Sunday, December 16, 2018

My (Small Press) Writing Life by Cati Porter

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve begun this essay. To try to write through my daily activities requires that I have enough time to write it all down, and most days I’m lucky to find time to eat, usually behind the wheel while heading to a meeting or a delivery. Or, there are days like yesterday (not uncommon) where I left the house without eating, later bought a burrito, left it in the car for hours, and finally ate it late morning, the last thing I consumed until dinner around 8, after an evening meeting.

I run Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit, where I work full time plus for part time pay, because, well, it’s a nonprofit. We do a lot with very little. For instance, each year, we serve about 6000 people, hold more 150 free literary and cultural events, and run programs in partnership with about 50 organizations, and we have only two employees (myself and an office assistant) plus a cadre of volunteers. Through Inlandia, I also run Inlandia Books, a small press publishing house that includes the Hillary Gravendyk Prize for poetry series, which is how I met rob when he offered to judge one year because of his personal affinity for Hillary Gravendyk.

Outside of that, I am also founder and editor of Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry, a twelve-year-old online literary journal that sometimes people mistake for dead because I don’t have enough time in my day to give it the attention that it needs, but it is, most critically, alive.

I am also a poet with three full length collections and five chapbooks published in the last ten years, plus a smattering of essays and magazine articles.

Additionally, I am a wife and mother. I also struggle with chronic illness that is sometimes debilitating and difficult for people to understand because it’s not something they can see.

My family usually gets the short straw, Poemeleon the even shorter straw, and my own writing the straw the size of a grain of rice. I haven’t written a new poem in weeks now. It is depressing, and the only consolation is how much good I am doing for others in the literary community. That is one thing that makes all of this worth it.

This weekend, I will head to a conference in Sacramento for the California Arts Council. Tomorrow I will facilitate writing workshops at a homeless shelter and with a local nonprofit, Glocally Connected, serving refugees from Afghanistan. Today, I will deliver books to a venue, meet with two of my authors, have a conference call about our upcoming Indie Authors Fair, and then a development meeting (because what can we do without money?).

Yesterday, I unloaded my minivan, which I use like a truck, from the past weekend’s events: book sales at an Alternative Gift Fair, and a book launch for the latest Hillary Gravendyk Prize winner.

Holidays aren’t even safe: on Thanksgiving, I proofread and facilitated the printing of a book for a UCR professor, Along the Chaparral, which investigates veterans who are interred at our local National Cemetery. There is not a single day where I’m not doing some kind of work. Weekends, I write grants while I sip coffee in the morning, or format the galleys, or at minimum check my email. 

Then, if there’s time, I do something for myself. The second page proofs for my own book, The Body at a Loss (CavanKerry Press) languished in my inbox for two weeks before I could look at them. But, yes, I did finally read through and send them off.

This is my life. I chose it. Sometimes, I love it.

Cati Porter is a poet, editor, essayist, arts administrator, wife, mother, daughter, friend. She is the author of eight books and chapbooks, most recently My Skies of Small Horses and The Body, Like Bread, and the forthcoming The Body at a Loss. Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Contrary, West Trestle, So to Speak, The Nervous Breakdown, and others, as well as many anthologies. Her personal essays have appeared Salon, The Manifest-Station, and Zocalo Public Square. Established in 2005, she is founder and editor of Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry. She lives in Riverside, California, with her family where she directs Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit.

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