

It was my triboro day.

MANHATTAN, Upper West Side: It was wonderful to be in a room full of creative, accomplished, fascinating, and decidedly unconventional people discussing ways to enlarge the reach of an organization dedicated to works and artists that fall between genres. We introduced ourselves as puppeteers, editors, readers, poets, graphic novelists, translators, performers, novelists, film makers, educators, sculptors...who each do at least three other creative things. We sat in a book-lined living room--Edwardian flavor--with a view of park, piano, and walls and tables filled with art. So many of us said we had been told to do only one thing! If nothing else, we applauded our right to engage outside labels. I loved that group energy, there ought to be a name for that creative fusion. Half networking, half synergy. Creative Units? Whatever it is, it makes me want to grab paper to draw and write.

I was there because I ran into Ellen Kushner at AWP and she introduced me to Lawrence Schimel. Between us we had Irish tea, beer, halvah, and mashed potatoes as we discussed the oddness of presenting our works at both literary and fantasy/scifi conventions. A seemingly uncrossable divide. No so, said Ellen... she told me about her organization and invited me (and my friend Deborah Atherton) to come to a tea at her and Delia's home (as in Delia Sherman) and be part of a brain storming session for the Interstital Arts Foundation which she and Delia helped found a few years ago.

Deborah and I walked to Broadway, on our ways home, and agreed we felt like we fit right in. Deborah is a perfect example of a multi-talented, cross-genre artist, she's a literary short story writer, librettist (one opera was based on her science fiction novel another on Mary Shelley--with monster as a thematic character), novelist, co-author of an upcoming non-fiction book on creativity, writing coach, occasional tarot card reader, and a grants writer. She and I have been in River Writers, our writing workshop, since it was founded.

QUEENS, Rego Park: Before the tea, I had been to a baby shower for Glenn Mathes and Ryoko in Queens. I even got to wave hello to Jayme Adelson-Goldstein and Jane Spigarelli, authors of several books I designed for Oxford U. Press, because they video called Glenn (one of their editors) and watched Glenn and Ryoko open gifts. I blew kisses to California. Ryoko had hands drawn on her belly. A nice touch. Jayme and Jane held their hands out as if they could touch her and mini-man within. I also ate carmelized bacon. Who knew you could do that to bacon? It was salty and sweet and crunched like a crème brûlée.

BROOKLYN, Borough Hall: In the morning, I'd had my first pilates session with poet/editor/pilates instructor Barbara Elovic. After the workout, as I waited for my body to stop feeling like limp pasta, we talked about feminism, poetry, and the oddness that muscles have both greek and roman names. She gave me a copy of To Genesis, a poetry book she part of, four poets exploring old testament stories. Like Poets' Grimm, the old tales make a great framework to explore current lives and beliefs.

I felt as if I had traveled everywhere, my pedometer logged nearly 10,000 steps. And as promised, today I am not sore from the pilates workout.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

AWP and me. Or, have book, need markets

No, I didn't actually go to the biggest baddest literature conference happening in NYC this year. It was booked so early I couldn't get in, but on Saturday, the last day, the bookfair was open to the public.

The bookfair filled three huge floors of the Hilton. Apparently the first floor is usually clogged and tumbleweeds move freely on the third. To my delight, both the Alimentum and Marsh Hawk Press tables were facing each other on the second floor limbo. This facingness allowed me to move back and forth and eat chocolates placed to entice. I talked to Paulette, publisher of Alimentum, about designing a color insert of a heavily illustrated piece. Cool. Then back at MHP I talked to Sandy, our managing editor, about going to the AWP in Chicago next year. If I help run the table I can get a good chunk of my expenses covered.

I sold a copy of my book. I gave some copies away.

I walked around and handed out hot pink flyers advertising our book contest. I didn't have to look far for the hungry new MFA students. Barbara, who is the heart of the press, was endless energy presenting our books. Rochelle, who is not well, managed to be there every day and spent the afternoon telling our latest prize winner, Karin Randolph, how to promote herself and sell her book. I met people who felt like instant friends and hugged friends for an instant.

I found tables of publishers and writing programs that I love EVERYWHERE. Small Beer Press, A Public Space, Poetry, Tupelo, The Frost Place, Fairy Tale Review, Edward Tufte of the fascinating visual information books (the assistant says he likes to be called E.T.) and on and on. Tables and journals and books, oh my.

But all this muchness has a downside. It is now absolutely clear to me that more than enough poetry is published in the US. One could feel like a mere drop of sweat in an incredibly large bucket. Best not to think about that. One writes. Others write. Some are driven to publish and we thank them for it.

Best of all an agent and two publishers may be interested in helping to bring The Poets' Grimm (fairy tale poem anthology) back into print. Our publisher went out of business. Used copies are selling for $100 on Amazon and we get weekly emails from teachers and readers wanting the book. Have market, need books.