Sunday, January 10, 2016

Marketing Happens

Here at Pebblebrook Press, as is the case at so many small presses, we are grateful for the ingenuity of our authors’ marketing efforts to promote their books. Since our staff is only four people (all of us with day jobs and a literary journal called Stoneboat to produce twice a year), and since the bank account balance for the journal and press combined rarely exceeds triple digits, we simply don't have the time or the resources to extensively market our book titles. We send out review copies, we take books to festivals and other events, and we sing our titles’ praises on social media, but as far as actual "marketing campaigns" go, well, we know we are rather lacking in this department.

What we do not lack, however, is a willingness to support the creative efforts of the writers we have been lucky enough to publish, amazing writers, all of them. We are happy to assist them in the journeys they take into the land of self-promotion. We stand at the ready to follow each person's lead. We are here to send letters, make phone calls, nominate for awards, and show up at readings.

Thanks to the hard work of Pebblebrook author Mark Zimmermann, it is with great pleasure that the editors of Stoneboat/Pebblebrook Press will be at Boswell's Books in Milwaukee on Thursday evening, January 14, when Mark reads from his poetry collection, Impersonations, at 7:00 p.m. We applaud Mark for doing the legwork on this one, and for his diligence in staying on task to promote the book.

In addition to the reading, he will be interviewed on Milwaukee Public Radio’s Lake Effect program next week. Mark made the initial contact with the program's producer, and then nudged us to write a letter on his behalf. The rest is history. (Well, not yet, but it will be soon enough.) Tune in to WUWM (89.7 FM) on Tuesday, January 12h at 10:00 a.m. and hear it for yourself.

Please do catch the interview, and then, join us at Boswell's on Thursday night. Meanwhile, I think we might want to consider bringing some of our authors on board to help us market all of our Pebblebrook Press titles. They're pretty good at it...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Freezin' for a Reason

When was the last time you put on a swim suit and jumped into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan in the middle of goddamn winter?  For us here in Stoneboatlandia, it has been almost one year to the day. Yes, my friends, it is time once again for our annual Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser. (Donate here.) Let me say right away that I, Poetry and Arts Editor Lisa Vihos, do not go in the water. I leave that to the professionals. I have carried towels, blankets, and hot chocolate. I provide the warming house because I live near the lake. I just don't go in.

Did you know that the Polar Bear Plunge happens all over the world, under a variety of different names? Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, anyplace where there is cold water in large quantity, people are apparently eager to jump into it for a good cause. In many places, plunges are held specifically to raise funds for charities. For example, in Long Beach, New York, the fun happens on Super Bowl Sunday, when about 2,000 people jump into the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Plungapalooza” happens in Maryland at Sandy Point State Park and is the largest plunge event in the United States. In 2007, that particular plunge had 7,400 participants and raised $2.2 million for the Special Olympics.

2.2. Million. Dollars. You see? We at Stoneboat are right in step with some of the most lucrative, grassroots fundraising efforts on the planet, all because Stoneboat founder and Co-Editor in Chief Rob Pockat had the brilliant (or crazy) idea, just a few days before the 2014 plunge, that he’d read a poem in the icy lake on New Year’s Day if he could raise a mere $50 for the journal. We were all dumbfounded when the donations began pouring in and the goal amount was reached in just an hour or two. Rob then convinced Co-Editor in Chief Signe Jorgenson to sweeten the pot by making the bold offer that if the donations reached a certain level, she would go in, too. Perhaps she did not expect such great response. But, money was raised, and in they both went. Talk about dedication!

In the Netherlands, there are 89 beaches across the country that host plunges on New Year's Day. There, the event is called "Nieuwjaarsduik" (New Year's Dive).  In the UK, the event is called "Loony Dook" and happens in South Queensferry, Scotland.  Don't let the word "south" fool you. It is f'n freezing, I'm sure. In the Northwest Territories of Canada, an event is held in March and is called "Freezin for a Reason." How poetic is that?

Whatever you call it, I'll tell you one thing: it is amazing what Signe and Rob are prepared to do to keep our little boat afloat. Please click here to make this ass-freezing adventure worthwhile for them and for all the prose writers, poets, and artists who will warm the pages of Stoneboat in the coming year.  On behalf of all of them, I say a heartfelt thank you.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Polar Bear Plunge 2016

That's right! We're taking the plunge—again. In 2014 and 2015, our editors-in-chief rang in the New Year with a plunge into the icy waters of Lake Michigan to raise funds that have helped Stoneboat Literary Journal stay up and running and able to continue publishing great fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic literature, and artwork.

This year, Rob and Signe will be taking the polar bear plunge again, and we'd like to give those who donate a little something in return. Feel free to donate any amount—even a dollar or two helps—but those who donate the following amounts will receive some exciting Stoneboat prizes:

$10: handmade Stoneboat bookmark
$30: your choice of one of the following Pebblebrook poetry collections: Impersonations by Mark Zimmermann, Momentary Ordinary by Marilyn Zelke-Windau, or a berserker stuck in traffic by Erik Richardson
$50: a one year subscription (or extension of your subscription) to Stoneboat
$75: a two year subscription (or extension of your subscription) to Stoneboat
$100: You choose the dedication for a future issue of Stoneboat!

Oh, and if you're super invested in the suffering of our editors-in-chief in the numbing cold, you'll be happy to know that if we reach our donation goal of $500, Rob and Signe will fully submerge themselves underwater, a feat that is not so easily done, as you'll see if you watch the YouTube footage below of last year's plunge.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lipogram Contest Winner Announced

Our imprint, Pebblebrook Press, recently held a poetry contest to celebrate the release of Mark Zimmermann's collection of lipograms, Impersonations. Entrants were challenged to write a poem using the lipogram constraint, which requires poets to deliberately exclude certain letters from their poems. Zimmermann was the judge; he read the poems blindly and selected Jason Primm's "Stoneboat" as the winner. Primm, whose short story "Light" appeared in Stoneboat 2.1, used only the letters in the poem's title to compose his work, which appears below.

Stoneboat An eon
No boots.
No boats.
No bent notes.
One soon noon?
As season
beat sonatas
on stone.
Toast taboos.
Nose ears.
Eat beast.
“O Babe!”,
“O boon!”
As oboes

Judge Mark Zimmerann says, "In the winning poem, 'Stoneboat,' the author sets to work with only seven letters to use—a very challenging constraint—and comes up with a free associative word salad of sound and image that embodies the kinds of surprises that can result from lipogrammatic writing. Thanks to all who entered the contest. Your work shows, once again, that matters of poetic freedom, creative expression, and formal constraint aren’t mutually exclusive—not by a longshot."

The Pebblebrook Press team joins Zimmermann in thanking all of the poets who entered the contest. The work was creative, thought-provoking, and fun to read. Zimmermann had a difficult task in choosing just one winner, and we're glad we weren't charged with making the decision.

Zimmermann's collection of lipograms, which was released earlier this week from Pebblebrook Press, is available here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

An interview with Mark Zimmermann

We interviewed Mark Zimmermann, author of Pebblebrook Press's forthcoming poetry collection Impersonations, to find out more about his writing process and his experiences with the literary form of the lipogram. Zimmermann is a Wisconsin native currently living in Milwaukee. He was featured in Pebblebrook's first release, the anthology Masquerades and Misdemeanors, and he has spent time teaching humanities and writing courses, both abroad and here in the United States. Impersonations is his first collection. 

To pre-order Impersonations, visit Pebblebrook Press's website

How did this collection evolve? Where did the idea come from?

Initially there was no idea. One morning in the summer of 2002 I was at home scanning the shelves for a book to read, when I just started rattling off words I could make from names appearing in this or that book title. I had no thought of even getting a poem or a few poems out of it, much less a book-length work. It was all free associating and vocal riffing—playing with language and seeing what would happen.

What happened was a stream of patter, as in these words made from letters in Napoleon: “Lo! An ape on a neon pole. Lope on, pal…” which turned out to be one of the more coherent results of that morning. Still, this was enjoyable enough, so I began writing some things down. I should also mention that ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed word search games, Scrabble, palindromes, and rearranging letters from terms and short phrases just to see what else was there. Writing lipograms is in part an extension of that.

When did you discover the lipogram form? How did it grab hold of you?

I came across the lipogram sometime around 1990-91 when a sprinkler malfunction flooded the UW-M bookstore, where I worked at the time. Hundreds of books were damaged and ended up being sold for 75% off the cover price. Employees got first choice and I took advantage, buying a pile of hardcovers that I never could have otherwise afforded. One of them was O.B. Hardison’s Disappearing Through the Skylight, which included examples of lipograms. The form intrigued me as novel, challenging, and a little crazy, but I didn’t pursue it further.

Has working with a constraint like this ever surprised you, and if so, how?

Yes, I’ve been surprised in different ways at different stages of writing the work. At first, I remember being struck again and again by how often “renegade” letters kept creeping into what I was writing: “Damn! How did the letter ‘b’ get in here?” Then I’d have to go back and take out every word that had a ‘b’ in it. This happened countless times, and occasionally it spelled the end of a poem, but as the months and years went by I noticed that this was happening less often. This was another surprise, slowly dawning though it was: No matter what poem I was working on, I was becoming adjusted to the constraint to the point where it felt natural and comfortable. Not only was I making fewer mistakes, I began to feel that the form itself afforded the kind of creative freedom that can come from working with a constraint that guides one into places they’d not otherwise go.

How did the idea to write persona poems evolve? Were your early lipograms based on fictional characters, cultural icons, and historical figures, or did this focus develop over time?

As much as I enjoyed the initial wordplay mentioned earlier, it wasn’t too long before I knew that I didn’t want to just play around for the sake of the form itself. So, I set myself to trying to see if I could work out some material where form and subject came together in a way that I hoped would convey something essential about each poem’s speaker. As for who to write about, I went with persons and characters that interested me. My wife Carole has been a great help on this count, giving me suggestions at times when I was at a loss for who to write about. The Rasputin, Friedman, and Gaga poems are a few of the works that got started because of her.

Who are the main lipogram writers? Who else is exploring the form?

Writers who gave or are giving sustained attention to the form make for a very short list of works available in English. The most celebrated lipogrammatic work is La Disparition (1969), a French novel by Georges Perec in which the letter “e” is not used and is a key part of the story “chock-full of plots and subplots, of loops within loops, of trails in pursuit of trails, all of which allow its author an opportunity to display his customary virtuosity as an avant-gardist magician, acrobat and clown,” according to the lipogrammatic cover flap of Gilbert Adair’s e-free English translation.

Perec also wrote an essay “History of the Lipogram,” which appears in Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature, edited by Warren F. Motte, Jr.

Other lipogrammatic novels are Ernest Vincent Wright’s Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter E (1939) and Ella Minnow Pea (2001) by Mark Dunn. Christian Bok has written an unusual work, Eunoia, part novella and part prose poem, in which the constraint in each of the work’s sections is univocalic, using only one vowel. Bok further set himself to a variety of subsidiary rules pertaining to subject matter. His work won’t be mistaken for that of anyone else.

What advice would you give to other poets who are interested in using this form?

Pretty much what I’d suggest to any writer. Start with a sense of curiosity and play, but expect difficulty too. You need not have a goal at first; give it time. Concentrate. Turn off your goddam cell phone and other gadgets. Try to think of new ways or reasons to use the form. If you develop a feel for the lipogram at some point, read up on its history and authors.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Are you up for a challenge?

Pebblebrook Press is holding a poetry contest to celebrate the release of Impersonations, a collection of lipogram poems by Mark Zimmermann. A lipogram is a written work composed of words chosen so as to avoid the use of one or more specific alphabetic characters.

The words in Zimmermann's poems contain only the letters that appear in the title of each poem, and each poem's title is the name of the person or character that poem is about. For example, his poem titled "Emily Dickinson" uses only words that consist of the letters E, M, I, L, Y, D, C, K, N, S, or O.

Are you ready to give it a try? It's not easy, but it's a lot of fun!

Here are the contest rules:
  • You may enter up to three, original lipogram poems.
  • Poems can come in any of the following forms:
    1. Use only letters in the title of the poem. (The title doesn't have to be a person—it can be anything.)
    2. Pick your favorite writer and use only the letters in his or her name. (Again, the title of the poem does not have to be the author's name.)
    3. Use only the letters in "Stoneboat Literary Journal." 
    4. Writer's choice: Create your own restraint, but tell us what it is when you submit. 
  • Keep each poem under 25 lines. 
  • Poems should be submitted to our email address:
  • The deadline is April 1, 2015

The winner will receive a copy of Impersonations. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Introducing our newest intern...

Hello. My name is Kimberly Thimmig and I am in my final semester at Lakeland College, majoring in religion with minors in writing and history.  I live near Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, with my husband, Gary, where I enjoy working on my perennial gardens, establishing a native prairie on our property, and reading while enjoying a cup of tea.  I have loved writing all my life, and it has spanned my divergent interests--things such as farming, religion, cemeteries, maps, and pondering my love of canning fruits and vegetables.  I have been transcribing my grandmother’s diaries, which begin in 1946; this has fueled an interest in post-war American society and my families’ histories.