Q&A with Elizabeth de Cleyre and Lee Bennett of Yesterday Quarterly

December 5, 2023
15 min read
Q&A #010: Elizabeth de Cleyre and Lee Bennett, Yesterday Quarterly

It's December, Friends!

Great to be with you.

We had so much fun at our launch party for Playing Authors on 11.11—huge, huge thanks to everyone at Tomorrow Bookstore for being such wonderful hosts, and thank you Mass Ave Wine for the delicious food. Thanks as well to all our readers and guests!
Playing Authors contributors Barbara Shoup, Robyn Ryle, Corey Michael Dalton, Traci Cumbay, Chris Huntington, Jay Lesandrini, and OIP Editor, Alex Mattingly.
Alex Mattingly, OIP Editor and MC
OIP contributors Chris Huntington and Barbara Shoup welcoming guests

Even if you couldn’t join us at the event, it’s still not too late to order your copy!

Playing Authors: An Anthology
Who gets to tell stories, how are they told, and just what does it mean to play author? Inspired by the vintage game of Authors, this collection of 19 new works written by 18 authors surrenders the rules and plays in surprising ways with the question of authorship. If you love literary mashups, personal essays, alternative history, and other disobedient forms, Playing Authors: An Anthology belongs on your shelves.⁠⁠

A gentle reminder, we print in limited quantities. Order your copy⁠ today.⁠

This month we have a special Q&A with Elizabeth de Cleyre and Lee Bennett of Yesterday Quarterly.

In December of 1974, Linda Rosenkrantz asked the photographer Peter Hujar to write down everything he did on a particular day, and the following day she interviewed him. 47 years later, a transcript of the conversation was published as a book by Magic Hour Press. Peter Hujar's Day is a lovely little snapshot in time.

Yesterday Quarterly continues in this spirit, featuring conversations with creatives and entrepreneurs to zero in on a day in their life, capturing the quotidian, the routine, and the unexpected. By asking, What did you do yesterday? and sticking around to hear the answers, we're reminded of how our days may differ or overlap, in often mundane and sometimes profound ways. As a print journal, YQ offers a kind of intimacy of holding someone's day in your hands, and invites us to slow down, read, and consider how we span our time.

Editor Elizabeth de Cleyre conceptualized and conducts interviews for Yesterday Quarterly. She’s the prose editor for Issues 6 & 7 of the literary journal Barstow & Grand, and helped co-found Dotters Books in Eau Claire, WI.

Designer Lee Bennett combines a love of reading, writing, and collaborating to release limited-edition printed and bound materials under the moniker Read Write Books. Based in Indianapolis, she’s the editor and publisher of Quotidian magazine.

Without further ado...Meet Lee and Elizabeth!
Elizabeth de Cleyre and Lee Bennett of Yesterday Quarterly


At OIP, we love the fact that everyone has their own set of "classics" (i.e., books, songs, recipes, comics, food, objects, movies, shows, etc. that shaped you). What were some of your favorite childhood "classics"?


The only TV channel we had in my household was PBS, so I watched a lot of Wishbone and Reading Rainbow and went to the library often. One of the first books I remember loving was The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, where a princess goes to rescue a prince who's been kidnapped (princenapped?) by a dragon. I won't spoil the ending of a 43 year-old book, but it upends gender roles and stereotypes in a humorous and lovely way.


Sesame Street. The gradient of the dirt in the sandbox. Little House on the Prairie box set. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi is one of the first books I felt deeply. Eating popsicles in the garage, barefoot, feeling the cool cement floor and listening to classic rock. BBQ. Secret clubs and bikes. Friendship bracelets. Fresh green beans with potatoes and bacon. Sun warmed rhubarb ripped off the stalk and sweet green peas from the vine. The Price is Right.


Congratulations on Quotidian and Yesterday Quarterly! Thoughtful, resonant, and beautifully designed, I keep dipping back in and re-reading passages. Would you tell us more about these projects, and about creating spaces to savor the micro-aspects of our lives?


Thank you for the kind words! Yesterday Quarterly is a longform interview series, published in a printed format four times a year. I conduct the interviews and Lee is the designer and publisher. The series is inspired by Peter Hujar's Day by Linda Rosenkrantz. In 1974, she asked her friend, the photographer Peter Hujar, to write down everything he did during a particular day. The following morning, she interviewed him about it, recording their conversation. The transcript wasn't published until forty-seven years later, by Magic Hour Press. I had wanted to start an interview series but didn't know the form it would take until I found Peter Hujar's Day. Most publications prioritize individuals who are releasing an album, book, film, or launching a product, so the interviews become promotional in nature, often glossing over the quotidian or mundane aspects of someone's life. And that's ultimately what Rosenkrantz captured and what I'm interested in: not the aftermath of a creative process but the middle, the small and often unmentioned daily routines and rituals that make up a life. It's continually teaching me how to be more mindful and appreciative of the smaller moments in my own days.


Yeah, thanks so much I’m so glad it’s resonated with you. The idea for Quotidian came out of a dark time in my life after the birth of my children. The experience of giving birth in the US is humbling at best and absolutely demoralizing and far too often deadly at worst. It’s a good way to find out how little our current systems actually value human life. I spent years in a dark hole of recovery and care-giving, doing little other than trying to keep everyone clean and fed. I’ve always been partial to stories and accounts of everyday life (re: childhood reading choices listed above) and this experience really rubbed my face in the mundane. After proper care of my mental health through therapy and medication, I was able to tap back into my creativity and power and reconnect with the things that truly give me energy. I found that those things were books, print design, and a fascination with the hard work of everyday life. I wanted to take a hard look at what I’d done in the last 8 years, what it could have possibly meant, and ask others the same thing while also reconnecting with my love for the arts. The great thing about everyday life is literally everyone is doing it, everyone has something to share, which is why I chose to make the project collaborative. The way it has blossomed has been absolutely miraculously beautiful; one of the most restorative and hope-giving experiences of my life.

Yesterday Quarterly clearly fits into this mission statement and I’ve been thrilled to be a part of it. In fact when I read her email describing the project I had to walk away from my desk to avoid the impulse to flip the entire thing over from pure enthusiasm.


Favorite word / font / letter?


My favorite word is not a real word, but where I live in Wisconsin some folks add an "L" to the word "both" so it sounds like "bolth." I love bolth saying it and hearing it.


Garbage/ Baskerville/ cursive J (specifically writing it) capital A (so sturdy)


Where would your adventure be set: underwater or in space?


This is a tough one, because I am equally, irrationally afraid and fascinated with space and the deep sea, but since I love swimming and painter Jeremy Miranda's underwater landscapes, I will say an underwater adventure, as long as we don't go 20,000 leagues under the sea.


I am decidedly non-adventurous in real life, but because Moby Dick is my favorite book and I’m a realist, I’ll say underwater.

Yesterday Quarterly

Snacks while you work–yes/no? If yes, what’s your go-to?


I'm not a big snacker but lately it's almonds, or dark chocolate with dried figs. I'm more of a beverage person, with 2-3 cups beside me at any given time, usually tea, and a big fan of NA Negronis or "Nogronis" at the moment.


I am a devoted snacker- my co-workers even threw me a snack themed birthday party once. I have a wide range of options, the most decadent being potato chips with French onion dip and a diet coke, the most prevalent being apples and peanut butter or tortilla chips.


What are some of your favorite tools-of-the-trade?


I drive an old, decrepit, rusted car nearing 200,000 miles so I can splurge on Mnemosyne Maruman notepads (with graph paper and spiral binding across the top) and Hobonichi plain notebooks (also with graph paper) for journaling and handwriting. A client once gifted me a Cartier pen with refillable ink, which I treasure and use daily. Unfortunately I rely too much on screens, so nice writing implements helps get me back onto the page.


Book Darts, my handmade book tote, a MacBook Air, a foldable lap desk and sizable nightstand for working in bed.


You are hosting a party. Who’s coming? Where and when? What’s being served? (Fictional characters and locales are welcome.)  


First and foremost, I want Lee to cohost it, or if we're throwing separate parties I would ask her to please come early, because she makes me feel calm. There will be "Nogronis" and too many beverages. It will ideally take place by a body of water, preferably with a bonfire and s'mores. I hope our tablemates at Milwaukee Zine Fest, the writers Sean Williamson and Robert Trettin, will grace us with their presence and good conversation. I don't know if Rachel Cusk and Nicole Krauss are big on parties but I would love to meet them. Hanif Abdurraqib seems like an excellent party guest. And I feel like J.D. Salinger is definitely not a party person, but I would want him to come back from the dead to attend. To make things really interesting, let's also invite the Milwaukee Bucks.


I may be calming to Elizabeth but she is fortifying to me, so she needs to be there to help this introvert through. I would love to have a dinner party outside during some of this perfect spring weather and prepare the meal with Alison Roman while Eudora Welty and Rachel Peden talk gardening. Then Ali Smith and Marilyn Robinson, Rachel Yoder, Eva Hesse, Kate Baer, and I dunno probably a hundred other people, but especially my husband because a dinner party is a rare treat.

Yesterday Quarterly and Milk Tote from Read Write Books

What mashups do you wish existed?


I would give anything to see a Giannis Antetokuonmpo Ted Lasso mashup. They are perhaps the two most positive individuals in sports, one real, one fictional. The Milwaukee Bucks are searching for a new coach, perhaps Ted's ready to move back to the Midwest and switch sports again?!


There needs to be a light projector/ eyeball mashup so that I can read my books on the ceiling while I lay in bed comfortably.


What are some things you enjoy doing off-screen?


Swimming, when the weather allows. Reading year-round. Long, aimless walks, preferably with a dog or person I adore.


Reading. Eating. Dancing with my kids. That’s enough for me.

Yesterday Quarterly

Any recommendations for the OIP community? What have you been enjoying lately? Or what is something you are working on currently that you would like to share?


I'm a big nerd for nonfiction, and almost constantly recommending Lost in Summerland by Barrett Swanson; God, Human, Animal, Machine by Meghan O'Gieblyn; Hanif Abdurraqib's essays; and Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu Miller. For fiction, I recently read and loved Alexander MacLeod's short story collection Animal Person, and Natasha Brown's short novel Assembly. And shout out to BearBear in Milwaukee and Cereal Box Studio in Cincinnati, both of which have gorgeous Risograph prints and publications.


All the artists and writers of Quotidian are always my favorites. The stunning clarity and precision of photographer Caroline LeFevre (, Bonnie Raitt’s first self-titled album from 1971, anything at all by Rachel Cusk, Ali Smith and Marilynne Robinson, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom’s collab album Reset, Amen Dunes’ album Freedom, Canned Heat’s album Hallelujah recently recommended by Dear Mom, the best little shop in Indianapolis, One Day at a Time, Manny Farber and Termite Art by Helen Molesworth, Aug 9- Fog by Kathryn Scanlan (I will press this into your hands), deviled eggs with chili crisp drizzled on top, used books from Common Books (@commonbooks), Blackwing pencils: “half the pressure, twice the speed!”, Zoetrope remains the best short fiction magazine on the market, Kelly Wallshlaeger’s zine full of parking signs, Parking P’s, which begins with a quote from James Joyce, “In the particular is contained the universal” (, the design work of Grow and Inque magazines, baking financiers and apple galettes (simple but impressive!) and, finally, keeping the window next to the bed open a crack year-round.

Thank you Elizabeth and Lee!

You can find more at Yesterday Quarterly and Read Write Books, and follow them @yesterday.quarterly and @readwritebooks.

Join us in celebrating the launch of Yesterday Quarterly: Issue III on Saturday, December 16 at lovely Golden Hour Books in Indianapolis. The event includes several area small publishing projects like Read Write Books, Heartland Society of Women Writers, Turnover Magazine, Newland Books (*check out our interview with Angela and Sam here), OIP, and many more! It's going to be a fun night, and we hope you can join us!


Sign up for our newsletter, THE GUTENBORG PROJECT, here. If you want to catch up before Issue 003 drops, here's Issue 001 and Issue 002.

Check out our Merch page! We have beanies for everyone on your list. We print in limited numbers, so gift your favorites before they, like snowflakes and cookies left for elves, disappear...⁠

Old Iron Press will be closed for a holiday rest from from 12/18 to 1/22.⁠ We will be shutting down purchasing during that time, so make sure to place all orders before December 18. We are not able to guarantee holiday delivery.

From all of us at OIP, a very merry December to you and yours!


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