Old friends


Peyton Marshall, Xeni F. & Jim Sidel were in town & we all met up & had drinks in the Burg, settling into the garden at Soft Spot before moving later to The Counting Room for some catch-up conversation & good times. They’re each still funny, which helps conversation  that’s filling in the blanks of a decade (in Xeni’s case) that much easier & delightful. Peyton is here meeting with her editor at FSG for her first book, which I’m very excited to read: it’s about the propensity of violence in young boys. She once wrote a story about rabbits I liked tremendously, so I told her the story of Wendy’s father’s rabbit who had a stroke because Wendy’s father kept feeding it dog food & when the rabbit went to raise it’s ears, only one raised and the other flopped forward. The topics of our discussions varied but never kept too far from the black comedy we enjoy, which isn’t a generational thing. With good jokes, someone gets maimed. With great jokes, you know the person.

I’ve been working diligently each day the past two months on five books, which I will have ready for sale all before Christmas. The amount of work I’ve put into this endeavor has taken some minor tolls, but you gotta push yourself if you ever hope to produce anything of worth. The books will be:

Jared Harel – The Body Double

Alejandro Ventura – Puerto Rico

John F. Buckley & Martin Ott – Poets’ Guide to America

Jackie Clark – Aphoria

Laurie Filipelli – Elseplace

Aaron Sing Fox did the cover art for Jared’s book, & Jonathan Allen did Alex & John & Martin’s book.


I’m trying, for the first time, to experiment with Print on Demand by using both Createspace (owned by Amazon, run by Beezlebub, et al) & Lightning Source (similarly rent with QCS demons). Neither are known for the quality of their work nor their high standards of customer service. Both have legitimately enormous potential for changing publishing forever, but have chose to limit themselves in frustrating ways. If I use CS, I get to have my books immediately listed on Amazon, printed on demand for any customer, anytime; I get to order publisher copies for around $2-$3 a piece plus shipping; I get a PDF proof if I so choose; it costs me next to nothing to produce. They do not, however, do matte covers or lamination & their digital printers print at what looks at times to be 72 DPI, even though they swear it’s 300; plus, the covers feel & look cheap. Plus, & this kills me, if the book like most poetry books are over 100 pages, they will erase the spine elements (without consulting you) & refuse to print the book with any spine whatsoever. Lightning Source does everything CS does, but they do matte, which is awesome. They also have their own built-in distributor, Ingram’s, as well as the ability to list on Amazon & B&N.com right away. They also allow for spines on small books, if you beg, & assign you actual contact point employees to help you with your questions. The problem? Publisher copies run full price minus 10%. What? I use Small Press Distribution to help place my books with libraries & universities, & must have books shipped there directly, which means there is currently no economically feasible way to have SPD receive books I print with LS, which cuts bigtime into my profits.

I should begin my daily fiction writing habit now, but will return to this at a later date.

Cheers, Joe

Reworking old material

There’s something that undercuts the nostalgia of reworking old material, & that something is the Oz of the fictional dream. We’ll call him Editor Emeritus, because he’s been around a while & is persnickety & panicky & full of pretense. He can’t believe you wrote that sentence in that way, but is too much the realist to chalk it up to maturity or impatience–it is a flaw you’ve carried within you for some time, a flaw in your ability as a writer to engage the world properly, born out of inexperience or laziness, & so end up  capturing a milder form of reality poorly reconstructed using language that can do no justice to the real world given it is being put in service of a false one. Even if can be such a prissy asshole, I love the old dolt. We have fun together, & he’s not afraid of roller coasters. In fact, he’s much more adventuresome than I am, & pushes me to attempt new things, even when it means destroying the sound of sentences I enjoy to such degree that I unintentionally memorize whole passages entirely for their rhythms. Without him I’d be content to be content, & there hasn’t been a single instance I can dream up where contentedness inspired original content.


Mount Tremper Arts Festival

(pictured top left clockwise to bottom left: Martin Rock, Jess Mynes, Joe Fletcher, Sampson Starkweather, Ana Božičević, Paige Taggart, Bianca Stone, Liz Clark Wessel, Mathew Pokoik, Iris Cushing, Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Joe Pan) Wendy P. & Liz S. not pictured.

The trip to Mount Tremper Arts Festival was incredible, magical, a relief, a renewal, & so on. I was lucky enough to share this space with these amazing people for five days. We fished, we talked poetry, we wrote, we performed, we debated, we answered questions from the audience, we learned from one another, we ate incredible food & lounged & watched Kota Yamazaki and Asa perform two Butoh dances. & we saw bears, one big one in an apple tree & a cub in Phoenicia. & we had fireworks.

The small presses represented were Argos Books, Birds, LLC, Brooklyn Arts Press, Epiphany Editions, & Fewer & Further Press.

Someone will write more about this trip, but for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy remembering it on my own terms.