Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fiction in a Moleskin

Some people swear by their moleskins. Do you?

What, you've never heard of them? Why, they're legendary! The indispensable tool of very fine artists, even finer writers (Ernest Hemingway, Bruce Chatwin, et al.), and all assortment of intellectual wanna-bees.

An, ahem, official definition, as provided here, is "a simple black rectangle with squared or lined pages, endleaves held by an elastic band, an inside pocket for loose sheets, a binding in 'moleskine' which gives it its name[.] [T]his trusty, pocket-size traveling companion guarded notes, stories, thoughts and impressions before they turned into the pages of beloved books." And a moleskin can do the same for you — maybe. At the least, it'll get you into the Art House Coop's Fiction Project, sister to the organization's Sketchbook Project. 

For Art House Coop's Fiction Project, you don't have to know much about moleskins, really. Certainly not how many styles they come in, nor in what colors and sizes. And not where to go to get them. You just have to sign up by February 15, 2010.

Sign up, send in $18 to enter ($21, if the moleskin has to be shipped overseas), and Art House Coop will send you a 5.5 x 8.5-inch Moleskin Cahier notebook AND, as bonus, a randomly selected theme. 

So, there's the rub: a theme. (Did you think you could write about just anything for this project? After getting a moleskin free?) No problem! Art House Coop says the theme "is just a guideline to give you a gentle push in a direction. You are by no means absolutely bound. . . You can even be as loose as using words from the theme in your story." There are at least 30 different themes. 

Okay. But still, don't sign up unless you're sufficiently imaginative to create a "narrative book that fuses writing with art." (See next paragraph.) That means you have to use words and images, all connected to that theme that will be chosen randomly for you. 

Any other rules? Just these: At least 51 percent of the content in your book must be writing; the book Art House Coop sends you ought to be, nay, must be, used in some way; and the moleskin must not expand or decrease in size when it's closed.

There's a payoff, though, when you follow the rules. When you send back the moleskin — it must be filled up and postmarked by April 14, 2010 — it will become part of the permanent collection of Brooklyn Art Library in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. And everyone willing to trek to Red Hook will get to see it. Art House Coop plans an exhibition on May 14, 2010, at the Library.

You thought Art House Coop was in Atlanta? Well, it is, except that sometime in February 2010, it's moving to a new location in Red Hook. No, not Manhattan, the publishing capital; Red Hook. The scene's pretty lively there. Not to mention cheaper (a little).

Fine and good. Oh, you have another question? You want to know if you can collaborate? Not so surprisingly, yes. Art House Coop says the organization is "all about collaboration, and this [project] is no exception. Find someone to illustrate while you do the writing or vice-versa. Or work on all the areas together. . . Nothing is off-limits." Except changing the size of the book when it's closed or not meeting the 51 percent writing content requirement.

One more thing: Don't expect to get your book back. That word "permanent" I used above, as in "permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Library", means that what you create will always have to "be available to people to pick up and look through." Those people couldn't do that if Art House Coop sent the book back to you.

For complete submission guidelines, mailing instructions, and other stuff you need to know, such as information about images, lost or stolen goods, and copyrights, click here.

For information on current, upcoming, and past Art House Coop projects, click here.

Now, because you've read this far, enjoy this unique approach to using moleskins: