PEN & INK WRITERS JOURNAL
BREAKING INTO SMALL PRESS
There are two methods to building a list of credits in the field of writing. (A third method through newspaper journalism is not covered here.) The first method, favored by the majority of aspiring writers, involves submitting a manuscript to a book publisher or articles to magazine publishers. It is the most well known method and also the most difficult. Currently, since there are fewer publishers in existence they are less likely to gamble on new talent. The response time for these publishers is extremely slow. A book might take as long as two years for publication. It is wise to utilize the second method instead.
That method consists of seeking publication in small press. While it is true that even small press has also diminished in size, there are still thousands of zines, journals, newsletters, books and chapbooks published yearly. These publications cover a huge gamut of genres, topics, themes, etc. Learn the markets thoroughly. However, first learn the craft of writing thoroughly. It will save embarrassment and some rejection. Not all publishers are polite about critiquing submissions with frequent errors. Seek out libraries, bookstores and newsstands for books and magazines about writers and writing. Check out the Internet for websites that contain suitable information. Frequently amateur writers think it is necessary to pay for expensive university courses (some also available on the Internet). There is an inexpensive way--local writers' workshops. Some workshops are available on the Internet. The workshops are generally free of charge. Once a writer thinks he or she is ready to mail out a submission or two, learn the markets. There are small press publishers with a reputation for publishing quality writing. Try them first. If that does not work after several attempts, try some of the lesser known publishers that have been around a good while. If that still does not work, try even lesser known publishers or new ones.
A writer needs to learn his or her writing strengths and weaknesses. Take the necessary steps to correct any major problems with one's writing style. The best way to insure eventual publication is to keep sending out submissions to various publishers. Do not wait for a response from one before sending out another submission to another publisher. Keep writing. Keep submitting. (Note: In reference to simultaneous submissions--it is wise to send them out only to publishers who will consider them and always tell them it is a simultaneous submission. Some listings for publishers include that information. If a submission is accepted by a publisher, be sure to notify the others right away that the submission has been accepted elsewhere.)
Small press publishers vary in their requirements. Some maintain strict length limits while others do not care (if they like your work they will find space for it). Some pay a small fee (generally 1/4 cent to 3 cents per word) plus free copy while others only pay in copies. It is necessary for an aspiring writer to acquire at least a few paying markets for one's list of credits to be taken seriously, in the future, by a literary agent or major publisher. However, many small press publishers are only able to pay in free copies. Do not dismiss them. If it gets a writer's work published, it still adds to that list of credits in another way--a writer becomes known and more widely accepted among small press publishers. That lends to more work being accepted and perhaps better offers from the publishers who are able to pay. Some publishers do not care about cover letters. However, it is a good policy to send it along with a list of credits. When you develop a nice list of credits, many publishers will be impressed by it. They are like anyone else.
Until the past several years, the majority of the American population was not aware that small press existed. That includes many of the bigger publishers, too. By the late 1980's things changed. Small press publications were growing quickly and some large magazine publishers began taking notice. Articles about small press started showing up. In the 1990's, some books have been published telling all about the small press scene (check out the list of recommended books and websites accompanying this article). Until recently, small press was mostly as an alternative culture thing. Now, it has almost become a fad. The current generation of coffeehouse devotees, rock music fans, scifi/fantasy enthusiasts, and the goth-vampire subculture among others are into small press. The majority of these people are under thirty. However, do not think that all of it is youth-oriented. Small press has been around in various guises since the nineteenth century with the emergence of penny dreadfuls, later in the twentieth century--pulp magazines and various scifi/fantasy and horror zines promoted by the likes of H. P. Lovecraft, John Campbell, Hugo Gurnsback, etc. The current incarnation somewhat developed out of the 1960's radicalism as well as the earlier scifi/fantasy and horror publications. In the 1970's, small press started to grow at a rapid pace. The existence of some television shows and movies helped further viewers' interest in the scifi/fantasy and horror genres. Meanwhile, the literary zine, while always a staple of the more academic crowd, became more eclectic. Many of the current crop of fringe, quirky and medley zines are sometimes classified as literary.
Small press covers a broad territory: alternative press, zines, fanzines, literary journals and more eclectic zines, newsletters, books & poetry chapbooks, story collections, underground press, comix, inde press, etc. Alternative press mostly includes anything from slick to very poorly printed publications devoted to a variety of topics and themes not considered in the mainstream. Zines cover almost anything and everything from A-Z. Fanzines are mainly devoted to movie or television shows and their stars. Much of it is scifi/fantasy though it will include mystery, adventure, romance, etc. Literary journals are generally published by university presses though not always. The more eclectic journals are mostly published by small press. Newsletters, which are classified as small press, are available in a broad variety of topics and themes. Books and poetry chapbooks are published by university presses, individuals who self-publish their poetry, small press and medium size presses. The same goes for story collections. Underground press mostly consists of some subculture materials such as s & m, tattooing, goth-vampirism, death & dying, alternative lifestyles and erotica. It usually includes the adult-oriented independent comix market. The regular comix market generally includes itself alongside zines or fanzines depending on content.
There is a new emerging branch of small press that is and is not small press--the e-zine. Since the e-zine has developed due to the emergence of the Internet and the www, it is basically a new entity. Some of these e-zines have their roots in small press since some of the creators originally published some kind of small press publication or currently publication a print version of an e-zine. There are, however, some e-zine publishers who are new to zine publishing and have never published the print version.
The best way for an emerging writer to local potential publishers for their works is to find them through various publications (including books, magazines, zines, newsletters, directories) devoted to small press, or through the Internet. There are many websites devoted to writers, writing, and publishing as well as e-zines.
Next issue--"How To Become A Successful Small Press Publisher--And That Doesn't Necessarily Mean Making A Profit"
International Directory of Little Magazines And Small Presses
P.O. Box 100
Paradise, CA 95967
& Reviews of Zines
P.O. Box 170099
San Francisco, CA 94117
Osage City, KS 66523-1329
John Laboritz's List of All Known
The Gila Queen's Guide to
P. O. Box 97
Newton, NJ 07860-0097
7614 Cervantes Ct.
Springfield, VA 22153
Zuzu's Petals Literary Resource Homepage
Zuzu's Petals Quarterly
Zuzu's Links for Poets & Writers
Zuzu's Other WWW Literary Magazines, etc.
Ms. Smith's English
Brain Bait--English Grammar links,
Strands--extensive mystery links
From the upcoming issue
(For our NEW April 2004 interview with Louisiana mystery writer, Jimmy Fox, go here.)
INTERVIEW with the WEBMASTER of the POETRY SUPER HIGHWAY, RICK LUPERT
conducted by Sharida Rizzuto
Q) How did you become involved with creating the Poetry Super Highway?
The PSH started out as a small section of links to other poetry sites on the net . . . it was one web page . . . My goal was to expose as many people to as many other peoples' poetry as possible . . . so I started to feature poets online as well . . . started out with one a week . . . but the submissions were too numerous . . . so I quickly moved up to featuring two . . . soon the link submissions became far too numerous to keep all on one page . . . it all sort of exploded from there with classifieds, a bookstore, a chatoom, contents, annual awards . . . The Poetry Super Highway takes up much more space than the personal section of my website.
Q) What is your background in poetry?
I started writing "seriously" in about 1990 . . . went to a few open readings,
encouraged by the feedback . . . started sending work to magazines . . . Caffeine Magazine in Los Angeles was the first to publish me which was great because they were nationally recognized (they were written in Spin Magazine) . . . soon had poems in other places, Blue Satellite, The Los Angeles Times, and many other journals and magazines, and have recently had work anthologized in the nationally distributed Caffeine Magazine Anthology (on Incommunicado Press) as well as in the upcoming Juke Joint Magic Spoken Word Anthology. I give featured readings all over Los Angeles and traveled to Fargo North Dakota! and Las Vegas in August and September to do readings there. I have four books published.
Q) Are you interested in other types of writing?
I like short story, erotic fiction, humor, absurd novels, and occasionally science fiction. Favorite authors are Richard Brautigan and Harlan Ellison. I also like Douglas Adams, and have a secret passion for Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (please don't tell anyone). I have also enjoyed Douglas Coupland, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.
Q) What do you do when you aren't working on your website?
Lots . . . I only work on it a couple hours on Sunday (have it down to a science) . . . I work as a music teacher at a bunch of different Jewish schools in the greater Los Angeles area . . . I bring in my guitar and sing with kids basically. I also go to lots of readings in L.A. I'm a vegetarian, and I lend to the needs of my two cats, Cleopatra and Tigger.
Q) How difficult was it to create your website?
Not at all . . . though I'm sure it depends on your natural fear (or lack thereof) of learning how to do stuff on the computer . . . it was as simple as simple as laying stuff out in a graphical website creation program, and then learning the easy steps to upload it. There's tons of very helpful information on the web to help you to do more tricky things, and as it turns out, it's all really easy.
Q) Tell us about the different sections on your site.
My site is huge and my wrists can't last that long . . . but basically the front page leads you to selections from my four books (each of which has sample poems and ordering information), a Judaic links section, a miscellaneous section for poems/stories and real audio of me reading my poems, a calendar of my upcoming readings, a bio of me, . . . and the Poetry Super Highway which features two different poets online each week chosen exclusively from e-mailed submissions, hundreds of categorized links to other poetry sites on the web with descriptions of each one written by the site maintainer/creator, an online bookstore (in association with Amazon.com) where you can peruse the titles which I recommend or search for any book or recording in their huge catalogue an order directly online, an awards section highlighting the winners of last year's Web Sites and Poet of the Year awards which were chosen by e-mailed votes, a contests section with information on the currently running 1998 Poetry Super Highway Contest, an archive section with every single past featured poet's work online, a chat room with regularly scheduled poetry/ writing related events . . . (the chat room is hosted on about 20 different websites and we invite more) and probably a lot more which I can't think of . . . explore!
Q) What type kind of submissions are you seeking?
I seek submissions of any style, length or content. The idea here is to expose as many people to as many other peoples' poetry as possible. I sometimes put up work which I'm not that interested in, but which I feel is good work in whatever style it is written . . . it's not about me choosing what I think is better . . . it's about exposing people to other peoples' work.
Q) What has been the response to your site?
It's been very positive . . . I receive tons of submissions for Poet of the week, as well as tons of new link submissions every week . . . there are more than a thousand people on the PSH e-mail list, 20 websites hosting the chat room, plenty of contest entries . . . the only part that could use some help is the chat room . . . although plenty of websites host it . . . few people tend to show up for the events.
Q) Do you think poetry is only enjoyed by a small minority of people? If so, what do you think would help to interest more people in reading or writing poetry?
I think people participating in live readings is the best way to spark interest. I do think it's enjoyed by a minority of people. People tell me all the time that they don't like poetry when they find out I'm a poet . . . though my poetry tends to be humorous so that seems to catch the interest of those who don't normally seek out poetry. I think there are plenty of engaging poets out there whom the 'uninterested' just don't know about. It's an amazing art form.
Q) What poetry sites do you enjoy on the net?
I think the MiningCompany poetry site is great (http://poetry.miningco.com/) because they get a lot of attention, publish a great free e-mail newsletter and it's a well-designed site. I also think the Poets and Writers Inc. site (http://www.pw.org) is a fantastic resource for all writers. As far as individual poets pages, I thoroughly enjoy any sites created by Michael McNeilley as they all look great and have very enjoyable poetry . . . check my links sections for a good starting point to surf through his sites. (He runs the online publication, Zero City, and it's a good starting point.)
Q) What advice would you give to a writer trying their hand at writing poetry for the first time?
I'd tell them they've done a great thing by beginning to explore this art form . . . and I would encourage them to go and read their work at an open reading because it inspires people to write more and is also a good way to get feedback on your work. And as always reading the work of other people is the best way to improve one's craft.
Q) What are your future plans for the Poetry Super Highway?
Early September we announced the winners of the first poetry contest and
sound out the tons of prizes which have been donated . . . also toward the
end of the year we will begin the voting for the second annual PSH awards
for Favorite poetry websites and favorite featured poet . . . I'd like to
expand activity in the chat room, have more interesting events, publication
readings, workshops, to boost attendance and create excitement about online
poetry. Also, I've been considering for quite some time adding real
audio content . . . but it's a huge task so I don't know how/when that will
happen. I'm always open to new ideas.
Poetry Super Highway
INTERVIEW with LORI S. MAYNARD, The Carnival Poet
conducted by Lucinda MacGregor
Lori developed an interest in writing at an early age. Her main interest is poetry but she also writes songs, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She has a background in carny work and it has influenced her writing. Lori is a new talent worth watching. Her first poetry book, Poetry Carnival, is published this year (2004).
Visit The Carnival Poet at http://www.voy.com/40984/
Q) What inspired you to be a writer?
To tell the truth . . . I don't know. When I was in elementary school, I loved writing these long stories (about 20+ pages). Each year, I would participate in the "Young Author's Program." My 3rd grade year, I would not go because the assignment was to write a book of poetry. I couldn't rhyme anything at that time.
Somehow, a switch got flipped in my head when I was in 6th grade and started writing poetry. I contribute it to my time spent in the hallow near my house (which I later found out used to be visited by James Whitcomb Riley). My very first poem was about a huge tree in the middle of this woods that a stream changed its course around. It was a hokey poem, but it rhymed :o)
Q) Since you write poetry, fiction and nonfiction you obviously have a broad range of interests. What type of writing do you enjoy the most and why?
I've been known as a poet now for quite some time. The fictional works, I'm just now getting back into these since I stopped writing them in grade school. Nonfiction -- this is new for me as well. I would have to say fiction right now. I'm enjoying writing my horror story "Carnival Nights" I like to write fictional stories because I can interject some real-life experiences in them.
Q) Where do you find your ideas?
For as long as I can remember, I've suffered from depression. I guess that is what has developed my poetry (I can write a poem that will make a grown man cry). "Carnival Nights," this was inspired based on my travels with a carnival. I wanted to write a horror story that does not paint the carnival in the negative light. Believe it or not, it is society that is far scarier than the carnival will ever be.
A poem that I wrote entitled "Roses on the Ground" was inspired through the death of a new friend of mine.
I was very ill when he passed away and when I got to his burial, it was right when the caretakers were placing the flowers over his grave. Real life inspires most of my words.
Q) How does your interest in carnies influence your writing?
Ah, now we get to the carny question. Not so much as an interest in them as I am one (still a member of IISA - International Independent Showmen's Assoc.) I traveled with a small show for a couple of years and that greatly swung my poetry in a new direction. When I sat on my game counter, the town's people treated me horrendously. I was called names, accused of multiple false things and had been robbed as well. They skewed my vision on society and life for here it is, I was this "evil" in society (the evil carny image) and yet, it was those who had viewed themselves as "normal" terrorizing me. It was as though because you traveled with a carnival that we must have been these heartless beasts with no souls. Here is one of my carnival poems that I wrote while still on the road:
Scorned and Loved
Now I sit and dully wonder
at what my eyes now discover.
Is it truth or is it fiction?
I seem to make this acquisition
every time the lights flicker on
that bornes a legacy that won't live on.
No one cares to learn our names--
but that's OK, we're just the same
as those who taunt us in our place . . .
We're just like you . . . the Human Race.
I guess for now, I'll stay unanswered
as I work in this colorful lure.
To you, these words may seem absurd
and my destiny . . . unsure.
So, pass your judgement on my face
and never learn that I have a soul.
And cast me from out your race
because I work at the Carnival.
©July 1997 Lori S. Maynard
After being on the other side of the looking glass in society, so to speak, the carnival has allowed me to become more introspective of myself and to feel more. It allowed me to see the world as many never get to see it. I saw the greed of adults and children, I heard the accusations of trouble seekers and I've felt the ebb and flow of society all around me.
Q) Reading your biographical piece one cannot help but notice your strong talent for observation of yourself and others. How do you think you developed that ability?
I wish that I had an answer for that. I have lived a lot of pain, and, being a poet, I feel that I can describe pain pretty well :o) To tell the truth, I must say that the carnival helped me to be a better observer -- to allow myself to "step out of the box" per se and view things. Definitely has been an interesting life and I wouldn't change a thing, even if I could avoid the pain. That is what drives my works.
Q) After all the bad times you have experienced, do you feel a sense of accomplishment in completing your poetry book?
Actually, I haven't had time to feel that sense of accomplishment. My present job keeps me so busy, that I haven't even found time to proofread my final draft! LOL
Q) What motivated you to create your Poetry Carnival website?
I was new to the Internet -- Saw that it was free to start a site using voyager systems. I was not familiar with a lot of poetry sites. However, the site is currently dying. No one is posting. I hope those who read this will visit and revive the site.
Q) How do readers respond to your writings and how do their comments help you?
I've been asked to write poems for people all over the world. Most of these have been for them to give to their significant other. Their comments have been generally positive and have made some e-friends who know the pain that I have described. I've only had one negative comment about a poem called "My Epitaph" but it was posted by an anon who wanted to heckle me and used some foul language in their response.
Q) Besides your poetry book, what are your future publishing plans?
I have no other future plans at this present time. I'll wait to see how this first book does. After all, that was my dream to have just one book published -- don't want to get greedy :o) I'm happy being an Internet poet.
Q) What are your interests when not writing?
I ride a motorcycle, play pool, draw, and work in my yard. Oh, I'm also working on a 1954 Buick Century.
Q) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don't try to conform!! Yeah, advice is nice when it comes to structure, flow; however, a cookie-cutter poem doesn't move someone as well as an open and honest poem that contains human emotions and not forced iambic pentameter. I once had an English Lit teacher tell me that I was too philosophical and that I would not amount to anything!! Well . . . I never took her advice.
Q) Any final comments?
I have a song "Time has its Moments" that will finally be finished recording on Monday, April 26. I welcome all e-mails so long as "poetry" is in the subject line.
I was born on May 10, 1979.
CINDY VALLAR, Writer
HER CAREER as a LIBRARIAN
conducted by Lucinda MacGregor
Q) What motivated you to become a librarian?
My mother instilled a love of reading in me at an early age. I enjoyed stamping books as a child whenever my class visited the library. In high school I became a library aide where I learned a lot about the inner workings of a library. When a French professor ridiculed me in front of my classmates and made me detest a language I'd loved since elementary school, I changed my major. The college I attended, Towson University in Maryland, offered an undergraduate degree in school library media. It allowed me to combine my love of libraries with education, so I became a librarian.
Q) What is library science and what are the different facets of librarianship?
Library science encompasses the study of books and information and how to organize and provide access to them. Many people believe librarians spend their days cataloging books and reading, but we do much more. To become a librarian requires six years of college, a Bachelors Degree and a Masters Degree in Library Science.
Librarians manage and maintain the collection, evaluate and select the materials in the library, provide access to information in a variety of media, work with budgets, catalog books, and assist readers in locating books to read or information to answer questions. Librarians teach patrons how to access information and provide them with the most appropriate resources to answer their questions, regardless of whether that information is inside or outside the library. Librarians instill a love of reading in young children. They provide service to all patrons, including those who either don't speak English or have a disability.
Q) What are some of the different types of libraries? Please explain.
Most librarians specialize within their field. Archivists protect and preserve old documents and books. Cataloguers learn the intricacies of either the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress System to classify materials and to provide subject access to them. Special librarians work in a variety of settings where the library collection is subject specific, such as a medical or law library. Academic librarians work at colleges and university, whereas public librarians provide service to the general public. Others, like me, specialize in school libraries.
Q) How long have libraries existed and what is the oldest library still in existence?
The Sumerians had the earliest libraries. Rather than writing on paper, they stored information on clay tablets, many of which were destroyed. A few survive in museums around the world.
The most famous ancient library was in Alexandria, Egypt. It contained over 500,000 volumes and also had an annex with an additional 43,000 volumes.
Copies of these ancient works were sent throughout the ancient world and it's from those copies that we know the works of ancient writers. A large portion of the library was destroyed during a civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. Fire claimed much of the rest.
I don't know which library is the oldest, although that of the Vatican and Oxford University would qualify, as would any of the monasteries that still exist where the monks produced books by hand. The oldest library in continuance existence in the United States is at Harvard.
Q) How are books selected for libraries?
That depends on the type of library and the needs of the people who use that library. For example, a school librarian purchases materials to enrich the school's curriculum. A public library, where many patrons need information on businesses and getting jobs, might have special collections in that area. Librarians use a variety of tools to select materials, including review journals, patron recommendations, and genre-specific directories.
Another key component in the selection process involves the author's reputation and the authoritativeness of his/her knowledge, source material, and writing style. Budgetary constraints also play a significant role in whether a library purchases a resource.
Q) How does a library administration go about starting a special collection? Who makes the decision to start one? And how is a collection maintained?
I can't really answer this because I worked in school libraries, which rarely have special collections. Usually, the librarian in charge of a special collection has a particular knowledge or expertise in the subject area. Where the special collection involves history, then that library may also employ archivists who are adept at handling and preserving old materials.
Q) What types of damage can books suffer and what is done to protect books or to repair damage to books?
Torn pages, worn covers, broken spines, mildew, food and beverage spills, dog-eared pages, etc. Another damage comes from patrons compelled to make notations in the margins. Invisible tape will often repair tears, while books with broken spines or worn covers are sent to binderies for repair.
Climate controls help deter must and mildew. I don't know how to repair this type of damage, but there are books that detail how to do it. During one job interview I had that was a question on the test before the face-to-face interview.
Q) What kinds of different materials are kept in libraries?
Books, periodicals, newspapers, videos, books-on-tape, CDS, toys, Internet access, maps, etc. Almost anything you can think of is found in some library collections.
Q) What books are most often considered for removal from libraries or nonacceptance? (I'm referring to censorship.)
Books that someone finds controversial because of the content. The most frequent objections involve language, religion, sex, stereotypes, race, and politics. Many censorship attempts involve reading materials for children and young adults. Many libraries have written policies that explain how they handle requests to censor materials.
Judy Blume and Stephen King are two authors whose books are frequently banned. Here's a list of other banned books. Four were required reading when I attended high school in the 1970s.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Q) Do you think the majority of librarians oppose most censorship regarding the availability of books in libraries?
Absolutely! A librarian provides access to materials without allowing his/her personal prejudices and feelings to influence the choice of materials provided. It's not our job to decide what's best for the patron, but to provide information covering all sides of an issue so that the patron can make an informed choice. That's not to say that at times our life experiences don't creep into our work, but for the most part I believe librarians make a conscious effort to provide all available information.
Q) How do librarians assist anyone with research? (Please elaborate.)
When a patron asks a question, the librarian conducts a reference interview to clarify the exact information the patron needs. Unfortunately, people often don't request what they really want, so we ask questions to make certain we understand what it is they need. Once we know what type of information to look for, librarians often consult The World Book Encyclopedia first because it contains answers to the most frequently asked questions. Librarians always begin their search with general resources and from there consult more specific resources until they find the answer to the patron's query.
Contrary to popular opinion, librarians don't know everything. Instead, we're trained to provide access to knowledge and in today's world we have an overload of information. Librarians can help a patron to evaluate whether a resource is worthwhile and reliable or whether it's trash.
Q) Do you think the Internet (in some ways) has replaced a visit to the library?
On occasion because the Internet is available 24/7 and many people can access it from home, work, or school. Unfortunately, that's not true of libraries.
Q) Do you think the majority of materials that most libraries contain will one day be available on the Internet?
No. A lot of the information available on the Internet isn't reputable or reliable, and few people have the skills or knowledge necessary to make that determination. Librarians do and as society is deluged with more and more information, those who don't know how to find needed quality information will rely on those who do: librarians. The Internet is another tool for accessing information, some of which is quite costly. Libraries have greater buying power than most individuals and therefore, people will continue to need libraries to access information, whether via the Internet or through other media, that would be otherwise inaccessible. Also, libraries will continue to provide access to materials not found on the Internet, especially those materials published prior to when the Internet became a popular way to access information.
Q) How do you think the new Homeland Security measures for libraries will affect the relationship between librarians and the public? (I'm referring to the FBI visiting libraries to see the files of books selected by individuals.)
For the most part I don't see it affecting the relationship between librarians and the public because many librarians are already taking steps to protect patrons' privacy. Rather than maintain records as to what someone borrows, libraries are deleting such records. One result will be that librarians may not readily know a reader's likes and dislikes, but librarians have always maintained that a patron's privacy is key.
Bookstores are also destroying or refusing to keep similar records for the same reason.
Q) Where can anyone read more about libraries and library science?
Checkout the books in the 000s of the library collection. Talk to a librarian. You should also visit these two sites:
The American Library Association - http://www.ala.org
Librarians and Information Science -
Q) What requirements does someone need in seeking a career as a librarian? And would you recommend that anyone become a librarian with today's job market?
A Master's of Library Science from a university or college accredited by the American Library Association. Constant training to maintain skills and to keep abreast of the latest trends and technology. Membership in professional organizations. A love of reading, searching for information, and helping others. Some types of libraries will also require additional education in fields other than library science, such as art, history, education, etc.
Having retired from library work five years ago, I'm not current with the needs in today's job market. Institutions continue to need qualified, trained librarians, but budgetary constraints may limit the number of positions available. If a person also has a speciality or particular expertise that makes their skills more marketable, then they have the edge when interviewing. For example, during my first job I acquired the skills and knowledge to teach computer literacy and run a computer lab. At the time few people had those skills. When I had to look for another position, one of the schools I interviewed with had two part-time positions, one for a librarian and the other to create and teach a computer curriculum. My training and experience allowed me to apply for both positions and turn two part-time positions into a full-time one.
Q) How do you think libraries have changed since its early days, since the eighteen century and how have they changed during the twentieth century? What changes do you predict will happen in the twenty-first century?
Originally only the privileged and rich had access to books, and few women were even taught to read. With the invention of the printing press and the rise of the middle class, more people had the opportunity to read. Early library collections were privately owned and a large percentage of the books in them were of a religious nature. Libraries for businesses and the general public were an outgrowth of the Industrial Age. With more libraries and better communication, libraries can coordinate their holdings and provide access to them through Interlibrary Loan, a program that allows readers in one place to borrow materials from a library in another city, state, or country.
Technology will provide us with a greater access to information, often without us having to leave our homes. Some public libraries have created statewide systems that allow people to request needed materials through the Internet. These libraries hope to eventually deliver the requested items through the mail rather than requiring patrons to pick them up at the library. Libraries will continue to be front-runners in providing access to information through the latest technological advancements. Some public libraries are currently testing various means of providing access to e-books, which will become another important medium for library patrons, just as books-on-tape and CDS have in the past. What will limit the growth of services offered will be economic and budgetary constraints. There may come a time when patrons have to decide how important libraries are to them and whether they're willing to pay to use them or the special services they can offer.
Q) Considering that you have retired, if you had to start all over again, would you still choose to become a librarian and why?
Perhaps, perhaps not. When I was in high school, the guidance counselors and curriculum didn't share all the possible career paths I could choose.
My parents planned for me to go to college, and there was no going against their wishes. Although women's lib was around then, it was still in its infancy, so I didn't pursue professions that women today wouldn't think twice about entering. My tastes and interests have changed over the years, but my thirst for knowledge and love of history remain the same. Perhaps that's one reason why I retired, to pursue other interests, writing and editing.
Editor of Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy
(See interview in Seascapes regarding her writings.)
STEPHEN DUNCOMBE, WRITER
author of Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture and more
conducted by Lucinda
BIO: Stephen Duncombe is the ex-editor of Primary Documents, a zine of historical primary sources as well as the author of Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture and the editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader. He teaches the history and politics of Media and Culture at the Gallatin School of New York University.
DUNCOMBE: Wow. That's one hell of an interview. I'm not sure I'll do your questions justice but here are some of my thoughts.
Q) Your book is undoubtedly the definitive work on zine culture. What motivated you to write it?
Two things. One, I was looking for a topic for a dissertation I needed to write -- I received my Ph.D. in sociology from the City University of New York -- and zines seemed the perfect topic: interesting, readable, rich in meaning . . . and, above all, fun (The last is important as you have to spend years researching and writing a dissertation). This dissertation later became my book.
The second motivation, and probably the more important one, was my desire to explore the two great loves of my life: underground culture and radical politics. Zines were a lens through which to look at the intertwining strands.
Q) In your book you discuss the background of a typical zinester. What is it and how do you draw your conclusions?
What it is is this: young, (often formerly) middle class, white and part of an underground scene of some sort. In other words: the same population who has made up bohemia for the past 150 years. Thus said there are many exceptions to this rule: some of my favorites are by older writers,
Non-white writers, even non-bohemian writers.
I came to this conclusion by gleaning what I could out of the personal statements of the thousands of zines I read and interviewing nearly 50 zine writers and asking them about their experience with the zine writers they knew.
Q) Please elaborate regarding your statement, "Zines are speaking to and for an underground culture."
Zines speak for an underground culture in that this is what their subject matter is: literature, music, obsessions, feelings and what-have-you that are usually neglected by mainstream, commercial culture. They speak to this culture in that participants in these underground cultures use zines to communicate with one another.
Q) How does radicalization in the zine underground thrive while mainstream America carries on in its morass of conformity?
Good god, that's a question. The long answer is my book (or read Malcolm Cowley, Tom Frank or David Brooks). The short answer is that consumer culture thrives on cultural dissent: it is "the other" which makes up new trends and new markets and new products. In addition, I have this suspicion that we, in this country, lead bifurcated lives. We quite easily divorce our fantasy lives from our everyday actions. This is true if whether your fantasy life is shoot-em up games or bohemianism.
Q) What type of zines are generally popular in small press and what is the range of diversity in zines? (NOTE: Part of Question 18 asks about popular zines but in your answer please discuss zines from a somewhat different perspective.)
That's the beauty of zines -- they are about EVERYTHING. Since zines are, above all, personal expressions of their creator's passions, they are as diverse as their creators.
Q) You comment that mainstream America and the "powers that be" do not perceive the zine underground as a threat and instead the Media makes use of promoting zine culture as one more thing to profit from. Surely they perceive the zine underground as a threat and promote it only to dilute it and make it ineffective as a tool of the zinesters, since once it becomes mainstream it will effectively kill the zine underground? You mention that the "powers that be" have worked hard to convince the masses that "there is no alternative" to "the current system." Surely that is further proof that they have every intention of diluting zine culture in any and every way possible? Some would say that the profit they could derive from incorporating zine culture is more important than ultimately destroying it. It seems that it is more of a class thing and the "powers that be" cannot leave it well enough alone. They cannot tolerate anything that might give power to the people and work as a true form of democracy. Anything that might in any way pose a threat to the elite powers of the U.S., will not be tolerated for long. Your comments?
I don't think zines are a threat. I think they could be a threat if people applied the Do-It-Yourself ethic of zines to other spheres of their life like politics. But zines in themselves -- like underground culture writ large -- is not a challenge if it stays purely cultural. Why the mainstream, commercial culture co-opted zines had less to do with them as a threat than the possibility that zines would provide a good marketing opportunity; a way to sell products.
Q) How are zines put together from scratch? Discuss the different methods used from the origins of small press up to the present. And, how has the push toward turning a strictly DIY project into a more commercial endeavor with desktop publishing altered zine culture? Surely though it has somewhat made zines more acceptable to mainstream culture, at the same time it has worked to destroy the original spirit in which zines are created? Another words, for zines to remain pure should zine publishers (the "zine purists") maintain the old methods of production, the old formats of originality and not seek promoting their zines in mainstream culture? Or, perhaps a middle ground could be achieved? Comments?
I've never been one for purity. When you keep an aesthetic solely because it is "zine like" you've fetishized it -- turned it into a product itself.
Q) You comment that zinesters would be horrified to be labeled as "bohemian." Why?
Because it's such a 19th Century term. No one - including myself -- likes to think that they've come before.
Q) Is the "weblog" just another version of a webpage or webzine? Explain the differences, if any.
I think it's very similar. What's lost on the web is the small insular world -- or network -- of zine exchange. Anything on the web is more democratic: it is open to anyone with a computer and web access. This is good. But what also gets lost in the process are the thick set of values that those "in the know" possess and share.
Q) While the Internet is great for democratizing and bringing people from everywhere together, does it not also isolate them in some respects since it promotes people sitting at their computers locked away in their houses as opposed to being outside and participating in closer contact with other people? Or, is that balanced out by the fact that they encounter people from everywhere on the net as opposed to only one's own neighborhood or one's town if not on the net?
Better to sit in front of an interactive computer than to sit in front of a one-way TV -- which is probably what most people were doing.
Q) In stating that underground culture is not what it used to be in cities across America since rents have gone up tremendously and cafes have mostly been replaced by the likes of Starbucks, do zines fill that void? How about the Internet? Elaborate on both.
I think media like zines or the Internet have filled the void -- creating a "virtual bohemia."
Q) Regarding your statement that, "As individuals, zinesters may be losers in the game of American meritocracy . . . ," please explain. Surely it does not matter to many diehard zinesters? Comments? (I for one have never cared how mainstream America perceives me. If I did, I could never have carried on as someone outside the mainstream my entire life. I have been committed to small press for 20 years now and that is all I do and will ever do. I only care about how I perceive me. I have always identified the mainstream, and in particular the "powers that be," as very much like the seed pods in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" so you can well imagine what a negative opinion I have of them.) Comments?
Exactly -- it the glorification of the term "losers." That is: understanding that being a "loser" in the eyes of a society you disdain is in fact being a winner in your own eyes and those who you respect.
Q) You comment about how perzine writers go against the grain by choosing not to wait for approval from the big publishers to be accepted for publication. They simply publish their own journals. Surely as part of a real democracy the people should have the right to express themselves freely in any manner as long as it does not physically hurt someone? Care to elaborate?
I agree -- and so far they have not revoked this right of ours in the Constitution. Yet.
Q) You state that "stressing the personal is a way of seizing authority. It's a way for zinesters to assert that they have the right to think and write about the stuff they are passionate about . . .
Personalization is the work of individuals who don't have a void that matters in public discussions about culture and politics saying: Yes I do matter, that is what I believe, this idea of mine." You further state that citizens in colonial times could become involved in the political realm whereas today that is not possible. And that is the case because the "powers that be" see themselves as the only ones fit to rule so they will not tolerate the little guy interfering in their control over America. Therefore ordinary Americans are alienated from the system and they are discouraged from participating--the "powers that be" insure that the attitude prevails against it. Since you are convinced that is the case, surely then the "powers that be" are the enemies of the people?
You said it better than I could.
Q) You comment that "zines are the products of individual dissenters." Well, how much does that empower them? How effective is their influence on mainstream society as compared with a revolution? Elaborate please.
Individuals do have a certain power. As individuals they can be examples of a principled or rebellious life. "Bearing Witness" is what Christians call this. Revolutions are also made up of individuals, both as organizers and as participants. But, and this is an important but, individuals, as long as they stay isolated, don't change anything. Look at the Unabomber.
Q) You make the claim that zines help free the publishers from interacting in person and that the publishers are recognized only by what they publish. Then what about the network of zinesters who get together across the country and elsewhere either in coffee shops (that still exist) night clubs, scifi & horror and small press cons. Surely they develop some social skills to interact while participating in such activities? Or, does that not count since they are not interacting in the mainstream?
No doubt zinesters do congregate in person and socialize -- but I think what is unique about communication like zines (or on-line interaction) is that it allows people who are awkward in face to face interaction an alternative medium though which to shine, that is: a way to express "who they really are" as opposed to who they appear to be in person.
Q) You state that zinesters are similar to politicians in that they present themselves as they want the public to perceive them. Is that not true of everyone in society? Is it not a fundamental human trait? In every form of human interaction people present themselves to each other as they want to be perceived. It is akin to a salesperson making a sale. No matter how much some individuals might attempt to be natural and not try to sell themselves, somehow they manage to do it anyway. It is in the nature of human kind to do so. Comments?
Yes: I think we all perform ourselves. Zinewriters may be more (or less in the case of their search for authenticity) honest about this than the rest of us.
Q) How has zine culture been changed by the ability to publish online? What is the percentage of zines online as opposed to zines only in print? As a zine publisher I do both and I know there are many others like me. How do they fit in the picture? Also, what are the more popular types of zines currently available?
I actually don't know. See # 26
Q) I know that when I started publishing zines I was mainly a hobbyist. Previously I maintained correspondence for many years with more than 200 pen pals as a hobby. Now I have become much more political and I am beginning to take on that adversarial intent that you talk about in your book. Do you think politically-tinged zines have more substance and make more of a difference than zines published as a hobby?
Good question. I can answer that two ways. Personally, I like it when people discuss politics. I think when people debate the merits of capitalism vs. socialism or participatory democracy vs. representative democracy that democracy is advanced further than when people have a heated exchange over Pez dispensers.
On the other hand, as I stated before, I believe that it is the act of creating ideas and taking communication into your own hands -- saying: "this is something I can do" -- that is the most important politics of zines.
Q) Please explain how zinesters stand up to and oppose the prevailing attitude in American society you describe in your book:
"One of the seductive pleasures of living in a consumer society is the ability to surround yourself with enough pleasure-producing commodities that nagging questions about the nature of real freedom, real choice, and the social cost of defining these things in purely consumerist ways--disappear."
Also, do you not see this attitude as damaging to maintaining any ethical
and sensible value system?
Surely it is in the nature of the American capitalistic system to promote unethical behavior such as the business practices of corporations?
I think corporations are not unethical but a-ethical. That is: they don't think about ethics, only profit and returns. In that zinesters think about the question of what is it to live an authentic life they are engaging in an ethical discussion which is sorely needed in this country.
Q) How do the recent revisions in online copyright law effect zine publishing?
Don't know -- my guess is that zines are too small fish to go after.
Thankfully, as these laws are destroying creativity in other forums like music, book publishing and so on.
Q) Discuss how zine culture developed going back to the beginning. (NOTE: You could include zines such as penny dreadfuls and pulp zines or if you prefer you could start with the alternative political zines in the 1960's. I would like to see mention of both but I will leave it up to you to decide how you want to approach that question or what direction you want the interview to go.)
That's a loooooong question to answer. You'll have to pull that out of my book.
Q) What are some of your favorite zines (previously published or still in publication)?
Probably my all-time favorite was Dishwasher. A zine about a guy bumming around the country washing dishes. It was beautifully written, singularly obsessive and revealingly personal -- everything a great zine should be.
Q) You discuss anthropologist, Mary Douglas, and her views regarding how zinesters consider individualism very important and how they hate the rules of mainstream society, that it motivates them in writing and producing their zines, and that it is a way to organize their opposition to the world at large. Yet you think this situation is not without its problems. Comments? (NOTE: Please keep in mind that you might want to rethink your stance considering the current political climate in America.) Also, do you still think that zines are only a method of political catharsis and that the zine underground is only a form of rebellion against the insensitive mainstream? From your comments you obviously think that the angst of zine culture hurts any influence it has as an important protest movement against the "powers that be," that if the enemy no longer presents a problem then the zine culture movement would no longer have a reason to continue.
In light of the impressive protests against the WTO and IMF and World Bank I would rethink some of this. Most of the young people I come into contact with in direct action protest organizing come out of an underground cultural milieu. So obviously there has been some sort of leap from pure cultural rebellion to acting it out in the streets. Bravo, I say.
I'm glad you bring up the current political climate. It is much more repressive and fearful of difference than the Clinton era, or even the Reagan/Bush I era before that. We do not have to worry about rebellion being co-opted today as much as being harassed and jailed for it. My guess is that this sort of mass conformity will result in a vibrant underground culture again -- I just hope that this underground keeps its hands in politics as well.
Q) How do you think the current ultra conservative political climate and Homeland Security will change the Internet and zines online as well as zines in print? Do you think politically there are similarities to the McCarthy era of the 1950's? How far do you think the current administration will go with censorship and invasion of privacy? And, will there be any serious liberal opposition? Do you think it will radicalize the left-wing in America? How will it affect the future of zine culture?
Q) Do you plan to write any more books about zines?
Nope. One of the sad things about writing a book about something is that you spend so much time with that thing that when you are done writing you are also done with whatever you wrote about. It's sort of like how it is painful to walk down the street you once lived on; or visit your ex-lover. However, I do come across a zine and sit down to read it every once in a while, and every time I do I'm still struck by the creative life that they express.
Q) Any final comments about zines or whatever?
I hope some of this was useful Lucinda.
INTERVIEW with Monette Louise Bebow-Reinhard, author of the first "Bonanza" novel
conducted by Lucinda MacGregor
Monette Louise Bebow-Reinhard found her niche as a history writer, and pursued, with her love of "Bonanza," the right to sell her novel, Felling of the Sons, taking three years to get permission from the series creator, David Dortort. She was finally successful when he approved of a movie script she had written for the 'new generation' series he was proposing. Felling of the Sons led to her first agent, who is now handling her second novel, Journal of an Undead, a supernatural romance thriller. "Journal from the Grave," based on this book, is also agented, along with other movie scripts, and this second agent also handles her fantasy anthology, Grimms Modern Fairy Tales, which she penned using her grandmother's maiden name.
She is now going for her master's in ethnohistory, and finds a deep satisfaction in studying cultures in history, and designing fiction using real places and people. She's using her master's to finish three nonfiction books. She is married with three grown college-student children, and her husband runs the family golf course, along with his position as town chairman. Outside of writing, Bebow-Reinhard's special passion is the theater, both acting and directing.
Q) How did you develop your interest in writing?
I think I've always been a writer. I still remember writing a cave story when I was only 6-8 years old. I used to get myself to sleep at night when I was only six by writing stories in my head. But in high school I was more focused on acting, although writing was still my second love. I was chosen to write and present one of the graduation speeches, for instance. But real life does tend to intrude, jobs, marriage, children. Still, I wrote a screenplay based on my favorite novel, and contacted the author, around 1976. I still have the script, but lost his letter of response. My 'real' writing career started when I was a temporary secretary at a verrrry boring job. I can't stand being bored, so I started writing short stories and never stopped. That was in 1979. My first published story was in 1983 and I've had limited successes ever since. Becoming a history writer in 1990 meant more time spent doing research, leaving less time to write. And then there's having three kids -- and still acting. And working. Etc.etc. I have a problem focusing!
Q) What motivated you to write a novel based on the "Bonanza" television series?
I've loved that series since I was 6 years old, when it first aired. Many of the stories I wrote in my head were based on those characters, who became nearly as real as my own family. Guess why I had three kids?!?
But I stopped watching the show in 1965 (character Adam left) and then didn't see it again until 1989. At that time I was developing a series of short stories about an Undead, Arabus Drake, and with the influence of "Bonanza," I started placing Arabus in historical events around the world -- for instance, did you know a vampire helped create the automobile? "Bonanza" the series, in its first few years, especially, took real historic events and put the Cartwrights into them. There's so much history out there to play with. I started to enjoy writing, and then, just for fun, starting writing "Bonanza" short stories. One of those short stories became too big, and became a novel, a novel I loved so I had to find a way to get permission to get it published.
Q) Some writers have gained huge popularity writing vampire novels and later distanced themselves from the label of horror writer. If your upcoming vampire novel, Journal of the Undead, is a big success would you consider writing more horror novels or would you
prefer not to be labeled a horror writer?
I think one of the reasons Arabus Drake is having a hard time finding an audience is because I'm a spiritual writer more than a horror writer. People tell me it isn't scary enough. I'm looking for an audience that gets off on 'reality,' and so the fear in reading Arabus is that what happened to him can happen to anyone. He is also set to 'redefine' the vampire by the very nature of making him 'real.' I'm fascinated by undeath and did tons of research to develop him. I also have a series of short stories about an Indian vampire who seeks revenge for his people -- again, I feel this is spiritual more than horror. I write for people who seek real meaning in what they read, who want the reading experience to stay with them, but in a positive way. Yes, there are frightening elements to my work, but I can never see myself being pegged a horror writer.
Q) What inspired your vampire novel?
I had a dream. No, seriously! I had this dream a few months after my youngest was born, and it stayed with me, and I started writing about Arabus Drake -- the name just came to me, too. Then I decided that if he was cast in a movie, he'd be Armand Assante. The dream was very erotic, by the way, there's a bit of that in these works, as well. Journal of an Undead has a number of erotic scenes. It's the first in a series of novels about him, and this one centers on his quest for love as a walking corpse. Not easy to find!
Q) How does your background in ethnohistory play a part in your writing?
While I was going for my BA in history, I discovered how interesting people were when grouped in their individual settings -- within their cultures, especially in prehistory. One of my favorite projects is establishing where the Aztecs came from, tracing them up into the U.S. and Chacoamerican cultures. What's interesting is that when you study people in history, which is what ethnohistory is, you find out how much alike we all are, regardless of our cultures. And there's a certain fascination with tracing back cultures to the very beginning, to find out where our human beginnings came from. It's like a life project for me.
Another book I hope to write is called, When Women Ruled, because both animals and early humans are/were matriarchal in nature. This is why I say my writing is very spiritual, because I like to look into the roots of what makes us human, the very base center of our souls is what I search for in my writing.
Q) In what ways is your modern version of Grimms Fairy Tales different from the original (assuming there is more connection than in name only)?
It's true my grandmother was a Grimm, so I write it using her name. At first this was going to be a collection all written by me, but then I realized that the original Grimms compiled more than wrote, so I started looking around for stories that I could include that weren't just by me. The original series could also be called ethnohistorical -- these were compiled in Germany in the 1800s but were probably much older, and put these stories together for the peasant class, as escapism, to help them deal with their dreams and desires of being rich while knowing it could probably never happen. In my series, I focus on the kinds of dreams that young people have today, the problems they face, the negatives in our society, and try to infuse a kind of 'moral guideline' by which to live -- without letting them be aware that this is what they're getting, of course!
The stories are mostly good fun, with supernatural elements and twisted endings, with people who 'learn a lesson,' and often too late -- and again, most of the stories are quite spiritual. And a few are historical -- three are about vampires!
Q) What subjects do you cover in your upcoming nonfiction books?
One traces the cultural breakdowns in Mesoamerica and Chacoamerica (Arizona/New Mexico cultural prehistory, for the most part), to find out where the Aztecs might have come from. I hope to include a look at the vast trading network of the U.S. to show how interconnected these early cultures were. Another is the 22-year saga of a great-uncle who was in the Civil War and Indian Wars from 1862-1884. I'm also writing the history of a small town that will show the evolution of cultures in a single landscape starting in the Ice Age.
And then there's the new "Bonanza" novel, which will feature elements of the Civil War that will be great controversy, surrounding Lincoln and slavery. David Dortort, series creator, has approved the idea, being a big Civil War buff himself. I also hope to write the quintessential Reincarnation book that will show, among other things, how rebirth is at work in our lives whether we like it or not!
Q) How did you develop your special interest in the theatre and does it influence your writing or did the writing interest develop first?
I am very grateful to my years of theater work for helping me to write better dialog in my movie scripts. I still try to get on stage whenever I have the time, but now, going to grad school, it's a little tougher. I started in 7th grade, won a small drama scholarship in high school, went to the local college for a year with major in Drama, but due to the sex-perverted head of the department, I felt I wasn't 'ready' for Hollywood -- and became a secretary instead. In 1984 I helped form a local community theater group that's still going today.
They do say if you want to write scripts, or plays, be in a couple of productions, at least. I've also directed, and that gives me an eye for how to write visually. Very handy for a screenwriter.
Q) What advice would you give aspiring writers regarding writing techniques and marketing their works?
Oh, I could sure use help marketing! I think the biggest mistake I've made was being too patient! Ha! I never thought I'd say that. But really, we shouldn't wait around for a single publisher/editor/agent to say yes. We should query a million places at once, and then if we get 20,000 yeses, ask/advise that it is a simultaneous submission. Getting your writing accepted is very subjective. I've sat around and waited for a single no before trying somewhere else, and that just means the writing career takes that much longer.
My other problem has been in sending stuff off too fast without letting
it wait for another edit. I rarely get something written right the first
time. Once I did -- I made $72 on an article that took 10 minutes to
But that doesn't happen near enough.
Q) Any last comments?
To budding screenwriters -- be very very cautious about what script contests you enter. Make sure they have as a prize the publicity that a screenwriter needs to get their script notice. It helps if the contest has been around awhile, because you can check to see how they've promoted their winners in the past. You might have a better chance with a new contest, but be sure to keep all material about that contest, about what they promise for you, so you can let them know, if you win, what you expect. I've had some miserable experiences, that eventually I'll get around to writing about.
Visit her at
CINDY SILBERBLATT, WEBMISTRESS for MYSTERIOUS STRANDS
conducted by Sharida Rizzuto
Q) How did you become involved with Sisters in Crime?
I joined SinC in 1994 after talking to the then Chesapeake Chapter president. I met her at the 1994 Malice Domestic Conference in Bethesda, MD. When I found out that it was open to readers as well as writers I joined right away.
Q) When and how did you develop an interest in the mystery genre?
My parents were avid readers and mysteries were always available around the house. My father liked Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, and Ian Fleming. My mother read EarleStanley Gardner, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Daphne DuMaurier. I started with Sherlock Holmes injunior high and then moved to Perry Mason and anything else I could get my hands on. I majored in English in college, so I read lots of classic and current fiction, too. But, around 1986 I just decided that there were as the saying goes, "too many mysteries, too little time," and went to mysteries exclusively.
Q) What are some of your favorite mystery novels? Favorite authors?
The Thin Man, any of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, and all of the Sherlock Holmes series (for the classics). My three favorite authors are Anne Perry, Sue Grafton, and John Sandford, and there are so many first-time authors every year that have the potential to become my favorites.
Q) Do you think the current mystery market is thriving?
I think mysteries are soothing like comfort food, especially the continuing series characters. Youcan escape with them, return to them time after time, and each time the problem is solved with most of the loose ends tied up. I think more authors are latching onto this need in people and are jumping onto the mystery bandwagon.
Q) Why did you go on-line with a mystery website?
It started as my own set of bookmarks. It was a way of keeping track of the sites that I wanted to visit. Then I saw it as a way to share my interest with others who might have the same interest. I see it also as a way to let others know about a book or an author that I think they should try.
Q) Tell our readers about some of your selection of links.
The links are divided by interests. Television is another of my hobbies, so I wanted to feature sites that tell you about mystery based TV programs. I also wanted to include sites that could be used by others for research into the genre or to help writers find information. I'm always looking for new authors to add to the links.
Q) What type of mystery websites would you like to see on the net?
I like the ones that center on a particular type of mystery and those that list mysteries by topic or locale.
Q) What type of response do you receive from people viewing your website?
I've had a limited, but very positive response. Most of those who've
emailed me have said I give them a great starting place to find what they're
looking for. My best response was from a junior high school student
who used my site to help her research a paper on the mystery.
She also asked me some questions to include in her paper. That was fun!
Q) How do you plan to update your site in the future?
I would like to start doing more reviews--maybe weekly, feature an author each month (or week),and also reviews of mystery TV shows.
Mysterious Strands can be reached at--
WILLA of WILLA'S JOURNAL
conducted by Sharida Rizzuto
Q) What motivated you to create your on-line journal?
When I discovered the web I really wanted to have a website of my own, and I wanted to think of some kind of format that would force me to update it on a regular basis, not just make a static page that would stay the same from day to day. So I hit on the idea of a daily journal which would somewhat mirror the journals that I had kept for a number of years--a daily journal, a dream journal, and a journal of the books I had read.
Q) Has the response been mostly positive?
Absolutely. I have had almost no negative reaction at all. I receive lots of mail from readers and it's almost always positive.
Q) How difficult was it for you to create your site? Technically?
I'm always growing and learning. I taught myself everything I know about web page design, mostly from reading books and from researching things on the web. It certainly hasn't been easy, but I've been motivated by wanting to do a good job and wanting to put up a quality product. I hope to do web design as a full time job soon, so I've had a good reason to learn how to do it well.
Q) What type of readers enjoy your journal?
All kinds. I think the majority of my readers are women, but there are quite a few men as well. And all ages, from teenagers to senior citizens. I think the appeal of my journal is pretty widespread.
Q) Has your journal inspired any readers to start their own journal?
I have had quite a large number of readers write that they have been inspired to start (or re-start) writing journals of their own, both online and privately. In fact, that's quite a common response, as you can see from reading the Guestbook entries.
Q) What are your future plans for the journal? Any major changes?
Nope. I plan to keep doing what I'm doing, at least for the foreseeable future. It seems to work, and people like it, and I still enjoy it, so I can see no reason to change.
Q) What are some of your favorite on-line zines?
I don't really read any of them.
Q) How do you think on-line zines will change in the future?
Q) What advice would you like to give aspiring writers?
Write. That's the only way you can get better. Just like anything else, it takes practice. And writefor an audience. Feedback lets you know whether you're doing something that other people will want to write. You can't always tell yourself. Obviously, people like different things and you won't always please everyone, but writing for an audience is certainly one way to find out if you have what it takes to write. And the web is a wonderful place for that--the ultimate place to self-publish. For little or no money, anyone who has something to say can say it and let the world know about it.
Q) What do you do when you aren't working on your journal?
I work full time as a legal assistant for a large corporation, although I just quit that job to devote myself to looking for a job in web design, and to start doing some freelance web design work on my own. I'm married, no children, I spend quite a bit of time gardening and reading, and writing other things besides the journal. I'm working on a series of articles about my adventures as I lookfor work in a new field, and I'm also working on collecting some my essays for publication.
To visit Willa's Journal (photos included) go to http://www.willa.com
XANDER MELLISH,WEBMISTRESS of
conducted by Sharida Rizzuto
Q) What made you decide to create your on-line zine?
It was the successor to a project in which I put my stories up in poster form, on lamp posts, in pizza parlours and laundromats--wherever people had a couple of moments to read. After Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York, the streets were kept much cleaner, and my posters kept getting taken down. That was just as the Internet was coming into its own. I taught myself basicHTML from a book, and put up a site.
Q) Have you ever had any experience with print zines prior to going on-line?
My day job is in journalism, so a lot of experience with newspapers.
Q) How difficult was it to create your site?
At the beginning, very difficult. I have no programming background, and I remember literally pounding my fists on the floor with frustration. Now, it's a lot easier, but I don't bother with high-tech stuff like Java. The site is intentionally very simple so it will be easy for everyone to download. The focus of the site should be on the stories, not high-tech gizmos.
Q) What type of submissions do you seek? And, how often do you change the material on your site?
I change the material once a month, on the first of the month. Since the site serves to showcase my work, I seek submissions mostly in the form of reader feedback. Readers have also translated the site into several different languages--for example, the new Hebrew version which went online in June.
Q) Has the response to your site been mostly positive?
Yes, but not entirely, and I like it that way. The reader feedback contains some highly critical comments. Having been a journalist so long, I'm pretty thick- skinned about criticism. I actually find it helpful--if a lot of people are saying the same thing about a piece, I really consider whether they might be right.
Q) Do you think you will expand your site in the future or perhaps create another site with a different publication? And, how long do you think you will remain on-line?
The site has expanded a lot as it goes along--it's got archives all the
way back to 1996! I have to keep asking my ISP for more storage space.
I've thought of creating other sites--for example, I'd like to do a
fan site for my favorite choreographer, Christopher Wheldon. He's only
25 and a big web person, so I think he might like it.
I couldn't say when I'd no longer want to be online! I like the idea of my site being a historical thing, being online forever.
Q) Does your site mostly appeal only to New Yorkers?
No, most of my readers are from other places. New Yorkers are too busy to web surf!
Q) Have you made any good contacts on the net (to exchange ideas, etc.) with other publishers or contributors?
I've made a lot of good friends on the net, and even managed to score
a few dates!
And the "Web Writers In the Flesh" reading series--which featured only Internet writers--was arranged almost entirely through e-mail, and was very successful. Some of the readers I had neverseen in person until they turned up for the event!
Q) What are some of your favorite on-line zines?
I like The Onion (http://www.theonion.com)--it's published out of Wisconsin, which is where I'm from. Also, Web Del Sol (http://www.webdelsol.com).
Q) What do you do when you aren't working on your zine?
I'm a financial journalist by trade, which is something I enjoy, but do
strictly for the money.
Also, I have to write the stories before I put them up, and that takes a lot of time and effort!
Q) How do you think on-line zines will change in the future?
They'll change as the technology develops. The Internet now is like movies were 100 years ago--just beginning to find its own style.
Q) What advice would you like to give to aspiring writers seeking publication on-line?
Put up your own site--design it yourself, and fumble around until you find a style that is uniquely your own. And design it for the pleasure of your readers, not your own ego. Nobody but you wants to see a picture of your cat!
Xander Mellish can be visited at http://www.interport.com/~xmel
To see her photo go to
To visit the Florida Writers page surf here.
MORE TO COME!