Tag Archives: Jam Today

The Ashland Literary Arts Festival: You Know It Makes Sense.

It’s been a nuts summer around EAP World Headquarters, what with the sudden development of the (former) Ashland Literary Festival being turned over to us at the Southern Oregon Literary Alliance and Cascadia Publishers, transforming itself into the Ashland Literary Arts Festival. When the infrastructure was offered us by SOU’s Hannon Library, here in beautiful Ashland, of course we jumped at it. Whenever you get an offer of an infrastructure for a literary festival, well, you have to jump on it.

We started out saying it was going to be like that fairy tale, “Stone Soup”: We had a cauldron of boiling water with a big rock in it. Anybody got a carrot? Anybody got a head of garlic? Anybody got some noodles?

Just like in the fairy tale, next thing you know, everybody eats!

Seriously, it was pretty obvious that we here in the Pacific Northwest needed another meeting place for independent publishers, independent stories, and independent thought in general. So while we’re all scrambling to get into our places in time for the day–Saturday, October 28th, from 10 to 4 (and beyond), at the Hannon Library, on the Southern Oregon University campus in beautiful Ashland, Oregon–the day ahead is rich to bursting point with every conceivable literary ingredient. We’ve got workshops (Rethinking Schools! How to Make Your Own Podcast!) We’ve got stories (Southern Oregon! Hugo House in Seattle! Fantasy as Reality!) We’ve got poetry (Oregon’s poet laureate, the wonderful Elizabeth Woody! And poets galore!). We’ve got comics (EAP’s own Mike Madrid!). We’ve got literature (Too many to enumerate). We’ve got cooking (Jam Today and the wonderful Sarah Lemon of the Medford Mail Tribune will cook from a mystery bag of ingredients). We’ve got archaeology (Chelsea Rose!). We’ve got film (Alex Cox’s WALKER, sponsored by the Ashland Independent Film Festival, with a panel after…). We’ve got music (Danbert Nobacon of Chumbawamba plays from his latest album, and signs his EAP book on top of that).

As if that isn’t enough (I’m dizzy even thinking about it), the ever effervescent Laura Kimberly, of the Medford Public Library, has talked me into renting a karaoke machine for a Cosplay Karaoke Contest, followed by a Wonder Woman costume contest. I mean…I mean…

Phew.

Just to tie it in to this EAP: The Magazine issue: ALAF is going to welcome not just our own Mike Madrid, but the poet Charles S. Kraszewski, and David Horowitz, too. I was dying to get Bruce Thompson to bring his Dr. Faustus puppet show, and Ronnie Pontiac and Tamra Lucid to bring themselves, but next time. When we hope we have a budget. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a budget?

When you look at what we’re doing without one, well. With one, the sky is not even the limit.

Welcome back.

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Our Spring Gardening Issue.

It suddenly dawned on me—literally dawned, like a kind of rosy golden gradual light—that what we have been looking for since Day One at Exterminating Angel Press are books (and writers of those books) who believe that the world can be a better place right here right now. We’re not looking for books that tell us how bad things are. We KNOW how bad things are. We’re certainly not looking for books that tell us things are great. We know that’s not true, and we don’t particularly want to be lulled into a comfortable feather bed of denial. We want to be alert and up and about in the dawn, and looking around for ways in which we can pitch in and grow a Garden of Eden right here right now.

Well, really, I can’t say it enough. EAP books, and their writers, believe that this world (right here/right now) can be turned into another Garden of Eden. We don’t believe we’re so far fallen that we can’t get up. We don’t believe that we should wait, or that we should encourage others less fortunate than ourselves to wait, for pie in the sky when we die. We believe that we can pick ourselves up RIGHT NOW, apply our free will and extend our native powers to their fullest, and turn the world into a better place. Not tomorrow. But now, right now. In EAP Land it’s not Jam Yesterday, or Jam Tomorrow: our goal, our lodestar, our true north is Jam Today.

And why not? Why exactly not? When will we all learn that it is the more practical option to care for resources and distribute them more equitably? When will our world learn that a great deal of misery comes from battening yourself down from your fellows, from disconnecting, from the illusion that you have to get yours and hang onto it at all costs, no matter what it costs to others. These are literally illusions. And half of the anti depressant users of the world could stop tomorrow if they realized that their small portion was not the whole; and that what was making them miserable was the lack of that realization. Hey, all you guys out there. Stop sitting around moaning about your own problems. You want problems? Check out what our moaning has done to the Iraqi middle class. But in the mean time, we need to get out more. We need to get moving. We need to look around our own families, and then our own neighborhoods, and then our own towns, states, country, and say, “What exactly can I do right now to make myself and others more happy and secure?” Note that ‘and others’ part, thinking about it only for yourself is not going to get you anywhere; trust me on this one; it’s not a moral issue we’re talking about, it’s strictly practical. If all you think about is yourself and your problems or your own grandeur, you are going to be miserable. It is a natural law. I know it’s counterintuitive, but I guarantee you it’s exactly true…and you don’t need a god judging and punishing you, either, to put this law into action. It just happens that way. It’s the way the world was made. Human beings are made to acknowledge they are a part of a whole…not just a whole in themselves. And the odd paradox is that to be a proper part, first each individual has to make themselves whole.

There was a lovely quote from a scientist in a magazine I casually glanced through one day…he was asked, “Have we discovered the Missing Link between animals and humans?” And he laughed and said, “Oh, I think we have. It’s us.”

Because to be fully human is to know that we are not the only people in the playpen. It’s to know that not only are others there, but what happens to them literally happens to us.

Exploit them to get cheaper goods and services? On some level you are going to feel very uncomfortable, and without knowing why. Insist on supporting candidates who attempt to take away women’s rights, children’s rights, workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, gays’ rights…and you are going to feel even worse. You might interpret it as feeling worse because those rights have not been done away with, you might have the best intentions for all in the world, but until you acknowledge that those people have rights and you have a practical obligation even to yourself to make sure they retain them, you are going to be a misery guts to yourself and to everyone around you.

Well. You are.

Trust me on this. Like I said, it’s a strictly practical issue.

I had thought the books we were publishing this year were mainly about children. SNOTTY SAVES THE DAY: The History of Arcadia, coming out in May, is about a very unlikely hero—a horrible child from a horrible land who falls through a rabbit hole to another world, battles a Giant Gnome Army with Teddy Bears and Fairy Tale creatures, discovers the secret of who he really is, and changes his own world in the process. And THIS IS US: The New All-American Family, hitting the stores in September, is David Marin’s own story of how he fell in love with three abandoned kids of fieldworkers, all under the age of seven, and their adventure together.

But then I realized, these books are really about the possibility of turning our own world into a garden. Snotty does that with his world, Arcadia; and the scientists in Arcadia have begun to realize that his story may well be how their culture was formed, and may hold the secret of how to get that world back to the garden it could and should be. And David and his kids—Javier, Adriana, and Craig—have immediately, just by loving each other and forming a new, multi-cultural, safe family, made our world blossom out a little more.

So if you are interested in writing about how to turn our world back into a Garden—in any size, shape, or format—then we around here at EAP want to hear from you. We want to play around with ways it could happen. And then we want to see where that goes. Sometimes play can do some very serious things.

We’re counting on that, actually. And besides: what else have we got to do these days other than try to aim for something better?

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How the World Being Small is Not a Bad Thing at All

While we were getting JAM TODAY ready for press last year, right after the first galleys went out, my friend Hercules Bellville died. The last time I’d heard his voice was on my message machine, when I called into it from the Denver airport. I was on the way back from my first meeting with our lovely distributor, Consortium, in Minneapolis; before that I’d been with Alex, who was shooting REPO CHICK in Los Angeles. I hadn’t been home in weeks. I had no idea how long that message had sat there, on my machine.

But it was so odd for Hercules to call. He usually waited for us to call him, announcing an imminent arrival in London, which would mean a lunch somewhere, where he would eye the single sitting at the next table, and stage whisper that he loathed ‘lone diners.’ If it ever looked as if the poor man (for it was always a man, I now realize; Hercules kept his greatest tenderness, his uncompetitive side, for us women) was at all interested in our conversation, he would turn and glare at him, and say loudly, “Thank you very much!”

And it would mean dinner, for the first few years we knew each other always a tussle since Herc inevitably insisted on going out somewhere expensive and chic, and always insisted on paying. There was no stopping him. Even if one of us got up in the middle of dinner and silently went to the manager to try to forestall this, it always turned out that Herc had gotten there, mysteriously, first. I only managed to beat him once.  For his birthday, at the River Cafe.
The manager, Charles, let me arrange to pay over the phone before any of us even got there. And since we all knew that whatever beer Herc would inevitably order, he would inevitably send back, insisting it wasn’t cold enough, Charles and I arranged to have a beer frozen in a block of ice, surrounded by birthday candles, to be ready for the exchange.

I was rather proud of that one.

In later years, it was so crystal clear that what the three of us preferred was dining at his house, on the couch, with the telly on, that I don’t think we dined out once–unless it was at a restaurant particularly known for its food, which he thought I’d enjoy. He was so thoughtful that way. As in so many other ways. As long as he didn’t think you’d caught on.

Anyway, something about there being a message from him alarmed me. There was an undercurrent of tenderness in his voice, too, which was usually reserved for very special occasions indeed. So I called him back from the airport, got his machine, told him we’d both try to call him later. We did, but we never got through.  Of course I know now that he probably never got any of the messages; he went into the hospital before I even picked up his, and, shortly after, too quickly for us to fly over and say good bye, he died.

So I added a piece about him to the finished JAM TODAY, really, just for myself, just to make myself feel a little better. It was my secret favorite part of the book. Then not so secret, since when I read from the book, I inevitably chose that piece. Sometimes I’d serve the eggplant caviar mentioned in it alongside. To my great delight, in Los Angeles, at Skylight Books, a woman, a fellow writer, came up to me afterwards and said, “Was that Hercules Bellville you were reading about? I thought so. I’m good friends with his goddaughter.”

That was lovely.

Then Alex filmed the talk and put it up on You Tube, and asked if there were any tags I wanted put with it, and I said, “Put Herc’s name.” Because I had a kind of fantasy that someday, another one of Herc’s friends would be idly Googling him, and find it, and maybe get in touch. He had so many friends, Hercules. He was gifted that way.

And it happened just that way. Today I got a letter, beautiful handwriting on beautiful paper, from just such a person, in London. A friend of Herc’s, thanking me for the book, saying the part about Hercules made her cry, and now she loves eggplant.

I’ll write her back. And when I go to London, I’ll ask her out for tea. We can have a good laugh, or a good cry, or both, together, which is a very good thing indeed.

So that made me think that the world being a small place is not a bad thing at all.

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This Month So Far…

Kind of overwhelming, planning the launches of THE SUPERGIRLS and JAM TODAY for September, right around when they hit the stores on September 15.  Like having wrapped candies thrown at you from all directions–which way do you turn?  How do you collect them and pass them out?  How do you say thank you to all those invisible hands throwing them?

We’re going to launch THE SUPERGIRLS at the absolute perfect venue for it, in my opinion–the Cartoon Art Museum, in San Francisco.  They’ve been completely swell about it (“Love to support local authors”), and it’s set for Thursday, September 10, at 7 pm, in case you’re out and about and around there that night and want to see Mike finally get his revenge on me for not letting him fill his book with illustrations from the comics (“are you crazy? do you know how much DC and Marvel CHARGE for rights?”),  you should come on over.  We’re planning to have a little wine, a little cheese, and a lot of artwork from the comics, all the stuff that Mike loves–and he wants to ask everyone which superheroines THEY love.  Because, as he says, “I don’t like just talking.  I’m more the interactive type.” Which someday we’ll figure out how to work in the books, too–it’s coming, it’s coming.

Then JAM TODAY is also going to the perfect venue:  Powell’s Hawthorne store, in Portland.  This makes me particularly happy, since Powell’s is the ur-independent bookstore of all independent bookstores, and since Portland, in its laid back, young, progressive style is everything EAP wistfully wants to hang with.  I’ll be there, on Sunday, September 13, at 4, and since I’M interactive, too (and am always terrifically curious to know what everyone else is eating), it’ll probably be about what you all have in your kitchens, how many people you have to feed, and what you’re going to do about it.  My motto being: “If you can get control of your refrigerator, you can get control of your life!”  And not a bad motto, either.

After that, we’re planning on showing up at University Bookstore, in Seattle; Pilot Bookstore, also in Seattle (an adorably tiny space, our ace Seattle intern Jessica Johnson informs me); Omnivore Books, in San Francisco (thanks, Celia, for being so kind even after discovering there is no jam recipe in Jam Today); Golden Apple Comics; in Los Angeles…and I’m working on Vroman’s in Pasadena, Capitola Book Cafe, in Capitola of course!…Skylight…Kepler’s…Booksmith…ah, yikes!  Here it all comes…

And then, on a less concretely practical note (and if you get bored by philosophy, skip this bit), I was thinking again about the point of EAP books, and the point of getting them out there, and the main point we want to explore and extend a discussion on.  This morning, my Beloved Husband and I were having our usual amiable argument about some public figure or other (Elliot Spitzer, this time, I believe), and I said, “The thing is, our interest in this kind of thing is different.  Comes from a different angle.  What you’re primarily interested in, when you look at public events and at history, is how the rich and powerful oppress those beneath them.  And this is very sensible.  But my primary interest is how we all connive with the forces of oppression and repression ourselves–why we don’t just walk out the door and set ourselves free.”  That’s the question EAP wants to explore.  It may look odd, our first two books being about comic book superheroines and about food, but it’s always been serenely obvious to me: we’re trapped in a certain way of looking at things, a certain way of telling stories, and that leaves us limited options of how to act, and how to visualize ourselves and our potentialities.  Why not look at the entertainment we consume in a different way? Why not wonder why superheroines are always treated differently from superheroes, rather than just taking it for granted, or even just assuming that it’s the oppression of patriarchy? (I mean, it might be, but is that all?)

And why not think that the best way to start with changing the world is to make sure that ourselves and our loved ones are healthy and happy, and then work out from there? Why not start by making sure everyone is well fed, in a sensible, pleasurable way? Why not think today the kitchen, tomorrow the world!?

That was what I was thinking about this morning…but I’m kinda dying to get out and about and see what other people think about the same kind of things…so I hope I see you at one of those places above (dates and times to come…)…

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