This Is… Alexander Barrett

Colorful little book on a shelf. "This is Portland"We’ve loved working with traveler/writer Alexander Barrett since the beginning. From our beloved Portland to Shanghai and soon San Francisco, Alex’s eye for the unique little details in the cities he features continues to be spot on and enjoyable. Years ago, 2015 to be exact, we interviewed Alex for the release of This is Shanghaiand this week we decided to catch up with him and revisit those questions for a update.

 

 1. Where are you *right now* and what is the most important thing to know about what’s going on around you there?

Right now, I’m in my apartment in San Francisco, looking out over the city. I’ve lived here just long enough to think that the new Salesforce tower is ruining the skyline. Oof that thing. Today was “Sunday Streets” on Valencia in the Mission. They close the street to traffic and line it with musicians, dancers, and tables dedicated to local non-profits. I just watched a bunch of hippies play Jefferson Airplane covers to a small group of dancing children. “When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies…” It was the first time I really listened to those lyrics. The kids really responded to them.

2. I know it’s crass to ask, but when you aren’t making charming illustrated books about places you’re getting to know, what exactly do you do for a living?

I have a job. I’ve had the job for three years. I still don’t know exactly what it is. But I go there and I do stuff. When it started, I was a copywriter working on branding for YouTube. Then I convinced some higher ups to let me buy a Risograph Printer. Now I mostly print fun stuff and show other people how to print fun stuff.

3. What’s your favorite book that you’ve read this year?

I read Tamara Shopsin’s Arbitrary and Stupid Goal a few months ago. I really like the format of her books. It’s not unlike the way I’ve structured mine. Very staccato. But her chapters bounce all over the place through time, topic, and location. Such a wonderful experience.

4. What’s next for you? And finally, the question on everyone’s mind: Where will you live next?

I’ve lived in San Francisco for three years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in a long time. I think I’ll stick around for a while. I won’t be in this city forever, but they have nice baked goods here. For the time being, I’m going to be in this apartment and explore the way I make things.

Looking back, the process of making these three books feels so similar. But looking at the final products, I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think This is San Francisco is the best and most complete project I’ve ever made. That feels good.

 

Learn more about Alexander and follow his work at www.alexanderbarrett.com and check out all three of his city books.
If you’re in Portland this month, snag a free copy of the 1st edition This is Portlands at “little free libraries” all over town! More on the blog.

What It Means that We’re Leaving Amazon

This week, when we made the announcement that we will part ways with our trade distributor at the end of 2018, we also announced that we won’t be seeking a new distribution relationship directly with Amazon. We’ve gotten a lot of virtual high fives for this, and there’s also been some misunderstanding about what exactly this means.

“I feel terrible because I still sell / buy on Amazon,” is one reaction we get. “But won’t your company / authors suffer if your books aren’t available on Amazon?” is the other. The answer is simple, but the background is complex, and this post is meant to help clarify the relationship Amazon has with publishers, authors, and consumers, and will hopefully give you some guidance in making more informed choices. (more…)

We are Breaking Up with The Big Boys


We’ve been holding on to a bit of news lately, and we’re excited to finally share it with you all! Here’s founder Joe Biel with the details…

Joe & Ruby deliver books by bicycle.

Starting January 1, 2019, we will be managing our own distribution just like we did for over ten years. Not only will we no longer need to move thousands of books back and forth between warehouses, creators get paid more for each book sold. And we won’t be selling to Amazon. Why. you ask? Well, my grandparents were German immigrants who came here in the 1800s for labor unions and worked to achieve the 40-hour work week…which was then abolished in our lifetime. When Microcosm was just getting off the ground in 1997, I interviewed Ian Mackaye of Dischord Records. He explained that a publisher is only as independent as their distribution is. He was seemingly taking a jab at “independent” labels who handle all of their manufacturing and distribution through a major but his point sticks. 

Microcosm has always tried to work with independent companies, because they feel most comfortably aligned with our mission, values, and goals…but we’ve watched over the past dozen years as each independent distributor gets gobbled up and responds to the demands of the increasingly demanding monopolies.

We’ve watched as our peer publishers either throw in the towel or sell to one of the monopolies, neither of which we are willing to do. We feel that independents need to be independent and the best way to do that is to build an outpost of our own, a shining star where we can continue to thrive instead of relying upon the whims of any global corporation.

So we are returning to our roots to create the world that we want to see within our weirdo clubhouse. 

We will be parting ways with Legato/PGW/Perseus/Ingram in January and have already built new warehouses and software to make this possible. Few events in the history of Microcosm have improved our morale and brought our staff together like this has. As always, our intent is to expand our distribution at the same time. Our new sales people (now a team of four) excitedly understand our books and have more time and focus to dedicate to them. For the first time ever, our back catalog will receive as much attention as our new releases. Within a few years, we intend to begin offering these services to other publishers.

This isn’t as staggering a change as it sounds. Reviewing the numbers, we have come to realize that we know better how to distribute our books than anyone else that we’ve tried to partner with. We’ve handled roughly 75% of our distribution even across these past seven years. The simple fact is that the underground is much bigger than the mainstream.

To ensure that we are still actually serving all of the stores and readers that are interested in our books, we’re bringing on Book Traveler’s West (West Coast), Como (East Coast), and Fujii (Midwest) to actively visit and solicit our books to stores. We will continue to be distributed by Turnaround in Europe and will be working with the same distributors in Australia, Canada, and the rest of the world as well. Readers and stores can still buy books directly from our website, microcosmpublishing.com.

​We are redoubling our efforts to sell direct and to independents instead of helping monopolies like Amazon continue to grow at the expense of others. Perhaps more importantly, we will not be accepting their terms that increasingly just serve to crush everything in their path. If you want to help support the indies during this crucial time, go to your local shops and buy books, and encourage your friends to do the same. They will remember moments like this forever.

We hear from people almost every week that our books are saving their lives, and we feel that we have an obligation to extend that as far and wide as possible. There’s an unspoken rule in the underground that what we do is secret but when these rules don’t serve the goals, we have no choice but to break them.

Joe’s next book, A People’s Guide to Publishing, can help anyone inspired by our journey learn the lessons and wisdom that got us here today.
Check out the kickstarter project here!

Read the more industry-jargony version of this news with more details on Shelf Awareness.

Or, if you want to know more about what this’ll mean, check out Elly’s breakdown.


If you ever need help with ordering, please contact Sidnee Grubb | Customer Service (1-503-799-2698).
For press questions, interview or sample requests, contact Cyn Marts, publicity director, cyn@microcosmpublishing.com.

Call for submissions: Bikes in Space, trans/nb edition

Trans pioneer Roberta CowellIt’s time: We’re requesting stories for the seventh volume of feminist bicycle science fiction series Bikes in Space.

The fifth volume, Bikes Not Rockets, is funding on Kickstarter through August 8th. The sixth, with the working title Dragon Bike, is in edits. This seventh volume is scheduled to come out in early 2021.

For the first time we’re excited to welcome a guest editor to the series: Lydia Rogue, who stepped in to edit the most recent issue of the Taking the Lane zine, True Trans Bike Rebel, pitched the theme for this volume and we couldn’t resist.

Without further ado, here are the submission guidelines:
The theme for this issue is: trans and nonbinary characters and writers. Working title: The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride
(more…)

Welcome to Portland, have a book!

This month welcomes the new edition of a staff favorite, This is Portland: The City You’ve Heard You Should Like! This colorful charmer highlights so many of our favorite details about living in the weirdest little city.

Updated for 2018 with 50% additional material, This is Portland is a first-hand look at a city that people can’t seem to stop talking about. It’s a guidebook of sorts, but not to restaurants and sightseeing. Instead, Alexander Barrett is your friendly guide to the quirky characters and atmosphere of Portland, Oregon and how fun, beautiful, and ridiculous it can be.

To celebrate this rad new edition, we’re doing something a little different — a Free Library book drop (or, scavenger hunt, if you will). Starting today (Friday July 6th and continuing through the month, Portland’s Microcosmonauts will be dropping Microcosm loot at free libraries throughout town.

From the comic catalogs that tell Microcosm’s story to our newest catalogs featuring a full Book Tour board game on the back and more, like Microcosm stickers and postcards; coupons good for any purchase at microcosm.pub; freebie books, like old advanced copies of Fix Your Clothes and Wild Fermentation; first editions of This is Portland, plus a few of the new edition!

We’ll be posting photos, hints, and behind the scenes clips on our instagram feed, so if you’re looking to hunt down some loot, take a look!

And if you’re not in Portland? Tell us a weird, charming thing about where _you_ live on instagram (with the hashtag #winpdx) for a chance to win a 1st edition copy for yourself!

 

**New Giveaway** EAT LIKE A UNICORN!

If you haven’t seen Amy Subach’s colorful cookbook, Paleo For Unicorns: Eat the Patriarchy, we’re sorry to say you’re missing out. This creative guide to cooking healthy food quick and easy that tastes good and doesn’t drive your body crazy.

After a successful kickstarter campaign and so much support from everyone, Paleo for Unicorns is here and ready to go out to bookstores around the world. We love this feminist, humorous paleo cookbook, written for even the most beginnery of beginners to help you:

♥ Learn basic cooking skills!

♥ Figure out how to make a bunch of food with not too much cooking, even if you have a lot of restrictions!

♥ Dismantle the body shaming diet industrial complex!

♥ Make food that even little kids will love!

 

 

If you’re still unsure, here’s a quote from the book that I think illustrates why we made it in the first place and why we love it so much:

Paleo, as I’ve come to define it, is a way of eating that that includes meat, organ meats, vegetables (but not legumes), fruits, nuts (not peanuts because they are technically legumes), fermented foods, natural sweeteners, and sometimes dairy (raw, organic, goat, etc, if you tolerate it). It does not include grains (wheat, corn, quinoa (not really a grain actually), rice, etc), white potatoes (except sometimes it does), french fries (bummer, those are so good), processed junk foods, industrial seed oils, sugar, or alcohol. Easy paleo (and mostly paleo) recipes make up the meat and sweet potatoes of this book. The recipes are easy, because while I love cooking and have since I was making mud biscuits in the backyard (not a euphemism for pooping outside, this time), I have two small kids and I have no patience for any recipe that is finicky, requires a lot of special ingredients, or takes a lot of time.

One more thing: books about diet and health often make the reader feel less- than, like they need to change. I know that change is hard. I know it is a perpetual challenge for me to love and accept myself in the capitalist patriarchal racist imperialist society we live in, and as a cisgender white woman I have it pretty damn good. As the badass Audre Lorde has said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Please accept this book as a guideline for how you can better love and care for yourself. Let me say this: You are ALREADY worthy of love. YOU ARE A DAMN UNICORN.

Check out preview pages below, and, as usual, you have several different ways to enter via the Rafflecopter box below: following us on social media, tweeting about the giveaway, sharing the link, or signing up for our newsletter. Choose one, a few, or all of em, and may the odds be in your favor!

Check out all the book details (available in bookstores next month) at Microcosm.Pub/paleoforunicorns.
You can follow Amy and the cool stuff she does at AmySubach.com or on twitter @amysue.

 

 

Enter to win with the options below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

fine print details:
We’ll be giving away 10 free copies of Paleo for Unicorns, with a board game catalog and stickers, to 10 random winners selected via Rafflecopter. if you’re outside the US or Canada, you’re still welcome to enter, but we will request help paying for the very large shipping costs.

A Day in the Life of… Intern Edition

Every few months a batch of brave young creatives joins our crew for a while to learn, explore, and help out around the office. Some volunteer for fun, experience, out of boredom, or for school credit, and every year we get more and more requests for “how can I help!” and “do you take interns?”.
So I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to what being a volunteer here is actually like, from the volunteers themselves. It’s been a while since I was one myself, so I asked a few others to talk about their average day.
Check out the juicy details below.

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Where We Work: The Story of Our Building

This post was researched and written with Microcosm intern Lydia Rogue.

microcosm's green storefront today
As Microcosm kicks off its 23rd year, we’re taking a look at our history, starting with the building we now occupy with our office and bookstore. When we purchased the building in late 2013, it had already been around for sixty years! We painted over its dull beige exterior with bright green and purple paint that only upset one neighbor enough to leave some alternative sample paint chips taped to our door.

The location was always zoned as a small office space, even when it was originally built in 1953. The original owners were H.C. Plummer & Co, a real estate agency who sold houses all over north Portland.

But it was in 1957 that the most famous occupant moved in – the NAACP moved their credit union here from the house of the organization’s leaders, Otto and Verdell Rutherford; by 1964, the NAACP also had their chapter headquarters here and was the place you went to register to vote.

three people holding up a calligraphed sign

The 14th Amendment graced the walls of the NAACP headquarters. Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society

Portland has a long history of racism, and during the 1950s and 1960s, the Albina district (where we call home), was one of the few places Black people were allowed to live. Most banks would deny them home loans – and real estate organizations deemed it ‘unethical’ to sell them a home in a ‘white’ neighborhood.

The NAACP advocated strongly for the community and against school segregation and racist real estate practices. Under the Rutherford’s leadership in 1953, the historic Oregon Public Accommodations Act was passed, making housing discrimination illegal, among a wide range of other changes.

An undated photo taken at the NAACP headquarters – at the far right is Otto Rutherford, next to his daughter Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society.

While most of N Williams has been gentrified over the years, buildings torn down and turned into parking lots and trendy shops, this building remains, nestled between historical markers that proudly document African American history all up and down the road.

The NAACP remained in this building until 1983, when they moved to NE Portland.

This Oregonian news article that ran on August 2, 1983.

The credit union, however, remained for several more years, until the building changed hands yet again in 1990. This time, CH2A & Associates took up residency in the building – a consulting firm that specialized in affirmative action, labor relations, conflict resolution, personnel management, and counseling.

Harold C. Williams Sr. co-founded the firm and was its president at the time of his death in 2012. He had been a community leader and on the board of directors for Portland Community College. His son (Harold C. Williams Jr.), following in his father’s footsteps, currently has an active political career.

Now, we hold down the fort in this building, trying not to freeze in the winter or melt in the summer, and trying every day to live up to the activists who worked here before us.

Rad folks doing rad shit

We’ve recently started the kickstarter project for the next issue of Taking the Lane: True Trans Rebel, and it’s got us thinking about all the cool stuff Microcosmonauts are working on right now beyond the books. From quilting to writing, conscious coffee to queer romance, and more.

Here’s some of the cool things we’re doing right now…

 

Jeri Cain Rossi has made our sales numbers blossom in her time here. This spring, she has a collab art show at xoBruno, featuring her quilting formed into amazing Japanese style boro bags.
Check it out until the end of the month and learn more at www.xobruno.com/blog/first-friday-with-jeri-cain-rossi

 


Cyn Marts, our publicity director who hooks folx up with our books and runs our giveaways, just launched a feminist wellness subscription box aimed at cannabis-enthusiasts. With accessories, tools, munchies, and featuring Microcosm books The Stoner Babes Coloring Book and The Feminist Weed Farmer. Learn more and join the babes at manic-pixie-stoner-babes.cratejoy.com or follower her on instagram @manicpixiestonerbabe.


 

Writer Cat Caperello has contributed to several EBP titles with creative flair, including Pedal Zombies. This month’s they’re running a kickstarter to bring their dream business to life: coffee with a conscious.
Check out this rad caffeine biz, Woke Coffee, at www.kickstarter.com/projects/wokecoffee/bring-the-woke-coffee-espresso-cart-to-north-portl

 


 

Administrative Assistant Trista Vercher has a lot of passion projects in the pipeline. From queer romance to mental health, their art is as rad as they are. Check out these sketches!

Follow them on twitter @Vercher_Ink.

 


 

 

Continuing his autism advocacy work, Joe Biel is working to build up more zines, resources, and websites for folks on the spectrum and the people that love and care for them.
You can learn more about upcoming zines like Proud to Be Retarded and Your Neurodiverse Friend and their calls for submissions at .

 


 

Jamae Sabangan, current intern and all around awesome, is working on a couple urban fantasy novels called Shift and Rain, both set in PDX and each following a twenty-something protagonist who’s racing against the sands of time. She also runs a website that shares ways to find joy and personal success in creativity. The site’s most recent ongoing project features multi-passionates and how they integrate their multi-layered interests into daily living.

Details on these, along with her other creative work, including a poetry series and fairy tale retellings, can be found at HintofJam.com.

 


 

Lydia Rogue, currently interning and guest-editing True Trans Bike Rebel, spends their time focused on creative writing!
“My job? Writing. Internship? Writing. School? Writing. Volunteer work? Writing. Relaxation? Writing.”
They’ve been focusing on their poetry, queer fiction, and writing about writing, as well as reviews of resources and solid advice on how to get your write on even when you’re broke af. You can catch their fiction and writing advice on their Patreon.

 


Kelsey Williams, who just finished up with our intern program, spends her time working on her book, started back in 2013. It’s a young adult fantasy book that features tortured souls and a world teetering between life and death, and another she turns to when having writer’s block for the other, which is contemporary fiction with tidbits of poetry and a bittersweet romance. When not writing and editing books, she’s writing on her blog– anything from book and film reviews to veganism topics to travel adventures. You can find her blog at http://www.emourly.com

 


 

And did we mention True Trans Rebels? This latest issue of Taking the Lane (#15) is the passion project of Elly Blue, guest edited by current intern Lydia Rogue and featuring Trista Vercher’s rad art of River the genderfluid Kitty.
The project is live at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ellyblue/true-trans-bike-rebel-taking-the-lane-15 and you can check out the video below.


Are you doing something awesome? Let us know!

Say hello to our rides

We love Bike Month — another month-long chance to give books away and show off some of our favorite stuff. From Adonia Lugo’s amazing new book, Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance, to the many bikes of Portland, to our beloved classics, Bikenomics, Everyday Bicycling, and SO MANY MORE.
And today, we want to share something a little different, so let us introduce… our bikes.


Trista: Purple Raine   purple bike

This is #2 in my Purple Raine series, and we are still in the puppy love stage of our relationship; we haven’t had any crashes yet. Raine #1 and I had quite intimate knowledge of the bushes on the side roads of Memphis, TN…


Cyn: Red Dwarf

This star and sticker-covered bike was gifted to the office by a friend, and I fell in love right away. It was a good 20 pounds lighter than my bulky steel thriftshop bike (simply called Red, who sleeps in our yard while waiting for a fix-up), had only a third of the problems (frame not bent! wheels that didn’t need truing! brakes that didn’t stick!), and it even featured my favorite shape (stars!).


Elly: My bike is a Kona Lava Dome mountain bike that I converted into a longtail Xtracycle almost a decade ago. It’s my pickup truck. I’ve carried friends, pets, boxes of books, groceries, plants, furniture, lumber, you name it. We have a six-foot bamboo trailer that I can hook up to it for even more capacity, like for hauling all the stuff we’re going to sell at an event.
My bike is my muse, it’s constantly reminding me of the real potential to do whatever I can dream.


Lydia: My bike was a gift from my grandmother. I’d originally bought it to train to commute to work on it, but by the time the weather was decent enough to ride (I was in Bellingham, WA at the time), I was about to move to Portland and far enough away from work it wouldn’t be feasible. After moving in with my mechanically-inclined girlfriend, she gave it a tune-up and I’ll definitely be riding it more once summer officially arrives. (I’m definitely a fair weather biker and I’m okay with that.)


Joe: Dainty

I used to work at the Bike Project in Bloomington, IN. A guy I know came in one day to build a touring bike. We found a brown frame with no parts on it that was completely rusted over. I put about ten hours into finding components that would fit and building it up. About the time that I finished building it, he stopped showing up. I was the same height as him. So I waited two more weeks and adopted it as my own. I had set it up just how I wanted with two road tires, a coaster brake, and a single speed. But into my mid 30s, my health was such that it was too hard to swing my leg over the saddle. I put upright bars on it and a basket for my service dog. I loved it. But it was cobbled out of literal garbage. One day Elly called me to say that my dream bike with a step-through frame and bright orange paint job was on clearance down the street. $300 later, I can tell you that riding a bike with matching parts is much smoother and functional – and I don’t mind having seven speeds either.

 


And don’t forget!

We’ve giving away bike books this month! Ten copies of Bikequity and a grand prize of Adonia Lugo’s upcoming book Bicycle/Race!

Check out the giveaway below, and enter soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway