Thursday, November 19, 2009

STEVE ALMOND WRITES: “This Won’t Take But a Minute”

STEVE ALMOND WRITES: “This Won’t Take But a Minute”
Interview with Doug Holder

I got this email recently from the noted author Steve Almond (My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow ,etc…) about a new project and subsequent event he is involved in. The event will be at the Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square Dec, 2, 2009 at 7PM. Almond writes:

“The book I'm reading from -- "This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey," isn't out yet. In fact, it's going to be printed ON THE NIGHT OF THE READING. In fact, DURING THE READING ITSELF. On HBS's new "Expresso Book Machine." Which can print a book (from a PDF) in about four minutes. You'll even be able to choose the cover design and trim size you want. All books cost $10 flat. Seriously.

I'll also be discussing how I chose to publish the book in this way, and what it says about the changing nature of the publishing industry, as the means of production become more accessible. Here's the official link:”

Of course I had to shoot Almond some questions for OFF THE SHELF:

Doug Holder: First off--could you tell me a little about your new book, its theme, etc... How does it differ from your past collections?

Steve Almond: The book is pretty, uh, unconventional. It's 30 short short stories (500 words or less) and 30 short essays on the psychology and practice of writing. And it's literally two books, with two covers, that are read from either side and meet in the middle. I've been writing short shorts for years, many of them old, failed poems, and I love the dense emotions of the form. But it's hard to get them taken seriously by publishers. The essays are really just versions of what I tell my students, about what it really feels like to try to write, what you're up against. I've taken all the mistakes I've made, basically, and gathered them up, in the hopes others won't take as long as I did to get better. I think of the book as a kind of lovechild of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet and Strunk and White.

DH: It is self-published. Why would a noted author like you need to go this route? Would you have never considered this say five years ago?

SA: I've been thinking about this for years, actually. The publishing industry is doing its best to sell books, but the economic model doesn't make much sense. And what I really wanted was to create a book that felt like an artifact, rather than a commodity. Now that digital printing has come to the masses, there wasn't any excuse -- other than sloth or cowardice -- not to give this a try. So I am. I realize that my having published books before will be helpful, but my motive isn't to "move units" but to get a cool little book into the hands of folks who might dig it. Period.

DH: How has the literati responded to this? You probably will be reviewed in top shelf publications because of the body of your work. Does a less established writer have a shot?

SA: The book really isn't "out" officially. I only sell it at readings, or for use in classrooms. I'm not interested in piling up big sales numbers, or making a big splash. In fact, I kind of like that the book is not "available everywhere." I'm really tired of feeling, as an author, like I should be selling selling, selling all the time. It's the wrong attitude to have about art.

As for a less established writer, obviously it would be tougher for them. And there's still a lot of stigma around "self-publishing." But I think that's changing as the industry is changing. It's become more of a DIY, grassroots enterprise, rather than top down, which I dig.

DH: Could you give me the advantages and pitfalls of the self-published route?

SA: I'm not the right person to answer. This is really my first small step. But I can see, generally speaking, that you get total freedom to make the book you want -- but you also have to do everything yourself. There's no built-in printer or editor or publicity person, etc. So you have to figure out how to put this thing into the world. That takes time. But it's also exciting as hell.

DH: Do you think this will prove profitable?

SA: No idea. I mean, I make a little money on the books I sell. But I wanted to keep them at $10 flat, so it's not much money. Then again, that's not what it's about for me. It's about getting the work to the folks who are ready to feel it. If it makes money, in other words, it won't be because I had some business plan.

DH: Is this book Print-On-Demand?

SA: As I said, for now it's just available at readings, or for use in classes. If people wanted copies, I suppose they could get in touch. And I may, at some point, make it available on-line or in certain bookshops. But that's down the road. I'm really at the beginning of the process.

DH: Five years from now--or perhaps sooner--do you think this alternative way of publishing will enter the mainstream?

SA: They already are! I mean, Dave Eggers and Kelly Link -- two of our finest and most popular writers -- started their own presses! So it's not really "when" DIY publishing will enter the mainstream, but how quickly. That depends on how the big publishing companies adapt. But the big point for me is to get more people reading. That's the ultimate mission -- to get people to engage with their imaginations before it's too late for the species.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Treating A Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions. Timothy Gager.

Treating A Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions. Timothy Gager. (Cervena Barva Press PO BOX 44035 W. Somerville, Mass. 02144) $15.

The noted author Steve Almond once stated that Timothy Gager was one of his favorite local writers. I can see why. Gager shares Almond’s sense of irony, razor sharp wit, he deftly explores the ying and yang of relationships and this capricious thing we call “Love.”

This book titled, “Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions” published by Somerville’s Cervena Barva Press, is a collection of flash fiction; very short pieces, where like poetry every word counts. Gager is an accomplished poet and this serves him well in this genre. In his piece “Why couples have pets,” a cat provides a mirror to a relationship that has lost its flame:

“Today she’s late for work. Late too, with other things. Damn cat can’t be found. It’s nine o’clock and she has decided to get rid of it. That decision upsets me, but mistakes happen—that time we made love under a blanket at Ocean City, plush towel in her mouth so the beach couldn’t hear.

Now she is late and she runs for the cat.”

And in his lead story “How to Care for a Sick Animal” Gager uses the conceit of a man treated like a dog (literally) by his girlfriend and a rather clueless veterinarian. Here, the girlfriend wishes the hapless man a fond farewell before he is put to sleep; their relationship relegated to its final resting place…or it was great fun, but hey, it was just one of those things, just one of those fabulous flings:

“After Dr. Jones left, Gracie approaches the table. “So how are you doing boy? I’m sorry that it has to end this way. There’s nothing I can do for you. Awwww…don’t look at me with those sad eyes. It’ll be ok. I just want you to know that I'm not going to go out and get a new dog anytime soon,ok? Oh, Todd you were my best friend and I loved you, but can’t you see I need to do this?” Helen entered the room with various snout sized Halothane masks and Gracie gave Todd a hug goodbye.”

Don't expect Gager to get sentimental on you--he is too much of a realist for that. But behind the dark Bukowski bombast there is still a glimmer-- that light of the hopeful romantic.

Highly Recommended.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shmailo, King, Holder,Viscusi, Bozicevic to read Cornelia St. Cafe (NYC) Dec 20th.

Launch party for Larissa Shmailo's new collection of poetry: "In Paran"

6:00PM BOOK PARTY & READING The Cornelia Street Café 29 Cornelia Street, NYC 10014 212-989-9319

Hosted by Iris N. Schwartz Music by Brant Lyon

Elaine Equi ;Elaine Equi is the author of several books including Surface Tension and Decoy both from Coffee House Press. A new collection, Voice-Over, is forthcoming in February 1999. She lives in New York City where she teaches at The New School and CCNY.

Doug Holder: Doug Holder was born in New York City in 1955. A small press activist, he founded the Ibbetson Street Press in the winter of 1998 in Somerville, Mass. He has published over 60 books of poetry of local and national poets and 25 issues of the literary journal Ibbetson Street. Holder is the arts/editor for The Somerville News, a co-founder of "The Somerville News Writers Festival (founded in 2003)," and is the curator of the "Newton Free Library Poetry Series" in Newton, Mass. His recorderd interviews with contemporary poets are archived at the Harvard and the University of Buffalo libraries, as well as Poet's House in NYC. In Dec. of 2007 he was a guest of the Voices Israel Literary organization and lead workshops and gave readings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Holder's own articles and poetry have appeared in several anthologies including: Inside the Outside: An Anthology of Avant-Garde American Poets (Presa Press) Greatest Hits: twelve years of Compost Magazine (Zephyr Press),FRESH GRASS: 32 INDEPENDENT POETS and America's Favorite Poems edited by Robert Pinsky. His work has also appeared in such magazines as: Rattle, Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetics and Poetry, The Home Planet News, Hazmat, The Boston Globe Magazine, Caesura, Sahara, Raintown Review, Poesy, Small Press Review, Artword Quarterly, Manifold (U.K.), Long Island Quarterly, Microbe ( Belguim),The Café Review, the new renaissance, Quercus Review, Northeast Corridor, and many others. His two recent poetry collections are: "Of All The Meals I Had Before..." ( Cervena Barva Press- 2007 ) and "No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain" ( sunyoutside-2007). His collection "THE MAN IN THE BOOTH IN THE MIDTOWN TUNNEL" was released in the summer of 2008 by the Cervena Barva Press. It was a pick of the month in the Small Press Review (July/August 2008). In 2009 he released a collection of interviews: " From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers." It was selected for a New and Noteworthy Book on NEW PAGES. His poetry and prose has been translated into French and Spanish. He holds an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University.

Bob Viscusi ; Robert Viscusi, the author of "The Three Rules of IAWA," has published the novel Astoria (Guernica Editions, American Book Award 1996) and the performance poem An Oration upon the Most Recent Death of Christopher Columbus (VIA Folios). He has published numerous essays in books and journals on Italian American literature and culture, among them "Breaking the Silence: Strategic Imperatives for Italian American Culture," which appeared in the first number of VIA: Voices in Italian Americana and became a manifesto for IAWA. Viscusi has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute. He is Claire and Leonard Tow Professor of English and executive officer of the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities at Brooklyn College, as well as president of the Italian American Writers Association.

Amy King ;Amy King is the author of I’m the Man Who Loves You and Antidotes for an Alibi, and forthcoming, Slaves to Do These Things (Blazevox) and I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press). She teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College. For information on the reading series Amy co-curates in Brooklyn, NY, please visit The Stain of Poetry: A Reading Series ( and for more. Doug Holder ;

Ana Bozicevic Ana Božičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1977. She emigrated to NYC in 1997. Stars of the Night Commute is her first book of poems. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, Ana co-curates The Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn, and is co-editing an anthology, The Urban Poetic, forthcoming from Factory School. She works at the Center for the Humanities of The Graduate Center, CUNY. For more, visit

Launch party for Larissa Shmailo's new collection of poetry, In Paran.
Cover $7 (includes one house drink)




Kim Triedman doesn't look like a poet who is looking for trouble. Triedman, a member of Somerville's Bagel Bards, doesn't seek trouble but does see trouble underneath the seemingly placid surface of things. Triedman has recently come to poetry after working in fiction for several years. In a short time she has racked up a number of impressive credits. She has been named the winner of the 2008 Main St. Rag Chapbook Competition, she was a finalist for the 2007 Philbrick Poetry Award, finalist for the 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition, and most recently, semifinalist for the 2008 Parthenon Prize for Fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Byline Magazine, The Aurorean, Poetry Salzburg Review, FRIGG Magazine and others. Her poems have been selected by John Ashbery for the Ashbery Resource Center's online catalogue and has also been included in the John Cage Trust archive at Bard College. She is a graduate of Brown University. I talked with Triedman on my Somerville Community Access TV show " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: You have accomplished a lot with your poetry and fiction in a short time.

Kim Triedman: Yes in a very short time. Poetry is relatively new. I started writing fiction 10 years ago. I had been working as a medical writer for a number of years. I hadn't done anything in creative writing before that. These stories started to fall together and I started losing more and more sleep. I wound up leaving my day job and doing this novel fulltime. It took me four or five years to get me through the first draft.

Doug Holder: You have a recent poem selected for the John Ashbery Resource Center's online catalogue. Your poems don't impress me as being as abstract as Ashbery's. Tell me why you think it was selected?

Kim Triedman: What can I say. It is not so much like Ashbery but inspired by his process. He talks a lot about a thing called "chance operation" It is heavily influenced by the randomness of events. It is a method that allows yoy to let it work your way into your poetry. For instance: I am a very visual person and I never know going into a poem what I am going to write. I wait until I see something that sparks a first line. Once I have my first line I am off and running.

Doug Holder: Your book "bathe in it or sleep" was published by the Main St. Press--a well-regarded small press. How has your experience been with the small presses?

Kim Triedman: My experience has been very limited. I submitted a chapbook manuscript to a competition. By virtue of winning I had a book published. M. Scott Douglass put it out. he wears many hats--but it came out nicely. I was very happy with it.

Doug Holder: This was your first submission to a contest and you won. You did not have to go through the travails of a long-suffering poet waiting to get his book published.

Kim Triedman: For whatever reason my poetry seems to be well-recieved by many people.

Doug Holder: Have you been a member of a workshop?

Kim: When I finished my novel I started dabbling in poetry. I came across a brochure for the Lesley University Seminar Courses. I took three classes with one instructor and there was a core of five or six women. After the class we continued to meet. We are still going strong. So much of your own editing depends on hearing yourself.

Doug Holder: In your poem "Think of it this way":

Think of it this way:

Between the past and the future
stands a house. It’s tidy
and white, nearly ready

to explode. The terror, you see, the
weight of such a thing:
neither here nor there, like words

withheld, or the hand
that meant to stroke.
Even in a strong wind leaves

can double-back, and
seagulls hang, frozen in sky.
We sit,

burning in silence:
eyes forward -
remembering nothing.

I get a sense of terror behind the banal--the well-ordered surface of things of a suburban house. Are you a poet that is looking for trouble?

Kim Triedman: I wouldn't put it that way. I am not looking for it, but I do see it. I think there is a bittersweet quality to what I write. I try to see the dark underside of things. This time of year ( Autumn) brings it out in spades. I'm very affected by the silence, and the sadness underneath the visceral light.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/ Nov. 2009