12 Winters Blog

Cover for Men of Winter; Notes from the Route 66 Film Festival

Posted in September 2010 by Ted Morrissey on September 19, 2010

Working with graphic artist Julie McAnary, we’ve finalized a cover design for Men of Winter, and to say I’m quite pleased with it would be a gross understatement. In one of our many email exchanges, I told Julie I’d like the cover to be both austere and alluring; and, by George, I think we’ve done it. The original cover idea I pitched to her, months ago, wound up being a no go because we couldn’t secure the rights to the photograph (a photo of a German soldier from the Second World War I found online — I couldn’t track down anyone who claimed ownership of the rights, hence there was no one to grant permission to use it). But that ended up being a stroke of great luck because it sent us back to the proverbial drawing board. I spent several hours culling the net for a photo or painting from a contemporary artist who could grant us permission to use her/his work (or not). After about three hours and lord knows how many pictures, I came across the portfolio of Paul Casagrande and specifically a set of portraiture titled “Sara & Stefano” — I was thunderstruck and I instantly envisioned how one of the photos in particular could be the focal point for a powerful cover. I immediately went about tracking down contact information for Mr. Casagrande, who is Italian. I sent him a message via Facebook, and was shortly contacted by his associate Gianluca Precone (who, by the way, has an amazing portfolio on photo.net as well). Gianluca indicated that his colleague was willing to let us use his work as a courtesy, one artist to another (amazing generosity!). We had a series of exchanges, with the help of Google translator (and, as luck would have it, one of my students this semester is from Italy and is fluently bilingual — so with Nate’s expert assistance we nailed down some of the particulars). Thus this beautiful photograph, “Beyond thought,”

from Paul Casagrande's "Sara & Stefano"

became the focus of this (thanks to Julie McAnary) beautiful cover

Cover for Men of Winter

I floated it on Facebook, and it received rave reviews — so thank you, Paul, Gianluca, Julie (and, absolutely, Nate) — I just hope the stuff between the front and back covers lives up to this amazing piece of art. While I’m at it, another thank-you to M. R. Branwen, the editor of Slush Pile Magazine, who graciously blurbed my book earlier this summer, and who graciously published an excerpt from Men of Winter in the debut issue of Slush Pile when it was still just a manuscript looking for a home. Speaking of Men of Winter, Punkin House Press has pushed back the release date a bit, now proposed for November, which is all right — I’d rather see it done well, if a bit behind original plans, than to have it rushed to press.

With the front cover under our belt, I revised tedmorrissey.com and added a page devoted specifically to Men of Winter. Feel free to visit, as often as you like.

Switching gears, this weekend is the Route 66 International Film Festival here in Springfield, Illinois, and my son and I attended last night’s double session, and were thus treated to some terrific independent films. I don’t have space to do them justice here, but I want to give kudos to a few films in particular. One of our favorite dramas was Ben-Hur Sepehr’s The Desperate, which won Best History Short — about a Nazi general who pleads with a Jewish doctor to save the general’s only son: in a word, tremendous. We also greatly enjoyed the film that won Best Drama Feature, Alex Gaynor’s Wid Winner & the Slipstream: quirky, touching, somehow both sad and uplifting: terrific filmmaking, terrific storytelling. In the thriller/horror contest session, we got a great kick out of David Britton’s Parking Space — very Twilight Zone-esque, and I say that as an extreme compliment. We also enjoyed Sunday Punch by Dennis Hauck (whose lead actor, Dichen Lachman, is a treat as cool, tough and razor-sharply sarcastic boxing ring-girl Jill). However, both my son and I had to give our audience votes to Delaney by Carles Torrens: horrific, weird, laugh-outloud funny, with a host of offbeat characters whom one comes to love against all common sense (of decency).

I also have to mention an animated short that blew me away: The Magical Porno Theater by Jovanna Tosello: strange, yes, but Tosello’s use of cool colors and odd imagery, juxtaposed in intriguing ways, gives an undercurrent (could be an inside pun, but isn’t) of narrative to what otherwise seems a chaos of barely related yet fluid (another non-inside pun) scenes. When one sees what can be done with a modest budget but a lot of talent and creativity, it really underscores how amazingly bad most Hollywood offerings are.

A last note today: I’m reading Adam Braver‘s Crows over the Wheatfield, and I just wanted to share a brief passage that is so engaging I lingered over it for several minutes this morning:

Claire skirted across the lawn on a treaded path, where the trees were bare, like sadly misshapen arms shamed without strength. And in them, their simplicity was their beauty, their resolve to stand defenseless against the elements. Still they stood proud, their mangled branches witnessing the events that had passed under them. (p. 64, Harper Perennial paperback edition)

Quite lovely.

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