Behind the Scenes

Creating Glyphs for Debut Voices of Lookout Books chapbook

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To celebrate all our authors reading together for the firs time, we’ve been working on a limited edition booklet to feature work from the four Lookout authors, called Debut Voices of Lookout Books. (Come see them, Friday 1:30PM and then to the book signing after at table A6/A7.) We wanted to design a unique glyph to represent a component of each author’s work and would be used on the covers and interiors of the chapbook.

We read the stories and poems and picked elements from each that spoke to us. Then we studied images of each element, and, using the pen tool in Photoshop, recreated their lines and curves, filling them in with the tone and emotion of the stories. Here is what we came up with.

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Ben Miller Mail-Order Ice Rink Kits

At Lookout we’re anxiously awaiting the release of our first memoir, River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa by debut author Ben Miller.

In celebration we assembled gift boxes to bookstores, including a copy of River Bend Chronicle, a reading guide, a bow tie button, postcards, Ben’s personal map of Davenport attractions—and, perhaps most touching, a note straight from Ben’s Royal typewriter.

We drew on the wild, memorable, pop-culture saturated prose stylings of Ben Miller. The inside lid of the box features an excerpt from “The Reinvention of Ice,” a chapter in which Ben recalls a classmate’s father’s big American invention: a mail-order ice rink, complete with tarp and spikes. Just hook up the hose and wait for frigid conditions!

Best of all the boxes look like the mail-order ice rink as it’s described in “The Reinvention of Ice.” Check out a few photos of the process.

So get ready, bookstores—they’re coming your way this week! (And there’s a good chance you’ll see these items at AWP, where we’re debuting River Bend Chronicle!)

—Ana Alvarez, Lookout Intern

The “Teaching Press” Model at UNCW


One of my favorite aspects of being a Lookout intern is getting to be a part of a teaching press. We work on our Lookout projects in the Publishing Laboratory, and on any given day the lab is full of Bookbuilding students designing layouts and putting together chapbooks, undergrads compiling the UNCW BFA anthology, and Pub Lab TAs tweaking the design of a Writers Week broadside or doing treatments for Ecotone’s next issue.

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Great Fires in the Human Heart

On a Friday afternoon last April, I stood in the back of a classroom and watched John Rybicki, author of Lookout’s first poetry collection, When All the World Is Old, pace in front of a group of middle schoolers. John wore a short-sleeved blue shirt that showed off his wiry, muscled forearms, and he could barely stand still as he addressed the class. He would hold his arms above his head or spread them like wings; sometimes he’d step in close to talk to the kids, other times he’d lean way back to convey the scope of some grand bit of wisdom.

“On the page,” he told the kids, “where anything is possible, I’m a different kind of animal. And I want to cultivate in you, after your parents have been protecting you, trying to put a protective coat of their own skin around you, a sense of lawlessness and danger and emotional jeopardy. And when it happens on that canvas in front of you, you become godlike in your scope. A drop of God’s fire fell from the heavens and lodged in each of us.”

I remember being bored to tears by most of the special visitors I saw in middle school. But I also remember those visitors who just electrified me—the ones who approached us on our level, who talked to us like peers, who had more energy than you usually find in a classroom. Seeing those students sitting straight up at their desks, their eyes alight, I knew John was one of those visitors for them, one they’d remember for a long time.

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Literary Playlist

I tend to get work done while listening to music… possibly to the chagrin of the Lookout Books crew. Sorry, guys. Recently, I’ve been trying to combine the two by finding songs or artists with literary themes. Here’s a list of book-related music I’m listening to this week:

A few song titles to fit the mood…

  • Wrapped Up in Books by Belle & Sebastian
  • Books Written for Girls by Camera Obscura

A nicely named album or concerto titles that seem appropriate for reference…

  • Album: Libraries by The Love Language
  • Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 17 “The Tempest”

And, of course, band names!

  • Titus Andronicus
  • Ivan & Alyosha (And if you can’t get enough Dostoyevsky, check out their song called Fathers be Kind.)

What book-related music do you listen to?

– Ana Alvarez, Lookout Books Intern