Hope Amico

Hope Amico interview by Michael T. Fournier

This is the eighth installment of Paging All Punks, in which I talk to writers about punk rock.

I’ve known Hope Amico for more than twenty years. We first met when we were both living in New Hampshire. Hope was making intricate zines like 3 AM by hand back then, often hand-stamping an image onto a vellum cover. Her writing was—and is—intensely personal but friendly and encouraging. Since then, Hope has moved all over the country, spending the most time in and around New Orleans. Her writing on staying in town during Hurricane Katrina—found in the Stories Care Forgot anthology—remains affecting, as does the stuff she did in her own Keep Loving, Keep Fighting and Where You From zines. Hope recently relocated to Portland, Ore., where she continues running Gutwrench Press, and her Keep Writing project, which mails printed postcards she prints herself to subscribers every month. It was great to catch up with Hope, who remains awesome and deeply inspirational after all this time.

Photos and artwork courtesy of Hope Amico

Mike: When we were scheduling this, you were like “I’m busy until Sunday with this enormous task.” Can you talk about that?

Hope: I went back to New Orleans to pick up my printing press. I moved to Portland, Ore. in March. I brought half my stuff. I left my 2,500 pound printing press in my studio in New Orleans, along with half of my studio stuff, assuming I would go back in July to get it when I got a space here. Obviously, now it’s different.

Mike: Were you doing your postcards the entire time? Were you commuting to do them?

Hope: [laughs] No. For March until last month’s postcards, I brought a tabletop printing press that prints 6” x 9”. I had driven to Portland with a little camping trailer and a pickup truck. The little press was in my truck with the idea I’d be able to print.

Mike: I saw your photos of the printing press in the truck.

Hope: What you couldn’t see, because I didn’t want the truck company to see it, was how the press lowered the bottom of the truck. It was rated to carry that much weight, but it was still at the limit. We couldn’t push it too far back because a forklift had to get it out.

Mike: As you were driving, you must have been white knuckling it, wondering if the truck was going to bottom out.

Hope: Yeah. And my husband drove the forklift at the studio. We rented this forklift and got the press into the truck. We ratcheted it down, and the sides of the truck weren’t rated to hold it. We did what we could, drove two miles to get a cup of coffee. We talked to another letterpress friend about how worried I was. We opened the back of the truck. It had shifted a foot in one direction and a few inches in another direction in the two miles. I was like “I don’t know what to do!” We had to get it 2,500 miles.

So, I rethought some things. [laughs] I thought about basic physics. I thought about how I saw big machines strapped down on trailers all the time. We strapped it down a little differently and it shifted no more than an inch for the rest of the trip.

Mike: There’s no One Punk’s Guide to Moving a Printing Press across the Country, right?

Hope: No. We did a lot of reading on how to move printing presses in the truck, but certain steps we needed to know and there wasn’t a lot on how to strap it down on a slippery pallet in the middle of a truck. Most people would probably say to get someone to freight it for you.

Mike: Does the press have a name? Is it a particular brand or kind?

Hope Amico and the printing press

Hope: Yeah! It’s a Heidelberg Windmill. It was made in 1953 or 1954.

Mike: Is there a community of Heidelberg Windmill press people online?

Hope: There’s a community of letterpress printers online—Briar Press is a really good place. That’s where I go when I have problems with my press. There’s good forums on there.

Mike: I remember the postcards you were doing. I read that if you have a design you want, you send it off to some place and they make a die or imprint.

Hope: I print on polymer plates, so I get these plastic plates made. I need to make a computer file. I send it off, and they make me a plate. I print them on my press.

Mike: You must have a pretty deep card catalogue of unique-to-you bits.

Hope: Yeah. I still print a postcard every month. I’ve been doing it since 2008. I’m about to design number 136 or 137. I get rid of things I don’t think I’ll want. I get rid of images but reprint the postcards to sell. If it’s too weird to sell, or not a design that works, I keep the bits of the idea in case I want to do some crazy printing.

Hope Amico - Keep Writing 132

Mike: We knew each other in New Hampshire first, but for a long time I’ve thought of you as a New Orleans person. The last time we hung out was in 2008 in New Orleans.

Hope: Yeah.

Mike: I don’t want to say it’s jarring, but it’s a difficult transition for me to think of you as an Oregon person.

Hope: [laughs] I saw you in 2008, and I went to school for printmaking. I was in Baton Rouge, then I moved to the West Coast for a few years. I was in Oakland. I missed New Orleans, so I moved back for a few years. I loved it. I had a great studio space. Last year I visited an old friend from high school—one of the only friends I regularly kept in touch with. I hadn’t seen him for a few years. Then I decided to move in with him and get married and have a stepkid.

Mike: Daaaaamn! Life changes!

Hope: [laughs] Yeah. So we talked. His kid is eight. He loves Louisiana, loves the swamp. He’s never been there—he just watches TV shows about nature. We talked briefly about them moving to New Orleans. It seemed complicated, because I work freelance jobs and have a studio. I was looking to travel a bunch anyway, so I just moved here.

I got to Portland the first week of March. I left New Orleans as there were two cases of COVID in Oregon, and got here ten days later. They were going to close my stepkid’s school for two weeks on the day I got here, and then by a week later it was closed for the school year. I got here knowing I’d be moving into a house with a kid who lived here part-time and with his mom part-time. We’d already hung out and interacted a bunch. I knew all that. What I got into was being home full-time with a kid, helping with homeschool. I was much more involved than I planned on: we had been like, “Ease into being the cool stepmom.” My first couple months of COVID was figuring out how to be in a house with two other people who were used to being alone in the house together and interacting with each other alone. And how to be a parent, and work myself into that situation.

Mike: Adding this third person to the mix would have been difficult under any circumstances, and then mandatory COVID parenting happened.

Hope: When people would ask, “How’s Portland?” I was like, “I don’t go anywhere.” And when Arlo (Hope’s stepson) goes to his mom’s, and Adam (Hope’s husband) go out and I’m alone, I couldn’t interact with people, so I was trying to figure out how to have any part of my regular life—the regular stuff with moving, like figuring out how to be yourself in a new situation.

Mike: When we met in New Hampshire, which was in the ’90s at some point, you had what I think of as your core aesthetic down already. The zines you were doing, like 3 AM—you were doing vellum on the outside, and hand-stamped stars. Everything was hand-stitched and handmade. I was excited to meet someone who was doing stuff. I don’t know if this was a conscious decision on your part, but aesthetically it reminded me of Gravity Records, all the San Diego stuff with the Romulan-looking kids hand-stamping their albums covers. Am I making a connection that’s not there?

Hope: Yeah!

Mike: [laughs]

Hope: Because I just moved everything, I moved all the old zines. I found them— four vellum covers, stamps, layers. For me, when I look at it now, I’m like “Then I went to school for printmaking. This makes perfect sense.” I was trying to make layers of things, which is what printmaking is, but with one image. Without understanding the process of printmaking, I was like, “How can I make this one sheet of cover more interesting?”

It’s hilarious to look at those and to see that I was trying to do this thing. Now that I kinda know how, I’d probably do it the same way.

Mike: In my classes right now, we’re doing a lot of critical race theory and implicit bias stuff. I think a lot of that—especially media-based stuff—is a language that students sorta know without understanding there’s words for it. Once you can attach a name to a method of rhetorical persuasion, like “instilling fear is pathos!”, then students have a vocabulary to talk about this stuff.

Which is my roundabout way of saying that it sounds like you already had a good sense of what you wanted to do, and maybe the printmaking classes were able to put a language to it.

It was a state school…. I thought, “Maybe I’ll find an easier way to do the things I want to do.” I didn’t learn any easier ways. I learned how to make things more complicated. Nothing got easier.

Hope: Definitely. I had a strong idea of what I wanted to make, and the school had printing presses and letterpress printing and papermaking equipment I didn’t. It was a state school, so it was cheap for me to go. I could get scholarships and a Pell Grant because I was older. I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to use their studios. Also, I thought, “Maybe I’ll find an easier way to do the things I want to do.” I didn’t learn any easier ways. I learned how to make things more complicated. Nothing got easier.

Mike: So you’re like, “Yes! I get to add five steps to this process!”

[laughs] “I’m going to carry this giant machine around with me for the rest of my life. Cool! Perfect! It does make things easier. It’s so heavy!”

Hope: [laughs] “I’m going to carry this giant machine around with me for the rest of my life. Cool! Perfect! It does make things easier. It’s so heavy!”

Mike: Having the project creates a deadline for yourself where every month you have to make something. You just mentioned that sometimes these things work or don’t work. Where are you looking for design ideas?

Hope: For the actual design part, the mechanical part, sometimes I try to just get something done. This month coming up will be the first time I get to use my press in seven months, so I’m designing a card that has layers. I can do a little more with it. I usually try to keep it to two colors. I’m going to do three colors this month because I can.

The content—I have a list in my notebook, and a big list in a big notebook that’s now just for postcard designs. I have an ongoing list of quotes. I do a lot of literary quotes and ideas—quotes that I think will either be good on their own or will provide a good prompt for someone else, or a prompt for a question I want to ask. Because every postcard has a card for your response.

Hope Amico - Letterpress

Mike: I just took over as co-editor of Zisk, which is the baseball fanzine for people who hate baseball fanzines. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever had. I’ve also done fourteen issues of this literary broadsheet Cabildo Quarterly. Doing two sides of an 11” x 17” sheet isn’t that bad. I figured out how to do that myself with Quark. Then all the sudden it’s a 56 page fanzine. I was completely terrified. But I use Friz Quadrata because that’s what Black Flag used, and that book Please Kill Me is set in Goudy Old Style. My novels are in that, too. So I just kinda figured it out. Now I’m casting about for other design ideas I can essentially rip off.

Hope: I think I’m always coming up with new stuff, but maybe not. Like you said, maybe it’s consistent with an aesthetic rather than repeating myself.

I’ll take notes. If I’m printing my run and something goes really nicely, or sometimes this will happen: I print baby announcements and wedding invitations for jobs sometimes, business cards. I’ll be testing something and maybe two colors will overlap, or something interesting will happen when I’m running test prints. I’ll be like, “How can I work that into a print?”

Mike: So that goes into the mental file cabinet.

Hope: Yeah. I have a lot of that, when I see things in the world that are interesting that I think could work as part of a postcard, where someone could fill in a part. Not just fill-in-the-blanks, but visual fill-in-the-blanks. A thing that’s adaptable where lots of people could answer it, but visually different than what I usually do. I take notes on that kind of stuff all the time.

Mike: Do you have an example of one of those?

Hope: I’ve seen two different things. One was on the wall when I went to pack up my studio. It was a comic that’s at least ten years old, and I don’t know the artist. They did this whole comic where people are talking, but instead of words they’re using symbols. Kinda like emojis, now that I say it out loud. Forget it. [laughs] It was done ten years ago, before we all used emojis for everything.

I’ve seen a similar thing where I bought these beautifully illustrated postcards in Spain. They looked like one or two panels of a comic book. There would be room for text in a bubble, but no text. I was like, “Man, that is so smart.” I thought it might provide enough of an idea for someone.

Mike: The idea that comes to mind is a picture of a bird, and there’s a music note inside a word balloon.

Hope: Exactly. One year I did a collaboration almost every month. My friend Mike Taylor is an illustrator and screenprinter. He was in the band Palatka—they came up in one of your interviews.

Mike: Oh yeah! I think Chris Terry was talking about Palatka.

Hope: Yeah! So Mike is back in Florida. I asked him to send as much of a postcard as he wanted to do, and I’d fill in the rest. He gave me this beautiful drawing with what looked like a word bubble. So I asked people to create a symbol for themselves in that moment for the bubble. Mike had explained part of the symbolism of his drawing, so I was like, “Cool, make up your own symbol.” I wouldn’t come up with that on my own because I’m heavy with the text part. I’m more comfortable as a writer and using text.

Mike: Can you talk about your circulation and your response rate?

Hope: My subscriber list is about 150 people. It’s been there for seven or eight years—it’s been pretty consistent for a long time. It fluctuates as low as 120 to 200 people. On average, I get thirty responses. Maybe fifty or sixty, if it’s unusual or easy for people to answer. But I get a pretty good number of responses.

Mike: What’s your relationship with the number of responses that you get?

Hope: Well, you said you’re sorry for being such a bad correspondent. You could have told me that you answered every single one, and I probably wouldn’t know that. First, no one ever signs their name on it, so I never know. I sometimes see familiar handwriting, and occasionally see initials. It takes me a long time to figure out who it is. I don’t take any of this personally. I don’t keep track. Every one I get is exciting. When I go to my post office box, I read through all of them, whether I have one or fifteen. And when I put together shows, where people get to look at them, that’s when I’m like “a lot of people write back” and I start to notice who writes back more often. I think it’s pretty good.

People always apologize, friends. Subscribers will renew their subscription and be like, “Sorry I never send it back.” I’m not mad.

If people stopped writing back, I would think about what changed, and how I could better engage people.

Hope Amico - Keep Writing 136

Mike: It’s a trip to me that people respond and don’t sign their names to stuff. I assume that they were going to send stuff back and engage in conversation with you through the mail.

Hope: I think they don’t consider it because of the way it’s set up. I wrote on the back, and they just tear it off. I think in their minds it’s still connected to the piece of paper that has their name on it. People know I have subscribers. I think they’re not thinking about it when they write back. “Answer Hope!” Because I asked 150 of you the same questions, and I don’t know who you are.

Mike: Before I met you, I heard there was a person who did zines and was in a band. Tertiary conversations were about Tinkle. I found a video of you guys playing the Elvis Room (in Portsmouth, NH) pretty recently by accident.

Hope: Yeah. That was hilarious. I know I’m off-key a lot of times, but that one was so off-key and so blatant.

Mike: I think you did some tours when you were in New Orleans, too. What kind of ongoing relationship do you have with music?

Hope: I stopped playing when I went to college and started focusing more on printmaking. I realized I couldn’t focus on printmaking, visual art, letters, zines, and music. It was too many things. And I’ve reached this point with music where I’m like, “Cool, I can play these five chords. I can cover a Mountain Goats song any time I want.” But I’m not doing much that’s interesting to me. I couldn’t find people to play with who were at that same level. I was in a band then, and we played a few shows, but they were in New Orleans and I was in Baton Rouge. We weren’t motivated enough to keep it going.

When I moved to California, my partner at the time was in a band, and moved with many, many guitars. So I sold mine. There were seven in the house. We didn’t need two more. I think I played acoustic guitar one day here. But I focus more on visual art for doing something fun and release if I’m doing something creative and interesting without needing an end product, like with all these letterpress projects. I’ve been doing collage work a lot more.

Mike: Some of the early days of the pandemic were being governed by what sorts of social media posts I saw. It’s just unchecked id on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s not healthy to start days with it. So I’ve started phasing that stuff out as much as I can. Instead, I bought a keyboard and I’m trying to learn to play piano. Me and Rebecca play music together. We both like the Coriky record, so we try and replicate whatever song is our favorite, and it comes out sounding totally different because we’re not very good.

Hope: It’s really interesting that you’re talking about playing with Rebecca, because my partner and I started making collage work together. We’ve been doing collaborative collage pieces where one of us starts it and we pass it back and forth.

Mike: That’s awesome! Are you going into it with any theme or goals, or are you finding stuff and incorporating it?

Hope: Mine have been based on ink drawings. I teach these classes for people who think they can’t draw and are afraid of it. I’d introduce my students into playing with ink, because it’s really loose. It’s limited to one color—watercolors are overwhelming. You have one color, so you try to see what you can do with it. So I’ve been doing a lot of collage work which starts with an ink drawing and adding to that.

He went to art school, also, so his approach is different than mine. But we don’t talk about it. He doesn’t tell me what he’s doing. He has specific ideas about form and what he’s trying to do. I’m like “I’m gonna put this thing on here! I like that.”

Mike: You just mentioned California again. I wasn’t in good touch with you when you were in Oakland. What was happening with the Oakland move?

Hope: I lived in Seattle, too.

Mike: Oh yeah, of course! I visited you there way back in the day.

Hope: Yeah! I left New Orleans three years after Katrina to go to college. A lot was still happening in New Orleans that was stressful, so I didn’t think I could move back there. I finished college and didn’t want to be in Baton Rouge. I was with someone who played music, so we moved someplace that had letterpress printing and music that we could afford. We left because it was too expensive and too far away from people. We both missed New Orleans.

It was mostly that I got an internship, I worked at some printshops, learned how to operate the press. It was really good.

Mike: And after that you were in New Orleans before you moved back to Portland?

Hope: Exactly. I moved to New Orleans hoping to stay there indefinitely.

Mike: I heard what you said before about the first period in Portland, learning to negotiate your role as the cool mom and all. Have you had a chance to experience Portland yet?

Hope: In the spring, we started going fishing and camping a lot more. That’s been one of the best parts. It’s so beautiful!

We live in the southwest part of town, so to get out of town is really easy. I really like the parks that are close to us. Unfortunately, they’re also really close to what was on fire. Some of the parks we went to have burned.

I don’t know a lot of people still. I do have some old friends here. Between the family stuff and things around COVID being so uncertain—like not knowing how it was transmitted—I talked to people because it seemed too risky to have people over at your house or in your yard. Then there’s the emotional up-and-down of living with a kid and moving and all those things. I didn’t always want to reach out to people.

I’ve been trying to a little more. I volunteer delivering food for a food bank, and baking. I’m going to try and get a little more involved in that. But I haven’t done very much else.

Mike: That first month, especially, I associate now with how cracked my hands were from super-thorough hand washing twenty times a day because that’s what everybody thought.

Hope: I just stayed in the house. Adam had to go to work, and Arlo’s mom kept working, so that was plenty of exposure for me. I went to the grocery store every two weeks, and to the post office when the lobby was open but the desk was closed so I could get my mail.

Mike: Were you doing the same grocery store thing I was where you’d come home, take off all the clothes, put them in the washer, take a shower—the hazmat routine?

Hope: I didn’t go that far. And I didn’t wash all my groceries down. Most of the time I’d order them and I’d go pick them up, then wash my hands and wipe down my car.

Mike: I live in a bubble here. Cape Cod is all retirees, so in that way the demographic is more at risk. People take it seriously. I think there’s enough peer pressure so tourists were masking up, as well.

Hope: Deciding to fly to New Orleans, and driving back—we got tested the day we got back, and we were negative. But that was all a lot of stress, the stress of what other people are doing in gas stations all over the country. And worrying that we were sick and bringing something from New Orleans or our flights to everywhere else. I think in the end we decided to get the press because I suspect things are going to shut down again. A lot of people talk about higher rates this winter.

Mike: It must be so good for your mental health to have it back and to be able to do stuff again.

Hope: I think part of it is not having anything left in New Orleans. All my stuff is here. I got studio space in May. The camper I brought has been my collage studio and office. Those things have helped so much.

The press I’d been printing on? It was nice to be able to do it, but we were not getting along that well. The prints were crappy. [laughs] No one said anything! Other printers know. The prints have been sloppy and terrible. I’m excited to print on my own press and have it look good.

Mike: I’ve been buying back issues of fanzines on eBay recently. It’s really comforting to look back at old issues of Razorcake or whatever. The first batch that I got was this package that had copies of Give Me Back in it. That’s specifically why I ordered those—I think I was up in Maine when that happened, so I never got any of the issues. I heard it was HeartattaCk 2.0. And you’re in there! I had no idea.

Hope: Yeah! There were other people doing columns who I later met. There was a guy who was writing about New Orleans. The columnists were a bunch of people I knew, which was nice. I did a little West Coast tour when I was playing acoustic guitar by myself with the Insurgent, who were from Long Island. They were doing a little touring, and would let me get tagged onto the shows and play for twenty minutes. I met Phil that way. I can’t remember if they asked me to write, or if I volunteered. I have a lot to say. I wrote a column for every issue that made it out, and one that never got printed.

Mike: I got issues four and five. By number five, it seemed to me they were starting to lose steam. You know the fanzine thing where you’re like, “Hey, it’s been a while since we did an issue”? It’s starting to be like that.

Hope: I saw Phil a few years later and he told me that some things were going on around that zine, with organizing and the people involved. At one point the laptop he had with everything on it crashed and he lost a whole issue. But I loved that zine! I was excited about it.

Mike: It’s so funny. God bless ’em for trying to pack as much information as possible into a zine for as cheap a cost as possible. It’s super-DIY, and I respect them, and it’s awesome, but man, I’m in the third quarter, you know? I can’t read print that small any more.

Hope: [laughs] Yeah. I got my first pair of reading glasses.

Mike: Here it comes, you know?

Hope: We unpacked the truck yesterday, and I just laid on the floor of my house, like, “I can’t move. The few things that made it into the house have to stay in the living room for a few days because my back hurts.”

Mike: Me and Bec figured out a walking route, and we were doing that six days a week during the summer, even though it was oppressively humid. When Bec had her physical recently, the doctor said, “You have an athlete’s pulse.” And that’s just from walking every day!

Hope: We were good with walking every day at the start. Then it got hot, and it got smoky. Adam’s work schedule is four days on, four days off, and he works twelve hour shifts in the day for two rounds, then at night for two rounds. It’s not totally irregular, but it’s hard to build a schedule around.

Mike: Wow. Is he an EMT or something?

Hope: No, he works at a grain export company. It runs twenty-four hours a day. So we were trying to walk in the morning, but that wasn’t working. But we’ve both been trying to find ways. Like taking Arlo to the park, or for walks. And I just got a new bike, which fits better, so I’ve been biking a bit more.

Mike: Do you try and fit your schedule to his, or are you establishing your own, and you’re ships in the night?

Hope: Since we got back, I’ve been working to make it more of a regular schedule. But, for example, I’d like to have my regular schedule starting early in the morning, but he came home late and woke up at eight in the morning. And when he woke up he was awake enough to talk. If we didn’t hang out and talk for an hour we wouldn’t hang out until tomorrow or the next day.

I can have a flexible schedule. I have some other freelance work I do a little of. I try to be gone some of the time when Arlo’s here so they have time together, and I try to make sure I have an afternoon off so we can hang out, all three of us, so we can do something fun.

Mike: I thought my schedule might become more terrestrial as I got older, and it just hasn’t. I’m still up until three-thirty in the morning and I get up at eleven-thirty or noon. I don’t think it’s going to change.

Hope: I love that schedule, and miss it. But I either need to be able to wake up early in the morning, or sleep most of the day. Sleeping during the day doesn’t work if Arlo is here. I’m just trying to stick to it.

Mike: There’s a name for it. It’s Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, which means you stay up late.

Hope: If I don’t have other things, my schedule creeps later and I sleep later. I can’t sustain it because of other things.

Mike: The last thing I want to ask you a bunch of questions about is that I was like, “Hey, Hope, can you do this interview with me where I talk to writers about punk?” You’re like, “I don’t think of myself as punk at all.” That totally cracked me up because we’re talking about all these tours you went on. You’ve decided— I’m going to use the C-word here—throughout your career, to me, you’ve had this remarkably punk aesthetic. It’s interesting to me that you don’t think about it in that way.

When talking about myself and my friends to people who understand the term, I’m like, “We, punks.”

Hope: I definitely do. When talking about myself and my friends to people who understand the term, I’m like, “We, punks.” And that’s more about—I want to say aesthetic—but it’s more the way you approach life, about situations, the understanding you have about things. I know for a lot of people, that comes from music. That’s not what it was for me most of the time, and it’s not what it is now. When you want to talk about being punk with me, I can’t keep up with talking about records and music. I went to shows, I toured a little. I mostly liked my friends’ bands. I was with someone for ten years in a band, rarely went to his shows, [laughs] stopped listening to a lot of music at the time, and got really into pop music. It drove him crazy.

I have a good friend who booked shows at Gilman for years. If it’s me, him, and anyone who knows about records, we talk about records and shows [whispers] and I don’t know it! I don’t get the references.

But if you want to talk about people, and interacting—he has two kids, so we talk about parenting. We can talk about that forever.

Mike: I listen to myself talk sometimes, and I start to cringe when I say stuff like, “As I’ve gotten older,” you know? [laughs] But I think that when I was getting into punk rock in high school, I was coming from a place where I was always picked on and super sensitive about the way I was coming across. In college— hopefully before we met—I was one of those dudes who would pull rank and be like, “I saw them in ’93” because I was insecure about my place. And at this point, here we are and it’s 2020. I’m still doing stuff and interested in what’s going on. So at this point I don’t give a shit, you know? I’m not worried any more.

To think, in my twenties, I was worried about dyeing my hair. Now, I’m in my forties, and it’s fine.

Hope: Travis Fristoe and I were tight penpals for a while and I used to send him all these questions like, “How much longer can I get away with blue hair?” He always had good stories. He worked in a library, and he’d see people in their sixties with new Ramones shirts or Chuck Taylors. He’s like, “Don’t worry about the aesthetic. Just keep going. Keep doing the thing you’re doing. You’re doing great.” I think about that. He probably wrote those letters fifteen years ago, which is now hilarious: to think, in my twenties, I was worried about dyeing my hair. Now, I’m in my forties, and it’s fine.

Mike: I’m sure there are other people who are into it on the Cape. But I don’t know where they are. I haven’t found the enclave yet, so when I go to the grocery store it’s the black Levi’s jacket with too many pins—aesthetically, I know there are too many pins—and the patch I made for Bec and I of our fake gang, and a Razorcake backpatch. I’m like “Here I am! If you know any of these signifiers, please, let’s hang out.”

Hope: Like in New Orleans, I lived there a long time; I had a lot of friends. I never had to explain myself to people. I made friends, my friends were punk. There was a certain aesthetic—you could see visual things about people. I had a solid group of friends there. When I moved to Baton Rouge it was different because I was ten years older than anyone anyway. But when I moved to Oakland, and moving here, there are so many people who look a certain way. They might wear black pants and black T-shirts. I got hand tattoos and I thought it was such a big deal. I got here and was like no one cares at all. I feel—not defensive—but I know I don’t look that punk anymore, but I’m going to keep doing my thing. I do it a little different; I’m a little older. I don’t do all the things.

Mike: Certainly music and going to shows is one thing, but what I’ve learned is the perspective, like you’re saying. It’s the way you look at things and approach things. For the most part, that keeps me from getting vibed out when I’m the oldest person at a show or whatever. All my bandmates are in their thirties, and the one time every two years that we play, I’m fifteen years older than the dudes in my band. At this point, I’m fine with it. I’m still doing stuff.

At zine fests I’m awkward because I’m awkward, but it’s more comfortable than the farmers’ markets I was trying to do in California.

Hope: Yeah. I’ve been going to a lot more zine fests in the past few years. There’s an age range there. I talk to a lot of people in their twenties and I’m like, “I’ve been doing this for a long time.” But that’s where I’m most comfortable. At zine fests I’m awkward because I’m awkward, but it’s more comfortable than the farmers’ markets I was trying to do in California. The stuff I do, the aesthetic—I don’t price my stuff that high. I don’t want to. I want certain things to come across. I really like zine fests in that way—I go to a lot of those and feel more comfortable at those than at shows. That’s where I see punks now.

Mike: I saw that you were a keynote speaker at the Olympia Fest.

Hope: Yeah, I was the co-guest of honor with Artnoose. I got their zine when I lived in Seattle. I used to take all the money I made selling zines at Left Bank Books and buy copies of Ker-Bloom!, the letterpress-printed zine.

Mike: Who else have you done stuff with when you’ve been like, “Oh my god, I’ve known your stuff for so long and now we’re on the same page”?

Hope: This isn’t quite the same, but when I ask people to collaborate on my project, I have a little spiel. I know what I want from people. So I usually ask friends who are writers, printers, artists. So I asked Mike Taylor knowing his artwork is also his work, but knowing he might be into this because we’re friends. I asked my friend Osa (Atoe), who did Shotgun Seamstress zine. She had been living in New Orleans and moved to Baton Rouge, and I was working in Baton Rouge and living in New Orleans. She’s playing less music and doing a lot more pottery and doing well with that. I was trying to get her to do something pottery-based for a print because I thought that would be fun.

I’ve asked two people—a letterpress person I really liked, and a zine person I really liked—who I don’t know. I was like “I do this project.” They were both really into it, which is nice.

Mike: I’m starting to get over the part of myself that’s immediately like, “No, they won’t do this. This isn’t going to work out.”

Hope: I think because I’ve been doing my project for so long, I have a pretty good idea of the form for it. I’m not asking for anything wild.

Oh, and my friend Anis (Mojgani)! He’s currently the poet laureate of the state of Oregon. I met him at a poetry reading in Savannah when I lived there. I would do readings at that point. We kept in touch. I asked four poets to write a few lines, an exquisite corpse-style poem. He was like, “That sounds great!” It’s been great to see his works progress from zine chapbooks to getting his books through the library.

Mike: You should hype your project before we go.

Hope: The project is called Keep Writing. It’s a monthly subscription. There’s a bunch of ways to sign up. I started donating a portion of every new yearly subscription I get to a different cause every month. For September it’s Next Step Oregon, which is a youth-led organization to get younger people interested in voting and supporting candidates. That’s something I’m really excited about.

Someday I’ll write a new zine. It’s in my head. I think I keep waiting—I have a zine about moving during the pandemic in my head, and I keep waiting for it to be over so I can reflect on it. I think it’s not going to happen in the way I thought it would, so I’m going to start writing it anyway.