Chicago Center for Literature and Photography’s Four–Year Anniversary!
Indie publisher based in Chicago, celebrating Four Year Anniversary this month!
CCLaP is promoting four books at the celebration: Sally Weigel’s “Too Young to Fall Asleep”, Ben Tanzer's "99 Problems" (from 2010), Mark R. Brand's "Life After Sleep" (from this spring) and Jason Fisk's "Salt Creek Anthology" (from this summer). Coming in September, then, will be the next original book, the "American Wasteland" anthology, then in October will be another new book in both electronic and paper forms at once, Katherine Scott Nelson's "Write Me Back."
ClaritySol: Wow, you are very busy! Now, to understand how you reached this point, could you share a brief bio of yourself and your journey to opening CCLaP?
CCLaP: Well, let’s see. I've had a whole series of different career focuses over the decades, mostly due simply to my 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 I moved to Chicago in the mid-1990s and became a publishing author and performance poet for a decade.
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: And then about CCLaP - four-year anniversary, congratulations! I know you’re self-funded, and you've been slowly growing CCLaP's client-base and community. Now in the last year you've really accelerated things! Can you describe what’s going on?
CCLaP: With this being the four-year anniversary, I've been publishing books since 2008 now. In the past it’s been one book each year, released in electronic form only: 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.
Then at the holidays, we'll finally be publishing a paper version of CCLaP's very first book, Ben Tanzer's 2008 story collection "Repetition Patterns;" specifically, I'm publishing a second collection of stories all set in that same town, a standalone book in electronic form, then am publishing a big oversized extremely high-quality paper version of both books together (that version simply entitled "The New York Stories"), including two dozen illustrations by a local artist here named Laura Szumowski, a third of them in color and glued onto special vellum inserts. Unlike the Hypermodern books, that one will cost $75, and will serve as the centerpiece for a high-end fundraiser I'm doing on New Year's Eve this year, targeted specifically to the center's small number of upper-middle-class readers; I expect most of the books' actual readers to do so electronically in this case.
I’m releasing these new titles in paper form as well as electronically, as well as those that had been previously released only electronically. 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: The close relationship between the artist and the audience, 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 compete against 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: Do you assign a utility to the work you publish, an audience effect or a reader process that you hope your work achieves? Or is the purpose purely for entertainment, or to provide the access itself for your artists and their purposes?
CCLaP: With CCLaP's books, I think much more along the lines of trying to get the best work possible out of that writer, which is a sort of nice side effect of receiving so few submissions; it lets me 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.
ClaritySol: Who is your target audience?:
CCLaP: My main core target audience are people known by the term "creative class" -- urban-dwelling and politically/ecologically aware, with a relationship to the arts that is very important to them. They want not just a great arts experience, but also an opportunity to take a part in the process, even if just a little bit.
ClaritySol: And what does the future hold for CCLaP?
CCLaP: Well, I’m producing 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: Sure, Jason, it’s a privilege! Have a great celebration, and best wishes for all that the future holds for you!
For more information about CCLaP, check out the installment at our Clarity Solutions Google+ page: http://gplus.to/CstokesCS