Empowering independent publishers

WRITERS, poets, and independent publishers alike animated Sales Tekanplor last February 2 for the seventh BLTX (Better Living through Xeroxography), a small press expo that showcased works of Davao artists—from small magazines and books, to handcrafted artworks and notecards.

“All of the copies were sold out,” said Angely Chi, co-organizer of BLTX. The seventh edition of the expo was a first of its kind to be held in Davao and, to Chi, this showed just how alive and well the independent publishing community really is.

In Tuesday’s Art Talk in Park Inn by Radisson Davao, Chi said that the event went beyond the idea of getting printed materials sold. BLTX empowered young artists and budding writers to get their work out there, whether in small handwritten and loosely bound notes, to elaborately printed or photocopied saddle-stitched mini-magazines.

“Print is definitely not dead,” echoed Amalia Cabusao, Mindanao Times editor in chief; she was one of the speakers in the couch talk of BLTX where she talked about print journalism and publishing for the community in Davao.

“BLTX has been successfully held in Manila since 2010, gathering independent publishers and creatives in and out of Metro Manila and fostering a growing small press community,” said Chi. “By importing the event concept in Davao, we were able to provide a platform for independent and small publishers–including writers and artists who publish their own material–to reach a wider audience, and for readers to discover publications outside of mainstream circulation.”

BLTX co-founders Adam David and Chingbee Cruz expressed their delight at the turnout.

“We had a pretty amazing day–I spent the morning talking to students of UP Mindanao about plagiarism as a poetic practice (I hope I didn’t wear them out with the information overload!), and later in the afternoon, Adam gave a talk at the University of Southeastern Philippines on DIY-small press publishing/BLTX,” Cruz said in a Facebook post. “The evening was spent in Sales Tekanplor for BLTX, where I didn’t at all get to budge from my spot at the BLTX Manila table–the place was packed and for three hours straight I had to fulfill intense tindera duties. In the midst of addressing questions about the many books and zines on our table, tallying up purchases, and rummaging for change, I managed to drink one beer and hear snippets of Adam’s talk with Tita Lacambra-Ayala and Amy Cabusao.”

“The general thrust of BLTX is to enliven the local small press publishing community by making ways towards providing the various entities of this community the knowledge, the time, and the space to develop from being mere dabblers doing their own thing independent of each other into nuanced artisans bent towards developing more socially- and ecologically-sustainable artistic practices and hopefully turning into a semi-legit socialist political party of artists that can still bake its semi-capitalist cake and eat it, too (but we’re not there, yet),” David wrote online. “BLTX is primarily driven by the promise of sustainable artistic practice and guided by one of the simplest and most earnest axioms ever, famously repeated by Lou Reed: ‘you’re gonna reap just what you sow.’”

He continued, “BLTX is also founded on the notion that there is no one way to practice art, that each and every participant in the project has their own particular artistic practice. BLTX is founded on the notion that each and every participant’s particular artistic practice is potentially helpful to everyone else’s, thus BLTX’s pedagogical thrust of hosting fora, roundtable discussions, and workshops primarily focussed on pressing and practical publishing issues like creators rights, establishing alternative systems of distribution, finding sympathetic printers, using the right kind of paper, how to set spine widths for your books.”

During the event, there were also performances—a preview of the upcoming literature and multimedia event Litorgy.

As the zines, postcards, notepads, stickers, bookmarks, mandala artworks, and other handcrafted and handwritten oeuvres sold out, it’s easy for anyone to see that there’s great potential in the power of words—especially when young artists collaborate and gather to celebrate art by putting ideas into print. (photos from Pulong, the umbrella organization of the intercollegiate literary societies in Davao)

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