OLF envy!

This morning the announcement of the Oregon Literary Fellowships (and the Oregon Book Awards) came across my RSS reader. I was happy to see that Bedouin Books got a fellowship! It’s the small press run by Michael D’Alessandro, who taught the production part of the certificate program I did at the IPRC. I loved hearing about his press when he talked about it in class. Everything about it–how he thought about production costs and pricing, how he structured deals with his authors, all the experiments he tried–everything fit with his statement that this was a 25-year project. (Which honestly from most people would sound like BS.) In the letterpress studio all his motions were calm and reverent, and he articulated all the details of what he did, from getting the ink out of the jar with a minimum disruption of the surface area to folding the cleaning rag so it made 16 distinct clean surfaces. I’m pretty sure the $2500 fellowship will be put to optimum use. :)

I was sad that I hadn’t applied for a fiction fellowship this time around. It’s free, and the judges are distinguished (and different every year, so it doesn’t matter how often you’ve tried before). It’s exciting to be in the race. I didn’t have anything I felt good about putting forward last summer, but I really want to try again in June.

happy bits of writing news

A few sweet things have happened in my writing life lately:

  1. I got a call from the director of Write Around Portland, asking for permission to reprint the first piece I ever published in a WRAP anthology, back in 1999! It will be in an academic book about writing and community. I read my piece over and did not cringe. I wouldn’t write that way now–too much of the Cryptic Yet Meaningful–but it’s not horrible. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about early writings. Partly because my bus book is Henry James’ The Ambassadors, and it is so very different from my beloved Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians. Partly because I am painfully aware how much less open I feel writing on the internet now than in the early days of my LiveJournal. I don’t think it’s only me. And partly because I’m reading Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father and it seems so, so candid! I can’t imagine someone writing it while knowing a Presidential campaign might be in the cards. And he didn’t know. Yet…he was a U.S. senator-elect when it was published, far more prominent than I expect ever to be. It makes me want to have the courage to be more open.
  2. I emailed my former workshop instructor at the IPRC and he wrote me back to say my stories had really stuck with him! There is little that could make me happier to hear than that.
  3. I got a rejection from One Story for “Non-Nutritive Boyfriend.” Granted, this is not as sweet as getting an acceptance, but it means I can proceed with assembling the chapbook edition and putting it up for sale. One sub-project I’m psyched about is making a light box for product photography.

In non-writing news, I walked through the western rose garden in Ladd’s Addition this morning and was swept off my feet by a hybrid tea called Voodoo. I don’t usually like coral-colored roses–they make me think of lipstick–but this one was gorgeous and smelled sweet and complex. Fragrant roses get harder to find in September.

Graduation and Goalball


Last week, and most of the week before that, I poured all my time into my final project for the IPRC Certificate program. I finished the revisions to my story last weekend, working all day both days; then every day after work I went to the university computer lab and laid out the InDesign files for text block and cover. Several days I stayed until the lab closed at nine. I was so tired after putting in three to five hours of extra work every day. Remind me to always work part time if possible!

I’m not sure if it’s just how I am, or the nature of the chapbook-making process, or a function of this particular project, but everything seemed riddled with errors. Files did not get saved where I thought I’d saved them (though I found them all in the end), the margins and page numbers ended up inconsistent after I did the impositions for the large folded signatures, a couple of the fold-and-cut guidelines I printed on the inside of the cover turned out to be wrong, et cetera. I had a last-minute endpaper change after my waxed paper idea did not work out. An hour before deadline I was at the IPRC, trying to finesse the stack cutter and in the process ruining a few of the copies I had lovingly sewn and glued. But I made it and turned in my two copies, phew! And I have plenty of materials to make more when I’ve had a little rest.

Graduation was yesterday, at a dance studio on Belmont. My run of errors continued and I was late, after walking a half mile to the bus stop and realizing while I stood there that I had no money or bus pass and had to walk home and back to the bus stop again. Sheesh. At least it was a sunny, pretty day.

It was on the warm side in the studio, and everyone had to take their shoes off, and some people dressed up, and we sat in folding chairs on wooden risers, so it all had a charming high-school sock hop feel to it. It was good to see my classmates again after working independently for a couple of months. People asked to see my chapbook and said appropriate things like, “What font is that?” and “I can’t see the ends of the thread from the final knot in your binding at all!”

So now I am fledged and certified in the writing and independent publishing of fiction and nonfiction! I appreciate a lot of things about the program. The writing workshop was good while it lasted, though I was sorry to see it fall by the wayside during production term. I got to see enough of letterpress and screenprinting to appreciate the art forms, and to know that I’m more of a digital girl. I got acquainted with InDesign and basic hand-binding. E-books were completely foreign to me before, and now I feel I could format my work for Kindle or other e-readers. And, as Justin the director pointed out at graduation, we don’t have to all move away and leave school–we can keep on cranking out our work at the IPRC for years.

(But first I have to draft a story for Ken’s Fan Club on Tuesday.)


Last Saturday when I was in revision hell with my final-project story, I broke away to go to volunteer training at the university. I learned the basics of being a line judge for goalball, and today I volunteered at the regional tournament finals.

It was exactly what I needed as a counterpoint to my obsessive chapbook-making– a completely unfamiliar sport, the necessity of paying attention and hustling (the clock doesn’t always stop while I’m dealing with the ball), and being around people in a way that is not too much about me. And the games today were exciting!

Short description of the game:

Three players to a team, wearing eyeshades to block all vision, on a court about the size you’d see for volleyball, but with no net and with a goal that stretches across the entire back line. Court markings are laid out in tape with cord underneath, so the players can feel where they are. The ball is basketball-sized, kind of hard and heavy, with jingly bells inside. The teams throw the ball, low (it has to bounce before a certain line on the court, and the goal is only about four feet tall), trying to make goals, while the defensive players dive, stretch out, and otherwise try to block. A lot of the players, especially the men, do a twirling discus-type throw that produces a lot of velocity and spin. Scores tend to be in the three-to-eight point range, higher than soccer but not much.

And a Paralympics photo that shows the court and defensive positions:

There were six matches this morning, and my feet were very tired by the end from all the standing and shifting and running. But totally worth it.

printing update

Now I have been to both class and open hours for both letterpress and screenprinting! I was really nervous both times to go to open hours, where I would have to try to remember what we learned and do it myself with minimal supervision. But I’m glad I went. If possible, I’m going to keep alternating letterpress and screenprinting practice on Sunday afternoons through the rest of the term. At least until my final project takes over and dictates what I need to work on.

At letterpress open hours, I finished off my six-word memoir, printing it onto scrap cards a little smaller than index cards. I’m using them for notes and…lists. :) I know no competent letterpress person would be happy with their quality, but I was proud that I went through the process, period! And I think I know what would have helped that fade-out at the bottom: masking tape on the rails so the rollers get up and over just a little sooner and don’t “wipe” the bottom of the type. Next time I’ll be more exacting.

As for screenprinting, it was (heh) a wash today. Another student and I coated our screens with emulsifier, exposed our images on the light table, and then….everything washed out in the shower. No image. We think that either there was no photosensitive stuff mixed into the emulsifier or it was too old and didn’t work. Our instructor, who was there cleaning a letterpress, was very apologetic and said they’d get the supplies straightened out by next week. My goal was just to go there and see what happened, so no worries. Here’s what I printed in class a few weeks ago, an illustration by Elizabeth Enright from The Sea Is All Around:

It was cool to meet someone from the Tuesday class today, and talk about our final projects a little. Tomorrow my class continues working in InDesign, and soon we’ll get to binding. I really must get my revisions done!

Everything’s better in letterpress…I hope

Tonight is my first letterpress class! We’re supposed to bring in a six-word story or memoir to practice with. I’ve been jotting over the week, but didn’t come up with anything I was really in love with. Here’s part of the list:

  • liberal arts major, liberal, minor artist.
  • She looks around while she drifts.
  • work, then live. wait, what happened?
  • we have to talk, she said
  • why do you read those storybooks?
  • excellent student becomes a crappy secretary
  • well, I can read books. yup.
  • sheltered white girl reads a lot.
  • Married at 23, not repenting yet.
  • Perpetual student of life. Middling grades.
  • making lists, then throwing them away
  • fantasy dog was better. oh well.
  • I’ll let you know what comes of it!

IPRC Part Two

It was cool to see my classmates at the IPRC again last night. I think I beamed at everyone. One of the hopes of this program is that it will hook us all into the Portland literary scene, which of course includes each other: I like this aspect, but I sort of wish it could do something to make me more social in the first place. I’ve gotten really fond of the people I’ve met, but I still seldom go out after class– only partly because it’s usually ten at night. What is the balance between working in solitude and connecting for inspiration and collaboration? I get the feeling that a small press is not something to run by yourself, and maybe neither is a writing life.

Anyway, the semester sounds fun. Letterpress at the IPRC, then screen printing at Em-space Book Arts down by the Springwater Trail. Classes in In-Design, E-Books, binding. I’m mostly worried I don’t have enough material to practice all this stuff on. But for letterpress, we’re just bringing in six-word memoirs to practice with. Six words by Monday, I think I can handle.

The Anti-IPRC. Oh, and ramen.

Sanguinity alerted me to this photo of the laminator and workspace for making signs at the Westboro Baptist Church. “They have their own IPRC!” she said. I’m obscurely pleased by the idea of an anti-IPRC out there. Competitive laminating. Makes me want to make some zines.

(I should say that although Mr. Fred Phelps himself creeps me out, the WBC does not bother me. I don’t fear the group, and from my perspective it has served as training wheels for many, many embryonic activists who get outraged and can agree that being that mean to gays is a horrible thing. I am actually strangely fond of the WBC and wish the family well, though I am not sure what that looks like.)

On twitter today I mentioned that I like George Winston’s music, so maybe today is my day for unpopular opinions.

Sang and I split the last packet of our FuBonn ramen– Ve Wong Vegetarian Flavor. I didn’t have high expectations, so when I cut open the nondescript oil packet and found it was fragrant sesame oil, I perked up fast. The noodles were yellow and not too thick; the broth had seaweed scraps, my favorite. It also had carrot chunks, which make me think of Lipton Cup-a-Soup, and crumbs of fake-hamburger-style TVP, which Sang found gross. It’s not the One True Ramen, but the sesame and seaweed appealed to me enough that I’d include it in future assortments.

Today felt like a Friday, but tomorrow really is Friday. And the roof people expect to be done with our house tomorrow! I expect to be broke but happy.

Beyond Green Eggs and Ham

What’s a writer’s life without ramen? On a recent trip to FuBonn (the big Asian supermarket in my part of town), I hit the instant noodle aisle and bought one packet each of whatever caught my eye. I always tell myself I’ll find my One True Ramen that way and stock up next time I come in, but then I always fail to keep good records. I have this problem with unusual squash, melon, and citrus varieties, too. Blog and tags to the rescue!

Today I came in from a cold, sunny walk to the Reed canyon, peeled off several layers of clothing, and cooked up some green Korean ramen:

The color comes from green tea powder and chlorella, an algae, and is of course what caught my eye at FuBonn. I suspect these are sold as healthy food, as there is no MSG and no oil packet, just powder and dried vegetables. (But at over 1000 calories and 1600 mg of sodium, can anyone be pretending this is good for you?)

The veggies rehydrated to nice-sized seaweed scraps, which I love. The noodles kept both their shape and a pretty green tinge, and the flavor was a mellow blend of garlic, cuttlefish, and vegetables. I’ll definitely get this again next time I see it!

(photos from a recently retired ramen review blog)

Now to the evening’s writing work: I have seven days to get a story in shape for the IPRC student anthology, if I want to be in it. I feel like a one-trick pony with this story because it’s been my workshop piece, reading piece, mentor-review piece, et cetera ad nauseum. I suppose the remedy is to write something new, huh? But revisions need to happen sooner or later whether it goes to the anthology or not, so now I’m going to clean up my desk and set out all my notes and copies and start working, so I can come back to it all week.

Un-Still Life With Kleenex

I caught a cold over the weekend, and stayed home from work on Monday. It’s not bad as these things go, so I went to the IPRC for class in the evening. I was scheduled to talk for five minutes about a zine I like. Hmm. I had hoped to dig up an exquisite mini-size fiction zine like the late lamented Lunch Hour Stories, one story per issue, since we’re focusing on fiction and that’s the sort of thing I’d love to put out. But in the time-and-germ crunch I ended up going through my shelves and pulling down Beer Frame. Every writer needs to consider the origins and strangeness of everyday objects like the Brannock device, right? And think about marketing campaigns and slogans like “America’s Favorite Banana Milk”?

It was received politely. I have no idea what other people will bring in when it’s their turn. Fun! When I was scanning my shelves, I realized how many of my zines, even the big names, are now defunct and getting onto a decade or more old. Dishwasher. Zuzu and the Baby Catcher. Beer Frame, too– there were ten issues. (Now the author writes Uni Watch, a blog about sports uniforms. Go look if you want to know what comprehensive means.) Zines are supposedly ephemeral, but once they make it to someone’s collection, they stick around– because if you let them go, you may never see them again, Amazon/eBay or no.

I think I need to lay off the Nyquil. It used to make me delightfully sleepy when I had a cold and took it before bedtime TV, but this week I found myself playing Plants vs. Zombies on Sanguinity’s computer until one a.m. Then I slept on the couch until my alarm went off so I could catch a bus at 8:20. It’s been a long time since I was that groggy. It was REALLY HARD to make myself sit up, make coffee, find clothes. And yet, of course, I did it.

It made me wish I could bring that kind of will and discipline to writing. And kind of mad at myself that there’s just no way. I’ll do that to keep a job, I’ll do it if someone is counting on me. But if it were just for myself and writing, I’d have been sleeping. Could be rebellion, could be a short-term/long-term glitch in my brain…whatever. That’s how it is. SO, I need to make getting up for the job do double-duty, and sneak writing in on top of my workday. I’ve decided to make a habit of staying on campus until it’s time to catch the 5:10 bus, which will still get me home by six p.m. I’ll feel more free to do home stuff when I’m home, and when I’m working well I can do that thing I love of writing three times a day, with sessions before work, after work, and in the evening.

I tried it out today. It’s the first week of classes. I had done my usual thing of skimping on lunch because I was busy, so I went to get a bowl of glorified rice and beans by the MAX stop. I quickly realized two things: students order and pay one at a time, not in groups, and they all do it with credit cards. It’s like no one under 21 knows what cash is. It took forever. But then I got some good work done.

Also, last night while Sang was teaching I let myself play as much Plants vs. Zombies as I wanted (hours! set off my first cob cannons!), and then I deleted my account. Its thrall was starting to fade anyway, and it doesn’t fit with the writing. And now I have told you all and cannot go back.

My new diligence comes from this: KFC meeting next Wednesday, and I need to hand out my story to the IPRC class the following Monday, in zine form. So really, I need to write the story by the end of the weekend. Right now, it is a handful of tentative fragments.

And, my IPRC teacher emailed yesterday to say I’ve been assigned a mentor, and it’s Moe Bowstern, who writes a zine about working in commercial fishing in Alaska, and looks so incredibly cool. I so hope I have something worth working over with her by the time we meet in November! It is not that far away.

I am baffled about where running will fit into all this. I feel like I’ll have to adopt one of those “eight minutes a day” exercise plans. But I’ll let the germs clear out before I worry about it.

Happy October, everyone!

Meet and Greet at the IPRC

Last night was the first official event of the IPRC Certificate term– a meet and greet with readings by some of the instructors in the poetry, fiction/nonfiction, and comics tracks. (Aww, I typed “meet and great” by mistake!)

I had cleverly arranged to eat dinner with Sanguinity and LeBoyfriend just down the block at the Thai Peacock. I like that place! Dinner was a thank-you to LeB for caring for the dog and garden while Sang and I went to Colorado; Sang presented him with a small bag of garden tomatoes which had finally turned red just this week. (And it’s an early variety!)

After dinner I still had half an hour to kill at Powell’s before turning up at the IPRC. I cruised through the YA section, which was as always full of books I’ve been meaning to read (Gimme a Call and Will Grayson, Will Grayson among others) and wound up at the Nobel Prize for Literature shelf. Somewhere this week I ran across a blog that’s two people corresponding about reading Nobel authors. Like them, I have never or barely heard of most of the winners, and want to read more of their books. I’ll try to remember to check the Nobel list as I continue my Alphabet Reading project. (Up to O, as soon as I’m done with Speak, Memory and an E. Nesbit and The Time-Traveler’s Wife!)

Over at the IPRC when I got there, a card table was set up in the hall with a muslin bag for each of us students. The bag contained a nametag, paperwork about the certificate program and accompanying IPRC membership, and a perfect-bound journal made in-house by an IPRC intern! Sweet! A tour was just starting as I arrived, so I tagged along even though I think I’ve had two or three tours already at various times. Amy the volunteer had a pitch-perfect tour-guide air– not quite hauteur, but definitely guiding and presenting each room while dressed in vintage wool. There’s so much style at the IPRC. And not a cat-sweatshirt lady writer to be seen! You guys, I have a two-year membership there now. :)

I actually suck at meeting and greeting, so I had an awkward period of drifting around, trying the wheat-free Newman’s Oreologues, and holding up the wall. Judging from the nametags, poetry and comics tracks had the best turn-out, and since there are two fiction/nonfiction sections I still don’t know if I saw anyone who will be in my class on Mondays.

It was hot and muggy up there, but we all crowded into a room borrowed from the ILWU (union of the employees of Powell’s Books!) for the reading. B.T. Shaw read poetry– I especially liked a piece she said she’d read only once or twice before. It kept flipping perspectives from a family’s poppy garden, to the father (“Poppy”) and grandfather, to the act of writing about this (using the names of computer keys as commentary). She threw in some short funny poems, too.

Kevin Sampsell represented the fiction/nonfiction team. There is no Portland Hipster more venerable than Kevin Sampsell, and I say that with total admiration. (He runs the small press section at Powell’s as well as an indie press that’s having its 20th birthday this year.) He read from his memoir A Common Pornography— it made a splash in Willamette Week and so on when it came out earlier this year, but I hadn’t heard or read any excerpts yet. It’s good and I’m definitely going to get my hands on a copy and read it! He also read from a new novel MS, similar in format and tone to the memoir.

Shannon Wheeler read last–or rather, talked, and showed his sketchbooks and cartoons on a screen. He had just been to New Orleans with two dozen writers, artists, environmental journalists, and others to witness and document the Gulf oil spill. I could see how what he’d seen and what he had to say were just bursting out of him– he’s collaborating on a graphic novel, figuring it out as he goes. It was inspiring to see that passion, but also my chair was hard and it was almost 9:00, when I was supposed to meet Sang back at Powell’s for a ride home. I hope I’ll get to hear him again without the time crunch sometime. He’s getting cartooons into the New Yorker, which he says likes to get TEN CARTOONS A WEEK from contributors so they can really work with the cartoonists and develop a stable of regulars. Man, that must be a lot of work.

It was a long day, but I left looking forward to workshop this afternoon. I rode home with Sang and she let me unwind with a little Plants vs. Zombies on her computer while she knitted a hat for our neighbor’s baby shower this afternoon. Now I’m going for a run– nice not to have to get in in early before the heat anymore!–and before I know it will climb on a bus to head for the IPRC again.