2018 started steady and headed into full on simeotaneous ups and downs. Here’s a short list of what helps me maintain footing as the year ebbs.
2018 started steady and headed into full on simeotaneous ups and downs. Here’s a short list of what helps me maintain footing as the year ebbs.
It’s happening! Keep Writing is turning 10 and we are having a party to celebrate! Cake, my favorite winter drink, music from Melissa Guion, flowers from Pistil + Stamen. Let’s have drinks and talk in person!
There will be postcards from the past 10 years on display, including responses, so you can sift through and read my mail. All 1200 responses to the Summer Census will be on the walls and the results will be written up in a zine—Where You From #6.
So come be social with letter writing introverts! The postcards will be up all month in the gallery, open Monday -Friday 9-4 if you can’t make it to the celebration. See you there!
Stay in touch—follow the facebook event!
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.
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.
Officially we were going to start in July but the summer camps are happening and I wanted to visit as many as I could, so we spent 10 days hopping around from the Country Day Creative Arts Camp to Community Works sites in New Orleans East, Algiers Point, Broadmoor, and then to the Uptown Library, the Co-op AND we spent a hot hot day at Pagoda then Glitterbox before going home and taking a nap.
Did I mention we were also at the ALA (American Librarian Association) Conference in the Exhibit Hall sharing all the zines with the best nerds.The Conference itself was 4 days long, and I was there for 3 of them, talking to librarians, talking to zinesters and listening to Michelle Obama talk about her upcoming book.
it is worth dumping everything off my bike once or twice and using a much smaller table to not have to park my car. On Saturday, while lots of people were marching in the streets (yay for showing up and staying loud!) I rode between MidCity and the French Quarter handing out postcards.
many people assume that if they tell you their email address, you will put them on a mailing list. I was extra cautious about privacy and most people so far have not been concerned. every once in a while someone does not want to participate because they assume I will have their name and birthplace and I will share it with the world. I will not.
I am more outgoing than I used to me. But talking to people for many days in a row is still tiring.
handing out 5000 postcards might be mathmatically impossible. Stay tuned for solutions to that problem.
Meanwhile, keep in touch. I will be out on the 4th of July talking to my neighbors and then a bunch more events are planned--check here for the latest list of events.
In February, we had multiple houseguests, our floor was littered with fallen glitter from so many costume changes for different Mardi Gras celebrations. I worked at the studio, trying to finish up projects before they were forgotten in the carnival buzz and as I was leaving the shop, Bob strongly suggested again that I apply for a Platforms grant.
I took the information home and, one rainy day, while we recovered between parades, I wrote the first grant I've even written where I felt like I had a solid idea of what I wanted to do.
I'm not saying that glitter and a deadlne makes a good grant application because I doubt it does. I think this idea has been brewing inside me and seems like the next logical step.
The Platforms Fund is a collaborative re-granting effort of Antenna, Ashé Cultural Arts Center and Pelican Bomb with support by the Andy Warhol Foundation. Every year they award $65,000 in grants to a number of community based projects in New Orleans. I am one of many funded projects this year.
The June issue of Keep Writing, number 110, will be a mini-census for the city of New Orleans.
Since I moved here in 2002, summers in New Orleans have changed. It used to be the low season for tourists. Anyone who could leave, would. It was quiet. If you stuck around, it was great. The usual bustle was tampered by heat and you made friends with whoever was left in town. But not everyone can leave. And the tourist based economy thrives on constant influx of outsiders.
I will bring these cards with me as I sit at the library, the playground, at summer camps, at the neighborhood bar and wherever anyone will have me. I want to talk to you about why you are here, how you got here, if you will ever leave. Let's talk about home and home towns, about the changes in this city.
If you have a porch on a busy street, can I come and sit and talk to you and your neighbors? Are you a teacher at a summer camp who wants a guest artist-speaker? I am looking for public spaces with a variety of people to interact with to get a good sample of who is here. Get in touch. I am reaching out to my friends, peers and co-workers but maybe you know someone I don't .
If you are a subscriber you will receive your card as usual. If you are a resident, you can follow me on instagram @gutwrenchpress, and use the hashtag #summercensus to see where I'll be!
In November, in time for the NOCAZ, I will release a new issue of Where You From? documenting the data I have collected.
Stay tuned for lots more news about this!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.