Monthly Archives: December 2008

What I Like About EAP

I was thinking about what I like the best about EAP, and of course, hands down, it’s the discovery of like minds working away in their various habitats around the globe.  That was a large part of why I started the website — I was thinking of it as a kind of machine to find people who were thinking in the same way as I was…as I am…thinking about how the world doesn’t have to be constituted the way it is, that it’s not inevitable that someone always be on the bottom and someone always be on the top, that there is another way to arrange it, and that way a more human one than the present structure. I knew it wasn’t only me who found the Way Things Are peculiarly alienating, and I suspected there were others out there (lots of them, I suspected) who, while of a cheerful and optimistic cast of mind, still pushed away at getting the Big Engorged Entrenched Power away from the Door Through to Equity.

It turned out it was so, as a matter of fact.  There was Mike Madrid, who I heard about through our photography editor, and who, in our first phone conversation, started to tell me his ideas, all tumbling out one after the other, until I said, “Stop!  I already know it’s an EAP thing.  Don’t tell me about it — just start writing.”  And here we are, not so very long later, the final draft of THE SUPERGIRLS on the runway, ready to be designed and galleyed and proofed and published, and I don’t know what all.  There was Brian Griffith, who had written a book I could not get over — THE GARDEN OF THEIR DREAMS — about, of all amazing things, desertification and how it affected our view of ourselves, how the stories that came out of that disaster got enshrined as unfortunate truths.  And the next thing you know, he’s writing a book for EAP, too, CORRECTING JESUS, about how THAT story got changed more than a little.

There are a bunch of serendipities along those lines, but my secret favorite, I think, is the ongoing saga of GREENBEARD.  The first three chapters appeared in my inbox, all too obviously sent by their author in the middle of the night, after a long evening at the pub.  I think I must have completely freaked him out when I wrote back and said, “Want to write some more?”  But he did, each chapter making me laugh harder than the last, each chapter making me think there’s an odd brain out there somewhere in a tiny village in the north of England, but an odd brain that EAP was, in a way (plate of shrimp) made for.  This month, when the chapter flow stopped, and I got an apologetic email, I replied, “Don’t worry — but why don’t you write an explanation to the people who’re following the story?”  And I got back this email…

“Tod,

it’s a thought …. but I immediately get lost in the the meta-meta-meta recursion. Should I write the apology? No! It should be the Reverend Earl T. Greybags,  for it is in the pages of his family papers that the ghost of Greenbeard walks, or should it be the Reverend’s friend, enemy and sometime secretary, Monsignor Stronzo Squirrelli? The Reverend himself is far too busy, of course, translating the Bible into Morse code for broadcasting towards Mars using a Cold-War-era ‘Fan Song’ Russian anti-aircraft radar that he bought from eBay. Actually, that rules out Mgr Squirrelli too, as the radar set’s instruction-manual is in Vietnamese, so he will be needed to interpret it as well as working the Morse key and making tea … ahhh! My mind goes round in circles!

I’ll think about it some more after I’ve been to the pub and had my medication.”

I voted for the Monsignor.  The result you can read this month.

That’s the kind of thing I like best, not just about EAP, but, as a matter of fact, about life in general.  When it has meaning, and the meaning makes me laugh out loud.

(Meanwhile, I continue to try to convince the poet David Budbill that he wants nothing better than to write a cookbook for the Press that reflects his experiences farming more than a hundred acres in Vermont.  A poet/farmer’s cookbook, that’s what I want.  However, I’m still trying to convince him of the incredible vulgarity of paying those huge advances, the way those New York publishing houses do.  EAP, I keep insisting, is so elegant and virtuous that it pays absolutely no advances at all!)

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The Writers EAP Wants

So I was talking to my friend and advisor, the Cult Novelist, and he, being of a cheerful doom and gloom type temperament (“Isn’t it a nice day?  Too bad it won’t last.”), enthusiastically described to me how the New York publishing industry is collapsing.  “Harcourt Brace just put a moratorium on acquisitions.  They’re not buying anything.  It’s getting awfully cold out there for writers.”  Then, on consideration.  “But that’s probably good for EAP.  You’re going to get flooded with submissions from writers who can’t get published where they’re used to.”

Without thinking, I said, “I don’t think I want to publish writers who send me stuff like that.”  And when the C.N. was obviously taken aback — “What?  What?  What do you mean?” —  I thought harder about what I meant.  And I tried to explain.

“Look.  This is a long term project I’m doing, and it’s an art project, too — not a business, not the way most people mean a business anyway.”

“Of course it’s a business.  You have to make money to publish more books.”

“Oh, yeah, of course that.  And I’m going to do that.  I’m certainly not going to fold.  But that’s part of that project itself.  That’s like selling your sculptures to make enough money for materials for the next one. Artists have always had to be canny about making enough dosh to go on, historically, if they weren’t going to starve.  Rembrandt was good at it; Van Gogh wasn’t.  Robert Graves was good at it; William Blake wasn’t.  But they were coming from the same place, essentially…from the same point.  The point is to make the art and get it out there, and then make some more.  The point isn’t to collect large amounts of capital.  

“So I guess what I’m saying [I went on meditatively] is I’m looking for a particular kind of writer — one who takes, maybe without even knowing it consciously, that position, too.  One who thinks of EAP not as something that’s supposed to facilitate their being famous in exchange for our making a profit off their books…but as a partner in creating, presenting, and refining, a certain point of view:  that the dominant story we take for granted, that the major media promotes in its sleep, needs to be changed, replaced, transcended.  I want to find writers who understand we’re all working together in a small corner of that particular vineyard.”

(Okay, so maybe I didn’t put it quite like that.  But that’s the beauty of being a writer — you get to rewrite.)

“Hmmmm,” my friend said.

“It takes me awhile to figure out if a writer IS that kind of writer.  When I just get stuff over the transom, sometimes I really like it.  But if I email the writer back and say I can’t plan to publish it now, but would they like to play with it on the website and see what develops?  And they don’t respond well to that answer.  Then I know what they’re doing is something other than what I’m likely to be interested in.  And we part quite easily at that point with no regrets on either side.  But when I find a writer who emails back and says something along the lines of, ‘Hot damn, when do we start?’, then I start to get interested.  Then I start to think long term and wonder where they might fit in EAP.”

I thought about that when I got off the phone, and thought about how I’ve gone in sideways to develop writers and relationships…slowly and cautiously…to fit what I want for the project.  I mean, I have to do that from a practical standpoint; EAP’s got a limited amount of capital and time, and both have to be spent for maximum advantage.  And my maximum advantage is not about making back maximum profit.  It’s about being engaged in a particularly fruitful way with ideas, and with the writers they come from.  

So EAP’s looking for a particular kind of writer.  The writer has to be a self starter.  He or she has to be someone who would write whatever it is without EAP being there, through compulsion, or just for fun, or (as so often happens) a weird hybrid combination of both.  The writer has to be someone who’s eager to engage with other people about their subject.  And who has a good, solid sense of reality.  A certain kind of reality, mind.  They don’t have to live permanently on this planet, is what I’m saying, but when their feet do touch ground on Earth, I expect them to understand that certain rules do apply.

In other words, the writers we’re looking for a.) wonder permanently why the world has to be the way it is, and, without lapsing into despair or destructiveness, constantly imagine other ways it might become,  b.) endlessly experiment, and on their own, in their chosen subject, with how and what these other ways might mean, and c.) are actual functioning human adults who don’t expect the world as it is to be much different than it is while we’re tinkering with ways to change it.

If that makes any sense.  I mean, it does to me.  But it’s a constant amazement to me, how many people take as their basic principle the idea that for any activity to be worthwhile it has to 1.) grow huge and 2.) make a lot of money.  Because it doesn’t seem to me that point of view has done much for Western civilization, not recently, anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

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