I just want to take this opportunity to thank two amazing and inspiring people who have recently announced that they are moving forward into their next adventures: Christopher Newgent, who told us today that his brainchild, Vouched Indy, is closing up shop this June; and J. A. Tyler (or "Papa Tyler," as some have been known to call him, OK, not "some," just me), who told us last month that his brainchild, Mud Luscious Press, had run its course (covered here and here). The two of you have been a huge part of my literary life, and I wouldn't be where I am without you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
It is with so much sympathy and understanding that I want to reach out to both of these men and say, "I love you for what you've given us, what you've done to help make indie lit so great, so exciting, so fun." Because it isn't easy to juggle work, your own art, family, friends, and then also run a business too. But I think that one of the most incredible things that indie lit, or online lit, or whatever we want to call it, has to offer is the chance for great people to come along and make great things for a time, and then also let them go, while at the same time allowing more great people who may be unknown to us now to come along and make their own great things for a time. There is a revolving door here, that we are all always aware of, and as it spins, welcoming us in, ushering us out as time goes on, it's still so wonderfully spinning to welcome others in, still gently letting others out.
Where would I be without J. A. Tyler and Christopher Newgent? I wouldn't have had the love and support of an amazing publisher, who midwifed my first book into the world. I may not have gotten into an MFA program that, perhaps because of that first book, relieved me of teaching a 2/2 for three years. I wouldn't have had the love and support of a friend, who put so much time and energy into brainstorming and helping to plan Lit Pub. I may not have also gotten into a PhD program that, perhaps because of that first book and Lit Pub, relieved me of teaching a 2/1 for two years. (And let me say here that if I had not been admitted, I would have had to close down Lit Pub. Without the generous funding and two-year fellowship, which will allow me to continue long-term vision rehabilitation as I now, this summer, come back from my break and return to my role as publisher at Lit Pub, I would no doubt have had to quit indefinitely.) For the roles they have taken on at such different times in my life, I cannot thank J. A. Tyler or Christopher Newgent enough for their gifts of time, effort, and support.
I've shared this story before, but it is worth telling again: We Take Me Apart wasn't always the We Take Me Apart that ended up getting published. It started out as this, a 10-page, single-spaced poem/story thing that I didn't know what to do with. At that time J. A. Tyler was making those little hand-stapled chapbooks, and I knew I wanted his eyes on my words, but my poem/story thing was too long for his chapbook series. I asked him if he would consider it anyway. He said yes. While he had it, I blogged about thinking the thing could become a longer work, maybe a book-length work. When he responded, he asked if I'd meant it in my blog post: Did I really want to make it a full-length book? And if so, he just might be interested in publishing it, because he'd been considering the possibility of publishing full-length titles. I said yes. We set a deadline for a first draft, and I got to work.
And I floundered. The days and weeks went by, and I had nothing. I went back to the drawing board and just before deadline sent a few brand new pages, a ridiculously long email explaining my thought process. He said, I trust you. I trust your process. Do what you need to do. And we set a new deadline. Within only a matter of a few months, We Take Me Apart was born, printed, packed, and shipped out into the world. It was my first book, and Mud Luscious's first book. It was, and still is, my greatest personal accomplishment.
Lit Pub, too, wasn't always the Lit Pub it is now. In its early days, Christopher Newgent was there, writing tirelessly, promoting, as he had already developed a reputation for, beyond tirelessly. That tirelessness was, as we quickly realized, unsustainable, and we went our ways and Lit Pub turned into the Lit Pub that it is now -- a wannabe-boutique book publishing company that uses its blog to recommend other publishers' books. That's not a bad way to use a blog, and the idea, of course, is the little sister of Chris's Vouched (without the guerilla table).
When the news broke that Mud Luscious was, or soon would be, gone, I was unable to respond. I think my Facebook status was something like, "It sure isn't fucking easy, is it." And it's not. Anyone who's read slush, anyone who's edited for an online magazine, anyone who's put their money toward printing a magazine or a book whether staple-bound or perfect-, anyone who's given their time, anyone who's ever written a review and then written another one, or even a personal blog post and then another, you know it's not easy to sustain. The time the energy the effort the money the worry.
And then something, who knows what — a family emergency, the desire to have a family, the loss of a job, the gain of a new job, the loss of a house or health insurance, a graduation, the need to move home, the need to dip into savings, the fact that there are no savings, or in my case a bump on the head that would leave me unable to perceive or process visual images with accuracy — can come along and upset that fragile balancing act that was already always teetering either ever-so-slightly or wildly.
Listen, we are meant, I think, to live in the moment, to accomplish great things in those small pockets of time. And we should all do so well as to listen to our hearts, when new moments present themselves, and move on proudly and bravely toward those other, different, even more wonderful things.
Love to you all, who seized a moment to make some small part that helped then make this great big thing that we all love so wonderful.