On September 1st, 2009 we launched Connotation Press. I added An Online Artifact to the title following a colon as an English department-friendly pun and it stuck. Those that follow us on Facebook might have noticed I change up the part after the colon with great regularity. Thanks for allowing me that one sinful indulgence. Although we may refer to it as ConPress, CP, Connotation, CP/OA (thank you, Ms Keener!) etc., our official name is Connotation Press: An Online Artifact.
Originally, we were a small group. John Hoppenthaler, Amanda McGuire, Kaite Hillenbrand who worked in the office, John Turi who designed our website, and me, Ken Robidoux. I handled all the rest of the columns. In our first issue we ran A Poetry Congeries with John Hoppenthaler, From Plate to Palate with Amanda McGuire, and a Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Screenplay, and Featured Artist of the Month column. When James Harms, Wayne Thomas, and Tom Sydow graciously agreed to be on our advisory board we were on our way.
A lot changed that first year, and in this, our second year, we have continued to expand our columns and our staff. Our dear friend Natalie Seabolt Dobson retired from the fiction column; Joshua Hardina left the Book Review column; Katie Fallon, our first creative nonfiction editor, moved on to finish her most recent book; and last month our beloved (and I do not use that term lightly) Drama Editor, the brilliant Joshua Fardon, gave up the reins of his column because, quite frankly, his career has blown up and there are only so many hours in the day. However, we were able to secure new editors and new columns and now we are currently 12 strong with aspirations of bringing in another five new editors with all new column offerings this coming year. Next month when we launch Volume III we'll have a complete rundown of all our mind-numbingly genius editorial staff with their bios and pictures. Until then, it's time to take a look back at our second year online.
I'll start with the math and move into the art. This year Connotation Press: An Online Artifact published 222 poets, 52 fiction writers, 59 creative nonfiction writers, 12 playwrights, 54 foodies, 11 travelogues, 12 book reviews, seven movie reviews, two undergrads, and an essay on art.
Total published for Volume II: 432
Connotation Press: An Online Artifact Volume II averaged over 9650 page views each month from 118 countries worldwide. Here is a list of the countries currently reading Connotation Press in the order of hits received:
United States , United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, France, India, Romania, Spain, Japan, Sweden, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Belgium, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, New Zealand, South Korea, Moldova, Switzerland, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ecuador, Israel, Poland, Denmark, Malaysia, Indonesia, Norway, Egypt, China, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Austria, Slovenia, Haiti, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Qatar, Tunisia, Cambodia, Lithuania, Vietnam, Morocco, Jamaica, Serbia, Iran, Lebanon, Latvia, Albania, Georgia, Colombia, Bahamas, Iceland, Palestinian Territories, Hungary, Sri Lanka, Dominican Republic, Algeria, Croatia, Myanmar [Burma], Kuwait, Malta, Jordan, Slovakia, Guam, Cyprus, Nepal, Macedonia [FYROM], Senegal, Kenya, Bulgaria, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Finland, El Salvador, Guatemala, Fiji, Oman, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Honduras, Chile, Estonia, Venezuela, Yemen, Paraguay, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Laos, Dominica, Nicaragua, French Polynesia, Syria, Bolivia, Belize, Kyrgyzstan, and Mauritius.
Some more fun facts: Connotation Press has a 63% new visit rate. It thrills us to know we're gaining new audience members at such a fantastic pace. Firefox is your most used browser of choice with Internet Explorer and Safari in second and third respectively. Google Chrome is a distant fourth as are the mobile browsers. Further, more of you visited the website through Google searches than any other way, with Facebook a close second.
But enough of that, it's time to look back at some of the amazing artists we've brought you these past 11 months.
This year, we had five guest editors. Four ran poetry columns and a fifth ran an entire truncated version of the magazine. Kurt Brown & Laure-Anne Bosselarr contributed a wonderful poetry column, as did Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and Anna Journey. I actively encourage you to click on any of their names to see the column they guest edited. Further, I've started what we hope to be a long standing tradition. At Waynesburg University, where I teach, we had a top-notch group of undergrads. As a class project, they created a mini-version of Connotation Press. Edited by undergrad Natalie Bruzda, the students of Waynesburg University did an outstanding job. It is our hope that schools without a literary magazine will contact us and volunteer to do a mini-issue themselves. It's a great experience for the students, and it gives us a chance to publish up and coming artists alongside the established artists we are so proud to bring you.
We had five featured artists this past year, and for their patience, kindness, joy, and art we thank them. The stunningly insular Gray Jacobik, J. P. Dancing Bear who just knocked me out, Lucien Stryk our second Emeritus artist, Ed Weathers with his off-the-hook $20 Haiku Project, and the force-to-be-reckoned-with fiction writer, Susan Straight. Thanks, folks. It was GREAT working with you.
Before we go any further, I think it's time for a disclaimer. This past year we were graced with so many hard working artists that listing them all here and now would be quite silly. This, then, is the list of artists whose work made a lasting impact on me personally. And hey, I'm the Founding Editor-in-Chief. This is my digital rag, so if your name is not mentioned I hope you'll please forgive me.
As is our custom, let's kick this pig and see what it'll do!
A Poetry Congeries with John Hoppenthaler once again blew us all away. Here is the short list, believe it or not, of the artists John brought us that most garnished my attention: Keetje Kuipers, Carl Dennis, Quincy Troupe, Doug Anderson, Lewis Turco, David Daniel, Mark Jarman, Charles Fort, Rachael Eliza Griffiths, Valerie Neiman, Sue Goyette, Ada Limón, Brad Brodeur, Leanne O'Sullivan, James Applewhite, Dave Smith, Patrick Lane, Cheryl Dumesnil, Nathalie Handal, Carmelia Leonte translated by Mihaela Moscaliuc, Ralph Black, David St. John, Robert Hedin, Roxanne Beth Johnson, Carol Frost. Great job, John!
From Plate to Palate with Amanda McGuire is one of three guilty pleasures I have on the magazine. These are columns I personally want to read each month. I LOVE them. The other two I'll mention later. Amanda's food column comes from the perspective of a foodie. That is, a lover of food not necessarily from those in the food business. Although she does feature famous Chefs, we had a TV's Top Chef finalist Valerie Bolon this year to go with the Top Chef winner Stephanie Izzard we published last year, Amanda's column has been a place where her team can play in and around the narratives surrounding food. Some of the best foodie writing this year came from Karen Babine, Cal Freeman, Arielle Greenberg, Arlan Hess, Andrea Iglar, Jeannie Kidera, Kristin Abraham, Sarah Lenz, F. Daniel Rzicznek, and I'll add Doug VanGundy to the mix, too. Excellent work, Amanda. Love you Diva Star!
In Volume III Amanda's column will be going video! I can't wait!
Poetry editor Kaite Hillenbrand, along with her partners in crime Nicelle Davis & Monica Mankin did an outstanding job with the poetry column this year. In fact, the poetry column is the most-read section of Connotation Press by far. I cannot state strongly enough how important the work done, especially by Nicelle & Monica in regards to the interviews they conduct, are to me personally. I am regularly humbled by their devotion to the cause.
Of all the artists we published in the poetry column, two stand out for me the most: Peauladd Huy and the work of Emilian Galaicu-Păun translated by the imitable Adam Sorkin and his cohort on this project Claudia Serea. For me, the work of Ms Huy and Mr Galaicu-Păun are about as good as poetry ever gets. Here's a short list of more knock-out artists that made their way into the poetry column this year and on to my favorites category: David Mason, Mari L'Esperance, Thomas Reiter, Judy Kronenfeld, Amy Randolph, Edmund Skellings, Mary Crow, Glenn Freeman, Marilyn Taylor, Kelly Cherry, Mary B. Moore, Matt Mauch, David Allen Evans, Matthew Nadelson, Dick Allen, Marjory Heath Wentworth, Jim Ferris, Kevin Stein, Luke Hankins, Juliet P. Howard, Norbert Krapf, and Beth Copeland.
Congratulations to Kaite Hillenbrand on an excellent job with an unbelievably difficult task, and we welcome Mari L'Esperance and JP Reese as Associate Poetry Editors who will join Kaite, Nicelle, and Monica in September. Woohoo!
In March, contributor Meg Tuite joined us as our permanent Fiction editor and we could not be more thrilled. The enthusiasm Meg brings to the job is absolutely contagious. And since she joined us our fiction submissions have quadrupled. Meg is my freakin' hero. She is the first person I've met yet that seems to work as much as I do. Seriously, does she ever sleep?! We all LOVE Meg and we're thrilled with what she's done and continues to do with her column. Here, then, are a list of fiction offerings that grabbed and held onto my attention published by both our original Fiction editor Natalie Seabolt Dobson and by Meg: Mark Brazaitis, Michael C. Keith, John Givens, Amy Kathleen Benninghofen, Meg Tuite (yep, I said it! heeheehee), Julie Innis, Len Kuntz (Master of Flash Fiction!), David Cotrone, P.T. Paul, Gary Percesepe, Susan Tepper, Matt Potter, Anatoly Molotkov, Jesse Bradley, Jessica Keener, Pat Pujolas, Jessica Anya Blau, Heather Fowler, and Ron Tanner.
You're doing a smash-up job, Meg. I'm so glad you've joined us!
A great pleasure for me is getting to know some of the artists and that pleasure is made even more powerful when those artists join us here on staff. One example of this is Creative Nonfiction editor Robert Clark Young. I love Bob. He is, like all the people I seem to love, as brilliant as he is twisted. A funnier man you will have a hell of a time finding or a more compassionate, caring, brilliant artist, either. Bob brings a quiet dignity to his column that has raised the bar for all of us. Here is a short list of some of the artists from our Creative Nonfiction column brought in by Mr. Young this past year: Jessie Carty, Samantha Lamph, M.E. Griffith, Jessica Keener, JP Reese, Anna March, Andrew Tonkovich, Allen Lulu, and Jacqueline C. Kelley.
Thank you, Bob, for the late night conversations, the hysterical comments on my Facebook page, the deeply dark and delicious sense of humor, and for sharing the story you're living with your family with ours. You, my friend, totally rock!
One of the first interviews I did for the magazine was with Writer/Director Charles Evered. I let Chuck, who is a rather famous playwright, know I was looking for a Drama editor and he quickly suggested I contact his friend Joshua Fardon in Los Angeles. Chuck & Josh went to Yale Drama School (Go Mafia!) together and Chuck spoke very highly of Josh. A phone call later and we had the best damn Drama editor in the entire business on staff. I mean that, too. Who else is publishing an entire play AND an in-depth interview with the writer every single month of the year but us? And we did that entirely due to the efforts of Josh Fardon. Over the past 10 months or so Josh has become more and more in-demand in Los Angeles. He directed a well received play, a couple of his own pieces also had successful runs, and he even directed a short film. Unfortunately for us, the rest of the world figured out how amazing he is and scooped him away. We could not be happier for our dear friend. But don't worry, Josh brought in a replacement that will captivate you and we'll announce who that person is in the coming days.
The Drama column is the second of my personal indulgences. I can't wait to read the new play and interview each month. If no one at all read it but me I'd still publish the column, but thankfully it is a well read column indeed. Here is a VERY short list from the who's who of the LA drama scene that I have read, reread, and will read again that Josh brought us: Lina Patel, Sam Catlin, Taylor Negron & Abina Anthony Davis, and Marja-Lewis Ryan.
Thank you, Josh, for giving us nearly two years of your life to enrich ours. We'll miss you, amigo. Please don't be a stranger.
In third grade the school system in Corona California, where I grew up, had the brilliant idea of corralling all the students with high IQ scores in one entirely socially dysfunctional elementary school. It was there I met and fell madly in love with a genius American/Brit named Nicholas Baker. One of the funniest people it has been my pleasure to know, Nick gave me a world-view perspective I could not possibly have found at home. A while back I was visiting a mutual friend and wonderful artists in her own right, Janet Heatherington Keene, who suggested I contact Nick. He'd been writing these funny, charming travelogues and she thought he might want to join Connotation Press. Nick had married his boyfriend Freddy, left his job in LA at the Times, and moved to London since I'd last spoken to him, but he was crazy-into traveling and writing about it. After a little coaxing he graciously agreed to write a travel column for me. This, my friends, is the third of my guilty indulgences. I LOVE NICK'S TRAVEL COLUMN. I read it religiously. It inspires me. Captivates me. And Nick's unique perspective is a breath of fresh air in the clogged airport arteries of travel writing.
This year Nicholas helped us Discover Istanbul, Budapest, Brazil (in three parts: Rio, Las Cataratas del Iguazu, and Buzios), Zurich, Amsterdam, The Mediterranean (also in three parts: Livorno, Naples, Pompei, Rome, Italy; Mykonos, Greece). Winning! Thanks, Mr. Baker.
One of the newer additions to the Connotation Press family is Stephanie Brown. A strong poet in her own right with a killer new book out, Stephanie is also a librarian and a damn good one. When she responded to my call for a Book Review editor, I was floored. And after getting to know her I'd say she is my sister from another mister. We both have a strange, unexplainable affinity for Irish mob & UFO literature and we make no apologies for it. HA! Since taking over the column from Josh Hardina, Stephanie has done a bang up job. Her professionalism is commendable, and the crew of reviewers she's put together are top-notch. Here's a list of some of the reviews I was especially enamored with brought to us by Josh & Stephanie: Valerie Zapata: The Madonnas of Echo Park, by Brandon Skyhorse; JP Reese: Phantom Noise, by Brian Turner; Marilyn McCabe: Rain, by Don Paterson; and Mari L'Esperance: Having Cut the Sparrow's Heart, by Malinda Markham.
I look forward with great anticipation to the new reviews Stephanie will be bringing in to Connotation Press in the following year, and extend a grateful THANK YOU to the talented Ms Brown.
Last but far from least, about eight months ago I had a lunch date while visiting the campus at my undergraduate alma mater the University of California, Riverside with Movie Review editor Robin Russin. Robin and I were discussing what a movie review column would look like if we were to create one. We wanted something that spoke to the entirety of film rather than just a "at your local theaters now" kind of column. Robin agreed to join us and take the column and he even paid for lunch. Nice! We're still working out the kinks for the Movie Review column, but there have been some memorable reviews that should be mentioned. I loved Robin's reviews of Hickey and Boggs, The Secret of Their Eyes, and my favorite Get Low. Robin got an interview with Producer Dean Zanuk that was terrific for that film review. I am actively anticipating more review/interview posts in the future. GREAT job, Robin!
Finally, I will take this time to thank a few people. I have always wanted to make films, movies, moving pictures, pick the name that you like best. And last year my dear friend and advisory board member Charles Evered along with his producer Kim Waltrip from Wonderstar Productions and Kim & Jim Productions offered me the opportunity to create an electronic press kit, a "making of" documentary if you will, for their upcoming feature film A Thousand Cuts starring Michael O'Keefe & Michael Newcomer. I jumped at the chance. Sure, it was a nonpaying gig as one must pay their dues, but WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY! The film was shot in Palm Springs, California in November last year, and I was invited. I gathered a rag-tag crew together consisting of my friends Kristin, Jim, Monica, and my student, a phenom camera man just barely 21 years old, Alan Jaskiewicz. The film begins its release soon and I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to thank those that made and continue to make my participation possible. Thanks, everybody!
Since working with Chuck & Kim, I've started Connotation Press' own, very small production company and we're currently shooting a documentary about a local West Virginian titled, MK Ohlinger and the Richwood Grill, we're working out the details on a project for NASA, and we've got a bunch of other irons in the fire. All thanks to one friend believing in me and a whole bunch of other people joining in. Just like with the magazine all over again. Beautiful how that all works. We bought our first camera last month and at nights I sit with it on my lap on the back porch working out how I'll make the stories I've written into visual art. It makes it easy to remember what a gift my life is, so thanks Chuck, Kim, and all my crazy crew.
And of course, thank you to all the editorial staff that have worked so hard this past year to bring you Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Thanks to John Hoppenthaler, Amanda McGuire, Kaitlin Hillenbrand, Robert Clark Young, Meg Tuite, Joshua Fardon, Nicholas Baker, Stephanie Brown, Robin Russin, Monica Mankin, Nicelle Davis, JP Reese, Mari L'Esperance, Natalie Seabolt Dobson, and Joshua Hardina. And thanks to our guest editors, featured artists, contributors and to all of you readers out there that keep coming back to our labor of love. You guys are the best.
Well, that's it friends. Issue XII, Volume II has been put to bed and I'm about to join it. In two days my daughter Hannah will be here! WOOHOO!! I think we're going camping! Until we return in September with Issue I, Volume III all of us here at Connotation Press wish you a safe, joyous, sublime end of summer.
~Ken Robidoux, Pubisher & Founding Editor-in-Chief
Connotation Press: I Don't Conquer, I Submit
This issue of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact is dedicated to Writer/Producer Sherwood Schwartz. Mr Schwartz is the man responsible for creating some of the TV shows I was horribly addicted to as a child. He wrote for Bob Hope, Ozzie & Harriet, Alan Young, My Favorite Martian, and he created Gilligan's Island & The Brady Bunch among others. A writer that became the boss. My hero! May he rest in peace.