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The Head and the Hand: Craft Publishing in Philly |

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APIARY's Steve Burns recently met up with  The Head and the Hand staffers Chloe Westman and Linda Gallant, at their Kensington headquarters on Frankford Ave. to talk about their exciting new craft publishing venture.  They told us what inspired the formation of their press, their ideas for unifying and supporting Philly's writing community and about the process behind putting together the first volume of The Rust Belt Rising Almanac, a journal of contemporary work from Rust Belt cities such as Philly, Buffalo, and Cleveland (now accepting submissions).  Check back next week for Steve's interview with The Head and the Hand founder, writer, urban farmer and activist Nic Esposito.  (pictured from left to right: Chloe, Linda and Nic)

 

Steve Burns: So, Linda, how did your involvement with The Head and the Hand begin?

Linda Gallant: Well, Nic is a friend. I knew of his writing. I knew Nic before I knew his writing. He called me one day and said, ‘I have this idea.’ It was that simple. That was last Spring. I think of Nic as kind of a galvanizing kind of person. He is able to bring a crowd of people around him and get them excited about something.

SB: The fearless leader type?

LG: He is fearless. I'd definitely say that. He definitely takes risks. I decided I would take the risk as well and get involved with it.

SB: Is there an underlying passion for urban farming or is it community based? Literary? Where's it stem from for you, personally?

LG: It definitely comes from the literary side of things. I learned a lot about urban farms from Nic, but I definitely don't come from that world. He built a greenhouse out of garbage. I've never done something like that, but I learned what it took to build a greenhouse out of garbage. He's very much involved in that world. Books and writing are the two things that we share in common.

SB: How about you, Chloe?

Chloe Westman:  I needed to take an internship for school and I stumbled upon this while searching online. I really loved what they were doing here and I came for an interview. We hit it off right away so they hired me. So that's how I got involved. We've really bonded a lot over literary type things.

SB: So both of your passions really align?

LG: Yeah.”  CW: Mhm.

SB: How did those passions flow into the almanac and what has that process been like, getting that together from each of your ends since you're both part of the editorial staff?

LG: Well, Chloe has been really important in author outreach and keeping in touch with everybody. I have to say we've been overwhelmed by the response that we've gotten for the almanac without even much promotion. It's kind of a barrier for small start-ups like us. We can't advertise in major locations.

CW: We've definitely spread the word the most about The Head and the Hand from word-of-mouth. Nic has so many connections in Kensington and throughout Philadelphia. Although Nic, Linda, and I all share a literary interest, our tastes differ a lot. It's nice to have that, I don't want to say friction because this is a positive thing, but that friction...

SB: Kind of that melding of different things...

CW: Right, what we're each interested in, what we each look for in a literary piece. We have to kind of meld that together to pick each piece for The Rust Belt Rising Almanac.

  • The Head and The Hand Workshop


SB: There's a lot coming in?

LG: We were surprised by the amount of poetry that came in.

CW: A lot of poetry.

LG: We have some amazing poets coming out of Pittsburgh. We have some Cleveland poets. We have some Buffalo poets.

CW: We've some great pieces from Philadelphia writers.

LG: Philadelphia is the starting point for this rust belt journey that we're going on and we hope to have a road map in the almanac. Maybe a fold-out guide for people who want to go on a "rust belt road trip" and see the ways the cities are re-imagining themselves, revitalizing. I'm excited to see the artwork that's coming in. We have some people in Cleveland who are doing illustrations to go with this story about a factory for American Card Greetings Company that's being turned into something completely different. They're going to show us before and after in water color.

CW: We're having some pieces come in from local business owners. We're working with local artists and designers as well.

SB: It's a really nice spread between poetry, prose, and art. What do you expect the final product to encompass? Are there specific elements that you want to highlight?

LG: With Nic, he's in tune with the "now" whereas I've done a lot of research with the almanacs of before. We went over to the Rosenbach Museum and took out some Poor Richard's Almanacs from 1747. We saw the notes that farmers made in the margins. It was really exciting to see how we can nod to the format as it was back then, then make it relevant to how cities are now. Almanacs are a regional document. They're snapshot of a place and time. That's what we're hoping to do now. It's appropriate that we take on that tradition.

SB: When people pick the almanac up, what is the immediate reaction you're looking for? What kind of mark do you want it to leave in people and maybe even in Philadelphia?

LG: I want people to first look at it and be surprised. It's hard to say...

CW: We had a meeting before writing hours and you said you want people, when they're traveling to these cities, to have the Rust Belt in their back pocket.

  • Another view of the Workshop


LG: It's personal.

SB: A companion?

LG: Yeah, a companion. An actual group of people speaking to them...this really beautifully designed object. It's not a book, It's sort of a hybrid.

SB:  You said, ‘design.’ What do you expect it to look like when it's done?

LG: It's not going to be your standard trim size. It's gonna have elements that pop out. We have maps, folding parts.

CW: It's going to be a visual experience. A literary experience.

LG:  Yeah, the design is as important to us as the text. They're going to come together.

SB: Maybe talk about the construction the of The Head and the Hand? How did it get to be where it is now and where do you foresee it going?

LG: Our hope is that we are a fixture here in Philadelphia. We have a space and a press. [We want people to rely] on this as a place to go whenever they need to work on something. It'll be there for them indefinitely. We want to give another platform for people who have things to contribute to the literary scene here. We don't think there are enough opportunities for writers to put their stuff out. There are a few companies in Philadelphia, but they don't need to go to New York City to make it happen. Stay here and make it happen. That's what we hope to do.

SB: Do you expect the workshops to become more frequent?

CW:  We definitely had people approach us who are interested in renting out our space.

LG:  We've had book clubs, students, individuals, writing partners, and playwriting partners [approach us]. What's going to be the future is [keeping it open] any hour of the day. We want to make it convenient. We're not going to be here at 2 am, but we want to be here within reason whenever you feel the need to have some space to yourself.

SB: How many books is The Head and the Hand working with and how do you reach out to authors?

LG:  We're working on our editorial calendar right now and we have three books for this year in addition to the Rust Belt. In terms of getting people in here, we've been doing promotions with our marketing team, local listings, using our website, and a grassroots advertising program. Our ad budget is tight, but we're doing as much as we can.

CW: Word of mouth has helped us a lot. People coming in here on First Friday; friends bringing others to the workshop.

LG:  We see a lot of repeats.

SB:  Any closing remarks?

CW:  We want The Head and the Hand to be a part of the community. We want to get to know local authors. We want to help them.

 
The Head and The Hand hosts workshops every Tuesday night from 6-8pm at their headquarters at 2031 Frankford Ave.
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Submit work to The Head and the Hand and The Rust Belt Rising Almanac here.  Deadline for the Almanac is February 15, 2013.  
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(image credit: Steve Burns)
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  • steveburns 150x150
Steve Burns recently graduated from Rowan University with a BA in English and Education. He’s toying with the idea of graduate school (that is, when he’s not making poems with refrigerator magnets) and hopes to teach at the college level some day. Freeing insects from windowsills, massaging cat tummies, and reading poetry are but a few of his pastimes. Words fascinate him. As do spinning records and freshly brewed coffee.
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