Reviving the Blog & Re-commiting to my Side Projects

LitCity312_Logo_3C_LoResYes, it has been more than one year since I updated my personal website and written a actual blog post, and I am here to tell you I am still alive! And I am still pursuing my passion for storytelling in all of its various forms.

Where did I go? Well, I was fortunate to land a great corporate job working for a great person and a great company. I have been there just over one year, and in that time I have not forgotten about my side projects and interests. Yes, they have slowed down, but don’t worry, I’m not done with them yet!

In the past year, my independent press project has grown into a website: LitCity312, and we are now thinking of applying for nonprofit status. I’ve also joined the Chicago Women in Publishing board as the website editor, and I continue to be inspired by these women everyday! In fact, they are the reason I’ve become motivated to blog again.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend a great event with a few of my CWIP friends: Coach Jennie Mustafa-Julock’s Astonish Yourself Tour. Not only did I set goals to keep up with my many projects, but I was reminded that there are others like me: people who have these big ideas, who are never just doing the regular 9 to 5. And of course along with that comes the pressure of having seemingly too much work to complete, and the concern that family and friends might forget about you, as you lose your spare time in your various projects. I think we’ve all had friends ask us why we haven’t been around very often, why we always seem to be busy when everyone else is having fun on the weekends. But because our work is so solitary, they don’t always know that this extra stuff we do is because it is fun, because it’s part of our dream and passion…it just happens that this is an activity we often have to do alone, and some, like me, do it in addition to a full time job she also loves.

And so, with this post, I won’t be ashamed of my “side hustle” or “passion projects” anymore! And if working toward my goals means a little more solitary time, then so be it. I won’t be absent from my dreams anymore, or feel guilt for it!

Though it took me two weeks since the workshop to start this, it is a start — the baby steps are being taken! And I promise to be in touch now much more frequently, bringing you blog entries about various fun and sometimes random topics…and I’ll probably bring them to you at random times, because, just like I did during discussion days in my high school English class, I only like to speak when I really feel inspired and have something legitimate to add to the conversation. I may even bring back my Single in the Suburbs series! So stay tuned…

Pop-Up Book Fair Recap & An Anthology Update

PopUpBookFair

A still from the video I shot at the Pop-Up Book Fair on Sunday, April 14th. My apologies for the somewhat poor quality — lighting was tricky.

On a particularly nice Sunday this rainy April, I had the chance to attend the Pop-Up Book Fair at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, local book publisher Curbside Splendor hosts this event with partners every few months or so, inviting other local book publishers to join in. The place is full of literary types (my people), table after table of locally-published lit, and there’s a bar — could there be a better combination?

I was able to connect with a lot of those who I had already interviewed for the Independent Press Anthology, and also met knew presses to add to our ever-growing project! As always, being around these individuals is inspiring, and not only from a writer’s perspective. These are true entrepreneurs pursuing their passion for good art and literature, and many of them are so dedicated that they continue to run their press as a second job, in their “spare time.” Every time I talk with a new press, I find more and more to admire about these individuals. And it is amazing how many more them are forming and growing every day.

Some of the presses I met for the first time, and am excited to learn more about, include: Criminal Class Press, Anobium, 7Vientos Press, Convulsive Editions and Burial Day Books.

Yes, it has officially been one year since I started doing all of these interviews. I can’t believe time has gone by so fast, but our project is still progressing — and growing even larger. I’m sure many of you have been wondering, “Whatever happened to that?” Here’s where we are now:

After a lot of careful thought, we’ve decided to create a local literary website, and possibly an ebook component that will be sold on the site. Since we have collected a number of video interviews, this would be the best way to share both the written and visual data we’ve collected. In addition to sharing the stories of independent presses, we will also share the stories of local independent booksellers and live lit series/events. This second portion of the project has not begun yet, but I hope to be headed out to interview and profile the individuals who help run these sometime this year. There will be many components to the site, including an event calendar for local literary events and possibly job postings. The plan is continuing to evolve — as is an official name! — but I will share these with you when I have them.

Until the website is up, I will continue to write and post updates here on my personal website. Stay tuned!

Who is Really in the Book Business?

BordersCustomers

Here are two customers who missed the memo — this is a still image from video I shot in June 2012, months after all Borders stores closed.

I wish I could say that I have many fond childhood memories of trips to the local independent bookstore. But the truth is that my dad used to take me to the local Barnes & Noble or Borders at least once a week in the summer, and I loved it. I’d spend hours browsing the aisles, trying to decide what to read next. Sometimes we’d go to both stores in one night. Back then I had no idea that these big chains were hurting local bookstores, nor did I understand that they were symbols of consumerism. Now that I’m an adult and a supporter of all things literary and independent, I get it — but I’m still saddened when I discover that both the Barnes & Noble and Borders I went to as a child have since closed.

Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Barnes & Noble will be closing as many as a third of its stores in the next 10 years. The announcement once again had people talking: Is this the death of the book? Is this the end of the mainstream bookseller? The chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s retail group says it’s all part of the business evolving, and that the company will stick around.

As someone who is studying the independent publishing community, I have mixed feelings about this news from Barnes & Noble. I feel guilty for being a little sad about B&N’s need to downsize.

Just after this news broke last week, I watched an old favorite movie: You’ve Got Mail. (I spent the bulk of January at home sick, and I discovered that You’ve Got Mail plays several times a week on TV; it could not be avoided.) Watching the romantic comedy this year was more like a history lesson, a reminder of the ever-evolving publishing industry. Here is Kathleen Kelly, owner of the sweet, independent Shop Around the Corner, and Joe Fox, one of the owners of the big, bad, corporate Fox & Sons Books. Early on in the movie, the two are at a party, and Fox accurately guesses how much Kelly makes in sales each year. Kelly asks, “How did you know that?” and Fox replies “I’m in the book business.” Kelly looks taken aback and says, “I’m in the book business.”

Fast forward 14 years after the movie is released, and here we are. Today, it would likely be Fox’s store who is closing. Where would the picketers go with their signs and their chant of “One, two, three, four — We don’t want your superstore”? Perhaps outside of the Amazon headquarters? More likely they’d just write a lot of angry comments and blog posts online.

Maybe it’s karma. The big bookstores weren’t really in the book business, not like the independents. And so the “suits” like Joe Fox got what was coming to them. But still, part of me fears that this is a loss for all of us, and another win for online retailers. The enemy has simply changed from a physical one to a virtual one. And that enemy isn’t just around the corner — it’s a few clicks away!

As more of these stores disappear, my hope is that people turn back to the independents, back to the basics and the intimacy of a locally-owned shop. These small stores who survived the coming of mainstream retailers may be better equipped to handle the future, and unlike the stores we find in malls, they have a truly loyal customer base.

While I am working to share the stories of local independent publishers, my hope is to next share the stories of the booksellers. What are their next moves? How are they surviving? I hope to soon find out.

Independent Press Anthology: October Update

It has been a few months, but the Independent Press Anthology is still going strong! The focus at the moment is on preparing the printed anthology.

Professor Green and I have compiled the bests responses and written short summaries for each question. We are almost ready to pitch the project to publishers. I expect we will do so before the end of the year.

If you are a press and are featured in the anthology, we will be in touch with you as we move further into the process.

I have not filmed new interviews, and instead continue to transcribe, log, and pick best quotes. A total of 16 local independent presses have been filmed. There is a rough cut of a trailer, and as I decide how to best edit and present it, I will contact those presses who have been featured with a link to the edit. Once the presses have seen it, I will make it available on this website.

Thanks to all of the presses for their patience as we work to complete this project, and please keep checking back for more updates!

2012 Printers’ Ball

On Friday I had the chance to attend the 8th Annual Printers’ Ball: Time Warp! at Columbia College in Chicago.  The event brought together all of Chicago’s literary types with free drinks, snacks, and, most importantly, free reading material.

Poetry Magazine, whose senior editor was recently interviewed for the anthology project, was one of the event sponsors.  I wandered around and filmed the crowd of writers and bookworms as they picked up free books and magazines.  I also had the chance to sit down for an interview with Lauryn Allison Lewis, Senior Managing Editor of Curbside Splendor.

With the interviews completed last week, the anthology video project now includes 16 filmed interviews.  Never have I worked with a more friendly and talented group of interviewees.  All of these publishing professionals are willing to discuss their experiences and share what they’ve learned with others.  What they’ve accomplished for the literary scene in Chicago is amazing, and many have done it all while working essentially two full-time jobs and raising families.  They are a true example of what can be accomplished if you have passion and drive.  Despite all of the long hours, it is obvious that they truly love their work and wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

The rest of my summer will be spent sorting through these interviews, as well as those for the printed anthology.  There are just two of us working on the book, and then I alone am editing the video, so even if it seems to be taking awhile, please stay tuned!  I look forward to sharing a product with all of you soon.

My New Gig at Career Girl Network

This past week I started writing for Career Girl Network as an intern.  The founder is another fellow Marcy, and I am very excited to work with her this summer.  I will also be doing some video work for the website while continuing to work on my documentary on the side.  Of course, I will also be in class at night, finishing my final grad school course at DePaul.

My first two articles were published this week on Career Girl Network.  The first was a comment on Patrick Somerville’s recent article “Thank you for killing my novel.”  Patrick has published previous work with featherproof books, who I interviewed for the Independent Press Anthology last May.  Somerville reminds us writers why it’s important to accept all criticism, but not let it bring you down — even when someone mixes up your characters!  You can read my article here.

My second article focuses on a problem I tend to have — busyness.  I take a closer look and offer a personal spin on Tim Kreider’s “The ‘Busy’ Trap.”  This is an issue we discussed at length in my Independent Publishing class.  We analyzed the issue in terms of our need to be constantly connected to our devices, and how we often feel “lazy” for simply sitting and reading or writing.  Luckily, Independent Presses are around to remind us of the value of reading.  You can read my article “Busyness Equals Worth?” here.

I have begun editing a trailer and will soon be sending it out to the individual presses featured for approval.  I will be moving full speed ahead next week on editing the printed anthology, and will be filming at least two more interviews.

The Weekly Bookstore Tradition: A Post-Father’s Day Reflection

Father’s Day this past Sunday reminded me of what a major role my dad played in my love for books.  In transcribing all of these interviews for this independent press project, I began to look at that history in a new light.

Growing up, one of the few things my dad and I did together, just the two of us, was go to the bookstore.  I watched him come home every night, sit in his chair, and crack open a book.  I started to imitate this behavior and not long after, I began tagging along on his weekly trip to Barnes and Noble or Borders.  He would wander off to his favorite sections and I would head for the Children’s section and later on, Young Adult.  We’d reconvene after an hour or so of getting lost in the book titles, and we’d each have a stack of books in our hands.  I’d be anxious the whole time, wondering if he’d make me put one back, so I’d try to limit myself to two books.  He never made me put any of them back.

I am sad to think of the now closed Borders we used to visit in Wheaton, IL.  I grew up, stopped going to the store every weekend, and now it’s gone.  Of course, it’s not as simple as all of that — there’s Amazon, the growing popularity of ebooks, and new storytelling formats.  If I were a little girl growing up now, I wonder if Dad and I would still be going to the bookstore — or if we would be doing something else, like playing with his iPad.

I don’t visit the bookstore on a weekly or even monthly basis now.  I order all of my graduate school books off of the internet, and only go to bookstores for a special treat.  Would I still love books in the same way if I hadn’t made those weekly trips to the bookstore?

Though I feel guilty for neglecting the bookstores, I take comfort in the fact that my love for books has not gone away.  I may not visit the store quite so often, but I’m still reading.  I’m still buying books.  My hope is that as long as we’re still showing up to read, books won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Printers Row Literary Fest 2012

The 90-degree heat didn’t keep me away from Printers Row this weekend!  I visited with some great presses and authors, and found several good book deals.  I was excited to see a lot of small and independent presses there, including the presses I interviewed.  I also had the chance to meet with a few I haven’t yet been able to interview.

I stopped by the Small Press Tent and talked to Curbside Splendor.  Franki Elliot had her typewriter out for a round of Typewriter Stories.  I opened a book to a random page and selected a word for her: flatbed truck.  She wrote me a great, on-the-spot poem and I was so impressed that I bought her book Piano Rats.  I’m really enjoying this collection of prose poetry and it is inspiring me to try and write some for the class I’m currently in at DePaul on Narrative Clarity.  I’m not much of a poetry person — at least not since I discovered how terrible the poetry I wrote in high school really was — but I’m beginning to consider playing more in this genre.  Thank you, Franki Elliot!

After a day of browsing the tents, I checked out Essay Fiesta.  I can’t believe I hadn’t seen one of their shows sooner and I will definitely check out more of them this summer.  These live events are just another reminder of what an amazing literary community Chicago has.  When I lived in the Twin Cities, I found a home at The Loft Literary Center, and have been searching for that same kind of connection ever since.  Now that I’m becoming more involved in the Chicago writing community, I’m feeling that same camaraderie among Chicago writers.

I left Printers Row even more excited to dive into this small press anthology project!  Over the next month I plan to shoot a few more interviews with presses I met at Printers Row, followed by logging and editing.  Please stay tuned — I will have a short trailer up soon!

 

Welcome!

Welcome to my personal website! Here you can find updates on all of my current video and writing projects.

Starting in April 2012, I began working on an independent press anthology as part of an independent publishing course at DePaul University.  The anthology is tentatively titled Independent Voices: A Small Press Sampler.  While the goal of the course was to create a printed anthology, I decided to also film all of my interviews with local presses.  My goal is to edit and post short videos to the anthology website in July, and then see where I can take the videos from there.  To date, I have filmed 13 interviews with Chicagoland independent presses, and am continuing to film through the month of June.  This summer I will also be working with the professor of the course to edit the printed anthology.

I hope for the video project to be a celebration of independent presses, as well as an in-depth look at how they’re operating during a time of great change for the industry.  Questions cover digitization, the importance of reading, the close-knit network small presses have created, and new trends or ideas.

The independent presses I have interviewed include both literary magazines and book publishers.  Some have just one or two employees, others have up to 18.  Some are online-only publications, and some appear in print only.  I would like to interview a wide range of publishers.

If you are an independent press in the Chicagoland area and would like more information on the project, or would like to see a list of the questions, please contact me at marcyfarrey@nullgmail.com.  You can choose to participate in the printed anthology, the video project, or both.  I welcome all who are interested!