Paris

It was not the season for tourism. We arrived in Paris by overnight train from Barcelona, entering the City of Lights via the shabby Gare de Paris-Austerlitz. Mounds of pigeon feathers lined the halls like drifts of gray snow burying stained paper cups and sandwich wrappers. My companion was ill, and he spoke no French, so at the Buffet de la Gare I must make do for us both. The middle-aged waiter had no patience for foreigners. The menu bore only six items: I ordered deux croque-monsieur et deux café; the prix service was fixed at fifteen percent. Afterward we walked to our hotel, wheeling our luggage along the damp streets, through patches of fallen leaves. The elevator cage was out of service. We carried our bags up two flights of cracked marble steps to a small room, where one must sit on the bed for the other to enter the toilet. We were in Paris.

—Lester Smith, 13 November 2008

Adam

I’m startled to awake—at my gray age,
and listless from the labors of my years—
unsettled by a dream, in youthful tears
for an old love, the one who slipped away,
while she who sleeps beside me holds me here
in solace of the history we share.

Sleep deeply, Eve. I’ll marvel while I may
the grip of ardent passion I had feared
forgotten. And imagine (if I dare),
that somewhere, Lilith also lies awake.

—Lester Smith

The Future of Popcorn Press

Popcorn Press logoLet me start by saying that Popcorn Press is basically me, with graphic design work by my second daughter.

The mission of our little publishing house has been to publish works larger publishers wouldn’t risk. Toward that end, we’ve been proud to release novels and poetry collections by individual authors, and to host an annual open-call anthology celebrating Halloween, which has ushered new writers into publishing, featuring their names alongside established ones.

In recent years we’ve added games to our catalog, mainly my own designs, because my publishing career started with games, and they’re in my blood.

Unfortunately, I am now officially disabled. The resulting life changes are more far-reaching than I’d anticipated in my “State of the Smithy” post last October. For a few days each week I’m relatively clear-headed and productive, and for the rest of the week I’m lost in either an existential fog or painful head noise. Even on the clear days, I’m much more prone to errors than in the past.

So I’m forced to pace myself to the disability. Taking things easy isn’t natural to me. But even simple tensions are triggers—things like concentrating too long on a task. I simply must learn to relax.

For Popcorn Press, this means reneging on a stack of titles I’d agreed to publish, by authors who have waited patiently for me to get the schedule in order. That thought is crushing. But scheduling is just no longer possible.

Our previously published titles will remain in print, and as a hobby I may release a few games, as the mood strikes. I may also publish a very few works by a very few close friends, as my condition permits.

But basically I am well and truly retired.

I appreciate the support Popcorn Press has received over the years, and I cherish every interaction I’ve had with authors and customers. But as an author kindly reminded me today, everything has a season.