Happy Birthday By the Forces of Gravity!

My cartoon/poetry memoir came out a year ago today! It’s been such an amazing year, for the book, for my own creative life. This spring I’ve been on sabbatical from my professor job at Arizona State University where I’ve been teaching landscape architecture for the past twenty-five years. I’ve spent this time away obsessed with hybridity, especially the mingling of drawings and words. And last week-end I made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles to attend a one-day workshop with Lynda Barry, a goddess of making words and images one thing again, as it is for four-year-olds. I’m working on a book on drawing for writers, a craft book made to carry in your pocket to help let drawing become part of your writing life. I’ve also been writing the Books with Pictures column for DIY MFA.

By the Forces of Gravity Book Cover

Basically, everything words and drawings as storytelling.

I’ve been drawing and writing my whole life, but By the Forces of Gravity becoming a book still feels like a major milestone in my pursuit of creating a life like a monk in a scriptorium, except with kids, a partner and a houseful of dogs and cats. A monk with benefits and no pestilence. Paradise.

From The Book of Beasts, a Medieval Bestiary translated by TH White, a book I just finished reading, in which I learned that sea urchins can foretell the future and monkeys get depressed under a full moon.

So, happy birthday to my sweet book! Despite it’s super sad storyline, it was such a joy to cast it into the cosmos last year and to see it every morning on my bedroom bookshelf (because, of course, I have a bedroom bookshelf). It’s liberating too to have finally told a story I carried for forty years, and now have room for others. More on that later.

Self-portrait: me as Batman, with pens on my superhero belt, drawn in the most awesome Lynda Barry Writing & Drawing the Unthinkable Workshop.

What, April is Half Over!?

March was a whirlwind that blew halfway through April. The AWP conference and reading in Portland and Astoria was awesome. I’m still reading through the books I brought home from the expo.

This week I was part of the DIY MFA Writer Igniter Memoir Summit. ICYMI they are reposting for this weekend. Here’s the link to sign up for this free series of interviews focused on memoir. I’m listening to the Tom Hart interview right now (and will no doubt re-listen this weekend, since I’m terrible at multitasking)

March On

It’s a challenge to balance the art of writing/drawing with the sharing of it. Creation versus promotion. I think I’m not alone in this effort to strike a harmonious accord between these two aspects of an artist/writer’s life.

A few weeks back, I sat down to write about upcoming readings and other cool writerly business, this kind of stuff:

Readings in Oregon:
Literary Cures for Fascism Fatigue: A Variety Show!
Monday, March 25, at 7:30
KALA, 1017 Marine Drive, Astoria

press release by Alyssa Graybeal

Readings, Book Signings and Tabling at AWP 2019 in Portland:

Reading from By the Forces of Gravity
March 28
12-1:15
C124, Oregon Convention Center
Writing Into the Silences: A Reading of Recent Creative Nonfiction(LaTanya McQueen, Randon Billings Noble, Grace Talusan, Rebecca Fish Ewan, Melissa Grunow) Authors whose work is widely and wildly diverse will read from and discuss their recently published creative nonfiction. All include an uncovering of the hidden or lost, but the contents range from a Filipino American experience; different kinds of hauntedness; the search for an ancestor, once a slave, whose life became a prism of the author’s own experience; the intersection of disability, queerness and desire; and a story about a 1970s kid’s commune told through drawings and free verse.

Signings at the Hippocampus Table 9092: I’ll be signing and doodling in By the Forces of Gravity!
March 28 1:30-3:00
March 29 3:00-4:00

Tabling at the Wayward/Unchaste Writers Table T2060: Books, chapbooks, zines and other merch by a collective of writers. I’ll have my new chapbook, Water Marks, and some Tiny Joys zines on the table.
Friday 9:00-1:00

Poem in an Australian literary journal: My poem Boy Shoes was accepted in Not Very Quiet, a literary journal dedicated to poetry by women, for the issue focused on performing gender. It’ll release this month.

New Book Review Gig: I’ll be writing book reviews for Split Rock Review, a place-based literary journal. Psyched to be on the masthead. Look for my first review this summer!

Book Review of Droodles in Hippocampus. This book is a compendium of work by Roger Price, specifically his drawing doodles, he called Droodles.

New post for my Books with Pictures column: Four micro-reviews of books released in 2018

All awesome happenings. All fill me with excitement and joy. But three weeks ago, I was feeling ruminant about my ability to walk without pain, and instead of sharing upcoming events and publications, I wrote a flash essay about March, the word, the month, the movement, the hare. I want to share it, because this is what is in a writer’s head while they’re working on their platform.

Here is what I wrote:
March, as a word in the Oxford English Dictionary, offers a panoply of meanings. To walk with intent, just one of them. The phrase “I’m mad as a March hare” paired the word with madness ages before college basketball was invented. March is also a long journey for animals, a toilsome walk for humans and a kind of wild celery. The meaning that delights me most is how march, usually in the plural marches, describes a track of debatable land. Perhaps derived from the old practice of walking around one’s property, marking its edges in order to claim all that your path of feet circumscribed, the marches became that fuzzy edge of the known.

I feel as though I’ve lived my whole life in this kind of place of betweeness.

I’m ruminating over this in an effort to anchor myself someplace, a habit of mine when I feel untethered. Today I’m watching cold rain drizzle from a gray sky. Today my bones ache as they grow coral-like around the metal that surgeons placed in my body just over three weeks ago. March is thought to derive from the Gaul term for hammer, the tool these surgeons used to pound a metal stake into my femur. My new hip joint has become the marches, the fuzzy boundary between the land of then and now. I’m learning how to march with it.

Marching connotes progress, a relentless movement ever forward, gaze locked on the beyond, thoughts intent on tomorrow. People march into battle or march in protest. Either way, their movement requires opposition. Marching implies the promise of victory. Or defeat.

Instinct warns me to shut my trap about the potentiality of any physical weakness. I can’t stop thinking about how lions survey herds on the march, their cat eyes searching for the lame, their bodies tense for a pounce. To avoid being devoured, I should pretend all is well. And it eventually may well be, but in this moment, it hurts to walk, to put on my left sock, to pretend.

I sat down to write of things to come, my trip to AWP in Portland, reading from By the Forces of Gravity, at the conference and in Astoria. Tabling with my new chapbook, signing my book. I planned to post links to recent publications. To work on my platform. Instead, I flitter back and forth between the long view and my own minutia. I watch the clouds darken the sky, squint through a magnifying glass into the tiny dictionary text, my retreat into the origins of words.

Maybe some days aren’t meant for marching forward. Maybe some days are for walking like a camel, as Thoreau recommends, camels being the “only beast which ruminates when walking.” Don’t think about this advice for too long or you’ll begin to wonder about cows, how they also ruminate when walking. People so often bring camels into essays for the element of surprise. Cows are an entirely different literary device. More plodding.

Let me ponder this last point while the day marches away.

 

Three 2018 Essays + Some Awesome 2019 Reads

My sabbatical officially starts tomorrow and I’m trying to prepare by organizing my physical and digital spaces. I try to keep up with my website updates, but I’m organizationally challenged, so in tidying up, I realized I forgot to link three essays that were published in 2018. It’s no reflection of the level of joy (yes, they Spark Joy, as my new guru of tidiness, Marie Kondo, would say) I experienced in having them picked up by three awesome online literary magazines: The Nervous Breakdown, Crab Fat, and After the Art.

They’re on my Other Publications page now, but just wanted to send them out here, as well:

I’m also collecting my 2019 awesome reads stack, some in preorders, some already part of my tsundoku (“the art of acquiring more books than one will read such that they gather in stacks and flocks on shelves and floors,” so quoted Rob Macfarlane, an author whose book I bought and have not yet read). However, I intend to read these gems, and others, this year:

a sampling of my tsundoku

Happy 2019!

 

 

Water Marks, Plankton Press’s First Chapbook!

Plankton Press began what I hope will be a long and tiny tenure in chapbook publishing with the release of Water Marks, word and images reflecting on wet (December 2018). The plan is begin to publish the art/words of other people, but I have been guinea-pigging the publishing process with my own creations, starting with zines and now adding this chapbook.

cover drawing done while listening to When the Levee Breaks performed by Led Zeppelin

Water Marks includes sixteen ink/watercolor drawings I made while listening to water music (playlist in the back of the chapbook), and words I’ve written and collected about water over the years. None of it is previously published elsewhere.

Sample spread:

specs: 5×5 inch square, perfect bind, 59 pages. Hybrid of ink, watercolor, poetry and prose.

Price: 10 USD. Copies are at Wasted Ink Zine Distro and/or you can e-mail me about purchasing a copy (fishewan at gmail.com).

Like making zines, creating a chapbook from start to finish is a wonderful experience. I used InDesign to lay it out, scanned the images at home (also where I write and draw), but learned the process of chapbook-making through an online class in the Literary Kitchen. It was super helpful for learning the publishing steps, places to print, things to think about before committing to a layout or page count. Plus the Literary Kitchen is an awesome community of writers/poets/artists. Check out all the books these amazing women have published!  Water Marks is about the size and weight of a music CD (remember those?), but is a printed book (remember those?). Yay, print lives!

It’s December Already?

This morning, I slept past six a.m. and now I need to do about a million loads of laundry. My ears are ringing in this quiet house. Today is the kind of day that makes people become snow birds and fly off to the desert where I live.

An update of some happenings in my wee literary art life:

My third post on DIY MFA went live this week: The Art of the Graphic Memoir: New Book by Indie Cartoonist Tom Hart.

I joined the ranks of local thought provokers: Interview on VoyagePhoenix with some of my hybrid artwork.

I also joined the Sonoran Small Publishers collective, attending the inaugural meeting at Wasted Ink. Excited to be a part of a grass roots collective devoted to indie publishing, art, words and community.

graphic for the meeting by Hollum Press

I was on a panel at NonfictioNow with Nicole J. Georges (her work is awesome!), an international conference that was held this year in Phoenix. My book also joined the author collective of books table. I also read from my teen journal for the diary bingo karaoke event, which was so much more fun than living in that silly moment when I thought I wanted to have my high school boyfriends baby.

Author Collective organized by writer/professor Jennifer Sinor

I just finished an amazing chapbook workshop, led by Ariel Gore, in the Literary Kitchen. My chapbook, Water Marks, is at the printers now! It’s a hybrid collection of words and images, my musings on water.

PHX Zine Fest 2019 was awesome!

My friend Sari helped me table, which made the whole day fun.

As was Meet Your Literary Community

Tabling at Meet Your Literary Community. BTW I like this shirt. And Sari helped me again!

I did a workshop for Off the Page at Wasted Ink Zine Distro, sharing ways music can be a catalyst for drawing/painting. Here is the music of trees work from the workshop.

we listened to music inspired by trees and made these.

Reading and Tabling

The reading at Changing Hands Bookstore last week was awesome! I meant to post these pictures right away, but the week just zipped away.

This Saturday morning, I’ll be tabling at Meet Your Literary Community at Phoenix Public Market. I’m reading in a big reading marathon (I go on last at 11:30) and people can come to my table (#57) where my friend, Sari, and I will be selling books, zines, and helping people print bookmarks on my Multigraph.

print this bookmark!

Then, on Sunday October 28, I’ll be tabling again at PHX ZINE FEST! Zines, books, printing love post-cards that you can personalize and then pop into the Tiny Joys Post (and then into the USPS for delivery)! It’s an awesome event, full of zines, art, music, food, panels, buttons, and all things zinester.

 

Love for the Graphic/Literary Arts Community

I just want to give a shout out the graphic/literary arts community that so enriches my writing/drawing life. I’m a shy quiet person by nature and spend a lot of my time alone, but somehow (not somehow, through words and drawings) I’ve managed to connect to a crazy number of people. Within the long (unfinished and incomplete) list below are thousands of people dedicated to writing and drawing as life, vocation, art and joy. I’m grateful to them all:

Wasted Ink Zine Distro

Hippocampus Magazine and Books

HippoCamp: a conference for creative nonfiction writers

Literary Kitchen

Women on Writing

Brevity

NonfictioNow

Off the Page, a monthly workshop and open mic event through WIZD

All the Binders full of writers, the many FB groups full of women (thanks Mitt Romney)

Changing Hands Bookstore

The Creative Nonfiction Podcast

Debutante Ball

Fear No Lit

Punctuate

Under the Gum Tree

DIY MFA

Femme Fotale

Mutha Magazine

Hip Mama

Phoenix New Times

AWP

Desert Nights Rising Stars

Poets & Writers Live

ASU Creative Writing Program

ASU Landscape Architecture Program

ASU The Design School

All the cartoonists, illustrators and artists who post their work on Instagram

Franz Kafka and all the other writers who have passed on, but whose printed words inspire me.

Book Turns One (Month) Old!

The flurry leading up to the book launches in Phoenix and Berkeley has subsided. I’ve spent the past month doing interviews, knitting and cleaning up the mess the house had become while I was busy with the By the Forces of Gravity.

By the Forces of Gravity Book Cover

Not that I do much house work. I don’t. Basically, I bought another vacuum robot and threw out old food.

baby gift I knit for two expecting musicians

Below are links to interviews about making the book, By the Forces of Gravity, including the experience of drawing, writing, and finding my voice. At the end of this blog post, I link info about readings, presentations and workshops I’m doing this Fall:

Creative Nonfiction Podcast with Brendan O’Meara, episode 106. It was so fun doing the podcast. I was in my SCUBA diver friend Barb’s dining room in the Berkeley Hills the morning of the Berkeley launch and Brendan was up in Eugene while we chatted via Skype. Now I’m hooked on podcasts and have listened to a bunch of CNFPod and more.

Drawing Out Grief, New memoir explores girlhood friendship, hippie parenting, and buried grief. Interview by Ariel Gore for Psychology Today, posted June 18, 2018

It took years for author to find the voice with which to write her memoir, article by July 15, 2018

Lancaster founder of online literary magazine ventures into book publishing with a ‘unique beast,’ article by July 15, 2018. I love that my book is a ‘unique beast’!

These articles ran in the print version of the newspaper, which was so awesome to see.

in the Lancaster Newspaper, July 15, 2018

It’s been super fun seeing reviews by readers, doing interviews. I love getting to talk with people about crafting the poems and cartoons, and working with my amazing publisher, Donna Talarico, and her new imprint Books by Hippocampus. I’m so happy to have By the Forces of Gravity be the press’s first single-author book. Keep your eye out for the next one, Dig: A Personal Prehistoric Journey by Sam Chiarelli. Check out this cover!

Next Up:

Guest Authoring for The Debutante Ball, a blog celebrating up and coming authors and their books. There will be a book giveaway with this, so click on over on July 28 to see how to win a signed copy of By the Forces of Gravity and a pencil. (update, link now goes to the interview)

I’m the new Books with Pictures columnist for DIY MFA, a website listed in the 100 Best Website for Writers by The Write Life. I’ll provide links as my articles post on diymfa.com. We just had a big group meeting via Zoom, 14 women from all over talking about the site and writing. DIY MFA is Gabriela Pereira’s brainchild. I met Gabriela at HippoCamp 2017, the creative nonfiction writer’s conference created by Donna Talarico and her team at Hippocampus Magazine.

Speaking of Hippocamp, I’ll be reading from By the Forces of Gravity and leading a session called Doodling for Wordies. I’m 100% in love with helping writers let drawing into their writing life.

There are a few more irons in the fire, including a reading at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this September, tabling in October at Phoenix Zine Fest, being on a panel  at NonfictioNow called Nonfiction Graphic Narratives: A Diversity of Approaches and doing an Off the Page workshop at Wasted Ink Zine Distro, both in November.

Berkeley Book Launch at Maybeck High School!

It was such a wonderful experience to return to my alma mater (class of 1979 and also where I started my teaching career at 19!) to read from my new book, By the Forces of Gravity. A total joy to see so many familiar faces, and meet new ones! Many thanks to Maybeck High School and Trevor Cralle (also class of 1979 and author of The Surfinary (awesome book and home to my first-ever published cartoon, the Valley Sheep)) for co-hosting the event with my publisher, Books by Hippocampus! Donna Talarico, a million thanks to you! Thanks to everyone who came out on a full moon evening in Berkeley to celebrate the book! Here are a few images from the event.

Reading in the Fireside Room at Maybeck High School (still renting rooms in a church, but way more swanky than when I went to school there)

 

best math teacher I ever had 🙂

Cartooning the Landscape author and my cartooning mentor, Chip Sullivan

UC Divers representing fish love (note, there is nothing about SCUBA diving in By the Forces of Gravity. That came later in my life)

author, publisher, book and school mascot

Booksplaining something to my dad and step-mom. They’re super sharp so it probably didn’t need to be said, but I was pretty excited.

I made a ginormous painting/collage/book timeline/artifact museum exhibit for the book launches.

Maybeck community members (note the overlap of UC Divers and Maybeckians. Maybeck encouraged exploration, of the mind and the world, so of course it spawned a love of SCUBA)

Co-author of Illustrated History of Landscape Design, Elizabeth Boults contributing to the memory canvas I made to allow people to share memories of loves in their life no longer with them.

me reading and trying to remember to advance the images as I read, so people could enjoy the cartoons.