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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

oh, BTW...

Tomorrow, June 1st, I'll be offering a minor redesign to 1000 Black Lines.

Bobo does four writers and spits out an evening

BoBo Gallery
[photo : bobogallery.com]
Readers from last night's event were, in order of appearance: Devin Walsh, Shad Marsh, Jaye Bartell and Selah Saterstrom. I wanted to write a lengthy post about it but I have a very busy morning and many creative projects to involve myself.

In brief, the readers read in "three rounds." The place was packed with a few people standing along the side and back of the gallery--at least for the first round of readings. The second round of readings the crowd thinned a bit for smokes and drinks. By the end of the second round there was a new crowd filling the gallery.

Because I had to be up before 6 AM I was not able to stay for the third round. The event was a good showing and the artwork on the walls seemed to add to the atmosphere of public expression of art and culture.

I'm inspired to write a fictional account of last night's reading for the sake of being entirely postmodern.

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literati schmiterati

Opps... almost forgot to mention a new article on Write Stuff: Tiptoe through the garden.

My wife told me the article is a bit academic compared to most of my Write Stuff contributions. I hope that doesn't intimidate readers. It is more about mentha than it is about “experimental” poetry.

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It was a smaller than usual Blind Date with Poetry event. I'm embarrased to say this, but I spent the first half of the event (the open mic portion) feverishly writing chapbook reviews. Over the last several months I've been reviewing chapbooks for The Indie. Only one has been published, The Sad Meal by D. J. Dolack. A review of Michael Beadle's An Invented Hour was written has been written but not published yet. Also, reviews of Clayton Couch's Artificial Lure, RedLineBlues, gospel*

4 Asheville poets & writers reader tonight

BoBo Gallery
[photo : bobogallery.com]

May 30, 9 PM.
free to the public.

Of Being Numerous:
A Reading of Numerous Writings

Edgy Mama beat me to it by posting all the details about tonight's event on BlogAsheville. She plans to attend with her "house bottle of wine." I'll bring cheap paper cups.

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Pineda, poetry and thoughts about small press publishing

Really enjoyed the reading by Jon Pineda last week. (I would have written about it earlier, but I had a cantankerous iBook that refused to operate to my satisfaction. Thus delaying this post until today.) Being half Pinoy (or Filipino), Pineda explores themes common to those who have been removed from their heritage. He is now discovering it through poetry. The book's epigraph sums up his theme: "It's what always begins/In half dark, in half light" -- José Gracia Villa.

He read exclusively from his award-winning book, Birthmark. Poems read included, "Matamis," "Wrestling," "Arboretum," "Night Feeding," "Birthmark," and others.

The poem "Wrestling" still haunts me:
"At our first match, I wrestled a guy/I had met summers ago at a Filipino gathering, ... a few of the boys pinned my shoulders against a tree//while one punched me."

"I watched the clock as I locked a breath inside his throat."

I wanted to buy a copy of Birthmark that night but I only had $6 in my pocket and the cover price was $14.95. This displeased me greatly for I wanted a signed copy of Jon Pineda's book. Why is it that poets cannot afford poetry books? After working on a book project for the last six months, I know that the book (most likely) costs less than $4 to manufacture. This is not the poet's fault. I recently bought two books at another reading (which is probably why I only had $6 left). One book was a 275-page hard cover book for $18.50 while the other book was a 57-page soft cover book for $16.95. The poetry book was the skinny, expensive book.

Maybe that's why readers don't read as much poetry--there's not much to read for 17 bucks. Forgive me again. This is not the poet's decision. I understand why this happens. Poetry publishers supposedly schedule small press runs--maybe 500 to 3000 copies per printing. With those quantities, the book production costs range from $3 to $6 per copy--possibly higher. Add mark-up for retail distribution and the cover price is logically $16.95 per copy.

I'd like to challenge that system. If poetry publishers offered a subscription based books program (i.e. an annual subscription offering three to four books), then they could print with more efficiency and pass the savings to readers. As it is currently, poetry publishers risk a lot and have to build that risk into the cover price. For example, if an independant small press offers a poetry book subscription of $39.95 for their annual series of four books, then they could operate with less risk due to the fact that they have a defined audience (i.e. subscribers) rather than a hopeful audience (i.e. retail outlets).

Blind Date with Poetry

Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe
Tonight, May 25, 6:30 PM.
free to the public.

Blind Date with Poetry with host Matt Moon and featuring poet is Jon Pineda.

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Five People Run Over by Car; Asheville girl dies

This story makes me sad and angry.

from 11Alive.com: "Ryan Boldman-Snyder, 20, an employee at the McDonald's restaurant, was on a break outside when he heard screaming, and said Barnes was 'smiling the whole time.'

'He came with the intent to hurt somebody,' Boldman-Snyder said.

Witnesses tried to pull Barnes out of his car in the restaurant parking lot. Police officers finally pulled him out of the car from the passenger-side front door, Boldman-Snyder said."

from Asheville Citizen-Times: "Police said Lanny Barnes, 46, drove his car into the group, hit the restaurant, backed up and then hit them again.

'There was clear intent to injure the people. It was obvious,' Police Chief Stacey Cotton said. 'This was absolutely not an accident.'

Avery Nicole King died at an Atlanta hospital after being admitted in critical condition.

Anita King, 36, of Asheville, was treated at a hospital and released Tuesday. Stephanie Casola, 33, of Covington, was hospitalized in fair condition Wednesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Casola’s children, Jacob, 4, and Isaac, 3, were hospitalized in serious condition."

Does this make you sad and angry too?

Half way there and seven months to go

Earlier this year, I posted that my desire is to double the amount of writings published. Last year almost 8,000 words were published in three publications. As of this date, more than 8,000 words have been published in five publications (six if you include the online contributions to Write Stuff).

The goal is to publish 16,000 to 20,000 words in six publications. Keep in mind that I have a full-time job, a growing family, and a very active creative moonlighting job (i.e. freelance graphic designer).

I have seven months to go and I'm a bit ahead of schedule. Do you think I should take a vacation?

What through yonder window do you spy?

I forgot to mention my weekly contribution to Write Stuff yesterday: Through Yonder Window.

I'm overwhelmed by the kind, warm reception to my contributions. Comments made include:
"That’s a beautiful analogy. The way you write hooks me and I can vividly see what you’re describing." --Benjamin

"I loved this post. And it sure is a beautiful analogy, as already mentioned above. It’s heart warming! I really loved it! Hugs!" --Anele

"This a truly beautiful and insightful post. Do you think that we can often be “too” educated?

Nothing is more endearing than those innocent little babbles;) I guess balance is the key." --Tammi

Thanks Benjamin.

Thanks Anele (and hugs).

Thanks Tammi and good question. I like how Kent Nerburn put it: "Education will not inform your spirit and make you full. So, along with knowledge, you must seek wisdom." Education with out wisdom is simple mathematics. The more one learns the more one realizes there is much more to learm. Soon the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of itself becomes empty. Wisdom provides a balance and purpose by offering an individual how to apply knowledge to those "young unsteady" ones spoken of in the post.

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Notes from last night's poetry reading

Instead of writing an eloquent report of last night's reading, I will just post the notes I scribbled into my notebook. Yeah, if you were there, I was the one with my head buried in a notebook frantically writing. Blame it on my ADD tendencies. Apart from running spell check these notes are as they generally appear in my notebook--complete with poor punctuation, abbreviated thoughts and for some odd reason attention poets' fashion. Right on ... here I go ...

Chall Gray
Breaks the ice nicely with a humorous poem about furniture and contrasts it with a poem about a brother and a sister who observe but do not talk about things. He wears a black long-sleeved button down shirt rolled up to the elbow--blue jeans--hair dark, pulled back into tight short ponytail. He ends with a moving homage to his departed father by asking "why."

Ingrid Carson
Begins with a poem asking what color is the American dream. "What Now" is read second. She wears a black top, wavy brown hair pulled back, framing her face. "What am I going to do now?" she asks and ends; "What am I going to do now?" Her last poem is in two parts; "Still Life" and "My Hands." She reads, "a violence of flowers..." She reads with purpose and poise and through delicate lips and intense blue eyes as if to say, I know something you don't know and I have the floor for a few more lines. "You have pushed the mind to the limits..." She concludes that beauty is found in the ugliest of things.

Thomas Rain Crowe
Wearing all black--he tunes up a wooden flute--poet is participant--reads a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in Jackson county--admits he spent a lot of time writing editors. He reads of beauty and uses metaphor--King Kong movie cements his argument to turn corporate development back to nature's beauty. He next reads an extended haiku written for Steve Earl for some event last year. "What profit? What Price?" he asks. "We can do better than this," he concludes the poem powerfully. His poem "Peace Will Come" is accompanied by the evening's featured keyboardist, Steve Davidowski. "Peace will come one day" is lifted over the ambient keyboard harmonics--his reading intensifies. "When peace comes to stay" ends his poem. He steps back, places the flute to his lips and plays--the keyboardist joins the melody which concludes that session.

Emoke B'Racz
First poem is recited in Hungarian. "Fragmented Life" is about her father who she says is bigger than life--sometimes everyday. "Try not to talk about the time," she reads. She reads about her father's internment camp experience: "Now take that." She shares of the hard life of the punished young men in those camps. "Silently he left.. to give your youth for democracy...taken..." She wears a white blouse, gold necklace with pendant, black suit jacket--1965--"Poets Among Each Other" translated and published in 1970-something ('76?). "This is how we stand my brothers," she reads her translation. It's a short work. She rolls her tongue across her lower lip from right to left frequently before saying "I could use some water" then reads her last poem of the evening.

15-minute intermission

Will Hubbard
Reads several poems--long brown hair wrapped behind his ears--as he gazes down upon his papers it rests on his shoulders like a hood--he reads a poem called "Porn" with cynical tones of humor and wry sensibility. "5 for 5 for 3 Straight" is his last poem "and one learns where to leave off" he reads. His left hand casually in his pants pocket, his right hand holds his loose-leaf manuscript. "Saying it how it was originally said..." He reads as one might read a tele marketer's script.

Rose McLarney
She reads a collection of poems concerning the over development of Madison county--lose of land to corporate contractors--overgrowth of urban/suburban sprawl. "Shouldn't fight ... farms let them go," she reads. Her thin lips clip her words nervously as if she is unaccustomed to public reading. She wears a black sleeveless top with flowing flowery patterned skirt--hair pulled back, leaving dark curls to cascade down the back of her neck. Her last poem: "... the peace of the American South."

Laura Hope Gill
She tells of her BMC connections--reads "Ponco" with an eruption of words and demands social justice "when she was the question" referring to the dead old woman under a poncho many Americans saw after Hurricane Katrina--The image of a woman who died waiting for medical assistance in the aftermath of the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans. She wears hoop earrings, thin gold necklace upon her chest, low-cut white blouse and black sweater. She reads several poems of childhood witness "we slept in our bunk beds ... spelled out in silk." She reads about a stallion. She reads with proficiency and like Ingrid has a smile and sparkle in her eyes suggesting a joke that only she knows the punch line. Her speech skills draw several people forward in their seats. Or maybe its the hard wooden seats we all endure. "The wind of their grandfather's song... " she reads.

Glenis Redmond
"Enter through the door of war..." she begins after adjusting the microphone. "Grief is an uttering tongue." She begins with a powerful recitation. She is a performer--practiced in public settings. Her second poem is "Lifting" about the Kenilworth slave cemetery near her neighborhood. "Bid us ride," she reads. By far she is the most charismatic poet of the evening. "Looking back to the land where courage was born." Due to the lateness of the evening she says she'll only read three poems. Her next poem is about Nina Simone: "bitter aint born black." Her final poem is a recitation: "Every time I hear King speak I feel a rumble..." she starts and concludes, "We shall."

Reflections of paint from a poetry reading

I'm not sure what to say about tonight's event. Seven and a half pages in my notebook filled with observations and thoughts of the reading. Though I haven't the energy to type it all tonight, I'll post details of the event later.

One thing, of many, did strike me this cool, blue Spring evening. I sat in an old wooden folding chair next to a wall lined with photos by Hazel Larsen Archer. Portraits of Josef and Anni Albers looked over my shoulder. A photo of Josef Albers teaching class displays students' compositions scattered in the foreground. I know exactly what they are doing because my university art professor, a student of Albers, had his students apply gouche to panel and board in order to create swatches of tint and shade in the same manner. I spent hours painting a dozen variations of blue evenly representing shade to tint (i.e. dark blue to light blue). A whole semester was spent on Albers color theory and related understanding of color.

Josef Albers
photo source
I examined the students in the photo carefully trying to identify my university art professor Emery Bopp. But I forgot, at the time, that he studied under Albers at Yale not Black Mountain College. Still, I see Josef Albers in that portrait and there is a representative of Bauhaus style. His intensity of gaze from a vintage gelatin silver print hauntingly reminds me of a loose connection to him through my art professor and the hours spent mixing, applying and peeling paint from my fingers. In a physical way, the smell of gouche and the feel of mixing it in trays is that connection to a soft spoken professor, Emery Bopp. And I wonder if he learned his teaching approach from Josef Albers.

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Poetry Reading

Black Mountain College
Museum + Arts Center

May 19, 2006
7:00 PM
Admission is $7
Featured poets include Emoke B'Racz, Laura Hope Gill,
Glenis Redmond, Chall Gray, Rose McLarney, Ingrid Carson,
Will Hubbard and Thomas Rain Crowe
[more info here]

Designing, publishing, printing... [part 6]

reference material
Magazine-- Since March 30th, I've been designing a new magazine from concept to thumbnails to full color mock-ups. The first thing I did was found out what competition I had locally. Asheville has a lot of free weekly and monthly magazines which can be found almost anywhere throughout the mountain metropolis. The magazine I'm developing really doesn't have direct competition due to the simple fact that most free mags are on newsprint--the one I'm working on will be a full color glossy targeting the food industry. The magazine's positioning line is “cuisine, entertainment and lifestyle."

The only magazines that present a direct challenge are national; like Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. The niche audience potential provides a unique market that, as of yet, has not been met.

T-26 catalog
Knowing that the target demographics include 20 to 30-somethings I located an old T-26 catalog and searched for the perfect font to capture the publication's title. The goal was to create something elegant, sensual, chic, sophisticated and modern. At first I planned to use a serif body font with bold san serif headlines. However I changed directions quickly as I realized the idea seemed to be elegant and sophisticated but not entirely chic or sexy. Besides, it became too evident that I was directly inspired by STEP's editorial layout design (unfortunately STEP's web site cannot provide a representation of their print version). It's one thing to draw inspiration from a nicely designed source, it's another to mimic good design. A mimic always lives in the shadows of a greater designed publication and will always be viewed as second-rate. That is not how I want this magazine to be perceived.

The other aspect to a serif body font that challenged me was that the pages seemed to take on a conservative, corporate quality that is not what I wanted to communicate. A lot of sans serif fonts are designed for headlines or captions and a readable body font was a challenge to discover. Oh, and I'm not subjecting my readers to Helvetica or Arial; not in print anyway. The T-26 catalog offered a loads of articulate fonts of which I chose two: Aaux Pro and Tempelhof.

Sample page layout featuring fonts Aaux Pro and Tempelhof and photography by Chris Chromey

I'm using Aaux Pro as the main body font for this startup magazine. Neil Summerour created Aaux Pro in 2004. The headline font as well as drop cap and leader copy is Tempelhof, which was designed by Gunter Schwarzmaier in 2003. Like I stated earlier, the target audience is chic, sexy, modern 20 to 30-something adults. So, I chose two fonts created recently that captured the essence of postmodern readers yet still retained a clean, readable text.

Book-- In less than six weeks, with minimal advertising, the book has sold almost 700 copies. The book has been promoted exclusively through one national magazine with small third page and sixth page ads. The only way to get the book, until last week, was to place an order through a 1 800 phone number. It is now available for purchase online. In less than four days online sales exceeded 100 copies sold. I am amazed by the modest success of this project. With a small team (editorial, production, and customer service), a relatively unknown author and little to no budget for promotion and advertising, the book is selling itself. I am humbled and grateful to part of this project.

PART: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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3 books, 3 reviews & a curve ball

[ 1 & 2 ]

Teaching A Stone to Talk
Published almost 24 years ago, Teaching A Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard has recently crossed my path.

In her essay/chapter "Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos" she writers: "Darwinism today is more properly called neo-Darwinism. It is organic evolutionary theory informed by the spate of new data ... In the larger sense, neo-Darwinism also lacks ... sheer plausibility ... Many things are unexplained, many discrepancies unaccounted for." She continues, "Social Darwinists seized Herbert Spencer's phase 'the survival of the fittest,' applied it to capitalism and used it to sanction ruthless and corrupt business practices ... social Darwinism is ... not a religion but a way of life ... where ever people seek power: that the race is to the swift ... and the reward is its own virtue."

In her essay "Sojourner" she uses a beautiful metaphor that Earth is a sojourner heading through the universe "east of Hercules, like east of Eden." This book is actually a collection of several well-written essays.

Dillard sprinkles each essay with scientific facts like the planet "is moving in orbit at 68,400 miles an hour." It is not light reading and more often than not I had to put the book down for several days. Maybe this is due to the fact that I would read one essay and put the book down for a week or two and would resume my reading when I felt like reading the next essay. Finally, I decided to force my way through it on an out of town business trip and found that it wasn't difficult to read at all.

When I shared that I had read Teaching A Stone to Talk with a group of writers I know, there was a mixed response. One poet/writer commented how Annie Dillard brilliantly struggles with God in a most violent manner--almost obsessively. In less than a minute two writers said "that's f---ed up" as if to courageously affront Dillard's observation that God's Tooth is a new island on the horizon.

Holy the Firm
But I'm getting ahead of myself. God's Tooth is a reference to the other Annie Dillard book I finished, Holy the Firm.

The book has three chapters that covers three consecutive days. Throughout Holy the Firm Annie refers to observing uncharted islands from a window of her seaside shack as she ponders the reality of time and truth and God. After an island tragedy, plane crash, she discovers a new island beyond the others and names it God's Tooth.

Back to the writers' reaction to Annie's literary work. Spiritual struggle with God is not on their map and so as God's Tooth appears as a reality their response is bold disbelief. That's not supposed to be there, they may think or say. Now that it is they must deal with its reality and that's "f---ed up."

My take away: Somewhere between Annie Dillard, Donald Miller and Kent Nerburn is where I would like to be with my non-fiction prose. I was planning on taking a writing class called "True Stories" taught by Sebastian Matthews, but the class filled and they returned my application and moneys. Forget about it. Why do I need a class if there are good books to teach me? Further, creative non-fiction prose is not simply writing from observation. Annie clearly does a lot of research before composing an essay.

[ 3 ]

Simple Truths
Kent Nerburn's book Simple Truths offers small chapters on the big issues of life.

On education he expresses the importance of formal and experiential learning. He writes, "formal education ... has been sought and revered by all people and all cultures at all times." He balances this chapter with this: "Still, formal education will not inform your spirit and make you full. So, along with knowledge, you must seek wisdom." Knowledge is multiple, wisdom is singular. Knowledge is words, wisdom is silence ... No person can be whole without both dimensions of learning."

His chapter on work can be summarized like this: chose your work well or it will choose you. "By giving a job your time," he writes. "You are giving it your consciousness. Eventually it will fill your life with the reality that it presents." If you don't like where you're working it "will become your prison rather than the vehicle of your dreams. And a person without dreams is only half alive." Nerburn relates that the word "vocation comes from the Latin word for calling, ... voice." And he ends the chapter with this thought: "Find what it is that burns in your heart and do it. Choose a vocation, not a job and your life will have meaning and your days will have peace."

Simple Truths offers short eloquent chapters with that kind of wisdom. Kent Nerburn explores everything from love to death to silence and loneliness to money to parenting with great insight. Like I said, it is a small book with very readable chapters about life's big issues. Maybe this resonates with me because Nerburn writes with an Upper Midwestern sensibility. Since I'm a stranger in Dixie, it is nice to read someone who knows the roar and silence of the prairie. Thomas Rain Crowe considers this "bioregional" writing. Similarly, the silence of the mountains after the wind disappears is equally majestic in its vastness.

In contrast to Annie Dillard, Kent Nerburn presents an approachable prose; one that doesn't weigh with academic sobriety, but offers an intimate monologue. Both writers are well educated but approach their prose with a unique style.

My take away: Again, why do I need to pay for a writing class if there are good books like Simple Truths to teach me? When I examine the order of Simple Truths it reminds me a bit like Gibran's The Prophet. The book is composed as a series of epistles from a father to a son. What better motivation to write than to leave your children a book of maxims. In Nerburn's words: "You must offer your highest vision of good, and a sense of moral purpose, and a healthy vision of the world outside." This motivates me to re-examine my writings.

[ curve ball ]

Milk Cartons & Dog Biscuits
Stonehaven: Milk Cartons & Dog Biscuits by Kevin Tinsley and Phil Singer presents a graphic novel about a rogue werewolf loose in a NYC-type metropolis called Stonehaven. It is a pleasant mix between detective pulp fiction, mafia crime story and a fantasy tale set in a modern city. There are half-elves, Chinatown mafia, an ogre landlord and a country cop searching for his runaway daughter.

My take away: Stonehaven: Milk Cartons & Dog Biscuits can easily be read on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The art is good for an indie release, but the creative team relies too heavily on computer-generated backgrounds. I suspect amateurs who are dangerous with advanced technology that affords them to produce this graphic novel create Stonehaven. Given a bigger budget they may be able to hire a better artist and colorist. Overall, a good read, but does not convince me to read their other publications.

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More than a stack of books and magazines; it is a wall. Or maybe a staircase.

weekend reading material
My mind swims with thoughts and sometimes it takes days to sort it all out and translate the meaning.

Saturday night, upon returning from the reading I told my lovely and enduring wife how excited I was about the event. Some readings I attend and there's a disconnect between myself in other authors. Either the subject matter of the poems or prose don't resonate with me. Or the author presents a work so tightly crafted I despair that I cannot accomplish half of that.

But something clicked inside of me this weekend. Nic Pizzolatto and Tony Tost presented their work to a small audience. They are both young writers starting out in their writing career. I haven't completed reading their books, but what I've read jives with me; like we think along the same or parallel lines. I realized I've been comparing my writings to other older or dead poets and writers. Reading the best most accomplished works by a certain writer can be down right depressing when I am trying to compete or beat what may, by some scholars and critics, be a magnum opus. But I forget to keep it in prespective--that it took years for a poet or a writer to achieve the excellence of craftmanship in creating a masterpiece. The book I helped produce took the writer more than eight years and almost 200 essays to create an enduring manuscript.

Saturday night I had two essays (planned for Write Stuff) awaiting revisions. My wife listened to my enthusiastic revelations with interest and then pointed me to my iBook and tenderly reminded me to write. I did. Inspired by a quote from Walt Whitman (“To have great poets, there must be great audiences… ), I wrote about the audience of fine literature and how it seems to be miniscule. I wrote for an hour and a half and then spent the same amount of time editing and revising the piece down to about 500 words. At the time I didn't know and wouldn't know until today that the centenarian poet, Stanley Kunitz, would translate from living to dead in a few hours. This news adds urgency to my writings; propels me forward one letter at a time, one page at a time. It reminds me not to be distracted with the achievements of others but grow and refine my own writings. I began reading an interview between Stanley Kunitz and Genine Lentine in the May/June 2006 issue of American Poetry Review this weekend, but have not completed it as of today. The essay "Spiritual Atheism" by Steven Antinoff has captivated my attention currently.

More on this tomorrow. I've got freelance work to do.

Where did the motor go? or going green in Asheville

A couple weeks ago I made a tough decision. I had inherited a beat up lawn mower years ago from a friend who left Asheville due to the city's abscence of high tech jobs. Last year the machine produced a loud grinding sound, a whine and a whimper. It has since collected dust in the barn. A neighbor's son mowed the lawn the remaining months of last summer.

With all the Spring rain here in the mountains, the grass grew quickly and need for lawn mowing became evident as early as late March. Replacing the transmission in the family car (we're a one-car family) depleted funds for a new lawn mower. With less than $150, I studied lawn care from every angle for several weeks. I could pay someone to mow the lawn or I could buy a lawn mower. Searching through several websites I realized it's more economical to take a trip to the local hardware store than to pay shipping costs for a cheap, used lawn mower. Add the price of gasoline (it would take at least $6 worth of gasoline to my mow my land) I even entertained the idea of buying a goat.

Task Force manual push mower
Two weeks ago, I settled on the idea of purchasing a manual push mower. I said it was a tough decision because I do not live on property with level lawn. It is considered a "sloped" property by the City of Asheville. And I would be the one manually marching up and down and around the various slopes. Did I mention I'm a desk jockey art director type?

It will be good exercise, I told myself. It will be good for the environment, I told myself. It won't cost $6 to mow the land, I told myself. The leader of the financial class I took a few months ago will be proud of me because I am staying within the budget. My chiropractor will love seeing me more often. It only requires minimal cost to maintain (a squirt or two of lubricant to keep the wheels and gears in motion).

My eldest child enjoyed the trip to the hardware store. It was his impression we were and should be shopping for a riding lawn mowing goliath. We stood before several riding lawn mowers that looked like they could be odd children of Humvee parents. When I showed him the 20 inch Task Force manual push mower he thought that was acceptable but questioned how the store model fit into such a small cardboard box. He was very excited when he got to help assemble the manual machine less than an hour later.

I have very little regrets about purchasing the 20 inch Task Force manual push mower. It is quite a work out. It doesn't cut as cleanly as a motored mower, but part of that is due to allowing the lawn to grow wild for a month in a half. Long grass tends to be pushed under the mower rather than cut my it. Several green mohawks sprout from those areas. Where a motored mower whould chew and spit twigs and barks, the manual mower simply stops and refuses to proceed. After removing the twip from the rotor blades, I continue. This allows me to know my lawn a bit more intimately. Instead of plowing through the chore of lawn care, I'm able to carefully examine the land I call home.

My politically conservative friends just roll their eyes and consider me a hippy while they drive their riding lawn mower goliaths across their half acre lot of land. My politically progressive friends admire my commitment to sustainable living while they continue to drive their hybrid SUVs. Funny thing happend last weekend, my wife and I stopped by Greenlife Grocery to pick up a few organic items and the first two rows in the parking lot were all SUVs. I expect that at Ingles, but not Greenlife. My digital camera was not available at the time. Otherwise, I would have snapped a few photos to display the irony of a Greenlife storefront crowded with gas guzzling SUVs.

In some respects, going green is quite chic in Asheville. There are a lot of fine establishments commited to a sustainable community. As for myself, going green is a lot of hard work, but I think it was a good decision in the long run.

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Pizzolatto & Tost

Nic Pizzolatto & Tony Tost
I'm writing this at Malaprop's... or at least I'm beginning to compose this post at Malaprop's while listening to a public book reading.

There are eleven of us listening to award-winning poet Tony Tost read from his book Invisible Bride. Tost reads, "My beard is a bridge between my past and my face.... She says my beard tickles her lips. She slips a valentine into my mouth."

He reads quickly--seemingly unaware of the power of his words. Tost reads selections from his forthcoming book as well. And says it won't be available until next fall. Based on the last six months, I completely understand why it takes so long to make a manuscript into a book.

Nic Pizzolatto reads "Ghost Birds" from his book Between Here and the Yellow Sea. A half dozen people join the small group in the café--frontiers penetrating a literary landscape. I notice Chall sitting up front. He's somewhat of a local poetry scene luminary. There are people outside the café area listening to Pizzolatto read as they pull books off the shelves and return them. It is comical to see people unknowingly mesmerized by good literature.

I am surprised to discover that the books they read from are their first published works. Fantastic debuts! I hope they come to read in Asheville again ... to a larger audience.

I'll be poting a companion piece to this at Write Stuff: Where is the audience?.

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Designing, publishing, printing... [part 5]

Book-- The last two months provided some amazing challenges. The book I developed collects 30 previously published essays into a single volume. Manuscript selections and title were completed in early March. ISBN number and text page layout completed a week after that. Book design (including cover design and rear cover promo copy) delivered to the printer the last Monday in March. That concluded the production phase.

Throughout the next three weeks I prepared the national ad campaign and organized the retail and fulfillment operations. Let me pause here and express thanks to the many excellent team members who helped get this project off the notepad and into production. While writing ad copy and designing the ads, I was examined and approved press proofs, adjusted profit and loss reports and visited the book printing facility.

The customer service team offered inspiration and assistance in the providing the first contact with customers. Early on it was decided to make the book available only via a 1 800 number. This was done to assess customer response and to quickly adjust if challenges arise. It's easier to proactively accommodate customers' needs if there is only one door to go through to purchase the book.

The first "teaser" ad was placed in a national magazine dated April 15, 2006. The following week another "teaser" ad was released. Both of these teasers do not provide a call to action (i.e. a 1 800 number or web site address)--only the message that a book by the author was coming soon. However, a few calls to customer service were made during that time requesting info about the book and the author. The April 29th issue of the national magazine featured the third ad which contained a description of the book, the book's price and a 1 800 to call and "pre-order." Five days before the magazine's cover date there were already 60 pre-ordered copies.

Books were delivered early to the warehouse last Friday. By the end of Monday there were almost 200 pre-ordered books. The book's official (but not advertised) release date was this week--Tuesday. Currently, more than 300 copies have been ordered and shipped.

Magazine-- Photo shoot.

Magazines are better designed than written. Three simple rules about selling magazines: 1) Great covers move magazines from the rack to your hands. 2) A well-designed page layout will keep the magazine in your hand for at least a cover-to-cover flip-through. 3) If the headline doesn't send you to the deck (a deck is the copy that teases the article) and the deck doesn't send you to the article, then the magazine ends up back on the rack.

Back to photo shoot--covers aren't born. They are shot. Last week I spent about six hours at a photo shoot for the magazine. It was a great shoot. I learned a lot. The photographer is really great to work with and deals with unexpected challenges very well. He provides great material for the magazine. Without a great photographer a magazine shifts from the top rack to the bottom rack where all the literary journals are located. Its sad but true--literary magazines lose a lot of ground to the overwhelming power of visual-based glossy mags.

Here's my dilemma: I know that great photography attracts readers to a magazine; that works for me as a visual artist and graphic designer. The magazine I am designing is to be a very visual piece with large chic photo spreads. The flip side is that I also gravitate to the bottom rack to find the lit mags and pulp zines. The dichotomy puzzles me.

PART: [1] [2] [3] [4]

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Mountain laurels Flame Azalea

Discovered these lovely orange blossoms over the weekend. I've been told this type of mountain laurel is a rare variety, but I don't know what it is named. From what I understand, this variety is rare and only grows at a certain elevation along the Blue Ridge Mountains. I would appreciate help in identifying the variety of mountain laurel these photos represent.

Update: Thanks to some helpful BlogAsheville souls, I discovered these wonderful creations are Flame Azalea -- Rhododendron calendulaceum.

As if you haven't heard enough about penguins

New prose at Write Stuff: Penguins.

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Cover Story: Filling My Love Basket

Spring 2006
Vol 1 Number 1
Blue Sky Asheville is a new publication that offers a wide variety of articles and essays on spirituality. Blue Sky Asheville is a local magazine in the same vein as Utne magazine.

Let me illustrate the diversity of Blue Sky Asheville. Articles range from "Fitness Rising: Gain Muscle and Shed Fat as the Moon Waxes and Wanes" to "Living the Mystery: Exploring the Physics of Consciousness."

That being said, I am humbled and honored that my submission, "Filling My Love Basket," attained the coveted spot of cover story on the debut issue of Blue Sky Asheville. Actually, it shares the cover with another (much more talented) writer--Gaither Stewart--who submitted an excellent article: "Not By Bread Alone."

Allow me to offer a warning. If you are easily offended by irreverent, profane or obscene language you may want to skip this article due to a few choice words (three or four). Those of you who are regular readers know I don't offer a lot of salty language. Profane or obscene language is something I avoid in my writings because, more often than not, it "calls attention [to itself and distracts] from the work as a whole" to quote Flannery O'Connor. However, in "Filling My Love Basket" I wanted to juxtapose religion and spirituality by "let my thoughts flow freely". My hope is that I present an authentic and relevant struggle that is common to all people of various faith groups.

So without further delay, read "Filling My Love Basket".

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Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me

Client: WORLD Magazine
Media: Hard cover book
Collaborators: Illustrator: Krieg Barrie, Assistant Art Director: Rob Patete
Purchase product: at Amazon, CBD, or WORLD.

First ad campaign design

Second ad campaign design