The Laureate Carousel
by Rowena Autry Moitoret
PREDICTABLY and inevitably, like the arrival of the plague of locusts, or the lemming’s mindless surge to the sea, there comes a cry from some member that the NAPA laureate contests need to be changed. Usually it is a newer member, in the association long enough to be interested and concerned about its functions, but still blissfully unaware that his cry has been cried before, many times, and that his ideas have been tossed around on many a convention floor, only to be deflated and kicked into a corner, like a tired rubber ball.
Sometimes the ideas are for more categories of contests, or fewer categories, or different categories, but sometimes the member proposes, with some apparent logic, that all eligible published items, and all eligible papers, be considered automatically for the laureate contests. It is the only way to achieve true and genuine contests, goes the argument. Perhaps so, but it is also a pretty sure way of achieving genuine ulcers, loss of hair and utter exhaustion in the NAPA president and recorder, who would have to manage such a contest. Picture the poor president, who has considerable trouble as it is, finding all the contest judges he needs, and persuading them to serve. He has very little time for getting the entries from the recorder, getting them to the judges, and getting the winning entries established in time to be announced at the convention. If he has asked some eminent professor to judge poetry, for instance (without pay, of course), he doesn’t feel like handing the professor 300 pieces of verse (and there would be at least that many, even leaving out a haiku or two), then breathing down his neck whispering “hurry, hurry” while the professor ponders. There would probably be a mountainous amount of miscellaneous prose, too, and a large number of four-page papers with the required two issues a year.
The recorder, overwhelmed with the task of getting up to seven copies of some papers from the publishers in order to have a copy for each judge, and unable to know what final papers he needed to ask for before the May 31st deadline, unable to be sure, in fact, just which writers and publishers were actually members on the day of the deadline, or which ones might possibly drop out during the next month, making themselves ineligible to receive a laureate in case they won, might even have a worse job than the president. It wouldn’t help much, either, to divide the poetry and miscellaneous prose into more categories – that would just mean more judges for the president to locate, and traditionally, for a perfectly fair contest, these judges (except for the history category) should be found outside the association. It would also mean more copies of papers to be secured and sent to judges. The recorder might possibly escape getting some of the angry letters the president would be bound to get, though. “I didn’t want my sonnet entered in the poetry contest!” “Now why did you enter my ‘Prometheus Unwound’ in the fiction category? It is a true personal experience and ought to have been with the miscellaneous prose!”
No, long experience has pretty well convinced us that it is better to let the member enter his own work, in order to cut down on the amount of poorer quality entries. But what if he won’t, or doesn’t, enter anything? Well, if the president and bureau of critics chairman are active, they make recommendations and urge the reluctant author or printer of the obviously good work to get his entry sent in. If he seems particularly lazy or indifferent, they can even enter it for him, if they secure his permission. A publisher can do the same for any fledgling author under his wing. Anyone can do it for anyone.
At this point I have a terrible confession to make. Although I have been a NAPA member for more than thirty years, and have won some laureates, it has only been during the past five years or so that I’ve actually gathered up any of my writings and sent them off to the recorder myself. During the first years of my membership it was indefatigable, encouraging Willametta Keffer who wrote, “Your poems are lovely – is it all right if I enter them for you in the laureate contest?”
So what made me see the light, and finally begin to make a real point of entering everything suitable I had to enter, every year? Chiefly it was seeing, firsthand, how embarrassing it can be for a president to ask judges to serve, then have such meager offerings to give them to judge. It is even embarrassing to be a winner, when you find out how few entries you’ve won out over. I guess I finally began to care, deeply, that the NAPA have proper laureate contests, with enough entries so that each winner can feel a real glow of achievement when he wins.
I’m not saying our laureate contest system is perfect yet. I still believe the president and recorder and bureau of critics chairman need more time for recommendations, getting entries together and getting these entries judged. There is really no reason that this couldn’t operate on a calendar-year basis, with the laureate winners announced at the July convention.
We’ve also got a peculiar set-up in the art category, which has the paper the art work appeared in getting the laureate award, rather than the artist himself. Sometimes the artist is the publisher, but not always. Most members agree that this should be changed, but an amendment designed to straighten out the matter has gone down to defeat, chiefly because of the “automatic no” syndrome that affects most NAPA members when they are faced with a lot of amendments on a ballot. (It’s just too much trouble to think, sometimes!)
Our laureate system, imperfect as it is, can still be made to work well if each member does his part – writing and printing to the very best of his ability, then submitting his best work for the appropriate contest. That is about all you can say for anything these days, whether it is a moon flight or a hippie commune or a peace proposal – it can work, if–!
Vespers at Valhalla
by Robert Holman
The urge to comment on the decline of the robust amateur magazines becomes more obstreperous the more one turns over past publications and compares them with the ones on the present scene.
Sure, amateur publications still circulate, but four-page folders do not qualify for the same consideration due a magazine of two or more signatures, and especially, a magazine of 24 pages and a cover. Granted, there are folders deserving more than a fleeting courtesy, a pause of commentary appreciation, but the dirge still tolls for the broader amateur gesture.
The decade of the forties was an exceptional period for 24-page offerings. It was, indeed, a heyday for such publications. In Ralph Babcock’s Scarlet Cockerel, No. 15, is a scribble of expansiveness: “the unusual harvest of exceptional publications… Masaka, Cubicle, Reverie, Lucky Dog, Interlude, Olympian…” And I might add, none of them folders.
From that time on a gradual decline began. What deterioration is apparent is disheartening, personally speaking, disastrous for the amateur press associations, and disgusting to say the least. Amateur journalism is worthy of broader avenues than what is imprisoned in folders.
Incidentally, the train left hours ago, the train with accommodations for those who shoulder arms in defense of folders, who marshal rebuttals drenched in defensive cliches that groan with necrosis of exhausted expletives. Excuses will be keynoted – confining the barrage to a sample of squeakers: higher prices for limited sources of supplies, and, too, not forgetting postal increases, and don’t you know that times have changed, customs staled and a different breed of amateur is on the stage? – for lack of broader dimensions, leaving contemplaters of the current scene with severe pain in the sit spots.
Of this phase of amateur activity, there remain few hardy perennials, one being this “tradejournal” you hold. Doff your topper, if for no reason other than a gratuitous thanks, the least you can do. The one way remaining to roam in expansive dimensions is to return to the past, an action abhorred by contemporary practitioners.
Taking a sentence out of context from Eric Webb’s article in No. 44 of this magazine, fits into this breviary: “The real amateur magazine is disappearing from the bundle and we see a series of fringe professionals at play, plus subsidized or disguised professional selling aids.”
There are additional involvements discussing this subject, and a start could be made defining that old chestnut, what is a real amateur magazine? But individual preferences only splash multi-colored particles on a broad canvas without advancing beyond generalities. What Webb had in mind defining an amateur magazine could be, in fact, positive it will be far afield from requisite qualities other observers would consider germane.
“I cannot define ‘amateur paper’ to my own or to anyone else’s satisfaction. I have no definition that holds water,” wrote Edward H. Cole about this tirade.
Adding, me, too, to Cole’s denouement while leaving a cliff hanger in the wake of departure.
On the following three pages we are printing in full the report of the 1969-1970 NAPA publicity chairman. It is here in the hope that some of the points will be given thought and discussed. We do not know what attention this was given at the Denver convention, if any, but we believe the NAPA should have definite arrangements to channel our publicity efforts to one goal rather than in all directions without direction.
Report of the Publicity Chairman
by Harold Segal
For a start, let me say that this office could be a full-time operation if the publicity chairman were to take advantage of every instance for publicity. There could be thirty or more releases a month just with the issuance of journals in the bundle. That could be extended to the contributors in each journal. Items could be sent to local papers that Miss Eda Channer Groats, of Puddlefork, Nebraska, has a few bits of haiku in Marvin Stonehead’s Printer and Poet, June issue, published in Dry Creek, Maine. This type of program would do wonders for personal pride, and there would be inquiries.
This would require the purchase of a newspaper directory and the composition of suitable “stereotyped” news releases (of an interchangeable type, substituting names, places and dates), reams of stationery, envelopes and stamps – and lots and lots of time (hopefully not detracted from personal journal printing). Unfortunately, time is most scarce – more scarce, it seems, with hobby printers than others.
Publicity should have as its ultimate goal the securing of names of possible members for our recruiting chairman. On any other basis, personal publicity is merely some form of flattery – and that is not the concern of this office.
The publicity chairman must work hand-in-hand with the recruiting chairman, so the latter is aware at all times just what type and amount of recruiting material is needed. A situation like the Kelsey program would be a complete waste if adequate preparations were not made or the extent projected over a definite period of time.
I regret that I am unable to give this report in person, for I would like to hear the sentiment of the convention in regard to publicity and to what limit the association should commit itself. If we could splash the name “National Amateur Press Association” across the pages of the printed media often enough in the course of a year, there is no doubt it would be productive. On the other hand, the matter of a sizable response is a very pertinent issue these days with our membership at a high point – considering the number of small hand presses and those who are only able to print one page at a time.
Early in the administrative year, I solicited information for news releases described earlier in this report. I found this did little more than ego boosting, and wondered if it warranted the consumption of so much valuable time. Parenthetically, I would like to suggest for the future that presidents do not appoint active printers to this office.
Ex-President Robert E. Kunde was instrumental in getting a news photographer to take an aerial view of Presidents’ Field, near Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was picked up by several Michigan newspapers. A very nice NAPA plug, but unfortunately publicity of this type does not carry a tie-in address, so its effectiveness for recruiting purposes is nil.
We were fortunate in getting a little space in the nationally-circulated Inland Printer / American Lithographer. In the November 1969 issue, an editor remarked, “Lucky indeed are those who can find time and energy to create and print for fun. It’s a rare thing nowadays.” My reply, printed in the February 1970 issue said, “… It might be uncommon, but it is by no means a rare thing. Calculated figures place at 2,000 the number of hobby and private press printers in the United States, many of whom belong to amateur press or chapel groups. If anyone is interested he might address his inquiry to Joseph F. Bradburn, La Plata, Maryland 20646, for full information about the National Amateur Press Association, the largest of these organizations, which incidentally, is nearing its 100th birthday.”
At this writing [June 12, 1970] about a dozen inquiries have been received by the recruiting chairman, who will probably have more factual information in his report.
Assistance and advice have been given by this office to a small number of requests for procedure in getting publicity for local clubs.
I am not particularly satisfied with my over-all record of accomplishment in this office. It certainly could not be called adequate. It needs the effort of a professional, which I am not. It needs the work of one who can sit at a desk for long periods of time and turn out letter after letter, which I cannot do. It does not need the time of an active printer, which I try to be.
The Writing of Letters
by Kelly James
Nowadays most people use the telephone for personal messages. Yet a few of us still think too slowly for speech over the phone. A half hour after they hang up the receiver, or lay the French machine down in its bed, they know what they would have said with more time to think between phrases. Such poor dopes have obviously been born to write rather than to speak.
One of my grandfathers was a longhand secretary. At about the age of ten, when I was in the seventh grade, I began writing letters to a third cousin two days older than I. Already I had scanned Gulliver’s Travels entirely, without benefit of Bowdler. Now when I am 71, after a couple of more readings of Swift’s magnum opus, I remain properly impressed by his depiction of the Struldbrugs. My cousin recently died in considerable self-inflicted misery, which I might have prevented if I had continued to write her letters until now.
I did correspond with her for something like ten years, from both Kansas and California. Nowadays I more often write to strangers whose essays I have read in academic reviews, or whose letters I have noted in the newspaper. For to me the letter is the easiest form of writing, and the most useful to the writer.
You sit down to pen and paper, or to the writing machine which ruined my grandfather. Then you read what your correspondent has lately written to you. Something of him or her has rubbed off on his or her letter, you can read between the lines. So now you are in companionship, the other writer is helping you to say what suits his or her unique case, you can write in your correspondent’s own vocabulary. Two are better than one; you spell words now as you never spelled them before, you spell them as your correspondent does.
You have all the time there is in which to write your letter right; you can, if you desire, cross out half the lines and afterward make a second draft. Over the phone you might have offended your interlocutor by using the wrong phrase, picked up from somebody else. Letters are done deliberately, are read over before they are mailed, can be adjusted to the sensibilities of the person addressed. As per Lord Chesterfield, offend intentionally if you do offend.
Letter writing is a fine way to learn how to write lucidly. You assimilate from various correspondents a variety of vocabularies, their private languages merge in your brain to become your public language, easily understood.
By writing letters, Thomas Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican party. By writing letters, Erasmus politely but firmly kept out of the clutches of Luther, Calvin and Loyola, all three.
CAMPANE is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by co-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007. Hand set in Baskerville types and 475 copies printed on 60-lb. offset stock on an 1890 7×11 Pearl treadle press.
Articles discussing associational problems, critiques or recollections and research in the history of the hobby are constantly sought and welcomed by the editors.