The official weblog of the little-poetry-press-that-could, Plan B Press. Specializing in chapbooks, we have published of over 40 books from authors both local and international.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So, here it goes, my Plan B Press resolutions for 2009, in no particular order.
1) Encourage poets submitting manuscripts to think visually and be creatively daring. Anyone can technically make a chapbook. Let's encourage Katy to use her BFA, folks. It's for your benefit. No one wants to buy an ugly (or even ho-hum) book.
2) Become a full-fledged business. (ya hear me, Steve?)
3) Increase book sales and pump up our publicity machine,...once we find it. I think it's in the couch cushions or something. I haven't seen it for months.
4) Update the blog at LEAST bi-weekly. Daily is a goal, but with two kids, it's not realistic; and this list is long as it is.
5) Get our books in more bookstores. Are there bookstores that still carry chapbooks? Anyone?
6) Organize more readings/events for our authors.
7) Print fewer titles each year, but print more copies and focus on distribution more.
8) Keep the website updated. Add a few more features to make it a place people want to go. Suggestions? Let us know.
9) Regain our original enthusiasm about being publishers. It's easy to get bogged down and frustrated with the daily problems and physical wounds (see finger-cutting). Why did we take on this business? Because we liked it.
10) Move back to Philadelphia. A girl can dream, can't she?
Monday, December 29, 2008
On Saturday we visited Center City and made a few business and social calls. One stop was to Robin's Bookstore (13th and Sansom) which as we mentioned in an earlier blog is closing as a bookstore and reopening on its second floor as an event space (www.robinsbookstore.com). There are huge discounts on their inventory for those interested in stopping in.
The second floor is almost unrecognizable to me. There's now a stage constructed at the window and the office wall has been torn down. Black plastic sheeting was hung while we were visiting. It's very transitional. Unfortunately, Larry wasn't there at the time; so we couldn't chat with him, but we saw others that we knew and got caught up.
Our books are now officially and completely pulled from the shelves of Robin's (with the exception of a missing box of books sent earlier this year), so although there are still some chapbooks and full-length poetry books by other publishing companies still available there, our books are not. Wolfgang Books in Phoenixville is the only bookstore in southeastern PA that still carries our titles. Aside from that is our website with secure online buying: planbpress.com.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I printed, painted, bound and stapled the next batch of anthologies going out to our northeastern authors. Those should be mailed today. A nice after-Christmas treat.
I still have two international mailings and eleven midwestern and western mailings to go. I don't expect to get on that until the end of the holiday. I am actually going to devote the next lump of days to family and friends.
Francine Tolf's newest book "Like Saul" will be sent to the printer today. Once that gets back and I print the remainder of anthologies, I will let this year rest and face the Spring 2009 season.
So barring any new thoughts, epiphanies, or news, I will be back on Moonday.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We have completed Francine Tolf's book, so that should go off to the printer once we rustle up a contract for her and get a quote from our printer.
Baby steps. Baby steps.
Meanwhile, on the home front, we created our Christmas card for our family and close friends. For the past few years we have tried to incorporate ourselves into cards. Last year we adapted the Beatle's Help album. The year prior we modified a 1950's Christmas card. We've also been gingerbread cookies and a snowcouple. This year it's... well, I'll let you know when they're done. I'm hand painting those as well. I'm a glutton for punishment it seems.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Dan Maguire's book just came back from the printer. We just put his book up on our website for sale and should be sending e-mails announcing the release in the next few days.
The book turned out really well. I'm picky, so I always notice things, but I'm happy with it. I'll post an image when I get the chance, perhaps tonight. In the meantime you can check it out on our website www.planbpress.com
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
So here we are again, back where we were on Friday Dec. 5th, basically.
I just made up a cover for Francine Tolf. I have no more anthologies made than I had prior, but it's on my to-do for Sunday... that is if I don't cut my finger open or get some sot of crippling illness. What is it with our weekends lately?
Saturday, December 06, 2008
1) in Jim Mancinelli's poem, the last stanza should be omitted; and
2) in Joyce Meyer's poem, the last stanza is missing. It should be:
from the earth’s rage. But alone
in the dark you watch the moon’s
cold face, the winking distant stars,
and wonder what the ancients
would have done to wrest a word
from the silent cosmos.
We're not trying to ruin anyone's chi. I hope this helps.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
"Who will help me?" asked the little red hen.
"Not I," said the duck.
"Not I," said the goose.
"Not I," said the cat.
"Not I," said the pig.
"Then I will do it myself!" said the little red hen.
It's perfect for those of us who have had to deal with slackers at some point in our lives. Us puritans out there who are still bitter about someone's lazy attitude. Sure, it's not healthy to dwell, but the little red hen gets her revenge in the end, as we wish we did.
We are a company of two, so we don't deal much with slackerism. If there's a lazybones among us, we either agree to be lazy together or we try to rally the other person to work. We don't have enough employees to allow someone to endure, have fortitude, then get sweet revenge. I really wish I could pass the buck myself some times. "Not I," said the Creative Director... but then who will do it herself?
It's nice to call a business meeting over breakfast or make drastic decisions without a committee. But there's something to be said for a few little elves to help clean the shop. Can I just be the fishing cat for a while? Or the wooden sword-fighting duck?
"Who will lay out this book?"
"Who will update the website?"
"Who will assemble these books?!"
"Not I," said the Creative Director.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
But I would suggest that others knew and were much more involved with Larry Robin and the bookstore and the Moonstone organization that I was. Eleanor Wilner, for example, came up with the idea of 100 poets readings in support of Robin's and created the first of those readings in 1996. She also sat on the board of Moonstone. Herschal Baron had been the poetry host at Robin's for decades prior to my arrival in the city. Lamont Steptoe was often in the store, set up at the round table near the poetry section or up in the offices.
Robin's has been an institution in Philadelphia. 73 years. Reaching back to another space in time. It's history has been colorful to say the least. Larry has run the bookstore for over 30 years and started the nonprofit organization, Moonstone, with his wife Sandy back in 1983. The organization helped to start and run the Moonstone pre-school. Larry also started the Black Writers festival which is now run by Art Sanctuary in Philadelphia. His footprint is deep in the city and his bookstore has been literally THOUSANDS of poets and writers come into its doors for readings and signings.
Considering the long history of the bookstore and the Moonstone organization, my time there was a few fleeting moments. Yet, I was glad for the opportunity and will relish the memories forever. I have to thank Larry for allowing me to present 'the Eternal NOW!' series since it brought me in contact with many of the Plan B Press poets that we have since published and after I ended the series there, the space was made available to me to begin the "Plan B Press presents..." experiments of group readings and readings with musicians and mulitmedia artists. Bookstore as art hothouse. It was a great time!
Larry also wrote a letter of recommendation which helped me to get into the Art Management program at George Mason University, thus securing our exit from the city. Now, if there were only a way back.....
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Steve first became acquainted with Larry Robin in 2002 and soon after took up the poetry reading torch and carried it for 2 years or so. The eternal NOW poetry series introduced us to a lot of poets, some of whom we've published and some of whom have remained good friends. Robin's was a bookstore like none I have met. Yes, met. It wasn't just a place but a real sort of presence. The whole store was very worn in, the kind of cozy space that corporate bookstores try to emulate with varying degrees of failure.
Robin's Bookstore stocked chapbooks- a blessing for us; and one of the only stores that do. Robin's also had specialities, depending on Larry's interests: his African American section and Charles Bukowski corner were a strength. His fiction selection was interesting and independent. I also liked his kids' section for its variety and highlighted books. It was a small space, but he did alot with it.
Since Larry was extremely socially active, his events tended to be varied and interesting. Every night was something else and he was welcoming to new ideas. He started programs like Poetry Ink, the 100 Poets Reading, and the Black Writers Series that made a real impact on peoples' lives. His store was a Philadelphia institution. It was a given that we would probably see someone we knew when we stopped in. Sometimes Larry would be there and we would either chat in his office or go out for a cup of coffee or gelato.
There were odd moments too, don't get me wrong. At poetry readings the mic system would occasionally pick up WYSP radio. Larry had dogs where he lived above the store, and they would sometimes run from one end of the room to the next sounding like thunder over our heads. There were staffing problems too from time to time. And our books would get lost for months, then found again, so our inventory fluxed wildly for a while. It was an experience doing business with Larry.
Being away from Philadelphia, we miss quite alot as it happens, only finding out about things after the fact. I'm sure we will make a trek to see Larry before the store closes. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by and absorb what you can while it's still here. You won't meet another bookstore quite like that again. (visit Robin's Bookstore: 108 South 13th Street, between Sansom and Chestnut Streets)
Monday, December 01, 2008
In assembling the anthology I knew that it would take not only money, but blood, sweat and tears. I had already achieved the tears after some frustrating weekends of misprinting and kid-interruption. Whereas I haven't actually sweat yet, I've put a great deal of effort into the books (by the end, each book takes about twenty minutes to a half hour to make). Now for the blood. For each book I take a 24"x40"-ish piece of 2-ply chip board and cut it down to the 5"x7"-ish format. It's thick stuff, this chip board. Well, I'm on my second board and I'm getting tired and ready to move on. Five minutes later the Xacto blade slips and - right into my finger, through my nail. Yow!
So we rounded up the kids, went to the emergency room. Three to four stitches and a handful of hours later and I'm painting covers. Each is hand painted and hand bound. We have completed nine for our Philadelphia contributors who should be getting them this week. We're taking it by region (midwest, international, new england, etc. ). I've been set back a bit by this whole wounded finger issue, but luckily I had some completed boards so I can work on them for awhile.
I knew at some point there'd be blood. It was just a matter of time.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
1) Plan B Press' family of authors
2) our readers and fans
3) our children who bring brevity
4) that not everyone in the U.S. hates poetry
5) the Bush II presidency nearing its end
6) that Plan B Press isn't reliant upon daily book sales
7) indoor plumbing and working electric
8) that we have assembled 10 anthologies so far
9) creativity, in all forms
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
so, how are you doing?
s - a - m
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I finally created the first anthology sample last weekend. I'm figuring out the kinks in the process and trying to improve them as I go. Considering how small this run of books is going to be I don't have many chances to improve the design, but since it's all in-house I can adapt as I go which is nice. When sending books out to a printer, it's entirely out of my hands. So if something comes back wrong, there's not much I can do until it's too late. But creating every part of the book by hand can also be slow and laborious. Yay for technology... sometimes.
So here it is- one of the review samples that we will be sending out. Our authors should be receiving their copies in the next week or two, as I continue to cut, paste, print and tape.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
I spent yesterday afternoon updating the website, mostly just updating content. The only major change is that we now have this blog accessible from our front page. So if you like to check out our website and the blog you can do it all from one spot.
I don't check on it as much as I'd like so updates take a while to implement. We would like to make more major changes but there just isn't the time to do that right now.
We're currently working out receiving payments through Amazon.com instead of just snail-mail checks and Paypal.com. We know that's limiting to a lot of people and want to make purchasing through us as easy as possible. If you have any suggestions to make our website more user friendly or if you see anything that's missing or if there's too much info on something... let us know! We appreciate the feedback. We can't always fix it, but we can try.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
We have been working on compiling a list of e-mails of those who have entered our contests, bought our books, signed up for our e-mail alerts, etc. but we have yet to use it. I'm conflicted about how much I want us to send. I don't want ours to be the e-mail that no one looks at, deleting the messages sight-unseen, but not all of our announcements or offers will be wanted by everyone. If you don't have the money you sometimes aren't even going to open it, whether it says 40% off or not.
So eventually we will get these announcement e-mails together and start sending. Please don't think of us as Borders Rewards e-mails. I promise not to send every other day.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
This blog is about our Press and our “focus” on publishing but it would behoove us to write about all the overlapping interests and directions of the Press as well. For example, case in point: last night I went to the local library which puts out free books for their patrons to take home with them and I have in the past found some incredible gems that I couldn’t believe were being discarded for FREE, but what the hey….if they put them out to be taken, I will take some! So last night I took a 1934 book called Author Hunting by Grant Richards. The full title is “Author Hunting by an Old Literary Sports Man” with the subtitle “Memories of Years Spent Mainly in Publishing, 1897-1925”.
I am not familiar with Grant Richards nor his publishing career but it’s refreshing to be reminded in these days of faceless bureaucratic publishing monoliths, which have become the literary norm, that once publishers were individuals who loved literature and brought out books that they loved passionately. Yes, our little Press came into being during the post-mimeograph revolution era at the time when some presses began to embrace the “Print-On-Demand” concept as their best way of surviving. But I think of ourselves more as the inheritors of the tradition going back to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press of the late Nineteenth Century. Publishing as a noble endeavor, there was a time when that was true. And frankly, that’s part of what Plan B Press is trying to do as well.
We want our readers to appreciate the effort put into that “thing” in their hands. Not only the quality of the work, but the quality of the object that one commonly calls ‘a book’. That’s what we strive for and have, on occasion, achieved in full. We are part of that stream which has its headwaters in the clay tablets of Sumer and cave writings even further back. We are part of a tradition and it’s important for us to maintain a certain awareness of what we are doing in order to keep it “flowing” onward.
We don’t believe in POD. We don’t believe in publishing books just to bulk up our yearly numbers. We publish projects that we believe in. We try to make the best book that we can every time out. We want to be remembered in the future in the same way that people think of Toothpaste Press or the Perishable Press limited. Perhaps lofty aspirations, but if you don’t reach for the stars – you will never reach them. As Katy has said in previous blog entries a time or two, “the little Press that could”. Yeah, we think we can….we think we can….we think we can, and then we DO!
Monday, October 27, 2008
I miss the town. I miss it very much. There isn't a week, or perhaps a day, that goes by when I don't wish I were back there. If we had the means to live there we would. Unfortunately, Washington is actually paying me a living wage. I have not yet been offered that in Philadelphia. Maybe some day. I'll keep trying.
In the meantime, we will be keeping tabs on our cranky city, wishing we were there in spite of the drunk people loudly singing "fly, Eagles, fly...", in spite of the endless fluorescent orange street construction, in spite of the suburban Jersey kids who treat it like hell because they think they can. I hope that the Phillies win the World Series, that William Penn will allow this one. It's overdue for our much-maligned town. We're rooting for them down here- in our Philadelphia home in Fairfax, Virginia.
Friday, October 24, 2008
1) Stop buying coffee every day.
2) Only go out to restaurants 2-3 times per week.
3) Save expensive splurges to once per month.
4) By some items on sale or buy generic.
These tips tend to be insulting to the average bear, as many of us are already doing all this and more.
I also hear some people complain that our books are too expensive because they're priced around... seven bucks. Seven bucks and they complain. So here is my own list, explaining why seven (or even nine) bucks is not too much to pay for a Plan B Press Book:
1) Authors retain between 30-40% of the commission on online sales.
2) These are limited-run books, we're talking 50-200 copies max.
3) Plan B Press is an independent business, primarily using a Philadelphia-based printer.
4) Our books are lovely, and our authors rave about them.
5) In cases such as Sandy's book (String Theory) and the Now(then) anthology, the books are hand-bound.
6) The poetry is wonderful, truly great writing. And the variety between books makes having more than one PBP book a sensible choice.
7) Most books are either seven or nine dollars. You will have this book forever. It will not be drunk in one evening at a bar. It will not be worn once and then thrown in the back of your closet, destined for the Goodwill pile. It is a good investment.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Also, there's something to be said for what people are used to. For example, english readers tend to like books that read left to right, they like their books to have a structural-something holding the pages together, and they want to be able to see the book before they read it. So creating a book out of flash cards, or encased in an inflatable bubble, or written in secret ink are all NOT good ideas.
The book should support the work, accentuate it. It shouldn't outshine it and certainly not obscure it. The book is a mode of convenience. When it's made out of sharp metal or covered in shag it's not convenient. I think all books should be special, just not “special”.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
That's a lot of moving for a little company. We've changed our mailing address on catalogues, websites, books, etc. so many times that we don't print it anymore. It's online and it will stay that way. We have letterhead and business cards with previous addresses that we opt to white-out or just recycle the whole lot. Fortunately, we invested in a post office box for many of these years. Unfortunately we kept our 2080 P.O. Box in Philadelphia long after we moved; and checking the contents posed a problem when we were living three hours away. So we resigned ourselves and bought a box in Fairfax, but I'm not about to go out and get any new letterhead. Our phone number and website will do. After all, nothing is permanent.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
We're doing the anthology in-house entirely. The books will be completely hand-done. We will be printing, binding, stamping, stapling and pasting them together ourselves. I've been toying with the idea of inscribing each one since there will be such a minimum number printed, but the jury's still out. We will be sending a few out for reviews etc. Those will be the first out the door. Our authors will come second. Lastly will be the ones available for sale. As Steven mentioned, please e-mail us if you are interested in a pre-order. This doesn't mean that you would be obligated to get one (since we don't even know what to charge for them yet) but it would gauge how many we would be printing. I hope to have a sneak preview online in the next week or two. I'm excited about it though. It's looking pretty so far.
Katy Jean May
Monday, October 20, 2008
There will be additional copies available - if interested in having one of these for yourself, please email us to pre-order.
co-founder & President
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Katy Jean May
Creative Director - and Mom
Monday, September 29, 2008
Time and Space Magazine
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We're (I'm) plotting the construction of the Anthology, which we may end up creating in-house so I can have more control over it. It's been a few weeks since we did substantial work on the press (aside from our everlasting car trip to Western MD). The last session I made was devoted to cleaning up the website.
Of note: We are now collecting e-mail addresses of people who want e-announcements of book releases, events, and contests. Just go to our front page.
Katy Jean (the beleaguered) May
Creative Director & MOM
Friday, September 12, 2008
On this day, six years ago, on a beautiful late summer afternoon, at 3:00 PM, Katy Jean & I got married by the local JOP (Justice of the Peace). It's been a hectic time for us since. Both of us artists and working at being a married couple, and now with two little O's to boot. There's the Press we run, the books we publish and the occasional art we actually produce on our own. Like this piece by Katy Jean from earlier this year.
As we enter the 5th autumn of scheduled books, I want to take this brief moment to thank her publicly and in our own little blog-universe for everything and hope to spend many lifetimes with you (Katy). I also want to mention that Dan McGuire's book is nearly completion with Francis Tolf's not far behind.
There is a brief east coast reading tour by F J Bergmann in the works with stops in New York and Philly and more controlled mayhem to follow.
stay tuned and have a great weekend
Sunday, September 07, 2008
It rained, and rained, and rained all the way there. It was an interesting event that might have been enhanced had we not arrived car-lagged, hungry, burdened, overwrought, shouted-out, road weary, and generally already at each other's throats after driving with two whining kids. Yeah, there might have been a better way to deal with it all....like, staying at home, for example.
The event was not terribly well attended and for the community of Cumberland, Maryland, Hanna was not the issue whatsoever as it never reached that far corner. It was home-grown neglect. Old fashion apathy. Which ought not subtract from the heroic efforts of the Frostburg University Center of Creative Writing nor their ringleader, Gerry LaFemina.
I don't take much from the first George Bush's administration, but I do appropriate his "thousand points of light" phrase from time to time, and I do here because it's necessary for folks like LaFemina and his students to add to the culture. As I had been able to contribute with Bardfest in Berks County, PA so these stubborn and eager volunteers have done in Cumberland, Maryland. I also want to note the wonderful generosity of the library in Cumberland and the small presses who also ventured great distances to attend this event. I was glad to meet Reb Livingston for No Tell Motel, for example, who lives close to us in Northern Virginia.
But we were numb from the journey there and drank just enough coffee to pile back into the car for the equally long drive home, which included a huge 45 minute parking lot sometimes called Interstate 66 (east bound) due to a nasty accident we never saw but believe was out there....somewhere.
We have eleven months to contemplate any further involvement with this event, but if you live within fair driving distance, we highly recommend you check it out. Western Maryland Publishing Fair.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Lost in the day-to-day, struggling through sleepless nights and the blur of days. These two are the most responsible for our current condition and situation. They aren't very good at editing or book stapling or cataloguing but they know to make a house-wide mess of their own book. Their grandma just brought them a dollhouse which doubles as a bookcase, and boy does it.
I went back to the National Gallery in DC and wrote out the text to the Agnes Meyer-Marius de Zayas piece, Mental Reaction. I can hear the piece. I can hear a woman reading this piece. I wonder if it had ever BEEN read or performed, or if its life ended when it was used in 291 magazine back in 1915-16.
Katy & I have two kids, Julia and William. William AKA "Dexy" scratched his mom in the eye on Sunday and caused a corneal abrasion. We were at the emergency room of the local hospital at 3AM yesterday (was it yesterday? yes, it was). Kids make life so.... interesting.
I was reading a book on Gertrude Stein recently (reached a certain page and then stopped; got distracted) and the author was discussing the friendship between Stein and Picasso, and said of Picasso's studio that it was "fruitful disorder". I would use the phrase "creative chaos" to define our lives at the moment. It's challenging to be domestic and creative at the same time, in the same space.
but, we keep pushing the boulder up that hill all the same....
s - a - m
Monday, August 11, 2008
As we both recall, Dan and myself, it was in 2003 - it was during the poetry festival I was presenting in Philadelphia called "Poets Among Us" and he appeared at one of the events and read during the open, and I heard the voice of Kerouac revived through his words and mouth, this unknown, this Daniel Collins recently arrived from Ithaca, NY where he had made his mark via Compassionately Stoneground Books. And my jaw dropped at the sound of him, the manner and poise and altogether of him. Come to find out he had indeed read Kerouac but won't claim to be channeling him. He was more than the words on the page or the voice that revealed them.
He was a musician as well, and his 'for-food-and-rent' job was that of a documentary filmmaker. But hidden in him as well as this talent, this SELF so clearly and unmistakenly older than his years. We invited him to read at future events and over time decided that what he possessed needed to be brought out in book form. So was born 'of go & why'.
And now in its third printing, we tout him even moreso for the future he is, for the words he utters, for the vision he sees.
may your road be filled with adventure
s - a - m
Thursday, August 07, 2008
But what do you think? Should most novels be illustrated to some degree or should they remain strictly text as they have been? Send us your thoughts.
Katy Jean May
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
So, we live close to Washington DC and for the first time since the birth of our son, William, we ventured into the city during business hours to see some art at the National Gallery. Katy wanted to see the Afghanistan exhibition and I wanted to see the Max Ernst books and new acquisitions. Among the new acquisitions was a collage piece made by Marius De Zayas and Agnes Meyers called 'Mental Reaction" created in 1915. It is the earliest example of American concrete or visual poetry known to exist, and it was the first time I knew of its existence.
I will have to go back and read the text, perhaps even write down the lines. (it's hard to do with two little tikes under foot). I wasn't impressed with the Ernst stuff because I have a book of his visual work and the space they placed his work in was a forgotten walkway between bigger rooms, unimpressive.
I am quite interested in visual / concrete poetry. from Mallarme to Norman H. Pritchard to today's quite visual artists. Plan B Press has ventured into more visual work before, and will be plunging into it more in the future. I don't for a second, however, want to suppose that we are doing something brand new. We believe in the past. By that I mean, we believe and understand that something came before us - that we might be reclaiming an idea but that many ideas have already been conceived and attempted. But when the general public "doesn't get it", ideas dry up like morning dew.
There's always that dilemma: trying something new and being understood at the time one is making the initial effort. Take, for example, the collage I am mentioning here. Its existence was not known until it came up for auction in 2007. So, for the better part 90 years it was not exhibited, written about, or viewed. It existed on a page from '291', the magazine associated with Alfred Stieglitz's gallery in New York.
Now that it is OUT THERE perhaps it will be seen for the exceptional creation that it was.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
When I was in college I had a teacher that lectured to us that we needed to find a way to practice our art. Don't tell me you don't have the time. I worked all day long, two jobs, came home and painted until the morning, Slept a few hours and back to work again. There's no excuse for not getting the work done. It felt a bit like those when-I-was-a-kid-I-walked-a-mile-in-the-snow-with-no-shoes-on types of stories, but we humored him because after all we were paying him handsomely.
In some ways, he's right, we make time for certain things. Whether it's television, or internet news, telephone conversations or magazines, we often choose not to get certain things done. I'll write when the kids are napping. I'll sketch during my morning commute instead. I just want to relax right now. Making art is not relaxing. It's work. It takes concentration, energy, focus, drive. It's not a passive activity.
So that's where I differ from my teacher's avowal that we have no excuses for getting the work done. Sure I can throw myself into night projects and wake up bleary-eyed the next day and zombie my way through work and home, my daughter saying, Mommy whatsa matter? But I guess I choose to both take care of my family and be alert at my job; and I choose to read to my daughter at night and bathe my kids. I choose to sideline my art so that I can participate in the lives that are growing around me in my home.
Sometimes in life there are choices that just don't seem like choices. In the end, there just are not enough hours in the day.
Katy Jean May
Creative Director & Mommy
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Then when Katy and I took over the operation of the Press, I had already gotten an inkling of another direction I wanted to pursue with some of our time and resources. That started to become visualized with the prototype projects Fast White and InCityTogether. Neither of these projects have come to bear yet. But both have combined visual as well as textual prowess that we have been seeking since beginning.
It's the reason that we have posted the quotes that we have. From El Lissitsky, from Stella Waitzkin, and the truest of all quotes from Brian Andrew May, who created the cover for Plastic Sunrise. "Books with only words.....suck".
Stay-at-Home Press, a division of Plan B, was begun to explore the possibilities of making books that have more visuality. Richard Erdmann's "Without" and Mark Terrill's "Something Red" have been created with these ideals beginning to play out for us. We are beginning to seek artists to work with poets, to create 'artist books' instead of poetry books. It has been pointed out that "anyone with a copy machine can make a book" and that is certainly the case since the mimeograph revolution of the 1950's, but that isn't always a good thing. That leads to glut, to a watering down of quality, to an overwhelming of the audience out there for such books to begin with.
Beginning in the Spring 2009 season we will be moving into this uncharted (for us) territory. We may be like a small Granary Press, or an up-to-date Toothpaste Press or the Perishable Press limited. Our projects will change. We will be gearing more toward the visual, the artist book, the limited run/limited edition project instead of the work we have done to date.
We remain committed to the possible. And the possible is .....wide open !
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Katy Jean May
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
we wanted to mention the release of our 2008 poetry chapbook contest winner : Wil Hastings' Stones Rounded by Years of Conversation which is available now. Hastings lives in western Massachusetts where he manages a local conservation land trust. This is his second chapbook. We are pleased to have him aboard.
s - a - m
Monday, July 21, 2008
We're currently reading manuscripts as the summer is in full swing. Things to keep in mind if you ever submit a manuscript to a publisher.
1) Be sure you are addressing the correct publisher in your letter and not... the publisher of another company. It seems obvious but it has happened more than once to us.
2) Spell check! And look over your manuscript to see if it's formatted coherently, in the correct order. It doesn't have to be completely tight, but show that you've put effort into the order of your poems and the collection as a whole.
3) Don't say something completely foolish like, "I've created a new form of poetry" when what you've really "created" is concrete poetry. Do a little research. We like innovation, but we have some idea of poetic forms of yore.
4) Look at the website. Buy a book from us maybe. Have some idea of what it is we've already done. Don't send us a 300 page tome; poetic pieces attacking an ethnic or religious group; or a collection written entirely in slang. Take a little time.
5) Don't send your manuscript during the contest season. We provide time lines online. Please check it out before you send. We keep it up-to date... really we do.
and to that I would only add that those of you just finding this blog, it's fairly new and it's nice to hear from you all the same.
s - a - m
Saturday, July 12, 2008
We go to great lengths with limited budgets to win you over. Many of us have other jobs to support our presses. We go to conferences and trade shows, visit bookstores and distributors in our spare time, or what's left of it. And at the end of the week if we can make a few sales we analyze what we did right and take thorough notes, trying to duplicate whatever it was. Starting a new press is a drain on time and money, so the passion has to be there to make it succeed. Our initial goal when we took over Plan B in 2003 was to make our press self-sustaining, to get it to stand on its wobbly new legs. Readers make that happen. Audiences at poetry readings make that happen. The passion to publish makes that happen.
So, a toast to all small presses who have stood the test of time. May we all be open as long as Ugly Duckling Presse, New Directions, or dare-we-dream?, City Lights.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Also, as chapbooks tend to record the beginnings of one's publishing careers, they also document a writer's development over time. It's one of the reasons I write chap*books, a blog in which I review, discuss, and sometimes merely mention chapbooks which might otherwise disappear as they are "little strands of nothing" when stacked alongside books with spines on shelves. If the chapbook lacks color, they are quite easy to overlook altogether on shelves in a bookstore, should a bookstore carry them at all.
It was only after moving to Virginia in 2004, as I was beginning my Master's program at George Mason University, that I began to think about writing about chapbooks. I found a lot of chapbooks by Robert Creeley on ebay and got them. Two of those chapbooks had been made by Toothpaste Press. Shortly thereafter, I got a gift of several chapbooks being purged from the Philadelphia Free library published by the Perishable Press Limited. What I found in these chapbooks was an attention to detail. The publisher of the Perishable Press made his own paper! That's pretty detail oriented.
By the time I began to write about chapbooks, Katy & I had been running the Press for about three years. We had published the stunning "Crazy Mary & Others" by Michele Belluomini, "In Deep" by Jim Mancinelli with a textural cover (one could actually feel something unlike glossy covered books), and Connie Boyle's visually stimulating "double exposure".
We believe that having an interesting cover is half the battle of getting ATTENTION from an overwhelmed public who is hyper-stimulated all the time. We are, in a sense, competing with electronic media bombardment and expensive publicity campaigns by much larger book publisher. As well as indifference and a shyness from poetry by the general public who have "little-to-no" experience and exposure to poetry. We face a daunting climb toward recognition and awareness. Acceptance would be nice as well, but we can't count our eggs before they are laid.
What's important is to be part of the literary flow which began with the cave drawings by early man and continues today. We publish to be part of the conversation of our times, to contribute to our collective consciousness, to our overall culture. We can't publish everyone, nor would we. We exercise this unique thing called "editorial control", there is an aesthetic that we are working toward - a look, a feel, a concept - that we hope can be felt through all the books we DO publish. Along with our ever moving running man logo.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
That has happened to us as well, but not often. I look at the book creation process as an extension of the book writing process. That's one reason that the website contains the quote from El Lissitzky that it does, "The book must be the unified work of the author and the designer. As long as this is not the case, splendid exteriors will constantly be produced for unimportant contents, and visa-versa."
One reason that Katy and I have been able to do such a fantastic job with the Press since 2002 is that I married this incredibly talented book designer. Katy Jean is extremely talented and makes covers that both reflect and anticipate the contents of the books she designs. Since the process begins with words on a page, for a designer - the text provides the colors for the blank canvas that each cover begins as. The whole book is mere concept until - and the "until" is the same for a designer as it is for a sculptor or a painter.
It's an idea - a word - a phrase. It sparks something inside the designer just as vital to the completion of the project as the work itself. More so, in fact, is the designer's effort to take the words and make "something" out of it, something that will attract readers not familiar with the author's work, attract them as moths to a flame. That's what a designer does. And the truism that El Lissitzky said is what the Press itself does. It's what we do.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Katy Jean May
Thursday, June 19, 2008
beyond that, the night was a wash. While the space may have potential, we didn't get the sense of being welcomed - rather merely tolerated. Not the atmosphere we are seeking. So, we will seek another location and try again.
We want to mention that we'll be moving our offices to Fairfax Virginia next week, and will essentially be incommunicado for about a week and a half thereafter. If you want to contact us, it would behoove you to either give us a ring (our number is still the same) or stamp it, snail mail. Our new address is: PO Box 3242, Fairfax, VA 22030. Also note that our e-mail address has changed and will now be email@example.com
Katy Jean May
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
On June 7, 2008 Plan B Press concluded its monthly series at Wolfgang Books in Phoenixville, PA with CL Bledsoe reading from his new "__(want/need)" chapbook as well as Jim Mancinelli and stevenallenmay.
It's been over a year since the series began and we wish to thank Paul & Jason for having us in on the first Saturday of the month where about a dozen Plan B Press poets as well as some friends of the Press got to read with each other and to build an audience for their work.
We hope to return for special events/presentations in the future. But for the moment, that's all she wrote. Wolfgang Books will continue to carry the full line of Plan B Press books, so please swing by and pay them a visit. It's one of the best bookstores we have been to and a real treasure for the community of Phoenixville.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Well, at least the rust will get shaken off a bit. Tommy Tavenner and I can break in our new VADO camera and try out some things that we have discussed. Samantha will be brilliant because she is, Pandora will astound because she does. It will be a great ONE NIGHT ONLY gig.
If you are in the DC area, come out - show support.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
As a poetry chapbook publisher, we feel that we fulfill a vital need within our industry – producing high quality chapbooks by talented poets. Many other poetry chapbooks, though not all, may deliver one aspect or the other (and in some cases neither), but very few that we have encountered succeed in both of these areas. Tell us, what have your experiences been with poetry chapbooks?
Katy Jean May
Monday, May 19, 2008
On that list was the idea of doing a series of poetry readings in different states over the same period of time (as we now have poets in several areas of the country) and that idea is going to reach fruition the first week of June 2008 when there are 3 "Plan B Press presents..." events taking place in three different locations in two different states.
Beginning on June 7, 2008 with our swan-song reading at Wolfgang Books in Phoenixville, PA featuring C L Bledsoe, Jim Mancinelli, and stevenallenmay. We decided to end the series there as a monthly concern as it was becoming too difficult to manage for us from northern Virginia. The owners of Wolfgang Books have been very supportive and will continue to carry Plan B Press books. This reading begins at 7:30PM and will have an open reading to conclude the festivities.
On June 10, 2008 will be the first event at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, 2300 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA. "Plan B Press presents..." is fairly open at the moment. These events will be taking place on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, from 7-9PM. I can confirm that on July 8 the features will be Mary Ann Larkin ("gods & flesh" 2007) with her husband Patric Pepper, and C L Bledsoe ["___(want/need)" 2008].
Then on June 12, 2008 at Robin's Bookstore in Philadelphia, PA beginning at 6PM will be Kristine Grow reading from her brand new ("Petal Whispers" 2008), along with Joyce Meyers ("Wild Mushrooms" 2007) and Ryan Eckes ("when I come here" 2007)
more events coming soon!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
From time to time we get submissions of one to four poems for our poetry zine. The fact of the matter is, we don't have a zine. We never had one. We have no plan to have one. The closest we have come are our occasional anthologies, which we haven't ever opened up submissions from the public.
The poetry of these zine submissions might be good, but we really only read collections or masses of poetry that need pairing down into a collection. That's our focus.
Katy Jean May
Friday, May 09, 2008
We had the good fortune to have been invited to the first two poetry festivals held at Stonehedge Gardens outside of Tamaqua, PA. Last year, among the poets who had attended and read there, was a lady named Elizabeth Bodien. I liked what I heard I told her so. She sent me a mss., we liked it and published it this season.
Her book is called Plumb Lines. Learn more about Elizabeth and read one of her poems here.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
As I was preparing for this entry, I wanted to use other images; some of those created by Katy Jean for the redesigned little chapbook or images from the original chapbook done by Dianne Miller when she published it back in 1999-2000. Alas, all traces of it have momentarily slipped into the recesses of our past.
What I am talking about is Curious Jane Meets the Man, a mostly-accurate retelling of an incident which occurred at Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County, PA on the third day of the first 30-day poetry festival held anywhere during National Poetry Month, Bardfest99, The event was a poetry reading scheduled to be taking place by a stone pyramid which was built (ILLEGALLY) along the banks of Blue Marsh Lake. My audacity was to promote a reading at this illegally build structure and to go ahead with the planned reading without seeking to get permission from the authorities that were in charge of the lake and the lands surrounding it. I didn't feel that I needed permission to have a poetry gathering by the lake. The brown shirts of the state game commission were directed to escort the half dozen or so poets off the land and then followed by car until we had driven off the state land.....which is curious as we all were also citizens of the state, so essentially we were forced off land left in trust.... FOR US.
As fate would have it, one of the citizens who was there for the poetry reading was a local radio personality, whose went on the air a few days later and retold the story, making it a bigger story indeed. A front page article followed, with photo of the pyramid, and the festival and organization cracked into the consciousness of the community. Those dang artists! What are they doin' now?
Well, the festival did in fact make it's way into the record books. But that was hardly the end of the story. Dianne Miller, co-founder of Plan B Press, was also attending the pyramid reading, er, police action, with her daughter who was 8 years old at the time. The daughter was the curious Jane of the story, Curious Jane Meets the Man. It was she would asked what we had done wrong, and the book was Dianne's way of trying to answer that. (the answer is, of course, NOTHING!)
Dianne made a handful of copies of "Jane", using clipart images, creating a basic "kinko's job". And that was it - but not. Fast forward a few years to Katy Jean, the design queen, who recreated the book images for a future reprinting of the book. Fantastic artwork. But, as I stated in the beginning of this entry, not to be found this second.
When this project surfaces, I will alert one and all.
postscript: the rest of the story, and you knew there would be one, is that in late 2000 or early 2001 "the powers that be" bulldozed the pyramid and pushed the stones about a quarter of a mile away from the site. For those of us who once spent time at the pyramid, we sometimes go back stand along the edge of the lake and remember.
anyway, Katy is looking for the proofs. One day the book will be revived.
s - a - m
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Saturday, May 03, 2008
With the framework of a puzzle book, ________(want/need) contains poems in three formats: fill in the blank, multiple choice and crossword. This clever, innovative format creates the perfect playground from which Bledsoe can showcase his already clever use of language. The overall mood can be a bit a bit chilly and damp, but Bledsoe keeps his humor at all times and can be bitingly sharp when you least expect it.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
W R Hastings of Northampton, MA for his collection "Stones Rounded by Years of Conversation".
Thanks to everyone who participated in this year's contest, and our judge - Kimmika Witherspoon Williams.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
This is why we have instituted blocks of time during the year when we read manuscripts. We are the least stressed during those times (theoretically) and can read your submissions with the most open and focused mind. So please keep in mind the dates that we list on our site if you're considering submitting a manuscript to us… or in fact whomever you are submitting your work to, whether an e-zine, magazine, journal or press.
Also, it would really behoove you to browse our store. No really. Every single book that we are selling has a sample poem from the book so you can actually taste test before buying (or submitting). We don't cater to only one style of poetry, but there's definitely stuff that we don't like and it's reflected in what we DO publish.
Katy Jean May
counting all his (books)"
okay, today I will be going through our inventory as we have just gotten new books by F J Bergmann and C L Bledsoe - but I also wanted to mention that Plan B Press has grown recently when a fellow Grad of the Master of Arts Management program at George Mason University, Tommy Tavenner, agreed to join the team. His presence may not be visible at first, but as taskmaster he is charged with pushing s - a - m to accomplish things that he has said he wants to do, and the Press needs to do.
more later, once our bookshelves are "in order"
s - a - m
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
A Memorial to the Unique
Around 2003, we met a short and spunky red-headed poet around Philadelphia who read very engaging poetry, often accompanied by guitar. In discussions on bringing out a book for her, she mentioned an idea she had for one collection she was working on; but she wasn't sure whether we (or anyone) would be up to it. She wanted strings to weave through the poems ala Harold and the Purple Crayon. Her collection focused on the conflicts and harmonies that people have with science and their faith. The collection was called "String Theory" and the poet's name was Sandy Crimmins.
We blended string imagery with text, creating a writhing gorgeous book, bound at the spine by string, fulfilling her dream book. String Theory was well received and sold well; she adored the book and her enthusiasm was contagious.
Sandy left us in the summer of 2007. Such a vibrant and wonderfully kind person, it still seems so impossible that she's gone. In her memory we are creating a Sandy Crimmins Memorial Book Award to allow other poets the chance to have their dream books come true: something visual, something out of the norm, something that stretches both the author's comfort zone and expectations. We think Sandy would have liked that.
Katy Jean May
I wrote about Sandy and her book on my chapbook blog shortly after her passing. We found out from a fellow Plan B Press poet, Joyce Meyers, about Sandy's untimely death and as it happened, we were scheduled to be in eastern Pennsylvania the weekend of her funeral which was held in the Germantown section of Philly. I was able to speak briefly with her husband, Joe, and her two sons. But words at that time seems hollow and empty. As we left the funeral service, Katy & I began to discuss how we could best remember Sandy and her marvelous talent. We had been thinking about establishing a Poetry Award which would take place in the Fall and Sandy became the spark and the focus of that idea. We quickly decided to call the award the Sandy Crimmins Memorial Award.
We haven't finalized the details yet, but as Katy mentions above - it will be an Award seeking to bring out a book with strong visual components as well as solid poetry. More details will follow in short order.
co-founder and editor-in-chief
Sunday, April 27, 2008
We learned pretty quickly about vanity presses and strove to move away from that model, although we fell into that trap early on. Vanity presses pretty much function as presses for hire. You send them what you have, they make the book and you buy the copies. In the cases of print on demand (POD) presses, the press prints books only when copies are bought, generally resulting in books that are low quality and uniform looking. They also tend to be expensive and a pain to put in stores.
Another thing that vanities tend to do is not exercise any real editorial control. They’ll print pretty much anything. Steve and I wanted to retain control of what our press printed. We didn’t want to publish work that we didn’t like or believe in. It was difficult at first to tell people no, but it really strengthened the press and made us hone in on who we wanted to be and what we were trying to achieve.
So when you visit our online store or check out our books at our store, take a moment to assess the quality of the printing, the layout and the writing. I think it reflects well on us that we did not go the vanity route.
Katy Jean May
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
In Dec. 2001, I moved to Philadelphia and a few months later I had the good fortune to land at Robins Bookstore, a Philly independent bookstore ICON, as their poetry and special events coordinator and their first webmaster. I got to host a poetry series beginning in April 2002 called "the Eternal NOW!" which lasted there for 18 months.
When the series began, Katy & I were still coming together as 'teammay' and it wasn't until later in 2003 that Dianne Miller handed us the reins of Plan B Press. In that time, as I was new to Philly and all, I got to witness some incredibly good (and some pretty terrible) poetry at readings across the city. We also got to hear, and later publish, Lamont Steptoe, Ryan Eckes, Jim Mancinelli, Sandy Crimmins, Andrew Bradley, Michele Belluomini; in fact everyone we have been privileged to have worked with...we heard in the lead up to running the Press.
We continue to publish Philadelphia based poets. Or poets with strong connections to the city, like Kristine Grow and in the Fall of 2008, Dan Mcguire .
That's who we are as a Press. Katy and I used to walk through Old City , and I recall many times standing in front of the historical marker on the spot where Common Sense was published. Philadelphia is steeped in our history, in our mythology, in our blood.
At the end of the reading series run, I wanted to capture the moment so I asked all the poets who had been featured to submit a poem for an anthology which we ended up calling NOW!(then) and is pictured above. 33 poets did send a poem in and it was a wonderful collection. Katy's last minute twist was the suggest we print the cover on vellum. Quite literally the first handful of copies were "hot off the presses" as Katy had to apply an iron to the cover the dry the ink . We used the wrong kind of vellum, but hey -it's a keepsake with a trove of great poets included and we might note that it sparked Larry Robin to come up with his own anthologies for the marvelous 100 poet events each year. We like when the ripple effect happens, one never knows what the "unanticipated consequences" will be, but it's always worth the doing of a thing to find out.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
In 2004 we met Angie Roach who was just starting up a bookstore in the Bourse building in Old Town called Voices and Visions. We had some great readings there too and enjoyed working with Angie. It held so much promise, but for one reason or another it wobbled and is regretfully no longer around.
There's a gentrifying little city in southeastern PA called Phoenixville. It's about a half hour outside Philadelphia. Among neat little shops, restaurants is Wolfgang Books (www.wolfgangbooks.com). It serves as both a new and used bookstore, providing excellent selections of all types of literature. The owners were fantastic and let us set up a once-per-month reading schedule all to our little selves. Occasionally we are able to travel north and attend the readings. We thoroughly enjoy the time we get to spend with our authors whom we rarely get to see in person.
Please check out our schedule of events . You won't regret attending one. If you have any ideas for other venues or would like to get a Plan B Poet in your store or venue, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Katy Jean May
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
We became aware of the talents of Kristine Grow through hearing her read in Philadelphia, and getting ahold of her self-published first chapbook, Long Draw. When she submitted this mss. for consideration, we instantly saw the potential here. Katy made some wonderful images, and the book really works!!
Kristine lives and reads in the Philadelphia area, so if you can't get to hear her in person - please check her webpage and do buy her book, especially now......as you start planting your own garden.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Katy Jean May
Monday, April 21, 2008
we are very excited about our latest set of releases, The Dragonfly Constellation, by F. J. Bergmann and ____want/need by C L Bledsoe. Bergmann's book is a collection of sci-fi poetry and the material is handled extremely well. Before receiving this manuscript, I wasn't really aware that there was something called 'sci-fi poetry', but I can state that this book ought to be seen as a model of the form. This collection should be available by the end of the week.
as should the new collection by C L Bledsoe - his little collection is an interesting exploration into form and meaning using the crossword puzzle motif as it's structure.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
it's cheaper than gasoline at the moment
and goes so much further in the long run
one's soul runs on poetry
Last October, our son William was born. He was the second child we had had in 18 months. '2 under 2' as I like to remind people. IN the process of dealing with them and the Press, this blog was forgotten in the shuffle.
sorry about that
s - a - m