This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we had the pleasure of speaking with Josh Cassidy and Carla Butwin, the intrepid creators of brand-new Microcosm publication If Animals Could Talk. Hear their amazing story, which spans entire eras of viral social media, two very different publishing houses, and countless foul-mouthed, frank, all-too-human animals. Get into the details of producing a highly-visual book, and contemplate the merits of various editorial styles. This book is a publishing parable of our times. And it’s hilarious.
Oh, aging rockers. We’ve all seen them struggle to get along and cope with life. Maybe they just need to sit around a backyard picnic table, share a vegan feast, and talk about their feelings. After all, to live is to stir fry. Automne Zingg, genius mastermind behind Comfort Eating with Nick Cave and Defensive Eating with Morrissey is back with hilarious illustrations of the band’s revolving cast eating their feelings and expressing their enthusiasm for food, but in a tough and intense way. “Yeahms!” sings James, riffing on a giant yam. Zingg’s work is coupled with the inventive and flavorful recipes of chef and queercore punk musician, Joshua Ploeg. Written in lyrical form, the recipes parody 40 of the most quintessential tunes. Crank up the volume while concocting plant-based recipes like Master of Nuggets, Pie of the Beholder, an All Nightmare Footlong, or maybe just a little stock. So let it be eaten. (Just don’t try to illegally download this book.)
When you don’t wanna go down to the pizzeria, whip up these vegan pizzas. Automne Zingg—mastermind behind Comfort Eating with Nick Cave, Defensive Eating with Morrissey, and Enter Sandwich—has illustrated these colorful pizza-themed homages to the boys from Queens, as they eat pizza, sneer at pepperoni, and play pizza guitars. Joshua Ploeg’s recipes wittily incorporate vaguely familiar lyrics and humor. Pizzas range from traditional marinara with vegetables and veggie sausage (Texas Chain Sauce Massacre) and white sauce specials (Carbonara Not Glue), to variations like Beet on the Brat, Havana Pizza Affair, Thyme Bomb. “Well, I’m Against It,” comments Johnny, but you’ll find a pineapple pizza recipe in here as well. Pizza is deconstructed, reconstructed, and, like the best bands, turns into something far better than the sum of its parts.
This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly sat down (like literally, on their couch in Philadelphia) with Kitchen Witch author Katie Haegele and her husband and fellow small-press publisher Joe Carlough to talk about publishing, writing, creativity, community, zines, their creative histories and future directions, and to get to the heart of why creative work is so meaningful to all of us.
Katie’s written tons of articles and zines and Kitchen Witch is her fourth book with Microcosm. Joe C. is the proprietor of Displaced Snail Publications and This & That Tapes. Together they run the East Falls Zine Reading Room. Their work is beautifully-done, full of heart, and affordable—well worth checking out!
A helpful, hand-written compendium for herbal remedies for a wide variety of body systems, from the teeth to the nerves, plus info about herbally treating various ailments like colds, parasites, and heavy metal toxicity. Sections on herbal preparations, recipes, aromatherapy, and general principles for health. So much is packed into the pages of this zine it’s incredible.
Ayun Halliday’s superpower is bringing people together to create amazing artistic happenings. Her book Creative, Not Famous, featuring words and art by almost 40 collaborators about the glories, perils, and responsibilities of being a non-rich, non-famous creative person, fits that bill nicely. It came back from the printer last month, a beautiful, illustrated, square brick of a book that is extremely cool and inspiring if we say so as small potatoes ourselves.
We chatted with Ayun for this week’s People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, and we also interviewed her separately for the post below! All of her stories about us are true, even if only the leading edge of the much weirder truth.
What inspired you to write your book?
Creating and producing Off-Off-Broadway theater with Theater of the Apes. It can be a losing proposition in so many ways. There are those sad trombone moments when you think, “Why the hell am I beating my head against the wall for something so few people seem to care about? Is it really worth all the misery it’s causing me?”
Of course, there are also those wonderfully triumphant moments when all the labor and time and the ridiculous financials of the thing seem, in retrospect, absolutely worthwhile.
As a theatermaker, I found myself flooded with gratitude to every single fellow small potato who took the trouble to support our efforts. (If you’ve ever wondered if an actor can see you from the stage of a tiny black box theater, the answer is yes.)
I am grateful to every person who subscribes to, resubscribes to, or buys an issue of my zine, or turns a friend on to it.
Community is something we small potatoes shouldn’t take for granted.
I have this theory that 99.9% of all artists, musicians, writers, and performers throughout history never “achieved” what society tends to consider success – wealth and/or renown. (Also, a lot of folks who were very big bananas back in the day wind up forgotten within a generation or two.)
And yet, we small potatoes persist! Why? How? What can we learn from each other? How can we hold ourselves accountable, show up for each other, and strive to be worthy of the comparative few who dig what we do?
Early on, I realized that it would be a mistake if mine was the only perspective informing this monster, and reached out to a broad range of creative people who seemed to have some familiarity with working at this level of renown and circus peanuts, who’ve been doing it for a long time, and who hopefully wouldn’t take offense at being pegged as a “small potato.” Their experience, observations, and oft-contradictory advice permeate the book.
What was it like to publish with Microcosm?
This is my second book for Microcosm. My first, the Zinester’s Guide to NYC, also had a lot of moving parts, including illustrations and handwritten elements.
A decade later, I harbored fond memories of sitting knee to knee with Joe in a flying-ant infested trailer in Portland, Oregon, a composting toilet a couple feet from my back, collaborating on the final manuscript for pretty intensive week. No, really!!!
Ten years was also about how long it took to recover from the communications hell of juggling dozens of contributors and being responsible for organizing their work…) I was ready for another go round.
Not every publisher I’ve worked with “gets” me the way Microcosm does. I chafe at having my edges and idiosyncrasies sanded down, and I really loathe seeing myself packaged as “wacky” or “zany”. That’s never been an issue with Microcosm.
Everyone I worked with on the Microcosm end of this book was patient, enthusiastic, and courteous, even when the placement of the illustrations felt like a giant, insoluble puzzle … my fault for treating illustrations like punchlines to specific sentences, while dwelling in ignorance of the realities of how books get laid out.
Finally, I know from experience that Microcosm keeps very tidy records and pays promptly.
What was the submission/query process like for you?
Wait, what now? There’s a submissions pro…WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED!? I’ll have to try that next time around…
As usual, I just sort of tumbled through the cellar door. Elly, Joe, and Ruby the late, great service dog were in New York City on business. They invited me to be a guest on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast [here’s that episode!]. We taped it in a noodle restaurant I’m quite fond of, and at some point, I started nattering about the need for a “small potato manifesto.” Then we went next door to a matinee at a small Brooklyn theater where I’ve worked in the past, and there was this regrettable, unforgettable moment of audience participation wherein I was called onstage and an Italian clown hoisted my shirt up to my clavicles without consent…but that’s an anecdote for a different interview. I can, however, offer video evidence of Joe, Elly, and Ruby on Metropolitan Avenue 4 minutes and 35 seconds into my 1-second-a-day video for 2018… September 23, check em out!
What else have you written?
Four self-mocking autobiographies, a YA graphic novel, a kid’s picture book, the Zinester’s Guide to NYC, more anthologies than you can shake a stick at without dangling a participle, a bunch of freelance work (including a decade of twice weekly posts for the great Open Culture ) and of course, my long-running zine, The East Village Inky. I’m currently working on a guided journal / creative exercise book to serve as an interactive companion to Creative, Not Famous.
What’s the best book you read in the last year?
The Council of Animals by Nick McDonell. The pandemic did not slake my appetite for dystopian yarns, apparently. This book delivers a biting, non-human-focused comedy of post-apocalyptic manners in which a number of species, domesticated and wild, engage in a highly political debate to decide the fate of mankind. I was particularly enamored of a demented, oppositional, lonely mutant lizard who’s convinced he’s a bat. Funny, topical, inventive…all the things I crave in end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it lit.
Where can people find you online?
In this bitingly satirical – and unfortunately still hyper-relevant – zine, author Johnny Parker II and illustrator Felipe Horas depict the dreaded and statistically extremely fatal incident of a Black man at a traffic stop. After a night out on the town with his girlfriend, the protagonist is stopped by a cop on the way home simply for driving while Black. The zine offers practical advice for other Black men to avoid being murdered by the state on their evening commute, and paints a hyper-realistic image of all the bullsh*t things cops say to pretend that they reason they stopped you wasn’t their overt racism. Finally, The Black Man’s Guide to Getting Pulled Over offers hope by encouraging the reader to channel their righteous anger into pathways towards change.
This week for the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly traveled to Cleveland where we sat at Cafe Avalaun and interviewed Danny Caine, author of the bestselling How to Resist Amazon and Why. Hear about the origin of the viral zine that sparked the book, the second edition in the works, what it’s like to run an independent bookstore, and how readers can tap into the movement away from giant online retailers and towards smaller, independent, community-based businesses… like bookstores.
This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly talk (slightly belatedly) about our publishing goals for the year ahead and how we plan to achieve them. Stabilizing our systems, ever so slightly slowing our roll, and sharing what we know all feature prominently. Watch the video to see them all!