It’s time for another #SixQuestionSaturday. In this episode, contributing editor & Choir member William James sits down with Nostrovia! Press founder Jeremiah Walton, to discuss youthful vigor, road weariness, a semi-nomadic kinda life, and the persistence-in-the-face-of-all-odds that is Nostrovia!
WJ: For starters, let’s go with the basics; what’s the story behind Nostrovia! Press? How’d it all get started? What are some of the challenges you ran into early on, and how did you manage to overcome them? And what did you think, starting out, you had to bring to the table that wasn’t being addressed by the literary community already?
JW: N! kicked off in the narcissisystem. I was 16, in New Hampshire, and “wanted to be a poet.” For some reason, I catered to a definition of beyond actually writing. Delusions of grandeur & all that.
So N! began. It highlighted my work with a guest blog for folks to submit to. That was it.
The process I was welding myself to felt empty. After a couple months of digging & screwing around, I cleared my shit from the site, & started nibbling with l’il zines & other projects starting with a, “alright, sounds cool, why not?” Then a lot of scrambling & fucking up & learning & fucking up.
Heh, I didn’t know what I was bringing to the table, trying to bring to the table, or where the table was. I just kinda wandered around the outskirts of the table with a cocky swagger & confused smile. I didn’t carry much intent beyond “let’s put this & that together & see what happens.”
Ego has its place though. Those defense mechanisms were hitting the road. I grew up in quiet NH suburbs with no idea what I was biting off. As time passed, & N! Grew, & as streets beat the shit outta my ignorant mouth, I was humbled down, especially by those who extended guidance & faith to N!, & made getting this far possible.
I don’t think N! offered anything new initially to the community, but I learned a lot tumbling thru it.
WJ: Looking at all the various projects, publications, readings, and what not that fall under the overall umbrella of Nostrovia, it seems like y’all are pretty busy all the time. Was this all a part of your original vision for Nostrovia from the start, or something that happened organically as the project grew?
JW: I had no idea where N! was going, & we’re still not sure. We remain open to new soils & transplanting projects. N! Adapted as we grew thru new experiences + mistakes + cities + people + economic situations + festivals + etc.
With projects like our Chapbook Contest, there’s a l’il more planning now, but especially when traveling, we want to stay malleable. The road doesn’t care what circumstance you’re aiming for.
WJ: If I am remembering correctly, you were still fairly young – 18 at most, and maybe not even 18 yet – when you and I first talked a few years ago as you were getting Nostrovia off the ground. Was there ever a time when you felt your age was a factor in how Nostrovia was received?
JW: The first time I performed was at Slam Free or Die. I was 16 & a sack of jitterbugs. I could barely read off those trembling papers.
After the open mic, I got caught up in a conversations that’s stuck with me. I don’t remember who it was with. I told someone I was looking to put out a chapbook. They threw me a sorta “good luck, don’t expect much, kid.” Another cat responded with, “don’t crush his dreams.”
That sort of shit was gasoline for general stubbornness. I didn’t want age to hold me back. & ironically, youth ended up being a valuable tool. People saw this confused kid (not saying that label’s been shed) & extended a teaching hand, providing opportunities to continue moving forward & growing.
Age ended up being less of a factor than ignorance.
WJ: One of the coolest things that Nostrovia is doing, to me, is the traveling bookstore. I’d love to hear more about that; I know the seedling of that project was literally you just making a living traveling across the country selling your own chapbooks – how did you make the transition from that to full-fledged mobile bookstore? Is Nostrovia a totally nomadic organization as a whole, or do you have a base of operations anywhere? If you ARE still totally fluid, I’d love to hear about the challenges you’re presented with by being constantly on the road, while also being a legitimate publisher, among the many other things you’re doing.
JW: I was in Erie, Pennsylvania, stuck & planning to hit the road West from the 2014 NYC Poetry Festival in July. I don’t remember the exact trigger for Books & Shovels, but it was around March/April. We ran a fundraiser to get books & cash coordinated, & debuted the project at the festival. We shot out of New York for California, hitting a couple shows (shout out to Punk Hostage Press + The Literary Underground & The Art Bar in Kansas City).
A car accident in Lawrence, Kansas, knocked us down quick. Our entire front end crumpled & leaked a cocktail of fluids. We managed to get our ride to a Walmart lot where we scraped together some dice to roll. We had 3 days before they’d kick us off the lot. We landed a new ride scrapping our car + pooling our last savings to shot to Denver to try landing work for that good ol’ grind of coordinating cash. & that fell thru. The road didn’t care.
We’ve kinda bumble fucked launching & re-launching since, from lugging books via Greyhound from Oakland’s Beast Crawl to the 2015 NYC Poetry Festival, to friend’s cars, to new vehicles (right now a 92 Camry station wagon pregnant with rust & a determined engine), the traveling bookstore has been endearingly/frustratingly haphazard. But if we commit to a show, we’ve always made it out. We’re fighting to keep that trend.
N! is not entirely nomadic anymore b/c of how janky the road is. Not sure if what we’re doing now would be possible if we were. It’s already difficult fulfilling what we set out to accomplish.
Tucson, Arizona, has become an anchor to swing from. I dipped into the desert for a gig last year & fell in love with the sun. Christopher Morgan, co-manager of N! + Chapbook Contest coordinator, is up in the Bay Area. He’s a spine for the press.
2016 has been quiet. We’ve done Tucson to New Orleans, swinging up coast to a gig in Brooklyn, to New Hampshire, to Detroit & bopping around Michigan before slipping down to St. Luis & pulling back into the desert. We’re prepping to dip outta the desert thru the South up to this year’s NYC Poetry Festival to debut 2016’s Chapbook Series. From New York, looping back West to Denver for a gig, thru the Rockies & back down to Tucson for a slingshot East to New Orleans & back. October is LitQuake San Francisco, then a recovery Winter from the lifestyle of the past couple years.
Even with the mileage we’re racking up, dipping out on a whim for shows isn’t possible with 2016’s financial situations. We’ve had to be more careful with how we roll to control the die’s bounce.
Last year, without financial responsibilities beyond N!, we primarily made $ doing odd l’il gigs & selling chapbooks. Wherever shows popped up, off we went, crossing from Tucson to the Bay, to New York City, to New Hampshire, to the Bay, to Tucson, to New Orleans, to Arkansas handcuffs, to Kansas City, to Oklahoma snow carrying us thru Northern Arizona, to Salt Lake City & a last empty-wallet exhausted stumble down to Tucson.
WJ: It seems to me like Nostrovia as a collective is trying to maintain a balance between innovation and legacy; a lot of the projects you have going on seem to echo the spirit of things that were happening in literary communities in New York, San Francisco, and other major hubs in the 50’s & 60’s, but you also are holding online readings through Facebook events & webstreaming, digital chapbook downloads, and the like. Where do you think publishing is headed as time progresses, and how do you think we can continue innovating in regards to how we deliver work into the world? Do you think that a nostalgia based attachment to the past is crucial, or even beneficial? Or do you think that we as a community should be looking forward, not back?
JW: The past has left us tools to implement in future settings. How can we best encourage accessible Passionate Living > Making a Living? How can we best coordinate spaces that are safe for all backgrounds + experiences + expression? How can we operate without price tags as gatekeepers?
Being aware of the past allows you to have a larger toolbox to innovate for the future. Holding onto the past as an anchor is limiting. Staring too much into the future is blinding. There’s a balance between interacting with the two without letting either consume you.
& I have no idea how to do that! This tightrope is still slippery in the rain we can’t walk out of. We do what we think is best for self-care & our writers.
We’re in New Hampshire gathering resources for a couple months. Good ol’ call center misery. I quit. My homie quits his job. We’re hitting the road in his van.
& that van dies 10 days before we’re supposed to be at 2015’s LitQuake San Francisco. *grabs dice*
We ended up meeting our patron saint of Manchester, New Hampshire, a mechanically inclined cat who helped us find & fix up a new car.
That left us 4 days to get to San Francisco in a car with guarantees rusted out by 24 years of New England winter. We started off.
We pulled over at a rest stop in New York with our new home sputtering funky noises. While anxiously digging thru the front end without an idea what the hell I was looking at, a U-haul pulled up branded w/ “Tired of the cold? Tucson!”
We found out what was tickling our paranoias: nothing. There was nothing wrong (at that moment) & the car was just old. We made made it to the Bay with ~12hrs to spare.
When I finally crashed out, my hands were clenched like they still gripped a steering wheel.
But we made it.
That’s how a lot of this falls together. Sequences of events & people & hallucinations & miles reflect thru N!. Serendipities. It’s an omen only if we let it be an omen.
WJ: How would someone go about getting involved with Nostrovia? More specifically, let’s say one of our readers thinks that anything under the Nostrovia umbrella would be a good fit for their work; what’s the process look like for getting it to your attention? What are some things you’re looking for that might help someone decide whether they’re right for Nostrovia or not?
JW: We don’t run on a rolling submission basis. The terms for submissions change with each project. The best way to get notified is to keep an eye on N!’s Facebook + Twitter + our l’il news & community blog, The Tavern.
We look for awareness & vulnerability.
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Jeremiah Walton is 21 y/o + grew up in NH + hit the road fall 2013. He founded / co-manages Nostrovia! Press, & runs traveling bookstore Books & Shovels. He’s featured at the 2013/14/15 NYC Poetry Festivals + Snoetry 2014 + Beast Crawl 2015 + Lit Crawl San Francisco 2015. He’s currently settled in Tucson, AZ.
William James is a poet, aging punk rocker, & train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. His poems can be found in various journals, anthologies, and punk zines, but are most easily accessible at williamjamespoetry.com. Catch up with him on Twitter @thebilljim