Get Moving and Don't Let Anyone Stop You: Yes Yes Books' KMA Sullivan

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Get Moving and Don't Let Anyone Stop You: Yes Yes Books' KMA Sullivan

interview by Chrissy Wilmes

Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Yes Yes Books.

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I founded YesYes Books almost 8 years ago with our first title coming out in the summer of 2011. I was in the third year of my MFA at Virginia Tech and filled with this incredible love of poetry - I had to figure out what to do with that! 

In Vedic astrology I am Gemini rising, Taurus sun, Leo moon. That says pretty much all you need to know about me.

What makes you tick as a creator?

Life is a crushing, joyful, exhausting, invigorating, grief-filled, brilliant deluge. Every time I come across writing that expresses a piece of that truth, my commitment to publishing is renewed. This is also the well from which my own writing comes.

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?

To start an online magazine or online publishing project, you need time and willingness to work all fueled by love of literature. To start a press you need all that plus money.

What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing today? What do you hope your older self might tell you today?

I am already old enough to have lived a few different lives. I dedicated the first decade of adulthood to service through teaching and nonprofit work. The next two decades were all about raising my five children. Mixed in the first two phases, I also spent about ten years studying philosophy (Plato, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche were my favorites!). I seem to be in the middle of my poetry years. There's still road here for me to follow. Even so, I'm in the process of opening a Bookstore/Elixir/Healing Clinic. I'll continue to tell myself what I have told myself since I was twelve which is some combination of "this is not a dress rehearsal" and FEAR NOT.

Who are some writers and makers that inspire you to keep creating and publishing?

There is no one I admire more in the literary landscape than Phillip B. Williams. He is fiercely committed to pushing into his art and intellectual discipline as he also devotes countless hours to raising up new voices in poetry. I am inspired by the writers who embrace the full complexity of human life: Lynn Melnick, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Tanya Olson, Brandon Courtney, Chase Berggrun, Hanif Abdurraqib, Aricka Foreman, Hari Ziyad, Christina Olivares and that's just the beginning of that list.

How can makers "pass the stapler" to others to build community and promote inclusivity in their spaces?

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That's a huge and important question I'd love to have a lot of time to answer, but here's a place to start: read as widely as possible. Don't be satisfied with talking about or publishing the voices everyone else is talking about. We are all exhausted and its easy to be lazy. Don't be. The "makers" can't pass a damn thing if they aren't reading to see what is out there. See it. Lift it. Find opportunities to get yourself out of the way.

This year’s Expo’s theme is “You Can Do This, Too!” What advice do you have for someone wanting to get more engaged with their community as a creator, who doesn’t know where to start?   

Get moving and don't let anyone stop you. My first book was accepted for publication when I was 50. Meanwhile, Stevie Edwards founded Muzzle Magazine when she was an undergrad. Age and experience are nothing. Start walking.

What are you most looking forward to at STLSPExpo 2018?

Hugging Justin Phillip Reed!

Anything else you'd like for our followers to know? 

Publishing poetry and literature requires a team of dedicated selfless humans. Unless one is in publishing, it's impossible to understand how much effort is behind the development, production, and release of each book, of each magazine issue. I am extremely lucky to be able to work with the editors ofVinyland YesYes Books who bring their intellect, artistry and heart to this work: Christina Olivares, Phillip B. Williams, Stevie Edwards, Jill Kolongowski, Cole Hildebrand, Alban Fischer, Amber Rambharose, Beyza Ozer, Levi Todd, Amie Zimmerman, Hari Ziyad, Carly Schweppe, and JoAnn Balingit. My endless thanks to these editors who make our projects possible.

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Find Ways to Amplify the People Around You: Ben Passmore Interview

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Find Ways to Amplify the People Around You: Ben Passmore Interview

interview by Chrissy Wilmes

 photo courtesy of Ben Passmore

photo courtesy of Ben Passmore

Tell us a little about yourself; what makes you tick as a creator?

I lived in the south for a long time where I drew a lot of comics about punks and anarchists to entertain myself and my friends. I've been luck more recently to have the opportunity to make comics for The Nib and produce some longer works that reach more people, but my comics are still and extension of what I'm trying to do in my life and conversations with my friends about our lives and politics. So my work is particularly prescriptive politically but I like to have a sense of humor about myself and what I believe because, like everyone else, I'm a huge hypocrite.     

 

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?

Prioritize finishing projects and don't be afraid to fail. 


What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing today? What do you hope your older self might tell you today?

I don't think my younger self would have had any interesting in an old bald man's advice, but I'd probably tell him to drop out of college after the second year and ride more freight trains. Also don't spend some much time being thirsty bout Amy. What would older self say? I dunno, bury some gold and guns for retirement?


Other than your own projects, who are some other makers that inspire you to keep creating?

People need to be reading Richie Pope comics and everything on the Silver Sprocket label...except my own comics, you can miss those. I'm out of my mind.

 

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How can makers "pass the stapler" to others to build community and promote inclusivity in their spaces?

I've been in a lot of rooms of mostly white (all white except for me) punk, political, and comics spaces where people are asking themselves how to have more "types" of people there, it strikes me as the wrong way to propose the problem. A scene is gonna be really white if it's comprised of people that only exists in predominantly white spaces and have predominantly white friends. If you want to have a more diverse scene you gotta have more types of friends, otherwise you're hunting got tokens, which is a pursuit that has way more to do with a white person's sense of guilt than a desire to engage actual individual people. Think about what is exciting about comics to you and then think about how to share that with someone.  

 

This year’s Expo’s theme is “You Can Do This, Too!” What advice do you have for someone wanting to get more engaged with their community as a creator, organizer or activist, who doesn’t know where to start?   

Despite being an organizer of a comic festival and having a history of activities that someone might describe as "activist," I don't really love those terms or the way people dress themselves up as those things. Thinking of yourself as an "organizer" or "activist" professionalizes your passion, it becomes something intractable to the way you see yourself in society. Why not respond to a space based on your passion without a fixed understanding of how your supposed to participate? For me being in a community means finding ways to amplify the people around me rather than prioritizing being seen as a leader. We can be tyrants or our own art, but when you're in a groups space (art show, comic festival, collective zine, ect.) the only way to be a benefit is to be a sturdy foundation instead of some edifice.  

 

Your Black Friend has received massive critical acclaim. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from this success?

Never let anyone one tell you who you are, or what your best work is. 

What are you most looking forward to at STLSPExpo 2018?

I'm just excited to see my people in St. Louis and see how the city is rocking.


Anything else you'd like for our followers to know? 

Stay woke.




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Introducing 2018's Expo Artist: Ray Nadine

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Introducing 2018's Expo Artist: Ray Nadine

Ray Nadine is an artist, printmaker and zine-publisher based in St. Louis who never stops creating. One of their most recent creations is the official StLSPExpo 2018 artwork, which perfectly encapsulates the You Can Do This, Too! theme. We asked Ray a few questions about their inspiration for this design, their upcoming projects, and what they love about the Expo.  

 

What was your thought process in designing the "pass the stapler" artwork?

When Jared (Rourke of StLSPExpo) approached me with this project, he mentioned the idea of “passing a torch,” and I think it’s pretty clear how that idea is represented in the passing of a stapler. With zine-making, the imagery of a stapler is such an iconic representation of the actual process, and one of the things that I love about zines is the community aspect around it. There have been so many times I’ve sat on the floor with a group of friends stapling zines together over beers and movies. Even in zines that I’ve put together myself, the act of sharing and selling them is an act of community and sharing what you’ve made with the world. With the white circle around the stapler, it’s both a reference to StLSPExpo’s logo, and the idea that giving to your community is an ongoing thing that brings us together.

 

How can makers "pass the stapler" to others to build community and promote inclusivity?

Honestly it can be as simple as sharing the work of marginalized creators, or letting less heard voices take the stage. In another way, I think it’s important to remain critical of yourself and your ideals and to step back and ask yourself “is the way I project myself welcoming to others? What can I do better?”

 

Do you have any current or upcoming projects you'd like to promote or discuss?

Right now I’m working on a comic with Paul Tobin called Messenger! It’s gonna be published online through Webtoons, and it’s free to read. I’m super stoked about it. Soon I’ll be working on bringing back my webcomic, Dollhouse, after being on a long hiatus with it. I’m also doing a comic for an anthology edited by Mark Bouchard and Megan Rae called Everything Is Going Wrong, a collection of stories about punk culture and mental illness. And I’m co-editing a zine with Rho Sovia called What A Woman, a collection of fanworks by 36 artists celebrating our love for the video game Yakuza. I don’t know how to live a life that isn’t constantly busy, haha.

 

What are you most looking forward to at STLSPExpo 2018?

Just being there and peddling my wares and existing in the beautiful downtown library and enjoying the day with my friends and peers! I love this expo a lot and always look forward to it every year. The love put into this show is very evident and it definitely fills my heart, haha. Sorry, I get extremely sappy about STLSPExpo.

 

No reason to be sorry, Ray. We get a little sappy, too. See you at the 2018 Expo!

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Getting to Know Caitlin Metz

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Getting to Know Caitlin Metz

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Tell us a little about yourselves; what makes you tick and what makes your publications tick?
I'm a letterpress printer, educator graphic designer and self proclaimed illustrator. My main mediums are paper + emotions. What makes me tick? Tea, lots of it. Nature. The sky. Whiskey. Drawing. Vomiting my emotions out onto a page. Sending thing into the world that will hopefully bring ease and tenderness. My one liner that I've been using for a while is "a tender queer, early morning art making human that wants to fuck shit up with empathy." All I want to do is disrupt limiting and oppressive forms of being. Questions everything. And love as fiercely as I can. My wish is to hug every person I see, and tell them they are not alone. 
 

What drewyou to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?
Wanting to do everything myself. I love all parts of the process. The conceptualizing and creating content, the designing and printing and binding. I love that I can have an idea and a finished piece (or at least a good prototype) within a day. Honestly, I'm a control freak and must do it all. All the things always. 


What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an audience of readers?
All I want to do is make people feel safe and loved. Unfortunately my arms only reach so far, and my own anxious introverted heart prefers to mostly stay tucked away in my studio. So I make books and zines and prints. I put things into the world that will make us feel a little less lonely. Everything I make feels like a love letter to my audience and myself. 

Can you tell us about your creative, editorial, and collaborative process?

I love collaborative projects, I thrive on the exchange of energy. I usually am working on both solo and collaborative projects at any given time. I'm currently eyeballs deep in a project called On Being in Your Body: A Guide to Writing Yourself with my friend Victoria Emanuela. It's a series of publications and workshops/classes about being in your body + writing manifestos. 


My process begins with needing / wanting / feeling something, and making a drawing or mind map about it. I'm forever thinking about mental health, identity, relationships, sexuality, intimacy and self care. Most my work revolves around these concepts. These concepts are framed within the lens of healing and tenderness for those around me, and for myself. Nearly everything I create is something I needed or was looking for, I created a winter survival guide to get me through last winter, and a tiny book with things todo when I was feeling anxious to carry in my pocket. When I found myself crying all the time, I started documenting where I cried, and then turned it into a zine about the power of tears. 


What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?
Make the thing you are looking for. Need a book on winter survival? Write it. You don't have to have all the answers. It's better to ask questions than to bullshit perfect answers, in my opinion. Answers are one-sided, limiting and often exist within a strict binary. Questions are beautiful wondrous things that hold space for conversation and different ideas. Ask them all! 

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What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing? and What do you hope your older self might tell the you of today?

Dear little Caitlin, it's okay to feel a lot. To feel too much. There is no right way to feel or experience the world. There is more than one way of being. I love you, fiercely. 

Dear Caitlin, the only one holding you back is you. Let go of fear + comparison. It's all just a form of procrastination, and we don't have time for it. I'm proud of you. Love, your future self.
 

Other than your own projects, what are some other presses and publications that inspire you to keep reading and supporting the small press community?
Kate Bingaman Burt! My queen and constant inspiration. I want to be her when I grow up.
Marlee Grace just self published a poignant and powerful book about her practice of dancing everyday. She also creates zines about addiction + how to not always be working. 
Adam JK, everything he touches is pure gold. I get so much inspiration from him, his work ethic and depressing humor. 

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So many inkers and so many drinkers with Ink and Drink Comics

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So many inkers and so many drinkers with Ink and Drink Comics

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Tell us a little about yourselves; what makes you tick and what makes your publications tick?
Steve Higgins, Editor: Ink and Drink Comics is a collective of comic creators based in the STL area. We have monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of every month in the back room of Cicero’s on the Loop. These meetings are open to the public, and anyone in the area who is interested in making comics is welcome to come and just hang out if they want. It’s really about the socialization of meeting like-minded people, first and foremost. But we also produce two comics anthologies a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, that are themed around a particular genre and are open submission. Jason Green, Editor: our main goal is better art through community. Publishing short story anthologies as a group started as a lark, but we’ve seen how the sense of working together as a community--both in terms of encouraging each other and bouncing ideas off each other, and in the friendly competition that it fosters--has resulted in everyone in the group stepping up their game. It’s amazing to see how much writers and artists’ craft has improved by leaps and bounds in just a short amount of time.

Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, Creative Director: We have ink running through our veins. We love comics, love making comics, and love giving people an opportunity to pursue their dreams and get published.

What drew you to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?
Carlos: necessity, which is the mother of invention and the father of circumstance. We had to make comics, and since it’s hard to get published, we just started publishing them ourselves.

Steve: Speaking for myself, I was writing and publishing my own mini-comics, trying desperately to find artists willing to work with me and working hard at putting the books together on my own. When I first heard about Ink and Drink having meetings and putting out a book, I realized how much easier it would be to produce comics if I had a pool of talented folk working alongside me.

What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an
audience of readers?

Jason: view it as a major part of our job. As the ones who shepherd the completed books into reality and help them around to conventions, we work hard to get the books into people’s hands so our creators can concentrate on creating.

Carlos: love going to conventions and meeting people, striking up a conversation with them, and seeing what they’re into. At this point, Ink and Drink has a book for everyone, and it’s our job as publishers to point the audience in the right direction. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our audience, so going to cons, meeting our audience, and connecting with them is all a major part of what we do.

Can you tell us about your creative, editorial, and collaborative process?
Carlos: It all starts over a few beers...

Jason: Most of the collaborations happen at our “ink and drinks,” where we get together at Cicero’s in the U. City Loop to discuss what we’re working as well as just generally hang out and talk comics. One of the nice things about our group is that it’s as collaborative as people want it to be. Some people ask for feedback at every step in the process. Others just drop a finished story in our lap every six months. We are happy to be as unobtrusive as people want us to be.

Steve: As a creator, the degree of collaboration I have on the stories I do for Ink and Drink really runs the gamut. Sometimes I find a willing artist and hand them a completely finished script. Sometimes the artist and I bounce ideas back and forth, developing the story outline together before they go off and draw it and then I script dialogue in at the end. And sometimes an artist comes to me with a concept that I just kind of say “Uh, yeah sure, I’ll see what I can come up with.”

Jason: Editorially, our role is to make sure that the finished product looks professional, is readable and typo-free, flows well from story to story, and just generally meets our high quality standards. It’s a job we take very seriously.

Carlos: We are as involved in a story as the creators want us to be. Sometimes we pair the talent with each other, sometimes we help out with the production and lettering of a story, and sometimes we just sit back and watch the magic happen. We also pitch cover and back cover ideas to our artists or work with them to fully realize their ideas. Collaborating with all of the contributors is the best part (the fun thing) about the job. Our “real” work starts as soon as we have all of our submissions for a book in hand -- then we can design the logo, pick out the story order, and actually create the book.

How did you get into working with small press publishing?
Jason: As Carlos said, at first it was necessity. No one else wanted us so we just did itourselves. After a few years of that, we invited some friends to do a single group book together just for the heck of it, it outsold anything we had ever done individually, and our current incarnation as Ink and Drink Comics was born.

Carlos: It really was a no-brainer. We already made the comics, so if no one else wanted to publish them, then we’d just do it ourselves. Once you have a comic book made, putting a book out is easy. Pitching the idea for a horror anthology to all of my friends and friends-of-friends and having everyone say “Yes” was the real start.

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?
Carlos: he only reason to get into small press publishing is because of love. If you don’t love the medium, if you don’t love creating things, if you don’t love connecting with audiences and bringing something new into the world to life, then small press publishing isn’t for you. Because at the end of the day the margins are so thin, you have to love doing it because sometimes that’s the only reward you’re going to get out of it.

Steve: I tell people all the time that we don’t make any money making these books. But we do usually break even. And as time has gone on, it has gotten easier for us to break even. That’s about the level of success most people ever have with self-publishing, and personally, I’m pretty ok with that.

How long have you been at it (by "it" I mean publishing)?
Carlos: Non officially since 2003. We’ve all been creating zines and minicomics to sell at stores and give away at cons since then. Officially, since 2009. Our parent publisher, Brain Cloud Comics, was set up in 2009 to publish independent comic books. Ink and Drink Comics was set up the following year to publish the genre anthologies put together by the sketch group turned comics collective, Ink and Drink Comics.

Stev: The first book we did, Spirits of St. Louis, debuted in September/October of 2010. Carlos and Jason worked alongside the original third member of their editorial triumverate, Bryan Hollerbach, to ensure that this horror book came together. And once it came out, and we all enjoyed working together so much, and the book sold so well, they decided to do another book the following spring. And it kind of snowballed from there. Hollerbach moved from the area in 2012, and they asked me to then step up and fill his role as an editor starting with our fifth book, Hammered.

Carlo: Six years later we have 14 books and 5 mini-comics to our name, with more coming on the way...

What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing? and What do you
hope your older self might tell the you of today?

Jason: Don’t overreach. It’s a common for creators just starting out to want to do their 10,000 chapter magnum opus, but of course being a young person collaborating with other young people where you all suffer from fluctuating levels of motivation, something that big is hopeless. Of course, plenty of actual people gave Young Jason that advice and he didn’t listen so I’m not sure me telling him would have saved him the agony of those oh-so-many projects that never quite took off. And I hope my older self tells me that what I’ve done has had impact. It’s certainly amazing looking back at the sheer volume of comics that we’ve helped shepherd into the world--1200 pages and counting, none of which likely would have existed had Ink and Drink never existed. But we’re still just trying to get from book to book. It’s hard to read what our ultimate impact will be.

Carlos: If I had told my younger self that I’d be making comics as an adult, I think young me would have been over the moon (I would casually leave out the fact that the majority of those comics were not superhero comics because why ruin it, right?).

Stev: The advice I’d give a younger version of myself is the same I give to any budding writer, be it the new creators who come to our meetings or the students whose English papers I assess in my day job: just keep writing. The more you do it, the better you will get at it, until it almost comes naturally. You will make mistakes along the way, and that’s ok as long as you learn from them. There’s a reason why little league starts with tee-ball; you’ve got to learn the fundamentals of the swing before you can ever knock it out of the park. But you will get better if you just keep at it.

Other than your own projects, what are some other presses and publications that inspire you
to keep reading and supporting the small press community?

Jason: We just returned from the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, and you can’t help but feel inspired when you see the sheer breadth of material available in the comics world...everything from hand-stapled self-published minicomics to the literary-minded graphic novels published by companies like Top Shelf and Drawn & Quarterly to the doorstop-sized objets d’art that Fantagraphics publishes. And as someone who likes working in quote-unquote “genre” stories, the success of Image shows that there is a sizable audience out there for quality material that isn’t just superheroes. Looking at the entire comics landscape, it’s clear that if you’re passionate about your art and have something to say, there is an audience out there for it. It’s our inspiration to keep doing what we’re doing and find that audience.

Steve: I’m also very inspired when I look around St. Louis at the amazing comics work coming out of here at present. You have people working in the mainstream producing some great work, like Matt Kindt, Cullen Bunn, and Brian Hurtt. You have people working on their own brilliant independent projects for smaller publishers like Dan Zettwoch, Kevin Huizenga, and Sacha Mardou. You have people self-publishing or doing webcomics like Ray Nadine and Rori, phenomenally talented folk. Even amongst our group, there are a slew of people working on trying to get their own solo projects off the ground. They’ll show off their work at meetings and I can’t help but be in awe. We at Ink and Drink are truly blessed to be a small part of such a thriving and talented artistic community in this city.

Anything else you want to say?
Carlos: Every day that I get to wake up and make comics is a great day! I love making comics and am thankful and a little blown away at how big Ink and Drink Comics has gotten. It started with about 5 people drinking beer and drawing at an Applebees in 2008, and today we’ve had over 100 contributors who have participated in at least one of our books. The best part about it is every book has better than the previous book!

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The Need for Absurdity and One of those Long Staplers: Lathe Zine

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The Need for Absurdity and One of those Long Staplers: Lathe Zine

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Tell us a little about yourselves; what makes you tick and what makes your publications
tick?

We are Architecture students that like absurd things and anarchist spirits. Our publication stems from frustration over the twice-baked potatoes of over developed architecture. We needed a new creative and intuitive outlet for our angst, and something that wasn’t so goddamn intentional it starts to blister.


What drew you to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?
There was a need among architecture and design students to make things with no rules or standards that could be elevated regardless of standards and rules. People needed a prompt and an outlet where they could feel creative and that their creativity was appreciated.


Can you tell us about your creative, editorial, and collaborative process?
We decide on a prompt by listing several absurd and relevant/irreverent prompts, then discussing them. Then we call for submissions by yelling aggressively, digitally and literally, at unwitting passersby. We then continue to extend the deadlines with more yelling until we have about 50 pages of material, a good 25% of which is our own.

How did you get into working with small press publishing?
Eve said one day “Hey Fin, you wanna make a zine”, and Fin said, “I’ve always wanted to make a zine!”


What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?
Make it 2 to 5 drafts. Don’t underestimate the importance of other people’s feedback. Get one of those long staplers.

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What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing? and What do you
hope your older self might tell the you of today?

You’re clearly a lesbian, and it’s ok, calm down—was this not the question?

Publishing can be one of the most fulfilling things you ever do, even if you do it with other people’s stolen printing allowances in your school library.


Other than your own projects, what are some other presses and publications that inspire you
to keep reading and supporting the small press community?

Sam Alden
Lauren Cardenas- Pie Crust
Lauren R. Weinstein
Operations Manual
Shitty River Comics
Suehiro Maruo
Little Lit
Pioneers press (sell us, plz)
Printed Matter, Inc. (sell us, plz)

Anything else you want to say?
We are truly honored to be a part of this!

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