Success is something that has always been difficult for me to accept and recognize for what it is. It isn’t that I’m not proud of what I do, or that I think it isn’t good, I just don’t expect other people to enjoy or appreciate it, let alone champion it in any way. I am always so suspicious of any sort of praise or recognition that my artistic endeavors garner—whether that is Limited Engagement, any of my writing, or actual artwork (as I dip my pencil back into that realm)—that my knee jerk reaction is to first show gratitude (I like to think I’m not a rude individual), and then immediately begin dismissing it, brushing it off to the side, looking to see if the person behind it is working some angle, or whether there is a qualifying “but” or “if only” clinging to the underbelly. I am in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. In my mind, success is something that happens to other people.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, Limited Engagement was named Best Podcast in this year’s edition of PHOENIX Magazine‘s annual Best of the Valley issue, which is awesome! It means that people like the show. Even more important, people are listening! I’m not just some guy sitting in his office at home ranting out into the ether! I really do feel proud of this achievement, and I am thankful to the folks at PHOENIX Magazine for the recognition—it really does mean a lot to me. However, you read all that stuff in the first paragraph, right? I am trying really hard to simply enjoy the moment. It’s a struggle, but I think I’m getting there.
This week’s show is the first of another two-parter. I packed the recording gear into a bag, traveled down to Ernesto Moncada’s place, and we sat at his kitchen table discussing anything that came to mind. There was very good coffee involved. Ernesto pretty much does it all: he’s a writer, actor, teacher, comedian, artist, he just directed a wonderful version of Paul Auster’s Laurel and Hardy Go to Heaven, and he’s a wizard on the stilts. No, that’s not a typo. Ernesto’s got some amazing stories, and it was a great conversation.
Listen to LE 45 – Ernesto Moncada Pt. 1
Deadlines. I love ’em. There is something about the looming hour of 12 am that gets my creative juices flowing. I lost sight of that. Lately, I’ve looked at deadlines, then I’ve looked over at the pile of unfinished projects sitting next to them, and I have thought, there is no way I can have something ready in time. As a result, I have shied away from contests and submissions. Last week, I mentioned not having a process, and perhaps that’s not the case. Perhaps this is my process. Writing against deadlines. And writing to music. At the time of writing this, I know I have a submission deadline, and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is playing in the background, and my fingers are flying across the keyboard. Coincidence? I think not.
I am probably thinking of process too rigidly. What is your process? I’m curious. I want to know. Do you write to music? If so, what type? Does it need to be instrumental? Do you need silence? Let’s not limit this to writers, either. Artists, what do you do? Musicians, what gets your creative juices flowing? I want to do a whole show on this, and I don’t think I’m the only one who would be interested in hearing it. Send your thoughts on this to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will piece them all together for a future episode of Limited Engagement. Tell me a little something about yourself as well. If you’d rather not be named on the podcast, let me know that, too. Let’s have a little artistic interaction, shall we?
This week, we’ve got part two of my conversation with Four Chambers founder, Jake Friedman. We talk more about writing in this one, specifically Jake as a writer, and how what he wants to do as a writer plays into what we’re looking to publish as a press. Which is timely, because Four Chambers is open for full length manuscript submissions through July 31st. Visit the FCP website for guidelines and a link to our Submittable page.
Listen to LE 44 – Jake Friedman…Part 2
Let’s go ahead and talk about writing this week, shall we? Why not? It’s often a topic on the show, and this week’s and next week’s shows (spoiler alert!) deal with the subject very heavily. As someone who has never managed to have a process per se, I’m always fascinated by the processes of other writers—and even more interested when I find out that they likewise do not have one. I have always heard about the importance of process, how you must have a routine. At least that’s what I heard from John Updike, and Updike wrote a lot of books. How many have I written? Not as many as Updike. But what of the argument for quality over quantity? Woody Allen said, “It’s not the quantity of your sexual relations that count, it’s the quality. On the other hand, if the quantity drops below once every eight months, I would definitely look into it.” Not exactly the same thing, but I think it’s applicable, so if I start writing less than once every eight months, I’ll definitely look into it.
I’m knee deep in manuscripts right now. Four Chambers Press put out its first call for manuscripts, and I didn’t think we’d get that many. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. The submission period doesn’t even close until July 31st. I’m not going to say exactly how many manuscripts we’ve received, but it’s a lot. (Deep breath.) Hey, speaking of Four Chambers Press…
This week I talk to the founder and editor-in-chief of Four Chambers Press, Jake Friedman. Jake’s been on the show a couple of times, but it was either as part of a panel, or as the guest host for the second anniversary show, so he came over, we hung out, then we got on the mics and talked—a lot. We talked for about two and a half hours, so this is a two-parter. We talk about publishing and writing, craft and process. If that’s your thing, these shows will be right up your alley.
Listen to LE 43 – Jake Friedman…Part 1
Behold! The forty-second edition of Limited Engagement. 42. The answer which, after seven and a half million years, the greatest computer ever built, Deep Thought, supplied as the ultimate answer to the great question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. That’s right, folks: I am a huge dork. I think that this has been well-established, though, and it shouldn’t come as a great shock to anyone.
We went and saw a little bit of the Emancipation Marathon over at the Phoenix Changing Hands location, and while we were only able to stay for about an hour or so, I’m glad we went. The event, which has taken place for twenty years, is run by Clottee Hammons (LE 40), and features community members reading work to commemorate the victims of American Chattel Slavery. It was great to see the inclusion of children among the readers at the event, as it will be up to them to carry on the legacy, and given Clotte’s work in educational outreach, I know this is no accident. Check out Clottee’s organization, Emancipation Arts, on Facebook, and please support her work.
This week, I talk to ASU professor and drummer extraordinaire, Mike Pfister. Mike was an early supporter of this show, originally as part of the audience, and then as an integral part of the live show, performing opening sets with PressPlay, and more recently the experimental jazz quartet, Klee. I’ve known Mike for years and have worked on a number of projects with him, but I found I didn’t know much about him personally, so I learned a lot through our conversation.
Listen to LE 42 – Mike Pfister
I’m working on something very exciting and very big. Well, I think it’s very exciting and very big, but I can’t talk about it. I hate that. When I’ve got an idea cooking that can lead to something awesome, I want to talk about it with everyone who asks me what I’m up to. Unfortunately, that same stage where I want to tell everyone about something is the same stage where the idea tends to fall apart, because people aren’t as excited as I am, or they try some devil’s advocate sort of thing. All of it is well-intentioned, I’m sure, but it also has an awful deflating effect on me which often leads me to abandon the idea, to lose faith in it. I’m not letting that happen this time. This idea is too important—direction of life changing level.
In the meantime, I’ll settle for teasing the idea and hope that in itself will generate some excitement and keep me going. There is a lot of groundwork ahead—a lot of meetings, conversations…hard, organizational shit that is not my strong suit, that I loathe doing. I am much more of an idea man, like Michael Keaton’s character in Night Shift (if you haven’t seen that movie, I highly recommend you do so). In a perfect world, I’d offer up the idea, the motivation behind it, and then someone else would swoop in and take care of the logistics, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, as they say, watch this space.
This week’s episode is a conversation with Sean David Christensen. Sean is promoting his short film, The Duel, which has had screenings at the Athens International Film and Video Festival and the San Francisco Documentary Festival, and can be seen at the Marfa Film Festival this July. He’s also done a number of other short films which you can find on Vimeo, he’s a frequent storyteller at Chatterbox and Bar Flies, and he’s in the band Maggie Dave. I had a great time talking to Sean, and you should definitely check out his work. The soundscape at the end of the show was created by Rafael Anton Irisarri.
Listen to LE 41 – Sean David Christensen
We just got back from Phoenix Comic Con. I want to say I’ve been going for the last four years—it might be five, but I am pretty sure it’s four, so let’s go with that, shall we? Anyway, where was I? Aw, yes, I’ve been going to Phoenix Comic Con for the last four years, and I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. I’ll let you know if I’ve actually got it next year. I will also let you know my thoughts on THIS year’s experience in an upcoming edition of the show. I had a great little chat with the panelists/judges of this year’s Nerd Slam—perhaps the most unique show from a recording perspective that I’ve ever done—and I’ll post that sometime soon. The whole reason I am even bringing it up right now is because one of the panelists, Ernesto Moncada, is part of a really cool show that will have finished its run before I post the interview, and I want to be sure to plug it. The show is a musical adaptation of the beloved film Labyrinth called The Goblin King’s City, and it has two remaining performances, June 3rd and 9th at Unexpected Gallery on 734 W Polk St. Please go and support your local artists.
The only other thing I’ll say about Phoenix Comic Con in this week’s Blarg is that I may have developed a little man-crush on the author Sam Sykes. I’m not sure yet. I have to read one of his books, and if I like it, then I’ll know. He’s a wise-cracking smart-ass, and I want to grab a beer with him. For some reason he reminds me of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy—both physically and personality-wise. Hopefully I can convince him to be on the podcast. Again, I have to read one of his books first.
This week’s show is our second anniversary bash. Two years. TWO YEARS! For the 2nd anniversary, I asked Four Chambers Press founder and editor-in-chief Jake Friedman to interview me about the show, and the book we released covering every episode of the first two year, The ‘Arg’ in Blarg, which he sort of did. Really, Jake did a bang up job…of making me feel uncomfortable. Which means he did an all around bang up job. Thanks, Jake!
Listen to this week’s show: LE 38 – The Second Anniversary Show