{ Lesson: Here’s why you should pay writers. Assignment: Go pay writers. }

July 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve been living under the roof of a car for two months and didn’t realize Belt Magazine is running a Kickstarter until I checked their website today. Belt is one of the Midwest’s finest publications, both in terms of journalistic integrity and literary quality. And they’re raising money to keep that going! Just 22 hour left! So go fund them, PLEASE (I know they’ve reached their goal, but more money = more quality writing)!

On the Kickstarter page, they shared what writers say about working with Belt. Here are a few of my favorites:

Belt is essential reading for anyone interested in compelling essays and reportage about one of the country’s most fascinating regions. For writers, it’s a venue that offers thoughtful editing and dependable payment, both of which are rare among online publishers. –Jeremy Lybarger

Thanks to Belt Magazine I was able to find a home for a fascinating story about Midwestern history, a story that’s still relevant today but has been largely forgotten. The editors were great to work with, did a great job with the story’s layout and they paid me promptly. Can’t say enough good things about them. –Debbie Carlson

“Because Belt paid me, I was able to make time to interview authors of special interest to the region, and hopefully the coverage helped them get paid, too.” –Zoe Zolbrod

“Writing for Belt is a great experience from pitch to payment. The process is smooth, the feedback is helpful, and the editorial staff is all-around quite pleasant.” –Ryan Schnurr

When I read articles by other Belt authors, I find myself marveling at the writing and wishing I could have turned a phrase like they did. The words are chosen aptly and they convey moods so nicely. We need good writing in this world, and for all the technological changes — print, web, tweets — writing still communicates feelings, the complexity of the human journey, and entanglements of our lives in ways that nothing else can. Belt keeps the spirit of writing vibrant, and for those of us who adore the written word, this counts for quite a lot. –Rick Perloff

“Belt paid me to research and write a story about the state of colleges in the midwest, which have a huge effect on the economy and culture in our region. This is work that other publications pass on, because they are focused on the coasts.” –Ann Logue

“Belt is an undeniably special place. The fact that a magazine exists where quality, experimental journalism can have a home, be paid, and go home with its dignity, is a testament to the amazing staff that Belt employs. At Belt, an important, well-told story has real monetary value. Their unwillingness to succumb to cheaper quality work is what keeps their readers loyal and their writers ambitious. When click-bait grows up, it wants to be Belt Magazine.”Zoe Gould

And finally, if you feel like you really need to get something out of this deal, the perks for the campaign are quite reasonably rated. I’m getting a copy of The Cincinnati Anthology for just $15! Although given my environmental interest, you’d think I’d go for Redhorse, their nature magazine, but nope. I’m really really interested in their treatment of an entire community. Bring it on, Belt!

You can read a conversation I had with Belt founder, Anne Trubek, here.


{ Courage & Purpose }

July 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Katie asked me to join her on a quest. I looked at a calendar. After three weeks of action (teaching and working), I’d get four days of rest, then another week and a half on the road. I consulted the calendar again, back to 1999 when my family moved to Lebanon and this calm, curious, dark-haired girl became my best friend. It’s been nearly five years since we’ve had so many days together. And after being surrounded by teenagers coming of age and finding their passions at the Missouri Scholars Academy, here was a chance to observe a woman I love and respect act that out in real life. Of course I said yes.

For most of the trip I played sidekick, at turns described as a “friend from highschool” or “travel buddy,” though personally I regard our friendship with holy reverence. Not that I desire such a lofty introduction. This was Katie’s trip. She wanted to imagine a possible future as a typographer or possibly even a punchcutter. As we traveled east to realize her dreams, I happily acted as cook, driver, navigator and historian. Every good expedition needs a crew, and this? This was a good expedition.

2015-07-09 19.21.58

Sancho Panza and Don Quixote at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Katie’s goals were simple: 1.) Meet two of the only printers left in the country who still cut their own type and 2.) See some of said country while we’re at it. In a practical sense, the typographers will hopefully inform her grant application to study typographic punch-cutting. In a mystic sense, the characters are helping guide her toward a mysterious, anachronistic niche tradition and toward fully actualized personhood. Seriously!

Katie has loved letters as long as I’ve known her. In 5th grade, we were members of the Boswell Book Club. Throughout middle and high school, we modpodged magazine clips, ransom-note style, to anything that wouldn’t move. We co-edited the highschool newspaper and also created a literary magazine. I remember when our journalism teacher showed us DaFont, a website for downloading fonts. We clicked through pages after page of type, searching for the right font for the right application. It was my first time witnessing my friend fall in love.

Years later, after slamming through French and English degrees at MU and carrying a headstrong babychild into the world, Katie was sitting in a workshop in Lyon, France, where she lived for a year. As I understand it, she often went to art classes at a museum, and the work was crafty and pleasant. On this day though, typographers presented their craft, and that old fascination with the printed letter shuddered awake.

Courage & Purpose, at Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press in Asuelot, New Hampshire.

Courage & Purpose, at Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press in Ashuelot, New Hampshire.

“To be there and see them taking it so seriously, it was very inspiring,” Katie told Julia Ferrari, of Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press, one of the printers we visited. Julia smiled and nodded knowingly. She had run Golgonooza side by side with her partner, Dan Carr, since they were 24-year-old poets forging an occupation with meaning — printing art books, down to the elemental level of cutting, casting and setting type — in an antique building hundreds of miles from home. Even then it was a daring, potentially irrational thing to do. And because of their courage, countless devastatingly beautiful books exist that would otherwise not be in this world. Dan died recently, but his spirit lives on as Julia openly grieves his absence and learns his half of the craft. She told us stories, read his poetry, and showed us their equipment. Seeing how seriously they took their roles was very inspiring, to me. So was this little block, pictured above. Funny how a few letters, carefully arranged, can awaken so many feelings.

I wish my dear friend all the best fortune as she goes forward and can’t yet express what good this trip did for pursuing my own dreams. Hopefully Katie will get her grant. And just as we had collaborated so often as teenagers, maybe we can work together again, say, on a magazine. After all, isn’t this what that’s all about?

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