Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010. Can't say I'm not happy to see you go.

It's New Years, and I'm sitting here with my daughter making thank you cards for all the people who sent her gifts. I feel like I should write something profound or important, something poetically beautiful about what I've learned in 2010 and how 2011 is a new year filled with promise. Instead, all I can think to write is...

Goodbye 2010. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Not my best writing, but it shows precisely how I feel.

I usually get the blues at New Years, but they seem particularly bad this year. It's been a particularly difficult year. So much happened and so much more is on the horizon and 99.9% of why I'm so tired and defeated is due to grad school. If I had know just how hard it would be, I doubt I would have gone back to school. Instead, I should have just gotten a job at Starbucks and worked my way up to shift manager. I have a friend who's worked for them for 20 years and she loves it. But no! I HAD to go back to SCHOOL. And in doing so I let my press suffer, book sales drop off, my health go, my house go and my sanity go. My daughter is depressed, my hubby pissed-off and I'm so stressed I jump every time the neighbor chops wood. 

It's almost over though, and that's why I'm excited about 2011. I graduate in June. All done with school. I have no idea if I'll get a job or not but I will be done with school. I'll be able to have a life.

And part of that life is Medusa's Muse and writing. The thing I'm most excited about in 2011 is putting energy back into my press: writing more, updating the website, attending more conferences, working with more authors, finishing some projects of my own... indulging my never ending hunger for more books. 

Thank you for hanging in there with me, my friends. Thank you for keeping the dream of Medusa's Muse alive. She would have become a dusty pile of old books and tax forms sitting in my bedroom if you all hadn't kept the faith. In the new year, I wish you all much happiness and more creativity than you ever thought possible. I want to read those stories, hear that music, listen to your words. The world is filled with inspiration. Go out and find yours.

Wow, I managed to write something vaguely poetic. Perhaps I still remember how to write after all.

I want to end this last post of 2010 with the song that helped me when I was feeling at my lowest. I taught it to myself in October and whenever I felt overwhelmed and miserable, I'd start singing it. And I didn't care who heard it. They probably all think I've gone crazy at the grocery store.


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Here's to madly writing

I am taking time out from studying to work on an article for Hip Mama, enjoying a peppermint hot chocolate at the cafe, when suddenly my Muse sits at my table across from me.

"I like your haikus," she says.

Staring at her, my hands frozen above my keyboard, I'm not sure if she's really here or a just needy figment of my imagination. "Thanks," I finally squeak.

She grabs my hot chocolate and takes a sip. "You do know of course, that you can get a peppermint hot chocolate any time of the year."

"I know."

"Then why do you insist on only drinking it during the holidays?"

"It's a tradition. And if I drank it all the time, it wouldn't be special. "

Nodding, she takes another sip. "I suppose that's true."

"Why are you here?" I finally ask. "I thought you were mad at me."

With a dismissive wave of her hand, she says, "Please. I was frustrated, that's all. I've had time to think and I've come to the realization that you're right. This is a temporary writing freeze, nothing more. You must focus on school and finish what you started, and not only finish, but finish well. Once you have a day job and a regular schedule you'll be so hungry for creative endeavors you won't be able to NOT write. I can wait."

"I'm glad you understand."

"I'm practical to a fault." She leans across the table and meets my eyes. "I have fabulous ideas brewing already, just waiting for the right moment."

"I know. Even when you were mad at me you were sending images about my next play."

She laughs. "Isn't it wonderful. It will be your greatest work. When is Script-Frenzy, by the way?"

"April."

"Then you'd better finish school by then, because I will be hounding you day and night until that play is written."

She drinks more of my hot chocolate, her snakes leaning close to the cup to catch the scent of peppermint. "This really is quite delicious."

"Want your own?"

"No. I'll just drink yours." She laughs again and the snakes hiss happily.

I watch my fearsome muse lick sticky chocolate off her fangs, her pale green eyes sparkling. Then I say, "I'm glad you're back."

"I never left."

"I wasn't sure."

"I will never leave you, Terena, although you may someday wish I would. Because ultimately you have no choice. You will either have to keep writing, or go mad."

Taking back my drink from her clawed, beautiful hands, I raise the cup to her. "Then here's to madly writing."

"Happy Thanksgiving," she says.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Haiku My Heart Friday: Studying


Almost forgot about Haiku My Heart Friday because I've spent most of today studying for my certification exam. The teacher said "Study the Red Book." All 550 pages of it. Sigh...

Studying All Day
Dreaming about the future
Wishing I could play

For more Haiku My Heart poetry, go to recuerda mi corazon, and then join in the fun. Write your own Haiku and link to Rebecca's blog. There's some lovely writing over there, and it's a great way to flex your creative muscles. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sorry, but I can't help you with your writing today.

A friend of a friend asked me to help her with her book proposal. I should have said no, but since she was a friend of a very good friend, I said yes, although it would take me a few weeks. After she sent me her work, I realized that she needed a lot more help than I'd realized. I quickly did some editing, made some suggestions, and sent it back, when what I really needed to do was help her revise the entire piece. But I didn't have time. I'm drowning in work right now, studying for two major exams and a working a full time internship. Any spare moment I have is either spent with my daughter or reading text books. Forget writing; my muse has abandoned me because the only writing I do these days is for my blogs.

I should have said no, but instead I said yes. The woman's agent is the one who said no.

I know it's not my fault the agent rejected her proposal, but I feel somewhat responsible. She asked me for help and I agreed to give it, but because of the time pressure I'm under, I gave her the minimum.

For the next few months, the answer is no to any and all requests for help with writing. As much as I enjoy editing and helping new authors, I simply cannot give the amount of time it takes to really help someone with their manuscript. A 200 page project equals a week of work for me, depending on the amount of help the writer needs. A simple proposal can take 5 hours. Anything less is unfair to the writer who is trusting me to help them, not just throw Band-Aids at a book and then wish them luck.

When someone asks for help, I automatically want to say yes. It's just who I am. Need help with your book, your kids, your hair, your grocery list, your pets, your dirty windows, your relationship, your car... of course I can help. I genuinely want to help people, especially if it's in my power to do so. However, I tend to forget that there's just one me who cannot be in several places at once doing multiple things at once. Even I have a limit to my superpowers.

So, until at least the end of January, I must say no. I know you need help and I wish there were 30 hours in a day instead of only 24, but I absolutely do not have one more hour to give to anyone. If I gave up any more time, I'd have to give up bathing, and my family might start to complain after a few days.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Haiku my Heart Friday: Sunlight

image from running through rain


In the still wet dawn
I grasp a strand of sunlight
Keep it safe all day



Thank you, Rebecca, for reminding me that it's Haiku My Heart Friday

And to my muse, does this prove I've still got a bit of creativity left?

(I also want to clarify that I did not take this photo. It's one of my favorite images that I've found on the net which I saved for inspiration. I found it on a website called Rain Coaster Media/Running Through Rain and am hunting for the original artist to give her/him credit.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Am I still a writer, or should my muse find another artist?

My muse flopped onto the bed and let out a deep, pitiful sigh. "I'm bored."

Uh oh. It is never good when a must gets bored.

"When will you finish school, for Heaven's  sake?" she demanded, lifting her head to stare at me.

"Um... March. I think," I replied. "If all goes well."

"March?" Every snake in her hair glared at me. "Are you serious?"

"Yes, I am."

"March is four months away!" Her head fell back on the bed and she stared at the ceiling. "Four months... I can't stand it!" She bounced off the bed and stood. "You have to stop immediately."

"Stop? I can't stop now. I'm almost done."

"But you won't be done for months! This is impossible. I can't live this way any longer!" My Muse sank to her knees and clutched her head. The snakes entwined themselves around her fingers and wrists, hissing gently as if to comfort her.

"I'm sorry. I know it's hard..."

Without raising her head, my muse wailed, "You have no idea how hard it is."

"Not much longer. Really. It will be over before you know it."

"And then what?" Her golden eyes were filled with tears as she looked at me. "When you finish school you'll get a job. Then you'll be working all the time, with no end in sight. I've seen it before. An artist spends all her time at work, then at home doing laundry, and before long 20 years have passed and she hasn't written a damn thing. And then what becomes of me? Do you really think I'll just sit around and wait until you retire at age 65?"

I met her gaze and felt twinges of cold harden my toes and fingers. "I'm sorry. I know this must be difficult."

"Difficult?" My muse angrily swiped the snakes away from her face and rose to her full height of 6 feet. All the snakes hid on the back of her head. "Difficult?"

"Yes. And I appreciate your patience..."

"I am not the muse of a school teacher!"

"I know..."

"I am the muse of a writer. Do you know who else I have inspired?"

"Not really..."

"Leane Zugsmith! I was the muse of Leane Zugsmith."

"Who?"

She ignored me. "And before her, Margaret Oliphant. I have inspired countless others through the centuries, creating some of the greatest work in the Western World. Does that sound like the muse of a school teacher?"

The cold from her gaze had creeped up my arms and into my neck, forcing me to look away. I studied the floor and listened to her snakes hiss louder as she ranted. A pissed off Muse is not a pretty sight.

Suddenly, my Muse was quiet. I glanced up and saw she was sitting on the bed again, looking tiny and pale. "I like you," she said, staring at me with sad eyes. "I really do. I saw a deep potential in you, inhibited only by your lack of confidence and your insistence that you are undeserving of any measure of success. I thought with my guidance you'd uncover your talents. Instead, you've decided to become a teacher, giving up writing plays and novels for the comfort of a steady paycheck and a retirement fund."

"That's not true..." I whispered.

She stood and studied me closely. "It isn't? Are you sure?"

I met her unblinking eyes and nodded. "Yes. I'm sure."

"Then prove it." Suddenly, my Muse vanished.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Full Circle - "Traveling Blind" with Laura Fogg

The first book I published was called Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, written by my daughter's Orientation and Mobility Teacher, Laura Fogg. A memoir about her 30 years as a teacher of visually impaired children, Laura shares stories about many of her students and what each child taught her about life, joy, grief and hope. My own daughter's story is one of the chapters. I had watched her for 10 years working with my daughter, but publishing her book gave me a clear picture of what being a teacher of visually impaired people was like. Shortly after the book was released in November, 2007, I applied to the O and M program at San Francisco State.

Last week I started my internship with Laura, riding with her all over Mendocino County, teaching toddlers and high school students, both multiply disabled and able bodied, English and Spanish speaking. She also works with other teachers to help them understand a child's vision issues and parents to help them communicate their child's needs. She eats lunch in her car and rarely takes a break. Occasionally she works 10 hour days. But through it all, she seems joyful and tireless. Even when she's starting to feel the stress because everything happens at once, she has a smile on her face. 

I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Life has come full circle. Queen Teen was born visually impaired. Laura has been her teacher for 12 years. Laura wrote a memoir. I published it. Her book inspired me to go to school. Laura is now my Master Teacher.

Hey, someone tell Oprah. I think our story would make an excellent feature for her magazine.

The other perk to this internship is I now get to work with my own daughter. It kind of feels like cheating taking Queen Teen on shopping trips and nature walks after school. Queen Teen is in heaven. She likes going on outings with Laura, but with Mom in tow, it's that much better.

And this is Laura's office


Anderson Valley in October


And this...



And here's one more shot of Laura Fogg's office, which is mine for the next five weeks...

The Village of Mendocino
No wonder she loves her job.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pics from the Alternative Press Expo

And once again time got away from me. I said I'd have these pics posted two weeks ago.

Terena at APE
The Alternative Press Expo was fabulous, despite the fact book sales were mediocre. The greatest thing about the expo is the people. So many talented, creative, passionate people work that event, and even more come to support and celebrate the artists. And, Medusa's Muse shared a table with the photographer Charles Gatewood and V Vale of REsearch Publications, both of who were wonderful to spend time with for two days in a cold warehouse.
Rick and V Vale
They arrived after Rick and I had already set up our half of the table, so I was mighty annoyed when V Vale started setting up an extra table smack against the spot Medusa was assigned to. No one could reason with him; he was determined to set up that extra table. Eventually I gave up our end of the table because there was more room on that side, but it pissed me off I had to reorganize everything and give up our prime location. But quickly, he won me over. V Vale is funny, passionate, intelligent and generous with his knowledge and time. In less than an hour, he felt like a friend.
Charles Gatewood and V Vale
Charles is equally kind, and surprisingly sweet. He's nothing you would imagine a photographer who takes pictures of people's piercings and sadomasochistic fetishes to be. He's full of stories and ideas about art and culture, and he and Rick had a blast chatting about photography and living in San Francisco.

I sold 8 copies of Punk Rock Saved My Ass, and 6 of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, which was exciting. Quite a few people were interested in giving publishing a try and I hope my book will help them. Publishing isn't easy, or financially wise, but it is rewarding on so many levels. The people who bought Punk Rock Saved My Ass all had the same look of wide eyed excitement on their face; the book spoke to them. One man said, "I've been looking for a book like this." That right there makes publishing worth everything.
Rick hard at work
We plan to do the Alternative Press Expo again next year, and the Anarchist Book Fair this Spring. I love the people who work at and attend these types of events. They are living the spirit of DIY, creating their own art and taking control of their dream to share that work.


Unfortunately, I didn't sell enough books to get a new tattoo. 


Here are just a few of the great artists, artwork, and comics I saw at APE:

Industrial Fairytale, by Sarah Dungan

Turkish Orgenebilsin, by Bob Lanz

Heroic Tarot

Robert Bowen

Hyperactive Monkey

Para Somnia

Jaina Bee

6th Circle

Unemployed Man

And book publishers

PM Press

McSweeneys

Last Gasp

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The reading with Jennifer Blowdryer and Jane Mackay was fabulous!

What a fantastic, busy, inspiring week that was! The reading of Punk Rock Saved My Ass at Dog Eared Books with Jennifer Blowdryer and Jane Mackay on October 14th was great, with a large turnout and two excellent readers. Jennifer and Jane were the perfect balance, giving a glimpse into the diversity of writers and stories in the anthology, and Alvin, the owner of Dog Eared Books, was the perfect host. Many friends came as well, including Greg, my J. C. math tutor and the man who introduced me to punk when I was 20 (if you read Punk Rock Saved My Ass, you know who I'm talking about). There were also many people who came because they were curious about the book and the infamous Jennifer Blowdryer. We sold quite a few copies as well, making this event prosperous as well as fun for Medusa.


Unfortunately, this is the only picture that turned out from the many shots I took that night...

writer Jennifer Blowdryer and publisher/editor, Terena
I had a new camera program on my Iphone and didn't quite have it figured out. If anyone who came to the event has pics, please send them. I especially need some pics of Jane.

Jennifer is adorable. Funny, friendly, edgy and street-smart, with a huge smile and an honest heart. There's also a vulnerability about her I hadn't expected. She's seen a lot, experienced a lot, but she hasn't let any of it destroy her sense of humor or compassion. She isn't trying to be "cool", she just is.

After the reading I had a day of rest to wander the City I love, then Rick joined me for the Alternative Press Expo that weekend. Photos and story of that event coming up next.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Happy Third Birthday, Medusa's Muse

I've been so busy lately I forgot Medusa's Muse birthday! Three years old on October 1st, which is the date the press became a real, legitimate, tax paying business. Prior to that was two years of planning, which I think of as gestation. The first book published by Medusa's Muse launched in November, 2007 and was called Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers. Then came the handbook, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, and the latest book, Punk Rock Saved My Ass. Wow, three books in three years! How on Earth did I manage to pull that off?

Happy Birthday, Medusa's Muse. Many thanks to Jane and Rick for helping to make this crazy dream of mine come true, and thank you to all my friends who support the press and cheer me on.



And of course, thank you to my muse. Without her, I'd never have found the inspiration. This is how it began...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

October is a busy month for Medusa. If only I had time to enjoy it

There are times I wish I still lived in San Francisco; it would be so much easier to market my books if I did. Instead I live two hours north in gorgeous Mendocino County, which is usually perfect. But right now, I really need to be in the City.

If it weren't for Jane, I'd be screwed. She's been handling all the PR for the big Jennifer Blowdryer event on October 14th at Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street. She even got a write up in SF Gate rather than just a listing in the calendar. Yesterday she fliered North Beach and parts West in San Francisco. And she'll be the lead person at the event, supporting the authors and reading from her stories in the anthology. Alas, it looks like I won't be able to come to the reading. Childcare and grad school are as usual keeping me close to home. But I know the authors and book store owner will be in excellent hands.

I will be attending the Alternative Press Expo (APE) on October 16th and 17th though, which I'm really excited about. Two days with my husband, spreading the word about Medusa's Muse and Punk Rock Saved My Ass. There will be hundreds of other indy presses (including McSweeneys, one of my favorite publishers) and underground zines and artists to discover. In a way, this feels more like my community than Book Expo ever did; we're all a bunch of indy book nerds. If you can make it, Medusa's Muse will be at table 700 B.

I hope to do at least one more book event in San Francisco, then another in Santa Rosa, and at least one in Ukiah. Those are only in the planning stages, but I'll let you know as soon as I have dates. Punk Rock Saved My Ass is really taking off! The feedback from readers has been fantastic, which makes all the hard work, money and extra gray hairs feel worthwhile. Yes, we did great work at Medusa.

Now if only I could finagle a way to see Jennifer Blowdryer!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Haiku my Heart

Fish out of water
Learning to swim in the sun
Who knew fish could dance?

(inspired by Burning Man)

Every Friday is Haiku my Heart, a collection of blog posts celebrating Haiku, begun by Recuerda Mi Corazon. Follow the link and join in.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jennifer Blowdryer and Matthue Roth reading from Punk Anthology

Live anywhere near New York City? Then head over to Book Thug Nation for a reading with Punk Rock Saved My Ass writers Jennifer Blowdryer, Matthue Roth, and others. Here's the link to Jennifer's blog for more info:

Reading with Jennifer Blowdryer

8pm – 10pm
Book Thug Nation
100 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg between Berry and White.  Close to Bedford.

There will also be a San Francisco reading at Dog Eared Books on October 14th at Dog Eared Books with Jennifer Blowdryer and Jane Mackay. 8:00 PM. I'll post more info soon.

Plus, Rick (book designer and punk writer) and I will be at the Alternative Press Expo on October 16th and 17th in San Francisco. More info upcoming.

Lots happening at Medusa, and I am constantly reminded how blessed I am to have such a supportive and talented team working with me, especially now that I'm up to my eyeballs with my internship. Working long hours and raising a child doesn't leave much room for writing or publishing, but Jane and Rick and my wonderful writers keep Medusa alive and on track.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Terena reading the intro to Punk Rock Save My Ass on Flying Monkey Radio

Remember the post I wrote (if link doesn't appear, scroll down) about using my iPhone and iTunes to record myself reading the intro to the punk anthology? Well the reading is now up on Flying Monkey Radio/410 Media. Click the link and then look for "Punk Rock Saved My Ass" in the topics section.

Flying Monkey Radio 

(for some reason the links haven't been showing up on my posts, so here's the link you can copy and paste:  http://410media.com/_/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=27)

One guy told me that after hearing my reading he wants to read the book "even more." Nice!

What Burning Man taught me about art



For the past several days I've been cleaning the playa dust from costumes and camping gear, doing endless loads of laundry, vacuuming, and wiping. Absolutely everything, even the clean underwear I kept sealed tightly in a plastic bin, was covered in dust. Playa dust isn't like ordinary house dust. It's closer to talcum powder so it blows everywhere, and once wet turns into the consistency of thick water-color paint. I'm beginning to realize I'll never clean it all up.

My muse seems to like the dust. There is still playa dust on her skin and in her hair; her snakes look paler with a fine covering of soft dust. When she moves, you can smell the dust as it falls from her clothes. She says you have to just make peace with the dust. "It's like anything of beauty; there's always something to irritate you if you let it."

That pretty much sums up what I learned about art at Burning Man. The playa is a blank canvas and we visitors create the art that fills it. Driven by the need to feel the pulse and passion of artistic expression, we battle heat and dust storms to make it real. Then we let it go, taking only the feeling, not the actual creation, with us.

The creation is the most important part.



What did Burning Man teach me about art?

1. When art inspires, people will do anything to be a part of that art. They will stand on the playa with the wind blowing so hard the dust erases every landmark, hunting for a glimpse of the art that makes them feel alive. People want to be awe struck, inspired, shocked... Burning Man is the perfect place to build something so incredible people are dumbfounded by the fact it can even exist. But I think an artist can create something that powerful anywhere. It doesn't have to be clever or huge or expensive. It is the feeling generated by the art that people hunger for. If an artist creates with passion, focus, and an eye for beauty, then even something that fits in the palm of your hand can be breathtaking.

2. All artists are crazy. I've always suspected that, but seeing that many artists in one place getting high on shared creativity has convinced me that this is a fact. Only a crazy artist could envision something like Burning Man and make it happen.

3. Art is hard work. No matter if you make a 30 foot tall steel woman or write a poem, it takes the same amount of dedication and focus to make it exceptional. You can get lazy and still make something pretty, but will it inspire?

4. Sometimes, it's important to be tossed on your ass outside your comfort zone. In my opinion, that's the whole point of Burning Man. Sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, dust in your eyes and lungs, constant noise and sensory overload are the norms. You can either hide in your tent, afraid of what's out there, or grab your goggles and face mask and jump in. The same is true in the comfort of  our own homes. We can keep creating the same thing over and over because it's comfortable and we've had lots of success making it, or we can push ourselves just a little to try creating something new. I'm not talking Maplethorpe extremes, I'm talking about testing your own creative powers. Only write plays? Try writing a poem. Only work with water color? Give charcoal a try.



After the Man burned on Saturday night, my friend and I watched a woman paint a picture. You might think this would be boring, but it was absolutely fascinating. She was working on a painting of a city reminiscent of Venice, with the ocean pouring through canals surrounding tall buildings of stone. It looked as if the city were being destroyed, but the scene was beautiful, filled with light and smooth edges. In the sky above the city were smiling, shining faces. The woman worked diligently with her tiny brush, stepping back and looking at the canvas before reaching forward to add more black to the edge of a building, or white to add more light. My muse stayed beside her for a long time, as if drunk on the flow of her creativity. It was magic watching this artist create her painting. She was so open and vulnerable, as if she were naked, but she offered her creative process willingly, allowing us a glimpse of what drove her to paint that image.

Of all the great art I saw, from the 30 foot dancing woman, the temple made of wood that resembled the mountains around the playa, the beautiful tropical fish statues that seemed to swim through the desert air, the laser beams cutting the night sky in starry sections, the flames dancing along a giant, steel sphere, the ball spinning and shining a thousand swirling lights beneath my feet until I felt like I was being lifted by the centrifugal force, and the glowing flowers that bloomed to life every night, this quiet moment watching the woman paint her picture affected me the most. Because that moment is the same for us all. No matter what we try to make, it comes from the exact same place.



Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Burning Man - Wow



Not very coherent or poetic, but WOW is the closest word to describe how I feel. The entire experience felt like a dream, even when I was standing on the playa in the middle of a howling dust storm with the desert sun and salt-alkali in the soil sucking the moisture from my skin. At night, the desert calmed and the sky cleared to show a million stars. Thousands of beautiful lights sparkled throughout the city and the blackness of the playa was pierced by stunning displays of neon, laser, and fire.

It's going to take me a few days to shake the dust out of my brain and think in more sophisticated terms than "wow," "awesome," "cool," and "sweet." So for now, here are a few pictures of what I saw out there.

Black Rock City, Nevada
30 foot tall dancing woman
art car
Center Camp at night
Dust storm at the Temple
sun bathing
my favorite place to sit and watch the City
Playa fish
Me in front of camp. Like the outfit?
my friend's gypsy art car
art in the dust
I saw so much more, things I couldn't get a picture of, or even begin to write about. But I'll do my best over the next few days to show what I saw and learned out there on the playa, and what my Muse was inspired by.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Watching a city rise from the dust - Burning Man


(image from Google Earth Blog      )

My muse went to Burning Man last week because she couldn't resist watching people build the city. "Imagine watching a city being built by a thousand artists on a lake that's been dead for ten thousand years, with the sun and the alkali sucking the moisture out of their bones as they work." She sighed loudly, as if she were starving and had just smelled a fresh blackberry pie.

I smiled. "It sounds almost sacrificial. Must be an amazing sight."

"And at last I will see it."

I stopped cleaning my Camelpak and stared at her. "You've never been?"

She shook her head and sighed again, this time as if the blackberry pie had been taken from her. "No. I am a writer's muse." Rolling her eyes, she said, "I've never enjoyed the pleasure of time with a sculptor or musician's creative energy, so there's never been a reason for me to go. ... until now." She smiled.

"I'm pretty excited we're going, too."

She looked at my Burning Man ticket stuck to my bulletin board. "You've dreamed of going for so long."

"Years! But I've never had the chance, or the money, or the time... " I continued rinsing the bladder of my Camelpak, letting the bleach-tinged water pour into the sink. "I've either been in school, or broke, or busy raising my daughter. This is the year to go. Plus, it's extra special I'm going with my dad."

My muse grinned. "I like your dad. His muse is a little crazy, but he seems to like that chaotic energy. He's done some good work with her."

"Will she be there?"

"Of course. She's the one who suggested they go in the first place. She can't get enough of that Burning Man energy. There will be a large gathering of muses from all over the world, showing off their artists and inspiration."

I turned off the faucet. "I'm sorry I don't have anything to show off out there."

She waved her hand as if dismissing the thought. "Please. You have nothing to be sorry about. You yourself are the art I can display."

As I felt the stroke of pride in her words, and the excitement at the thought (I am the art), my muse suddenly stripped off her clothes and shook out her long main of black hair, her snakes writhing with excitement. She was beautiful standing in a sun beam, her skin gleaming with hints of gold and flame. "Time to go. See you in a few days."

"I'll be there."

And then she was gone.

I finished packing, thinking about my muse running naked across the playa, watching the city rise from the dust.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Using iPhone Voice Memo ap to record your reading


 (image from Metro Technologies)

Several months ago, I was asked by 410 Media to record a reading from Punk Rock Saved My Ass to post on their website. Between finishing my classes and a hectic summer, it never got done. This Tuesday, I decided I'd put it off long enough. Grabbing my copy of the book, I turned to the introduction I wrote and started practicing reading it out loud. The intro tells my own punk rock story and explains what inspired the anthology, so it felt like a good piece for 410 Media. But what was the best way to record it? 410 Media gave several options: call it in; call it in via Skype; record and burn it to a CD for mailing; record and email. I didn't like the sound quality of recording something over the phone, but the computer with the recording equipment was buried under a mountain of other computer work (my husband's a tech).

That's when I remembered that my iPhone comes with a voice memo ap. It's really simple to use. Touch the Voice Memo icon to load the program, push the red button on the lower left of the screen, and start talking. When you're done, push the button again. To see what you've recorded, push the list button (lower right side with three horizontal lines). A list of your recordings will appear. Tap the time/date of your recording to listen. If you want to share, tap "share" and you'll get the options for Email or MMS.

I practiced with several short recordings, only a couple of paragraphs each, which I emailed to myself easily. Then I decided to see how well the ap would record a longer piece. I read the entire intro, all five pages, which produced a recording over 8 minutes, and was surprised the ap could record something that long with that good of quality. But then the file was too big to email. I sent it to myself using MMS, then connected my phone to my computer to open the file in iTunes. After that, I had to figure out how to turn the file into an MP3 and compress it.

A quick Google search brought me to the how-to page on Apple Support for transforming a MP4 file into an MP3. Click the link to see how it's done. The info for compression is there, too.

Once that was done, I emailed the file to 410 Media. Quick and easy and the sound quality is very good. And it was great being able to listen to myself read. I now know how long it takes to read my intro (8 minutes), what parts to cut, and how my reading style sounds. There were places I upped the intensity of my reading for dramatic effect, and other places I spoke quietly, and I could hear whether doing that worked. Using Voice Memo to record yourself reading before you go out and read in front of an audience is a great way to prepare. And if you have an iPhone, there's no excuse not to. You don't need to set up a microphone or recording equipment, or try to find time at home to sit in front of your computer. Read in your car before the event to make sure you're reading is strong. Are you mumbling? Articulating? Too soft? Too loud? Are you boring? How can you make your reading more exciting? Or is your reading falling into melodrama? Plus, you can record several sections from your book and post them to a website to promote your book.

Once 410 Media posts my reading, I'll post the link here.

The more I play with my new toy... I mean work with my new tool... the more I love it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The cure for "resting" manuscripts

Writers are notorious for hiding in their bedrooms, surrounded by books written by other people, while working endlessly on their manuscripts. The story never feels polished enough for other people's eyes. They'll work and work, then decide to "let it rest" by setting the manuscript aside to work on something else that's been "resting." After a while, a writer can stack up a lot of "resting" projects.

Or is that just me?

I have eight manuscripts resting right now: 3 plays, 2 novels, 1 essay and 2 short stories. I'm waiting for feedback on a play and the essay, but I've had plenty of feedback on the others to jump back in and finish. But now the problem is the manuscripts have piled up so deep I don't know which one to start with. Should I chose the one closest to completion, or the ones who've been waiting in the drawer the longest? The one I might have time to actually finish? The one that is easiest to work on? Or start with the hardest and work my way through with diligence?

And I can't blame it all on grad school and motherhood either. I started most of these projects before school started, back when I had plenty of time to finish them. In all the years I've been writing, I've managed to fully complete four things: a 10 minute play which was performed two years ago at Mendocino College; two essays which both appeared in Hip Mama magazine several years apart; and one short story which might be published in an anthology. The rest of the thousands of pages I've written have either gone into the garbage or are now "resting," because setting something aside to rest means you're still working on it. You don't have to hold it up and say to the world, "This is my best work."

That's the reason we writers set manuscripts aside before completing them, at least that's why I do it. Never finishing something means I gain the satisfaction of being a writer without the humiliation of not being good enough for other people's reading eyes. There are no rejection letters when I let a manuscript rest, and I can always go back to it and keep polishing until it's surpasses perfection, which is impossible for anyone, even Tony Morrison, to achieve (although that woman comes pretty damn close).

But another reason I never finish anything is pure boredom. Revising until you have a finished, polished manuscript suitable for possible publication is boring! Tedious! Dull! There is nothing new or exciting anymore; all the characters have been developed and the plot plotted. You know how it ends and how the story gets there. There are no new discoveries, just plain-old-boring word manipulation. Yawn...

What's the cure for chronic manuscript resting? I suppose just grabbing a manuscript, sitting your butt in the chair and working on it until it's finished is a good way to break the cycle. That's what I tell my writers to do, but I'm obviously terrible at taking my own advice. So what is a writer to do with eight manuscripts resting?

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding the Source

My muse stood on the edge of the bluff, the ocean crashing and rolling far below her. The wind whipped the snakes in her hair; I could heard them hissing with glee as they crashed into each other like a slithering mosh pit. When I stood beside her, my muse looked at me and grinned.

"Can you feel it?" she asked.

"What?"

"The roar of the world."

She turned back to face the sea, transfixed by the tug and flow of the tide. "It's all here, everything you need to create."

I nodded. "I feel it."

"Good. I was afraid you'd forgotten how."

I was taking a break from my frenetic life, spending time with my friend Jody at a place called the Howard Creek Ranch, three miles from Westport on the Mendocino Coast. We wrote, ate, talked, drank wine, walked along the bluffs, talked about our writing, and then wrote some more. Slowly the tension in my body gave way to a calmer quiet and I could feel my creative energy stirring. It had become sluggish with the weight of grad school and motherhood, but that old, Victorian farm house near the ocean, the desire and concentration to write grew. By the end of our stay I'd finished an essay left on hold too long and then dove head first into play revisions. I was afraid I'd forgotten how to write anything longer than short blog posts or papers for class. Happily, writing is a lot like riding a bicycle.

My muse is rested and fully energized. After three days of talking to the gulls and the abalone (who are quite intelligent, my muse says), she was filled with ideas. I just hope I can keep up with her.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I need a new bookkeeping system

After spending several frustrating and confusing hours organizing a year's worth of invoices, I realized I need a new system. The paperwork had piled up because of the massive time suck called grad-school, but that's not the biggest reason I need a new system. Going through all the sales for the last tax year (July 2009 - June 2010), I see that I'm not getting the information I need from my records. I created my system to track one book, Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, and to know how much to pay Laura Fogg in royalty. But now I have three books to track, so the old system just doesn't work anymore.

What kinds of information do I need now?

I need to know how many copies each book has sold of course, and which sale is taxable (meaning I owe the State of California money). I need to know who bought the books and when. I need to keep track of royalties and how much to donate to Gilman Street. I need to know how much I've earned each quarter, subtracting unit cost and shipping.

The old system gives me that info, but is too cumbersome for three books. There must be a way to streamline the info so it's easy to input and easy to access, with clear numbers for each book. I know there are programs I can buy, but my press is too small to justify spending thousands on a publishing data-base. Instead, I'll create my own system again, and when I've figured it out I'll share it with you.

Anyone have an idea to get me started?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who let all this press business pile up?

Oh yeah, that would be me. Sigh...

Grad school has been bad for business.

There is a mountain of Medusa's Muse business that has been needing my attention for at least three months, and now that school is over and I'm supposedly on vacation (what's that?), I am spending all my free time doing really fun things like updating inventories. Plus, it's time to pay sales tax again (before the end of the month, people. Don't forget). But before I can do that I have to finalize all the data on sales from quarter one and two of 2010. I haven't been inputting the sales in the spreadsheets like I should, instead they're written down on bits of paper which have been tossed into the top drawer of my desk. I think. I hope they're all there. And I owe Laura money again, and speaking of money I really wish someone from Gilman or Indy Arts would call me so I can send them their cut of Punk Rock Saved My Ass book sales.

I know being a publisher looks glamorous (well, only when I wear my tiara), but most of the time being a publisher is a real pain in the ass. I did not start a small press so I could spend all my time doing books, I started a press to create books. Actual hands on book creation is only a fraction of what I get to spend my time on, even though it's the only reason I became a publisher. So of course I let the bookkeeping pile up when I get busy. If I have any free time I want to spend it doing something I love, like editing or working on my play.

Even though I researched what is required to start a small business like a publishing company, and even wrote a book about how to do it, I wasn't prepared for the tedium I feel inputting book sales, not to mention marketing the dang things. There are days I think about quitting. What a huge waste of my artistic energy. I should be creating something, not staring at spread sheets trying to remember how to do percentages correctly. But when I ponder never publishing another book, I feel miserable. Never publishing another book? How awful that would be! So I keep at it, but I really wish I was earning enough at Medusa's Muse to hire some help.

Okay, enough whining. Back to crunching those numbers.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Do I really dislike poetry?

Last night, Jane and I went to Nicholas Karavatos' poetry reading at Book and Beckett in San Francisco. He is one of the writers in Punk Rock Saved My Ass, touring the West Coast this summer to promote his new book, No Asylum. Even though I'm not a huge poetry person, we like to support our writers.

The reading turned out to be astonishing and I will never look at poetry the same way again.

Not to belittle poetry, but most of the time, it bores me. I've sat through too many long winded, "evocative" readings from old women who write ten pages about how wonderful birds are (I can just hear the hate mail now). Yes, birds are wonderful, but do you really need to go on for 15 minutes about the color of their wings? Where is the passion that drove you to write about a bird? Where is the play on words, the double meanings, the less than obvious metaphors?

The night was led by poet and activist Dee Allen, who recited his poems about love, death, and living on the streets while fighting for dignity with a fierceness that was startling. He was nervous, stumbling over his words now and then and apologizing for any mistakes,  but he kept the room transfixed with his presence and command of the words he had written. His poems were about the struggle for life, for hope.  He is one of those street poets we all tend to ignore as we dash by on our busy errands. The next time you walk by a street poet, stop and listen. There is real talent out there.

The way Haight Ashbury's other residents treat these youngsters
Would drive anyone late into hiding, but they won't hide.
Not while eyes of the main drag followed them
Into the bright green tapestry of Golden Gate,
With his notepad scribbled down indignities
And a pocketful of tickets for crimes of status.
Each ticket, a printed example of class hatred

(excerpt from "Streeteyes" by Dee Allen, printed in the Street Sheet 2010 poetry edition)

Then Nicholas read poems from his book, and I was again struck by the beauty and power of a well written, and well spoken, poem. Nicholas wrote about love, sex, and perceptions of the Middle East where he teaches, surprising us with startling imagery, masterful language, and humor that made us laugh as well as think. He smiled, winked, wiggled his eyebrows... playing with the audience as he read.

I have a reason to live 
because they want me to die.
A last goodbye
To laughing ass, says my soul.
Underworld wide web bidding up
Stock in life while the cost of 
living it is not known

(excerpt of "Procreate the Revolt", from the book No Asylum, by Nicholas Karavatos)

Afterwards I bought his book, which has a beautiful black cover with the title written in shining red letters, and creamy pages inside with the perfect font to balance the weight of his prose (as a publisher, I appreciate good design).


When Nicholas was finished, there was an open mic, something I usually sit politely through while trying not to fidget as yet another person reads a poem about the birds in her back yard. And once again, I was blown away by the talent and presence of these amateur poets. It wasn't so much the words as the passion. That is what is lacking in poetry too often, and is why I dread poetry readings. Don't just paint me a pretty picture, show me why you need to paint that picture. Give me some energy, power, desire... force me to feel the same way about the birds in your back yard as you do. All of the poets who read that night did just that.

Jane read the opening section of her interview with Chestnut Growler in Punk Rock Saved My Ass and I read part of a poem from Spanish poet Silvia Escario, also from Punk Rock Saved My Ass. The book store owner bought a couple of punk books (the book store is in Glen Park if you're looking for a copy of our book). Bird and Beckett is a fabulous bookstore with a large selection of books, both used and new, and a stage where writers and musicians perform regularly. I highly recommend it. Go out and support the store and help keep another indy bookstore alive.

My mind has been changed about poetry. I love the poets in our book (Tony Walsh, Annie McGann, Christine Bruness, Nicholas Karavatos, Mark Pietrzykowski, Matt Finney, Silvia Escario) because they truly write from the heart, and now I see there are many more poets who write poetry that is alive. That's the key I guess. I want to read words that are alive, not sleepy. Now I want to discover what other fire breathing poets there may be out in the wild world of poetry. Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

new poem from anthology writer, Matthue Roth

He talks about his story in the anthology and how this poem relates. Great poem, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Muse is Back

I was strolling across the San Francisco State campus, taking my time on my way to class, when suddenly my muse appeared beside me wearing an orange sundress and large, round sunglasses.

"Yummmm... there are some mighty fine young boys at this school," she said. "And girls."

"What are you doing here?" I stopped walking and looked around quickly, wondering if anyone else could see my nemesis and the mistress of all my creativity.

She put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. "Good to see you too."

"I thought you were on vacation."

"I was."

"Then why are you here now?"

"I'm back."

"You're not supposed to be back yet."

"Says who?" My muse smiled a slow, sardonic smile. "You?"

I pulled up the shoulder straps of my too heavy back pack. "You know I'm in school right now. I don't have time for you."

My muse burst into a belly-laugh and her snakes joined in, hissing in tiny, whispered puffs of glee. "I love it when you pretend that you're in control. It's so funny." She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. "Seriously though, I cut my vacation short because I figured out how to fix the ending of your play."

"That's great, but couldn't you come back in three weeks. I really need to get to class."

"No I can't come back in three weeks. The inspiration is now. I fixed your play. Don't you want to know how?"

"Of course I do. I'm excited to see what you've come up with. But right now I really have to go to class. It starts in ten minutes."

"Fine. Go to class. I'll just take the ending of your play with me. I haven't been to Nepal in a long time. Maybe I should do some mountain climbing this summer." She narrowed her eyes. "All summer."

I sighed. Why are muses so sensitive?

"Okay, I'm sorry," I said. "I appreciate you cutting your vacation short and dashing back here to help me with my play.  Thank you." I touched her arm gently, making sure I was out of reach of her snake hair. "And I want to hear all about it. Unfortunately right now I really do have to get to class, but can you meet me after and we can talk about your ideas? Please?"

She crossed her arms and stared at me for so long I began to twitch. The clock was ticking and I was now going to be late for class, but still she stared. At last she shrugged and said, "Alright. I'll meet you after your ridiculous class and we can talk then. Really, I don't understand what all this fuss is about school."

I decided not to argue with her. I was late. "You're probably right, but it's important to me. So I'll see you later."

My muse watched me walk away, until a tall, young man with long dark hair rolled by on his skateboard, weaving around pedestrians in a lazy grace. "Oh my..." she said, and then suddenly she too was rolling by on a skateboard in silent pursuit of the beautiful man. She smiled at me when she passed me by and I laughed. At least she'd be distracted for a while.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Punk Rock Saved My Ass interview: Ryan Cooper


Today's Punk Rock Saved My Ass interview is with writer Ryan Cooper. Ryan  is a music journalist who has been covering and commenting on the punk scene in one medium or another since 1989. You can read more of Ryan's writing in his column at About:Punk and read Ryan's essay, This is not a manifesto, and you're not punk rock in the anthology, Punk Rock Saved My Ass, available now from Medusa's Muse Press.


****************************************************************


How do you personally define punk? 
First of all, you break all the rules. How’s that for a canned response?
Seriously though, punk is such a personal definition, that my definition will match very few. Punk is about unity for people who don’t fit in elsewhere. It’s about providing a haven and creating an “Island of Misfit Toys.” Punk is about establishing a safe place for self-expression, and creating a scene where music, art, creativity and free thought can thrive. 

What is NOT punk?
The things that aren’t punk are the things you say aren’t punk. And conversely, the most unpunk thing out there is to say that something isn’t punk.

Too many people get wrapped up in telling others they’re not punk. The old crusties who only listen to hardcore or crust are no more punk than the 12-year-olds who are just now really getting into Blink-182 or Fall Out Boy. In fact, they become less so by deciding someone else isn’t punk, and by placing that derision on anyone else pushes them away, and makes them reject the scene and creates a situation where everyone loses. We were all new to the scene at one time, and we all have our own identities and what we’re looking for out of life. When I got into punk rock, I had the benefit of being part of a very small scene that had no room for alienation by age or interest. As such, I had a lot of older folks who introduced me to great music and drove me to clubs and shows. 

That guy who lives in a squat with no TV and makes his own t-shirts and puts on shows is no more punk than the stay-at-home mom with a house in the suburbs who cleans her house with the Ramones cranked while wearing her old Descendents shirt, and the dude with the Mohawk and all the metal in his face at the hardcore show is no more punk than the guy standing next to him with the crewcut and the office job. We’re all here for the music, no matter our daily situation. 

What punk song/band changed your life, and how?
There were so many bands that I was getting into when I started exploring music, ranging from classic punk like the Pistols and Ramones, to thrash metal like DRI, to “modern rock” or “alternative” (depending on the bands’ classification for that day) bands like Jane’s Addiction, the Cure or the Pixies. 

But the band that really changed the way that I looked at punk and at life was the Dead Milkmen. That may seem like an odd choice, but they presented it all in a way that said it was OK to be funny about the stuff you were pissed off about. You could be angry, but misplaced anger was so self-destructive that it was a hell of a lot more fun to joke about stuff and to have a good time, and then figure out what you could do to make things better. 

I also have to give a shout out to my mom; she took me to my first show, which was again the Dead Milkmen. She didn’t pretend to understand, but wanted to at least be aware of what I was into. She came away appreciative of me and of the music. It’s a luxury that I had that a lot people I know did not, a safe secure home with parents who cared about what my siblings and I were up to. I’m sure that environment has kept me out of a lot of trouble, and provided an influence that’s kept me from making some bad choices over the years. She has since taken my nieces to their first punk show – Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, where she even took them to meet Claire Pproduct, so they could meet a female musician – and the cycle continues.

What has punk taught you about yourself and your life?
Punk taught me to express myself and to stand up for myself. It taught me that self-expression was OK, and that I didn’t need to be a clone. Punk also taught me to question everything, even the stuff that punk told me was so. There were so many radical ideas that the generation prior to the punks had espoused, and it wasn’t necessary to burn it all down and start over. Punk told me to seek out the writing of ‘60s radicals like Abbie Hoffman and John Sinclair, and that even if punks were against everything associated with hippies (officially anyway), punk had also co-opted many of the ideals of the ‘60s generation.

Regarding music, punk made me hungry. It made me realize that the best records didn’t always come easy. So many bands released a few hundred pressings only of a great record before fading into obscurity, and I’ve made it a personal mission to seek out those unknown bands, to listen and to wrap my brain around the fact that amazing bands never got the chance to be heard everywhere.  

What surprised you about the punk scene?
That it’s not all-inclusive. Operation Ivy preached a message of unity within the scene, but the scene is not united. There are so many internal divisions and class warfare that it’s hard to truly embrace the scene as a whole, without being placed into a little box.

The apathy also surprised me. If you go to a truly political punk show, you’ll hear all these bands spreading these great messages, and you’ll see a crowd of people chanting along, ready to take that message to the streets, ready to make this huge difference and to right the wrongs. After the show, where do they all go? I’m not sure, but they’re not out there making a difference. The apathy has taken over before they’re even out of the parking lot, and they’ve forgotten the message by the time they’ve gotten home and flipped on the TV. Many of them don’t even vote. 

If a person is interested in learning more about punk/DIY, what would you suggest they do?
Embrace the scene! See what’s out there. Go to shows. Put on a show. Meet people. Listen to music. Start a band. Write a blog. Read other people’s blogs. Make a zine. Read other people’s zines. Get a bike. Get out there and find out what there is to find out. There are so many ways to get involved, just approach them with an open mind.

DIY is so important for us as a scene, and for making a difference in our world. A lot of time, especially for younger kids, there is this inherent feeling of helplessness that makes one feel like it’s impossible to make a difference, but it’s always possible. Getting involved in local politics and community groups makes a huge difference and can make your space a better one to be in. If I’d been told 25 years ago that today I’d be attending City Council meetings, I’d have thought you were crazy, but now I’ve done it to speak out and express support for our local human rights ordinances, which have passed.

And any time you make something instead of buying it, you may not realize it, but you’re descending into the clutches of DIY culture.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Powell's Books now carries Punk Rock Saved My Ass

Once again, the idea that Powell's books, the greatest book store on the planet, is carrying my book makes me very happy. Never mind that the website doesn't have a cover image or that one of the authors is missing (Jane Mackay is co-editor), I still love the fact that Powell's knows about my book.

doing happy dance

My classes end on Saturday, then I will be able to focus on spreading the word about Punk Rock Saved My Ass, a book I am very proud of. It turned out so good! The writing is great, the images beautiful and provoking, the design and feel of the book excellent... everything to make this publisher ecstatic. If I never publish another book I will die knowing I created something this good. 

Of course I'll publish another book; I already have a few ideas floating around in my imagination and I'm just trying to decide which one to pursue next. But don't tell Rick.

Oh, and I guess I should finish school first.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Punk Rock Saved My Ass is launched...

...and it only took three years to complete. Not bad for an anthology.



You can order a copy through Amazon.com or if you prefer not to shop on Amazon, do what I do and order a copy through your local, independent book store. The book is available from Ingram, the largest wholesaler of books in the USA.

And all you folks in the UK Canada and the EU, you too can order a copy through your local bookstore.

Once Powell's books carries it, I'll post a link here, and on the Facebook fan page.

As usual, I didn't plan book launch very well. Launching a new book during the last two weeks of school is crazy. No time to plan, prepare, send out press releases, set up interviews or even coordinate with Gilman Street. I'm studying for exams, finishing projects, writing papers and reading mountains of material before the last day of school on May 15th. When the book officially launched on Fri, April 30th, I was in class. Oh well. Things rarely go smoothly when you DIY publish.

Regardless of whether or not I'm too busy to celebrate, I feel accomplished and relieved, excited and scared, all at once. Will people like the book? Hate it? Will I sell enough to pay the printer, let alone all the other costs associated with selling books? What will the writers say when they get their copies? Will it meet their expectations? And what if we do sell thousands of copies? How will I manage success?

Time will tell. But today, I need to finish reading two more chapters and study O and M skills. Plus my daughter is complaining that it's too hot and she needs a drink and she doesn't want to run errands after school, even if there's ice cream at the end of the trip.

Just another day at Medusa's Muse.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

While we're waiting for the book to officially launch, here's another interview to whet your appetite.

Today's interview is with science teacher and punk philosopher, James Stewart. He claims to be "nobody special." He is a San Francisco area educator with his primary goal being teaching his students to think for themselves. You can read his essay, "On Conformity" in the upcoming anthology, Punk Rock Save My Ass, from Medusa's Muse Press, launching very soon!

How do you personally define punk?

I don’t define Punk, it defines me... Bwahahahah! But seriously, I think of it as a way of looking at life and the world around you with a critical eye and not believing every bullshit-slinging huckster trying to sell you on an idea. It means “Think for yourself.” It means not being afraid to stand apart from the crowd, to dress differently from the sheep or to have a bonafide opinion.

What is NOT punk?

Doing or saying ANYTHING because you think it makes you punk. Fuck what other people think, be yourself. Stand apart from the herd. Let the sheep be sheep.

What punk song/band changed your life, and how?

Sure, I’d like to say that the first time I threw Jealous Again on the turntable it was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes and I saw the world for the first time, but the truth is I had it on the wrong speed and it kinda sounded like a garage-band version of Black Sabbath. (In my defense, it didn’t say it was 45 rpm anywhere on the damned thing!) The truth is every punk band I have ever heard has changed my life in one way or another. There are far too many songs that have made an impression on me to list.

But I sense what you're fishing for here is an early experience that set me on the path to punkness... I remember staying up late to watch Saturday Night Live as a kid (’78/’79 maybe?) and being totally amazed and inspired by DEVO. It was just so weird and SO right. I made my mom buy the Are We Not Men? record for me. I must have listened to that record non-stop for a month straight, full volume as I danced around the room in my underwear and sunglasses, acting like an idiot. I’m surprised she didn’t have me committed. That was probably the moment I knew that Lynard Skynard just were’t gonna cut it anymore.

What has punk taught you about yourself and your life?

That I can think for myself and I don’t have to choke down the bullshit that the talking heads on TV spoon feed the masses. I don’t need heroes and I don’t wanna be nobody’s hero either.

What surprised you about the punk scene?

I was drawn to punk because it was different and I thought it would be accepting of different ideas but in reality it had it’s own dogma just like every other belief system. And that dogma was narrow in scope and very slow to change.

If a person is interested in learning more about punk/DIY, what would you suggest they do?

Stop asking irrelevant old men about a movement that died 20 years ago and read a book. Then go out and start your own movement, truly Do-It-Yourself and stop waiting around for people to tell you it’s okay. Hell, start a new fashion trend by wearing rainbow leg-warmers on your arms and underwear on your head. It’d be a hell of a lot better than heading to Hot Topic and buying a Punk™ outfit and dying your hair blue. Think. For. Yourself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Punk Rock Saved My Ass press release

Spread the word! The anthology launches April 30th (can you believe we're actually done?)


For immediate release:


Malcolm Mclaren didn’t invent Punk.
 New anthology, Punk Rock Saved My Ass, shares the true stories of people positively transformed by punk rock.
Contact Terena Scott at Medusa’s Muse Press for more information: medusasmuse@gmail.com

Punk Rock Saved my Ass, an anthology of true, transformative punk rock tales, launches April 30th, 2010 from Medusa’s Muse, an indie book publishing company located in Northern California, USA. Edited by Terena Scott and Jane Mackay, the 146 page anthology is a world-wide collaboration of authors influenced by the cultural storm called "punk rock". For some it was a shelter from youthful angst, an artistic outlet, or a way to rage, but all agree that it changed their lives forever. The writers are everyday people of all ages, men and women, with diverse political and cultural backgrounds: libertarians, socialists, bakers, computer geeks, nurses, performance artists, poets, writers, musicians, teachers, and parents, from the United States and Europe. One dollar of every book sold will support the 924 Gilman Street Project in Berkeley, California.
“I wanted to create a book that would show the positive side of punk,” says Terena Scott, editor and publisher of Punk Rock Saved my Ass. “I was tired of all the sensational, self destructive stories about punks. Punk is a passionate, creative, outrageous energy and if you channel it you can create and achieve amazing things. I knew there had to be people out there whose lives had been positively changed by the punk movement and I wanted to talk to them. So I decided to publish an anthology.”
She insists the book is not a romantic manifesto about the glory of punk. “There’s definitely a dark side. People get hurt, and there is a lot a drug use. But that isn’t the whole story, and I wanted to show the bigger picture of what punk is about.” She laughs. “One of the writers states in his essay that he hates books like this; they perpetuate the myth that punk is inclusive and understanding. There can be prejudice in punk, the whole “us vs. them” thing, and you’ll read that in some of the stories. But that’s why this book is different; these essays are written by real people with their own perspective and biases. Every story comes straight from the heart, and when Jane and I edited each story we made sure the writer’s unique voice and honesty remained.”
The writers include musician and libertarian Michael W. Dean, UK poets Tony Walsh and Annie Mcgann; Boston musicians Chestnut Growler and Squallie Greenthumb; performer Jennifer Blowdryer; writers Ryan Cooper, Mic Schenk, Jim Munroe, Matthue Roth, and Heather Seggel; musician Paul Richards of the band Heavy Load; and many more. Also included are several never before published photographs of punks and punk bands taken by Nicole Lucas and Richard Wismar.
Punk Rock Saved My Ass, distributed by Ingram, is $10.00 and will be available from Amazon.com, Powell’s Books, BarnesandNoble.com, and your local bookstore.