Category Archives: Letters from Russia

epistolary literature project with letters ostensibly written by a cobbler in Napoleon’s army marching to Russia, with paintings + illustrations – bound with hemp, wood and vellum

Letters from Russia / development notes, sketches, drafts

Letters from Russia, mixed-media epistolary literature project, 2004

In 2004, I created a mixed-media creative writing project called “Letters from Russia” which was meant to be a series of well,… *obviously* letters written from Russia from the point of view of a cobbler in Napoleon’s army to his lover in France. All in all an unlikely and complicated conceit conceived as was a way to discuss various topics around love and war.

Appropriately, was written/crafted as part of a program at Evergreen State College called “Poets and Philosophers Discuss Love and War” which was my final “seminar” (at Evergreen, you don’t take courses and classes, rather programs and seminars and independent contracts and other non-traditional interdisciplinary learning contexts). This program involved going to Lake Crescent on Olympic Peninsula with three faculty members with different specialties – philosophy, history and poetry/creative writing – staying in cabins, doing the Evergreen-ubiquitous group projects and assignments of various kinds but also working on an individual big project amidst mediation.

Unsurprisingly, I was keen to do something “big” to finish off my hard won Bachelor of Arts degree which spanned 17 years and four or five colleges/universities depending on how you count them. A “capstone” of a sort. {digression: previously thought a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing was my path and with that would come a big project/thesis or whatever, since that wasn’t going to happen, wanted to do something that felt like similar for personal satisfaction}

So, at the idyllic lakefront surrounding, i diligently worked along on this complicated house of cards – in between long stretches of partying, drinking racks of beer, usual herbs, one guy brought a motorboat and a gun – I mean none of it made sense.

I did a few of the assigned assignments (writing something about explaining peace to a banana slug or other contrived drudgery) while putting this project together in my head. I could imagine the finished product: wanted an “artifact” with tactility and vague sense of authenticity despite it being completely fictional.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is letters-from-russia-dossier-042.jpg
sparks of inspiration and outline

The finished result was series of letters written on different pieces of paper stock from my suitcase stationery stash, compiled to create the feeling that the protagonist “Henri” (all the characters were named after French Canadian hockey players) was with the army, scavenging any kind of paper he could find, and using different sorts of writing materials. Then I added a series of illustrations, paintings, other visual expressions in various medium and styles (and worked in the character of an Italian conscript with his unit who is a painter as an excuse to include these paintings).

let’s write in cursive with inky fountain pens on handmade paper, such authentic-ness

I wrote some test letters (readers may notice original drafts used a different name for the recipient of the letters) to try out some different papers, handwriting styles, pens and to find my rhythm. Once I found my rhythm it all came together very quickly but finding that vibe and materials and to start was a real challenge.

Continue reading Letters from Russia / development notes, sketches, drafts

Pub: “Letters from Russia” (excerpt and art) – RainZine (Vancouver), 2010

Pub: RainZine (Vancouver) / Spring 2010, cover / art by Jer Crowle

“Letters from Russia” (excerpt and art) in Rain Zine (Radical Art in Nature) Spring, 2010

Cover art by Jer Crowle, also includes Kris Krug, Dan Mangan, Bex Apostoli , Dorian Taylor, Carla Bergman and Indigo

Pub: RainZine (Vancouver) / Spring 2010, flyleaf (art by Indigo)
Pub: RainZine (Vancouver) / Spring 2010, CD including Dan Mangan
Pub: RainZine (Vancouver) / Spring 2010, “Letters from Russia” excerpt and art by Dave Olson

“Letters from Russia” serialized in Exode periodical

"Letters from Russia" dossier (wood, hemp, paper etc) by Dave Thorvald Olson, as photographed by Carla Bergman at Northern Voice conference, 2008
“Letters from Russia” dossier (wood, hemp, paper etc) by Dave Thorvald Olson, as photographed by Carla Bergman at Northern Voice conference, 2008

My work of fictional epistolary literature project “Letters from Russia” is serialized in the writing & essays section in Exode.ca — a new online magazine whose mission described thusly: By showcasing and diffusing creative work on the web, we seek to give artists the exposure and recognition that their work merits.

Letters from Russia is a mixed media work including hand-written letters, paintings, sketches, and book crafts. The version in Exode contains just the text narrative done up in charming design.

As of this writing Letter One and Letter Two are posted — with another dozen letters to follow weekly.

The gist: Letters From Russia offers hilosophical discourse on war and love written as letters from a cobbler with Napoleon’s army in Russia, to his fiance in Paris. The letters chronicle the logistics of the protagonists’ journey plus observations about all manner of conundrums related to international trade, diplomacy, physiology of war, and individual liberty versus requirements of society.

Plenty of more background including prezo videos, downloadable .pdfs and interviews are scattered amidst this journal for your perusal, including:

“Letters from Russia” – prezo video from Northern Voice, 2009

NV09 Letters from Russia from Singular Software on Vimeo.

Bruce Sharpe (who co-created an essential bit of software for audio production called Levelator and is an all around nice guy) shepherded a project to crowd-source and prepare quality video of Northern Voice 09 including Letters from Russia.

For more about the spiel and project – plus comments, tweets, blog posts etc. from the talk – visit: Letters from Russia Recap from Northern Voice 09

Here’s Bruce’s intro the Letters from Russia post at 25 Hour Day:

Dave Olson talks about the sources of inspiration, the creative process and publishing your work in this lively mixed-media presentation. Watch this and you’ll understand why Dave has been dubbed a “local cultural artifact”. From Northern Voice 2009. Note: Contains adult language.

And from @brucesharpe on Twitter:

Uncle Weed is in fine form as he illuminates the creative process behind Letters from Russia. From #northernvoice09

He and others – including my buddy Dale – made sure to mic up the presenters and set up a good angle for the shots. As the guy on the other end of the lens, i truly appreciate their work to provide a cool artifact from the preso (although i must admit my shock at seeing my decreasing hair follicles!) – my Mom will likely enjoy it as well ;-).

“Letters from Russia” – prezo audio from Northern Voice, 2009

He's a poet, dontcha know? - Northern Voice 2009
photo by randy stewart >> He’s a poet, dontcha know? – Northern Voice 2009 (CC) Randy Stewart, blog.stewtopia.com.

Blurb: Whether blog article, photo, video, podcast – social media should tell a story. The best stories are retold and shared with others, and the very best stories create conversations which might live on for generations.

How does a content creator elevate their work from craft to art? The same creative parameters apply whether the delivery method is digital or analog or both. When applied with vigour, the work elevates to something beyond an ephemeral musing.

Using a mixed-media project called “Letters from Russia” as an example, Dave discusses practical tactics for harnessing inspiration, plotting the big picture, grinding out the “real work”, and finally creating a satisfying tangible artifact.

Including the role of blogs, podcasts, reader interaction, RSS, and self-publishing with chapbooks and/or on-demand web services as efficient methods of sharing and distributing the project to an audience.

Build your book with: “Letters from Russia” – a preso from Northern Voice (48MB, 34:31, 192k mp3)

More: 

“Letters from Russia” – prezo re-cap from Northern Voice, 2009

Letters from Russia in action by Retrocactus on Flickr

Overview

Here’s everything to do with my presentation of Letters from Russia at Northern Voice 2009 – a volunteer run social media conference in year #5 and Canada’s biggest shindig of its ilk.

Letters from Russia: Folio, letter 4
Letters from Russia – page from dossier of letters

I am in year 4 of presenting my mixed-media messages to a diverse and enthused audience. Previous years included Fck Stats, Make Art; 3 Ps of Podcasting; and Blogging your Passion. This year i also participated in a panel “Social Media and the Olympics: Then and Now” and moderated “Rock n’ Roll Photo” panel. Continue reading “Letters from Russia” – prezo re-cap from Northern Voice, 2009

“Letters from Russia” discussion on “Write Now!” radio show – interview transcription

Audio at: “Letters from Russia” discussion on “Write Now!” radio show

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DJ Snailmail:  Our guest tonight for “Write Now, The Art & Action of Letter writing” is a letter-writer of sorts and a storyteller Dave Olson out of Vancouver, British Columbia.  Dave, can you tell me about the two websites that I visited there? Can you talk about those two; I’m not sure, the podcast one and the other one?

Dave: Sure.  Well, I do a whole bunch of different writing and creative projects and uncleweed.net (note: now daveostory.com)  is my home for all my creative arts and crafts I make, whether it be my writing projects or academic projects, and then I do a bunch of podcasts.

I do a literary podcast called, Postcards from Gravelly Beach – you can subscribe to it in iTunes.  It’s just like a little audio show I make that I send out from time to time, that’s just me doing some reading in a variety of locations and mixing up with the music.

DJ Snailmail: It was very cool I actually listened to your London podcast last night.  Your podcast from London, that was very good.

Dave: Nice.  I have a little portable recorder and I do a lot of travelling.  So, I just go on long meandering strolls and love to find places where things were originally written.  I kind of put in a little context like I did on early morning Jack Kerouac scroll in San Francisco one time where I found places from San Francisco Blues specifically on location and in situ.  I love my arts and crafts.

DJ Snailmail:   What is Gravelly Beach? Continue reading “Letters from Russia” discussion on “Write Now!” radio show – interview transcription

Letters from Russia on “Write Now!” show – Santa Cruz Free Radio (2007)

Countryside
scene from Letters from Russia

Stamp your envelope for: Letters from Russia on Santa Cruz Free Radio (.mp3, 57:07, 26MB)

Blurb

DJ Snailmail and DJ Anon discuss Letters from Russia with writer Dave Thorvald Olson on the “WriteNow! The Art & Action of Letterwriting” show, Dec. 2007 on Santa Cruz Free Radio – low-power unlicensed station – also streaming live.

Thanks to DJ Snailmail for invite and Bread the Producer for capture.

Transcription: 

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