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The Writing Life: The Life of a Pop-Up

2013 July 12
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The Writing Lifepd pop upToday we present a Friday The Writing Life treat, all for your weekend literary pleasure. If you’ve got room in your weekend schedule for some literary greatness, make sure you catch one of the last events happening at the Paper Darts Pop-Up. On Sunday, Bang Bang Poetry brings twelve spoken word poets in a round-robin reading that will blow your mind, while on Saturday, local rowdy literary magazine Revolver invites you to DESK, a performance art installation featuring writers and artists attacking a desk throughout the day.

The Pop-Up, with the moniker, “A Storefront for Storytellers,” started in June with the unique vision of bringing together fledgling literary and art organizations that don’t have a permanent home space. Paper Darts generously opened their doors for many of these organizations to program their own events, within the collaborative and visually striking space curated by the PD crew. So many great organizations were involved, including Mizna, Thirty-Two Magazine, Story City, and more.

The collaborative month and half of events has added a new dimension to our local literary and art ecology, which Holly Harrison, PD Marketing Director echoes with what they’ve seen through the Pop-Up: “Just when we thought we understood the scope of the local art and lit scenes, we’ve been proven wrong. We should’ve known this already, but there’s always more to discover about the Twin Cities and its creative communities.”

This model intrigues me, as Hazel & Wren is a young literary organization without a permanent home itself. We’re constantly looking for people and organizations with a home to partner with on events. While the internet, social media, and today’s increasingly collaborative culture in general make it easy for us start-ups to pop out of the woodwork, it’s also limiting in that we don’t have the monetary base to have an office to work from. Hence the PD team’s collaborative venture. Here’s hoping it transforms into a collaborative model that can sustain itself permanently!

Apparently, I’m not the only one to think so: “The Pop-Up store has been a huge, HUGE success.  The patronage of the arts in the Cities is absolutely incredible. I think we need a space like Paper Dart’s Pop-Up full-time. The great turn-outs are proof that a mixed media venue could flourish,” says Ross Nervig, the editor from Revolver who came up with DESK. “The ladies of Paper Darts deserve all their success.” We’re agreed there, Ross.

Don’t fret if you’ve missed the last month or so of events: you still have (a little) time to experience the Pop-Up in all its glory. Get over there for DESK, in which ten artists and writers get an hour each to attack a desk starting at 9:00 am on Saturday. As more of a performance installation, the event embodies, in its own way, the founding principals of the Pop-Up: collaboration, and the blurring of boundaries between the arts and literature.

As today’s culture, especially within the arts, grows increasingly collaborative, events like this are becoming more and more common. “We’re drawn to the interdisciplinary events because where there’s friction there can be a spark. We chase that spark,” says Nervig.

Revolver created a brand for themselves with events that don’t fall within the standard literary magazine shindig. Rather, their first launch party pitted some of our local favorite hipster artists and writers in a boxing ring, and they’ve since produced other events with a similar vibe. Why are they drawn to this type of event? As Nervig puts it, “Simply, we want to put on events that we’d like to attend. Like, what if we mash a banging house party with an art opening?” So far, it’s proven to be a successful equation.

Get over to the Paper Darts Pop-Up this weekend to experience DESK and the space itself before it leaves (although hopefully to be re-birthed somewhere down the road)!

Have you gone to any of the Paper Darts Pop-Up or Revolver events thus far? If so, what were your highlights? How do you think collaboration is changing the literary and/or arts scene locally?

What We’re Reading: Paper Darts, Volume 4

2012 November 1
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by Wren

What We're ReadingPaper Darts, Volume 4

Holy. Balls. Reading these art-literary-laden pages caused my brain to have an orgasmic aneurism. This is not a book for those prone to panic attacks, or with epilepsy. There is so. Much. Going. On. Thankfully, it’s all good stuff going on. The design is oozing out of the spine with loud, bold, beautiful, and busy pages. There is literature, art, music, and interviews, oh my! It’s not a magazine to read in one sitting, lest you overdose on the senses.

An art and literary magazine, Paper Darts made an interesting statement to start not with a literary piece, but with an artist interview (after some art, of course). Making it clear that they’re not just literary, Paper Darts is experimenting with everything; there are 94 pieces of very diverse art, 28 literary pieces (with an emphasis on short fiction), and 18 interviews with designers, visual artists, writers, and publishers. This volume of the magazine is bigger than ever. While it’s great to see an up-and-coming magazine bursting at the seams with excellent content, there are moments when my brain simply stopped absorbing, and everything started blurring together. For example, the blurbs describing each artist can get distracting, especially when it’s hard to tell an art blurb from a new piece of literature. However, I think that can also be an admirable trait that Paper Darts does well: blurring the lines between art forms, giving each the same weight, and letting the viewer/reader decide what to look at and/or read. Stories bleed into each other, as do interviews, to the point where it sometimes takes a second glance to figure out who is talking to whom. It starts to feel like one big conversation between every piece of art, literature, and interview, which is something more magazines should strive to achieve, in my opinion.

The print editions embodies a very different design approach from their web presence. The web feels cleaner and more stream-lined, with plenty of use of white space. This print issue is a gorgeous hot mess of artsy design that you can dig into with your hands and charged brains in every possible way.

For being such a long issue, the pieces are all actually very short. There is something from every genre (fiction, nonfiction, poetry), but the short fiction is what stood out to me the most (which is saying a lot, as I’m typically the one scanning for poetry). Their literary aesthetic of publishing off-kilter, humorous, quirky short fiction is where they are strongest editorially, and is what matches their voice and image most effortlessly. That’s not to say the other genres aren’t good; I fell in love with some poetry by Janaka Stucky and there are some great essays from Leslie Jamison (who has a nonfiction book of essays coming out from Graywolf Press called The Empathy Exams: Essays on Pain, and was recently awarded the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize). There’s a definitive emphasis on Minnesotan writers, including Peter Bognanni, Dylan Hicks, Matt Rasmussen, and many more. This edition of the magazine also includes their first ever Short Fiction Award, judged by Amelia Gray, called “Stuck Landing” by Jill Summers, featuring two red-headed, freckled twin gymnasts (but not the creepy kind) colliding with the world around them.

What always keeps me coming back for more from Paper Darts is that they manage to stay incredibly unique, which is hard to do in an over-saturated market. They also maintain their brand of spunk while moving into new territories, both editorially, design-wise, and more. Keep a finger on their pulse, it will bring you good things.

What literary magazines have you found to be unique and daring?


What We’re Reading: Get In If You Want To Live

2011 November 10
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Get In If You Want To Live by John Jodzio. Paper Darts Press, 2011

This book is WEIRD AS HELL. For those of you faint of, well, anything, go back to your heartwarming stories, this book isn’t for you. For the rest of you, indulge yourself in these quirky, delightfully vulgar, and sinfully hilarious fiction shorts from the popular Minneapolis author.

The 19 shorts range in topics from hookers to kidnappers to zombies, and the first person  narrator in all of them is tumbling with tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic humor. It’s a purely entertaining, zippy read through a properly messy fantasy/hell world. Jodzio is fond of highly unusual situations or people and of taking the story on a turn for the bizarre by asking “What if?” to everything.

As it is with most collections, certain stories stood out after digesting the work as a whole. I found myself going back to plenty, including the title piece, “Get In If You Want To Live,” a story about a woman scavenging in a world overtaken by zombies; “I Am Committed To Getting You Your Heroin At The Peak Of Its Freshness” (pretty self explanatory); and “My Kidnapper Gives A Really Good Backrub.” Here’s an excerpt from the latter to give you a small taste of Jodzio’s killer style of writing (although these are best read as a whole story):

Randall eats dinner with me in the tiny room he built below his basement. He tells me that this is as fast as he’s ever seen someone get Stockholm Syndrome. I tell him he’s never met my older sister, Janine.

As for the not-as-memorable stories, there aren’t very many. A couple that did fall a bit short of expectations (set by Jodzio himself, mind you, so no sympathy there) were “My Codpiece Smells Like Soup” and “The Hookers In My Neighborhood Really Love My Chili.” Either the humor was there, but the plot wasn’t very strong, or the plot was there, but the humor didn’t quite deliver.

Each short is accompanied by a work (or two) of art from a range of locals and international artists. Some of my favorites were Ainara Del Valle and Sandra Diekman. It’s rare that it works well to have such high-personality art next to literature, something that is typically only seen successfully in literary magazines. If the literary side of the pair was a longer, single piece, who knows if the art would’ve worked so well, but here, both forms hold their own, as well as complement each other. This is Paper Darts’ first foray into the book publishing business, and you can see the influence of their literary magazine on every page of this book. I’m intrigued to see how this model works with future projects.

If you, like me, were thinking that these stories sound like they’re straight from McSweeney’s, well, you’re right. Jodzio’s been published there loads of times, as well as in Opium, The Tangential, and some local mags such as MN Monthly, METRO, and He also won the Loft-McKnight Fellowship and has a previous collection of short fiction, If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home, published by Replacement Press.

Want more? Check out this interview with Jodzio on the Paper Darts website. You’ll have to scroll down to find it, but it’s worth it.

Does the quirkiness remind you of another writer? What short fiction writers are your favorites?