Christmas. What are you doing for gifts?

Of course, you could *ahem* get all of your friends copies of that excellent guide to the Portland small publishing world and art supplies and events overall, Doing It Yourself In Stumptown.

This past year we’ve put a lot of work into revising it to handle the frantic pace of change in this town. You’ll find it to be as timely and comprehensive as ever.

For sale at Reading Frenzy, Floating World, Crafty Wonderland, St Johns Booksellers, and a retailer near you.


First Thursday! First Thursday!

Here we go again. The first thursday of the month and the arts venues of downtown Portland, Oregon are opening their doors to you and me. Chances are even some of what they’ve got to show us will be pretty good and enough of the rest will be…at least fun.

And there’ll be free wine and munchies. Never forget that. ;->

As always, I will probably be starting with Floating World, maybe heading across and upstairs to Hellion Gallery, and moving on from there. I’m thinking that given the weather this might be  nice time to stop for dinner at Sushi Ichiban at some point.

What are your favorites? What do you think it’s important that we not miss?

First Thursday is almost here again.

It’s almost that time. When Floating World, Upper Playground, various of the Everett Lofts, Blue Sky Gallery, and others in downtown Portland have open houses and new art on display.

Personally, I almost always start with Floating World. And I always make a point to get in some time at Sequential Art if they’ve got a good show at all.

I hope that I’ll see you out there.

Talking about not talking about things in publishing

This essay on race as a persistently marginalized factor in mainstream publishing is amazing. On target. Thoughtful, Evocative.

It is also a subject of particular relevance here in Portland.

And even beyond race as such, this is a city of cliques. And if we are ever to graduate from flavor of the month and cute base of operations for people whose hearts are elsewhere, then eventually we will need to stop evading each other’s eyes, sticking to just the events, just the parties, just the bookstores that match our little tidy Portland subset.

We can be great. But we won’t be unless and until more Portlanders get a lot more willing to spend time with, listen to, and work with people who aren’t in their own little personal club.

Workspace by the hour

For years now I’ve been doing listings on places to rent workspace by the month but I’ve never gotten into Portland area options for renting arts related space by the hour. Photoshoots. Teaching classes. Places to do shared projects. Quite a big subject, actually.

Well, let me start with an option that many people forget: churches and colleges. Both of them have ample space, especially during the summer months, and rent it out for all kinds of things. Next is bars and restaurants, which everybody remembers for parties but keep in mind, especially during their slower times, they can be an entirely viable option for arts-related work as well.

There are many other places to rent and I’ll get to those another day. But let’s also keep in mind that some things that you may think of as too messy to do in a rented space may be entirely manageable if you plan them out right.

We all know about basic tarps but options go well beyond that. If you’ll be renting space repeatedly, remember an old performer’s trick, bring your floor with you.


Sheets of 3/4 inch ply, backed with carpet and varnished heavily on the front, can stand up to quite a bit of wear and tear. The bigger you can keep the sheets, the more completely you can protect the floor and choose how your space feels. But just cutting a standard sheet in half, creating two four foot by four foot squares, can make a huge difference in how easy they are to travel with, carry around, and fit into the space that you get.

The People You Will Meet When You Table

The explainer: comes over to your table to tell you (unasked) that you are absolutely using the wrong varnish, priced that shirt too high, are tabling at the wrong event, should have gotten a table along the wall, and so on.

Will almost never buy anything. Will push for a discount.

But one in twenty, usually an older woman in clothes that are…unconventional, is caring, insightful, and truly eager to help out. Those few can give tips or help you make connections that are such gold that they make all the others worth it.

The lonely lingerer: probably knows almost nothing about the subject, wants to talk endlessly, and almost never actually never cares about what you’re selling. They’re lonely, socially impaired, and really just came for the first chance in weeks to have somebody better to talk to than the person sitting next to them on a crowded bus.

Sad, earnest, and you will quite possibly need to pass your normal standards of politeness to get them to finally go away and let you get some business done. Especially since, sure as shooting, they’ll be loud and will block your table and may even insist on chatting up other people who are actually there to buy things.

The mourning maven: truly knows the subject, loves what you’ve got, will stand at a distance looking at stuff, eyes moving piece to piece, wants to buy, usually has no money at all. These people , too,can be sad and annoying. But if you can find a viable way to trade them something you want (such as “could you hold the loading dock door for me when I’m unloading our second table?” or “I’m here alone today, could I give you some cash and have you grab me a sandwich?”) for something that they want you can both come away happy. One such person can utterly make your day.

The long lost friend: omigod! It’s been ages! What are YOU doing here? How are you doing?? These can be great and can be terrible. What they always are is a challenge to your focus.

The Searcher: This person is almost always silent. They will come, look things over intently, ask very few questions and those directed and specific as all getout. Give them their space. Give them good answers. These are some of your best bets for the person who will come back and later and will in fact, buy some of the best stuff on your table. No discount asked for or expected.

Your new best friend: tabling next to or across from you, this person is kismet. How have you never met before? You’ll joke about the passing crowds, help each other load and unload, trade twenties for ones at just the right time, and like as not you’ll discover that you know people in common, loved the same obscure novel, and in one way or another seem to have found this deep and wonderful bond.

Enjoy that time together. You will almost certainly never see this person again. If you call them a few weeks later at the number they gave you, they’ll have trouble remembering who you are and will respond to suggestions of meeting for lunch with an awkward silence.

The raging racist: Why is it that some people at such events, fellow tablers or attendees, seem to treat these events to finally let out their long lingering hatred of some ethnic group, profession, or even just the people from some nearby state? Some minor thing will set them off and away they go. And most of these people look so normal!

There is nothing to do with them. Smile if you have to. Disagree whenever you can. Nod as you must. Your real priority is to get some distance and move on as soon as you possibly can.

The Great Tycoon – Any Day Now: Comes by your booth, asks increasingly transparent and directed questions, and then finally gets to their real point. “You should publish my book. It’s going to be a best seller.”

They are trolling the show, usually walking booth to booth, caring little if at all about what those tablers sell or how or why. This day is all about the greatest chance of your life, your chance to meet them. Bursting with Dale Carnegie emphasis and pyramid scheme recruiting buzzwords, almost always mortally clueless and entirely without experience in the field. They listen barely at all, brush away any criticism with an imperial disdain, are filled with practiced speeches, spent weeks psyching themselves up for this day, and will quite likely walk off in a huff when you explain that your company which does only cooking guides is not actually the right place for a science fiction novel about the secret magic powers of the accountants of Cincinatti.

You never know until you ask.

You’ll be wanting to read this.

Just for the record, part of what inspired my first self-publishing venture was a Doonesbury strip. As soon as I had finished the first version that was sold in stores I sent him a copy with a little enclosed note. To his private address that I had obtained a few years before through means not to be described here.

The nice little note that he sent in response (which was pretty much “good idea but would be better if it included information on your sources”, advice that I instantly followed) is to this day part of gets me out of bed in the morning.


Seriously, if there is somebody amazing whose work inspires you, yes, be sure to find a time that you’ve got something to say that’s more likely to jibe with what *they* are known to want to talk about. And say hi. Maybe at a con. Maybe in a little print note. Maybe even email or Facebook or something just as “silly.

Because you never really know.

ACK! The Monday Morning Door Crisis.

It’s seven-something in the morning. Not really awake yet, I pull the shop door too hard and it shoots way off to the side and part way off the track.


The shop door is eight feet by eight feet and about three inches thick, ply over two by fours. And it hangs from a barn door track, suspended like a monorail from pairs of wheels rolling within a metal channel that is attached to the wall above it.

I’ve been awake for less than an hour and, having finished putting away the materials from Friday’s open house I’d made a silly little flourish of completion.

And now I’m bloody well standing there, looking at one end of the door, which is sitting on the stained, pitted concrete floor, a good foot and a half or so past the end of the track.


I try to lift it back into place. Yeah, that’s funny. The door probably weighs more than I do and at that angle I’ve got no leverage whatsoever. I’ve had about four hours of sleep, I’m logy anyway. And it being not even seven-thirty yet none of the guys I know who work nearby may well get there for another two hours. It being a summer monday, quite possibly none of them will show up at all.

Now what?

I try to lift it again and feel my back just barely start to scream. Okay, maybe not. I look up and calculate that I need to lift the right side about three inches. Maybe four.

I walk semiaimlessly about the shop for a minute trying to remember if I have anything that will act like a large crowbar. And wondering, if so, how I’ll hold the vast, ungainly, silly beast in place if I even can lift it.

I push the rounded smooth edge of a shelving upright in under the door just as far over as it will go. And I try to push it over towards the knocked loose side a smidge. Maybe at least that’ll get me started.

My brain, still entirely coffeeless, reluctantly starts to turn on.

Which is unfair, doggone it. I was a good boy. I got up early and got the whole place back into shape before the Monday morning shift arrived, needing to park where my setup had been put. I had rolled up the rug, put it away, found a place for the seven foot by five foot wooden frame. Put away the steel collating rack. And so on. Everything rolled, stowed, and out of the way, and all well before nine a.m. So why can’t I go now?

Sometimes it sucks not having a boss to hand over responsibility to.

Okay, okay. Fine. I’ll wake up for real.

I go into my drawer of hammers and pull out a mallet. I go to the scrap wood bin and pull out some blocks of ply and the end of a two-by-four. I don’t, in fact, own a full sized crowbar but I do have a mini one and some hammers with pry ends, so I grab those as well.

I pull up the dropped end of the door juuuuust enough to be able to push some ply under it. I hit the ply with the mallet a few times to see if I can get it a little further over. Looking up I see that, just as I’d feared, the door is starting to lean AWAY from the wall. Which means that if I push too hard and the other wheels give the whole track will tear and the entire door and frame will rip loose and fall. That would probably not be good.

And now it’s a game of fractions of an inch at a time. Lift with the crowbar or hammer, move a piece of wood over to the right or, even better, slide another beneath it. Pry, raise, slide in another support. Pry again. They built pyramids this way. Surely I can lift a wooden door.

Looking up I can see another problem.

I used to slide the door off the track all the time and now I’m remembering the cob job solution that I’d put in place to stop that. I’d screwed an anchor through a hole in the top of the track and I can now see that the thin steel of the bolt has bent most the way over. Too far out of skew to keep the wheels ON the track but still projecting plenty far enough to block the opening and keep the wheels OFF.

Back into the shop I go once more to grab a ladder, climb up, break off the rest of the bolt of the anchor, and try to unscrew the rest. Nope. Jammed.

I finish raising the door, watching it lean further and further from the wall the whole time, unsettlingly aware of the image of what happens if it tears loose, leaving me standing there, nobody to call for help, trying to hold it in place while I inch over to the side and climb down the ladder, slowly lower the door to the ground (assuming that it hasn’t fallen entirely over on its own and maybe gotten damaged), and then REALLY being up shit creek.

I climb back up the ladder and manage to get the wheels back in the track. The door is now working again, sliding properly.


Looking around I spot a magnetic block, meant to hold workpieces in place on a drill press. I grab it and manage to push it up into the track where it holds firmly and looks to be keeping the door from sliding off.

Okay. Done.

I put away the tools, the blocks of wood, and the ladder.

It’s not yet eight a.m.

What are the lessons to be seen in this?

Firstly, have good tools, know how to use them, and know where they are. Keep them accessible. The times that you’ll need them most urgently are the times that you’ll least be in a position to root around trying to find them, let alone figure them out.

Being a sole proprietor is both hard and sometimes even dangerous. That entire saga above would have taken a third as long and not been risky at all if there had been three of of us working together well at all. DIY is a wonderful movement but let’s remember that there are very good reason to partner with others.

Be careful about working when you’re short on sleep. I got away with it. But it could have gone quite badly very quickly and much of that was simply fatigue. If I hadn’t been so zonked out I wouldn’t have pulled the door off the track in the first place.

All of which adds up to, hey, anybody looking to join a studio in inner southeast? ;->

Have a good week, everybody. I’ll see you out there.