If you’re close to me in age and were a voracious reader as a young person, you undoubtedly remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books, a series created by Edward Packard and originally published by Constance Cappel’s and R.A. Montgomery’s Vermont Crossroads Press in 1976. The books were written from a second-person point of view, with the reader making choices to determine the protagonist’s actions and the plot’s outcome. Choose Your Own Adventure was one of the most popular children’s series during the 1980s and 1990s, selling over 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998.
Poet Sierra Nelson and visual artist Loren Erdrich have created their own twist on this concept with their new book I Take Back the Sponge Cake: A Lyrical Choose Your Own Adventure, just published by Rose Metal Press. Each page turn features an ink and watercolor drawing, a poem, and a choice between two sound-alike words that create a variety of paths through the book. The adventure always begins in the same place, but depending on your choices, your reading experience moves by emotional meander until it finally reaches one of the possible endings.
Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson met while working at the Vermont Studio Center. All of the drawings (primarily ink and watercolor) are by Loren, some of the poems are written solely by Sierra, and some of the poems were written collaboratively by both specifically for this project.
Each drawing and poem comes with a choice between two homophones (or sound-alike words), with strange and lovely definitions borrowed from a 1900’s spelling book. The pairing of the images in conversation with the poems and the mapping of the book’s meandering structure was a collaborative process as well.
The book will be launched at AWP in Chicago next week with three special readings and events on Wednesday, February 29th and two events on Saturday, March 3rd. There is also an upcoming reading in Portland, Oregon. The full schedule is included below.
Sierra and Loren have been kind enough to send me the opening page of the book, along with the two branching choices, so you can get a sneak preview. To get a closer look at the drawings and text, just click on the image. I’ve also included the text below each spread, so it’s easier to read.
Instructions: Read the poem and image. Then choose one word from the given pair, using the provided sentence as a guide. When you’ve made your choice, click the corresponding link.
You Will Go Back Again
We have seen your future, and it’s all eyes,
you crazy head of bees.
Hurry, while they’re still sleepy—
get out the gate.
Wait: to stay
____________, my heart is breaking.
About Sierra Nelson & Loren Erdrich
Sierra Nelson’s poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Poetry Northwest, City Arts Magazine, Forklift Ohio, Painted Bride Quarterly, and DIAGRAM, among others. For over a decade she has collaboratively written and performed as co-founder of The Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society, including at the 2003 Venice Biennale and on the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Washington and is a MacDowell Colony fellow. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Loren and Sierra continue to collaborate under the name Invisible Seeing Machine.
Loren Erdrich is a mixed-media visual artist working primarily in drawing, sculpture, performance, and video. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, both individually and as part of CultureLab Collective. A 2011 show at the Joan Cole Mitte Gallery in Texas featured her work alongside that of Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, and Félix González-Torres. Loren completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a BA and BFA respectively. She received her MFA in 2007 from the Burren College of Art and the National University of Ireland. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. To learn more about Loren Erdrich’s work, visit her website.
The Launch of I’ll Take Back the Spongecake
At AWP in Chicago on Wednesday, February 29
Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson reading from I Take Back the Sponge Cake and Tiff Holland reading from Betty Superman in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 9:00 pm. With co-readers from Hopewell, Lowbrow, and Paper Darts. Free and open to the public. Weeds Tavern / 1555 N. Dayton St. / Chicago, IL
At AWP in Chicago on Saturday, March 3
Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson will be signing books 11:30 am – 12:30 pm at the Rose Metal Press table (N4) in the AWP Conference Bookfair at the Hilton Chicago. (On Saturday the AWP Bookfair is free and open to the general public all day.)
At AWP in Chicago on Saturday, March 3
Loren Erdrich reading from I Take Back the Sponge Cake and Adam Golaski reading from Color Plates in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 7:00 pm. With co-readers from Big Lucks, Gigantic Sequins, Knee-Jerk, and Magic Helicopter. Free and open to the public. The Beauty Bar / 1444 W. Chicago Ave / Chicago, IL
At Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, on Monday, March 12
And if you’re going to be in Portland in March, Sierra Nelson will give a free reading on Monday, March 12 for the Smallpressapalooza at 9:00 p.m. at Powell’s. Powell’s City of Books / 1005 W. Burnside / Portland, Oregon
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Excerpts from I Take Back the Sponge Cake appear courtesy Rose Metal Press. Copyright © 2012 by Sierra Nelson and Loren Erdrich. Used by permission of the authors.