Oct 03

The Joy of Printing

jenwithpressPhoto is of poet Jennifer Tappenden who decided she could either take a vacation or start a press. And she started Architrave Press, hand-setting and hand-printing a first edition of 250 copies each of 10 poems selected after she called for submissions. She learned the letterpress printing process from scratch and uses this 1957 press that was once motorized but now operates entirely manually, cranking out with a sound like thunder finished poems inked on beautiful paper. Jennifer re-conceived the poetry book or anthology, asking, Why can't people buy and collect only the poems they like, the way they download only the songs they like? When the poems are offered separately, a buyer can build his or her own collection, and the hand-created nature of the pages gives them value.

I spent an evening in a Cherokee Street storefront watching this process, all hand-done from setting up the poems as Ben Franklin or Walt Whitman had done it, with lead letters, backwards, in little frames. Then there was the piling of quality paper, the skilled inking of the roller, which has to be just right, and the roll of the ink over the letters to make: poems. At hand was the print shop's black dog, named Smudge. What's an "Architrave" you ask? A stone or wooden beam held up by columns, usually over a doorway, as in classical architecture. Architrave Press is holding its first reading event Friday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at a venue new to me, The Tavern of Fine Arts, 313 Belt Avenue in the Central West End. I hope to see you there when my "Self-Portrait on Greyhound Bus" makes is debut in print.
Aug 04

Kindle for PC

The right Kindle for me hasn't been made yet, but in the meantime I envied the Nooks and Kindles friends and acquaintances had, knowing too that I did not really really need one and had other things to spend money on, and I might drop or lose it. Sometimes I even have to use my landline to call my cellphone so it'll ring and I can find it. And I am still somehow loyal to good old-fashioned books.

Until it came down to looking online for an Abraham Lincoln speech. Imagined there'd be an open Lincoln archive of all his works, but the most you can find is his famous speeches and quotations, and the one I sought wasn't famous. Drove to library (12 miles, one way), checked out thick book of Lincoln's speeches and letters. Took it home and searched. What I wanted wasn't in there. Contemplated driving to another library (27 miles, one way) and said, well, maybe when I'm next around there I will stop in. But that didn't happen and I realized I should probably just stop fooling with libraries and go online and buy other collections of Lincoln speeches and letters, maybe even the 7-volume set of his collected writings, and thumb through for the one thing I wanted. So I went to Amazon to see what that'd cost; maybe someone was selling it used.

There it was on Amazon, the 7-volume set in Kindle version for 99 cents. No joke. Lincoln's whole mind for 99 cents! Immediately I downloaded the free Kindle for PC--not as cool and nuanced as the Kindle, but it let me buy the books. And in one minute I had it. The collection was indexed and had live links. There are 900,000 other ebooks I could buy as well. And some Kindle users tell me they never pay for books; they download only what's free and in the public domain and they love it.

P.S. Abraham Lincoln was not only an admirable man but an admirable writer. (Those traits so often go together!)
Jul 21

Future for the Nonfiction Freelancer

8 February 2009

No longer able to pay for things with my good looks, I now barter, performing interpretive dances in the Best Buy in exchange for the multimedia equipment I will absolutely need if I want to sell freelance nonfiction. Nowadays.

Because the future for the nonfiction freelancer is tech. Writers hoping to make money must present editors not only with text but with a package including supplementary digital photographs, video, and recordings (podcasts), all of professional quality. Those are for the online version of the publication. The writer buys this digital equipment & must learn to use it, preferably at a community college. There you can learn techno-speak cheaply and there are labs for editing your digital stuff.

So said veteran journalist Harry Jackson Jr. to the St. Louis Writers Guild yesterday. His talk was fascinating, informative, and discouraging -- JUST LIKE ANY TALK about surviving as a writer. Jackson has survived 40 years in daily journalism by keeping up with technology, working his tail off, and by loving what he does. "If you don't love it," he said, "stay away."

Furthermore: Get a Mac, because it's better for multimedia. Have a specialty such as -- Mr. Jackson's example: "monitoring pharmaceutical companies." And keep up with all the news in this field, research it constantly (do more than google), and treat freelancing as your full-time job.

I attended "The Future for the Nonfiction Freelancer: The Yellow Pad and Pen Won't Cut It Anymore," because I wanted to get my head out of the sand. Well, I put it right back in, and man, is that ever a comfort to me. The only thing I liked hearing was that good writing/good storytelling will trump technology any day.
Apr 25

The Kindle, a Portable Reading Pod

The "reading pod" that everyone will have in a couple of years (like the iPod everyone listens to music on now) has come of age. You can now glimpse the future of reading at:
http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device

I watched the video demonstration of how what they call "the Kindle" works:
  • daily newspapers are delivered wirelessly
  • one may buy and wirelessly download all bestsellers plus other books and blogs (not all of them; that will have to change)
  • you don't need to find WiFi "hotspots" to do your reading or downloading; it works anywhere a cellphone will work
  • you can read in bright sunlight or dark, lighting doesn't matter
  • you can adjust the type size to your comfort level
  • the Kindle will turn the "pages," even "dog-ear" them -- oh, and your book will re-open to the page you were last reading.
Amazon wanted really badly to create a reading pod that was tied to amazon.com purchases and no others. This is their mistake. And the Kindle is too new to buy. (At $399 it is expensive, but in a year, the price will come down; and it'll be finer-tuned.)

If you are "tech," here is the review from pcworld.com, a most trustworthy source, which agrees that the Kindle is too expensive as of yet -- and that it needs the ability to read PDF files. (That's what'll make it able to read self-published books.) Stay tuned. Sure, publishers will still print books. But in five years you will own a reading pod much like this.