Notes from the McSweeney’s Representative
Hi. This will be a new semi-weekly kind of column thing I’m hoping to write. I will do my best to maintain some sort of schedule. Thank you for your indulgence.
December 10, 2001.
Dear subscribers and other valued readers,
It’s been a long time since I wrote one of these notes. So I’d first like to apologize for the great delay in our putting out a new issue of the McSweeney’s print quarterly.
The truth is, Paul Maliszewski, the guest editor of Issue 7, was finished with that issue, more or less, this summer. But we were so busy editing and designing a number of books — David Byrne’s, Ben Greenman’s, Lydia Davis’s, among others — that our extremely tiny staff just wasn’t able to finish the layout of Issue 7 and get it out the door. We were really overwhelmed, probably underestimating the workload involved in putting out roughly one book a month. But really, the nut of the problem was that because, since the beginning, I’ve been designing all the journals and books myself, things have gotten backed up from time to time.
But recently, I wised up and realized that there was no good reason I had to design every last page myself, and that if we delegated more of the design to better-skilled professionals — professionals without horrible procrastination problems — things would be finished quicker and likely with a higher degree of accuracy. So with the help of designers like Elizabeth Kairys and Jennifer Broughton, we’ve expedited our production process a good deal.
So when we were finally designing and copyediting Paul’s issue, and Paul was checking things over, a number of great stories came our way, and I started gathering them together for another issue. And knowing how late we were in meeting our goal of at least three issues per year, I decided we’d finish this issue quickly, with the idea that Issue 8 would look something like Issue 4 — a collection of individually bound booklets. During free hours, I began putting the booklet issue together, and that issue, strangely enough, came together so quickly that it actually beat Paul’s issue to press.
But both issues, 7 and 8, whichever way we name them, will be out very soon. End of December, or early January. They’re both full of great things, though they’re very different in content and approach. Paul’s issue is reminiscent of our early issues, the content reflecting a wide range of formats — fiction, satire, essays, interviews — while sharing a common theme; in this case, that of the fuzzy and shifting barrier between fact and fiction. Contributors to Paul’s issue include Chris Colin, Rick Moody, J. Robert Lennon, Gilbert Sorrentino, Lynne Tillmann, Amie Barrodale . . . there are about 60 people in this issue, so I’ll stop right there.
The booklet issue, which you might see first, is like Issue 4 in that each story has its own cover and is individually bound. The booklets are held this time not in a box but a hardcover shell, with a thick rubber band holding it all together. Contributors of new stories include Michael Chabon, A.M. Homes, Kevin Brockmeier, Ann Cummins, William T. Vollmann, Heidi Julavits, JT Leroy, Chris Ware, and Courtney Eldridge. John Warner has also put together a sort of tribute to/resurrection of a great midcentury writer forgotten by most named Allan Seager.
We’re hoping to get back on a better schedule for 2002. As always, we thank you all for your patience with us.
In other news, we’re happy to announce a lot of activity out here in San Francisco. I left New York about a year and a half ago, and moved permanently back to the Bay Area in the spring, and since being back, have been getting reconnected with many friends and others doing great work out here. I’ve been inspired by one group in particular, Youth Speaks, started five years ago by James Kass. Youth Speaks has been enormously successful in inspiring thousands of students, ages 13-19, to express themselves through the spoken and written word. The results of their efforts are widespread and tangible: countless students have found their voices through performance, and Youth Speaks has channeled their efforts into chapbooks, videos, CDs and a long series of sold-out live events.
Inspired by and working in concert with Youth Speaks, in January we’ll be opening a writing lab for kids, in the Mission district, at 826 Valencia Street. The writing lab, which we started putting together in July, will offer free one-on-one writing tutoring for youth of any age, including students learning English as a second language, and will have available 15 fully equipped computer workstations for free drop-in use. We’re hoping to assist in student publications, whether school-sponsored or extracurricular, and in the evenings we’ll offer free classes in a number of software programs, teaching students skills in word processing, web programming, and design.
In the spring we’ll collaborate with Youth Speaks on a book of poetry and prose written by high school students. The book will come with a CD recording of the students performing their pieces, because these kids, under Youth Speaks’ direction, have become extraordinary at conveying their work to a live audience. They really have to be heard to be believed.
To find out more about these programs, please visit Youth Speaks at www.youthspeaks.org and our lab at www.826Valencia.com. (If this site isn’t up just yet, it will be very soon.)
Thanks for listening, and for your tremendous understanding and support. Hoping everyone is well this season,
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