inspiration

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

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

I Am Not From Here by Hope A

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Looking down at my table at the St. Louis Small Press Expo , I realized I had a lot to say about Louisiana, where I have lived for a total of 11 years, and New Hampshire, where I grew up. But there was nothing about the 4 years I had just spent in California. 

I finished Where You From? #5 the night before I left for St. Louis. I literally brought to the copy shop 15 minutes before closing and they let me stay late. I drove back across town, go ice cream for dinner and then started folding. Along with this new zine, I had also finally restocked every zine I thought was worth sharing. My friend Kate showed up and at midnight, she was stuffing the riso printed maps in the back pocket of the zine.  We slept and in the morning I left for St. Louis.

Some where just over the Arkansas/Missouri line this happened:

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A thing that should remain firmly bolted to the engine block of my loved and tested truck was not bolted at all and was bopping around under the hood, sending very confusing signals to the engine.

After some internet scrolling, some advice to "get some gorilla glue and glue that sumabitch down" and then the most elaborate and effective use of zip ties I've ever seen, I rolled into an auto parts store 10 miles back in Arkansas and replaced the part.  

It seems filling actually that as I broke down en route to share a zine about commuting.  Also fitting that I fixed it and rolled on, arriving in St. Louis just in time to set up a table in a beautiful library and talk about zines all day.

Where You From ?#5 is about moving back to Louisiana, about feeling like you are going home, about making your way in a place with so much personal history. All in the guise of being about commuting. It includes a pull out 2 color map of the route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, complete with photographs of points of interest.  It is about birds, alternate roots, trying to be something you are not, and the ways we learn about a home. It is much more about why I moved back to Louisiana and much less about why I left California.

Spoiler: I am not a commuter any more. I tried. I take the truck for long drives and we still go to Baton Rouge about once or twice a month. I've never been much of a driver.

 the inside back cover and map

the inside back cover and map

Want to read more? You can get a copy of Where You From ?#5 right here  along with back issues 1-4 and a few issues of Keep Loving Keep Fighting.  

If you want to send me a story about your hometown for Where You From? #6 email me at gutwrenchpress@gmail.com ! A new issue will be put together by next summer

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.

research in south louisiana by Hope A

The weather is perfect right now. Spring. Not the spring that comes after a long winter but the one that comes before a long summer. In a month or two it will be too humid to wear jeans. After a few weeks  I will dress only to anticipate stickiness and overly air conditioned spaces.  But now, the sun is warm, the shade is cool, the breeze still offers relief and the nights are magic.  This is the time of year in South Louisiana that I get most excited, most restless.  The things I thought I should do no longer were working, the endless work was making me tired and irritable so I took to the road, with snacks and water, a camera and binoculars. I have a few projects coming up that I not realize I was working on as I drove slowly with the windows down, turning down side roads and stopping to take notes. Halfway through the day I realized that is exactly what I am doing. Here is a piece of what will come later.