In any partnership, or endeavor involving more that one person, there are necessary compromises. In creative projects, these become even more frequent and critical. As an individual, you must step back, look at the project as a whole and drop your pre-conceived notion of perfection for the good of the project and let the medium/notion move forward as a group effort.
I am involved with starting a literary press, Red Berry Press. www.redberrypress.ca The press comprises of two distinct components. The first surrounds the acquisition of the letterpress setup originally bought by the Prince Rupert Times in 1901. A 10 by 15 Chandler & Price with 54 fonts of various sizes and styles. With this we plan to hold workshops (the first a couple weeks ago as part of the 2009 Fernie Writers Conference) and print short-run chapbooks.
The second part is the Red Berry Review, an offset printed literary journal appearing twice a year–spring and fall. The underlying idea of the Review is a journal of contemporary western Canadian literature with occasional pieces from the Northwest US. Literature where the land walks as one of the characters. The land becomes a base line in the piece. A beat heard if you listen closely or are intimately aligned to the sound of the base.
Three of us are involved with the Red Berry project. Two avowed writers (myself and Nic) and one avowed non-writer (Randal) with a strong academic background. When it came time to write the introduction, they asked me to write a representative piece.
The first draft was too personal. Kicked back. Fine. I wrote a second piece, which I disliked, but was not personal and talked about (my perception of) how the project moved from talk over beers, wine, and a bit of scotch, to fruition. How after months of saying we ought to do it, the academic developed a timeline to follow bringing about the publication of the first issue. He didn’t quite see it in the same light, so we dropped that piece.
His turn. Randal wrote an intro that was pure academic. No go. Nixed by Nic and I.
At this point, Nic stepped in and produced the perfect piece, a compromise, a compilation of our thoughts.
We missed the final deadline by a couple of months, but it got done. The first issue is out and spectacular.
The look and feel of the Review was inspired by Clemens Stack’s small chapbook Traveling Incognito designed and printed by Paul Hunter at Wood Works Press in Seattle . There is a hand and texture to Paul’s work that is remarkable. While the Review is printed offset, with the help of Vanessa Croome at Claris Media the feel of a letterpress was captured and preserved in the first Red Berry Review. A striking illustration by Nichole Yanota of Crowsnest Pass helped immensely in setting an illustrative tone.
That said, I still like my first attempt at the intro. The words may not fit as an intro to the Red Berry Review, but they speak to what I believe about writing today in the west.
The other issue that needed to be resolved was an introductory quote. We bounced around looking for a selection. An opening speaking of land and people on the land.
Following are the three quotes I pulled.
We live where we live for landscape and seasons, for the place of it, but also for the time of it, daily and historical time.
Here at Eagle Pond, Donald Hall (1990)
“He had been eating the whole world for the seventy years of his life; and for the last twenty, he had been trying to eat the valley. It was where he, Old Dudley, sent his young men to look for the oil he told them he was sure was there, but which they had never found.”
In these opening lines of Where the Sea Used to Be (1998) by Rick Bass speaks to the European attitude toward the west. An inexhaustible land to consume. For tens of thousands of years the First People lived off the same land giving as they took. With the European arrival, the mantra became take and send off to be consumed. Take more. Consume more. In the last few years, we realized no longer can we take without giving back. The exception would be the taking of words the return of language to the land.
while in Vancouver another plane lands
without me, past the scars of the Rockies
and crooked shadow of blue
herons like lost fishermen
stabbing the shallows where they last saw the sun.
one crow sorrow (2008)
My first shot at the intro is posted separately as Writing and the West.