Michele, tell us about Red Fez 2.0. How did you get involved and what is your role there?
Red Fez Publications is an online gig that publishes poetry, fiction, books, plays, video poems, and illustrated poetry and fiction. Our mission is to publish and promote non-mainstream, but accessible work by underground and under-recognized artists. The 2.0 refers to the newer site design and inner workings. Issues go online quarterly (pretty much).
My first involvement with Red Fez was as a contributor. Leopold McGinnis, the founding editor of Fez, was kind enough to accept some of my poems for publication. When I was looking around the site I saw there was a Red Fez novella. Now that I think about it, I can blame Leopold for my obsession with publishing. When I rec'd his book in the mail, I was blown away. This little book, he had put together by hand, it was beautiful. He sent me some cool other stuff, a one-page folded up dealio that was just awesome and I was hooked. That's really when I started thinking about what I could make on my own and eventually Rural Messengers Press was born. but, anyway... we chatted back and forth for awhile and he talked me into joining the Red Fez editorial team. That was in 2007. I tried it out as guest editor for an issue and then took over as the managing editor. Leopold had lots of other projects going on and wanted to pull away from the Fez a bit. I remember him saying that I seemed organized (for a poet). Haha!
In my role at the Fez, I've worn lots of different hats but mainly get the issues out. We've struggled with different review processes but never really strayed too far from what Leopold had in place to begin with. We like to have several people reviewing each section so that we don't get "stuck" publishing the same kind of work all the time. Each editor brings their unique perspective to the table. We've had some heated debates but we're all committed to providing a place where under served writers and writing can find a home.
You've also taken on the role of publisher, what is Rural Messenger Press and it's mission?
Rural Messengers Press started out as a creative impulse. I was really enjoying all the writing that I found online but sometimes you just want to hold something in your hands. The more of my own work that I got published, the more writers and editors that I connected with, my mail box started filling up. Most people in the underground press are extremely generous, putting their hard work and creative genius into all kinds of projects and giving them away for free or pretty damn close.
One of the most inspiring projects I came across was your own one-page zine, Calliope Nerve. I loved the way each piece held its own importance yet complimented an overall theme. It appealed to my obsessive compulsive mind and is an integral part of RMP projects.
I put out several mailers- collections of an individual author printed in various formats. I've done postcards, posters, leaflets, booklets, broadsides, magnets, bookmarks and matchbook poems. I really went nuts with Stephen Morse's project, The Crow Boxes. It was twelve poems, twelve different ways in old cigar boxes including a handwritten poem, a matchbook poem, a mini-book and a slide show poem on DVD. One of the poems I printed on a cut up, brown paper bag and rolled it into a cigar container.
You have great design skills. How did you acquire them and where can we see more?
I don't know about that but it's nice of you to say. It's mostly trial and error. I start out with an idea of what I want to create and then from there it's how I can make it happen with limited resources. I think the first thing I "made" was the Cherry Bomb postcard. I didn't have a printer for shit (or money) so I designed the postcards at Vista Print and ordered them fifteen at a time, to get them for free except for shipping.
Most of the RMP stuff is out of print except for F.N. Wright's chapbook, Bukowski n More, which I still have half of the run to print and may finish sometime this decade. There's two issues of the Side of Grits journal online though I'm moving the archives to a new site until if/when i get it moving again.
How long have you been writing poetry? What makes your voice unique? Do you have any collections available?
I started out writing song lyrics, plays and stuff in grade school and junior high. Then really started writing a lot of poetry in high school, some really bad poetry. It cracks me up to look at some of my old notebooks. When I got online I joined a writing group. That's when I really started working on my poetry.
I don't think my voice is unique in either content or style. I might have thought so about five or so years ago when my only source was the local library. I did notice that most of my favorite poems I've written have a sort of rhythm to them that my other poems don't. I'm going to blame that on music, not just popular music but playing an instrument, playing in a band (concert band, not the cool kind.) You get that beat in your head that just moves you. The world seems better in 4/4 time.
I have one little collection that I put out through Rural Messengers Press called Private Vacancy but it's out of print.
Believe in writer's block?
I believe in writer's block when it's kicking my ass, then decide I've just been lazy when I start writing again.
Do you prefer editing or writing?
Editing is a much more defined process for me whereas my writing is subject to moods and inspiration. So I guess I enjoy the act of editing more (often) but when the writing is good, there's nothing like it.
Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
Haha. I am a full-time writer/editor that doesn't get paid. My other full-time job is raising three kids. I don't get paid for that either. I think I must be opposed to money. Most recently I worked part-time in social service but haven't held a (paid) full-time position since about 2001.
Do you consider yourself an underground artist?
Yes, i do. An old-timer told me once that 'underground' wasn't relevant anymore. I agree with him just not the way he meant.
Listen to music while you create? Who?
On weekdays, I just enjoy the silence when the kids are at school. Summertime is a challenge but I've found if I blast the music loud enough (the kids tend to keep their distance. ..terrible, isn't it) but it's anything from Dead Milkmen to Abba and everything in between, except maybe country music.
What does the future hold for Michele McDannold?
I plan to finish Bukowski n More as soon as funds provide and maybe send out some of my own poetry for a change. There's talk of putting together an underground anthology of some sort, working on a wiki for the Lit Underground, taking over the world etc and of course, there's always Red Fez.