The story starts sometime around six semesters of study in a school somewhere in Connecticut (leaving the math and the geography lesson to be discerned from the context and the clues hidden throughout the canon - which is, of course, mostly different from the cannon).
It was one of those moments of freedom that one wonders if such could still exist in our well regulated and control regimented world - a third grade teacher who allowed, each morning, for these feet to tromp up the stairs to the library (without having to stand in line leader envy and travel two by two like on some long-lost wooden ark) and select a new book. For each night before, not burdened by prepare-you-for-college-and-get-a-career homework, the mind was allowed to race the globe and the moon and the stars and back again...and go from cover to cover from beginning to middle to resolution.
It was the great devouring of stories that nourished the being into obviousness - stories beget tales beget books, just as carrots create strong eyes and broccoli begets strong teeth and meat begets the death of many animals.
For the entirety of the year this went on, each day, missing a period of language or reading or math, even. Granted permission to follow what was loved and nurtured the soul. How much of that was lost in later years of schooling when ways and means of professors replaced hoorays and encouragements of homeroom teachers.
Pause then to give a bit of homage, well deserved, here...Matt Christopher, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Madeleine L'Engle (the latter of which there was once the opportunity to thank in person)...know where you have led another generation of the craft.
Beyond just engulfing in the tales already told, the pen started to flow. Inspired by the works of Ed Emberly (if there were a craze to ever follow the Zorts there would have been green all over and the front of the line would have been the place to be), worlds of characters in colors of the rainbow began to populate copier paper, stapled together with wide-ruled pages holding the insides full of all sorts of adventures of Super Plurt.
A few of those exist as scans on a hard drive these days, one notebook full of sketches for so many plans of third-grade mind. The best thing that could have happened was the afternoon when our generation down the line happened to spot the sketches, dusty and long-ignored on a shelf...and start making stories and characters of their own...
For this writer, however, it became obvious, very quickly, that to make a mark it would be the letters dancing across dotted lines and not the illustrations that would bring folks to the stories - for the ability to see and then recreate in eyes and ears and shading and style...was never to be a forte (although that didn't stop years later from a small endeavor into comics with a character of Rambo Ruxpin - which lasted about eight pages and one seven minute home movie).
Words then it would be - a sixth grade project that was a slight sequel to The Hobbit (did nobody bother to tell me it had already been written and would eventually be an epic of all film epicness?), utterly terrible horror stories throughout the middle school years, and then landing, the summer before senior year of high school on this concept of The Rooster's Crow.
To avoid making this a biographical sketch of a shadowed writer, we skip ahead a few years to a group of friends wanting to do a literary journal. Glossy, full of advertising, fancy, hip...and full of dreamers of dreams. There came fancy business cards with illustrious personal monikers and a title of the project - but before much can come of anything, the canter cannot hold and things gallop apart.
The name, however, refuses to disappear and each year, like something out of a Dickensian tale, the word Garbanzo would haunt and pester and ask when it would finally get its due (for a bean cooped up that long tends to sprout like something out of a horror film run rampant by chia pet monsters).
A bit later, the first disappointment still resonating, the need for words still percolating (the volume of pen upon page still emaciating) inspiration in the form of travel, movement, moving, being moved, motion, emotion, motion pictures...puts to rest a bird of resurrection and seraphemera books (http://www.seraphemera.org) rises from the ashes. The word, of course (of course?) a combination of Seraph and Ephemera - those who protect the most important coupled with paper of passing and fleeting lives. Above and below inextricably united.
Then, a couple of years ago, the gloss and shine traded away for something handmade and screen printed, cared for and cured with satin and rivets, chapbooks being released unto the world a couple per year...the ghost of Chick Pea futures came unto the space above the desk and said in a glow that might have been just the full moon shining off of the two feet of snow upon the ground..."Do you understand now?"
Thus, the Garbanzo Literary Journal was born.
And here we are, announcing the release of the second volume. A tome of forty four writers...poems, short stories, essays, experimental pieces...
Do you remember this time last year when book one was released (http://bethel.patch.com/blog_posts/because-were-all-storytellers-a-celebration-of-words-sunday-july-29th)? Well of course you don't because it wasn't this time last year - since we release the volumes every two hundred and sixty days, a cycle based on the Mayan calendar!
Yeah, we're kind of like that.
But more importantly, the writers are like this:
“Here we go, ’round the city!”
we’d scream, as our red-top Buick
leaned into the turns.
We drove past no-name towns,
Dad watching for Winchester,
Mom searching for change.
In the back, we fussed and chortled,
anxious for thick chocolate shakes.
“Plain hamburgers,” is all
the back seat gang wanted-
no mustard,no mayo,no green."
-- Barbara Baldwin a portion of *Quincy 1950 Something
So I am not much to look at, but I am sturdy. Pretty isn’t of much use if it is fragile. Unless your aim is to break it. Breaking pretty is an entirely different passion than the one I live for, and far less practical. You can only break pretty once, then you have to go out and get more pretty, and then you break that pretty, and then you go out for more and the cycle starts all over again. Hard to develop a relationship that way. Hard to lay out your future and survive the mortgage.
-- Ken Poyner a portion of Suburbia
Do you know how to pray?
Or to me.
Either will help.
Get me through this night.
And I promise
I will try to live
up to the answers.
If you seek them
on your knees.
The darkness gathered at my feet
might bless you.
With the absence.
Of my face.
-- A.J. Huffman from Standing in Meditation
Did you know that Bethel had its very own literary journal? How does this make us, as a community, feel?
When we (and by we, this is Mama Bird and The Little Man - although we are often referred to as Mr. & Mrs. Garbanzo with The Little Bean) set up shop at art and festival shows these days, beyond the fact that we tend to be the only bookmaker on premises, there are two common questions, on opposite ends of the spectrum, that are asked of us. And thus, we get to the beating heart of this column.
At first, we're growingly asked if we're a self-publishing company - which to the unfamiliar with the modern term means a company that will publish any book...for a fee. When we state that we only publish what moves us and that one cannot pay to have us do a run of writing in our handmade books, we're met with the inverse of the understanding that comes from the end of a sports season where everybody gets a trophy.
Secondly, we're asked, why we're still making books and not going the interstate route of the modern age (ah Route 66 how our Kerouacian soul wished to save you from the growing fastways and byways that have come to take us here there and everywhere and help us ignore the ground beneath our very feet - or, if one wants a more illustrative picture of the very same stead...try Cars from those who brought you Ratatouille - Pixar) by going digital.
The spoken answers vary - from the love of paper, to the need for something tangible, to the desire to get people to slow down and sit and not take the stories with us...but to take ourselves to the story. To quiet the world around us and sit with a tome that requires two hands to hold open (rather than the weight of a coffee mug) and captures the mind and spirit and on occasion the sensories of touch as the finger slides over a hand-creased dust jacket and paper that is unlike much of what comes in the mail, or through our inbox (the metal one that sits above the outbox as opposed to on the computer screen).
Thus, in some way, we're trying to convince and suppose that there are some objects and precepts of the the past that are worth packing up even in an old kit bag and taking into the tomorrow, with each and every one of us.
In some way, just call us a Living Relic.
In 1874, the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote a short story entitled A Living Relic - about a man who comes upon an old friend who has withered away due to a disease. Once beautiful, she is now reduced to a near mummy-like state - thus the title. While this holds little direct relation to the topic in hand, one can see where the metaphor is driving.
More apropos then is the modern trope of television where the Living Relic is a device used to take a surviving creature from a time long past and has them somehow surviving or awakened in a future - so as to be both confused (plot point) and inevitably a warning (plot device). Here we are getting closer to the truth.
For us, though, as we release a book that comes in a limited run of 304 and 6/10ths books (yeah, like that...really, truly), something that we revere to be treated with respect (for there is nothing holy in a mass market paperback) maybe we ought play the words and call these collections a Living Reliquary - for they are, truly, a vessel for the most sacred of arts - the blood and sweat of storytellers formed into letters and words and having leapt into the world and into the most daring dance of them all - to be read by a stranger and run the risk of being shot through the heart with a form letter.
For that is the mise-en-scene of where the dream for Garbanzo truly began - life as a teenager, sending off stories and poems to places found in old heavy thief-bashing-volumes of Writer's Market.
Whether or not the writing was any good (whether or not the writing is any good now) notwithstanding, to have poured over the phrases, the indications, the incantations, the alliterations, from dawn til dusk and back again...and to receive a form letter in reply...was not only discouraging, it was downright cynical, and frankly, wrong.
Thankfully, in the beanhaus, every submission is responded to personally - what we liked, what we didn't like, why we accepted the piece for publication, why we didn't take it - suggestions on what might strengthen the piece. We do this not because we're feeling in any level of know-how of editors above any others...but because it is the right thing to do. If you're taking the chance to send us your heart, we'll at least give some of ours in return.
And that...well that is really all we can ask of any interaction in the world, now isn't it?
Want to know more about Garbanzo Literary Journal? You can visit here: http://www.garbanzoliteraryjournal.org
Want to submit writings to Garbanzo? Submission guidelines are here: http://www.garbanzoliteraryjournal.org/Submission_Guidelines.html
Want to support books and independent publishing and beautiful handmade tales? You can purchase Garbanzo at Byrd's Books right here in Bethel CT!
If you've read this far, you must think, feel, wonder, posit...something....about what you have just read. Even if it is but a greeting, leave a note at the bottom, to mark tangible trace that you were here. The internet does not have to remain so impersonal.
Want to learn more about The Rooster's Crow...visit http://www.theroosterscrow.org