The thing about publishing and being an editor is that you never can say for sure where the next project will take you. After Iced Cream by Jesus Correa I wanted to work on something different. I was also looking for diverse voice, although Jesus Correa is about as diverse as it gets. But I didn’t just want to keep publishing books of poetry by men. Really, I was interested in finding the best book by a woman in Rockford I could find and publishing it. I even asked Jenny to find me something she believed in and wanted to publish. She had been going to a storytelling series at CNVR and told me there was this writer she really believed in and thought might have a good book for us to publish.
Which is how Zombie Logic Press came to publish The Zen of Beard Trimming by C.J. Campbell. C.J. is a writer with cerebral palsy. He also was educated in an evangelical school famous for it’s traveling pageants and shows. The Zen of Beard Trimming is partly about C.J. trying to find his own way in this lifestyle, which turns out to be a more cruel and inconsiderate world than one might think, or maybe not, depending on what you know about evangelicals. Some of the stories are funny, some infuriating, and some just sad. There’s a great range of emotion in the book and I enjoyed publishing it very much. It was the second book in the Rock River Literary Series, and took us in a direction I never could have imagined and to reach readers our other books never would have reached.
Jenny did the cover on this one, too, per the writer’s specifications. He wanted it to capture the punk rock spirit of show posters. I think she nailed it. The book is available at Zombie Logic Press. After The Zen of Beard Trimming I took a break for a while, if a few months is a while, then got right back into it with The Blood Dark Sea. I believe my friend David Pedersen’s book will be the next in the series, but I’m still looking for that elusive female writer that fits into our vision here. I have no idea why the search is proving so difficult, but Jenny is stumped in her search, too. One of the problems is a lot of our talented people leave town. Some great and even famous writers have been from Rockford, but they left. Which leaves me here to man this outpost that has largely been forsaken.
There are elements of The Zen of Beard Trimming that I really identify with. Being an activist in search of a cause. Putting my heart and energy into a cause and getting the shit kicked out of me financially, emotionally, and in the community because of it. Bearing the idignity of others for being different and not always willing to knuckle under to whatever expectations they have of you because you are disabled. Keeping on after defeat. Perservering in the face of rejection and loss. All of these are elements in the book, and succinctly and often heart-breakingly related by a writer unafraid to expose himself in perceived defeat and rejection.