BatCat’s first semester of the 2016-2017 school year is almost over! With four new staff members and six returning, three markets done, AWP upcoming, manuscripts picked, and several dozens of books made, the year is off to a great start.
Nova, one of the new staff members, said about this semester, “I really like the skills that I’m learning, because I’m really hands-on and crafty, and BatCat provides a really good environment for that. Not only am I learning new skills, but I’m putting them to use, and those things that I’m creating are being sold. I’m not just messing around and doing whatever I want—I’m actually producing things that are up to par.”
Apart from the new staff members, the biggest change this year was made by the purchase of a printing press. Bought online and driven over from New Jersey (and including a typeset that was owned by the lawyer who argued on behalf of Ernesto Miranda, for which Miranda Rights are named), it’s found its home in the designated BatCat room.
As the staff learned, as far back as Gutenberg’s time, people that learn how to print are called “devils” (Haley brought this name to my attention) and the BatCat staff members, all of whom have practiced on the press, have proudly adopted the name.
“I’ve gotten really efficient with it,” said Layla, a “printing devil” now in her second year on BatCat. She’s been practicing quite a bit, setting things like sonnets and learning how to clean the press. “I just locked up something real weird—I put the lyrics to ‘God Bless America’ … and put two little football players on the outside. It’s pretty good.”
“That’s my favorite thing about this year,” Haley added. “We’re trying to figure out uses for the printing press, like seeing if it’s a viable option for doing our publications later in the year, or other little projects we can use it for.”
Printing hasn’t been the only new skill; with four new staff members on board, there’s been a lot of basic bookbinding things to learn, as well. “I really enjoyed the Japanese stab, because I’m kind of violent, and there’s a lot of hammering,” Nova said.
However, it’s not just the new people that are learning classic binding techniques. Sarah, in her second year on the press, added, “I didn’t know how to do Japanese stab before, but it turns out I really like it, and I’m really good at tying them.”
Submissions are also a cornerstone of the first semester of any year on BatCat. Haley’s been on staff for three years, so she’s pretty familiar with the routine at this point. “I think as you put more and more years into BatCat,” she said, “you start to get a better sense of what you’re looking for in a manuscript. The submissions are always different from year to year, whether they’re short fiction, or poetry, or something else, and at some point, you start to learn what BatCat ‘stands for,’ you know, and it gets easier to pick a piece that’s right for the press.”
Still, perhaps the biggest event of any first semester on BatCat Press is Handmade Arcade. Every year in December, for at least six years now, we’ve gone to Handmade to sell our wares and spread the word about the press!
“It’s always been a successful way for us to get out there and meet others in the area, and to show people what we’re doing,” Haley said. “A lot of people aren’t used to seeing a group like us, high schoolers, out there publishing and doing the things that we do. It’s great to share that with others in the creative community.”
For me, Handmade was a really special experience. I’ve been working on the press as an intern, but since I’m in college a state away, it’s been hard for me to keep up with everything the students on staff are up to. Handmade gave me a great opportunity to talk to them and learn about all the wonderful things they’ve been doing and making this year.
Extra special, perhaps, is that instead of working alongside out teacher, Mrs. Baringer, we were sort of competing with her! Earlier this year, she set up a little journal-making project of her own, which she calls Cannibal Paper Goods. The name comes from her process; she buys old books from thrift stores, which would normally be thrown out, and turns them into something new.
As we head into 2017, I think Sarah best summed up our mission: “We’ve been trying to do something different than what we’ve done before. We want to do more with everything, and not just be so local, and transition to bigger things.”
Look for our announcement about the new publications in the new year!
Olivia C, postgraduate intern