Blogs: Writing

If you're a zinester, you make zines! If you are new to zines and have never made one: zines are usually handmade paper booklets that anyone can create. Want to give it a try? Here are some directions for turning one piece of paper into a basic zine: a version to view online or a version to print. See below for more resources about making zines and books.

Whether zines are a new idea or an old friend for you, the library abounds with inspiration and resources for your creative project! Consider these:

Crap Hound 8 - Superstitions

The Central Library Picture File is an astounding resource: thousands upon thousands of magazine and book clippings, organized by subject. These can be checked out and photocopied or scanned (you can’t cut them up and paste them in your zine, though!). Do you need the perfect picture of a bluebird, or an ancient computer, or children’s clothes from the 1960s? Look no further! Ask about the Picture Files at the Art & Music reference desk on Central Library’s third floor.

Of course clip art can be found online, but clip art books are a pleasure to browse and use. Many of these come with a CD containing image files that you can download to your computer for resizing, editing, etc. A real gem of a clip art resource is found in the series of books called Crap Hound - each volume is created around a theme or cluster of themes (Superstition; Church & State; Hands, Hearts, & Eyes are a few), and the images are laid out in the most appealing, artful way.

Women of Color zine #12The library’s zine collection is full of examples of zines and minicomics made by zinesters and artists from near and far. Zines can be browsed online in the library catalog (use the subject heading Zines or search by author or title, or try our book lists), placed  on hold, and checked out just like other library materials. I recently read the most recent issue of Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks , a collective zine made by a group in Portland - the theme of this issue, #12, is zines! It contains comics, diagrams, and short prose pieces, perspectives on making zines and community. It's really great.

How to Make Books by Esther K. SmithFor more technical information about making zines and books, you might enjoy browsing some of our books about bookbinding - I recently stumbled upon How to Make Books by Esther K. Smith, which has instructions and lovely illustrations for a range of homemade books, from instant zines and accordion books to more elaborate stitched books and Coptic binding.

Portland has an amazing zine community. Here are two local resources you must know about:

The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) has a gigantic and wonderful zine library, classes, and tons of equipment that members can use to make zines: typewriters, art and printmaking supplies, computers, scanners, and of course, copy machines. 

The Portland Zine Symposium is a local event, held annually in July, where zinesters gather to show, sell, and trade their publications. There are workshops, panels, and discussions about zines, independent publishing and DIY culture - it's free, and really fun and inspiring. 

Kids aren't born knowing how to use a keyboard.  But in today’s keyboard-centric world, kids need to learn to type. Luckily, there are some good free online typing programs aimed at students.

The article  Ed Tech Ideas: Keyboarding Sites for Kids lists many links to other free typing games.

Need more help? Contact a librarian

Whenever I have to write something, whether it’s a research paper or an article, the first thing I do is keep track of my sources. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a really good fact, but not being able to remember where you found it!

There’s two good online resources, called citation makers, that I use to help me. The great thing is, you can use them to keep track of your resources while you do your research, but they also help you format the citations, and generate your list of sources, or bibliography.

Many students in Oregon use the OSLIS citation maker to generate citations. It allows you to chose between MLA and APA style guides. Be sure to read through all the instructions before you get started. You can’t save a list of citations here, so you’ll have to create your list all in one shot. 

Easybib is a free service that offers you a lot more, and is good for high school and college students. You can save multiple bibliographies here, use their note taking system, generate a bibliography in Word, and generate citations for up to 59 formats of material, in MLA, APA or Chicago/Terabian style manuals. Watch the training video to learn more, and please contact a librarian if you need more help.

Writer's Market 2016Writers work hard to find an appropriate home for their work, a publisher they can trust with the very important job of connecting the written work with the eyes of readers. This can be a process fraught with emotion and frustration!

First off, there are bound to be a lot of rejections - I haven’t been able to nail down an authoritative number, but I keep hearing that the average rejection rate for writers is 90%, or 95%, or 97%. Submission guidelines are strict and picky, and reading periods are these little windows of time when your submission will be admitted for consideration… if you miss the window, you may have to wait another year for that particular submission.

But how does one decide where to submit their work in the first place?

Book publishers

If you have a book that’s ready to meet the world, you might be seeking an agent or a publisher, or researching small presses that accept submissions, either as part of a contest or an open reading period. Books like the Writer’s Market and the Poet’s Market are classic sources for information about publishers, updated in annual editions. These are pretty basic listings, with description of what’s published by different publishers, as well as contact and submission information. There’s also the Literary Market Place (LMP), an in-depth directory of the book publishing industry. A little more practical and personable advice can be found via Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent database of small presses, which allows you to search using criteria such as form, genre or style, submission fees, payment (if any), and reading period (try the advanced search!).

Wait, what are these small presses you speak of? Generally speaking, they are book publishers that operate on a smaller scale of business than the Big Five Publishers - either they make less than a certain amount of money per year, and/or they publish a smaller number of books per year. There are lots of them, and they may have open reading periods and/or contests. You don't need an agent to get your manuscript into their hands. Many are members of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), which also maintains a useful searchable directory of its members. For a helpful overview about choosing between small and large publishers, and the self-publishing option (see below for more on self-publishing!), you might enjoy this article from The Huffington Post. It's published by the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, another handy resource for the process.

Literary magazines or journals

What are literary magazines? In short, they’re print or online magazines publishing a variety of authors all at once. These are especially found in conjunction with poetry and short stories, although essays, reviews, and novel excerpts may be found in them as well. Literary magazines cannot be summarized, such is their variety in terms of readership, distribution, and style. The library maintains subscriptions to some excellent literary magazines.

The Review Review is an online magazine dedicated to literary magazines - news, reviews, and a database of magazines. Lynne Barrett’s essay “What Editors Want,” published in The Review Review, is a must-read if you are considering submitting your work to literary magazines! Poets & Writers magazine has an excellent searchable database of literary magazines, too. Both of these can be searched by many criteria to narrow down the wide world of literary magazines to some of the magazines that publish work like yours.

Entropy Magazine is another excellent online source for info about where to submit work that’s ready right now: it has listings for literary magazine, chapbook and book publishers’ reading periods. It also has a top notch small press database.

Don’t forget that when submitting your work to a literary magazine or book publisher, your chances are best if you have some understanding of the style and type of writing that they publish. That means you have to read the magazine, and read the books published by the press! While the library can’t carry everything published by small presses, can do our best to help you find the publications you seek, whether it’s on our shelves, online, in bookstores, or via Interlibrary Loan. Please ask us!

Self-publishing

Of course, you could self-publish your book - this option is getting easier and more popular all the time. See our blog post about self publishing, and our reading list

You might also enjoy these other blog posts about self care and practical matters for writers:

The Care and Feeding of the Writer

The Business of Writing

 

Readers, writers and book lovers!  Mark your calendars for two of Portland's biggest book events:  Wordstock book festival and Portland Arts & Lectures author series which made its debut with author Jane Smiley, and welcomes Anthony Doerr in November.

But let's face it –- Portland's literary landscape is a field of dreams. Search the events calendar for the library’s author talks, book discussions and conversations featuring local writers. If you're a self-published writer yourself and would like library patrons to be able to read your work, check out the Library Writers Project. And check out the Mercury's book page for author events.

City of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Portland by Gabriel H. Boehmer, a third-generation Oregonian, is a bible for Stumptown bibliophiles, bringing together bookstores, libraries, landmarks, authors, events and titles in one volume. Published quarterly, the free Portland Book Review newspaper is available at bookstores, libraries, and retail locations around metro Portland.

If you’re an aspiring author and want to meet fellow writers, Willamette Writers meetings showcase Oregon authors from mix of professions. The Attic Institute offers readings, workshops and a Poets Studio. Write Around Portland runs free writing workshops for adults and youth; participants share their writing with the public at free community readings. DIY folks should check out the extraordinary IPRC -– Independent Publishing Resource Center -– where you can create and publish your own artwork and writing.

"There are these things and they
are da kine to me. They are the tear.
The torn circle.
There are these things and they are
the circle malformed, pulled tight
in one place. These things are the
symbol of all not being right. They
are da kine for me.
Da kine for me is the moment when
things extend beyond you and me
and into the rest of the world. It is
the thing.
Like two who love each other
breaking eye contact and coming
out of that love and back into the conversation " (p. 8)
Cover of Spahr Aloha Book

"That Winter the Wolf Came" - Julianna Spahr's recently published collection of thoughtful and painful interrogations against capitalism - is unfortunately not currently available through Multnomah County Library.  We do however have a copy of "Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You," her mesmerizing
book of poems from 2001.
The poems in "Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You" generate a never-ending series of questions and tensions, pitting the cost and construction of selves (most assuredly not as specific indicators of psychological depth) within the coordinates of location/place.  But the selves in these poems are never transcendent, never reified - barring those collisions when the determinate conditions of history and capital freeze us in frightening, dead, and/or emptied moments.  

As the title suggests, most of these encounters and repetitions occur in Hawai'i, where Spahr was living and teaching at the time the book was being written.  Spahr's poems are tricky (but never clever-tricky) in the way they reveal aesthetic structures that are doubled in the
structures of Hawai'i as political geography.  Spahr elicits Hawai'i's ongoing history of  violent colonialism without reducing the conflicts and tensions to an outsider's appreciation of the "local" or within a liberal's plea for empathy for the other.

"We want this story, our personal
story, to tell this story:

It is late at night and we lean over
and kiss, our one head one way
and our other head another way,
and stick our tongues in our
mouths and it feels strange this
way, top of tongue on top of
tongue." (p.85)
 

Ah, the lost art of letter writing. I still find myself checking my mail hoping that there will actually be a personal letter mixed in with the credit card applications. But alas, I can’t recall the last time I received a real letter. When I want to immerse myself in the beauty of letter-writing, I shall open up Shaun Usher’s, Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of A Wider Audience

Letters of Note bookjacket

Shaun Usher loves letters (and lists too. His second book, Lists of Note includes such wonders as Michelangelo's illustrated shopping list and Marilyn Monroe’s New Year’s resolutions written when she was 29-years-old.).

But back to the pleasures of letters. Usher has collected 125 letters from far and wide and long ago to more recent times. Many of the letters are from well-known figures but some are from everyday folks. All of the letters have a short introduction to put them into historical context and a good share of them include a reproduction of the letter itself. The effort and creativity that went into these letters - a 13-year-old boy at a school for the blind wrote in Braille to President Eisenhower. The sadness - Virginia Woolf’s note to her husband before she committed suicide. Witty, funny, artistic ones. Beautiful, heartfelt, poignant letters. They’re all here.

If you’d like to peruse even more letters, take a look at Shaun Usher's website where he has posted a whopping 900 letters; they’re indexed in various ways so one could spend weeks reading all of them. Or take a look at some of these books that are chock full of letters. I, however, think I’ll go write a letter to a friend.

Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-BurtWhat’s a zine? Generally, we think of zines as little, inexpensively produced, most often handmade print items. Is a zine a book? Well, it’s a kind of book - a self-published book that’s usually not distributed very widely, and tends toward  the ephemeral. Zines have often been made by people whose viewpoints or experiences may not have been well represented by traditional publishing. Many of them are personal. They can be mostly text, or mostly image, or anywhere in between. Anyone can make a zine! And the author of a zine is in charge of the whole process - the content, production, and distribution of the publication.

And sometimes, a person makes not just one zine, but many - zine after zine! And sometimes, the work that they’ve self-published in zine form takes new form as a book published by a publisher, whether small or large. Ok, now it’s still a zine, and also a book. 

Big Plans by Aron Nels Steinke

Here's an example: Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States, once a zine and now a book-length memoir by Pete Jordan that has been described as “part adventure, part parody, and part miraculous journey of self-discovery.” Or Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today? by Portland artist Kate Bingaman-Burt, whose zine What Did You Buy Today? Daily Drawings of Purchases documents, well, everything she purchased. Plenty of graphic novels have their origins in zines, such as Henry & Glen Forever & Ever (the fictitious cartoon adventures of Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig, available in a series of zines), and Big Plans by another local cartoonist, Aron Nels Steinke.

At the library, we have zines, and we also have books that began as zines:

Zines Become Books, Part 1

Zines Become Books, Part 2

We also have an event coming up at Central Library on February 7th at 2pm, featuring local authors who make zines, people who’ve made zines and also books, and folks who have worn all sorts of other hats in the process: small publishers, educators, community connectors. Please join us at Zinesters Talking: From Zines to Publishing!

 

what you say matters

    We are deep in social media, of course. 74% of adults who use the internet use social media sites! It’s what we do now: how we maintain friendships, meet people, have conversations, begin relationships, learn about news, undertake social change, and market our services and products. There’s a lot (A LOT) that can be said about this, from whether or not it’s good for us to what Big Data from social media tells us about ourselves.

    So we do social media, and it results in a whole lot of writing. Research from last decade indicates that people are writing more than ever before. If we’re going to do a ton of writing in social media, we should do it well!

    That could mean a few different things:

    Hungry for more books on how (or why) to do social media? There’s something out there for the beginner, for the optimist, for the contrarian, or the pragmatist.

    There are a lot of writers out there. Portland alone seems to have one slouching in every coffee shop or slumped on a bar stool or monotoning into a microphone... have you ever been to Wordstock? Willamette Writers? With so much competition for publishers’ and readers’ attention, what’s a person to do who has a story to tell, and wants to share it with everyone?

    The writer’s life is by no means easy; first there’s the writing part - -how to write the story? Where to find the time? Should I subscribe to Poets & Writers magazine? What’s that word for….? Do I need Facebook to be a writer? But if I’m on Facebook promoting my writing, when will I ever find time to write?

    Then there’s publication - -get an agent? Focus on small presses? Self-publish?

    And then the boogie men that infect the hopes and confidence and resolve of any would-be (or accomplished!) author -- self doubt, loneliness, writer’s block, disappointment, poverty, envy, obscurity. Too many barbarians at the gate! It’s enough to make a person ask, ‘is it worth it?’

    Of course, it could always be worse... you could want to be a poet.

    Sometimes we take comfort in the idea we’re not the only ones suffering for -- or because of -- a dream. That is, if you’ve contemplated giving up on writing, you’re not alone.

    Should you give up? Here's some company:

    Or should you keep going?

    “But the writing life can be such a lonely, solitary existence! How can I connect with others who feel the way I do, and feel like I’m not alone?”

    And even if you “make it,” and get your book published, it doesn’t mean you’ll be any more famous than before you got your work out there -- at least not during your lifetime! Can you handle that?:

    Check out these well-regarded titles you probably never heard of:

    And these works it would be laughable to call obscure:

    Local or community resources, for support, writing groups, education, and even workspace:

    Or maybe you just need to nurture your craft by getting away from your daily life long enough to think, use your imagination, to write -- to breathe! and maybe a requisite chore or two:

     -- by Kass

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