The Great American Road Trip Part 1: Midwest

Somewhere in Missouri, en route to Tulsa

Somewhere in Missouri, en route to Tulsa

“Killerfemme, where have you been this summer?” “Where haven’t I been?” I think, at this point. I’ve spent the past three months visiting 17 states and 23 different cities on a book tour to connect with DIY and handmade business owners to promote my first book Grow: How to take your do it yourself project and passion to the next level and quit your job! Besides getting to meet rad creative people all over the country, I’m really grateful that Grow gave me a reason to travel to places I hadn’t been since 2002, the last time I took a cross country road trip, like Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. It also took me to places I’d never been before (and hope to go back to) like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska.

Art changes everything in Minneapolis and everywhere.

Art changes everything in Minneapolis and everywhere.

In front of Mickey's Dining Car in St. Paul, Minnesota

In front of Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul, Minnesota. Open 24 hours a day for nearly 70 years!

The lure of the open road has been immortalized in American literature and culture, with John Steinbeck to Jack Kerouac being some of the most prominent. Of course, as an angst ridden teenager I was deeply influenced by the later and wrote a whole faux road trip novel at age 15 having barely left Maine or and only visited New York City once. This summer I was really excited to set out in mid-July to “middle America,” or “fly over country” as it is so dismissively called by some ignorant coastal souls. This trip was hardly a drug-fueled whim like those of my beatnik brothers (are you kidding? I was driving! I hardly had a drink!), but a journey with the explicit purpose of promoting Grow. I wrote about what I learned about DIY and craft business on the Grow blog, but of course, one can’t work 24/7. So here I wanted to share some more personal images from the lovely places I visited.

Nice neon! Madison, Wisconsin

Nice neon! Madison, Wisconsin

One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to connect with friends I had met through publishing zines and the underground, punk community over a decade ago. Some of them I had figured I’d never see again, but instead, here they were, living full, beautiful, inspiring lives. For me, seeing these women again showed me why the concept of DIY has remained so compelling: when you are committed to making something, adding value to your community, and forging a genuine connection with other creatives, those relationships last.

Zine Grrrl reunion at Quimby's in Chicago: Nicole Wolfersberger, me, and Rebecca Ann Rakstad

Zine Grrrl reunion at Quimby’s in Chicago: Nicole Wolfersberger, me, and Rebecca Ann Rakstad

Ohio river crossing, Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio river crossing, Cincinnati, Ohio

I shouldn’t have to say it, but the Midwest suffers a bad wrap from those on the coasts, even though so many people living here are from there. It’s a diverse place and full of history. It contains key locations along the Underground Railroad (don’t think that walking across the Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio didn’t give me chills), to battles fought in “Indian Country”  over questions of slavery versus freedom and Native sovereignty in Kansas and Oklahoma, to current events, as Detroit declared bankruptcy just days after I visited (it’s not my fault!).

Grow workshopping, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Grow workshopping, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Steakfinger House, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Steakfinger House, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Midwest is also breathtakingly beautiful. Though it may not boast the drama of the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Coast, it has a sky that stretches on forever, rolling green fields, and dusty roads that scream, “Take an adventure, America!” While I am a reluctant American, spending two weeks in the Midwest reminded me that I am very much of this country. I appreciate the pioneering and the “Can do, make to” spirit of the people I met in my travels.

Train crossing on the Oklahoma/Kansas border

Train crossing on the Oklahoma/Kansas border

Little Freshie, fresh slushie in 101 degree Kansas City, Missouri

Little Freshie, fresh slushie in 101 degree Kansas City, Missouri

Also, breaking news: Brooklyn, NY and Portland, OR are no longer so original or special. Do you think I had to give up fair trade, cold brew coffee or organic, local produce while I was on the road? Quite the opposite! Cities and small towns all over the US are bursting with local goodness and it’s exciting to feel like “local flavor” actually means something again.

Celebrating a tour well done, Omaha, Nebraska

Celebrating a tour well done, Omaha, Nebraska

However, I also found myself enjoying some mass produced pleasures, like the fact that you can get 20 different kinds of iced tea for under $2 at a “gourmet” gas station like Quik Trip (thought I just got black, unsweetened tea). I mean, thank you, America, this iced tea kept me awake through some long drives and was delicious to boot. So, if you ever think, “Should I visit Tulsa? Or Omaha?” the answer is emphatically,
“Yes!”

Morning, Omaha, Nebraska

Morning, Omaha, Nebraska

This tour brought to you by vats of Quik Trip Iced Tea

This tour brought to you by vats of Quik Trip Iced Tea

Advertisements

Return of the Zine!

Indulgence 11 CoverBefore I was a world famous blogger and these musings on my life, clothes, travels, and writing were read by millions (or at least by my mom, hi mom!), I poured by personal writing out into a small, handmade publication called Indulgence. I started Indulgence a shocking 15 years ago, in 1998, while I was still in high school and living with my parents outside of Portland, Maine.

The name was inspired by one of my high school English teacher’s snide comments about personal writing – that it was nothing but self-indulgence, as a way to mock that sentiment (I think personal writing is vitally important), carve out a space for my writing, and at the same time, not take myself too seriously.

IMG_2281

Over the years and issues Indulgence has been a place for me to experiment with form, voice, storytelling and risk taking. I came out as queer in its pages in the second issue, did a lot of soul searching about what it meant to move to New York right before September 11th and experience its aftermath in the 7th and 8th, endlessly analyzed my relationship to race as a white woman in the 9th, and recorded the heartache of a New York to Paris love affair in the 10th. Finally, nearly 5 years after issues #10, I finished issue #11.

Even though the zine was dormant for five years, I never stopped identifying as a “zinester” (I certainly relate to it more than being a blogger) or speaking of Indulgence as an active publication. I met my closest friends through writing and trading zines in the late 1990s and early 2000s and am still constantly inspired by zine culture. My experiences organizing zine events, like the Portland Zine Symposium, were a big part of what inspired me to write my first book, Grow. I was even quoted extensively in the New York Times about zine culture in reference to the recent Brooklyn Zine Fest!

However, I felt like all my interesting personal stories had dried up. I was discussing this with Golnar and Mimi after watching a reading during the Race Riot Zine Tour (both of these rad ladies are in their 30s, super smart academics and still make kick ass zines, by the way) and Golnar’s comment gave me the kick in the pants I needed to make a new issue. “My life is way more interesting than it was when I was 17,” she said, “And I still wrote about my life then, so why not now?”

Working on Indulgence #11 at the IPRC

Working on Indulgence #11 at the IPRC

Right, of course. So Indulgence #11 is my way to coax myself back into personal storytelling. I can’t help but feel like the writing is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s a zine after all.

This issue brought my zine making full circle. I laid it out over the course of two days in Portland, Oregon at the Independent Publishing Resource Center’s brand new space (I spent hours at the old, cramped IPRC back in the day making Indulgence issues #5 through #9). When I brought it, hot off the presses, to the Brooklyn Zine Fest a big group of my zine pals from the late 1990s showed up!

My table at the 2013 Brooklyn Zine Fest

My table at the 2013 Brooklyn Zine Fest

So after all of that, I’m really excited to share this new issue with you. It felt good to get gluestick glue all over my fingers again (despite my love of a clean, minimal layout, I will always prefer to do an old fashioned paste-up to a newfangled InDesign layout) and start to put some thoughts and feelings on the page. It’s 28 little pages of stories about music and life in New York City, line drawings, and infographics that try to grasp at the relationship between career, love and money. All in a hand printed cover lovingly stitched together by my own hands. You don’t quite find that kind of love on a blog, right?

You can have your copy for just $3 plus shipping (or a trade). You can order it here!

12 hours left and 10 reasons to support my book Grow!

I can’t believe there are just 12 hours left in my fundraising campaign on RocketHub.com to support my book Grow’s North American tour and the development of workshops for creatives with do it yourself projects to plan for success and sustainability. In these final hours (the campaign ends at 11:59 pm Eastern Time tonight) I wanted to share with you ten reasons why I believe so much in this project and why the support of my community for this project will extend far and wide.

One: Grow supports independent entrepreneurs
Grow is a tool kit for those who want to launch their own business.  Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the US according to the Small Business Administration and by giving to Grow you are helping those entrepreneurs develop a road map for success.

Two: Grow helps dispel the myth of the starving artist
Grow helps artists and creative people plan to be innovative and sustainable so they can live their dreams, make art, pay the rent, and put food on the table.

Three: Grow supports independent, print media
You’ve heard the statistics – book stores are closing and large publishers are further consolidating. By supporting Grow you support an independent publishing company  that is not beholden to shareholders or corporate interests.

Four: Grow is the future
With a tough job market and declining funding for the arts and innovative endeavors creative people need to seek new ways to support their projects. Grow shows the way for creative people to support for themselves and how to turn challenge into opportunity.

Five: Grow is the culmination of my education, professional and personal experience
Grow was inspired by my time playing in bands, organizing underground cultural events, writing zines, working as an educator and helping artists find resources for their projects. It’s my chance to share my passion for supporting creative projects of all kinds with the world.

Six: Grow builds community
Grow emphasizes the importance of building and nurturing community. As Amy Schroeder said, “It takes a community to do it yourself,” and Grow needs the support to nurture a strong community of DIY entrepreneurs.

Seven: The rewards are awesome (and made with love!)
I’m making a brand new issue of my zine Indulgence just for Grow campaign supporters! In addition, there are plenty of titles from Microcosm Publishing as rewards so you can build your own DIY library and carry it home in a special Grow tote bag. My cat Crackers has even agreed to sign books for everyone who gives over $100!

Eight: Grow celebrates successful DIY projects
Grow showcases successful DIY entrepreneurs and gives them chance to share the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Independent creatives can feel isolated when they strike out on their own. Grow demonstrates that there’s a community of support available to creative, do-it-yourself entrepreneurs and nurtures their success.

Nine: Grow believes that small is beautiful
Grow shows how individuals with an exciting vision can have a big impact. Even small contributions to Grow make a large difference in being able to go on tour and spread the word about building strong DIY businesses and communities.

Ten: Grow is shaping a movement to help creative visionaries succeed
Supporting Grow means supporting hands-on workshops all over North America that help creative people develop the skills they need to strengthen their DIY projects and launch sustainable businesses. Help spread the message of DIY from coast to coast!

Running this campaign has been an exciting and humbling experience. I’ve felt so grateful that people from all corners of my life has stepped up to support this vision and I would love to count you among them! Thank you, all, for spreading the word and helping to demonstrate the power of DIY community through your support. Visit the campaign here to keep sharing and supporting!

Introducing my first book: “Grow: How to take your do-it-yourself project and passion to the next level and quit your job!”

Screen shot 2012-12-27 at 3.03.42 PM

Grow cover design by Meggyn Pomerleau and Joe Biel

Happy new year! I’m kicking off 2013 with some big news: This year will see the release of my very first book, entitled Grow: How to take your D.I.Y. project and passion to the next level and quit your job!. It will be coming out in June of 2013 on Cantankerous Titles, a great indie press from Portland, Oregon. Cantankerous is a part of Microcosm Publishing, a publisher I have respected and admired for years for their support of emerging and established writers and artists with independent, and radical, views.

Grow is a practical field guide for creative people with great ideas for independent projects who want to achieve success and sustainability. Whether their projects are based in independent publishing, music, food, art, craft, activism or community work, it will enable readers to clarify their project vision, get organized, set goals, create a plan, raise funds for, market, and manage their do-it-yourself project. The book is full of real-life inspiration and creative business advice from successful, independent businesses owners and creative people with projects that began in the do-it-yourself spirit.

DIY has been a part of my life since I was a child and my parents taught me to make my own clothes and grow my own vegetables, and I launched an organic gardening business. The ideas to write Grow grew out of my fifteen-year involvement with punk, feminist, and independent art communities. As a teenager the idea of do-it-yourself seemed infinitely logical because I loved to write and play music and was passionate about social justice and feminism. At the time I understood that as a teenager no “real” publisher or record label would take me seriously. “Why should I wait for someone else?” I asked myself. I started a personal zine, launched a record and cassette label, and co-founded a Riot Grrrl inspired group for young feminists in my home town of Portland, Maine.

Since then I have published zines, helped found and run the annual Portland Zine Symposium, played and toured with indie rock bands, edited a queer, feminist art journal, wrote a food blog and hosted artisanal food events, and worked as a media and art educator, programmer, and administrator. With Grow I want to share what I have learned with others who take their ideas seriously and are building a creative, independent life.

This book reflects my vision for supportive communities where people are creatively fulfilled, economically stable, and able to build healthy, balanced lives on their own terms. It’s a big vision, but I know that together we can make it happen.

There’s going to be lots of exciting Grow related workshops, events and web-content leading up to and upon its release, so please visit (and follow) the books’ very own website at Growdiy.com which will be updated regularly with news, interviews and ideas for those involved in DIY culture. You can also “like” Grow on Facebook here and sign up for my brand new mailing list for regular (and infrequent) updates here.

Thank you to all who have supported me (and continue to do so) through the process of becoming an author. In the wise words of Amy Schroeder, it truly does take a community to do it yourself!

Have a happy, healthy and revelatory 2013 everyone!

The Art of the Novella

Lunchtime literary shopping

Chock it up to good marketing. Before I even knew about the independent publisher Melville House I admired my friend SG’s “I would prefer not to” tote bag. Black, white, literary, emblazoned with the iconic line from Herman Melville’s novella Bartleby the Scrivener. When I started working in DUMBO, Brooklyn I rounded the corner of my building and saw those same totes hanging in the window of a light, airy bookstore. Intrigued, I went in.

Melville House puts out a range of books that are necessary, even if major publishers don’t think that they are. They publish books in translation that are best sellers in other countries, but that most Americans have never heard of.  They publish cultural criticism that’s too political for major publishers. The tote bag advertises a series called the “Art of the Novella,” which strives to bring attention to this often neglected and maligned form of literature.

This August a reader and novella fan proposed a challenge: he would try to read all 42 books in Art of the Novella series in August. In another smart marketing move Melville House invited other readers to do the same (I believe three novellas was the minimum for participation) and to tweet and blog about it.

Excited to participate I walked around the corner from work and picked up some attractive little volumes, all nicely bound with a solid color on the front in matte stock (the contemporary novellas have glossy stock) and nice “french folds” on the inside. You feel classy just carrying one in your bag! I also liked the project because it gave me a chance to try out some classic authors that I’ve heard about, and should have read, but have some how managed to avoid over the course of my reading history. I pictured myself stretched out on the beach, reading a novella, and being literary. Of course, it didn’t work out this way and I had a very busy August with less reading than planned.

August reading #artofthenovella

Here’s what I did read:

A Simple Heart Gustave Flaubert—the story of a simple country maid in search of love who finds companionship (and religious obsession) in a parrot. It’s seen as an early example of Flaubert’s realism. I thought it both empathized with and created a caricature of the hardworking, but ignorant because of her circumstances, rural peasant. Its commentary on the class divide in 19th century France is clear. I understand how ground breaking it may have been on the time to feature such “common people” in literature, but it does come off as a little trite.

The Lemoine Affair Marcel Proust—this novella was originally published serially in a newspaper and the last few sections were published posthumously. In it Proust immitates the styles of different prominent French writers to descibe the political innerworkings, intrigue and fallout caused by a minor scandal where a merchant claimed he could make diamonds out of coal. I suppose if I knew 19th century French literature better I would have found it more amusing.

The Lifted Veil George Eliot—My favorite of the classics that I picked. While I think Eliot’s characterizing the main woman character as shallow and heartless behind an intriguing exterior is a little tired, I like the psychological nature of this story. It really kept me on eggshells and I think it was the only one of my classic selections where I wanted to keep reading to the end, instead of just being motivated to finish because the novella was, well, short.

Lucinella Lore Segal—I don’t know if I was cheating with this one because it’s from the Contemporary Art of the Novella series, but this was by far my favorite. Released in the 1970’s this slim volume lampoons the New York literary scene (and the artist colony Yaddo) with rollicking wit. It is told by a poet and social climber, who may also be talented and is certainly obsessive in the way writers can be, Lucinella.  The tone and voice of this novella reminds me a lot of one of my other favorite narrators: Sally J. Gorce in The Dud Avocado. It also is a reminder of how difficult it was, and remains, to be a sassy, weirdo woman artist or writer in the 60’s and 70’s. And 80’s, and 90’s and today. The book takes a turn towards the weirdly sublime in the end, which would not be how I would write the ending, but I stayed along for the ride and it was fun.

So what’s my takeaway from my month of reading not as many novellas as planned? Mostly that my reading tastes are thoroughly rooted in the “modern” and “post-modern”—basically 1920 and forward. There are plenty of novellas from Melville House’s series in this category, such as The Awakening, Jacob’s Room, and Country of the Pointed Firs (lovely book about Maine!), but I’d already read them! This is not a hard and fast rule, but generally the pre-modern literature (which laid the ground work, I know, I know) of the 19th century feels so stuffy to me, and so staid compared with what came next. It’s kind of like comparing the Barbizon school with Cubism in art history, you know? Oh, did I just loose half my readership with that pretentious reference? Dude, whatever, reading is cool and I can’t wait to check out Melville House’s other releases! And bro, hey, I got a rad tote bag.