an author’s dream come true: a generous, thoughtful review of small, fierce things

an author’s dream come true: a generous, thoughtful review of small, fierce things

A review of small, fierce things by Andrew Hamilton at maryjournal.org
A review of small, fierce things by Andrew Hamilton at maryjournal.org

This morning, my colleague, publisher, and fellow scribbler Jason Buchholz emailed me to ask if I had seen the review of my recent book of flash fiction, small, fierce things in Mary: a Journal of New Writing.

I had not.

As the writers out there know, and most readers probably don’t, the publishing world is not what the shelves at Barnes and Noble might imply. If you are not a Stephen King or a JK Rowling, (which 99.9999999999999% of us are not) finding a publisher for your book is not the domino that sets the rest in motion: it is only the first step. The next is a lonely, shameless, and grueling campaign of self-promotion and self-marketing through any and all means, such as selling your book out of your backpack, bringing your book to local shops to see if they are willing to sell on commission, posting relentlessly into the general cacophony of social media, begging your former teachers to consider teaching the book, inviting yourself to open mics and readings, and hoping your family, friends, and people from your writer’s group are not the only people who read it. In my case, I had the help of Achiote Press and my colleague Jason, who showed up at my readings, blasted his own social media to promote my work, and as this post shows, was out there looking for reviews of my book in his spare time (when he isn’t working full time, raising a child, co-running his small press, and writing his own novels.)

How does one get reviewed if you are a small, fierce mouse and not a large, visible elephant? You beg. You send out email queries and never hear back. You mail out free review copies to anyone who will take one, and then pass out after holding your breath for a few months waiting to hear back (while sheepishly googling your book title to confirm that no one has reviewed it.)

Then you give up.

And then, if you are really really lucky, a kind soul not only reads it, but reads it closely, and writes their observations down, and publishes it. In my case, that kind, generous, thoughtful reviewer is Andrew Hamilton at maryjournal.org.

I don’t know Andrew, but I would like to say this: writing book reviews for small presses is the literary equivalent of volunteering to get up and sing your heart out to an invisible crowd who may or may not be there, and who may or may not be paying attention. Most reviewers of fiction are not paid for what they do… except in review copies, a very small per-review stipend ($25-$50 if you write for say, Publisher’s Weekly) and the author’s undying gratitude (even negative reviews sell books). Book reviewers, in my opinion, work harder than the authors themselves… putting their craft and art into a piece of writing about someone else’s piece of writing. They are the (mostly) unsung heroes of the publishing world. Those who do have high visibility, like NPR’s Maureen Corrigan, give solid but eventually predictable and repetitively-styled reviews as bookends (yup) to Terry Gross’ show Fresh Air. If you are everyone else, you are competing to be read by an audience terminally distracted by the sheer white noise of the net. And don’t get me started on the reviewers who treat reviewing as an exercise in cynical showboating.

So, if you’ve read this far, please doff your hat to those book reviewers out there who do this work as a labor of love, a masochistic reflex, an unspeakable kindness, or whatever it is that makes them kind enough and crazy enough to donate their precious mental resources in this act of service. Andrew Hamilton, and maryjournal.org, thank you. 

Announcing my new book of illustrated flash fiction: small, fierce things

Announcing my new book of illustrated flash fiction: small, fierce things

Logo
 
Dear Readers,
In February of last year, we brought you news of our friend LJ Moore’s limited handmade chapbook small, fierce things, a project we fell in love with from the beginning for its sheer transportive magic. For the last eighteen months, LJ has been working to expand the collection’s stories and drawings. It’s complete now, and we are thrilled to bring you the re-release of this extraordinary work. Although it’s now printed and bound through conventional technologies (not hand-stitched by the writer herself with fishing net she collected above the Arctic Circle, like the original), we think its magic and grace remain intact. Here’s the copy from the website:
“This collection by LJ Moore exhibits a writer/artist in deep communication – with the natural world, with dreams, with her friends and family, with legends and folklore, with her craft, with her own subconscious. She creates startling and unprecedented connections among these entities, tying them together, conflating them, blurring boundaries and exploring overlaps. The result of this collection – forty-five drawings and some two dozen stories (they’re hard to count, with they way they move around, and sometimes mimic other things) – is an overwhelming feeling of synthesis, of unity, of a primordial oneness in which we all exist together. Here she gives us the freedom to delineate things in any way our imaginations deem necessary, so long as we promise to come back and tell our stories.”
the bird-shaped hole (excerpt)
she had always felt the bird-shaped hole. sometimes, after waking from certain dreams, it felt as if it had been filled. in these dreams she flew inside the bird, looking out its eyes, neither becoming absolutely the bird nor remaining wholly herself, riding as a welcome stowaway in a body whose dimensions were both right and strange. the owner of the wings and claws was aware of her presence, yet made no objection. together, they followed the wind’s suggestions, flexing and extending each remex and rectrix to barrel-roll between buildings, noting the astonished faces behind windows, and the neck-bobbing scatter of startled pigeons.
LJ Moore’s poetry, essays, short fiction, reviews, and photography have appeared in a number of publications, including Fourteen Hills, Limestone, Jacket, Publishers Weekly, Rain Taxi, Kalliope, Transfer, Instant City, Litseen, We Still Like, Artsmith, The Chiron Review, The Bold Italic, Sparkle&Blink, Enizagam, and forthcoming in 100WordStory. Her 2008 book, F-Stein, tells the story of family through pop culture, science, and the paranormal in the form of a replicating strand of DNA.
LJ Moore was a 2010 writer-in-residence at Headlands Center for the Arts, and completed a residency with The Arctic Circle, sailing on a tall ship around the archipelago of Svalbard with a group of artists during twenty-four-hour daylight. With Invisible City Audio Tours, she curated and narrated an audio tour of the gold rush-era ships buried under downtown San Francisco. She lives happily with two trained rats and a photographer.
– The Achiote Press team.
For more about Achiote Press:
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small, fierce things would like to come home with you

small, fierce things would like to come home with you

collage of covers

small, fierce book covers

small, fierce things, my new book of illustrations and stories, is sold out! However, if you would like to special order a copy,  contact me!  

 

I am delighted to announce that in conjunction with Achiote Press, my new book is ready for purchase!  There are 50 handmade, hand-sewn copies ready to slide, crawl, scurry, bound, leap, wing, flutter, slink, creep, dig, and nose their way into your mailbox. All you have to do is click the button below and decide how many small, fierce things you want!

Details: Each books is 5″ X 5″ and 70 pages long. They are printed on acid-free coverstock, hand-sewn using fishing net that I found washed up on the beaches of Svalbard (yes, the North Pole!) Each book has a unique cover created from  found textiles and photographs, and contains 12 stories and 28 pen-and-ink illustrations.

Here is what some wonderful people have said about small, fierce things:

L.J.’s Fierce revels in the often queer intersection of the human and non-human worlds, with a focus not so much on the digital world (which we might now have come to accept), but on the animal: how the harmonica might make a rooster berserk, or the way a man whose frown “seemed permanent” might appreciate eye contact with a porcupine for “the way it had come to be there in his hands.” This book is a series of anti-selfies: off-kilter moments full of wonder, not presentation; this is not a window display but a corridor of funhouse mirrors. You might look the same when you’re finished, but something inside will be different.

Evan Karp, founder of Quiet Lightning

In LJ Moore’s small, fierce things, feelings you never thought to name become animal, donning flesh, fur, spikes, feathers. Nightmares walk and secrets play the banjo. These very short stories, written simply and without guile, vibrate with power and mystery, celebrate the authority of ambiguity. What does this mean? Moore has a way with last lines that feel unexpected but inevitable, lines that pin her characters to inescapable fact but open up a world of feeling in the reader, a simultaneous shrinking and explosion of possibility. These tales dance at the edge of fantasy but are never twee, never merely fanciful. They are too serious, too much about the sad predicament of being human, to be reduced to the whimsical, though it is clear that Moore is enjoying herself, letting her characters speak for themselves in awkwardly charming ways. The animal drawings that accompany the stories preceded them, according to Moore, and the stories came about as illustrations of the drawings, rather than vice versa. The drawings are sharply rendered, slyly funny, with more than a hint of the bizarre. They, along with the stories they fueled, bring to mind Flannery O’Connor’s famous line, The Truth Shall Make You Odd. I think Moore would be okay with that.

Sarah Fran Wisby, author of Viva Loss, and The Heart’s Progress (forthcoming from Plain Wrap Press)

Cats bring prey to feed their young and LJ Moore must be part feline because her small, fierce things sustains us. In words and illustrations, Moore brings the wilderness of the imagination to our front porch. It’s a bloody gift, still warm. Good kitty.

Tupelo Hassman, author of Girlchild

“As its name suggests, small, fierce things offers world in miniature–finely tuned observations that break open upon contact, secrets within secrets, hidden worlds that lie at the borders between the natural world and human consciousness. Wondrously illustrated and carefully wrought, LJ Moore’s work is a strange and uncanny delight.”

Colin Dickey, author of Afterlives of the Saints, and Cranioklepty

Each story in this collection reveals an unexpected and mesmerizing portrait that spins with the exquisite energy of dreams. Populated with all manner of creature-guides, and ranging from the far north to your grandmother’s bathroom towels, small, fierce things is a constellation of bright marvels not to be missed.”

Stacy Carlson, author of Among the Wonderful

 Not convinced yet? Read an excerpt.

Interested in the process of how this book was made? Scroll down!

Outtakes from the making of small, fierce things:

small, fierce things take over my bed
small, fierce things take over my bed
small, fierce things getting together
small, fierce things getting together
sewing the spines of small, fierce things
sewing the spines of small, fierce things
small, fierce books
small, fierce books
small, fierce things: my new book of stories and illustrations

small, fierce things: my new book of stories and illustrations

After a long hiatus during which I recovered from the incredible experience of traveling to the Arctic Circle and sailing aboard the Antigua with an incredible group of people, I have been busy doing something new: illustrating and writing a new book.

As of yesterday, I completed the first draft and am very excited to be doing the layout and getting it ready for binding. Yes, you read that right, I am binding it myself. Thanks to Stevie Ronnie, a poet from the UK that I met in the Arctic, I now know how to make my own books. With the support of a local literary press (more on that later!) I will be hand-binding a first run of 50 books which will be available for purchase in early 2014. I will give you all the details when they are ready. Each book will be made with unique “found” materials… including handmade papers, textiles, photographic prints, and other ephemera. Each book will have a hand-stitched spine, using fibers I recovered from fishing nets that washed ashore on Arctic beaches.  The book is called small, fierce things, and will contain 12 stories accompanied by 28 pen and ink illustrations.

To give you a sense of the book, here is an excerpt of one of the stories in small, fierce things.

Please check back mid-January for news on when the book will be available!

the gentleman in the white coat

driftwood

Sigbjørn is Norwegian, though when he arrives to work in the coal mines, he is a newcomer to the hardened group that has already labored several winters together. He is not one to try to ingratiate himself, which is taken by many to mean he is either proud or simple or both. After a night of drinking, they try in their way to make him belong to them, suggesting various nicknames until, in a fit of backhanded alliteration, someone jokes “Sig the Swede,” and the insult sticks. After the explosion, he moves from Longyearbyen to a shack on an isolated stretch further along Isfjorden. He begins again there as himself, Sigbjørn.

Behind him, a ghost lives on. The men who survived the blast entertain the new men who come to swing the dead men’s picks in the dead men’s boots by telling them the story of Sig the Swede, who was burnt so terribly in the coal fire he could not bear for anyone to see his face, and so now lives where only snow and sky can look on him.

As spring and then summer wane, Sigbjørn watches the sun swing lower and lower in its parabola until each day is one long twilight. In his mind he calls the days days and the nights nights, but they have long ceased to have anything to do with light or darkness. He lives in the shack with only occasional visits from the gentleman in the white coat for company. The gentleman in the white coat is no gentleman at all, but large and hungry and abusive of friendships. He, like Sig the Swede, is one story to others and another to himself. The gentleman in the white coat likes to make himself Sigbjørn’s guest without having been invited. He endeavors to eat up precious stores and provisions, and the shack’s rugs and furnishings. He would devour Sigbjørn himself if allowed. His hunger has a magnitude to which it is difficult to draw comparisons, and when this hunger overtakes him, Sigbjørn is forced to scare him off with a torch or explosives or a shotgun blast.

Still, the vagaries of the gentleman in the white coat are preferable to what troubles Sigbjørn most: collecting enough fuel to keep himself alive through the polar night. He brought no coal with him. Coal belongs to Sig the Swede, and only without it can he be sure he is Sigbjørn. It seems fitting, in his darkest moments, that Sig the Swede had ended in fire, as Sigbjørn would unquestioningly die of ice.

But there is another thing he can burn, to remain himself: he gathers it along the beaches of the fjord. It gives itself to him in the continual darkness, revealed in its particular shade of gray in a landscape of gray. It is a gift sent from his home, a distant coast thick with stands of spruce and larch and pine. Dying first, then washed into the sea, it floats across the brow of the globe in drift ice. It begins this movement toward him long before he leaves home for the mines, long before the birth and death of Sig the Swede, even long before he had become Sigbjørn the first time.  Salted and bleached, it comes ashore to him now, gnarled, altered, full of fire.