Wordfest — Voices of the City

Asheville Wordfest 2012 presents Voices of the City and features several local poets. I’m honored listed among the following local poets: Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Matthew Mulder and Roberto Hess.

I set up a Facebook page with more details. Friend me on Facebook to get an invitation to the event. If you’re not on Facebook, consider yourself invited to Asheville Wordfest’s Voices of the City.

Three ways for authors to promote their new book

This is obvious, but essential. Connecting with a local bookseller is vital to promoting your book. Most booksellers see your book title listed in their wholesale catalogs. All you need to do is remind them it’s there and then see if they’ll host an event. Be sure to contact the bookstore’s event coordinator, not the store’s book buyer. The PR  & Events Coordinator schedules store events like readings and book signings and is the best point of contact for a newly published author.

Consider non-bookstore venues. Schools, public libraries, or other venues may have suitable audiences for your book title. Don’t just assume that your audience only buys books at Barnes & Noble. Libraries are great places to read. I’ve read in various locations including a tavern, café, ballroom, art studio, church and several other places. One author I know had a reading at a chocolate shop. Be creative with your events.

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are great tools to promote your book. If you don’t have an account, you’re already behind. Be authentic and approachable on these sites. If you sound like you’re a pushy salesperson, you’ll lose your audience. Share with your social media audience the same way you approach your book reading audience. Make converts from social media followers to book buyers.

Upcoming reading at Asheville Wordfest 2012

Next week I’ve been invited to read some of my poems at one of the Asheville Wordfest 2012 events. The schedule is still fluid. So, you’ll have to check the official Wordfest website for the schedule details. Suffice it to say, I am extremely humbled and honored to read with great local and global poets.

Two reasons why I quit Tumblr

What is Tumblr? Besides being a highly addictive micro-blogging platform, [1] it was the place I did most of my blogging during the last few years. That is, until a few weeks ago. Two primary reasons why I deep-sixed my Tumblr accounts: simplistic functionality and superficiality.

Those familiar with Tumblr know the distraction of the endless expanse of images that populate the majority of these micro-blogs. Tumblr subscribes to the lowest common denominator of web log functionality to allow for users to post photos, videos, audio & text. The Tumblr interface allows users with absolutely no HTML experience and no blogging experience to post a menagerie of online content without having to really think about it. Add to the mindless uploading or reblogging of content is the liking system. If you “like” a blog post viewed somewhere in the Tumblr stream of people you are following, then you click the heart icon. The system is reciprocated by other users in a virtual validation and comparison of or by other Tumblr users. What makes this system clumsy and superficial is that there is no real communication between users. In a way, it’s like an individual person in a large airport terminal with all the televisions droning on and on. It’s an extremely lonely experience.

The “follow” feature, like Twitter, allows users to track your posts — and you may follow in return. Curious as I am, I often clicked on Tumblr profiles to find out who is following my Tumblr account. Like Twitter, a lot of my account’s followers were users seeking to promote something or looking for personal validation and/or competition by earning return follows (it is a common practice on Twitter to earn more followers in order to expand audience reach or to just boasting rights to having thousands of tweeple following your tweets). Some people prefer Tumblr because it easily integrates with social media sites [2] making it more of a network tool than a blogging platform. When Tumblr was first launched it was very simple to aggregate your Tumblr content to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. But now most blogging platforms allow that too. Most of the followers to my Tumblr account didn’t connect or even communicate with me. They just “like” something I post and then “follow” my Tumblr account. It’s an empty, hollow interaction if not essentially dehumanizing.

Another issue I had with Tumblr is that the platform really doesn’t work well for long-form blog entries. There are exceptions, [3] but on the whole, most Tumblr users are there for photos or videos or reblogging someone’s photos and videos. As someone who enjoys reading and stimulating conversation, I became very aware of how my thinking was changing as I consumed the endless Tumblr stream of images. One night I speculated that some users must spend all day on Tumblr. There is a schedule feature on Tumblr that allows users to place posts in a queue to be published later, but the time investment to post photos seems vapid. Occasionally, I’d come across an intelligent quote or text-post and “like” it or even “reblog” it. I discovered, to my embarrassment, that not all quotes I reblogged or liked were accurate and stopped the practice.

Increasingly, I was disturbed that the lack of exchange of ideas was altering the way I think as I succumbed to an avalanche of images falling from the blue Tumblr interface screen. One blogger noted that someone said Tumblr is an intellectual version of Twitter, [4] and further noted correctly that most Tumblr users post photos. How is that intellectual? I must confess, when I began to use Tumblr as a blogging platform I posted a lot of text pieces. It was an easy platform to post my writings, art work and photography. I liked the ease that it offered. But I got caught in the cycle of seeking validation of posting content simply to earn “likes” from “followers.” So, like an addict, I’d post more content — images that I didn’t create, but I liked (and sometimes “liked”) or inspired or informed me. But there was little if any engagement with other Tumblr users. Facebook and Twitter offered more discussion and conversation than Tumblr. It felt like a completely self-centered arena that offered nothing but consumption of content with no way to seek the best in others. I was not growing or learning from my Tumblr experience. I wasn’t meeting new people and exchanging ideas.

For me, quitting Tumblr comes down to this. An online community cannot grow and flourish if the lowest common denominator is a micro-blogging platform for web-illiterate users who reblog each others photos with silent alacrity.

NOTES: [1] Not that you need to be introduced to the crack cocaine of blogging — Smashing Magazine provides A Complete Guide To Tumblr [2] Read Compete’s report “Tumblr vs. WordPress vs. Blogger: Fight!” where it states that Tumblr functions more like a social network. . .” and “reduces barriers to publishing content .” [3] Longreads collects long-form online content from various publications [4] Olsen Jay Nelson

How to capturing abstract ideas in a book cover design

How do you capture an abstract thought for a book cover design? That’s the question one person left in the comments section to Judging a book by its cover.

That is a challenge. A lot of abstract ideas — like love, grief, joy, freedom, etc. — have emotional and psychological weight. Photography is an easy tool to use in conveying physical responses to abstract thoughts. Photos illustrating love or grief become cliché. For example: how many books can you find at a local book seller on the topic of grief of a loved one that includes sun bursting through voluminous clouds? There are reasons for a majority of the bereavement books have similar titles — primarily marketing. Readers looking for books on how to cope with grief in a book store find themselves staring at a shelves of cloud cover books. So how does a graphic designer create a cover that competes with all the cloud-covered-grief-books?

Here are two other tools to consider: color and shape.

Color

Color psychology informs me what colors might work best to address a book on the topic of grief, freedom or spirituality. The challenge arises frequently — due to an enormous amount of books published every year — that most books on the topic of grief utilize the same color scheme or photographs of a path leading through a forest with a bright patch of light at the end or the ever-present sun breaking through the clouds. So I turn to color psychology as a tool to design a book cover dealing with the abstract concepts of grief, joy, love, etc. There has been a lot of research in this field to learn from. For example, blue (depending on the shade or tint) offers a feeling of peace, tranquility, confident, and as reliable as the sky and ocean. But blue can also be cold and corporate (again, depending on the shade or tint). Interestingly, brown can express reliable and authenticity.

Shapes

Recently, I’ve turned to the psychology of shapes and patterns as a way to define abstract ideas like endurance, peace or joy. According to research, there are three main categories of shapes: geometric, organic and abstract. Other distinctions remind me of primary school including: circles, squares, triangles, spirals, and more. Also, the orientation of the shape is essential — horizontal and vertical. Squares and rectangles are common but express peace, stability, conformity or other abstract concepts. For example, a horizontal rectangle expresses confidence in much the same manner as the color blue. Whereas a spiral shape my best represent grief as it expresses the idea of death, life and transformation.

As I share the psychology of color and shape with authors with whom I am designing their book covers, they often need to be educated on the visual vocabulary of these ideas. Most of the authors understand the premise of how color, shapes and patterns express the content of their book. Additionally, most of the authors prefer a photographic cover design. This is a bit off in my mind, because what is a photograph but a composition of colors and shapes? Is there a lack of visual literacy in our culture? Or is the graphic design community a cloistered cult of artists that do not share secrets with the outside world?

As I design book covers, these are the tools I fall back on consistently: color and shapes.

Life is lived as a messy first draft

How do you explain a poem without revealing its mystery? I thought about that question this weekend after a private poetry reading session. A few poets gathered under a full moon to read new work….

[read more]

UPDATE: This blog post is available as part of an audio podcast.

Listen now:

Or listen on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie

E-book: This blog post will be featured in a forthcoming e-book. More details coming soon.

Asheville Wordfest Kickstarter campaign begins

Mark Doty, Asheville Wordfest 2010

The Asheville Wordfest Director, Laura Hope-Gill, announced last weekend that the Asheville Wordfest 2012 began a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the poetry festival. Wordfest celebrates its fifth year of providing a space for poets of various cultures and contexts to share their work with enthusiastic supporters of poetry.

This year’s poetry festival features many local poetry luminaries as well as notable national and international poets. Various events are scheduled at the Grateful Steps Foundation Bookshop, the Altamont Theater and other locations in Asheville, NC  between May 2-6, 2012.

Here’s an excerpt from an e-newsletter that was sent last Friday night regarding the Asheville Wordfest 2012 Kickstarter campaign:

Please kindly help Wordfest by donating to the Kickstarter campaign through Poetry Month: Asheville Wordfest 2012 Kickstarter campaign.

Asheville Wordfest 2012: HOME: Place and Planet takes place from Wednesday May 2 through Saturday May 5, 2012. North Carolina Humanities Council generously funds the festival in part, and we need your help to really bring it to life.

Along with our stellar guest poets, Wordfest 2012 aims to present as many local voices as is possible within the scope of a few days. Because our local voices resonate with the global whole, we welcome the following guest poets: Choctaw scholar, author and poet LeAnne Howe, Guggenheim and NEA Fellow Arthur Sze; Egyptian-American poet Matthew Shenoda; American Book Award Winner Allison Adelle Hedge Coke of Cherokee and Huron Nations. Learn about these stellar poets at www.ashevillewordfest.com. Thank you for your help in promoting multiculturalism and community through poetry.

Write 30 poems in 30 days: a challenge

During the summer of 2010, I took up the challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days with two goals in mind:

  1. generate new material and
  2. unclutter my mind.

Yesterday I began a new cycle of poems with the goal of writing 30 poems and 30 days during National Poetry Month (if your following National Poetry Month on twitter, the hashtag is #NPM12).