Posts Tagged ‘Indie Publishing’

Duff Man, Oh yeah.

8612461Cyrus Duffleman is an adjunct university professor fighting to reach the end of what seems like the single longest day of his life. From dawn till midnight, he sprints amongst four different educational institutions where students test his patience levels–particularly the ones with a raging sense of entitlement and blind patriotism–and where tragedies such as suicide and murder go down. In the rare moments when Duffleman does catch a breather, he can’t help but stress about his financial limitations, school administrative bureaucracies, and on a more personal level, crippling loneliness, which emerges in his daydreams of what-if scenarios.

Occasionally, Duffy doesn’t always make the most rational decisions, but we sympathize with him since he just can’t seem to catch a break. On top of dealing with an aching knee, empty wallet, the chronic fear of not having his classes renewed, he falls victim to internet phishing scams, temptations gone awry, and losing control of classroom discussions. He also strains to come to terms with his failed pipe dream of writing a novel:

[Duffleman’s] terminal degree states that he has a “Masters” in theso-called “Fine Art” of creative writing, and he applied years ago, long before the seven deadly sins of literary blockage—daily drudgery, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, lack of talent and ambition, and above all, laziness—stole away any chance he had of concentrating for long enough to produce anything even loosely resembling a work of art, or tight and tidy enough to be considered that marketable commodity, “the contemporary novel.”

Despite the stressors and personal doubt, Duffleman never ceases to put his full effort into his work and his heart into the community. He tutors students for minimum wage, often gives away his last few dollars to those he feels need it more, and at the very end of his long day, he helps end a domestic terrorist attack.

An author with a phenomenal writing ability, Alex Kudera has written a powerful debut novel about perseverance, and seeing through not only work but life commitments with dignity, respect, and most of all, unyielding passion.

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For a year I helped published the print journal Cellar Door Magazine. It was the early 2000s and we were full of piss and vinegar and ready to add to the already changing landscape of contemporary literature. It was a blast and we had a great time and had the chance to publish stories from many writers who are still working and doing well today. But we didn’t stop at literature. There were also some killer works of art included in each issue. Full series from graphite works to photographs. I’ll include some in this post for your consideration.

To introduce each of the four issues we printed we wrote a column called “From Pubs and Eds”. The following were the last two columns, written before we realized these would be the last we’d share with readers. And since there are no remaining copies of any of the four issues other than a handful we kept for ourselves, it further motivates me to share these columns.

There was no Issue Five due to the fact that we took part in a reading to launch Issue Four which resulted in an obscenity scandal. The college where the reading took place formally protested the content we shared, sending out mass emails to both faculty and students offering apologies to those who might have been offended by the Cellar Door reading.

At the time we had just been shipped more than 200 copies of the new issue. Normally, to keep the boat floating, we sold the copies to pay for the next print run. This time, we thought it would be a good idea to instead take all 200 plus copies and litter them across the college campus. We left them in bathrooms, on desks, in classrooms, in lounges, we left about ten copies on a stand in the college’s bookstore. Apparently the work study student running the front counter had missed the memo or didn’t care.

We made nothing from this move, not a cent. And Cellar Door Magazine was no more. But what a hell of a fine way to go out.

So here are those final two columns. You can see the piss and vinegar was still strong, and remains strong today. We didn’t stop publishing, we didn’t stop holding readings. We didn’t stop writing. We didn’t change a single thing about how we do things and why we do them. Never will.

Issue Three Column:

More and more since starting this magazine, we’ve been faced with rejection in one form or another. Parents have stowed free copies away, afraid to have guests stumble upon some horrible subject. Some have laughed and called the subject matter “pretty rough.” But the truth of it all is that what we’ve published is rough and horrible at times, but no more so than much of what you can see any hour of the day on CNN or more than a mile from your front door. And it’s not even as groundbreaking in terms of literature.

Before he sang about himself, Walt Whitman wrote a rare story about a student getting severely beaten for falling asleep in class. The story is full of delightful details about each lash the instructor inflicted upon the unresponsive student. It takes a painful number of well-placed strikes before the instructor realizes he’s been beating a corpse.

Literature has long touched subjects that others prefer to turn their faces from. Society, although instinctively prone to denying such work, actually need writers willing to answer the call. And this must be done in appropriate measure within the fabric of the given time period. The stories of D.H. Lawrence might seem bland by today’s standards, while much of the material that has raised eyebrows that we’ve printed or written is seen as radical. There’s some basic points to be considered with this.

The first, and most important, is that our stuff is not really that radical. There are several good writers and good magazines out there doing very much the same stuff. As John Wayne said in The Green Berets when a buck private complemented him on his skill at skeet shooting, “That’s normal.”

The second point is that none of it matters anyway. We don’t write stories or choose stories for publication because they seem radical or over the top or any number of other worn out ideas. We write stories or choose stories because we like them. They pull something loose from inside of our guts and then hold it up and ask questions we’ve never heard before and make us think of things we’ve never thought of before.

The idea of using striking subject matter and themes and images to convey deeper meaning is as old a technique as literature itself, but has never been more aptly described than by one of the greatest writers to ever string sentences together. We’ll leave you with the words of the immortal Flannery O’ Conner, who we should all thank for her courage and foresight in matters of the written word.

“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.”

Issue Four Column:

One year down, no scars

With this, our fourth issue, we now have a full year to our credit, no doubt about that. But our scars are few.

Sure, we miss Salinger’s first edition printing, sold to ensure publication of our maiden issue, but our struggles and sacrifices have passed unnoticed.

There’s a simple reason we don’t have war wounds.

We’ve loved every second of it. And without pain, there can be no scar.

Every minute we’ve spent working to better this magazine has culminated in some of our best hours and days. When those efforts resulted in success, we enjoyed it. When we stumbled and made mistakes, we appreciated the opportunity to learn more and do better the next time.

Still, a scar or two wouldn’t be such a bad thing. There‘s nothing like a ragged scar to get a good story started.

But then, hell, there’s always beer bottles and pool cues. Maybe there’s hope yet.

The Bible Belt. It’s where we live and work and play. It’s the reason we’ve never expected to gain local standing. Despite this, a few local bookstores have picked up the magazine, and for that we’re grateful.

Still, there was no home for what we do at home. Our work, and the work of writers and artists we valued, was doomed to be left unappreciated in our own backyard.

That‘s what we thought, until some locals showed up and shattered that perception like so many brittle bones.

So now that our kicking and screaming is spilling back into our own neighborhoods, let’s hope the waves crack against this small ship and challenge us at every turn. What can we say? We grew up in Eastern Kentucky reading books and writing poems. We’ve developed a decent right hook and an appetite for a good fight.

Here’s to the first year, and the fights yet to come.

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