Click on the link to read a quick chat about Magic, Art, Politics, and Leonard Cohen.
In this episode I talk to Martha Grover and Joshua James Amberson all about zines. Both Martha and Joshua are seasoned veterans of the Portland zine scene. So listen up young whippersnappers! We talk about how to make& distro zines, why to make zines, and also about the good ol’ days of zines (and Portland) and where things are now in the internet age.
Martha Grover is the author of the zine Somnambulist. And the memoir The End of My Career, available from Perfect Day publishing.
Joshua James Amberson is the author of Basic Paper Airplane, The Prince Zine, and he writes for The Portland Mercury.
I’m teaching a creative writing class at PCC right now. I thought I would share my “homework” here, since a lot of readers of this blog don’t live in Portland where the class is offered. I teach the class Thursday nights, so each Friday I will post up the writing exercises we did in class. If you follow along for the next six weeks in a notebook of your own I believe these very simple exercises will help you to get what you want out of your writing practice.
The first three exercises are about how to build a strong writing habit. The last three exercises are about finding ways to get your writing out there and to connect to an audience.
Writing is like anything else, to get good at it you have to practice regularly. If you wanted to become a good chef you would cook a lot, if you want to run a marathon you would run a lot, if you wanted to learn how to play a guitar you practice. Writing is the same way. Don’ think that you can become a good writer by just writing when you feel inspired. You become good at something by doing it on a daily basis. It’s really that simple! To remind me of that truth I have this quote taped above my writing desk.
“Inspiration exists but it has to find us working.” – Picasso
If you want some really down to earth advice on how to build a strong daily writing practice you should check out”On Writing” by Stephen King. This guy is a workhorse! You may not want to write Stephen King type books, but his practical advice on how to get down to writing is really meat-and-potatos no nonsense stuff. Even the most abstract and ethereal poet could learn a thing or two from King’s dedication to the craft!
WRITING EXERCISE #1
Okay, now here is the writing exercise. This should take about 15 minutes. I want you to write three paragraphs (Or you can write three pages the length is your call).
That is the exercise! Yes, it is simple.But effective, this exercise is the same visualization that athletes use in training. However it is easier for us writers, because we are already good at the writing part! You can use this exercise as often as you want whenever you feel the need to find inspiration for your writing practice.
Here is a quick update on how things are going this week: fantastic!
DIY Magic is currently a “hot new release” on Amazon. It is a the #1 new release in creativity right now. Which has me celebrating this morning by drinking extra coffee. (What, no champagne, just extra coffee? Yeah, pretty exciting. Hey, I’m getting old.)
Yes, it feels good to be “number one”.
So that’s cool. Even more fun for me has been connecting with readers at events. I learned something really surprising this weekend: comics artists get to connect with fans in a way more personal and approachable way than authors do. Let me explain. I did two events this past weekend. One was a reading at Elliot Bay up in Seattle. It’s a fantastic bookstore and it was an honor to read there. The other event : I sort of piggybacked my way into Lineworks NW. An independent comics convention here in Portland. I just sat at a table, with a stack of my books and chatted with folks. (Also I had some beer and pizza—something you can’t really do during an author reading without looking like a weird slob.) Pretty low key, and I felt like I got a much more real & human connection at the comics event than my own reading!
The thing is most authors just do readings, that’s just what you do. You get up in front of a microphone and read a chapter or two and maybe do a Q&A afterwards. And most comics artists don’t do readings they do “tabling”. (I think that’s what it’s called.)
Obviously this has as much to do with the nature of the two mediums as anything. It is easy for an author to read their stuff out loud. With comics you need to be able to see the pictures so a reading doesn’t make sense.
Here is my point: the author/audience relationship, just by the way readings happen, put the author on a pedestal (literally) and make it harder to connect. When you are tabling at a convention it feels way more democratic, you’re not up on a stage with a microphone, you’re just chatting to people across the table. It feels like comics artists have a more level relationship with their fans simply because of the way the events are handled!
I’m noting this because I know that a lot of fans of this blog are writers and creators themselves. And it is important to think about how we connect with our audience. I think in this case us writers might be able to learn a thing or two from our comics cousins about community, communication, and connection.
It’s officially April and just one week away from my book being published on April 7th! I am feeling a weird mixture of elation and nervous aprehension. It feels a lot like the afternoon before you host a party at your house: you have snacks and drinks in the kitchen, party hats and some dance records all lined up to go . . . and you keep glancing at the clock.
It’s 6 p.m. shouldn’t people be showing up by now? Oh yeah, you told them arrive at 7 p.m. that means people won’t start showing up until 8 pm. Hmm, might as well have another drink while you wait . . . oh, was that the door bell? Quick, act busy doing something besides standing here staring wistfully at the front door!
So yeah, that’s where I am—waiting for the ball to drop. That said you can pre-order DIY Magic already, it’s up on Amazon.com. (And people have been ordering it already, which is great.) Folks ask me: so is it better for you if we get your book off Amazon or in a real bookstore, or what have you. The truth is I have no idea. (Personally I like to go to actual bookstores and save Amazon for ordering stuff that’s hard to track down—but I don’t know how sales at real vs. virtual stores affect authors, I think basically a sale is a sale.)
Oh, and then there is the whole “how hard do I try to sell people this thing I made” question. Like, these days when doing self-promotion with blogs, twitter, etc. it is easy to feel like you are turning into a salesman instead of an artist. And let’s face it that’s exactly what this blog and basically every blog is—it is trying to promote something, whether that is an idea, a piece of art or a book. I want to find the balance between getting the word out there to people and turning into someone who worries about “self-promotion” more than the message, ya know? I mean, it is a pretty classic, basic struggle, the ol’ whats a creative person to do in a capitalist culture—the old conundrum of how do I express something meaningful and soulful, and maybe even make a living doing it . . . without selling my soul? So yeah, these questions have been wrestled many times before, but in doing a bit of publicity-pushing for this book it is the first time they have ever felt real to me.
But, enough with the soul searching, here are some plugs for upcoming events! Haha!
I’ve added a couple dates to upcoming readings, most of them on the West Coast which I’ll be doing by car, but I also plan to hit up a few East Coast cities this June. So far I am doing readings in Portland OR, Seattle, San Francisco, Napa, Corvallis and New York. If you know of any place that might be interested in setting up a reading in a city I’m not already booked in please drop me a line at r.anthonyalvarado (at) gmail.
I’m also really, really excited to be an upcoming guest on Coast to Coast a.m. the night my book comes out, on April 7th (So April 6th at midnight). I will be talking to George Noory at midnight! This show is kinda a big deal! I used to listen to it a bunch while working graveyard shifts in a mental health facility, in Chinatown Portland, back in the day when Art Bell was the host. What a weird, wonderful, fascinating show! And it is very exciting to be doing such a long form interview (2 hours!). Woweezowee.
Some other cool stuff is in the works too (including a short film). As they say in the radio business, stay tuned.