What comes to mind when you hear the word “series?” Not from a word-association standpoint such as “Continuation” or “Multiple…” but from a creative standpoint, what do you think of when that word hits you? For me, what comes to mind is the fact that there are two possibilities:
Evolve or Disappoint.
In life and Survival of the Fittest, it is Evolve or Die…but in the arts, the alternative is a fate worse than death. Disappointing yourself, those who’ve invested in you, and/or those who believe in you.
It’s hard to imagine an artist putting out a series EXPECTING it to be a disappointment. But there are many motivating factors that go into whether or not a project becomes a series, and whether the series continues. Financial gain is certainly a major factor, particularly in film. But even so, we’d like to think that every artist wants every release to be better than the last, especially in a series.
Evolve or Disappoint. Sometimes both can happen. Sometimes a series can evolve just like the artist himself, but yet the evolution and progression isn’t what the audience was expecting or hoping for. In my last series, Art of Mind, I was very aware of my evolution as an artist, and as a result, the evolution of the series, capped off with Art of Mind III: The Evolution of a Trilogy. In this new series, I find myself conflicted at my evolution, which in itself is a somewhat outrageous comment for any artist to make.
Alma Mater is about celebrating the top colleges in the world of every region, one series at a time. And here, 11 days before the release of Volume 2, I find there to be a noticeable disparity in the comprehensive quality of Volume 2 compared to Volume 1. And what makes me conflicted is the sense of “guilt” for lack of a better word, that the schools in Volume 2 are benefiting from my evolution as a writer more than the schools in Volume 1. Shouldn’t THIS series be the exception to the rule? Shouldn’t I make sure that every volume is at about the same caliber out of fairness to the schools and to the region? The reality is, not only is that an impossibility even if I wanted to do that, but the truth is, I WANT to continue to evolve, even if the previous volume, and as a result, the previous schools are receiving a lesser representation than this latest batch.
I’ve been doing this countdown for weeks now, and I’m using this site as the only source of advertisement. But this post is not a clever way to push Volume 2. It’s not to say, “Wow, this is so much better than Volume 1, you have to check it out!” The truth is, Volume 1 was a great collection, critically acclaimed in fact, but anyone who has read it and will also read Volume 2…by the time they reach the halfway point of Volume 2, they will have become aware of a noticeable leap in quality.
In many ways, I liken the Alma Mater series to that of a video game series. The first installment of a video game series introduces an idea to the world, and is at a level of quality that brings the consumer back for the next issue. And when the next issue is released, the improvement and enhancements are noticed. Sure, not everyone will like the latest installment of the video game more, but the majority will see the improvement. There will be readers who do not see a noticeable difference. There will be readers who believe Volume 1 was superior. But as with the video game, the vast majority of readers will see the noticeable progression of Volume 2, possibly as early as less than a quarter through the book.
There will be 100 new poems released come March 3rd. With new schools added to the Alma Mater anthology. I hope that the experience is everything that I believe it could be….and this time next year, prior to the release of Volume 3….maybe I’ll be singing the tune of how much Volume 3 has progressed from Volume 2.
Alma Mater Vol. 2: The Northeast will be available March 3, 2015
Alma Mater Vol. 1: The Midwest is available for sale below for only 99 cents: