Tag Archives: Limited Engagement

LE 49: Sophie Etchart of Read Better Be Better

It may come as a bit of a shock to some people, but there was a time…when I loved sports. (Leave pause for gasps or expressions of disbelief, and…) That’s right, as a child growing up in the 80’s in Southern California, we had no good football team, so it was 49ers all the way; basketball was a no-brainer due to the Lakers and them having one of the greatest teams of all time and whatnot; as for baseball, that was another easy choice: one need look no further than the Ang—I’m sorry, I can’t even finish that joke in the name of humor or narrative misdirection by saying the Angels. I was a Dodgers fan. When they won the World Series in October of 1988, I was just shy of six years old, and they had Orel Hershiser, whom I would argue has the most interesting name in baseball of all time.

I was more than just a casual fan, though, I was into the whole thing—I watched games on TV, listened to Vin Scully call them on the radio, I would grab the sports section out of the newspaper and read all the stats, I collected baseball cards. For a little while, I even wanted to be a professional baseball player. That phase didn’t last very long. I had asthma for one, and I’m probably actually more athletic now than I ever was as a kid for another.

It wasn’t long before I moved on to other passions—I think my interests in music, film, and literature took over and collectively shoved sports out of the way, but I still love going to see a baseball game. The other night, Janell and I got to go see the Cubs/Diamondbacks game, and I could feel the same level of excitement I had when I was five years old. There are just some things that take you right back—powerful enough to be an almost physical transformation. A baseball game, Back to the Future, Return of the Jedi, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” an episode of The A-Team, and boom—it’s like I’m wearing acid-washed jeans all over again, three decades virtually fall away.

This week on the show, I talk to Sophie Etchart, founder of Read Better Be Better, an organization committed to improving reading proficiency in 3rd graders. It was an amazingly insightful conversation, and the way RBBB trains and empowers 8th graders to work with 3rd graders to improve their skills is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever heard. Listen to the show, and then go learn what you can do to support RBBB’s mission.

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The Blarg No. 48: Leah Newsom Pt. 2

The screening is over! At last I can put that portion of the Four Chambers Press manuscript submissions process (say that one five time fast) behind me. What makes it to the next round is in the hands of our immensely talented and good looking associate editors. Finishing the passage of judgement on hundreds of manuscripts in the same week where I received a rejection letter for my own was sort of prescient, I thought. As a writer, it’s hard not to feel the sting (or in some cases painful, painful stab) associated with the receipt of a rejection letter, but the perspective I’ve gained as an editor, and certainly through this initial screening process, has made my reaction much more practical—less total devastation, more, “well, fuck, that sucks.” You have to get over it and move on to the next thing.

There are so many variables in the submission process from the publisher’s viewpoint that a writer can only take it so personally. A publisher has limited resources and has to whittle a staggering amount of submissions down to a small number of projects that will be seen through to publication. Perhaps your manuscript had the misfortune of being too similar to the one read before it, or the one that was chosen for publication the previous year (I know that we like to believe our manuscripts are all unique snowflakes, but that just ain’t the case). Perhaps your style didn’t jive with the mood of the reader that day—editors are people, too. Maybe you missed something in the publisher’s submission guidelines and that rubbed the reader the wrong way. Which, taking off my writer cap and replacing it with my editor fedora, can I just say, it’s not that hard people—read the damn guidelines! Yeesh! Anyway, all you can do is keep doing the work, take your lumps, submit to the next publisher. Hell, submit to the same publisher next year—staff turns over, tastes change, etc.

This week’s show is the second half of my conversation with writer, editor, MFA candidate, and all around awesome lady, Leah Newsom. There is a lot of tattoo talk in this half, which I was very interested in, and may have changed my entire attitude on how I approach getting a tattoo. Be sure to check out the literary journal Leah co-founded, Spilled Milk.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 48 – Leah Newsom Pt. 2

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The Blarg No. 47: Leah Newsom Part 1

I am not a man of faith. While raised in a Jewish household, religion was never something that I took to—I just can’t subscribe to a belief in a higher power. There was a time when I would have described myself as an atheist, but I feel that atheism requires a conviction and certainty in the non-existence of anything outside of the empirical world that I lack. Also, most of the atheists I know are assholes and just as insufferable as any religious fundamentalist. I am much more willing to admit that there is a lot going on that I don’t know and can’t explain than atheism typically allows for. I suppose that would make me an agnostic. When it comes to life, I believe that we’re born, we die, and all we have any modicum of control over is what takes place between those two markers.

Where am I going with this? Well, I live in a neighborhood that has a large concentration of Orthodox Jews. For some reason, Orthodox Jews make me nervous—they always have. When I’m around them, I feel terrible for not being more Jewish, as though my being a bad Jew is letting them down; their conviction makes me question my lack of faith, and this in turn leaves me feeling uncomfortable in their presence.

This Saturday, I was out running—it’s part of my normal routine. On my Saturday run, I am used to passing or weaving around Orthodox Jews on their way somewhere. It’s the Sabbath, and while I don’t know all the things Orthodox Jews don’t do on the Sabbath (check the logic of that if you feel inclined, it’s flawless), I know they don’t drive, they don’t exchange money, and they don’t touch anything that has to do with electricity. Anyway, I’m on 12th street, not far from home, and I don’t think anything of the two people in yarmulkes, a man and a boy, coming towards me, but then the man flags me down. He apologizes for stopping me, but it’s the Sabbath, and they’re not allowed to touch a light switch, and there is a ceiling fan in their home that is on too high—it’s shaking and causing some concern, would I mind coming into their home and adjusting it so that it stops rattling?

I don’t hesitate. Of course I would do this for them. I want to convey that I am a Jew, I understand the custom, but I’m also a bad Jew, I don’t subscribe to any of it, and please don’t judge me. I couldn’t do it. I simply walked with the man and his son into their home, apologized for all the sweat, adjusted the fan, they thanked me, and I left. This seems like a nothing of an occurrence, an odd, barely noticeable jump-cut in life’s progression, but it meant a lot to me. I felt I’d done something good, a small mitzvah. Whatever.

I had a nice long chat with Leah Newsom, so here is another part one of two. I’ve known Leah for years, but I didn’t know know her, so we talked about it all—coasters, tissue, Myspace, family, religion, writing, the MFA life, travel, tattoos, deep stuff. Leah is a co-founder and editor of Spilled Milk, an online literary journal focusing on ultra-short form—”a highly caffeinated alternative to mindlessly scrolling your infinite, mundane newsfeeds.”

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 47 – Leah Newsom Pt. 1

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The Blarg No. 46: Ernesto Moncada Pt. 2

I find myself compelled to write about delusions this week. Generally speaking, we delude ourselves all the time. I know that I’ve uttered classics such as, “Everything’s fine,” “No worries,” and “I got this” on countless occasions. You may see a theme there—my self-deluded states tend to center themselves around ignoring, glossing over, or denying the existence of problems. They’re never big problems, because I’m also a realist. If there’s a big problem, I am much more likely to openly admit, “Oh, yeah, things are not cool, I am totally, completely, utterly fucked.” You’ve got to acknowledge the big issues immediately, because they have the tendency (read: absolute certainty) of rolling along and attracting other issues to the point where—to use one of my all-time favorite phrases—everything goes tits up and you find yourself hurtling through the jungle being chased by a huge fucking boulder, carrying a golden idol, and Alfred Molina says he’ll throw you the whip if you throw him the idol, but he’s a lying fuck and leaves you for dead. That is how things look to me right now. The government is both Alfred Molina and the boulder, and the yawning chasm across which we have to jump is highly representative of the one between the president’s ears. Oh, and the poisoned blow darts hurtling our way at high speed are really fucking stupid tweets. So, to answer the question you didn’t ask, yes, the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark is the perfect analogy for the straits we find ourselves in.

Some delusions probably serve a positive purpose, right? After all, as creative people, we have to shield ourselves with something, or we’d all just give up and go cry ourselves to sleep every night. Confidence, I think, is at least to some degree a delusion. You gotta fake it until you make it. At some point, if you’re lucky, through success—however one wants to measure that—the ratio of earned, experiential confidence to simply talking yourself up in order to put your work out there, or go for that job, or try out for that part, whatever, tips in the former’s favor, and “I got this” ceases being a functional delusion and becomes certainty, and you know which cup is the Grail, you choose wisely, you save Sean Connery and ride off into the sunset with your buddies. I figured I’d round things out with another Indiana Jones reference, and Last Crusade is unarguably the 2nd best film in the franchise.

This week’s show is part deux of my conversation with Ernesto Moncada. I’m sure I said something last week, but I really enjoyed talking to Ernesto, and I’m excited for you to hear the rest of our conversation. There is more on the notion of things lost in translation, we get to hear some about his experience transitioning from the Mexican literary scene to the arts and culture scene here in Phoenix, and much more.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 46 – Ernesto Moncada Pt.2

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The Blarg No.45: Ernesto Moncada Pt. 1

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.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 45 – Ernesto Moncada Pt. 1

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The Blarg No. 44: Jake Friedman Part 2

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 jared@ltdengagementpod.com, 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.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 44 – Jake Friedman…Part 2

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The Blarg No. 43: Jake Friedman Part 1

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.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 43 – Jake Friedman…Part 1

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