What We Could Be

This week, journalist and photographer David Bacon sledgehammers a hole in the wall, revealing the 750,000 farm workers in California hidden from view.  Their labor is performed away from where most of us work; few of us sleep in their conditions, but they are still our neighbors.  Through storytellers like Bacon, it is possible that we, us and them, could be so much more.

Nearly ¼ of those farm workers come from small communities in Mexico; these are native communities with a history and culture predating European discovery and exploitation by 1000 years.  In California fields, a rich linguistic history can be traced and explored; nearly two dozen languages can be heard on any given day – evidence of a rich, diverse culture going nearly unnoticed.  What we see today, in terms of working conditions and divisions between classes of people, are the result of choices made hundreds of years ago to create an unequal system.

trabajamos image

Photo by David Bacon

 

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves:  Why do we keep this system in place?  Who benefits?  Who continues to suffer?

How about this?  What if these million or so people were welcomed in the world?  How much richer would American society become when these dozens of voices, perspectives, ways of seeing the world, became part of who we are instead of something we hide?  How much longer can these walls stand?

 

 

To see Trabajamos/We Work: In the Fields of the North, get to Riverside Art Museum, before April 11th, www.riversideartmuseum.org

To buy the book, go to www.ucpress.edu/9780520296077 and use source code 16M4197 at checkout to save 30% or buy at the Blue Door Store inside #RiversideArtMuseum

 

 

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Motivation Schmotivation

I teach motivation as part of my coursework in my Intro to College course, and I sprinkle it into many of my Critical Thinking classes.  The other day I faced a pile of dirty dishes.  That moment clarified just what each of us faces when it comes to finishing a task.

This short post goes out to all my fellow procrastinators.  By the way, I stopped to write this while in the middle of finishing my media and retail sales lists for my publisher, Reedy Press.  I was supposed to have them in by the 15th.  Enjoy!!

When faced with a particularly heinous pile of dirty dishes, I took the rookie-actor approach and asked myself, “What’s my motivation?” After all, this is a home mess, not a work related occupational hazard.  My inner director called up three approaches –

  1. External motivation – I need to clean this mess up before someone comes over and sees this.
  2. Internal – I need to get this done so I can work on those other project deadlines.
  3. Go outside, watch birds, and hope an elf does them while I am away.

 

I went outside. I watched birds. I chased a two-year-old around. I stepped in dog poop.

Eventually we got hungry.  When we came inside to make dinner, those dishes were still there.  But I was in a much better headspace to knock them out.  Give yourself a pass today on beating yourself up about unfinished tasks.  Go look at something pretty or talk to someone that knows you are already pretty awesome.

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Down the Advertising Rabbit Hole

If you are like me, when you think about the writer’s life, it involves power, paper, ink, coffee, late nights, early mornings, and feeling like you may never finish that next project.  But there comes a time when you put the pen down, and pick up the phone, metaphorically. It’s the date the book is done and now it must be sold.  This requires buyers, and they need to be reached.  How?

Back in 1994, I was chatting with a new co-worker at my sales job and we traded contact information.  My new friend pointed to his card, “And that’s my email address.” I said, “Really? Cool!” but I thought – Wow, what a dork. Why would anyone email?  In the following months, I learned I was the dork and my question was irrelevant…but in the era of texting, perhaps that question  – do we even need email – should be asked again.

My #resistance to email stems from my failed attempt to harness its power for a 2016 Riverside Art Museum exhibition. For that, I combed my contacts and LinkedIn profiles for emails and then created a mass email, which I tried to send in bulk through Gmail.  Whoops! Many of you know what happened next – several reports of SPAM ensued, along with a high number of bounce-backs from closed email accounts.  Rookie mistake!   So, I culled down what was left to people who ACTUALLY know me in the physical realm AND may want to come to an art show in Riverside.  My take-away?  Quality beats quantity.

So, armed with this wisdom, I set out to market my new book, 100 Things to do in Riverside Before You Die, I created a Facebook page and an Amazon campaign.

 

It was exciting creating the page because it was a measure of progress in my mission to “market my book” and another indication that I was a “serious writer” at that!  I did not let the ease of creating my page take away from its importance.  And while easy to start, it gets progressively more difficult to decide how to use it.  To do so, I perused other author pages to see what they say and how they keep the page fresh without appearing to constantly fish for likes, orders, and gigs.

For $25, you can start a campaign to generate page views, likes, shares, orders, just about anything you want a prospective reader to do.  You pay by the “click”, and each one takes about $.15 out of your budget.  The great thing is that you set it and go, then they keep you posted on data and tell you when you run out of dough!  Important to keep tabs on the expenses when you recognize that writing is the worst money making scheme since someone realized how much it cost to manufacture a penny.

The result? 51 clicks, just under 3000 impressions, and my likes crossed the 100 mark.  I am still trying to figure out if the clicks turned into pre-sales, but my looking in Amazon left me hanging on how to answer that one.  To see this as a positive, I am choosing to focus on what I learned and the fact that I am just starting out here, so there really is no reason to focus on sales yet.

For February, I will be adding photos and fun content daily. Since my book highlights several restaurants, museums, parks, shops, and entertainment venues, my next move is to connect with each, make sure they know about the book, and ask them to pass along my links.  Then, I will compare the two actions to see which one worked better.

For Amazon, I submitted my campaign, by the way, you must spend a minimum of $100, and it was rejected. The reason had something to do with the title of my campaign.  I couldn’t understand what to fix so I just put that project aside. Perhaps it will be the writing project that never gets done. If not, then I will write about that experience here soon.

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Drafting readers for your draft

With some time before my first traditionally published book, 100 Things to do in Riverside Before You Die, is due to my publisher Reedy Press, I sent a draft off to three readers. And waited.  The wait gave me time to consider why I asked these three to read for me in the first place.  Sharing this here, my hope is that you will consider similar reasons when you reach that point in the process.

Since my book is about recreation, arts, and cultural events in Riverside, I wanted people who know Riverside and do not know Riverside.  I would up with one closely connected to this place, and two that are not. One grew up in SoCal and the other “outsider” was from that little backwater up north known as Canada. Always good to get international input should your book release world-wide!

After “Subject Knowledge” came a close second – demonstrated ability to communicate with the written word. Demonstrated by more than completion of an education. Again, I sought balance. Someone with experience writing and editing as their profession is desired, but given the hands-on and casual nature of this book, regular non-professionals could help me more with tone, pace, and voice – the touchy feely part of writing that all of us can experience. One was an avid reader, a second writes and reads regularly as a faculty member, and my third makes a living as a writer and illustrator. Box, checked!

My third criteria was a time concern. When I teach goal setting, time must always be a factor.  What can be done in the time required? After letting my “volunteers” know about what I needed and estimated time investment on their side, I gave them a response date that was far enough away from MY editor’s deadline to allow some flexibility and meaningful feedback. This allowed one of my original choices to bow out as they could not meet the deadlines. But it did give that person enough time to help me solicit a replacement.

The result? Three closely noted drafts were in my hands with a full month to incorporate their ideas and corrections with plenty of time to spare. Having three readers helped me on those spots where I just was not sure if I should make the change or not. If a majority or all had a similar note, changing it was easier.  But that did not stop me from rejecting suggestions, even when all three said the same thing.

Why? At the end of the day, this is my vision and my book. And that philosophy should drive all of us in any creative pursuit, regardless of the feedback from our community.

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“FUR” Play Project, See the Last Night, Free

NOW

Facebook. Of all my thoughts on the subject, arts promotion and community engagement never came to mind. However…when I joined a poetry workshop managed through Facebook, it forced me to rethink what it was good for.  This single event caused me to “luckily” find great new art in my community –  I am from the Inland Empire, Inlandia, The IE, Inland SoCal – and, in the process, rediscover things I love about other people.  Which will not be easy for the next few years, so I need to find goodness to combat those awful gravitational waves emanating from Washington, DC until 2021.

“Fur” by Migdalia Cruz, did the trick. This surrealist adaptation (loosely, veeerry loosely) of “Beauty and the Beast” was a welcome cleanse for the surrealist experience of waking up November 9th 2016 in America.  Director Luis Hurtado has assembled a great cast of actors. Their use of space – this was a live reading but the voice talents of the actors obliterated that limitation – brings the audience right into the cage where most of the action takes place.  Watching three characters seeking happiness from another person, and doomed to be unsatisfied with these varying unrequited loves, mirrors the challenges in our community today. We desire, but we often ask the wrong person or object to satisfy that desire. The result is sadness in the real world.

Thank goodness for surrealism. It provides escape of limited duration. Enough to fill many purposes but one in particular. “Fur” will take you away from the dodgy exterior monolog we are being subjected to, and replaces that with honest and useful human drives – the desire to be desired. To be loved.

I loved this experience. And you can too. I will not spoil the ending but it is cathartic. Limited engagement means this show will be here again tonight (11/10/2016) at 7 PM at the Culver Center for the Arts, Riverside CA. FREE Admission! See updates at www.facebook.com/ucrlpp

Missed this but want to catch the next one? Catch Model Minority and Gold Mean Players here, 1/27 and 1/28, 2017.

THEN

Next up! You must have a next up. Otherwise, why get out of that nice bed you made?  Keep an eye out for the next installment:  March Air Field Museum.  Crawling out of planes, asking older people, “what was it like when you were a kid?”, and petting a stuffed dog at the “War Dawgs Exhibition” will be more low cost local fun.

 

#artsblock #UCRLLP #surreal #art #riverside #innovation #play #love #beauty

 

Now & Then is an occasional blog covering regional art and culture worth my time, and maybe yours too!

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Indie Author Month Wrap-Up

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Since 2011, writers and readers of independently published works have designated October as Indie Author Month.  What began as a small group of publishers and writers from around Indianapolis has grown into a national celebration.  Coffee shops, libraries, universities, theaters and more, opened their doors this month to celebrate something that millions of us try each year – writing! As a writer with a foot in traditional publishing, but a much longer history with indie publishing, I wanted to understand how the Inland Empire put this month to good use.  My writer’s training took me first to Jurupa Valley, then Claremont, and ended in San Bernardino.

On October 1st, the Riverside County Library System proudly started the month off with a day of indie author events hosted by Inlandia Institute. Taking place at the Louise Robidoux Branch Library, authors, editors, publishers, and advocates provided timely information about the state and purpose of independent publishing.  During the panel discussion, each demonstrated the winding and often varied paths that brought each of them into writing. All were energized by the variety of voices, as well as the emphasis on new voices.

This event served to highlight an ugly fact of our Inland Empire literary landscape:  a dearth of literary agents based in the Inland Empire.  Nobody in attendance could name a single one. Given a piece of independent work will not have the built in support of a national publisher’s effort or media campaign, it is even more important for indie authors to have supporters to promote exceptional writing.

On the western edge of Inland Southern California, Pitzer College featured an indie event dedicated to the publishers themselves.  October 5th’s Small Press Fest, funded by Pitzer’s College Campus Life Committee and spear-headed by Brent Armendinger, focused on the interplay between independent publishing and social justice.  It was great to see a regional college take on this task.  Like libraries, they have a built in love of the written word, self-expression, and new ideas. It makes sense that higher education would eagerly find ways to support this knowledge sharing and the book crafting enterprise.

What stood out was the varied shape and feel of the books offered.  There were series of short tracts and tightly folded, accordion-style books, pop out books, books on all sorts of papers was popular.  Another stand out was the emphasis on marginalized voices, voices of women and people of color.  At the panel discussion, the overarching themes were social justice and how to create a sense of community with small presses. Amanda Ackerman with eohippus labs summed it up simply when she stated, [small presses] rely on idiosyncratic forms, information, and distribution”.  The result is a product that looks, says, and does things differently from traditional presses.

San Bernardino Public Library, Feldhym Central branch, celebrated Indie Author Day as one of 200+ libraries participating in a virtual town hall, panel discussion, and book sales on October 8th.  Program Coordinator Linda Adams Yeh provided a space to explore how each genre approaches self-publishing. Horror stories, detective tales, children’s books, fanzines, comics, graphic novels, biographies, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction offerings ensured everyone in attendance could go home with a new book.  The day featured two writers sharing best practices and processes to support artistic aspirations by drawing upon personal experience and community connections.

The nation-wide virtual town hall included an Indie Author Day panel discussion led by Jon Fine. Jon is a media consultant and the previous long time Director of Amazon’s Author and Publisher Relations. He led a panel of writers, librarians, and entrepreneurs speaking about what drives independent publishing.

Novelist L. Penelope spoke about what inspires the indie writer, stating they “want to get [their] hands into all the specifics” when it comes to the writing process. She shared what she did during that year of writing her first title.  Alongside her novel, she also prepared an extensive marketing plan. She incorporated the selling of the book into her creative process.

Lessons worth remembering? First, no matter what form publishing takes next, quality writing will still be priority one.  Second, you can find great homegrown writing with a mouse click or a trip to your local bookstore. Third, independent publishing is a time-tested method to explore new ideas and sustain a vibrant, local arts community.

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WHEN I MOVED Poetry and Prose Series

This was a fun experience and I highly recommend publishing this way. Whether you are building a portfolio of work, or just want to read and share interesting perspectives, there is something for just about any writer here.

Play with poetry or play with prose, just get out there and play already!

 

Thank you to the 151 writers — from 33 states and 17 countries — who participated in our WHEN I MOVED Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from August 9 – September 27, 2016. Many thanks to the fol…

Source: Thank you to the 151 authors who participated in our WHEN I MOVED Poetry and Prose Series

 

Coming next: https://silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/call-for-submissions-my-prized-possession-poetry-and-prose-series/

 

Make that story zig or run

by switching the first line

with the last one

when you are done.

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