Category Archives: Publishing

Escaping the Horrors of our current Economic Situation with Thomas Piketty

So I was watching a horror movie last night. It is called ‘The Apartment’ with Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurry and many others, written directed and produced by Billy Wilder. It came out in 1960, at the end of the black-and-white era.

At the time, it was produced as a light comedy. Since then however, much has changed.

For example, Bud, Jack Lemmon’s character (whose apartment the film is about) is one of approximately 10,000 employees at an insurance company, making about $95 per week. His precious apartment (due to its location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, close to Central Park) rents for about $110/month.

I didn’t watch it through, skipped around. But basically the higher-ups in his company take advantage of him, calling him names similar to drudge, and treat him poorly. He sits at a desk among a huge sea of desks on the 18th floor. They time when each floor can leave, so as to not overwhelm the elevators. The elevators are run by uniformed employees (including Shirley MacLaine’s character), the switchboard is still manually operated, etc..

So, let’s review.

This middle-aged man has a job of medium skill/intelligence, at a similar level as thousands of other employees, which is not yet much automated or supported via technology. He rents a wonderful apartment in a prime location, for just over 25% of his salary.

He is comfortable financially, isn’t conscious of that, and concerns himself with moving ahead. Presumably the other thousands of people he works with are also comfortable.

We know this – the 60’s were a time of widespread prosperity. It just hurts to see the characters so unaware of it. Kind of like in ‘Our Town’ how the people in the graveyard are aware of the people alive taking everything for granted.

My primary concern though is how we’re going to appear to people in 50 years. Will it seem to them that we have it amazingly well?  That is what would be horrifying.

And that scenario is not very far-fetched, according to the book everyone is reading that I finally picked up: ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ by Thomas Piketty (called by some “an Alexis de Tocqueville for the 21st century”.)

This article in the New Yorker describes Pinketty’s beliefs that the consequences of staying on our current course are ‘potentially terrifying.’  Piketty’s main point – growth of capital (in the hands of the rich) is higher than growth of the economy, resulting in permanent, ever-larger income disparities unless something is done.

So now I have my own copy of Piketty’s ‘Capital’, and I look forward to writing about it further in coming weeks and months. My initial reactions to the actual book itself: it’s big! Hardback of course only right now, and officially has 685 pages. Of course, the index starts at 671, the ‘contents in detail’ (?) list on page 657 (list of text headings), and general ‘Notes’ and references etc.. on page 579. So the actual ‘conclusion’ of the main text is on page 577.

I typed in a small section of text to one of those readability sites, it assigned a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score of 49 (scale of 0 to 100, higher score indicating more readable).  I notice just skimming that he does often state what he is going say or what he has said, provides lots of navigational clues as he’s going, there are lots of visual data items as well.

I’m excited to finally have it in my hands – kept hearing Piketty this and Piketty that the last several weeks. Finally looked him up, and came to understand that this book has broken all sales records for a book on economics! It is actually number one on multiple bestseller lists. There are suggestions that this book could actually play a significant role in changing the course we’re on. I sincerely hope so!

 

 

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“Salt Creek Anthology” Virtual Book Tour!

CCLaP’s Book Tour for Jason Fisk’s “Salt Creek Anthology” is in process, and I’m honored to be included!

In case you are new to this exciting new work, here is an introduction:

A couple meet in a mental institution, have six kids, and devolve into violent alcoholism. An elderly Polish woman with Alzheimer’s goes insane in front of our eyes. A frazzled empty-nester has her bruiser son move back in, along with a scheming girlfriend planning a surprise pregnancy to get them both back out. And an abusive, overweight, racist monster of a man psychologically lords over them all, a total of twenty-odd characters all living on the same cul-de-sac in the far rural suburbs of Chicago. Welcome to the dark, poetic world of author Jason Fisk, a “micro-story” collection that breaks these families’ adventures down into a series of 75 linguistic nuggets; these are then experimentally hooked together in a non-linear fashion through literal hyperlinks within each story, letting you read them in whichever order you wish. With “Salt Creek Anthology,” tumble down that brooding, enticing rabbithole that Fisk has created on this unassuming street for yourself, and see just how far the nightmare will take you.

What follows is a conversation with Jason Fisk, the author, about his work in general, this book in particular, and various other topics of interest.

ClaritySol: You are a husband and father, you teach, you write. You have a blog and other social media outlets to feed. How do you manage to be enthusiastic about all of it? Do you have any words of advice for those to seek to gain traction on a path similar to yours?

Jason Fisk: Well, with the exception of the upkeep of the blog, and other media outlets, I honestly feel like my enthusiasm is directly connected to the fact that I’m truly passionate about my family, my teaching, and my writing, which makes the balancing of it all a lot of fun for me. That’s not to say that I don’t have bad teaching days, days that I feel like a failure as a parent, and days that it would be so much easier not to write, but I’m always back at it the next day, even when I don’t feel like it. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration; there have been weeklong stretches where I have quit writing all together, due to various reasons, but it usually weasels its way back into my life and routine.

The whole social media thing is relatively new to me too, and by relatively new, I mean less than two years on facebook. Initially, I was resistant to it, but have found it to be a wonderful and necessary resource for the promotion of my writing, which, in the world of the small presses, is sometimes exhausting in and of itsel

ClaritySol: It looks like your paths have been intertwining with CCLaP, Jason Pettus and the other writers there: Ben Tanzer, Mark Brand, Sally Wiegert and the others. How important is that to your process, to share your work with writers and to hear what they’re doing and to work with your publisher in the way that you and Jason do?

Jason Fisk: That’s a tough one to answer. My involvement with other authors has changed over the years. Writing started out as a very solitary thing for me. I’d sit at my desk, write, and send my stuff out into cyberspace and wait for a response. I would not necessarily consider myself much of an extrovert, and there is part of me that struggles with the act of social networking, especially when it feels disingenuous. I have to give credit to Ben Tanzer for opening a lot of doors to the local literary world. He actually put me in touch with Jason Pettus and CCLaP, and introduced me to different authors in the area, Mark and Sally being two of them. The actual act of writing and sharing my writing with other authors is something I’ve just started doing recently.

ClaritySol: I know one of Jason Pettus’ goals is to be responsive to the CCLaP audience – to provide what they want to read, and/or provide what they want to be challenged with.

How do you and your work fit in to those goals? What is your approach to the audience – are they part of your writing, or is your writing more a personal process?

Jason Fisk: When I write, I don’t think about audience. Personally, I believe thinking about an audience while writing sucks the integrity from what I’m writing. It begins to feel watered down. I would always be second guessing myself and wondering how a certain group would react to this or that.

I let Jason Pettus worry about the audience. If you send him something, writing or an idea, that he’s not so into, he’ll let you know, and he’ll gently push you in the direction he’d like to see you go, which is probably where catering to his audience comes into play. I also think he does a nice job of creating, or attracting, an audience that has similar tastes as him. Publishers like Jason not only have to sell their product, they also have to create and generate an interest where there may not initially have been one. Having said all of that, Jason Pettus also has this great philosophy of being hands off while the author writes their first draft. I think this is very respectful of the creative process and of the writer.

ClaritySol: You have an impressive publication history already, which I found here:

http://jasonfisk.com/publicationpage.html

It is clear that poetry also has a big place in your writing. Which do you prefer? Do you find certain content is best explored in one format or the other? Are the struggles inherent in each very different, or mostly similar?

Jason Fisk: I started writing poetry in an elective in graduate school, and I absolutely loved finding that little piece of truth (or at least what I thought was truth) and writing about it. Most of my poems have a narrative quality to them, which probably has something to do with my early love of the short story. My relationship with poetry is somewhat contentious though; I really like accessible poetry, and hate pretentious, dense poetry. My real love is the short story, which I find more challenging to write, especially after working so hard to pare a story to its bare essentials for a poem. It’s hard to get into the short story mind set.

ClaritySol: From your blog, here is a description of a book meeting from one of the attendees:

‘What began as a discussion about fictional others quickly turned to ourselves and our own little bits of crazy. We praised Fisk for his ability to hand-pick what is absolutely essential about a story, entertain us with it, and then make us look twice for a glimpse we thought we caught of ourselves – all in two to four paragraphs.’

It sounds to me like you are one of those writers who applies to discipline and the strength of poetry to any other form you engage in as well, would you agree? That you are always a poet, and sometimes you write poetry and sometimes you write in other forms?

Jason Fisk: To me, it’s all about the transaction between the writer and the reader, and I believe the transaction part is very important. My goal is to create an outline of place, time, and movement, and have the reader fill the rest in with their imagination. The reader has then invested part of himself or herself in the story by painting the walls the colors they see, or imagining that particular space is similar to one in his or her house. I believe poetry has been a wonderful tool to roughly sketch out those bits and pieces of a story, and allow the readers to fill in the blanks, which, hopefully, creates a unique reading experience. I think you’re right; I will always be a poet, or at least retain those elements of poetry.

ClaritySol: From your blog, I borrowed this passage of yours:

William Carlos Williams wrote, “No ideas but in things.” While I know that my poetry is nowhere near Williams’ level, it is something I strive to emulate. I love the thought of “No ideas but in things,” and only want to paint what I see (whether it is in my imagination, or in real life). What the reader takes from it is their business.

Is that an accurate capture of your attitude towards this piece as well?

Jason Fisk: Oh, absolutely!

ClaritySol: What’s next? Do you have many additional things that you’re working on right now? Do you have additional pieces percolating that are not even in the writing stage yet? What can we look forward to?

Jason Fisk: I just finished up a small collection of more flash fiction, and am currently in the process of polishing that up. Jason Pettus has also suggested that I take the next year and try my hand at writing a novel, which is what I’m planning on doing, so that’s what’s currently fermenting in my head. We’ll see…

ClaritySol: Anything else you’d like us to know about your work, your plans, your art?

Jason Fisk: No, I feel like we’ve covered quite a bit here. I do want to thank you for taking the time to research and craft such insightful and thoughtful questions. Your time and involvement is very much appreciated.

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Pinterest: Exciting new outlet.. but be careful!

Pinterest – located at pinterest.com – is a social photo-sharing website. Users can establish accounts, and then set up collections of images that reflect their interest.

Other users can browse their collections, ‘like’ various items, collect images from each other, and establish mutual interest relationships and so on.

Launching as a closed beta in March 2010, the site has in stages opened up to the public, and has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the process.

On August 16, 2011, Time magazine published Pinterest in its “50 Best Websites of 2011” column.(Wikipedia)

Just in the last few months – December, January – the site has been skyrocketing with users. It crossed the 10 million user mark last month, being one of the fastest sites to do so.

Users love it’s visuality, ease of use, and it’s ability to facilitate relationships with others of similar interests. It links in with Facebook, Twitter, has an RSS feed feature, comes with WordPress widgets and there’s an iPhone app for it too!

But recently, awareness has been growing of downsides for users of the site. In particular related to the very use of images that is such a big part of its appeal.

I literally only heard of this site about a week ago.

A few days ago, I retweeted this tweet about it:

56 Ways to Market Your Business on #Pinterestj.mp/yt2cO8 via @copyblogger RT @brasonja #in

And that tweet of mine was RT’d about 4 times, more than almost any other of my tweets. Clearly it is a topic of interest right now! So as I began to read today more concerns about the site, I thought I’d pull together this blog post about it all.

Here is a clearer link to that article on CopyBlogger: .

It talks about a wide spectrum of ways to use Pinterest for marketing your business, everything from social media immersion techniques to branding to traffic analysis techniques to webinar support. Seems all very exciting and wonderful, but read on, please!

Another Pinterest-excitement tweet I saw recently:

How the medical industry is using (and could use): Pinterest bit.ly/zaonKE RT @MelissaOnline

This MedCityNews article showcaseshow the medical industry already uses and could even more use Pinterest to boost patient morale, improve patient education and, of course, engage in cutting-edge marketing activities.

This page also mentions the revenue stream aspect of Pinterest, which involves affiliate marketing via Skimlinks and changing the codes linked to images to replace the original marketer with Pinterest . That practice, described further in this MarketingLand article: is generating interest and concern as more people become aware of it.

But copyright theft is a much more serious concern, since it involves legal ramifications that are completely beyond what users have in mind when they sign up to use Pinterest. This BusinessInsider article describes those concerns.

In a question and answer format, the piece explores the idea that Pinterest may be more illegal than Napster was, due to its use of images not owned by the user, thereby violating the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Pinterest actually ‘requires’ that each user ‘own’ rights to the images they post, but they in no way reinforce that requirement.

This article explores the fair use argument and how it applies to Pinterest (and Tumblr, for that matter), and also mentions that Pinterest grabs whole sites when people ‘pin’ an image from that site, making it all even more serious.

Pinterest makes users even more uncomfortable in its statement that it reserves the right to sell any image posted by a user. This article by RWW mentions that several businesses, after initially signing up to use Pinterest, almost immediately closed their accounts as they more fully explored the implications. What it boils down to is that, if a user posts a photo which they don’t own the license to (a license given them free, world-wide, very broad and open rights to), they could be sued for posting it (and thereby granting Pinterest the right to sell it).

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Site-Member Interview in-Depth: CCLaP’s Four Year Anniversary!

CCLaP – the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography – founded June 2007 – is as a private for-profit company; established to champion the best of today’s bleeding-edge, ultra-contemporary work.

ClaritySol: Congratulations on your Four-Year Anniversary! Now, like many start-ups, you’re self-funded, so you’ve been slowly growing CCLaP’s client-base and community. Your pattern has been to publish one book each year electronically, complementing your extensive book reviews and essays (such as the ever-popular series about literary classics called “The CCLaP 100”). Now in the last year you’ve stepped things up considerably..

CCLaP: Yes, I’ve been publishing books since 2008 now, just with all the past ones being electronic only; it’s just this summer that I’m finally getting paper versions of them out for the first time.

2011 has been a year of significantly increased activity: after publishing only one book a year previously (Ben Tanzer’s “Repetition Patterns” in 2008, Sally Weigel’s “Too Young to Fall Asleep” in 2009, and Tanzer’s “99 Problems” in 2010), starting this year I’ve upped the schedule to four new titles every year . In 2011 the four books include Mark R. Brand’s “Life After Sleep” and Jason Fisk’s “Salt Creek Anthology” already published, with the compilation book “American Wasteland” and Katherine Scott Nelson’s “Write Me Back” still to come.

So that’s been a significant increase in work, needless to say, especially since I’m now adding paper versions to each release. So time that I had before been dedicating to extensive reading and high-octane book reviews (which are posted on the CCLaP blog) is going to these newer activities instead.
Accordingly, I started the long-term hunt for other staff writers who can do book reviews in the CCLaP “ethos,” if you will, so that I can keep the daily posting schedule up at the blog while still devoting my own time to more publishing-related activities.

ClaritySol: Would you like to give the audience a brief bio of yourself, your journey to opening CCLaP? Did you always have an entrepreneurial bent? Or had you had a different life vision, and then things shifted and this became the optimal path? I have heard you state over the years that you used to write, and then you stopped. Yet currently you write book & film reviews and various other things.

CCLaP: I suppose I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, now that you put it like that; by the age of six I was already doing puppet shows for neighborhood kids and charging admission, putting out a subdivision newsletter, things like that. I’ve had a whole series of different career focuses over the decades, mostly due to just a wide range of interests — 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 point out, 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: The close relationship between the artist and the fan, is that the main benchmark of success for you, the overriding goal?

CCLaP: 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 like a lot of creative institutions have lost sight of that, that many of the bigger ones especially that started back in the Modernist era have become so insular and so totally focused on grants, corporate partnerships, and just the mere struggle to stay alive at the level they’re accustomed to.

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 is the unifying element of the work you publish?

CCLaP: My focus is on trying to get the best work possible out of that writer. I 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.

As far as the paper books go, I’m selling them literally as fast as I can make them right now, which is a double-edged sword; I could be selling more if I could simply make them faster, but the reason there’s such a strong interest is because everyone knows how long they take, and what a high quality these handmade editions have at the end because of it. Sigh!

ClaritySol: Who is your target audience?:

CCLaP: 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: 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?

CCLaP: 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.

ClaritySol: How involved are you in the Chicago Literary Scene, and is that important to CCLaP?

CCLaP: I’m unfortunately not too terribly involved with the local community anymore, for a variety of reasons. I’ve been changing that this summer somewhat, because I’ve been taking my new high-def videocamera 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.

While all of CCLaP’s authors have so far been Chicagoans, and all but one book have all been set in Chicago; 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: Four year anniversary, very exciting – congratulations! Did you always expect to reach this point (and beyond)?

CCLaP: Well, thanks! As mentioned, the goal in my head has always been to go even a lot longer than this; but that said, it’s still a treat to actually make it to four years, given how many artistic projects are launched with such full confidence every year and then fall apart six months later.

ClaritySol: What about the past (four) years has surprised you the most?

CCLaP: I suppose the biggest “surprise” has actually been the anti-surprise of studying small business beforehand, and learning that just about each and every little thing I read about when studying small business has come true while actually running one.

ClaritySol: Are there things you would do differently if you could have a do-over? What lessons have you learned about entrepreneurialism in the real world?

CCLaP: If I had a chance to start over, probably the biggest change would be much less of a focus on live events at first, and a much bigger push into paper publishing from the get-go, learning in hindsight how much interest there’s been in it since actually starting it.

These are just little lessons you can only learn by actually opening and trying stuff out, which is another basic lesson from my “self-taught MBA” days that has absolutely come true: that it’s best at first to keep this sort of open, semi-flexible framework to what you’re doing, so that you can try some various things out without too terribly much commitment, and quickly shut down the things that aren’t working, even if they’re sentimental favorites.

I’d love to be doing more really big live events, like the one I did with Nathan Rabin last winter, but it just hasn’t been in the cards so far in terms of CCLaP’s audience being willing to support it, which as a business owner I have to pay more attention to than whatever personal desire I have to be sitting on a stage talking to someone cool and famous.

ClaritySol: New developments: you have an intern now! How is that going – I know for lots of folks that shift from one person to two people is a big one.

CCLaP: Oh, it’s been just about as minimalist as possible, to tell you the truth, and frankly I’m not sure if I’ll be doing it again for awhile; Traci Kim has been great, but the fact is that as a one-person, home-based business, there’s simply almost nothing for her to actually do. I’ve instead put her in charge of her own themed anthology, which we’ll be publishing at the end of the summer, which she mostly does on her own from home.

I just wanted to try hosting an internship at least once, since I had this opportunity just fall in my lap (Traci literally just wrote out of the blue this spring about it), just to see how it would go; I’m not sure if I’ll be doing it again until after CCLaP finally has its own permanent physical space somewhere in the city, and there’d be a lot more intern-type stuff for an intern to do.

ClaritySol: You’re producing blank journals – that seems a great idea – wide-open future sales. Congrats!

CCLaP: Yes, at Etsy, with me and ten million middle-aged moms! Stop by and purchase one, please!

ClaritySol: How does the Photography part of CCLAP – is that more of a future aspect of the company?

CCLaP: Yes, I have 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 giftstore-type merchandise with each show, which only makes sense if we literally had our own giftstore, etc.

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; I hope this has been of some interest.

ClaritySol: You’re very welcome, Jason! This has been a wonderful peek into your exciting, successful company. Wishing you all the best success for the future!

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For more information about CCLaP, check out the installment at Clarity Solutions Google+ page: http://gplus.to/CstokesCS

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Using WordPress – why and for how long?

A new member of my work community just commented on my blog being here at WordPress rather than separately hosted with its own URL and all.

So here’s a blog post about it, and an opportunity for further conversation with anyone considering these questions.

First, I agree. Real blogs should be hosted by your nearest awesome ISP (which I have), and have all the serious trappings that come with that. I’m a firm believer in doing things the substantial way whenever possible, for best results and also because that inherently benefits the whole business community.

Right now, though, I’m here. Temporarily.

A little background: I worked at Minnesota Regional Network from 1997 – 1999, back when they were the backbone of the internet in the state of Minnesota (along with the University of Minnesota). That was a great experience. I remember looking at websites for the first time when I started there, back when there weren’t all that many on line (many times fewer than the number of Google + accounts right now!).

The browser, Netscape, had ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s cool’ buttons, and those buttons were relatively authoritative regarding the entire internet. Our engineers generally scoffed at the World Wide Web, being much more engaged with UseNet and bulletin boards and so on. We were an early provider of online access to the masses, our employees helped many people log on for the first time.

One year when I was there we had a booth at the State Fair, which was really fun too. We would ask people walking by if they wanted to see the internet. There was a lot of skepticism and plain lack of awareness, but sharing those initial exciting experiences was really great.

I developed a huge respect for the Internet Gurus who keep it all running for the rest of us, great fascination for Unix, and a life-long loyalty to the Mac OS.

I consulted for the first time after leaving there, and set up my own website using Dreamweaver and other tools. HTML coding didn’t appeal to me very much, and there were many who were focusing exclusively on it, so I didn’t spend much time gathering that skill set. What little coding I did was much more fun thanks to BBEdit than it would have been otherwise.

And I remember launching my website! And then waiting for a response! Waiting for an audience! Scanning the hieroglyphics of my web logs, trying to understand trends and future promise. Waiting! Waiting for an audience that never really materialized.

That feeling of launching the website — to resounding silence is one of the main reasons I was interested to try WordPress this time around. Built in audience (sort of), built in community (kind of). Built in mainstream normalcy (for what it’s worth).

Also I wanted to start this way because I may have clients with WordPress sites, and wanted to share that technology knowledge base with them.

The other whole reason goes back to my not learning HTML. I have another core belief that it is optimal to let experts engage in their expertise, and pay the valid rate they charge. There are a lot of challenges to that practice right now, but to the extent we can return to that practice, again there are multiple community benefits. But right now, I don’t have the resources to allocate to that. WordPress does that for me, allowing me to gain a clearer idea of what I want when I do launch my actual site.

So I do definitely see this as a short-term situation. I’m establishing blogging habits, becoming slowly familiar with how this site can interact with other sites, making initial attempts at a category and tag system, seeing how my content feels in this particular visual setting.

At the optimal future point when it is time, I will give my awesome ISP a call and start the next step. My ISP, ipHouse, is run by some of the most dedicated folks in the internet-serving community, and it’s great knowing that there’s no further decision to make in that area.

At that point, with all the social media tools available, I know I will be able to connect in with my existing audiences seamlessly. It’s all such a different world from back then. It’s not all perfect, there is a lot of noise. But the amount of content and ease of access to that content on today’s internet continually thrills me.

So thanks for that comment, Glenn. And would love to hear further comments from you and anyone else on comparative benefits/costs of WordPress vs. independently hosted & managed website.

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Exciting new Podcast from CCLaP with Jason Fisk!

In conjunction with the release this week of the hyper-fiction micro-story ‘Salt Creek Anthology’, CCLaP’s Jason Pettus interviewed Salt Creek author Jason Fisk in this podcast!

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Organization Name: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP)

Executive Director Name: Jason Pettus

Year Established: 2007

Contact Information: http://www.cclapcenter.com/

Product/Service: CURRENT: Electronic books, hand-crafted paper books, performance events, reviews and critical essays, social events, manuscript editing services, and an interview-based podcast. COMING: Classes and workshops, merchandise, eventual brick-and-mortar location.

Unique Features/Competitive Advantage: Nonprofit-oriented but with an underlying commercial business structure, CCLaP works much more directly with its fans and members than traditional non-profits do to determine not only the center’s agenda but which types of artists to most heavily feature; and by generating its revenue through commercial products and services instead of nonprofit grants, the center is free of influence from pressure campaigns by conservative watchdog groups, allowing it to fulfill its mission of supporting edgy and independent artists much more fully.

By currently being a mostly electronic organization with only one paid employee, both overhead and production costs are nearly zero, allowing the center to try such press-friendly experiments as “pay what you want” electronic books and a Twitter-based story series, ironically generating a bigger audience than normal and a healthy financial profit, despite only 25 percent of the books’ readers being paying ones.

Biggest lesson learned in the last year: That success in the small-business world doesn’t gradually rise like a curving line on a graph, but rather in random starts and fits, which also doubles as “most surprising lesson learned in the last year.”

Many times we can toil on a project for months without even the least external sign of success or recognition, the very reason that so many non-business people call entrepreneurs hopeless dreamers when times are tough; what I’ve come to learn is that these might very well be the times when you’re creating the long-term respect in the backs of the minds of random strangers who will eventually bring a big boost to your organization, like a high-profile journalist or venture capitalist, and that it’s this quiet time of simply getting the work done that precisely creates this long-term respect in the first place.

It’s why overcoming self-doubt is such a hidden but important aspect of being a small-business owner.

Best advice for someone starting out: Dream big at first, and get a good mental picture of what you see your business looking like when running at full steam; then cut that dream down to a tenth of its former size, and first try getting that running smoothly before attempting anything else. As I’ve learned the hard way, by announcing small goals and then doing a little better than promised, you will gain an immense amount of respect and loyalty from your customers, no matter how modest those goals are; but by announcing an impressive goal and then not quite reaching it, you will garner almost nothing but ridicule.

Newest Project: CCLaP’s newest original book is a “micro-story” collection called Salt Creek Anthology. Written by local author Jason Fisk, it consists of 75 tiny little interconnected stories concerning four sorta trashy families who all live on the same cul-de-sac in a far rural suburb of Chicago.

Not only content but also the form of this book is remarkable: it’s being released in what’s called a “hyperfiction” style! On top of being able to just read the book normally from beginning to ending in a row, there are also literal hyperlinks embedded within the text of each story as well, with the phrases that are linked giving you a little clue to the subject of the story that comes next.

This is also the first book in CCLaP’s history to be available in a special handmade paper edition right from the very first day as well, title number two in the center’s new “Hypermodern Editions” series this summer, special high-quality physical editions of all our electronic books, designed for collectors but reasonably priced.

Click on the Salt Creek Anthology page to download the electronic copy, order a copy in print version, or check out additional supplemental and promotional materials for this release!

Past activities: Recent video podcasts in the “CCLaP After Dark” series include the latest edition of “QUICKIES!,” a popular monthly reading held at Wicker Park’s Innertown Pub, in which a large group of performers each get exactly four minutes on stage; and an all-comedy edition of “Literary Death Match,” a global phenomenon started by Todd Zuniga which is now held in over thirty cities across the planet.

For information on the latest CCLaP events, check out: http://www.cclapcenter.com/events/

http://www.cclapcenter.com

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