Tagged interviews

5 Ways to Fight SAD (& win books!)

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.

A Survival Guide For Imaginative Pessimists

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’ve seen a lot of people do well with adding vitamin D in their diet and using sun lamps (blue light that mimics the missing sunlight they are getting…there’s lots of evidence behind this treatment),” she says.
Set’s advice? More layers!
“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.”
“The big thing that I always ask everyone is about their sleep,” Dr. Faith adds. “Getting enough good quality sleep is the foundation for all wellness. People are always surprised when I point out that their sleep is complete shit and getting more sleep will make everything else far easier to manage. Sleep hygiene should probably be it’s own zine, eh? It’ll def be a chapter in Unfuck Your Body.”
Set totally agrees with the doc here:
“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.”

The Breakdown:

1. For your bad SAD days, try these tips from our authors:
2. Add Vitamin D to your diet.
3. Get (or make) a light box; get more sun.
4. Stay warm; add layers and blankets if you must.
5. Get enough SLEEP!

The Giveaway

For a chance at our two upcoming mental health books to help get you through the winter slump, check out our Anti-SAD giveaway packs below, and enter to win BOTH books by entering below, with extra entries for following us on social media or checking out some of our pages.
Winners get THREE free books:
-1 Random health & wellness back list title or galley
-AND our Book Tour Boardgame, to fight back against those bored winter blues!
Ends Feb 22nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Whole New Year of Rampant Media Consumption

HEY!

What have YOU been reading/doing/watching/playing lately?

 

Here’s our traditional round-up of the media we’re rampantly consuming.

Cyn

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 FlashLegionBlack-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 Housefrom 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.

Kristine

A bed full of books

Kristine & Family’s December reading haul

 

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 ThingsThe 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….

Plus the art collective FriendsWithYou and their exhibit at the Oakland Museum was the best mind-altering experience of 2017 that did not involve drugs.

Wow, 2017 was way less sucky if I view it ONLY in terms of great movies and books!

 

Elly

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.

Trista

I’ve been rereading The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward and havent been watching anything lately, but I’m really looking forward to bingeing The End Of The Fucking World on Netflix.

 

Kayla

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).

 

Troy

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

 

Ahi

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.

 

 


Your turn!

Tweet your #rampantmediaconsumption to @microcosmmm to win a free sticker pack and book coupon!

Saying Hello to the New Year With New Friends

This season, we’ve had the pleasure of working with some new Microcosmonauts: interns Kayla, Troy, and Ahimsa, as well as our newest staff member, Trista. They’ve been a huge help moving into the new year, and we’re so thankful for their time and work.
Always curious about the people we work with, I asked everyone about themselves and their lives. Below are their answers. . . Say hello to the newbies!

 

Kayla

How would you describe yourself?

A paradoxical blend of easygoing and anxious, introverted and people-loving, and thinking both the book and the movie were good.

How do you think others would describe you?

I relatively recently learned I was known as “crazy clarinet girl” to most of my high school classmates. I don’t play clarinet anymore, but people probably think similar things.

What brings you to Microcosm?

A love of books and determination to get into publishing, especially on the editing front.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the Seattle area and more recently from Boston.

What do you miss/not miss most?

I miss Pike Place, super snowy winters, and joking about how it’s just a little drive down I-90 between my two cities. I do not miss terrible public transportation or Masshole drivers.

What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?

My favorite thing is the instant hot water tap—kidding, it’s actually getting the chance to work on a little bit of everything and feel far more supported than pressured. My least favorite thing so far was when the umbrella on the deck blew over and made the scariest thud ever.

What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?

Strengthen my editorial skills, build new skills in departments I haven’t worked in yet, and deal with genres I’m not super familiar with yet (I’ve dealt with a lot more fiction in the past).

What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?

I used to write a lot, so I’ve been trying to ease myself back into that since I moved to Portland. Other than that, singing and cooking at the same time is a great power rush.

Favorite snacks and/or drinks?

London fogs, cheese puffs, scotch

Troy

How would you describe yourself?

A kid, coping with adulthood, anxiously creating whatever comes to mind.

How do you think others would describe you?

I’ve been described by my girlfriend as brooding, but I prefer introverted.

What brings you to Microcosm?

A desire to work near other people with a passion for literature

Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss most?

Missouri. I miss my parents and niece, but not the humid summer/frigid winter.

What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?

I want to learn from the materials with which I’m working, as well as make strong connections with, learn from, and be inspired by fellow Microcosmonauts.

What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?

Hiking and writing

What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?

I love how collaborative the process is and how willing people are to show the ropes.

List three of your favorite snacks and/or drinks.

Coffee, pita and hummus, and Montucky

Ahimsa

How would you describe yourself?

Hopefully in a very clever way. Maybe something like introspective, irreverent, intrepid, and fond of alliteration.

How do you think others would describe you?

I don’t think I’m insightful enough to know that!

What brings you to Microcosm?

Most days, the number 4 bus! But really, I’m here to get a little bit of knowledge about how to be a publisher.

Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss most?

I’m from Oregon. But until recently I’d been away for some time, and I missed the following things: 1. rain, 2. Powell’s, 3. Mexican food, 4. Fred Meyer, and 5. walking through cool neighborhoods and seeing the city breathe.

What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?

Know-how, the knack of taking a book from idea to a physical object. What the heck is a trim size matrix anyway?

What’s your favorite thing about where you live now?

I’m staying with some friends in SE Portland, which is rad, but even better they just got a kitten named Beezus. She’s quite cute.

What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?

I write a lot, always have, but recently am trying to become less “design-blind.” For empowering things I try to be open to helping people when they ask for help, and volunteer for many activities throughout the city.

What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?

The people here are super kind and great to talk to. There’s an anti status-quo vibe that I haven’t encountered in many work environments before.

List three of your favorite snacks and/or drinks.

Buja mix, dried fruit, and bananas.

 

Trista

How would you describe yourself?

Motivated, curious, enthusiastic. INFJ (if you’re interested in personality types).

How do you think others would describe you?

Reliable, flexible, thoughtful. A co-worker once described me as a cinnamon roll . . . I’m still not quite sure what that means?

What brings you to Microcosm?

I feel like stories are one of the most powerful ways for people to connect with each other and themselves, and I want to be able to help people find those stories and encourage them to create their own. I think Microcosm does that, plus the collaborative atmosphere is a big draw.

Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss most?

Thibodaux, Louisiana. I miss the food and atmosphere, the swamp witchery that is unique to the south. I do not miss the conservative traditions.

What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?

I never thought about how much goes into getting a book out to its audience, and I’m fascinated by the process and eager to discover different ways to think about books.

What’s your favorite thing about where you live now?

I could live in Powell’s. Also Oasis Cafe on Hawthorne, I could eat the Veggie everyday. Also all the parks/forestry areas.

What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?

I love to make comics and writing. I play guitar and write songs, which is just something for myself.

What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?

I like that Microcosm has coloring books about vaginas and things to remind us that while politics/activism/diversity/learning to empower yourself is important, it’s equally important to have fun and relax every now and then.

Do you have any pets (or particularly interesting kids)? Tell us about them.

I have two cats and two god-children. The cats are Goofy (moody introvert) and Percy (playful and ditzy), both are very clumsy. The kids are Bella/Bells (4yo, princess that loves wrestling and Totoro) and Josiah/Jojo, who is still a baby and I haven’t met in person yet.

Favorite snacks and/or drinks?

Sweet tea, pickles, red grapes (fruit is always nice).

 

Small Biz Spotlight on Brown Bear Herbs

Zines featured at the Brown Bear Herbs store

In an ongoing effort to tell the world about the great places that valiantly stock Microcosm’s work, this week we’re highlighting Portland’s own Brown Bear Herbs, an herbal apothecary in NE PDX.

Founded and run by herbalist Arati Ursus, Brown Bear Herbs stocks herbal cigarettes and blends, crystals, tinctures, teas, and a curated selection of wellness zines. Curious about this magical place, we asked Arati a few questions about what they do at Brown Bear…

 

1. What’s the story of Brown Bear Herbs? What makes you most excited to get up every morning and do what you do?

I like to help people wake up or become lucid with their personal stories. For me, herbal healing has been one of the biggest sources of “aha” moments and realizing that my reality is not as fixed as I thought. We can transform our realities. Calling certain things “bad” is poisonous to our minds and not at all conducive to deep healing. I like to make “bad” things “good”. I started with herbal chocolates that address the reasons people supplement with chocolate–mostly emotions. Now I primarily work with smoking blends and the reasons behind smoking. People can heal their
addictions by the same means that binds them. This is transformation!

I love hearing success stories from people who have quit smoking using my herbal cigarettes. Breaking free of addiction and dependence on greedy corporations is super empowering. It makes me smile to see it happen.

“Mother Earth, we are here to learn.”

2. Thanks for selling the books and zines we publish and distribute! What are your favorite ones that you get from us?

“Blood and Boundaries herbal bath, a chunk of raw hematite to ground intense energy and “What the Ladies Have to Say” to read while you’re in the bath.”

We have really been enjoying the School of Life Designs–but also like to have on hand political zines and books to help people get out and make a difference.

3. What’s your favorite thing you have in the shop right now?

A trio of support/empowerment: Our Blood and Boundaries herbal bath, a chunk of raw hematite to ground intense energy and “What the Ladies Have to Say” to read while you’re in the bath.

4. Based on your interactions with customers in the last couple months, what’s your prediction for our political/cultural future? Or what would you like to see happen?

I am inspired by the level of outrage and activism I see. I’d love to see a increasing surge in loud, voices and sharing personal stories. Everyone’s voice matters and everyone deserves respect and human rights. I want to see the realization that we (the collective minorities and undervalued and those who believe in human rights for all) are actually the majority and we will get what we demand.

Check out Arati’s shop online at BrownBearHerbs.com and in the real world at 309 NE Wygant Street, PDX, or follow them on instagram: @brownbearherbs or on Facebook.

The team at Brown Bear Herbs

Independent Publishing Love: Our Radical Friends at OR Books

the team at OR BooksAs part of our Year of Independence, we’ve been interviewing independent booksellers who we love. This month, instead of a bookstore, we’re turning to OR Books, a fellow radical independent publisher that, like us, also sells a substantial portion of its books directly to readers. That’s a relative rarity in the publishing world, where it’s the norm for every book to go through a string of distributors, wholesalers, and booksellers before making its way into your hands. We were stoked to meet these kindred spirits and immediately started gleefully conspiring to support each other… another activity that breaks the mold of mainstream publishing.

Check out their offerings, we think you’ll like them. Their recent releases include such helpful gems as Pocket Piketty and The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto.

OR Books publicity manager Natascha Uhlmann answered our questions over email.

1. What’s the story of OR Books? What matters most to you as publishers?
OR Books arose out of a desire to forge a different path for publishing—one centered around progressive politics, selling direct to consumers, and intense marketing. Our model varies pretty drastically from the standard publishing houses: we avoid Amazon and other traditional distribution methods. It allows us to sidestep some of the pitfalls of traditional publishing and focus our energies where they should be: on the book itself.

2. You are a politically progressive publisher—what does that mean to you?
It means taking on titles that are progressive, transgressive, and sometimes outright bizarre. I think we can all recall wrestling with a book that made us engage with the world in a different way—it’s a revolutionary, world changing thing, and I hope to recreate that same experience for others.

3. What are your personal favorite books from the OR backlist? Any favorites you’ve recently read from other publishers?
Extinction: A Radical History by Ashley Dawson makes the case that the environmental crisis we currently face is fundamentally tied to our economic system. Ashley traces the history of extinction and ties its catastrophic rise to capitalism’s unrelenting drive to expand.

What’s Yours is Mine by Tom Slee is a critical look at the sharing economy. He pushes back against the portrayal of platforms like Uber and AirBnb as democratic, pointing to the means by which these technologies simply shift risk onto the worker and encourages us all to settle for less.

Beautiful Trouble ed. by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell is a tactical manual for radicals. It traces a wide variety of activist groups and the approaches that they have found valuable. I’ve found it to be an incredibly valuable resource throughout my organizing, and a great primer for interested younger activists.

As for others:

In Defense of Housing by David Madden and Peter Marcuse (Verso Books) explores the commodification of housing and the violence of gentrification. They highlight that housing is endemic, not incidental, under capitalism and point to the successes of several movements organizing for housing justice – and how we can learn from these.

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel (Melville House) is a brilliant look at the global food economy and engages with some urgent questions: How are hunger and obesity interrelated? What avenues for resistance do we have in an ever consolidating system of food production?

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson (University of Minnesota Press) explores the Black Panther Party’s fight for health justice. We as activists owe so much today to their organizational tactics, and I think their articulation of health politics greatly informs current debates around single payer activism.

4. What are the most urgent issues facing the publishing industry right now? If you could look into your crystal ball, what is the biggest piece of advice would you give to yourself and other independent publishers?
The advent of new technologies means that it’s harder to command the attention of would-be readers. That said, the field is adaptable and at the end of the day, no one walks away from a good book.

I think the best advice I can offer is to remember why we’re here: because we believe deeply in the power of ideas. To get to work on a book that may go on to shape the way someone sees the world is an incredible gift. It’s a challenging field, but an utterly rewarding one.

Meet the Microcosmites: Tomy Huynh

tomy huynh of microcosm publishingOur newest staff person is editorial and marketing assistant Tomy Huynh! Tomy (his name is pronounced as though it’s spelled Tommy) manages our data, which despite his modest description is a huge and daunting multi-faceted task full of highly contingent details which few people, no matter how brilliant, are able to wrap their brains around.

1. What do you do here at Microcosm? What kinds of projects are you excited about right now? How did you end up here?
I’m the editorial and marketing assistant at Microcosm. I manage our marketing data, convert our current and future titles to eBooks, deal with trademark-infringement cases, do light editorial work, and offer support to anyone here who needs it. I started at Microcosm as an intern last December and was honored when Joe and Elly offered me a job after my three-month commitment was up, especially since I really enjoyed working with everyone in the office, and I truly believe in the organization and its products. (Is this answer sycophantic enough so far?)

Initially, I was primarily doing editorial work (copyediting and proofreading). However, I’ve been more involved with the marketing aspect of the business, focusing on data management (something I didn’t realize I really enjoyed doing until I started doing it).

2. What books have you read and loved lately? Do you have a favorite Microcosm book?
As of late, I find I have less time to devote to reading lengthy books (my attention span is shot); I’ve been reading more magazines, news articles, and short stories to get my reading fix. That being said, I’m finishing up an amazing book by Susan Cain called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Also, at the behest of my English-professor friend, I finally decided to tackle Marcel Proust (starting with Swann’s Way, which I hope to be done with by the end of this year). Regarding Microcosm books, I really like the Railroad Semantics series (makes me nostalgic for my train-hopping days, and it’s very well written), the Henry and Glenn Forever series, the no-nonsense therapy zines by Dr. Faith, and the upcoming book Cats I’ve Known by Katie Haegele.
tomy huynh and canine friend
3. Where are you from? What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lived there until I graduated from high school. Since then, I’ve moved around quite a bit, ultimately ending up here in Portland. In my mid to late twenties, I desperately wanted to move east—mainly Chicago or New York. But, for whatever reason, I was compelled to stay on the West Coast. (The farthest east I’ve managed to live is Las Vegas, which was where I lived for seven years before I moved to Portland in 2013.) At this point in my life, I’ve pretty much set down my roots. I guess that makes me a quintessential West Coaster, having lived in every West Coast state in the contiguous United States (California, Oregon, and Washington).

When I’m not at work, I enjoy gardening, biking, hiking, reading and writing, watching CNN, and hanging out with the hubby, our three pukey kitties, and our goofy, accident-prone dog.

4. Tell us a funny story about bicycling, food, or Portland.
Hmm… I can’t think of any funny stories involving bicycling. I have a few getting-hit-by-a-car-while-riding-my-bike stories that might be considered funny to some people, though those incidents were not so funny for me in the moment. I’ve been food poisoned (that’s kind of funny, right?).

A funny story about Portland… I met my husband here in 2011 while I was visiting my brother, who lives in Vancouver, WA. Actually, I met him when he and my brother were on a date (I was dating a Vegas magician at the time). Lots of hilarity, awkwardness, and drama ensued. And a few years later, my brother officiated my marriage.

Rockstars Eating: An Interview with Automne Zingg

automne zingg standing next to word dead

Automne Zingg

Ever since Automne Zingg sent us her zine called “Comfort Eating with Nick Cave,” the world has seemed like a friendlier, funnier place. So we schemed to do more work with her, culminating with a book of the same name that came out last month, along with its companion, Defensive Eating with Morrissey. And now you too can delight in some of her work. But these books are just the thin end of the wedge. We talked with Automne about her art (some of which involves rock stars eating, and some of which doesn’t). Read, watch, and listen on!

Lacey Spacecake

You have a great intro in each book about its origin story. What’s the short version of the story of how these two works went from idea to zines to books.
The short version is basically me dealing with poverty and heartbreak through art. I couldn’t afford to eat and drawing these pictures of my idols comfort eating amused me and served as an almost type of therapy. Turning them into zines to sell made it so I could afford the luxuries of eating. Having those zines turn into cookbooks was the thanks of you dearies at Microcosm as well as Joshua Ploeg. It’s one of the few artistic projects of mine that went somewhere and actually had a happy ending. Usually my creations die in obscurity or my ideas go unnoticed. This has been a great change of pace.

Rockstars Eating by Automne Zingg

Rockstars Eating by Automne Zingg

The response to these books has been tremendous! Have you had any particularly funny, touching, hostile, or weird encounters as a result of the books (or zines)?
Hahha. For the most part, I have been really floored by the support. There have been a few Morrissey fans not so amused by it but I expected as much. Honestly, I was really worried about the timing of the Nick Cave one since these were made before he lost his son and I didn’t want anybody to get the wrong idea. Fortunately most people get that this all came from a humorous place of love.

Old Manzig by Automne Zingg

Old Manzig by Automne Zingg

You do a lot of music and video art. What are your other projects? What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?

lacey spacecake video stills

Lacey Spacecake Video Stills


Right now I have a one woman band called Lacey Spacecake where I write and record all the songs, play the instruments, sing, and make the videos.

I’m also in a band called Bat Fancy. Unfortunately none of the members live in the same state so we are temporarily on a hiatus but here is a spooooooky Halloween video I made for us.

I’m also doing the art for my friend’s documentary about The Cure’s fans. She’s been working on the thing for 16 years.

Other than that, I do a lot of comedy videos and have a day in music segment (From Day To Zingg) every Tuesday for my buddy Kurt’s WFMU show. It’s never scripted and I usually say a lot of nonsense ranging from accusing Meatloaf of the assassination of JFK to telling people that if you play Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” backwards, it’s actually Peter Cetera’s recipe for grits.

But you can find most of my art, musings, videos, words, and projects on my website.

What’s next? We hope you’ll draw more rock icons eating…
Definitely more zines and definitely more rockstars consuming things. Currently I’m working on an “Adult Activity Book” with things like “YO MAMMA JOKES WITH JARVIS COCKER” and “HANGOVER CURES WITH THE CURE.” I’m also doing an illustrated guide to these bizarre weather reports I used to write in LA. What else? I’m trying to get a public access show in Queens where I play the part of a sad bear that asks artists and musicians really existential questions. It’s called “I CAN’T BEAR THIS.” I’m still looking for the perfect bear costume. There are worse problems to have.

Depeche Mode eating a hoagie

Violator

(P.S. You can also watch an election video Automne made for Kickstarter right here! You too may find yourself supporting David Boowie and the Ghost Formerly Known as Prince on the 2016 ballot.)

Ultimate Bernie by Automne Zingg

Ultimate Bernie by Automne Zingg

Merry Krampus by Automne Zingg

Merry Krampus by Automne Zingg

Mama Tried creator Cecilia Granata on the cover of Vegan Italy

Cecilia Granata on the cover of Vegan Italy MagazineWe got word last month that Vegan Italy magazine would be featuring Cecilia Granata, the author and tattoo artist behind our recent cookbook, Mama Tried: Traditional Italian cooking for the Screwed, Crude, Vegan, and Tattooed. It turns out that she’s on the cover of their October 2016 issue! Cecilia sent us the cover this month, and a couple of the interior shots from the feature inside the magazine. All these spectacular photos were taken by Luca Boveri.

Since we can’t read the feature, she told us a bit about it:

Cecilia Granata wearing an Eat Like You Give a Damn apron and holding a rolling pinVegan Italy magazine is the main vegan paper publication in Italy. It usually focuses on one personality (chef, artist, activist, celebrity, etc.) of the Vegan world (not just Italian) and then adds more articles about veganism, recipes, etc. They interviewed me and asked some photos and decided to put me on the cover because apparently I make a good character. 🙂

Basically the asked me about my life (moving twice from Italy to the US, how did that happen). How, when and why I became vegan; what are the main differences between veganism in Italy and in the US, including a perspective on which approach will be more successful for the future. And also how my passion for tattoos was born and how/when did it cross paths with veganism. A little bit about my art, iconography, inspiration, references, things I get inspired by. And how from there I also became a writer, with the publication of Mama Tried and to talk about the book.

Then a little bit about activism and they also published 2 fall recipes from the book, of which they took photos. Plus pictures of my book, art and tattoos. And me. 🙂

Veganism in Italy is exploding. In the last few years an unbelievable amount of offerings have been added to the market in a quantity and quality never known before. Starting from finding plant-based milks and breakfast in many coffee places, to ice cream parlors, bakeries, un-cheese shops, restaurants, public schools, supermarkets, tv shows, tv satire, you name it. I think the tendency will only increase and I am the happiest. I love Italian food and Italian products, whenever I go to Italy I bring back entire suitcases of food.

cecilia granata holding up her mama tried vegan cookbookItalian vegan food making has definitely a “healthier” characteristic that is not always found in Vegan made in the USA.

The debate is opening up a lot too, many events and projects are starting up.”

Punk Rock Entrepreneur: An interview with Caroline Moore

Punk Rock Entrepreneur coverCaroline Moore came to us with a book that really hit home: Punk Rock Entrepreneur: Running a Business Without Losing Your Values. We’re thrilled with how the book turned out. Moore’s examples are drawn from her own life, other scrappy entrepreneurs including bands like Green Day. This is like the anti-startup guide. Instead of coming up with an idea and looking for funding, this book is about turning your craft and art—what you would do no matter what—into a viable business without the benefit of having much (or any) money.

You can find out more about Moore’s design, illustration, and photography on her website, and check out her sweet goods (some of them Punk Rock Entrepreneur-related) in her Etsy shop. Oh yeah, and we still have a bunch of signed and doodled copies of her book. Order soon and snag one of them!

1. What’s the origin story of Punk Rock Entrepreneur? Where’d the idea come from? How did you end up with Microcosm?
Depending on how far back you want to go, the origin story is an interview I did with a group that focuses on entrepreneurship for teens. They asked what made me want to start a business, and I didn’t have a great answer for them, so I spent some time thinking about it. The truth is, when I started out, I didn’t even really think of it as starting a business, in an official way. I was used to my punk friends touring, starting zines, making and selling art, and that’s what I did—starting my photography business was very unceremonious.

After I’d put some serious time and thought into it, I found that a lot of what I knew about starting and running a business was from that DIY scene. I had been volunteering for a few years with Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, and it seemed like the kind of thing that would go over really well with their crowd. So I pitched it to Jeff Finley and Joseph Hughes (Jeff founded the Fest, and Joseph was handling the speaker lineup that year), and they let me have a spot on their stage. So the idea got upgraded to a 30 minute… well, it was supposed to be 30 minutes, but closer to a 40 minute conference talk. One of my favorite comments that someone tweeted about that was something like “punk enough to get kicked off stage, professional enough not to knock down the podium on her way out.”

My process for writing conference talks is that I basically write an essay, exactly what I want to say, and then practice that and make an outline to actually use as a reference on stage. Which meant that I had everything all typed up, so I posted it to my blog after I got home for anyone that had missed the talk. I was still doing contract work for a design agency a few days a week then, and my boss there said “you should turn this into a book.” I knew I had a ton of material that I had to cut for time, so I started putting together proposals to send out to publishers. I had heard of Microcosm because I’d done some interior illustrations for Bobby Joe Ebola’s book, which they published. After meeting with Joe and Elly at a Dinner and Bikes event in Pittsburgh, and looking over the catalog, the book seemed like a really good fit both for the types of books that Microcosm puts out, and the way that they do business.

2. This is your first book (congrats!). What has surprised you about writing and publishing a book? Any advice for other first-time authors now that you’ve been around this block once?
Thanks! One of the first things that surprised me was the sheer volume of words that I needed to write. It seems like you have so much to say, but then you type everything up and it’s six pages. I had gotten used to writing for blogs, for twitter, for conferences, for things that are meant to be short form. You have to be really concise and get to your point. Which is still important in longer form books, no one wants to read you droning on belaboring a point, but you do have a lot more room to really flesh out a concept. I also say something in the book, “you can’t edit a blank page, but you can edit a bad one.” Staring at a blank sheet messes with you, so just start putting words down. Even if they’re terrible, stupid words, just start writing for the sake of having something that you can work with. We learned to write in chunks when I was in college, and that’s still how I do it. The introductions are the last thing that I write, I start in the middle.

3. In Punk Rock Entrepreneur you propose the counter-intuitive idea that not having a lot of money or resources can actually be the best thing for someone starting a business. Can you elaborate a little bit on this?
It’s certainly not the easiest way. Having a huge pile of money to throw at a project would make things much easier. But not having a ton of cash up front does make you think creatively about how to get your business off of the ground, and it makes you look at the money and resources you do have VERY critically. In particular, you’re very thoughtful about what you’re getting for spending that cash. A band with a trust fund might be able to get an RV to tour in, spend a lot of cash on hotel rooms, food, top of the line gear, clothes, you name it. But that stuff might not be helping them bring in any more money (or fans). They have a lot of money going out, but may not have any more money coming in than the band that’s touring in their car and sleeping on floors. Those folks are keeping their overhead low, so they get to keep the money they bring in.

4. What are you listening to or reading right now that inspires you?
I’m actually giving a talk in Louisville in October (at MidwestUX) about how routine input leads to routine output. I’m really big on interdisciplinary education, because I think the bigger your pool of experiences, the more connections you can potentially make to create interesting work. I’m actually working on condensing that entire chapter (“We Live Our Lives Another Way”) down to a 10 minute lightning talk. I don’t have a ton of dedicated reading time right now (I have a 15-month-old), so I’m reading a lot of psychology articles. Why people behave the way they do is really interesting to me from both a human perspective and a business one. I just discovered the joy of Instapaper to keep track of all the things I want to read.

As far as music, I’m a little all over the place. My husband and I just discovered Smoke or Fire’s The Speakeasy, which is great because they stopped being a band in 2004, which is a recurring theme when we find albums that we both like. I’ve had that in the car on loop lately. I just picked up Signals Midwest’s new one, At This Age. We did a joint book launch/record release show, and I don’t have enough nice words to say about those guys or the music they make. And the last show that we went to was Sikth, which is sometimes hard for me to listen to, because they’re super erratic. But they’re doing some really cool things that I don’t hear much elsewhere, so I find it really interesting even though sometimes it makes me agitated.

5. What’s next for you, in business, art, and life?
This is always a super busy time of year for me, for some reason October is always booked solid. We’re taking our kid on his first plane ride, to go to his dad’s work conference. We’ve already done a work conference each this year, and we both have another one coming up where we’ll be separated. So for this one, we’re going as a family to spend some time together, plus also the hotel is right next to Legoland. I have a few events coming up, Whiskey & Words in Pittsburgh, then Midwest UX in Louisville. I’ve got a wedding to shoot, and I’m setting up mini portrait sessions to benefit Children’s Hospital’s Free Care Fund. Definitely more speaking engagements coming up, and some more events where I can set up and talk to folks about the book.

Things tend to slow down in the winter, and I can get into my “someday” list. Throughout the year I’ll have ideas for art that I want to make, and it just goes into the giant someday pile for whatever time I carve out for personal projects. Sometimes I don’t write up the best description, though, and months later I don’t understand my own notes (like that episode of 30 Rock where Kenneth has a notebook that just says “bird internet.”) I’m also rebranding the photography site over the winter, Ryan Troy Ford agreed to work on a new logo for me, and I’m pretty excited to update that. It feels weird to hire someone to design anything for me, since my undergraduate degree is in design, and I’ve spent a lot of years working as a designer. But designing for yourself is so much harder than for clients, and fighting the urge to just tweak it for all eternity is difficult. Getting someone a little more removed from it is definitely going to be good for the project.

For the business, this is the first time I’ve very intentionally done it part time. Even when I had a full time job, I was still really treating the business as a full time endeavor (which was not great for my health, but that’s a whole other interview.) Being our son’s primary caregiver, I can’t also work full time. We decided I was going to stay home with him, instead of doing day care, so my hours are limited. It’s a good balance for us right now, and I’m happy with the direction it’s taking. But the rebrand is part of a bigger theme of refocusing what I’m putting out there, so that I’m really getting the right clients to work with during those limited hours. Another thing that comes up in the book is how important it is to be attentive to your goals, and to revisit those goals to see if that’s still what you want. I can’t just look at someone else’s business to see what they’re doing, I have to really consider what I want out of my own business, and whether my actions are getting me closer to that.

Indie Bookstore Love: Women & Children First!

color illustration of the women and children first feminist bookstore storefront
All year, Microcosm is celebrating our 20th anniversary by putting the spotlight every month on a different independent bookstore that we love! Our indie bookstore heart in September goes out to iconic Chicago feminist bookstore Women & Children First—you can find them (and many woman-penned Microcosm books on their shelves!) at 5233 N Clark St. After they hosted the book launch party for Threadbare this spring, we asked them to partner with us for this month. Co-owner Sarah Hollenbeck sat down to answer our questions over email:

1. Tell me about Women & Children First. What is the store’s history? How did it get its name?
In the 1970s, Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon met while earning masters degrees in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Time and time again they would come across a woman writer they wanted to study, such as Virginia Woolf, Kate Millet, and Edith Wharton, only to discover their work was not available. Second-wave feminism was in full force, and activists around the country were starting collectives and businesses of all kinds, including feminist presses and bookstores. It was against this backdrop that Ann and Linda decided that how they would support themselves would also be their contribution to the women’s movement.

In the fall of 1979, in its original storefront on Armitage Avenue, Women & Children First opened its doors. The store’s mission was to promote the works of women writers and offer a welcoming community for all women. From the beginning, the store was committed to offering a wide range of programs, focusing on feminist and LGBTQ politics and culture. We are in a different, larger location now that’s in a more bustling section of Chicago, but our mission remains the same.

2. How did you personally get involved in books and bookselling? What is your favorite part of what you do?
I started bookselling part-time at Borders while earning my MFA in creative nonfiction writing at Northwestern University. I would later move on to work part-time at Barnes & Noble. While I had many issues with the corporate structure and impersonal environment of both of those stores, being surrounded by books all day was heaven. I always hoped that I’d one day work at indie bookstore. I never dreamed I would co-own one!

My favorite part of my current job is helping to promote the work of local and emerging authors whose work I truly admire. What I didn’t realize until recently is that booksellers have so much power in terms of shaping trends in publishing depending on what they choose to handsell. Everyone at our store is committed to handselling books by a more diverse array of authors—not only women authors, but authors of color and queer authors. We love encouraging our customers to be more mindful of reading authors whose culture or identity differs from their own. Listening to marginalized voices is integral to making the planet a kinder, more empathetic place.

3. Do you have a favorite Microcosm book and/or zine? What about other books generally, what are you most into reading right now?
Definitely Threadbare by Anne Elizabeth Moore and Learning Good Consent by Cindy Crabb. Our Social Justice Book Group is reading The New Jim Crow this month and I hope to finally finish it by then! I read a lot of memoir and essays, but I also can’t resist dark, character-driven, contemporary novels. Two of my favorite books that I read recently are Shrill by Lindy West and The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod.

4. How is the role of the feminist bookstore different and/or the same now as it was in, say, the 1970s? What is the future of feminist bookselling, or what do you dream it will be?
I believe we’ve built upon and strengthened our commitment to intersectionality. Feminist bookstores have always had a responsibility to actively challenge the traditional gender binary. Today, I believe we are more inclusive when it comes to trans, genderqueer, and non-binary identities.

Moving forward, my goal is to generate more effective strategies to have productive conversations with folks beyond our politically progressive base. We have a tremendously loyal community and I adore every single person who supports our bookstore. It can feel deeply empowering and exhilarating to have a passionate conversation with someone who shares your values and philosophy. However, when I read the news or travel outside of our largely like-minded feminist community, I often worry that I have become dangerously insulated. How do we begin meaningful dialogue—not shouting matches or Twitter fights—with those whose worldviews differ from our own? That’s what’s on my mind when I look to the future.

a photo of women and children first storefront books on display at women and children first women talking about books gloria steinem and roxane gay Karen Finley and fans