Monthly Archives: March 2015

Rampant Media Consumption – February/March 2015

a girl walks home alone at nightRMC is going monthly (turns out we’re all too busy producing media to consume enough of it to report on a weekly basis). So: here’s what we took in during the last month+.

Taylor

watched: a girl walks home alone at night 

read: susan howe poems via google search of her name, and a little bit of pale fire by nabokov 

heard: rhianna’s new song on every radio station. not a fan 🙁

 

Meggyn

heard: Curtis Harding’s (Burger Records), D’Angelo covers (I especially love his rendition of this), Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Curtis Mayfield, Caribou (I saw him on Tuesday this week at the Roseland), WAND, and some Brothertiger.

read: a few pages of Middlesex. I was distracted by the dirty glass I got of scotch at a dive…so I stopped. However, one of my dearest friends gave me a handful of books before leaving to Brooklyn last week, and I plan to dive into those. 

looked at: checked out the artists from the Bellingham Comic Arts Festival…I’m really looking forward to meeting them (Emily McGratten, Liz Yerby, and Ben Duncan to name a few)

watched: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. One of the greatest films I have seen in a long time. I went home obsessing over it and wanting to watch it over and over.

 

Elly

This month I was traveling most of the time and sick part of the time. In that time I managed to read four novels: 

– The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, the second two novels in Margaret Atwood’s unbearably believable human-induced-apocalyptic trilogy. At some point while reading these I remembered an amazing overheard from the next aisle when I was browsing at Powell’s one day years ago: A teenage boy saying to another “This is a science fiction book by Margaret Atwood! It’s really good! Which is weird, because it’s by a woman, but…”

-Zadie Smith’s NW (her name is the biggest element on the cover, which means her fame has exceeded any other marketable element of the book, aka she gets to write whatever she wants… and that kind of shows in the book itself, but still better than 95% of what’s out there.)

A Map of the Known World by Edward P Jones, a novel that centers around a community of free black slave-owners and the other people, black and white, slave and free, in their orbit in Virginia in the 1840s. Totally fascinating and magical and terrifying. 

 

Erik

Been interacting with Magic Seaweed, a mariner/oceanographic interface, well mostly it’s a surfers website that has abundant information on swells, weather, and other conditions so you can plan your surf trips. The weekends in Oregon have been fantastic this last month, considering the winters here are typified by the long dark wet, this site has been invaluable while planning my escapes. 

Been listening to the web stream for All Classical Portland. The stream is free and often quite good. 

Listened to some Radiolab podcasts. I found this one to be particularly engaging. It begins with a single story with ambiguous undertones. A baby girl is torn from her adopted parents after 2 years and reunited with her biological father who she’s never met. From there is goes to the Supreme Court and unlocks a pitfall of ugly American history. 

Began re-reading Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity. For those who love flushing out the perimeters of the individual and the margins of freedom, Beauvoir outlines the existential arguments of autonomy and our objectivity while at large in the world of opposing selves. It really is quite gripping! All the while you’re just hoping that you fill the shoes of your own freedom and subjectivity.

 

Joe

BIKES VS CARS 

Fredrik Gertten’s collection of eye candy on film is a frustrating treatise of emotional arguments stacked on top of jaw-dropping visuals. Lacking in substance, original research, or even delivering on the promises of what the film would offer in advance interviews and articles, the only expert in the entire film is a marketing person at a sad, outdoor car show who the film uses to pick apart the hypocrisy, lack of environmental concern, and unwillingness of the car “movement” to change with a changing world. Instead of looking at solutions to the global problem of an increasing number of cars, the film offers sonic vignettes and personal poetry, showcasing a few somber and opinionated individuals, such as a yoga teacher in L.A. who tries to hold onto the world of one hundred years ago and a compelling woman in Sao Paolo woman who refuses to give up her place in the fight for equalizing the streets. In the final fifteen minutes, the film drops the pretense of being an unbiased look at the debate and becomes a didactic collection of other people’s unvetted statistics about the dire state of how we all need to become like Amsterdam yesterday. Disappointing. It could have offered so much.

BIKES vs CARS TRAILER from WG Film on Vimeo.

COMETBUS #56: A Bestiary of Booksellers 

You have to hand it to Aaron. He never rests on his laurels and he never plays a song just to please the crowd. Yet, this might be the most insular issue of Cometbus ever. And that is saying something. There’s numerous literary references and otherwise here without context or explanation. I know my books and still found myself looking up numerous references. And maybe that is the point. He brings you into his life—where he is now—quickly and forcefully. He’s in love with a woman who acts like she is a bit of a savage mess while they scan bookstore dollar tables and he scours used book sales with other dealers all over the city. He looks at all kinds of obscure books and the men who deal them in NYC. How things get endlessly recycled and turned around year after year, changing hands for money, and presumably at some point making readers happy. At least for a while. I wouldn’t say that it’s his best but that’s mostly because he’s set such a high bar. This issue is particularly saccharine. He never quite ties up the love story in the way that you’d expect or hope—the one with the books or the woman—though we are treated to endless character sketches of the wild world of back door book dealing. From those who deal in hot property to weapons dealers to people who buy up storage units to those who deal in the collections of the deceased, it’s all here and it feels a bit like pricking your finger on a rose.

FEMINIST ECONOMICS 

The best thing I’ve ever read on economics and it’s super nonacademic. I couldn’t love it more! Where were you all my life, little zine?

#PEDALFUTURO 

On the street in front of the theater in Medellin, a ten-year-old girl approached me with a flyer and perfect English. The flyer depicted a bicycle tearing a car in half with a recycling arrow around it and a list of bullet points about the children’s visioning for the future of the city. She articulated her ambitions to create a sustainable city, harnessing the economic benefits of bicycling, and getting rid of the choking smog and vicious cycles in traffic for the bicicleta to have a safe and proper place on the street. Hit them up on twitter!

PUBLIC TRANSIT IN MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA 

1,000% better than any that I’ve seen in the U.S., I was shocked. In some circles, it’s famous and celebrated. While a literal black cloud of car exhaust hovers over the entire city, half-size busses show up at unmarked roadside stops about every two minutes, though sometimes you have to wait as long as five minutes. If you purchase an “integrado” pass for about 80 cents U.S., you can connect to the metro rail which runs the length of the city to reach the 147 square miles of city proper. The metro was explained to us to be a point of pride and thus it is so clean that you never see a speck of garbage on platforms or trains. A train shows up within five minutes, moves quickly and efficiently, and is so smooth that it makes you wonder why anyone would risk the gridlocked traffic and start and stop streets outside where an average of two motorcyclists die in traffic every day. As a further perk of connecting neighborhoods and allowing mobility for the neediest of citizens, there are escalators built into one particularly steep section of the mountainside surrounding the city. Two sections with massive elevation changes, where poorer (“popular”) residents live also have metrocable cars, suspended aerial trams that connect neighborhoods and parks to the main metro line and massively reduce commute times from popular neighborhoods to the rest of the city and for tourists to stimulate their economies. While Colombian traffic leaves much to be desired, the U.S. has so much to learn from these simple, reliable, and effective transit systems.

WORLD BICYCLE FORUM #4 

Founded as a response to a wealthy banker driving through a Critical Mass bike ride in Brazil, this event was founded in 2012 as a form of positive response and change. It has grown and developed over the years to become both a global movement as well as being one of the only transportation conferences that it is literally by the people and for the people. This year, in Medellin, Colombia, once the most violent city in the world but having calmed down after the U.S. murdered Pablo Escobar and slowed down his cartel and gang war, the city is now a pleasant and calm place that strangely bears much in common with most major U.S. cities in virtually every way, albeit with less panhandling. The event took a turn this year to include some trade show elements and to be a bit less of a grassroots exercise in empowerment but more like a U.S.-style suit and tie advocacy conference. It’s disheartening in some ways, but clearly was serving as an exciting injection of inspiration for the six thousand people who attended from all over the world and for politicians to stress their dedication to the bicycle. During a massive six-hour democratic discussion on Sunday, the future steering of the conference was decided, including the legal groundwork of the organization, how responsible to the grassroots organizations the board of organizers must be, what priorities are for the event, and where it will be held next. Join everyone next year in Santiago, Chile!

 

Tim

Last week’s reading was Scot Sothern’s Curb Service. Scot is a second generation photographer who strayed from the family portrait photo business and has been compulsively photographing prostitutes in Los Angeles since the ’60s, but it wasn’t until very recently that he gained any recognition for his work. He’s a bit of a screw up, in both his personal and professional endeavors, but he’s the first to admit it, and it’s actually a big part of what allows him to relate to the prostitutes he encounters and interact with them in a very humanizing way. It’s graphic and depressing, but also a look into the people that make up a world most often avoided.

 

 

Nathan

Watched this video of an uncanny sighting in a natural phenomenon.

Self-Promotion for Authors: Getting Psyched for Self-Promotion

microcosm authors at a book readingHello again! This is a series for Microcosm authors (and other curious bystanders) about book marketing and publicity. The first post in the series was a rapid-fire outline of our job as the publisher of the book. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what publishers do and don’t do (and a lot of variation in the reality, too), so hopefully this is helpful. 

This next post gets started on the author’s role by focusing on a pretty common anxiety among authors: Self-promotion.

Many of our authors have no problem at all with promoting their work, and some have come to us with years of building up a successful body of work or a personal brand and are ready to grab a megaphone to tell the world about the book they haven’t even written yet. Many others experience discomfort akin to panic at the idea of standing up and talking to a room full of people about their book, using social media to broadcast sales pitches and positive reviews, or even telling friends and family that they wrote a book and that there’s an opportunity to buy it.

First of all, self-promotion anxiety is so normal as to be, well, the norm. That said, you’ve gone through all this work to produce a book. The more comfortable you are with talking about it with friends and strangers alike, online or off, the more people who want or need to read it will be able to. And we’re here to help you do that.  

Here are some common concerns and what I’ve learned over the years, as a nervous author myself and working with many others, about how to tackle them:

 

I don’t want to spam/annoy/ask people to buy my book

Ok, good point. But there is a huge difference between actual spam (eg, twice-daily unsolicited marketing emails in bold, red, italic letters saying BUY NOW) and book promotion. Here’s another way to think about it: You just wrote a book about topics that you care deeply about. Other people who care deeply about the same things (or about you) are going to be excited to find out about, buy, and read your book. Your promotional role is to find them and offer them the opportunity to do this as easily as possible.

Practical tip: Think about what makes your book exciting and interesting. How did you get the idea for the book? When did it really come together? What have other people or your editor said that they like about your book? Write all of those things down and refer to them when you’re trying to find something to say about your book other beyond “it exists! buy it!”

 

Most people won’t want to read my book

That’s true. But you didn’t write this book to please everyone in the entire world (that would be the most boring book ever). You wrote it for your readers. That’s a very particular set of people and most of the job of promoting is finding them and talking to them (often about topics other than your book). Here’s yet another way to think about it: You’re part of a movement. Whatever your book is about—teaching in inner-city schools, making soap, cats, vegan cooking—it’s now become a building block in that bigger movement, and you’ve become a leader of that piece of the movement (and maybe a much bigger piece than just the one covered by your book). So your job is less to find random people and tell them you have a book, and more to connect with your movement about your book and the ideas in and around it. 

Practical tip: Starting a blog or forum where you write about many related topics (but keep a purchase link to your book in the sidebar) is one way to do this. Social media is another. For many authors it makes sense to bring readers into the conversation as much as possible. For others it works to share parts of their personal experience with the book. For yet others, the best strategy is to speak at conferences, write guest blog posts, and otherwise tap into existing platforms. Your style is up to you!

 

If my book is good, then I shouldn’t need to promote it.

Sadly, sadly, sadly, this is not the case. If it were, all our jobs would be much easier. Thousands of books are being published every day, readers have more choices than they can even understand, and much as we have developed your book uniquely with its title, cover, marketing, and publicity plan, it is still necessary to go out there and tell the world why it’s worth taking a look at. 

Practical tip: Practice describing your book in one sentence. We call this the Five Second Pitch. Find a friend, family member, or coworker who knows very little about your book and try the pitch out on them. How do they respond? Adjust as necessary. Once you’ve mastered this, think about other things that people engaged by this will want to know. Prepare a 30-second speech with more details about the uniqueness of your book and, if relevant, how it fits into existing news stories and trends.

 

Help, the critics are going to eat me alive!

Yeah, reviews are scary. It’s a mixed bag out there. Many famous and well-regarded authors have a policy of never reading reviews and we think this is a great idea. The psychology of it is unfortunate—your ten good reviews might leave you cold, while the one lukewarm one could have you grinding your teeth for years. We keep track of reviews for all of our books so that we can tell the world about the good ones and issue corrections for the factually inaccurate ones. So there’s no reason that you need to read your reviews or set up a google alert for your book unless you want to. Reviews don’t affect sales as much as everyone wants to believe (though bad reviews are better for sales than no reviews at all), so our advice is not to worry about them as much as possible. Easier said than done, we know! 

Practical tip: Instead of googling yourself, google other authors whose books have sold well yet gotten mixed or terrible reviews. They often have very funny (and helpful) things to say about the experience. 

 

Imposter syndrome (eg, feeling like you aren’t an expert or have no right to speak out about the topics in your book) 

First of all, let me reassure you: You did a great job. Your book is awesome. Only you could have written it, and you are perfectly qualified to speak about it, and the subject matter in it, on par with anyone else on the planet. We’re selective about what books we publish, and we don’t let them go to print until and unless they are good (and unique) inside and out, with strong, well-put-together contents that are compelling to a group of readers. No exceptions. 

Secondly, a lot of people feel this way. Trust me, many very accomplished people who seem utterly cool and collected on the outside are often a total mess internally when they’re up on a stage, or doing an interview, or approached by a gregarious family friend at a party who wants to know all about their book. It takes courage for anyone to step up and promote their vision. You’ve already done a lot by writing a book about it—don’t stop there!

Practical tips: Practice, practice, practice. It truly does get easier. It helps to have someone you can call on for supportive and encouraging words when you’re experiencing self-doubt or stage fright. Also, figuring out exactly what you are promoting (It may help to think of it as not being you but rather your vision, your readers, and your movement) can help you take the stage as an expert in a way that feels supportive of your community of readers rather than uncomfortably self-aggrandizing.

*

Go out there and promote! 

The next post is about promoting your book on social media. 

Snake Pit Gets Old

Ben Snakepit returns with an all-new book of daily diary comics, continuing to draw years of his life day by day in three-panel comic format. No matter how mundane the events of each day appear at the time, and without being able to know what the future will hold from one panel to the next, a narrative always begins to emerge in Ben’s life as characters re-appear and interact with him at ‘Some Shitty Job,’ at the local taqueria, out socializing, or at home. As the title implies, Ben transitions from the pants-pooping idiocy of youth to the dark, sobering responsibilities of adulthood. Read along in amazement as he quits his bands, gets a real job, has a kidney stone removed and much much more. A truly existential text that can be (uh, 18+) fun for the whole family!

Meet the Microcosm Staff: Meggyn Pomerleau, Designer

Slowly but surely, we’re aiming to introduce you to Microcosm’s hard-working, book-loving team. Here’s an interview with our on-staff graphic designer, Meggyn Pomerleau. She designs many of our covers, and sometimes illustrates entire books. 

I’m looking at your last interview here, with Eleanor Whitney when you were designing her book Grow, which was before you were at Microcosm full-time. Can you give us an update on your evolution as an artist, both art-wise and career-wise? 

I can say with full confidence that I’ve achieved the goals I set while in that interview, sans high stress agency job. My life is now devoted to design and Microcosm, and it’s a much better turn out than I could have ever expected. (I haven’t been inside a cubicle in over a year!!)

 

In the interview, there was even a mention on developing a style and I think I’ve nailed that. I feel more confident as a designer, illustrator, and artist. Basically this all has lead me to believe that if you truly set goals and want them, you will get them.

meggyn pomerleau

We went to the climbing gym the other day. It ruled. How’d you get into that, and what other pastimes and passions are you pursuing? 

The thought of falling off a cliff and not being able to simply pull my own body weight up has always terrified me. Recently, I’ve been trying things that will help me out if I’m ever in an intense survival mode, such as the situation I just described. When I was introduced to climbing by a friend, I thought that top roping (the one people usually see with 30 foot walls and being tied in with a harness) was all that was available….and then I discovered bouldering. Freedom. I fell in love. I had never done much physical activity like that before, and it motivated me to get in shape and push myself harder. Other than that, I’ve turned my side writing-gig into a side illustration-gig, drawing bands or people and my interpretations after seeing a concert or stand up show. I was never much of a writer and I now have the freedom to “review” with a drawing rather than words. I enjoy hiking with my dog, Padme Creampuff Blueberry Parmesan, and eating all of the burritos in the world.

You always recommend music for our Rampant Media Consumption posts. How does the music you listen to go with (or not go with) your design sensibilities and life philosophies? 

Most of the music I listen to inspires me because it reminds me of specific memories and takes me to a place where I can see, feel, touch, taste, and smell everything. I reflect on the past a lot because it’s a constant reminder of why I am the way I am now. I don’t think music shapes my aesthetic or even my philosophies, but it definitely keeps my drive constant. I’m frequently distracted by how much good music is out there, and I have to take a minute to step back and just pick something I can have on in the background…such as Las Vegas (my hometown) club music.

What are you working on right now? 

I’m currently finishing up Manspressions and Teenage Rebels, two of the hardest and most fun projects I’ve ever done. I’ve pretty much been laying low and holding my breath until their completion, and it will be nice to come out of hiding once they surface.

Favorites! What’s your favorite food? Favorite game? Favorite place in Portland? Favorite place in the rest of the world? 

My favorite food of all time are burritos. Traditional (vegan) burritos, non-traditional (full of mac and cheeze, fake meats, and veggies) burritos, raw vegan (collard wrap with seeds and nut pate) burrito, the list could go on. There are so many options! The most perfect handheld food.

My favorite game goes back and forth between Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. I’m terrified of the day I invest in a game console and one of those….I’ll really never come outside.

My favorite place is Portland is the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library….because it’s literally a dream. I’ve never had a terrible time/interaction/drink there and the vibes are so inspiring. It’s my favorite nighttime place to work. As far as exploring and nature, the hike to Eagle Creek is breath-taking.

My favorite places for the rest of the world are a bit sad because I’ve only been to the northern tip of Mexico and a few places in this country! It’s probably a tie between Chicago, Austin, and San Diego…all of which I plan to visit this year.

This is one in a series of interviews with Microcosm workers. The last one was with editor Taylor Hurley, and the next one is with publicist Tim Wheeler.