Friday, November 06, 2015

Formatting a Book

NPL Cover 2 Hi

I’m happy to announce that NEW POP LIT #1 (which might be called Issue One Revamped) is back from the printer. It looks good. More than good. It looks great.

I have found throughout the course of the text a few infuriating trivial mistakes which somehow I missed. Trivial for sure in the larger context of what we’re doing, because the book is a very good product, containing terrific writing. BUT, the failure of achieving 100%—which a book needs to be—plunges me back into the maddening experience of formatting the thing.

Putting together a book online, especially a collection of diverse contributions, is not like designing zines, of which I’ve done many. The way I produced zines, offline, every step was analog. Meaning, when I finished a page, it was finished. Unchanging.

A digital file by contrast is always changing. Make a change in one part of the file, and suddenly a score of changes have taken place throughout. Like the butterfly effect—a butterfly flapping its wings can have effects on the other end of the universe. In this case, the other end of the file. An added word or spaced line can mean two extra pages.

I worked on the book at night, after getting home from a grinding evening “day job.” I soon found I was doing a mind meld with the file. The file became part of my brain. The gaps in the file became echoed by gaps in my tired brain.

I was putting a dozen or more files together, each one formatted differently, along with inserted artwork. Each time I made a change in the file as a whole, it caused a proliferation of changes within each separate file. Even when I thought I’d brought them tediously up to speed. For instance, when I was 90% done, I decided the margins needed to be justified. A good move, but it threw off everything. Was the file also  “register true”? Oops! Another change to be made, causing other changes. Don’t ask me about titles, headers, and footers. I’m still absorbing my learning in those areas.

When you don’t take these steps in the proper order—I was operating by trial and error—then after each step you should proofread every single part of the file. Stories, poems, art, contents page, title page: everything. This becomes mentally exhausting. You begin skipping and scanning. The contents are of high quality. At times, the submissions are amazing. But that doesn’t mean you can reread them word by word night after night with ease! (The re-readings made me realize how amazing the pieces are. I have total appreciation for the talents of the writers and artists we were able to find.)

I took the obstacles and challenges as a kind of punishment given me from the mind of the universe for the extreme hubris of my past life. Maybe as a warning not to be arrogant and self-satisfied this time around. I’m thankful that I have another “this time” in which to push my ideas, and maybe, this time, to get them right.

The upside in the experience is that eventually you reach a point when you’re able to be a little creative. It’s why I’ve decided to keep going. I truly believe I can create books, in look, style, and writing, that will be a step beyond anything produced by the mainstream. If I can visualize it, I can create it—the creation dependent of course on the ability to find talents like those we’re showcasing in this our first title—from cover artist Alyssa Klash (our cover a fully realized achievement) to “Pop Picasso” insert artist Dan Nielsen, to unbelievable writers like Jessie Lynn McMains, Thomas Mundt, Brittany Terwilliger, Alex Bernstein, Robin Dunn, with exclamation marks; to interview subject author/publisher Delphine Pontvieux; and to the very special Kathleen Crane, without whose support and encouragement this project would be floundering.

Now comes the task of promoting and selling the produced thing, which should be easy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

At Detroit’s Dally in the Alley


I’m posting at a number of spots about NEW POP LIT’s appearance at the famed Detroit urban street fair, the “Dally in The Alley.”

Our main report is right here.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Questions About Book Reviewing


Our task at NEW POP LIT is to cover literary issues in a way no one else will cover them. We try to look behind the facade of the acceptable narratives to present you what’s really happening, and what individuals within the book community really think.

See, for instance, our interview with Daily Beast book reviewer Tom LeClair:

LeClair is as outspoken as any book critic can be—calling out “middlebrow cheerleader(s)” who engage in “critical irresponsibility.”

Surely “Big 5” publishing has something of a symbiotic relationship with lit-establishment organizations, publications, and writers. To what extent does this influence the nature of book reviews? Especially when the novel being reviewed is as heavily promoted as is Purity by Jonathan Franzen?

These are questions which need to be asked and answered.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Against the Establishment

Why has the American public embraced political candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders? It shows a rejection of the “business-as-usual” status quo political establishment.

The same phenomenon should be taking place in the world of literature, which badly needs a shakeup and shakeout.

Ever look at yahoo news or other online information sources? Entire staffs of editors are assigned to cover movies, music, and sports. Almost NO ONE covers the book world, which as a topic of interest has disappeared. Big-selling authors are out there, the likes of George R.R. Martin. (Or even lit-establishment novelist Jonathan Franzen.) They have ZERO personality—and in truth aren’t very good writers. There’s little reason to cover them.

This tells me that the publishing establishment anchored in New York City and their well-trained p.r. mavens have been failures. They’re doing everything wrong.

We at NEW POP LIT are confident or naive enough to believe we can do better.

In  contrast to the “go-along-to-get-along” weasels of establishment politics, actual human beings like Sanders and Trump are a welcome difference.

It’s also time to move on from the conformists of establishment literature.


(See NEW POP LIT’s report on the new Jonathan Franzen novel, here.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Looking for Writing Talent

As editor at NEW POP LIT ( I’m not getting enough submissions of short fiction which try to hit what I’m truly after. Any story is a mix of elements. Plot; character; description; literary style. I’m looking for a completely different mix of elements—stories which are as stripped-down as a Raymond Carver story but with a whole hell of a lot more color and plot.

We want to hit the unwary reader right from the get-go: boom, boom, boom. Get the reader immediately into the story. Short paragraphs. Immediate action. Then, as the fast pace progresses, reveal character and meaning, much of which by necessity will be implied or between the lines.

I want to present stories which can be handed to ANYONE and be appreciated and liked. The days of an isolated literary clique writing for themselves should be OVER. Kill that period. Reinvent the art form. Create unparalleled excitement. Experiment and experiment with the elements until you produce something that rocks.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

About New Publishing

WRITERS and other literary folk need to step back and adopt a historical perspective about where literature and publishing are headed. In the universe, though there are overarching truths, change is a constant. Publishing is in the midst of drastic change. The goal of NEW POP LIT is to gain a position from which to participate in that change. We have enough time to put together the right kind of vehicle to drive through the current and approaching noise and chaos of where the culture is now.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Interview with a New Yorker Writer

How are things in the world of New York City “Big Five” conglomerate publishing?

We at NEW POP LIT took a break from creating an alternative long enough to interview John Colapinto, staff writer at The New Yorker. What he has to say about his own difficulties is revealing. You’ll not read a stronger interview anywhere.


Read the story and interview—then let us know what you think.