As a writer who’s attempting to navigate the murky, slow-moving waters of traditional publishing channels (querying agents, sending work to journals), I’ve used the Internet to expand my opportunities. I’ve submitted my work to journals and lit mags all around the world. But I really didn’t know how to connect with the poets, writers, artists, and other creative spirits who were closest to me.
That’s why I was just as surprised as anyone when I became more engaged with our local indie community and learned all the resources the greater Boston area had to offer.
This independent spirit was what brought me to write for the Boston Hassle in the first place, but let’s go through some other moments from 2019 that put the joy of creating back into creating. Many of the DIY creators I became familiar with fall into a niche market. Ruined Records Art, who will be at the 2019 Boston Hassle Flea Market, upcycles damaged vinyl records into pieces of art. Sister Suspect makes chainmail and leather jewelry. Many other artists make visual art, posters, or zines.
Here’s my rundown of my personal top five DIY experiences of 2019.
1. New Zineland 2019
This weekend-long event was back in March and featured hundreds of zine-makers, book artists, artist collectives, and generally cool people taking over the Cambridge Elks Lodge. Here I found artists and presses to support like Greying Ghost, Katie Langlois, Cristina Hajosy, and Stay Kind, headed by Dawn Graham.
Stay Kind is still accepting submissions for a zine about anonymous confessions. Text in your secrets, like I did! But you’ll never know which ones were mine.
It was great to learn that many of these groups are shedding light on important areas like mental health, environmental action, and justice for racial minority and queer communities. Many of the artists identified as members of these groups.
I will also never forget Market Casket, which was either the name of someone’s collective or a tagline or the name of a zine. They sold t-shirts, I believe, with that name in the font and design of the Market Basket logo.
I tried googling it for this article, but all I got were actual articles about the funeral industry. Sorry, makers of Market Casket.
2. Meeting Julia Gualtieri
This book artist led a workshop in one of my classes at Stonehill College. Fun fact: she once incorporated her own crushed baby tooth into a book cover.
She taught our class how to make tiny accordion books. I haven’t tarnished mine with any writing yet, but the panel-like design would make it cool for a comic or hanging flipbook.
3. Getting inspired at readings
The first Wednesday in April, my friend and I went on a spontaneous adventure to hear Ali Liebegott, Beth Pickens, and our professor Amra Brooks read their poems and prose (with some work in progress) at Riffraff, an independent bookstore in Providence.
These kinds of events always remind me of how strong our community is in the literary arts, and how important it is to treasure the relationships we can form. I spent hours going through the stacks of books, the radical politics and under-the-radar fiction that you wouldn’t find in a bigger chain store.
4. Cutting up Lydia Davis’s “Story” to make this piece:
My experiments with cut-ups this year showed me the power of individual words rearranged in a whole new way. The piece above shows how subconscious ideas and themes can work themselves out, even and especially when I’m not even planning for that idea to come up.
5. Making my own dictionary
My friend and I have decided to make a book of our own definitions. Catch us trying to define those ever-elusive concepts like “love” and “time” (plus about 135 other abstract concepts) well into 2020. Somehow, we just decided that the regular old definitions weren’t close enough to our lived experiences. The DIY spirit allows us to make our own things.
Looking back, I consider 2019 a year of powerful and significant growth. By going out and seeing what other people are doing in the community, I fuel my own art, refilling my creative well and keeping my real priorities in mind. Finding a perfect home for my pieces or attracting attention on the Internet and in the publishing world are all great milestones, but I’m trying not to let them stop me from the ultimate goal: to keep going. As simple as it sounds, I can only control the aspects of my creative life that are in my control. The rest of it takes a little bit of luck and magic.
Let’s feed that DIY magic in 2020.