Writers are actively connected to the past of their profession to an unusually high degree. Dead people are often the ones that put us on our career-path. You start with one and then a domino effect kicks in : we read dozens of such authors through our schooling years alone. Their successes, failures, and wisdom spurs us on to continue with what is, at the best of times, an intensely isolated and difficult journey. Depressed, frustrated, angry? Pick up a biography or read a quote; or, better yet, read a novel that has gained legendary status, is taught in schools, is part of our collective consciousness. Feel better, hopeful, encouraged? Almost always!
I walk through my writing life with an always-moving, jittery slide-show of mentor-muses rolling through my mind. There are those writers who have my respect or awe; those who I have learned from, positively and negatively; and those whose particular life vision or career pattern I admire and recognize as similar to my own desires and aspirations. The latter pass through the most frequently. I will never be Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope, nor would I wish to be. Yet, I can understand, use or emulate the smaller achievements of Kay Boyle or Robert McAlmon.
I have been the Literary Editor for a small arts/pop-culture magazine. This has, perhaps, fitted me out for my current ‘zining endeavour: I probably would not have had the balls to do it otherwise. I am not even sure that the idea would have occurred to me in the first place, had it not been for ‘The Atomic Tomorrow’. It is one of life’s true mercies that accomplishments, however humble, feed off of each other. I decided to jump into this abyss a few months ago. It took me several days to get behind the notion, as something viable and worth the considerable time and effort I would have to invest. Thus far, the hardest part of the endeavour has been my natural perfectionism matched with a ravenous desire to make the end-product an exact copy of what is in my head. I expect to fall only subtly short of this inner vision. This means that I am deliberately taking my time to set everything into place, just-so.
The easiest part of developing the ‘zine was coming up with all of the bells and whistles, the little extras I plan on adding to enhance the experience, to make it more interactive, tactile: photographs, fabric, bands, wrapping. Name? Check. Format? Check. I was also, early in the endeavour, able to hand over the very tricky layout into the capable hands of my good friend, and ex-Atomic Tomorrow publisher, KM Scott. Freeing up that aspect of the project has allowed me to devote much-needed time to the creative and intellectual parts that I enjoy most: writing, editing and rounding up outside contributions.
Deciding on content is proving to be the true challenge. Determining which ideas merit a death-knell and which ones deserve lasting life is difficult. I have had to lose some marvelous concepts due to time or space constrictions. I have the consolation of knowing that, if the first issue is a success, a second will follow. There is already a considerable queue of things waiting their turn for the next go-round.
Tracking down interview subjects, artists, photographers and fiction contributors is something that I have experience with. Before, I did it as the representative of an entity that belonged to another person: its ultimate success or failure did not hinge solely on my skills, tenacity, connections, and luck. This does. That leaves me breathless, a little excited: the litany of emotions is extensive.
While this whole project has been in process for several months, the next few weeks are sure to be the most interesting and intense. Everything is about to kick into ultra-high gear. The hands-on phase is about to begin. From here on out, I really do not know what to expect. It is all new. There is much that I will be learning as I go along. There are only 2 things that I know : it is going to be an adventure and I plan on sharing all of it with you.
About the photo: I chose the above photograph of myself to represent this series because a) I am too lazy to find something new and b) if you squint your eyes just so there is kind of a ‘twenties vibe about this image.