Microcosm owners Joe Biel and Elly Blue bring you a workshop they presented at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association regional trade show, about the importance of connecting your work to an audience and the vitality of putting books in boxes (and all of the various dangers and how to avoid them).
Feeling down more than usual in these grey (or white, if you’re buried in snow) winter days? It could be “SAD.”
With two mental health books coming out next month, and the grey days of Portland still coming and going, we’re talking with Dr. Faith and Set Sytes about Seasonal Affective Disorder, AND giving away free books!
So, you think you’ve got SAD.
First: Don’t Panic.
But also, don’t ignore it.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that ebbs and flows with the seasons, typically causing extra depression during the winter months. This is especially common for folks with mood disorders already, women, and folks who live further from the equator.
Winter is the big SAD season, though some do experience it during summertime (me, right here, for real!), and it can often take sufferers by surprise.
Set Sytes, author of How Not to Kill Yourself, says this about his experience with SAD:
“I often find things more difficult during the Winter months (which in Britain is 11 months of the year). I get much less daylight (although I’m better than I used to be on that, when a week could go where I wouldn’t see the sun), I’m always cold and without the motivation to move to warm up, and the weather is so miserable not only do I not want to go out but I’m not happy inside too. While hot weather can have its own reasons for lack of productivity, the cold months can encourage depressive symptoms and make you more interested in curling up in a blanket than getting anything done, especially if you’re worried about heating bills. It’s hard to engage your brain and be creative and productive when you’re cold, there’s little sunlight and you’ve been sleeping in in a conscious (or unconscious) attempt to hibernate through it all.”
In This Is Your Brain on Depression (coming Dec 2018), Dr. Faith defines it loosely as “winter blues thought to be caused by lack of sunlight.”
“When my brother left sunny Texas to go away to college in Boston, his SAD was horrible. He went from thinking snow was pretty and exotic to thinking snow was some kind of evil plan from the universe to repeatedly beat him in the face. The light box our mom sent him was stupendously helpful.” – This is Your Brain on Depression: Finding Your Path To Getting Better (zine version available here)
What to do about it?
When I asked about SAD, the first thing Dr. Faith noted was that too many people ignore the recurring symptoms: “If a tooth fell out of your mouth every February, you’d see the dentist and figure out why,” Dr. Faith points out. “S.A.D. should be taken just as seriously.”
“I often wear 5 layers indoors and sometimes include scarf gloves and hat in that! And my best is 7 outdoor layers, but then I’m strange and nobody else seems to do that) means you’re warmer but don’t have to spend as much on heating (and you’re more comfortable just sitting in one spot). It also means you can move around the house and maybe god forbid open a window for a few minutes without suddenly catching hypothermia. Worrying less about cold will relax your survival skills enough to hopefully think about more creative pursuits.Also, candles, candles, candles.”
“It sucks setting alarms for yourself but sometimes it’s worth encouraging your sleeping pattern to shift not necessarily to a “normal” time frame (who decides what normal is) but at least one where you get more sunlight in the day. Even if you’re more creative at night, it helps to be able to separate each day into both day and night, otherwise it just all becomes one big murky dark abyssal pointless mess and there becomes no sense in doing something at one time to another – and when that’s how you think, you end up never doing things at any time.”
It’s the edge of winter here in the pacific northwest, and in Portland that means wet, gray days that are chilly but not frigid, damp but not stormy. On these many gray days, I know how easily sadness can sneak up and creep in, so we’re giving away books, of course!
This time of year makes me think a lot about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the careful line a person suffering from mental illness often has to tread to stay above it. SAD can mean a lot of different things to different people, but so often this time of year makes people feel extra blue, extra down, extra shitty; with depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and sadness all more likely to pile up on your shoulders like a miserable coat of fuck-it-alls. This is a line I often have to gently tread and have grown quite familiar with.
Wherever you are, we want to help you get through that shit. One way is with our March mental health books:
This is Your Brain on Anxiety shows you exactly what’s going on in your head when anxiety comes barrelling through, with down-to-earth breakdowns of the science behind it and practical tips to getting through it. Written in her signature style of swears, wit, and pop culture references, Dr. Faith gives you the tools to deal with, and perhaps even get over, your anxiety on your own terms.
How Not To Kill Yourself wants to keep you away from the spiraling hole of suicidal thoughts and get you back into the world, with tips, tricks, and pep talks to remind you that it’s worth it to keep getting up in the morning. With an introduction by Dr Faith, this survival guide is for anyone dealing with intense depression or suicidal ideation.
If you haven’t heard about these yet, here’s a few clips:
“The interesting thing here about anxiety as a stress response? The good thing? Anxiety means the body is still fighting back. This is fundamentally different from depression, which is essentially a wired response of learned helplessness.
Anxiety symptoms are active coping skills in the face of threat. The problem is only when the brain has decided that most everything is a threat.”
“Name That Bastard. Give your anxiety an actual persona to inhabit. Name it after a heinous ex, a shitty grade school teacher, or Kim Jong-un. Create a whole character for your anxiety. Anxiety feels so nebulous that giving yourself someone to battle really helps. Then you can have convos with Donald Trump’s Epic Hair Swirl (or whomever, but personally I think all panic attacks should be named after that hair) whenever it comes calling. You can focus on that entity the way you would an actual person that was threatening you in a real-world situation. You can negotiate, you can yell back, you can lock it in a box. Whatever works.”
–This Is Your Brain on Anxiety: What Happens and What Helps, by Dr. Faith G. Harper, PhD…
“Depression is a swamp because it subtly evolves, it changes. It’s a delicately balanced ecosystem, where every little thing affects something else. Crowding trees and vines and darkness obscure what else might be out there. It seems endless, but it’s not. It seems abjectly awful, but it isn’t. There’s life in a swamp. There’s hope. It’s small and it’s wild, and it’s as apt to run away from you as it is to approach you, but it’s there. It’s real.”
“Don’t let the world win.
Don’t let it keep robbing great people and dumping them in the bin of history.
We can put a stop to it. We can be the first to say NO!—or better yet, FUCK OFF!
Stand tall, stand straight, and tell the world where to go. This is one soul it’s not going to crush. You are stronger than that. You can FIGHT BACK.”
–How Not To Kill Yourself: A Survival Guide for Imaginative Pessimists, by Set Sytes & Dr. Faith Harper
To celebrate these rad books being officially released next month, I’m giving away 10 packs of How Now To Kill Yourself and This is Your Brain on Anxiety: two books that take common problems and gives you as much advice as possible to kick that shit to the curb!
AND (because it’s our fricking 22nd birthday, y’all!) I’ll be adding one random Microcosm backlist title on health, wellness, DIY or taking care of yourself to each bundle (possibilities listed below). I’m calling these Anti-SAD Packs, because we hope they help get you through the heavy winter season. Enter below, or check out the books webpages by clicking any images in this post.
Our test giveaway is over, and the results are in! Winners have been contacted and the books go out tomorrow.
Thanks so much to everyone who entered — and everyone who gave feedback!
We like this Rafflecopter platform and will try it out a few more times.
Interested in more giveaways?
This month, slogging through prime Seasonal Affective Disorder season, we’re raising our spirits (and hopefully yours) by celebrating Microcosm’s 22nd year with a shit ton of giveaways!
To start off, Monday we’re going to be giving away “SAD Packs”, featuring our March mental health releases, This is Your Brain on Anxiety: What Happens & What Helps and How Not To Kill Yourself: A Survival Guide For Imaginative Pessimists, so check back here then to enter.
After that, watch out for giveaways here and on our other Social Medias for a chance at more brand new books, past ARCs, and cool swag.
Stay awesome (and strong)!
For years Microcosm has run pretty rad giveaways through our friends over at Goodreads. This year, however, their terms have changed to include new charges for giveaways that we’re not quite willing or able to pay.
So instead, the next couple months will feature giveaways here, on our blog, instead, while we try out other options.
To try one out, we’re running a test giveaway below for some of last years Advanced Reader Copies. It’s super easy to enter using your email address or facebook, AND you get extra entries for doing cool shit, like tweeting about the book, answering a question, or visiting us on social medias.
I’m offering five copies of the advanced reader copies of Fix Your Clothes: The Sustainable Magic of Mending, Patching, & Darning.
Never even heard of this book? Here’s the description:
Ever had to say goodbye to a favorite item of clothing because of a busted zipper, fallen hem, or gaping hole? Want to save money and the world by not buying new clothes at the time? Concerned about the labor practices of fast fashion? Learn to repair your clothes from this cheerful illustrated guide. Raleigh Briggs, author and illustrator of the bestselling Make Your Place and Make It Last takes us on a mending journey through stocking your supplies, quick fixes, types of knots and stitches, buttons, mending seams, patching holes, darning holes, hemming, fixing zippers, waterproofing canvas, leather, and nylon, and so much more! Raleigh’s style is simple, playful, friendly, fun, and builds your confidence. You can do it!
Enter below for a chance at one of 5 copies of the Fix Your Clothes arc, by the legendary DIY zinester Raleigh Briggs, now through January 31st.
Introducing Microcosm’s new open submissions series:
Self Care Healthcare
How do people stay healthy in an unhealthy world? That’s the question this series of small, practical, accessible books will answer, with a focus on taking care of your physical, mental, and sexual health.
Are you a nurse, an herbalist, a physician’s assistant, a naturopath, a surgeon, an acupuncturist, a family doctor, a physical therapist, a midwife, a reproductive health clinic worker, a dental hygienist, a medical anthropologist, an epidemiologist, or any other sort of health expert or practitioner?
What do you wish more people knew about taking care of themselves?
What would you tell your patients if you could see them for longer than 15 minutes at a time?
What knowledge and skills would most improve your patients’ health and quality of life?
This is your chance to share your expertise!
We are seeking authors for short, instructive books that fill a gap in public knowledge and augment the resources provided by the current healthcare system. Books should be focused on building practical skills and understanding the science behind why they work. Holistic perspectives preferred. A focus on the health of people in marginalized demographics is especially encouraged.
Help us reclaim these ideas from the reference shelf and make them easily and cheaply available to the public!
Manuscripts can be 10,000 to 30,000 words. You can come to us with a completed or partial manuscript or just an idea. We prefer submissions for this series by credentialed professionals, but we’ll consider proposals from folks with lots of hands-on life experience in their topic.
To submit, fill out the contact form on our FAQ page and mention that you’re submitting to the Self Care Healthcare series.
What have YOU been reading/doing/watching/playing lately?
Here’s our traditional round-up of the media we’re rampantly consuming.
Honestly, I spend a lot of time watching TV. More than I should. Mostly we’re rewatching cartoon favorites (Adventure Time, Bee & Puppycat, Rick & Morty, Gravity Falls) with my sister and catching up on Flash, Legion, Black-ish, and One Day at a Time. I also try to catch up on Outlander and Black Mirror when I get the tv to myself.
In games, for a while everyone took turns playing CupHead and laughed at their endless frustration with it, but then my sister got sick and we just rewatched every episode of The Good Place for a week straight while she got better.
Listening a lot to Chromatics and Desire while working, plus a lot of soundtrack music (curse you, Clint Mansell, and your tone-setting movie music genius).
Finished a fantastically creepy YA audiobook called And The Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich, during my commute ride and immediately hunted down the author’s other audiobook, The Dead House, from the library. I am in love with it as well, and am thoroughly charmed by the author’s moody, atmospheric tales that keep me guessing.
Also been loving on Chin Music Press’s beautiful book on japanese cat mythology.
I thought December was a pretty shit month of fires and stress, but our family actually read A LOT. Hooray!
Our movie list:
1. Lady Bird
2. My Friend Dahmer
3. Edward Scissorhands
4. Florida Project
5. Get Out
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
We saw Lady Bird and Get Out twice, so there was definitely some meat for discussion on those bones. And I would add The Square. Lots of people in my cinema club HATED it, which made it even sweeter.
TV: Stranger Things 2, Better Things, The Dark (German series), Mindhunters, and we rewatched favorite cartoons Gravity Falls and Rick & Morty. I want to catch up on Black Mirror too, but the damn kid stays up too late. Or her parents go to bed too early….
Wow, 2017 was way less sucky if I view it ONLY in terms of great movies and books!
Joe and I have been watching Parks & Rec after work every day and laughing SO much. So needed.
“GOODBYE, LITTLE SEBASTIAN!”
“He does BEING A LITTLE HORSE better than ANYBODY!!!”
In media I plan to consume this month: OMSI is playing Studio Ghibli movies all month for 7 bucks.
I’ve been rereading The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward and haven’t been watching anything lately, but I’m really looking forward to bingeing The End Of The Fucking World on Netflix.
I currently have no streaming services and just a DVD player, so I’ve been buying cheap TV box sets and am currently enjoying Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time. I’ve also recently discovered the joy of taking myself to the movies, so I’m more up to date on current films than usual: Lady Bird (loved it as much as every other millennial woman), The Disaster Artist (such great things can come out of badly made things), The Last Jedi (always game for Star Wars), and The Shape of Water (liked it but didn’t love it like I wanted too—a little too attached to Pan’s Labyrinth still, I guess).
I almost always listen to my entire music collection on shuffle, and lately shuffle has given me extra Nine Inch Nails, Sia, and Kanye West.
I just finished reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett, a year behind everyone else because I’m the cheap kind of bookworm who waits for paperbacks, and I’m so glad I got to start 2018 with such a well-written, hook-in-the-gut book. About to move on to The Child in Time by Ian McEwan, which I expect to also love since I like the author so much I named my new cat after him (well, in all honestly, partially after him, partially after Ewan McGregor).
Music: I’ve been listening to Marvin Gaye, Elton John’s “Honky Chateau”, and a newer artist called Ariel Pink.
Books: I’m reading Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction to Black Holes and a biography of Antonin Artaud (the creator of Theatre of Cruelty) called Poet Without Words by Naomi Greene. I like to read a lot of different stuff at a time so I don’t get bogged down by one topic, so I’ve also been reading a collection of Langston Hughes’s poems.
Television: The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross and finally finishing Stranger Things.
Film: I haven’t had a chance to go to a movie theater recently, but I really want to see Loving Vincent. Every frame of the animation was painted in his style and the whole film required over 100 oil painters.
Theatre: I recently watched a production of Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty at PSU and it blew my mind. The script encompassed absurd theatre so well and the cast and set refused to allow the incongruous language to strip away meaning and urgency. There’s so much unnecessary information available for consumption, it often feels like a chore gathering the necessary media. I wish I kept up more with politics and daily news, but it usually just makes me tired or upset and I lose motivation to dig further into the things I really want to know. Instead, I would rather sit back with a cup of coffee and enjoy the soothing rhythms of Langston Hughes.
“Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,”
~ From “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes
My media consumption has been pretty wordy lately: I finally read forgotten fantasy masterpiece Lud in the Mist and totally loved it. This Census Taker by China Mieville is perfect autumn reading as well. I’ve also been reading more nonfiction, most notably stuff from Alan Watts and Slavoj Žižek.
I also started playing The Witcher 2 and it’s pretty great even if I’m seven years late to the party.
Musically, I can never get enough of Alt-J or Of Monsters and Men, and I keep listening to Foo Fighters: Live at Wembley and fervently wishing I had arranged my life better so I could have been at that concert.
Tweet your #rampantmediaconsumption to @microcosmmm to win a free sticker pack and book coupon!
Maybe it’s New Year’s fever, but this month a lot of us have been looking forward to the new year with outstretched (if a little cautious) arms and ready pens. We’re making plans, getting shit done, and taking the time for self-care whenever we can.
If you’re consciously taking steps toward becoming a better you, then you’re allowing society to grow, learn, and become more human over time as well!
Here’s what we’ve promised ourselves in the new year…
My resolution is to keep doing all the stuff I did in 2017 that went well and aim to do it 5-10% better.
I AM NOT SMOKING THIS YEAR, AND I AM TRYING NOT TO WANT TO KILL EVERYONE. Whew. Wish me luck and perseverance.
My New Year’s resolution is to find a weekly social thing to do, like a recreational sport or a dance class or something like that, to force my introverted self to meet more people and do some activities I’ll probably actually enjoy once I get there.
I do have high hopes for 2018. I’ll live in a country I’ve never lived before (still deciding which one) and I’ll likely finish my fourth novel, while continuing to publish 1d4 RPG books a year.
My New Year’s resolution is to journal every day. I want to write more plays, pilots, and comics, and to finish all the books I started and then read more!
I just straight up want to be happier and to be a better me in 2018 — but I’m gonna try following Elly’s lead and just work towards just a 5-10% better me 😀
What are you hoping to change or make happen in 2018?
Tweet us @microcosmmm with your resolutions or plans for a chance to win a Microcosm sticker pack! [One random tweeter will be selected to win over the weekend.]
Until next time, keep resisting.
On Friday, January 12th, 2018 Microcosm’s lawyer filed a complaint against Alex Wrekk, Joe’s ex-wife of nearly 14 years ago. The complaint comes after over a decade of attempts at settlement, mediation, negotiation, accountability processes, and many other earnest attempts at resolution. It is our last resort and one we are not at all thrilled to have to take.
Our sole goals with this complaint is to resolve an old conflict so everyone can move on with their lives and end Wrekk’s persistent harassment of Joe Biel, Microcosm staff, and people who believe in and support Microcosm. In 2006, Wrekk began publicly claiming that Biel’s literal communication style and disability to notice and respond to others emotional expression and nonverbal communication neurotypically were “emotional abuse.” Pathologizing of autism is common and if you’re unfamiliar here’s a story on Invisibilia about an autistic doctor who had seven medical assistants quit in one year due to, as she puts it, “over and over again the world didn’t respond the way she expected.”
Wrekk’s persistent campaign of bullying and neurophobic harassment has caused untold amounts of suffering to hundreds of people in the form of stress, trauma, poisoned relationships, canceled events, and friends told that they have to choose sides. We wish her no harm; we want only to be left alone to be able to go about our lives and our work without fear, just as we leave her alone.
We did not want to continue having this conflict publicly because our goal has always been to seek an end to this drama. However, as she continues to harass us, we want to again push for resolution so we can all move on and do the things that we want to be doing. If you have questions, most of them should be answered here and if you have something pressing that isn’t, feel free to drop us a line.
Update – June 1, 2018 –
As you may have heard, in response to our complaint, Joe’s ex filed a motion to dismiss our case on first amendment grounds—stating that she has the right to continue to harass Joe and the staff and authors of Microcosm Publishing as a matter of informing the community about an issue of public interest. We disagree strongly, and contested this motion to the best of our efforts. Unfortunately, due to the statute of limitations, her motion was successful. We were simply too late in speaking up.
We are deeply disappointed by this outcome, but know that we did our best. From here on out we will continue to focus on our work, publishing books that matter to our readers and providing tools to build a healthier, more empathetic world. We ask that Alex and her cohort do the same: leave us alone as we leave you alone, so that we can all live and do better.
Happy new year! What a year it’s been. On a personal level, it’s been really hard for a lot of folks, and we’re no exception. 2017 was a year of taking stock, facing tough truths, and returning to priorities. We found ourselves in the position of being able to offer some helpful tools for this, especially Dr. Faith G. Harper’s zines and her book that came out this year, Unf*ck Your Brain and Set Sytes’s humorous but so so true guide to How Not to Kill Yourself. It turns out that a lot of you really, really needed funny, practical mental health guides and getting to connect with many readers about this was a highlight of the year.
Last year we reported that 2016 was Microcosm’s best year yet (and not just financially). Well, we are amazed to be able to let you know that 2017 exceeded that by a whopping 52.48%!
Since last January 1, we’ve published 17 books and dozens of zines as well as adding about 500 titles to our distribution catalog (which we were intending to completely dismantle just a few years ago). This includes a 200,000% increase in witchy books, a subject that had not previously been on our radar but through which our sales team of Jeri Cain and Kristine ably steered us. Despite plans to end our touring program and reduce travel, we ended up doing a record number of events in 2017 too, including a trip to Europe in Aug/Sept! At the same time, our production schedule is booking dates in 2024 and we sent our final Spring, 2018 titles to the printer this morning.
We added some more staff changes this year: Kristine Anstine, former Comics Relief and Last Gasp long-timer came on as major accounts sales manager, Trista Vercher hopped onto our fast-moving wagon to do production, illustration, customer service, and paper pushing. And former star intern Sidnee Grubb will be taking a job here handling all of our precious human resources, sales, operations management, and making us the best Cosm we can be. Her future-husband Ben will also take on a role in our retail store and doing film and photography for us. Oddly, we didn’t lose a single staff person in 2017. We added four more!
We sold about 168,000 books last year; about 460 per day!
Here’s a breakdown of some math about our year, as powered by charts:
Our total income for the year was $754,939.94 (a 52.48% increase from 2016). Here’s a pie chart that shows what we’re selling. “Other” is mostly Slingshot planners. Z-MC Books is what we publish.
So as with most years, our bestsellers were our own books. Let’s look at a further breakdown of sales minus expenses of those books:
And here’s the sales figures in order of income, not taking expenses into account:
Unlike previous years, our biggest sellers are brand new and all of the top 10 (except the perennial Make Your Place) are from the past 15 months! Still, sales continue to democratize. In the past we relied on a single title to pay for all of our bills but now we have to rely on every book to bring in even just $5 per month so we can make that difference up in volume.
Lastly, here are our expenses, totaling -$820,034.61 and forcing us to borrow a bit of money. You see, we are growing so fast that we cannot finance it with our book sales alone. This is a wonderful problem to have as we recently learned on Planet Money! And we increased employee wages 19.37%!
We also donated $$59,672.00 (72.59% increase) worth of books to cool organizations! And wow, check out our rollercoaster ride: