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On This, the Day of My Journal's Editing.

on Sun, 01/31/2016 - 10:28

So here I am, sitting in the Lyon Street Cafe for the first time in several weeks, having just finished listing my tasks for my first completely open Sunday in months. To put it gently, Sunday isn't open any more. The duties and needs of Caffeinated Press in general, and The 3288 Review in particular, have eaten up all of that nebulous part of my life I used to call "free time". Am I exhausted? Yes. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

The first and most important consideration is that never have I had so much good writing at my disposal.

At ConFusion 2015, in one of the panels ("Staying Sane While Sluicing Through Slush") a panelist pointed out that submission quality falls along a bell curve, with the majority being "competent" - meaning well written, professional, etc., but not exceptional. In my time at Caffeinated Press I have vetted something over four hundred written works- long, short, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Few of them were terrible. They didn't get published. Few were extraordinary. They DID get published. I don't know how submissions fall out in the rest of the industry, but the bell curve of the work we receive leans toward the high end which, given the amount of work we receive, help to keep us from succumbing to feelings of tedium, ennui, etc.

My active involvement at CafPress is just about exactly a year old. In that time I have picked up a surprising number of skillsets, both primary and ancillary. Editing, obviously. An eye toward story structure. A renewed appreciation of poetry. A powerful ability to metabolize coffee. All important skills for an editor.

I also, for the first time since my days at Schuler Books and Music, have a big-picture view of what's going on in the publishing world. Most is not at all surprising. The big guys are getting bigger, the little guys are struggling. So it goes. Small presses are run by several people working part-time, or one person doing the work of three and several people working part time. This is the way of the world now.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Small presses are more nimble, more able to take chances with the innovative and the avant-garde. Small presses are not held captive by shareholders whims. But being small enough to fit a niche often means being small enough to fall through the cracks. Thus small presses learn to innovate.

One of my favorite (and more personally expensive) discoveries of the past few months is that several small presses offer subscriptions to their catalogs. For a nominal price, you will receive roughly a book a month for a year. This is not the old book club model of the pre-Amazon days; this is more an investment in the voice and taste of a small group of people who turn out excellent product. My first subscription was to Open Letter Books, quickly followed by Restless Books, Deep Vellum, and several others. All excellent publishers, and all beautiful books. I will explore this idea further in an upcoming blog post.

Suffice to say, I will not soon run out of excellent reading material.

2016 Reading List

on Fri, 01/01/2016 - 12:37

The 2015 reading list was so much fun that I have decided to do it again! I am making a couple of minor changes to the criteria here. First, this list will include book I have read; books I have purchased but not read; and literary journals which I purchase and/or read in the 2016 calendar year. With any luck I will have an even dozen from Caffeinated Press a year from today. Since 2016 is a leap year this may give me just enough time to reach that goal. Why not only list books I actually read? Because feck is over-rated.

Helping to fill this list are the subscriptions I have to the catalogs of independent publishers Open Letter Books, Restless Books, And Other Stories, Deep Vellum and Horse Less Press, as well as subscriptions to The Paris Review, Granta and Zyzzyva. These should get me, at minimum, 35 things to read this year. Just shy of three a month. So without further ado, here is the list.

  1. Zyzzyva, issue 31.3
  2. The Paris Review, issue 215
  3. Rodoreda, Mercè - War, So Much War (Open Letter Books)
  4. Anderson, Benedict - Imagined Communities
  5. Rattle, issue 50
  6. Piketty, Thomas - Capital in the Twenty-First Century
  7. Clark, Patricia - Sunday Rising
  8. Harrison, Jim - Dead Man's Float
  9. Mecklenburg, Virginia - Modern Masters: American Abstraction at Midcentury
  10. n+1, issue 24
  11. Labbé, Carlos - Loquela (Open Letter Books)
  12. Comola, Jessica - Everything We Met Changed Form & Followed the Rest (Horse Less Press)
  13. Bettis, Christine - Burnout Paradise (Horse Less Press)
  14. Burns, Megan - Sleepwalk With Me (Horse Less Press)
  15. Midwestern Gothic, issue 20
  16. Dunes Review, issue 19.2
  17. Mieveille, China - Three Moments of an Explosion (Subterranean Press, signed, number 268/400)
  18. Michigan's Voices, issue 3.2, Spring 1963
  19. The Noble Savage, issue 1, February 1960
  20. Gulf Coast, issue 20.2, Fall 2008
  21. Bamber, Linda - Metropolitan Tang
  22. Wakoski, Diane - Argonaut Rose (Black Sparrow Press)
  23. Meltzer, David - No Eyes: Lester Young (Black Sparrow Press)
  24. Kashin, Oleg - Fardwor, Russia! (Restless Books)
  25. Velázquez, Carlos - The Cowboy Bible and Other Stories (Restless Books)
  26. Clark, Anna (ed) - A Detroit Anthology (Rust Belt Chic Press)
  27. The Tishman Review, issue 1.4
  28. Michigan Quarterly Review, issue 54.4
  29. Taylor, Jonathan Jay and Neill, Foster - The Michigan Poet
  30. O'Brien, Colleen - Spool in the Maze (New Michigan Press)
  31. Krieg, Brandon - Invasives (New Rivers Press)
  32. El-Mohtar, Amal - The Honey Month (Papaveria Press, signed)
  33. Klaver, Christian - The Adventure of the Lustrous Pearl (signed)
  34. Klaver, Christian - The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler (signed)
  35. Kalver, Christian - The Adventure of the Solitary Grave (signed)
  36. Klaver, Christian - Shadows Over London (signed)
  37. McClellan, Brian - Servant of the Crown (signed)
  38. McClellan, Brian - Forsworn (signed)
  39. McClellan, Brian - Murder a the Kinnen Hotel (signed)
  40. McClellan, Brian - In the Field Marshal's Shadow (signed)
  41. Steinmetz, Ferret - Flex (signed)
  42. Steinmets, Ferret - The Flux (signed)
  43. O'Keefe, Megan - Steal the Sky (signed)
  44. Underwood, Michael R. - Genrenauts: The Shootout Solution (signed)
  45. Underwood, Michael R. - Genrenauts: The Absconded Ambassador (signed)
  46. Collins, Brigid - The Southern Dragon (signed)
  47. Bennett, Robert Jackson - City of Blades (signed)
  48. Olson, Melissa - Boundary Crossed (signed)
  49. Toyama, Kentaro - Geek Heresy (signed)
  50. Duncan, Andy and Klages, Ellen - Wakulla Springs
  51. Wilson, Kai Ashante - The Devil in America
  52. Smale, Alan - Clash of Eagles
  53. Swanson, Jay - Into the Nanten (signed)
  54. Kloos, Marko - Terms of Enlistment (signed)
  55. Brown, Pierce - Red Rising
  56. Hurley, Kameron - Mirror Empire (signed)
  57. Hurley, Kameron - God's War (signed)
  58. Gnarr, Jon - The Pirate (Deep Vellum Publishing)
  59. The Gateway Review Issue 2.1
  60. Eastern Iowa Review, Spring/Summer 2015
  61. Tenev, Georgi - Party Headquarters (Open Letters Books)
  62. Rajaniemi, Hannu - Collected Fiction
  63. Dickinson, Seth - The Traitor Baru Cormorant
  64. Wojtaszek, Kristina - Opal (World Weaver Press, signed)
  65. Parrish, Rhonda (ed) - Scarecrow (World Weaver Press, signed)

    FEBRUARY

  66. River Styx issue 95
  67. Granta issue 132
  68. Farooqi, Musharraf Ali - Between Clay and Dust (Restless Books)

They Grow Up So Quickly

on Sun, 09/06/2015 - 16:30

The 3288 Review, vol. 1 issue 1

It's here. It has landed. The first issue of The 3288 Review is out and available for purchase. How do I feel about this? Hmm...let me think...

BOOYAH!!!

...or words to that effect.

I took a personal day on Friday so I would have a a full four-day weekend. Rolled into the Caffeinated Press offices around 11:00am, and right at the stroke of noon UPS arrived with five boxes full of magazines. 100 copies of the inaugural issue. They are beautiful! Three full months of hard work, long days, late nights, and learning the Ten Great Skills (page layout, InDesign, etc) and the Thousand Minor Skills (talking to people, avoiding Papyrus and Comic Sans, etc).

It has all paid off! Responses from the viewing public are enthusiastic and orders are starting to roll in. Close to half of the initial print run are already spoken for. With any luck we will need to place another order by the end of the week.

In the other parts of my life, the martial arts class has recently been ascendant. On August 11 I and my friend and classmate Rick loaded bags into a rented van and drove Master Lee and his wife and his visitors from Vietnam to see the Niagara Falls (Canadian side). It was a great trip! We heard several stories of what class was like back in The Day in Saigon. Rick reminisced about his trips to New York and back, when he would pull up to the falls and sleep for a couple of hours before continuing the drive.

I have never been to the Falls. They are amazing! Huge and powerful and the rumble starts in the feet and rises up through the viscera and makes everything seem just the slightest bit out of focus. At one point the walkway overlooks the edge of the falls and you can look straight down the cataract to the lower river. Here I felt a strong pull, like the falling water was calling to the 60% of me which is also water. After five minutes staring at falling water, everything else I looked at seemed to rise slightly.

It Gives a Lovely Light

on Sun, 08/09/2015 - 10:15

Hello, my friends and foes. Wow, what a summer this has been. A series of semi-connected data points follow.

Caffeinated Press

The new office of Caffeinated Press feels like an office! I work the day job from there a couple of days a week, next to an open window serenaded by songbirds in Ken-O-Sha Park and traffic accidents at the intersection of Kalamazoo Ave and 32nd Street. The first issue of The 3288 Review is on track to hit the shelves by the end of the month. Half a dozen books creep ever-closer to production. We have several seminars on the calendar, centered on the getting published side of the writing process. Everyone is exhausted, but excited. Once we have a catalog we can register with the larger professional organizations and that will, we expect, open the flood-gates of submissions. I think I have read around 300,000 words of unpublished manuscripts and poetry over the past six months. 300,000 words in six months isn't really all that much, but for me usually those words have other peoples' eye-prints all over them. Thus I feel a certain responsibility to those words.

Martial Arts

Our annual Sifu Day celebration took place yesterday downtown. Loads and loads of food, an iron shirt demonstration, and half an hour of hamming it up with posed photos. We are blessed by the presence of some of Master Lee's students from Saigon - the same people who showed Rick and I the sights in Vietnam this past October. In a couple of days Rick and I will travel with the whole lot of them on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls.

I am embarrassingly far behind in posting photos of the previous year or so of class events. Once the Caffeinated Press workload dies down I will spend a long weekend getting caught up.

Work

As of today I am off of the crazy project which kept me burning the midnight oil for most of July. All of the extra time I hoped to have during the hiatus from the iron shirt class was co-opted by the day job. Thus the upcoming burning the midnight oil for CafPress. On the positive side, I learned a lot more about advanced Backbone/Marionette programming techniques. This can only help me going forward, if I ever work on another Backbone project.

Life

Still making plans for upgrades to my house, now that I have paid off the mortgage. The bank account is rebuilding more slowly than expected because of the amount of cash I invest in CafPress. Ah, the life of the startup entrepreneur. Practically, all that means is that the work which would have happened in the autumn will now happen in spring 2016, and spring 2016 work will now happen in autumn 2016. Big expensive projects over long time spans, and I want it all to happen NOW.

The Farmer's Market is at its peak. Almost everything in the world is in season right now. Two weeks ago I was in during the magic time when strawberries, blueberries and sweet cherries were all ripe. It's difficult to gain weight on a vegetarian diet, but during times like these it is possible, and also delicious.

Random Stuff

I haven't had a lot of time for entertainment and amusements this summer. Based on a conversation with Jack Ridl I picked up Mile Marker Zero, the story of The Scene in Key West just after Hemingway's time there. A week ago I watched Paris at Midnight, Woody Allen's beautiful exploration of wistfulness and acceptance and the literary scene in the Paris of the 1920s (which also involved Hemingway). There's a meditation to be written on the confluence of these two experiences.

And now off to work on the magazine. These pages won't write themselves.

Six Months Later

on Sun, 07/05/2015 - 10:37

Dawn came early this morning, as it always does at the beginning of July. And even moreso the day after Independence Day. I live in a mostly quiet neighborhood, aside from one house full of renters who refuse to acknowledge that they live in the middle of the city, and not out in the sticks. Therefore their private lives spill out into the public domain several times a week. I have the GRPD non-emergency number on speed dial. Three times in the past week I have started a conversation with "HiI I'd like to register a noise complaint, and it isn't about fireworks." It's fun to hear the officers on the other end of the phone mentally shift gears.

I've grown used to being sleep-deprived at this time of year. The long holiday weekend simply means I don't need to drag myself to work, but it also means neither does anyone else, so I get three days of regulated apocalypse instead of the usual two. Not that I have the moral high ground to complain too loudly about neighbors with bottle rockets, but even as a dumb kid I had the sense to not shoot them directly at other houses and cars. And the neighbors with the fireworks aren't dumb kids; they're just not very good at being neighbors.

Caffeinated Press

We have furniture! Thanks to some connections at PeopleDesign, and a Friday full of vigorous exercise, the Caffeinated Press offices (3167 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Suite 104) have tables, chairs and storage space. Perfect timing, too, for the upcoming slew of meetings, both internal and author-facing. Brewed Awakenings II is taking shape, as is the first issue of The 3288 Review. I am taking a crash course in InDesign, page layout and typography, assisted ably by some exceptionally talented people who make me feel old and slow. As things stand at the moment, it looks like we will publish six book and two issues of the journal before the end of 2015.

And that ain't bad at all.

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