friends

BE HERE NOW with Caroline Paquita by Hope A

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For August's Keep Writing postcard, artist and illustrator Carline Paquita wants to ask you a few questions about how you use your cellphone.  Founder of Pegacorn Press, her feminist queer publications deal with the trends of society and forces opposing the expected flow.  She sent me the illustrations for this card and I designed it, including choosing to print a pink and purple split fountain on slick stardream paper, making for a glittery card that was tricky to print. 

Here are my answers to her questions about ways I limit screen time.

  • My phone lives at my desk.  At night, and as much as I can during the day, including when I leave to teach a class.
  • FB is for business only. I never installed the app, I removed messenger and my private profile is not public and I have no friends. I make batch posts once every 2 weeks for events for my business.
  • IG is mostly business.   This is where I struggle.  I am starting to post and check only once a day because even with no personal profile and a limited number of people I follow I still mindlessly scroll sometimes.
  • Timers for everything. This is a trick that works for me for staying focused when I do computer work but I have started doing it in the studio too. I set a 30 minute timer, stretch after every 30, and work on one project for those 30 minutes. Sometimes it is simple like "I will clean up my desk for the next 30 minutes."  Sometimes it is just a timer to not check my phone and work on whatever I am drawing for 3o minutes. Usually I leave myself 5 minutes every hour for email and IG but even that seems like too much. Sometimes I set a shorter timer if I need to finish up something. 
  • Limited notifications & do not disturb . My screen only shows that I have a text and from who.
  • My phone is a mini-computer. After numerous incidents and unrepairable devices, I have started treating my phone like the tiny computer it is. I do not carry it in my pocket. I have a phone that is slim and easy to hold (bigger ones are too easy to drop). I try not to walk and look at the screen ever.  I leave it inside or at home when I am with friends, unless I am riding home alone at night. 

I tried going back to a flip phone last summer. I originally had a version of the pink flip phone that Caroline mentions.  My died the day I moved to Oakland. I've been through a few phones since then. I tried going back to the flip phone, the one I had was so slow I stopped answering messages. And since I still used my phone for work, I had an internet only device. It was more time consuming than just having a reliable smartphone. 

That's where I am at. I am trying out this once-a-day IG check. I'll let you know how it goes. You can post IG from your computer with a few tricks, so maybe I'll try that. 

Im also working on driving less. My studio is over a bridge and a little far or me to bike every day but I know how much better I feel so I will try. I'm always making small changes to work towards a better healthier me. Slowly. Slowly. 

Want to get a card with a question for you an answer every month? Subscribe to the Keep Writing Project.

Want to see all the responses I receive to Caroline's questions? Check out this. 

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How Will You Tell Your Story (an interview with Amy Berkowitz) by Hope A

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Amy Berkowitz graciously agreed to collaborate on a Keep Writing postcard. As a writer, and a clear and direct asker-of-questions, I thought she might bring something interesting and new to the series. Having asked illustrators, designers and letterpress printers to come up with something, I thought might be interesting to work with someone could frame a question better than I can.   

Amy is the author of Tender Points, the curator of Mondo Bummer, an organizer of Sick Fest and is working on a new manuscript about rape. She developed the idea for this month's postcard--a seder plate with room for the recipient to tell their story through food. She also agreed to answer a few questions.

  • How would you introduce yourself? I'm a writer living in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco. A few years ago, I wrote a book of lyric nonfiction about chronic pain and sexual violence, and now I'm working on a novel about the ways we succeed and fail at supporting rape survivors. Sometimes people who ask me what I write about do not want to stick around and hear that answer! I described the novel to a guy at a wedding last year and he actually started retreating from me as I answered him, walking slowly, sideways back to the dance floor.
  • I know a little about Mondo Bummer--can you explain it for the people? Mondo Bummer is something between a poetry press and a mail art project. I started it when I was in grad school at University of Michigan. I really disliked the program's closed-minded approach to poetry, and I felt isolated there. So I started a poetry press that published work I thought was important, even if my grad program might have thought otherwise. The first 44 Mondo Bummer books were 5 pages or fewer of corner-stapled letter-size paper, folded in an envelope. That's the joke, it's a bummer, the production values are shitty. Then I made some traditional attractive-looking chapbooks because I got bored with the shitty aesthetic. It's been a wild ride. I'm taking a break from Mondo Bummer to focus on other projects but it will always be part of my life. 
  • Do you have a dedicated work space and if so what does it look like? Is it your ideal space or what would your ideal workspace look like? Like a cat, I gravitate towards sunny spaces and bring my laptop / projects there. My current workspace is in a room that doesn't get a lot of light, so I'm working on changing that. 
  • What is your writing practice like? Do you stick to a rigid daily schedule or something more flexible? I don't have a strict writing schedule, but it's something I'm moving towards. It feels more helpful to have a regular writing practice for a novel versus something shorter / more fragmented. I try not to let myself feel guilty for not writing "enough." So much of the work of writing is thinking... talking... living. 
  • Your book Tender Points is about trauma, sexual violence and illness.  I know you have toured and been invited to read from it around the country (and in Lithuania?!)--how do you prepare to discuss personal trauma over and over with strangers? I'm so excited to give a workshop at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius this summer! I need to check with them about logistics. I think the "over and over" is the key. The more I talk about this difficult-to-talk-about stuff, the more comfortable I feel with it, the more distance I gain from the immediacy of the material. I'm starting that process over with the new book; now it's my turn to deal with how painful it is to write about the ways we let each other down after rape, which is a whole other area of trauma. And finally I'll say that it feels better to talk about this stuff than NOT to talk about it. As painful as it is, I think it's good to start the conversation. 
  • As a kid I read a lot, though thinking about it, I read the same books over and over. Now I listen to a lot of audiobooks--sometimes the same one over and over.  One year the only books I read was Tender Points and Dune. Do you have any recommendations for a lapsed reader like myself? Yes! Jenn Pelly's 33 1/3 book about The Raincoats' self-titled album (very inspiring look into an ardently feminist punk band that did things their own weird way, by consensus, with passion and sincerity). Lucia Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women (some of the most beautiful, funny, sad short stories I've read, in a very distinct conversational voice). Myriam Gurba's Mean (lively lyric memoir that does a beautiful job talking about rape and its aftermath, among other things). And Andrea Lawlor's Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (a gender-fluid romp through queer subcultures of the '90s, furnished with spot-on period details).

Amy Berkowitz developed the concept and wrote the text for Keep Writing number 106, in your mailbox now if you are a subscriber. (if you are missing out, subscribe here)   .  You can find links to some of her writing and more information about Tender Points at  amyberko.com.  

 Keep Writing number 106 sent February 2018. words and concept by Amy Berkowitz. Plate illustration and design by Hope Amico/gutwrench press

Keep Writing number 106 sent February 2018. words and concept by Amy Berkowitz. Plate illustration and design by Hope Amico/gutwrench press

Sharing a Meal With Folks (guest post by Tara Hill) by Hope A

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a note from Hope: Keep Writing number 105 was sent in January 2018 and asked you to recall a meal you enjoyed with others.  It was a collaboration between gutwrench press and Tara Hill, a UK artist who wrote this post sharing her story behind this idea. For the collaboration, Tara sent illustrations and a prompt and I designed and printed the final card. Tara lives in Nottingham, England but you don't have to go far to see examples of her illustrations--visit tfhtfh.tumblr.com for prints, posters and fabric designs and to buy prints of her work.

ps if you want to receive letterpress cards like this every month, sign up for the Keep Writing postcard project! 

now from Tara:

The reason I chose this subject came from a time when I was feeling depressed, powerless and like I’d really lost my moorings. I wanted to help myself but didn’t know how I could as it felt all encompassing. I didn’t feel equal to much of anything life was throwing at me and as much as I grasped, I couldn’t think of a neat ‘answer’ to it all - something that would solve all of my problems and would allow me to move on with my life. I wanted something big and dramatic that would sort everything out but a. I couldn’t work out what that was and b. I doubt I would have felt up to it if this magic solution had presented itself. I needed to do something, so decided to start small. I hadn’t been looking after myself. In my depressed state I didn’t value myself enough to care for myself and was preoccupied with feeling terrible. I was eating badly and mechanically. I had also been on some medication that had made me unable to eat properly and made me feel physically unwell and lose quite a bit of weight. I decided I needed to sort out my physical wellbeing before I would be able to start working on my mental wellbeing, so I started buying myself nice, fresh food and thinking about what my body needed to stay healthy. I looked through my recipe books and focussed on cooking nice, tasty food that I’d look forward to eating, that was healthy and would give me more energy to help me cope with an emotional state that was very draining. I cooked for my housemates and anyone who came round too. It felt nice to take the time to prepare food and then sit and share it with other people. It was social and it was uncomplicated. When I eat on my own I often eat too quickly and I often want to read something or watch something which means that I don’t notice what I’m eating. Eating with other people slowed me down and let me just enjoy the time at hand as well as being a great way to socialise and enjoy other people’s company.

To start with, it was a conscious survival technique, to help me to be able to cope with things I was struggling with emotionally. However, after a while it stopped being just a coping mechanism and became a really joyful and natural part of my life. It got me into a sort of habit of finding joy in all sorts of every day things, even just riding my bike to work along the canal and enjoying all of the sights, sounds and feelings along the way. I can’t say all my problems were solved as a result of eating better and eating with other people by any stretch but I feel in a much better position to deal with life than I was before. Feeding and nourishing myself helped me to value myself again and to slowly (slowly is important- this has been a long process and not a quick fix) find my moorings again. Eating and preparing food with others helps me get out of myself for a time, which is something that I have found invaluable for overcoming depression. It’s also enjoyable, enriching and helps me to feel connected to other people and the world, that can often feel alienating and scary.

I realise how lucky I am that I can afford nice food, have somewhere to cook it, friends to eat it with and the time to prepare it. I also enjoy cooking, which I know some people don’t. I want to stress that it’s more about taking the time out, paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.  I know it’s difficult to do this but even a small thing in a day can be good.  It doesn’t have to be some huge, expensive banquet that takes hours to prepare and makes you feel more stressed. Having a tea break and offering to make someone else a cup and then sitting down to drink it together can be enough. In the morning, if I’m on my own I like to feed the cats at the same time as I eat my breakfast. Then, we’re all eating together and it feels like more of an event than mechanically stuffing fuel into myself before going out. Getting that little bit of joy and calmness wherever I can makes me feel so much more connected to the world and this feels invaluable.

A meal I remember

I went round to a friend’s house one weeknight as I hadn’t seen her for a while and she had plans to leave for another city in the near future. It was summer and we decided to have a BBQ in her garden on a little disposable BBQ left over from a party. We improvised with stuff we already had in that needed using up- I brought round a load of broad beans that I had a glut of from my garden and then a bunch of veg that was on it’s way out. She had a load of veg too and we got it all out and prepared it together, deciding what we’d do with each thing as we went along. I love doing this as it feels creative and it’s so nice to share ideas with someone else about how to prepare things (even if you disagree). Also it cost us next to nothing but we ended up preparing a banquet just for the 2 of us, all out of stuff that might otherwise have ended up getting thrown away. We went outside and put it on the BBQ, but we live in England so even at the height of summer it started chucking it down. We left the BBQ on the floor under a table and went and sat inside, watching it smoking through the rain, hoping our food would cook.  It was still balmy and light outside. We chatted while we waited for stuff to cook and picked at bits that didn’t need cooking. It was fun to dash out in the rain to get the cooked bits and then lay them out on the table. It took so long for dinner to be ready but in this time we had really interesting conversations about the world and things going on in our lives whilst working to make something together. We talked a lot about future plans and I felt inspired by all of her plans and how she was making them happen.  We also came up with a new snack by accident! We left some of the broad beans in their pods on the BBQ for too long and then when shelled, they came out all smokey and lovely. We put them in a bowl with some salt and they were delicious to pick at.

On it’s own, sharing this particular meal didn’t bring some sort of epiphany. It was a lovely evening with an interesting and inspiring pal but not some groundbreaking event. Its significance comes as being just what it was, a fairly normal event but one we took time out to do, rather than staying in because we felt like we didn’t have time or it was too much bother and just messaging each other instead.

 

Recipe

VEGAN NETTLE GNOCCHI

 

I made this one up after a pal invited me out for a walk, to go and pick some nettles with her at the very start of the summer, as she wanted to make some tea. It was a bloody lovely afternoon and I think of it when I make this recipe. This is also a great one to prepare with someone else. It’s a bit fiddly to do at the end so you can work as a team, have nice chats and get it done more quickly.

Ingredients:

 

  • 3 large handfuls of nettles (leaves only- be sure to pick early in the season when they’re young and tender)
  • 1 large baking potato
  • ½ cup soya milk (or any other milk substitute. Water might actually work too, give it a go)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar (or lemon juice, whatever you have to hand. I reckon white wine vinegar would work too)
  • Salt to taste
  • About 300g plain white flour. Have quite a bit more to hand though, just in case. Flour measurements for this sort of thing can never really be accurate as there are so many variables- the exact size of the potato, the exact amount of nettle leaves, even the ambient humidity of the room can affect the amount of flour needed. So maybe have about 500g available to you, just in case. You can use wholemeal flour but it makes them a lot heavier.

 

Method:

  • Bake the potato in the oven for a good hour or so. It needs to be soft and fluffy inside and then you need to let it cool. (Tip- have baked potatoes for dinner the night before and just bake an extra one and put it in the fridge until you need it). Once the potato is baked and is cooling get started with the other bits.
  • Boil the nettles for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Put the nettles in a food processor with the soya milk, the oil, the vinegar/ lemon juice and salt and then blitz until smooth. If you haven’t got a food processor you could just chop the nettles up really finely and then mix then things together yourself.
  • Scoop the potato out of its skin and evenly combine them with the nettle mixture in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the flour slowly until it forms a dough that is soft and springy but not sticky
  • This is the stage where it’s best to recruit a pal. Put some flour on a work surface. Split the dough into tennis ball sized pieces and then roll them into long sausages. Chop the sausages into pieces about 2 inches by 2 inches and then roll each piece in your palms into a little ball. Put them to one side on a floured plate but try to make sure they don’t touch each other if possible. Get someone to help you here as it can take a while and be a bit repetitive!
  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil then reduce it to a simmer. Put the gnocchi you have made in and leave them until they rise to the top of the water. This should take about 5 minutes. Drain and serve!
  • I think these are nice served with olive oil, fried garlic, lemon zest, chilli flakes and spinach. Or you can just leave the lemon zest, chilli and spinach out and just add salt and pepper. Try using spinach in place of nettles outside of nettle season.
 image from Ta

image from Ta

top ten steps of 2017 (guest post by roberta massuch) by Hope A

a note from Hope--Roberta Massuch is a ceramic artist living in Philadelphia whose drawings and studies stand on their own. She agreed to collaborate on Keep Writing number 104, sent this December. She offered a drawing and a question and trusted me to do the rest. The result of the collaboration will be shared here soon but for now enjoy her end of the year list.  And definitely check out her work at www.robertamassuch.com.

Now from Roberta:

this year has been a major one - full of ups and downs both in and out of the studio. some large, noticeable... almost audibly so. and some have been softer, more gradual... imperceptible to most. 

but all steps to or towards something.

so here they are in pictures - of studio and life from this year.

expose/embrace/expect//Meet Lynda Sherman of Bremelo Press by Hope A

 a peek at Keep Writing number 103, designed and printed by Bremelo Press

a peek at Keep Writing number 103, designed and printed by Bremelo Press

When I decided to try a year of collaborative postcards, I thought about friends I knew who might be interested--writers, artists, printers. I also thought of a few people whose work I admired and thought make an interesting collaboration for a Keep Writing postcard.  A subscriber of the project has been sending me cards and notes written on bits from Bremelo Press for years. I carried a "don't forget to floss" note to Milan with me when I studied there. I wrote to Lynda Sherman, explained who I am, what the project is and asked if she wanted to participate. She responded with a resounding YES and all future correspondence with her was delightful, inspiring and to the point. She designed and printed Keep Writing number 103, mailed in November 2017. All I did was trim it, fold it and mail it. It was a pleasure to work with her and after all that she agreed to answer some questions about why she participated. 

All photos were borrowed from her website and instagram which I strongly suggest following. 

How would you liked to be introduced?
I would like to be introduced as your letterpress friend.


What was your path to letterpress printing?
I was lucky to be introduced to letterpress printing in the mid 1990ies by Esther K Smith and
Dikko Faust at Purgatory Pie Press in New York City. Ester is a wonderful designer and artist
who has published many books. Dikko is still the best printer I have ever met.


What are your work habits like?
I work alone, with collaborators, silently, with loud music, on a schedule, even when the muse
doesn’t join me. I reserve one day a week as Pajama Day.


The name of your press Bremelo refers to one from Bremerton, is that right?
How does your geography fit into your work?

A “Bremelo” is a Washington State colloquialism for a woman from Bremerton: a combination
of Bremertonian and buffalo. The burning memory of “Bremelo” being hurled at me from a car
window at the age of 11 inspired me to adopt Bremelo and claim its use for the press. My home
town is a salt water port city and I have found it important to live where one can tell time by the
tides.


Why did you agree to collaborate with me?
We work in different environments but both are connected to tidal land. I am interested in the
push and pull that connects us to each other and to our earth.


Did you have any technical difficulty printing this card, as you were doing all the brain storming,
designing, and printing while following my lengthy notes then sending it to me to be die cut,
folded, and mailed?

The technical difficulty took effort; however, the design flowed freely. My intention is secondary
to your response. I am willing to listen and have each of us hear the other.


I usually like to give a little back story about where the idea for the card came from. What is the
origin of this card for you?

In a previous collaborative experience we asked each other to reflect on our individual
superpower. I responded....Listening. Our personal narratives and the stories we tell each other
resonate and tie us together. Time and tide.


What is your go-to karaoke song?
My favorite karaoke bar is The Crescent in Seattle where I love to hear my friends sing their
favorite Fleetwood Mac songs.


Did you ever eat at the Globe Cafe, especially before it was renovated?
Yes, but only once. I was a Belltown Cyclopes eater when it was on Western and had a view of Elliott Bay, where one of the original owners of the Globe Cafe worked.


Thank you again for having me collaborate with you on Keep Writing!

see more from Bremelo Press at www.bremelopress.com . now to figure out how to visit Seattle

the birds of south louisiana (as drawn by a UK native)--an interview with steve larder by Hope A

 Keep Writing number 101, illustrated by Steve Larder, designed and printed by gutwrench press September 2017

Keep Writing number 101, illustrated by Steve Larder, designed and printed by gutwrench press September 2017

Months ago, I was writing with a friend and asked him if he might want to illustrated some postcards for me. I had been doing a bit of bird-watching in Louisiana and I wanted to be able to share what I was seeing. I'm not much of an illustrator but I like Steve Larder's style. He was willing way before I came up with the scheme to collaborate every month for a year. That is how Steve Larder became the first collaborator in the current Keep Writing series.  Keep Writing number 101 was sent mid-September 2017 and included one of 4 illustrations he sent me. All four are available as postcards in my shop.  This month's card also included a letterpress printed box to hold your collection of cards. 

After all that Steve also consented to answer a few questions.  Read on!

 

Introduce yourself!  Who are you, where are you and what do you do?

My name is Steve, I live in Nottingham, UK and i'm an illustrator/comic and zine-drawerererer.

Describe your workspace--do you have a studio, or space in your home dedicated to drawing?

My workspace is generally the spare room of wherever i'm currently living - I would love to have a studio that requires me to actually leave the house but financial constraints and general lack of motivation to actually get that ball rolling keep me inside all day, ha!  At the very least I have to keep the 'drawing' room separate and distraction free from the goings on around a house, I can't focus, otherwise.

 the four cards together, printed on french modtone patterned paper.

the four cards together, printed on french modtone patterned paper.

What is your experience drawing for letterpress ? Are you familiar with the process or blindly trusting me to print your illustrations?

I guess I did blindly trust you, ha!  I'm familiar with your letterpress work and it always looks great so was definitely happy for you to take the reigns on this.  It's my first letterpress print but I definitely want to do more - I suppose the challenge was adapting my work to fit the scale and line production of the letterpress process.

In your zines I see 2 general types of drawing--quick loose sketches and detailed drawings. What is your process for deciding what subjects require more time and detail? Are your more detailed drawings done live or with reference materials?

I love drawing really detailed scenes (usually from reference), but I'm also just into being a complete goof - for ages I couldn't decide on which to focus on with my auto-biographical comic-zine, 'Rum lad' - so in the end I just decided to find a balance between the two styles.  I usually choose the 'illustrative' style to set a particular mood or scene, while the 'comic' style is used to display dialogue between people or to keep a narrative flow.  Ha, I've ended up describing that in a really over-the top clinical way - the reality is usually me thinking of something daft and drawing it loosely on the spot 

 cover of rum lad #9

cover of rum lad #9

Is your day-job art related? I've noticed more friends being able to find a way to integrate their skills from creative work (music, art, zines) into the work they do to earn money. Have you noticed this? Is this something you can relate to? I am curious how people who have spent years living on the fringes of an economic system by choice change as we get older. 

My day-job is working in a university art-shop, so 'art' related in a literal way but not in practice.  It can be a really exciting place to work - seeing new generations of students come up with some interesting work, and I have some ace work-mates.  I've also hosted occasional workshops using skills i've learned through zine-culture, such as the general production, through to distribution and introduction to things like zine-fests, collaborations, all the self-publishing challenges a seasoned zine-maker is likely to encounter.  I would definitely like to do more of this!  I know quite a few people who have honed their skills in DIY culture through the years and channeled it into day-jobs - I find it quite empowering and reassuring that these things I essentially do for my personal pleasure can be extended to pay the bills sometimes, ha!

Have you taught drawing before? What is the first lesson like? 

I haven't taught drawing, specifically - I think you can introduce people to some basic principles of drawing (ie - things to do with perspective, scale, etc), but even that seems arbitrary when a desired path and signature style of drawing is pursued.  At the most I'd argue the best way to teach is just introduce ideas and methods, and just general encouragement that there's no 'wrong' way to draw.  I have taught zine and comic workshops where I helped students think about how to represent a piece of text into a drawing, or scene - it was very challenging but I loved seeing how they interpreted ideas.

How are you at Pictionary? 

I really dislike having an audience when i'm drawing so I think i'd be terrible at it - However it's been a while since i've played so who knows?

Is there any other line of work you have considered?

Not really, I think I've always known that one way or another that I'd always be drawing or doing something vaguely creative.  

What is your go-to karaoke song?

I am definitely not a karaoke singer, haha.

Any closing thoughts?

I literally just received the finished product of our collaboration through the post and I am SO happy to be a part of this - they look amazing.  Thank you, Hope! 

 a portrait of my cat by steve, a birthday gift for andy g.

a portrait of my cat by steve, a birthday gift for andy g.

Thank you, Steve.

To see more of Steve's work, including issues of Rum Lad, check out his website--www.stevelarder.co.uk  

He also takes commissions for custom portraits of pets, if you are looking for great gift idea--you can see his portrait of my cat above.

To receive monthly letterpress printed postcards, designed in collaboration with avariety of artists over the next year, sign up for a subscription to Keep Writing.  New subscribers will also receive a letterpress printed box to hold their collection, as supplies last.

 Steve selling prints at Nottingham Writers Studio. Photo by Tara Hill

Steve selling prints at Nottingham Writers Studio. Photo by Tara Hill

collaboration station (what the heck is the keep writing project?) by Hope A

I have had penpals since I was 10. By the time I was 18, I thought it was normal to have friends I knew only through the mail and would travel great distances to meet them.  (This is so far before social media normalized treating strangers as confidants...)  When I was 31 and starting college, I wanted to stay in touch with my friends while at school. So I started a project, asking $1 for a subscription for the first 2 months, and wrote a mailing list. I sent  postcards I designed in computer classes and soon began typesetting and letterpress printing them.  In the second year, I asked friends to collaborate with me. (you can see the results in the archive here ) By the 3rd year, I redesigned the postcards to be a two-part folded card--one side was a postcard designed for the recipient to keep, and one side was to be mailed back to me, with question or prompt for response.  In December 2011, I had a showing of the cards and responses. I worried people would feel to shy or self-conscious in an art show setting to read through a basket of my mail. But within the first hour, people were sitting on the floor, reading and sharing the variety of responses I receive for each question. 

Since then, the format has remained mostly the same with the occasional exception--some months I send just a single postcard, no question, just a moment to enjoy.   

This past July I sent my 100th postcard. Some months have been more experimental in form and some months were experimental in numbering (see if you can find the 2 with the same number). It seemed like a good time for a shift in perspective. I asked 13 people--artists, writers, printers, penpals--if they would collaborate with me on a postcard one month each. Some have ideas for themes or questions, some are sending drawings for me to print and a few extra brave letterpress printers are willing to interpret my mountain of notes, emails and templates to print the whole thing themselves.

At the end of the 13 months, we will be nearing our 10 year anniversary.  Which seems like a good time to have a party. November 2018, plan on coming to New Orleans to read postcard responses, eat cake and have a drink with us. The location is tbd. This is the 3rd time we have shared the postcards and responses--once in Baton Rouge and once in Oakland--but the 1st time for New Orleans. Please join us.

So, if you have been putting off subscribing, now is the time. The first of the collaboration cards will go out in mid-September, with a small gift to help keep your cards safe so you can show them off to your friends. Or better yet, you can gift them a subscription.

It had meant a lot to me to be able to keep in touch with so many pen pals this way, to reconnect with old friends, to meet others and to hear a little from their lives. This kind of correspondence has allowed me to ask questions, request advice and build bonds.  It seems like just a letter writing project, but it has meant so much more to me.

If you still have questions, you can check out this FAQ page, or contact me gutwrenchpress@gmail.com.

 

Thanks. And keep writing.

an introduction by Hope A

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My friend Bear gives great introductions. Whenever I meet one of their friends, they introduce me with bits of what I do now, a little bit of where I live and have lived--so much more than my name and relationship to Bear but a briefing about why maybe we should get to know each other. For a variety of reasons, it was once difficult for me to be open to meeting new people. Bear knows that and gives us a chance and a reason to be more open, more willing. 

Bear also used to have a business card with their name on the front and, on the back, a list of all the jobs they were willing and able to take on. We all have a variety of identities. Sometimes we favor one roll over another. Or we quiet part of our identity at work, with our families, in public. Sometimes because we are afraid, or feel unsafe. There are real threats to queer, trans, black, brown, muslim people in this country. Some of us may never feel that. Or we can hide those parts of ourselves that would make us feel vulnerable and pass as white, straight, Christian. The challenge for those of us who want to support communities that are threatened, is that it is easier to not say anything--being a witness, engaging with people who look like us about people who don't, in a caring productive way takes patience, and a willingness to be vulnerable and open.  We can feel like we don't know enough or that we should let someone else speak. I think, in light of the urgency of the times, that time has passed. We must engage. 

One way to start is to let our differences show. To share different opinions. To listen. I look like a straight white lady who makes greeting cards. I am not straight--I do have a long-term male partner but he is not the only kind of person I can love.*  I never came out because I didn't have to. Because I didn't really tell my parents a lot of things. Because I come from the privileged position of it not really affecting my job, my housing, my public life. I've never wanted to marry. I still cried when the Supreme Court made marriage legal for non-heterosexual couples.** But my trans friends still struggle. And are attacked, killed, harrassed. 

I lived in Seattle during the WTO protests, on 9/11  and I remember the protests during the invasion of Iraq. Whatever you think about conservatism and liberalism, tea party or anarchist,  what is happening right now is different. It feels different. The fear is real. The struggle is real. My dad tried to tell me once that everything was better before people started making a big deal out of things. I think he was trying to tell me that everything was better before people started fighting for equal rights, to be treated with the same respect and protection as any other person. But I turned it, and asked him if he meant that everything was better before people started making a big deal out of people demanding equal rights. That the backlash to the North Carolina bathroom law isn't about special treatment. It is about being seen as human, as the same.

The political atmosphere feels different and while I want to keep making postcards that help people stay in touch, I want to facilitate dialog too.  If you are a new subscriber, welcome. There is some basic information about this project here.  I usually keep my beliefs a little more subdued, but I think this is important. So, know that when you buy from me it may indirectly (or directly) support equal rights, protection and health for all people--immigrant, lgbtq, latinx, black, brown, muslim, women and any combination of.   My introduction, is hello, my name is Hope. I am a queer white woman working towards dismantling racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia in myself, in my community, and beyond. I make mistakes. I am always learning. I will not be silent.*** 

*to be honest, a friend once described my sexuality as "boy crazy" and that seemed most accurate for my late 20's so I understand why I am seen as straight. plus my 8 year hetero-monogamous relationship

**Bear and I also cried on election night 2008 ..."It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states..."

***I can't say most of this out loud without crying. I am not sure why. It makes discussion difficult. But I am working on it.

For the first 100 days of the 45th Presidency, I am donating all money raised from selling subscriptions to the Keep Writing Project. In January, I donated $802 to the New Orleans Abortion Fund. Through the end of March, I am raising money for Youth BreakOUT, an organization that empowers queer and trans youth in New Orleans. So far I have raised over $300. If you want to subscribe, renew or give a subscription to a friend as a gift, you can sign up here.  Feel free to contact me with questions.