Welcome to Issue VII, Volume VII: August 2016, the Year in Review of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact.
Our publishing year here at ConPress runs from September-August, and as our final issue of each volume for the past seven years we have run a retrospective. It gives us a chance to catch our collective breath, take a little time off, reorganize, and ready ourselves for the new volume launch fast approaching in September.
At the start of Volume VII, I made a conscious effort to slow our roll a bit. Although it was our seventh year online, in September we entered our second year online as a bi-monthly rather than a bi-weekly, which helped but wasn’t quite enough. I decided to further minimize our output by not replacing various editors who took leaves of absence. To be truthful, I was exhausted. Not in a bad way, not at all, at least I didn’t think so. I love this magazine, the stories, poems, and columns we publish, the contributors, and most of all our incredibly talented editorial staff. But I found out that being exhausted doing what I love is still being exhausted, and that, it turns out, is not a good thing.
To that end, I basically took a year off although not in a substantial way. I still ran the magazine, posted each issue, and handled all major editorial and financial decisions, but I didn’t actively engage in the daily work of promotion, got fairly lax about making sure people hit their deadlines, and did nothing in terms of seeking to grow and enrich either the magazine, the production company, or Connotation Press as a whole. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take a year off, but I hoped that by just slowing down a bit I would be able to fake my body & brain out well enough to keep all the plates spinning.
This year we launched in September, as usual, and two months later we missed our first deadline since we began in 2009. The mid-month post of Issue II, Volume VII: November 2015 ran a day late because our former poetry editor and now Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Kaite Hillenbrand, chose to give me the honor of her hand in marriage. She gave me all the other parts, too, and she is smokin’ hot so WOOHOO!, but you know, sorry, married stuff or whatever. Anyway, the mid-month issue coincided with the weekend we were able to reserve the resort her parents had chosen for the occasion, and looking back I still can’t think of a better reason, if any exists at all, for a late issue release. On November 14th, 2015 we tied the knot on a cliff overlooking gorgeous Appalachia in the fall surrounded on all sides by people we love most in this world, with our daughters Lily as Kaite’s maid of honor and Hannah as my best person close enough to hug. It was the best day ever. No, seriously. Ever.
Our year was progressing along fairly well after that until one day in mid-December I noticed the site was running a lot slower than usual, and it seemed to be getting progressively slower as the day went along. After a couple of days, the amount of time before the slowing ground the site to a halt got shorter and shorter until virtually all day it was at a standstill. Readers were reporting that pages weren’t loading. They were getting timed out errors. Every aspect of the site technically worked, but it just took FOREVER to do anything on it.
Connotation Press is a labor of love. We have no outright technical team other than John Turi, our wine review guy, who built the site in 2009 then immediately turned it over to me, and, well, me, and I had to learn from scratch, with especially short notice, how to maintain it right after it was built. Mind you, I had absolutely no experience with website design and maintenance at the time. Although there have been a few instances when I screwed things up a little, overall I do all right. However, I have no skill sets whatsoever to use in determining how or why our site was slowing to a crawl. By the time we managed to figure out what was happening, namely, someone was stealing our resources, we ended up bringing in three different companies to fix it. Even then, the fix was to create a specially reinforced, security clad, mirror site and close our original version of An Online Artifact.
The fix cost us a few thousand dollars. And since ConPress has been funded all along from the donations Kaite & I make each year to keep it running to the tune of well over $20,000 since our launch, and since I had recently been laid off of my teaching gig so money was a bit tighter than usual, at the urging of friends who I love and trust we launched our first ConPress fundraiser. I set up a Go-Fund-Me account with a goal of $2,500 on a Monday morning, and by Wednesday evening we’d received nearly $4,000 in donations both from the Go-Fund-Me page and from private donors who sent us money directly.
We used that money to rebuild the site, and we added in software to make it easier to read on a tablet or phone, too. We relocated it to a virtual server with a company we trust, who we were able to hire to do the monthly maintenance on the site, and we have not had a problem with it since.
None of this could have been possible without the help of the nearly 400 of you that shared our Go-Fund-Me page on social media, and the loving and generous donors who saved us. When we were back up and running, in a long thank you note, I wrote the following:
Here, then, is a list of the folks, who, due to their generosity and outpouring of love, are responsible for the continuation of Connotation Press. I am listing them here in the order we received the donations, and since every dollar counted so much I have left out the specific dollar amounts. Further, this list, although complete, doesn’t acknowledge those who couldn’t donate money but supported the fundraiser through sharing our post, talking it up, and sending me so many lovely private messages of support.
Our enduring love & gratitude to the following patrons of Connotation Press:
Sarah Freligh, Faye Rapoport DesPres, Edison Jennings, Mary Bast, Andrew Baker, Patricia Clark, Jonathan Meyer, Davon Loeb, Sandy Longhorn, Donna Trump, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Anastasia Beaverhausen, John Hoppenthaler, Vandana Khanna, Tony Press (twice!), Laura Morris, Meg Tuite, Richard Foerster, Bob Austin, Valerie Nieman, Glen Vecchione, T. L. Sherwood, Ethel Morgan Smith, Tony Lee, Ellen Wheeler, Sandy Ebner, Robery Parise, Alvis Minor, Jessica Keener, Joan Reese, Jenni Madden, Paul Beckman, Adrian Louis, Mark Kerstetter, Van Hartmann, Mary B. Moore, Danielle Mitchell, David Atkinson, Curt Hanson, Kelly Stultz, Rodney Wittwer, Burgess Needle, Judy Kronenfeld, Karen Stefano, Paul Garcia, Mark Borg, Shawn & Jane Robidoux, Bobby Sauro, Alan Botsford, Nicholas Baker, Jillena Rose, Katherine Young, Susan Rhinehart, Anna Kimball, Dorothy Bendel, Nicelle Nicelle, Paul Scot August, Linda Albuquerque, Sharon Weinstein, Mark Jenkins, Cortney Charleston, Natalie Dobson, Debra Kang Dean, Jodi Paloni, Roy Guzman, Christopher Kempf, Terry Kennedy, T.A. Noonan, Deirdre Fagan, Shaun Turner, Julie Brooks Barbour, Bryan Dennis Kittle, Cheryl Torsney, and seven kind and generous anonymous friends.
And with that we were back up and running.
Earlier, I mentioned how this year was supposed to be about resting, and since we launched in September I’d managed to get married, get laid off of work, launch our first fundraiser, and oversee the complete rebuilding of Connotation Press. At that point we weren’t even five months into the new volume. HA! How’s that for a poke in the eye! However, things leveled off after that and I was able to rest or some such thing that passed enough as rest that Kaite stopped worrying about me as much.
In the end, this is what I learned this year: I’m super-crazy-ass TIRED of resting. Seriously, now long can a person freakin’ rest? For the past two years I’ve tried to get my head around this resting thing with absolutely no luck.
Since our start, every new issue of ConPress has been launched with the phrase, “Let’s kick this pig and see what it’ll do.” It’s an homage to a cousin of mine who told me I could, if I really wanted, join his biker gang, but he suggested instead that I should go to school; that life was like a Harley Davidson motorcycle, every morning you kick that pig to see what it’ll do. If you’re lucky it’ll start and take you unimaginable places, and if you’re especially lucky just maybe the next morning will find you doing it again.
For me, “Let’s kick this pig and see what it’ll do” is also a nod to the unwavering dedication to their art shown time and again to me by writers from all around the world. Writers who took me in, taught me, nurtured me, and turned me out on the world completely changed and freed up in my mind in ways that are still reveling themselves to me. Payback is not always a bitch, amigos. Sometimes it’s a blessing.
So enough of this resting bullshit. Let's rock this place! This coming year will see the return of some much-missed columns, new columns popping up, and some interesting things with video & photography making their way to our pages, as well. And as always, we will gratefully deliver the writings of some of the most talented people on the planet, free of charge, full of love, and just for you.
So, hey! What do you say? Let’s kick this pig and see what it’ll do!
Here is a list of pieces written by our editorial staff with their highlights and impressions of our Volume VII offerings. Missing is a piece from Meg Tuite, whose Crazy Rabbit Review column brought us both Margaret Malone & Heather Fowler, and we are eternally grateful to Meg for her love, dedication, and talent. Here then is a word from my editorial staff, who, in my opinion, are the best damn people in the world, bar none:
We hope you enjoy our look back at Volume VII, and please stay tuned in the future as in addition to the work of our outstanding contributors, we’ll be posting new opportunities to join our editorial team here at ConPress soon. Onward & upward, people!
Until then, thank you for your readership, your love and kindness, and your continued support. Oh, and remember, Donald Trump is an asshole. Completely. Don’t vote for an asshole.
Connotation Press: Just Because the Koch Brothers Hate Trump Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Still Assholes, Too
Publisher, Founding Editor-in-Chief