SOME sixty-four members and guests celebrated the 115th convention of the National Amateur Press Association, July 1-3, at Knoxville. Most stayed over July 4 for a picnic at the home of Ruth and Bill Boys. As usual members came from as far away as California to the west and Austria to the east. The weather was pleasant, the Hilton was accommodating, and the people were openly delighted to be together. Knoxville, seven years after the first convention there in which a good bit of strife was evident, this time provided the convention that was mellow, friendly, and peaceful.
Indeed, the last several conventions have been so mild that the reputation of NAPA as a contentious organization may be in peril. Years ago I asked an active member why he did not come to a convention. “From what I hear, it’s just a lot of fighting and politicking,” he said. He was mistaken then, and certainly these days hardly a vestige of a fight remains. Politicking has not been important in any convention that I’ve attended.
So mild has the organization become that no substantive decisions have been required of the Executive Judges in several years, and there was not even a constitutional amendment on the ballot this year. Further no amendment was accepted for the coming year’s ballot.
As a change in normal procedure, business meetings were held only in the mornings of the three days. Normally at least five sessions are held and sometimes six. This schedule left the afternoons free for committee meetings, socializing, and working on the convention paper. There have been conventions in which no time was left for committee meetings and committee members had to miss seminars or business meetings to complete their work. Even the election was finished in one morning meeting.
Every election was determined on the first ballot except for the election of Executive Judges that required four ballots. In most elections the absentee vote brought the candidates within five to eight votes of the majority necessary for election. Like most organizations today, NAPA finds its elections are more a ratification of the one candidate willing to serve than a selection from two or more candidates.
President: Joseph A. Diachenko,
Vice-President: Tom Patell,
Secretary-Treasurer: Stephen Bayuzick,
Official Editor: Robert Orbach,
Recorder: Robert Dargell,
Executive Judges: Gale Sheldon, Chm., David Warner, William Haywood,
Convention Sites: Oklahoma City 1991, Canton, OH 1992.
Historian: William Osborne.
Two evening seminars were held. The first day, David Warner presented a well-organized talk on offset printing for the hobby printer. He showed that an offset shop is perfectly feasible for a hobby printer and that some of the equipment used in professional shops is unnecessary for the hobby printer. He illustrated his talk by showing the actual master copy, the negatives, the paper plates, and the final finished results. The high quality now obtained on the laser printer makes the production of the master copy from computer-set type an attractive alternative to hand-set type and letterpress printing.
The second evening’s seminar was on the role of the editor in amateur journals and was conducted by Guy Miller and Tom Whitbread. Members of the audience were asked how they performed their editing tasks in relation to poetry and prose. Responses varied from editors insisting they had complete freedom to change anything to those who would change very little without the author’s consent. As might be expected, poets present were adamant that their poems should not be changed without their consent.
Most people seemed to agree that minor changes in prose were reasonable though even there some writers complained that the tone and rhythm of their prose was sometimes destroyed by an editor’s changes. The discussion veered into the role of the Bureau of Critics – the old discussion of whether to stroke, teach, or diplomatically combine the two. The writers in NAPA are so varied in their abilities, skills, and even intent that criticism is a difficult matter. It is a given that people read the Critics Report mainly to see what is said about their piece. The consensus of the group seemed that one should not criticize an individual effort but should teach using positive examples instead.
Gale Sheldon led a President’s Forum the second afternoon in which he brought up several items for discussion. He favors including candidate’s names on the absentee ballots and gave the argument that most organizations that have a mail vote do this. The disadvantage is that the candidates must be selected far in advance of the convention and the absentee votes will then almost complete decide the outcome of the election. This almost precludes late choices of imminently qualified candidates who suddenly decide, or are persuaded to run for office.
No clear consensus resulted from the discussion. Gale also pointed out that there is an inconsistency in the constitution where in Article VIII, Paragraph 13 it says “The Chairman of the Bureau of Critics… shall select items worthy of laureate competition…” and Article D, Paragraph 5.1 of the by-laws were it states “The Chairman of the Bureau of Critics…may” do the same thing. The consensus at the forum was that the “shall” in Article VIII be changed to “may,” but when such an amendment was proposed by the Amendment Committee a discursive floor discussion left the assembly so confused about its intentions that it was voted to return the proposed amendment to the committee for further study, thus killing it for this convention. Part of the confusion results from the fact that any member can enter any item in the laureate contest and therefore it seems a bit redundant to say that Chairman of the Bureau of Critics “may” do something that any member “may” do. On the other hand I guess no one wants to remove this encouragement for the Chairman to help fill the laureate quotas.
For some reason the Reception Committee had not planned for an auction but finally yielded to the pressure for this now traditional event. In spite of the impromptu nature of the event, something over $300 was extracted by auctioneer George Hamilton from the participants. Traditionally the auction proceeds are used as advance money for the next convention though in recent years the auction money has been placed in the general fund and the convention money issued from that fund.
Missing was a floor discussion on recruiting. We probably should have had one. Although floor discussions of this problem are very diffuse and wandering, there is always a chance that someone will propose some good ideas. There was plenty of unofficial discussion about the problem of maintaining our membership. To put our plight in context: At the Kennewick Convention in 1978 we had some 420 members and were concerned that we might have to establish a limit, say around 500, as the required number of copies of journals was getting to be burdensome, especially to printers operating hand presses. Since that date the membership has declined steadily and inexorably (except for one year, 1986). I happen to have the figures for June (the end of our fiscal year) for the last several years. They are:
Year, Members, New Members
1984, 359, 31
1985, 350, 28
1986, 371, 45
1987, 327, 29
1988, 298, 22
1989, 289, 18
1990, 287, 33
Traditionally the great recruiting tool was to put a brochure into the Kelsey mailing. This was done at least twice, the last time in 1969 when I joined the organization. This mailing produced about 120 new members. The membership declined to something like 348 in 1977. Al Fick had an article about hobby printing published in Graphics Arts Monthly in 1977 and the membership jumped to something like 420. As you know, the Kelsey route is lost forever, and it has never been easy to get an article published in a major magazine.
I have no doubt that there are 500 people in this nation’s millions who would like to belong to NAPA if they only knew of its existence. It is simply very difficult to reach the small number of people who would be interested because they represent such a tiny portion of the total. That is a problem that we have not solved. The Budget Committee again recommended, and the Convention approved, a contingency recruiting fund for the President of $750.
Tom Patell had an interesting idea that never got much attention because we never had a floor discussion of recruiting. He said that we should have a mechanism by which a member could give a prospective member a year’s subscription to the bundle. This is a better idea, I think, than giving someone a membership. It puts no pressure on them and lets them calmly decide during the year whether they are interested in being a member.
As long as I am handling the mailing labels this would be simple to do. I could add the name to the mailing list as a non-member and drop the name after a year if the person has not joined. If anyone cares to try this, send me the name and address of the recipient and a statement that you have sent a donation of $15 to the Treasurer. Send a copy of your letter to President Diachenko. If he does not object, and I don’t see why he would, I will put the person on the mailing list for one year.
It is likely that no Recruiting Chairman has ever approached the efforts made during the past year by Harold Segal. In his report to the Convention he exhibited a six-foot long list of people to whom he had written and sent sample bundles. He inserted ads in the New York Times book section and in the Boy Scout magazine with very poor response from both. I believe one new member was obtained as the result of each ad.
At one time during the year I thought I had found a magic method. I ran an ad for three weeks in the Greenbelt News Review classified ads at a total cost of $14. This paper is read by something like 20,000 people weekly. I obtained nine responses, most of whom sounded enthusiastic on the telephone. Later it turned out that not one of these people joined – effectively puncturing my bubble. Yet I still believe there is some hope for advertising in small local papers and giving a local telephone number. Gale Sheldon, when President, offered to reimburse any member who attempted this. I’m fairly sure that President Joe Diachenko will do the same, using the recruiting fund.
Although the membership picture looks discouraging there is one advantage NAPA has that another organization in similar straights may not. The activity of members means more in NAPA than in many groups and a few, say five or ten, very active new publishers and writers would immediately transform the organization. Our best and most productive recruiting tool is the individual effort of the members. Be on the alert for possible members and take the trouble to try to interest them in NAPA.
NAPA seems to be running smoothly – the lack of fights does not appear to be the result of apathy – and the bundles have been moderately good throughout the past year. The National Amateur has certainly been improving. Our finances have completely recovered and are in excellent shape with some $6000 on hand. All laureate categories had sufficient entries for a contest this year (see results on page 8). This means that the Recorder, the Chairman of the Bureau of Critics, and the President made the necessary efforts to do this task which is not an easy one.
President Diachenko said that he was going to attempt to create more interaction between members by encouraging members to comment on publications by at least sending a post card to the publisher. We can all help in this endeavor. It is especially important that new publishers and new writers receive some comment on their efforts. Old timers are accustomed to the dead silence in response to their publications but new members may not feel that their efforts are being appreciated.
Knoxville marked the twentieth straight convention for Leah and me. Our reaction to twenty conventions may be easily summed up as follows: See you in Oklahoma City!
1989 Laureate Winners
Laureate: Helen Middleton Amos, “To One Long Absent,” Alpha & Omega, 49.
Honorable Mention: William F. Haywood, “A Walk in Winter,” Just Our Type, 52.
History of Amateur Journalism
Laureate: Victor A. Moitoret, “Martin,” The National Amateur, June 1989.
Honorable Mention: Jacob L. Warner, “Now, Score One for the Boxwooder,” The Boxwooder, 240.
Laureate: Martha E. Shivvers, “Sometime is not Forever,” The Boxwooder, 235.
Honorable Mention: Joseph A. Diachenko, “How to Get Rid of Your Boss,” The Big Bodkin, 17.
Laureate: Louise Lincoln, “Going Around in Circles,” Campane, 141.
Honorable Mention: Guy G. Miller, “Dear Lea Palmer,” The Reviewer, 12.
Laureate: Willametta Keffer, “Snakes Alive, Please,” The Boxwooder, 242.
Honorable Mention: Jacob L. Warner, “The Thirteenth Journal of a Century,” The Boxwooder, 234.
Laureate: John Setek, Engraving of Egyptian Crane, Printer’s Progress, 11.
Honorable Mention: Charles U. Goldsberry, Teepee Linocut on Cover of NAPA West, 37.
Laureate: Harold Segal, Campane, 137-142.
Honorable Mention: Jacob L. Warner, The Boxwooder, 234-245.
Laureate: Jacob L. Warner, The Boxwooder, 234-245.
Honorable Mention: William F. Haywood, Just Our Type, 51-59.
Type set with Ventura Publisher. Master printed on a LaserJet III. Reproduced (poorly) by a professional copy shop. This is the third Boxwooder to be computer produced but is the first one to be published. Full details will be published in Boxwooder 257. Computer types used are Times Roman and Helvetica. The cover was printed by letterpress using Mademoiselle and Lydian. Edited, published, and printed by Jake Warner at the Boxwood Press, Greenbelt, MD 20770.