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Monday, August 8, 2011

CCLaP Anniversary and Book Release Party August 10th, Chicago!

More Info at the Party from CCLaP's site!

Chicago Center for Literature and Photography is an Indie publisher based in Chicago, celebrating its Four-Year Anniversary this month, led by Jason Pettus, writer, artist, visionary entrepreneur!

Introducing CCLaP and their Upcoming Publishing Plans:
The four books specifically being promoted at the August 10th party are Sally's, Ben Tanzer's "99 Problems" (from 2010), Mark R. Brand's "Life After Sleep" (from this spring) and Jason Fisk's "Salt Creek Anthology" (from this summer). 
Coming in September, then, will be the next original book, the "American Wasteland" anthology, then in October will be another new book in both electronic and paper forms at once, Katherine Scott Nelson's "Write Me Back." 
Then at the holidays, we'll finally be publishing a paper version of CCLaP's very first book, Ben Tanzer's 2008 story collection "Repetition Patterns;" specifically, it will be a second collection of stories all set in that same town, as a standalone book in electronic form. Then am publishing a big oversized extremely high-quality paper version of both books together (that version simply entitled "The New York Stories"), including two dozen illustrations by a local artist here named Laura Szumowski, a third of them in color and glued onto special vellum inserts. Unlike the Hypermodern books, that one will cost $75, and will serve as the centerpiece for a high-end fundraiser I'm doing on New Year's Eve this year, targeted specifically to the center's small number of upper-middle-class readers.

ClaritySol: Jason, could you give us a brief bio of yourself, your journey to opening CCLaP?
Jason: My path to this destination has been winding: first I was all set to enter college on a high math track and eventually become a computer programmer, then suddenly switched to political science for four years, then studied photography for four years after that, then became a publishing author and performance poet for a decade, after moving to Chicago in the mid-1990s.
When I say that I "stopped writing," I mean only the creative fiction; as you know, I'm still penning almost a quarter of a million new words a year at the CCLaP site, only all of it in the genre of critical and personal essays.
CCLaP itself came just very slowly and organically over the course of several years, as I first hit middle-age and became more and more dissatisfied with pursuing a career as a solo creative artist; it's a way essentially for me to still work in the milieu I love, while hopefully bringing the kind of stability to my life that I simply didn't need when I was younger.

ClaritySol: As CCLaP has started up and grown over the years, what has guided you? Is the close relationship between the artist and the fan the main benchmark of success for you, the overriding goal?
Jason: Well, perhaps it's better to call that a business goal, in that I ultimately view CCLaP in competitive terms to other larger institutions that do a whole variety of creative things, like perhaps the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Old Town School of Music; the center isn't even close in size or scope to those examples, let me make it very clear, but that's the eventual hope of where I'd like to see CCLaP heading as the years progress.
And what I feel is a good way to compete in that field is to pay very close attention to what your readers, your audience members want, what they really respond to, what they're mentioning to you in emails and at dinner parties and things like that
I feel a good way for a tiny organization like mine to differentiate itself from that is to be much more responsive to our customers than those groups are.
But there's of course a tricky balance to maintain, because as a creative curator, people are coming to CCLaP many times precisely FOR my recommendations of stuff they've never heard of or sometimes even thought about. My job as CCLaP's owner is essentially to listen to all these people, listen to what they're saying, and then think, "Well, if they say they want THIS kind of thing, I'll bet that they'll really be into THAT kind of thing too."

ClaritySol: What goals propel your publishing decisions?
Jason: With CCLaP's books, it’s about trying to get the best work possible out of that writer. During these initial years, I am able to take the time to really look at an author's entire body of work and where they are in their career, and think about what I consider the best thing they could possibly be doing right now for their particular style and where they should be next professionally. That guides what the finished book looks like more than an adherence to any particular type of genre, length, etc.

ClaritySol: Who is your target audience?:
Jason: My main core target audience are people known by the term "creative class" -- twenties to fifties, with creative careers but that still lets them be middle-class, essentially a lot like my personal friends here in Chicago, urban-dwelling and politically/ecologically aware, with only a certain small amount of money and time they can dedicate to the arts anymore, and wanting not just a good experience for their money but an opportunity to take a part in the process, even if just a little bit.
I think people of my generation and in my circumstances are a little burnt out on the "totebag syndrome" as I call it of older cultural institutions, where the idea is, "Give us a yearly check and otherwise just shut up and enjoy the splendor of it all, and here's your token gift thanks very much." I think creative-classers would like a much more direct say over which artists are being featured there, or at least what kinds of artists, and would enjoy an opportunity as a patron of one of these groups to occasionally be able to talk straight to the curators and decision-makers, literally say to them, "I saw this band or this photographer at this gallery or that pub, and they'd be perfect for your place."

ClaritySol: In this interview with Kazuo Ishiguro, author of ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ and other novels, ( he said that in order to be relevant, literature today needs to be global. Meaning not that it takes place outside the US only necessarily, but that it includes global citizens in its audience. That it includes local details that a global audience would be interested in. Please comment. How has your internet presence birthed/supported your business? Will you be enlarging it, and enlarging your business? Is there a particular size or scope you are aiming to attain?
Jason: Well, I have personal things to gain from maintaining an international audience, which ultimately is the simple answer in my case -- I like traveling internationally, and hope to do so a lot more in the future, so it's worth it to me to cultivate an online presence just for that alone.
Commercially it's a trickier question; because although electronic content is great for building a passionate audience, it's still through actual physical merchandise and physical events that most artists make the majority of their actual money, whether that's a publisher or a photographer or an indie musician, so the question of a spread-out audience in that case ties in more with how easy or hard it is to ship things to them, whether you'll be there regularly on tours or not, etc. But then, I know for a fact that one of the things that a lot of CCLaP's audience members like the most about the site is its international focus, so just from a curatorial aspect there are positive things to be gained -- I read much more interesting books and see much more interesting movies because of it, feature a wider range of photography, get a wider range of perspectives.
There are creative-classers in every medium- to large-sized city in the world, and they share a remarkably similar set of interests and likes, which you could almost say is an interchangeable term with "online culture." I agree that one's work has to spread across the spectrum of geography but that can still tap a universal set of beliefs that exists from one international space to the next.
For me, certainly, this makes it worth cultivating an extremely strong online presence with CCLaP, and to then afterwards try to integrate physical merchandise and events into that customer base, instead of doing it the opposite way.

ClaritySol: How involved are you in the Chicago Literary Scene, and is that important to CCLAP? Am I mistaken or are most of your works partially or completely set in Chicago? Is that simply an outcome of working w/ Chicago-based writers, or is it even more deliberate?
Jason: I'm unfortunately not too terribly involved with the local community anymore, for a variety of small reasons added together: partly because of a growing hearing disability, partly because of being heavily involved when younger and kind of burning out on it, partly from being older and not being able to take all those late drunken nights out anymore.
I've been changing that this summer somewhat, because I've been taking my new high-def video camera out and shooting at least one live literary event in the city a week, then cutting it into just a little 60-second highlight reel and posting them at YouTube all year; that's at least had me out and being a lot more social, and getting the word about CCLaP out to a brand-new audience.
I suspect that my heaviest involvement in those aspects of the community are all in my past now, and that I'll largely be leaving it up to younger, healthier people in the future. Yes, you're correct that all of CCLaP's authors have so far been Chicagoans, and that all but one book have all been set in Chicago as well; that's partly random, and partly that I skew a little heavily towards Chicago authors and projects from the mere nature of being here. But I'm certainly up for publishing people in other cities as well.

ClaritySol: You're producing blank journals - that seems a great idea - wide-open future sales. Congrats!
Jason: Yes, at Etsy, with me and ten million middle-aged moms! Stop by and purchase one, please!

ClaritySol: You have a photograph of the day - what are your other plans for Photography at CCLAP?
Jason: Yes, a lot more plans for photography, but they unfortunately almost all involve significantly more money than I currently have, and with a lot of it tied to finally having a permanent physical space in the city somewhere: at that point I'd like to have a full-time gallery, and also publish a book and gift store-type merchandise with each show, which only makes sense if we literally had our own gift store, etc.
People ask me all the time about hosting virtual portfolios, virtual galleries, an electronic magazine, etc; and while I've dabbled in these things over the years, ultimately I've come to decide each time that they're not really anything more than what artists can simply and cheaply do for themselves online. There's not really much of a point in that case in CCLaP doing it too; I'd rather save our energies and do something that an individual artist literally couldn't, even if that means putting off almost all the plans for a later time.
Like I said, I have a long-term view in mind with CCLaP, which at least makes it a little easier to decide to shelve certain things for now.

ClaritySol: Anything else you'd like us to know about your plans?
CCLaP: Well, just that CCLaP will have another four original books out in 2012 as well, one every three months, and mostly female-focused next year too -- first a new story collection by Sally Weigel, then the new surrealist novel by Lauryn Allison Lewis, and then a new post-apocalyptic thriller of all things by Amy Guth, although political as well in that Margaret Atwood feminist-SF style, and then a winter slot I haven't filled yet.
I'm going with an entirely new binding style for 2012, and all four books will be done in this similar style, so that in the future you'll be able to just glance at CCLaP books and know which year they were put out.
Both the 2011 books and these coming 2012 ones are sold at a special subscription rate at the website, which is the main piece of news I'd like to get out, for those who really believe in the center and want to make a substantial financial contribution to it.
I encourage people to think of this like becoming a member of their local art museum or NPR station; only instead of a totebag or coffeemug, you're getting a whole shelf of special handmade, hand-numbered, high-quality original books, ten altogether plus free shipping if you purchase both subscriptions for a total of $140.
Thanks again for giving me a chance to talk about the center and everything that's been going on!

ClaritySol: You’re very welcome, Jason. Best wishes for your ongoing publishing activities in Chicago and around the world!

For more info on Jason and his ideas and his work, you can see his original Manifesto and other material at the ClaritySolutions Tumblr site.

Further interview material focusing on the entrepreneurial aspects of Jason’s CCLaP experiences are also available at ClaritySol’s WordPress blog.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Solid Rock Photography: New 63-page Portrait Photography Product Catalog!

<a href="">Check it out today</a>!

Amazing variety and selection of portrait opportunities for every occasion!

twitter dreams running and tweeting!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Social Media explorations and investigations

First, here’s the Brickfish contest link, which I’m involved in through a family member.

And then, here's a substantive description of my new exploration of social media in general, and this Brickfish contest in particular. There is a *lot* out there on those internets! Exhilarating and just slightly daunting. Well, somewhat. That would fit better. Anyway, fun, lots to learn though. Tips and suggestions always welcome.

Just now today I'm completely caught up with linking *in* the text itself, in all my different blog posts. So that's much farther along than I was before, whew!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Solopreneur websites - then and now!

Back when I first had a consulting practice, in the 1997 - 2000 period, online marketing was very different.
I put up a website (had worked at an ISP, learned a bit there) using one of those do-it-yourself software programs (will post the name when it comes to me), managing all the linkages and parent-child relationships, choosing the look from the set options, etc..

It was a lot of work, but fun too. Then, I published it!

On to my domain that I had registered, via an ISP I had a relationship with.

And then I waited, hopefully, for people to find it!

It was like constructing this beautiful, elaborate structure.. on the edge of a cliff. Then, standing beside it, staring out into the vastness --- hoping that some human energy from somewhere would boomerang back in return. Certainly that did happen, sometimes, for some people. Not so much for me though. Accounting services just aren't all that compelling, really. Lesson learned, now all sorts of other content as well. Still - so nice to not have that chasm-staring thing going on any more!

I didn't know anything about whatever search processes were in place at the time. There certainly was no online blog community like this with any 'dashboard' or 'followers' or anything.

Just had to hope that somebody would click on it from my web address in an email, or from a posting on an online forum.

Things are *so* different now.

I tend to look askance at some aspects of social media - the inserting of commercial relationships in to other social contexts, the privacy issues, the manipulations. However, the ease of access itself is so wonderful now. Remembering back makes me that much more grateful for all that is in place now. Definitely worth the struggle of minimizing the bad to have the good!

Crosstex - Freedom (feat. Brutalon Beatzz)