Welcome to Pretzels & Bullfights, Brian here and today I have invited one of our poets, Tracie Skarbo into the pub to host an interview she did with Keith Landrum. I found his story of starting up his ezines insightful as I am sure you will as well. Take it away, Tracie.
Have you ever wondered about how those ezines get started? What does it take to get the ball rolling? What can such a project morph into? Come and meet Keith Landrum. Talented beyond measure, he took his ideas and a dream and put them into action and ended up touching more people and causes he ever thought possible.
I understand you were the mastermind behind Every Reason Zine, how did this come about?
My friend, Tricia went with me to the annual punk fest here (Chattanooga) a few years back and we picked up some zines. I don’t even think she had seen one before. I told her about the ones I had read & she encouraged me to start doing my own. So I did. Tricia made me do it!
When I 1st started out, I had no idea what I was doing at all. So there was no goal. I didn’t really even understand what other people who made zines were doing. That helped me out in terms of not having anything to influence the content or design. I was only interested in making a zine I’d want to read. I wasn’t consciously thinking in terms of goal or purpose until the 4th or 5th issue. It never occurred to me to go beyond anything local. Ha ha! Of course it did later, and when the idea got in my head I started sending Every Reason all over the world and kept the price at 1 or 2 bucks so that it was accessible to everyone. That became the mission or goal- to get it in the hands of as many people as possible, mainly because I thought the words and images deserved it and it was my job as an editor to see that that happened. I never imagined it would go as far as it did. I never imagined that I would have GB Jones doing art for Every Reason, or so many wonderful, prominent underground poets grace the pages of my little zine. It’s crazy seeing people’s chapbooks or bios that reference Every Reason. Again, I can’t believe it went as far as it did. I just got lucky I guess in terms of content. It’s weird, because I guess people think I’m some dude who’s really been around, but I’m not. I had no direction or anything, no one to explain how things worked. I just wanted to do it and found ways to do it.
I did Every Reason just over 2 years. I’m still getting orders for back issues.
What challenges were the most difficult?
Finding money to fund it was my main challenge. I have a family of 4 to support, so money was always a concern. I had to find a way to print it free or cheaply, and by the end, postage alone was at least $150 an issue. Then there’s work. I work 50-60+ hrs. a week at my job and sometimes I have to travel. Keeping up with everything and working and taking care of everything that happens with family obligations took its toll on me. Something had to give, so as much as I loved doing Every Reason, I just couldn’t justify doing it anymore if I wanted to keep my sanity. That’s why I walked away from it. I like to keep up appearances of being close to sane.
I know that your talented wife Deana had a hand in many of the black and white photos, your oldest daughter contributed works of art many times, and your youngest daughter would help putting the physical magazine together. I love that you had the whole family involved in the process. What was that like?
That happened just by them seeing what I was doing. I would pretty much just say to Deana, “Here’s the cover of the new issue (holding up one of her photos), and I’m using all of these too!” Ha ha! She would always be cool with it. I would just dig through so many of her photos to see what fit. Deana would often have a story associated with the photo like “Do you know where that was taken?” or “Do you remember that guy who used to live by the…” She was always glad to have her photos seen. My oldest daughter, Loxley (16 years old) ignored my zine until I started asking her for artwork. Eventually she was saying “If you need artwork for the new issue, I have these that I did. You can look through this whole sketchbook and take what you want.” Ha ha!! Then, once everything was printed, my youngest daughter, Madigan (6 years old) would just simply ask if she could help. Of course I’m not going to say no, even if I have to refold or restaple some. ha ha! She actually had a drawing in #8 I think. It was a screaming girl with sharp teeth. She would also decorate the packages sometimes with stickers and glitter. Ha ha! It was really cool having the whole gang involved though. It made it so much better, for me at least.
I know you were one of the contributing writers, and I have read and loved many of your articles.
Thanks! Initially, when I had no goal or any idea what I was doing, I was going to make a zine that just had my writing in it. Every Reason #1 was all me. Then I realized I couldn’t fill a whole issue every 2 months, so I decided to ask my friends for words and art and stuff. I would just put whatever words I had at that time into the current issue. I probably shouldn’t have though. I just didn’t feel like I was at the level the contributors were. I was so honored to have so many talented writers contribute to what I was putting out. I was selfish in putting my own words in every issue. The last issue, ER #12 was void of any words by Keith Landrum. I have 1 poem in #11 and those 2 are the best issues.
What are your thoughts on your next projects?
Right when Every Reason was on its way out, I did a zine called “Life Is Absurd”. It was all older writings that had appeared elsewhere, including Every Reason. I have received good feedback from it, but I’m not sure if there will be an issue #2. I have something in the works right now with a dear friend of mine that includes my family as well. This is a low stress, no deadline type of thing. It will be awesome when it’s all done. I have been involved in other things recently that I’m not proud of, so I walked away from them. My new project is completely different, so I’m excited about it and I want it to be the best I have to offer.
Who are your major influences?
I think I’m influenced the most by my family. My wife, Deana, really inspires me to be creative. She spends every spare minute creating art in some form or another. I wish I could draw the way my daughter, Loxley does. I really envy her talent. She has a ton of work under her belt and has been in The Filth & Notes Magazine. Madigan is the most beautiful philosopher/stand-up comedian I’ve ever seen. Of course I’m biased, but I try to really feed off of her creativity and simplicity. She prevents me from taking myself too seriously. That is important because so many writers and artists think they are so much more than they are and the forget the reasons they started doing all of this to begin with. It is absolutely necessary to have a sense of humor. This needs to be reinforced as much as possible.
You have another project called “The Blessing” could you tell me more about this?
The Blessing started as a joke. I accidentally started growing a beard because I had worked many consecutive days in a row or something like that. So I had the beginnings of a full on beard and I thought it looked cool so I didn’t shave it. Deana didn’t like what it was becoming and demanded I shave it. It was all itchy on her face or something, I really don’t remember her initial protest, but I had to convince her to cease it. So I made up some story that, as ridiculous as it is, has some truth to it. I named my beard The Blessing. She didn’t protest after that. At that point many of our friends had started showering my beard with wonderful compliments. Ha ha!
One of Deana’s friends threatened to make a facebook page and call it The Blessing. I’m not a control freak, but if anyone was going to make a facebook page about my beard, it was going to be me. Here’s the good part. I made a facebook page for The Blessing. I started out writing these…I don’t know what they really are, but I call them The State Of The Blessing. Let’s call them personal updates. Anyway, I did this in character at 1st. My character was a guy who was trying to deal with the beard he’d been blessed with and how it affected his life. Which is really me, but exaggerated.
Anyway, I started making stickers with The Blessing logo at work. The logo came from a drawing that a guy did of me. His name is John Sarmento. So everyone wanted those stickers, because by then The Blessing had kind of taken off. Then Deana, always thinking ahead, asked why I wasn’t making any money off of this “Blessing thing”. I told her that was a good idea. At that time, my friend, Moon, had sent me some home made things in the mail. Included in that package was a pouch with The Blessing logo on it. It was animal skin or something. Moon is Cherokee and she is “Native Hippie”. She makes a lot of Native American Jewelry and art. Anyway, that gave me the idea to market The Blessing as a charity. So I started The Blessing/Moon auctions on ebay to raise money for charity.
So yeah, that’s how I monetized something that originally started as a joke. I gave all the money I raised, and then some, to selected charities. We don’t raise thousands, or even hundreds, but we raise about $100 an auction. I auction off things that I make or things other people make. So it’s all done from the heart. I have been slacking lately though and I feel bad. I wish I could have had something for those folks out in NY when Sandy hit. I have a few things ready though, so I’ll post an auction soon. Every little bit helps, even when we don’t think it does, you know?
Keith, I have found you and your family an inspiration for so many reasons over the time I have had the good fortune of knowing you; the creative work you all put out into the world, the way you function as a family and the many things you do for others. Thanks so much for your time and for the detailed look into what it is like raising an ezine from the ground up.
If our readers would like to contact you for back issues of Every Reason or find a copy of “Life is Absurd”, or find out more about The Blessing or where The Blessings Auction site is could you please link us up?
Ok folks, if you have a facebook account you can find The Blessing and Every Reason information here:
Otherwise, here is the latest Every Reason Blog:
And the latest creations from Keith Landrum, come take a look and see how you can make a difference in someones life.
****Photos provided by Keith Landrum
Thank you Tracie and Keith. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. Tracie and Keith will be in the pub this evening to answer any that you may have. See you right back here tomorrow for OpenLinkNight. ~Brian