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Snakes Painting in the Forest: An Interview with Poet Kate Greenstreet

Maria Anderson

Kate Greenstreet's latest book, Young Tambling, was published by Ahsahta Press in 2013. Her previous books are The Last 4 Things and case sensitive, also with Ahsahta. Her new work can be found in Waxwing, Denver Quarterly, Everyday Genius, Sugar House Review, and other journals. To read other writing of hers currently online, visit her website.

Maria: Is there a line in particular that stands out to you, something you've recently written and taped to the wall above your desk?

Kate: "Training is a process of development through gradually increasing demand."

This sentence comes from a book I haven't seen in decades. The other day I found an index card I'd written it down on—bent, yellowed, with a tack hole—and I tacked it up again.

Maria: You're also a painter. Can you talk about how the painting feeds into or takes away energy from your writing? Do you feel more loyal to one mode of creating over another?  

Kate: I think I'm more loyal to writing because it's portable. Painting, at least the kind I do, requires space and supplies. Writing, you can do anywhere. 

But writing comes more easily when I'm painting too. There's a better darkness then for making writing happen. I can get into a tunnel and keep moving further in. If the tunnel is good (and doesn't turn out to be a long cave), I come out in a new place.

Maria: If your writing process were an animal, what kind of animal would it be and why? What about your painting/visual art-making process? 

Kate: The way the Satin Bower Bird collects objects for its bower reminds me of how I collect language. I'm attracted to certain phrases and sentences because of their color. 

I had a dream once where a bunch of snakes were painting in the forest. I'm uneasy when it comes to snakes, even harmless ones, but I liked these snakes in my dream because they were so absorbed and skillful. They held the brushes in their little snake mouths. A girl was in charge of them, or taking care of them. Everyone was having a very nice time there in the forest, where some sunlight was coming through the trees at a slant.

Maria: What has been the best place you've worked?

Kate: We recently moved to a former mill town in New Hampshire where I could afford to rent a big room to work in. Right now this room is my all-time favorite.

Maria: Who are you reading at the moment? 

Kate: I'm reading Hilary Plum's novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets and it is amazing.

"monalisa" by Ida ApplebroogMaria: You mentioned you enjoyed Ida Applebroog's work. Can you talk a little bit about why it interests you?

Kate: Years ago I saw a segment of Art 21 about Ida Applebroog. In the past few months I kept thinking about it, remembering scenes of her in her studio. I did a quick search and found the video at her site. Looking at her work is similar in some ways to watching the Swedish TV series Forbrydelsen (which has been on my mind too). Both deal with evil and the outcomes of evil. Also with the relationship between women and power—something I'm thinking and writing about all the time. I like a story with a woman at the center. I'm attracted to mystery and to seriality. I'm interested in what women can do, and what women can uncover.


PAPERCUTZ Volume 2: Dystopian YA

Lizzy Shramko

Here at Paper Darts we are all about mixing media. From lavish illustrations to bombshell jewelry designs, we're not afraid to venture outside the literary world for inspiration. PAPERCUTZ, an adventure in literary mixtapes, is one example of this boundary crossing. Inspired by niche literary genres, we curate musical mixes to jam to while you read, write, dance, type—or do whatever it is that you do. This month's mixtape is inspired by dystopian young adult fiction.

Never has "dystopia" been as salient in literature as it is for this generation of young adults. Let's face it—being young is not an easy task. Luckily, there are imaginative—and epic—book collections set in distant post-apocalyptic futures to help get the youth through their hellfire school days and catastrophic cafeteria crushes.

But want to know the real truth? These titles help the not-so-young-adults deal with their tedious and mundane lives as just as much…if not more. So here it is; a mix to transport you an epically devastating alternative reality.


1) Nine Inch Nails, "Down In It"

2) Fall Back, "Factory Floor"

3) Katy Perry ft. Kanye West, "E.T."

4) Schlohmo and Lianne La Havas, "Forget"

5) Marilyn Manson, "The Beautiful People"

6) Sophie,"BIPP"

7) Lorde, "Tennis Court" (Flume Remix)

8) Saul Williams, "Can't Hide Love"

9) FKA Twigs, "Papi Pacify"

10) Evanescense, "Bring Me to Life"

11) Grimes, "Genesis"


Glottal Stops and Going Full VIDA: An Interview with Amy Pickworth

Maria Anderson

How would you characterize your process? Are you the type of person who spends a lot of time perfecting as you go, or do you switch up what you're doing as you type? 

I don't really have a process. I wish I had a process! It would be nice if I were someone with a process, someone with great discipline who never failed to work from 8 every morning until 10 every night.

Sometimes I wake up with an almost fully formed something rolling around in my head and I run to the computer to get it down. (That's a good day.) Sometimes I overhear a phrase or make an association between two things and scribble it down for later. In coat pockets or the bottom of my purse I often find Post-it notes or CVS receipts scribbled up with my worst handwriting. Sometimes I have no idea what they say, or no memory of writing them. 

I'm not constantly cranking out work, and I feel like that's okay—that sometimes we value quantity too much. 

Probably the most useful thing I do is keep a working document that I drop ideas and images and specific lines into. It's about 80 pages long right now. Most of the time I'm adding bits—an idea for a poem, a snippet from a Post-it note I actually can decipher, two lines of I don't know what—but from time to time I'll review the whole thing and see what might link up and start sewing those words together. 

Once I write a draft, I keep it around for a while. Sometimes a few weeks, usually a few months, sometimes more. I'm not constantly cranking out work, and I feel like that's okay—that sometimes we value quantity too much. I like to put a draft aside and kind of forget about it, then come back to it and think about other forms or word choices when I can see it with fresh eyes.

Bigfoot for Women (which comes out this fall from Orange Monkey Publishing) started happening when I realized some poems I'd written worked well together. I then I started thinking about the arc of a book. I went to Staples and got a binder and pulled out the three-hole punch and started making outlines for new poems, which was something I'd never done before. Then I rented a little place in Provincetown in the middle of December and lived this very ascetic life for a week and made myself crank out all the drafts I needed. Once or twice I went to the public library there (which is very nice, and the librarians were very nice) and printed out the new work then took it back to the cottage I was renting and laid the pages out on the floor in rows. I spent hours staring at these rows of pages, picking one up, marking it up for an hour, moving it somewhere else, going to the computer and writing something new. I worked all day and didn't talk to anyone and when it got dark at 4:00 p.m. I made dinner and went to bed and read then got up early and did it again. It was very organized, hard work, but in addition to being super intense and soul-searchy it was maybe the most satisfying writing experience I've had.

I have a full-time job and a family and I find it hard to find time to write when I actually feel inspired, which is sometimes frustrating. Finding that time was much easier when I was freelancing for a living. So I'm thinking about sequestering myself again somewhere soon, but I want to get a better idea of what I want to do during that time first, so I can use it well.

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(Not) Drunk in Love: Prohibition-Era Partying at Northern Spark 

For all you Boardwalk Empire fans hankering to get your fix off-screen, Saturday is your lucky day. We are hosting a '30s-themed night of music and literature as part of the Twin Cities' annual Northern Spark festivities. In collaboration with singer-songwriter and poet, Brian Laidlaw, we will host a vaudeville-esque evening of music and dancing.

Laidlaw will be playing tracks from his fall musical release, Amoratorium. Part poetry book, part musical recording, this upcoming publication is all sorts of awesome. Laidlaw's music and poetry was influenced by the lives of Bonnie and Clyde, so in honor of this dynamic duo, we've themed our evening around an era marked by their badness.

In addition to music, our Northern Spark prohibition style debauchery will be complete with a mugshot photo booth to document the badness of all the fashion mobsters out there. And don't worry: our portion of the event starts promptly at 9:30 p.m., so all of you vintage vixens who need your beauty sleep can get to bed at a reasonable hour.

What to expect:

  • A preview of Paper Darts' latest project: a musical/poetry publication with frequent collaborator Brian Laidlaw
  • Some ostentatiously fabulous flapper get-ups and dapper saddle shoes
  • Dancing. Lots of dancing.
  • Food and drinks. Don't worry folks, even though we are celebrating the era, prohibition was repealed back in 1933.
  • Photos. From selfies to mugshots in our '30s style photobooth (they had those back then — right?), you can be sure we will document your fabulous.

What to bring:

  • Your raddest, baddest period pieces: beads, cowboy hats, saddle shoes, shift dresses, heavily lined eyes, and dancing shoes. If you've got it, bring it! 

And don’t worry, if you are lacking in the vintage clothing department we have you covered. The photobooth will feature props that will transport you back in time. Alternatively, we'll just throw a sepia filter over you and you'll look the part.

RSVP on Facebook


Flamingo-bears, Cara Cara Oranges, and Lap Cats: Interview with Susanne Lamb

Maria Anderson 

Susanne Lamb is a recent grad from the Rhode Island School of Design. She lives in Brooklyn and is working on several children's books. Sandwiches are her favorite.

What's your favorite thing to draw right now?

I've been fairly goat-focused recently. I tend to be really interested in the facts surrounding whatever it is I am drawing, though ultimately, that's not necessarily visible in the work I produce. It feels important to me to know why I am drawing goats in a tree, to be able to say, "This is real, goats eat the fruit of the Argan tree." Not that I'm producing these very-accurate images—it's more a matter of being true to the spirit of a subject. The research also often leads me to new topics to get excited about.

What's your sketchbook philosophy? Can you talk a little bit about your notebooks?

It's an all-inclusive philosophy. The sketchbooks end up being more of a diary and series of to-do lists filled with drawings that are tangentially related. I find that doodling in between writing items on a packing list, for example, helps me think of more things to add to the list, and adding things helps me think of things that I want to draw. I also just love having context for my dumb little throw-away sketches, to remember that I drew this flamingo-bear when I was worried that I was not getting enough potassium.

What do you think about discipline? How do you make yourself approach projects that perhaps have gone a little stale? 

Revisiting things that are old is a huge struggle for me. I tend to lose all interest as soon as I step away from something. That's also how all these notes come in handy—if something I jotted down next to concept sketch can make me laugh, or can remind of something I initially found exciting, that's a great way to feel invested again.

What are your obsessions? 

Do we mean art-related obsessions? Not wearing socks is my prime motivation at this point. Of course, like a good cat-mom, I am very obsessed with Olive. Food-wise I just discovered Cara Cara oranges through a coworker and am now on the lookout for those. Art-wise I've been experimenting with ink, digital collage, and making little stamps.

Do you have any pictures taped up in your room that are particularly special? I still have that tiger you gave me taped to my door. The goats are there, too.

I like to have a healthy amount of stuff on my wall. Directly above my desk is a vintage tablecloth map of Europe. There's a lot going on with it, but in a very cohesive and realized way. I connected with it immediately as an object; the colors toe the line between hideous and beautiful somehow. For pictures and postcards, we've been hanging those on the front door since our fridge is not magnetic. I find those sorts of things somewhat difficult to have by my work space, as they can prompt friend-guilt and I start to feel like I need to check in with a lot of people, but I like seeing them when I'm having breakfast and heading off to work. 

This is maybe a little gross, but I have a few small things I've made framed and nearby. It's never the most finished pieces. Having the sketches up is more inspiring to me.

How has having a cat changed your creative process? Having another little being in the house? A new family member?

As much as I love having a cat, she definitely hasn't helped the creative process! All of a sudden she became a total lap cat and I am not good at removing her. In my home life, with David and Olive, I am the most comfortable I've ever been, which is great, but can be a bit of a problem. I find external motivation more important than ever to help prioritize and stay motivated. I like a little bit of pressure.

What have you been reading lately? Writing? 

I just finished reading Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and really liked that. I was really into Number One Party Anthem by the Arctic Monkeys, which sounds like an LMFAO chart-topper but is actually a slow, sad, pretty little song. Currently seeking my summer jam.


Beer + Art + Bikes = Fun

Dakota Sexton

The "poster party for bike people" called
ARTCRANK has a simple premise: make it easy to cram craft beers, bikes, and upwards of 40 affordable, yet carefully handmade posters (designed exclusively by local artists) into one pleasant evening. You can check it all out this weekend in Minneapolis. But what's more, it doesn't particularly matter how much you ride, or if you ride at all.

The show's founder Charles Youel told bike advocacy group bikewalkmove in 2012 that ARTCRANK is an attempt to "change how people look at and think about bicycles," notably, without any of the bullshit that can accompany stepping into a bike shop as a novice cyclist. (Comment on this with #NotAllBikeShops and the first five slaps are free, y'all.) The show aims to function as a low-pressure way to appreciate art, build up the cycling community, and get more butts on bikes.

That mission has really taken off. Last year, despite temperatures in the 40s and bouts of heavy rain, a crowd of over 6,000 showed up for ARTCRANK in Minneapolis. In addition to its annual show in the Twin Cities, ARTCRANK has launched shows in 14 other cities as well, including London, Paris, and Austin. The organization additionally supports the cycling community by putting profits from each party toward a different cause—in Minneapolis this year, proceeds from beverage sales will go to World Bicycle Relief.


But we don't want to tell everyone about this weekend's ARTCRANK just because it uses art to increase accessibility and spark change. Actually (selfishly), this year's Minneapolis show features work by Paper Darts contributors like Anne Ulku and repeat partner-in-crime Allegra Lockstadt, who collaborated with Christopher Alday to make a poster.

Lockstadt and Alday are avid cyclists. "Our bikes are our beautiful steeds," says Lockstadt, adding, "For us, we like that we can customize our bikes to fit our aesthetics and frankly, ourselves."

                 BEN NYLEN

ARTCRANK provides artists with some select guidelines for the design and production. The rest, like what specific paper to use and what print shop to get posters produced by, is up to the individual artist. For their poster, Lockstadt and Alday chose to print at Leg Up Studio, a community studio started in 2011 in Northeast Minneapolis to provide artists with an affordable place to learn (and practice) print arts. 


For the design, the duo decided to create something that would celebrate biking and incorporate the artists' joint interest in knock-out type. From a distance, the type dominates the poster. Up close, it's easy to spot that it also depicts a dense scene of bike life through all four seasons. This kind of participation is pretty key to Lockstadt, who likes viewers "to engage and have fun with" an illustration.

Go check out all 40 posters created exclusively for the show this weekend, on May 31, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. at Shelter Studios, 721 Harding St NE. More info is available here.

Oh, and did I mention that buying a couple of beer tickets at this show gets you an extremely dope pint glass? I didn't? Sorry guys. Go to this weekend's ARTCRANK for the beer, the bike-themed posters, and the extremely dope pint glasses. Nice Ride Minnesota will also provide enough bike racks for upwards of hundreds of bicycles, plus complimentary valet bike parking.

P.S.: The fine folks at ARTCRANK always need a ton of volunteers to help run each event. Get more info by contacting Patrick Murphy.


A Little Smut Never Hurt Nobody

Laura Briskman

Maybe it's my current workplace (academic publishing), but my lunchtime circle loves to hate on Fifty Shades of Grey.

"The writing is terrible."

"No self-respecting woman treats herself like that."

"People read it on the subway."

"The movie's coming out, though. I'm going to see it, I think. My friends want to, not me."


Now, I certainly follow the arguments against Fifty Shades' literary cred. And perhaps the protagonist, a strong young woman on the first page, loses herself to whips and entrepreneurial dominance because it's spicier bedtime reading. Maybe we're all just a little jealous because many of us are aspiring writers and we're watching EL James take up our B&N shelf space.

But I do feel that it's important not to ignore the importance of this series from a publishing standpoint. According to Business Insider, 70 million copies of the Fifty Shades series have sold in the U.S. (That—and it breaks my heart a bit—is more than Harry Potter.) It has been translated into over fifty languages. Lots of people have read Fifty Shades of Grey. And even more people are talking about it. Because Fifty Shades is the head cheerleader: you may think you're better than her five-inch heels and four-inch skirt, but you'd damn well better treat her with respect.

I think that we probably get a book or series like this every couple of years. It keeps the presses pressing and the publishers employed. Back in high school, before the days of Fifty Shades, I picked up a copy of Valley of the Dolls at my local library. The librarian tapped the crackling dust jacket and said quietly, "Oh. I remember this one." The 1966 Susann title suddenly seemed incredibly dirty. (All I knew about it at the time was that it was allegedly based on Judy Garland's struggles with narcotics.)

My grandmother always liked to know what I was reading. I mentioned Valley of the Dolls to her during my next visit—old people would appreciate old books, right?—and she wrinkled her nose. "That's trash, Laura."

Maybe it was trash in 1966. But it has become one of my favorites. It's slightly sexual (probably very sexual for its era), and I find none of the characters aspirational. But one reason that I love Valley so much is its portrayal of '60s Hollywood—admittedly to someone who knows very little about the '60s or Hollywood. And it was a bestseller of its time. It feels significant. "Everyone" was reading Valley of the Dolls when it came out, and even those that hadn't cracked the cover were criticizing Susann for her inability to write.

Where does this leave us, then? In a vicious cycle, doomed for generations to read (or not read, or to pretend not to read but actually read) mediocre books that will define the publishing industry and pee their territory on top 10 lists and bestseller shelves? Perhaps. But that only further convinces me that it's dangerous to be such snots about the whole thing.

This isn't to say that I have learned something from this parallel. Believe you me: if I have a grandchild, the day that he or she brings over a copy of EL James' first book and says, "Look what I found at this garage sale. It's from 2011. Who even has print books anymore? And what's S&M?" I will probably go through that familiar hate spiral because I never sold millions of books and say, "That's garbage! Getting your work published used to mean something. Give that to me. I'm burning it."

Laura Briskman is a graduate of Kenyon College. She now works in academic publishing in New York.