Tag Archives: writing

The Blarg No. 78: Katie Manning

As I write this, it’s Phoenix Comi—sorry, sorry, Phoenix Comic Fest time! Like the High Holidays, but for nerds, such as myself. We walk the halls en masse, we recognize each other’s costumes and t-shirts without irony, we buy stuff we absolutely do not need. It’s amazing. It will also be over by the time you read this, so if you went as well, I hope we all had a good time.

Phoenix New Times listed us in their list of “Phoenix Podcasts You Need to Hear”, which is really cool. It’s really surreal to see the podcast getting more and more attention. I’ve been doing this show for three years now, and I can’t tell you how many times I wondered to myself if anyone was even listening, let alone thinking it was any good. I’d like to take a brief moment to thank everyone who’s been a guest on the show, and a few people who have been particularly supportive: Leah LeMoine, Mike Pfister, Amy Hagerty, and Cynthia Black.

Quick bit of business: Hoot n Waddle, our little publishing and digital media company, is currently accepting manuscript submissions via Submittable. Please read the guidelines, and if you have anything that fits the bill, please send it our way.

On this edition of Limited Engagement, I talk with poet and professor, Katie Manning. Tasty Other, Manning’s first full length collection of poetry and the recipient of the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, chronicles the experience of her first pregnancy through surrealistic dream, religious allusion, and striking imagery that conveys all the love, hope, and anxiety that clinical texts can’t begin to relate. Get yourself a copy of Katie’s book.

Listen to LE 78 – Katie Manning

Best,

Jared

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The Blarg No. 77: Jason Keil (plus a mini talk w/Dan Hull)

I had two conversations this weekend that made me think about religion. Specifically my personal relationship with religion, which, to be perfectly honest, isn’t that great.

One, with poet Katie Manning, made me consider religion and religious imagery as it appears in my writing, which is not often, but it does. That conversation will go up soon. The other conversation was with friend and neighbor Dan Hull, a short one that you can hear at the beginning of this edition of the show.

Dan has a film premiering on May 25th at The Newton called Bad Buddhist, and he invited me over to watch it with him. A recording of a fantastic one man show he staged at Space 55 a few years ago, the film mines veins of love, ritual, imperfection, and man’s inhumanity to man. Serious stuff, but it’s very funny as well, and the Buddhist lens through which everything is filtered serves to somehow make the film universally relatable in its specificity. The Buddhist rituals that Dan incorporates into the show connected me to memories of donning a yarmulke and saying the prayers as a kid. The ritual and the language of that came back to me instantly, and in Hebrew, too, and it’s easily been 20 years since I participated in anything remotely Jewish from a spiritual standpoint. Cultural and social Jewishness is inescapably ingrained in my personality makeup, but I was surprised, especially as a non-spiritual person, to find myself sort of missing the ritual, and it went a long way towards explaining a lot of my need for organization and routine. It’s something I’m going to have to really think about for a while, which I believe speaks directly to how powerful the film is. You should go see it on the 25th at 7 PM. If you can’t make it to the screening, visit the Bad Buddhist website and contact Dan for the Vimeo link.

Surprisingly, this weaves perfectly into my conversation with writer Jason Keil. Jason is a frequent contributor to The New Times, as well as other publications, and I highly recommend checking out his work. I connected with Jason via Twitter, and it did not take long for us to connect on a primally nerdy level. Jason is the sort of person that I can talk to endlessly about pop culture, so it was really hard to keep this conversation on the rails—which I swear I try to do despite all the evidence to the contrary. In addition to all the shared interests, Jason is just a really amazingly nice guy, and he’s so genuinely enthusiastic and in awe of the fact that he gets to do something he loves and is passionate about and in some way contribute to the pop culture fabric, that I want as many people to read his work and support him as possible. Check out Jason’s website, and be sure to follow all of his social media accounts.

One last quick note, a little bit of business, Hoot N Waddle is officially open for manuscript submissions. We’re currently accepting Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction. You can visit the Hoot N Waddle site, or go directly to our Submittable page to read our guidelines.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 77 – Jason Keil (plus a mini talk w/Dan Hull)

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The Blarg No. 73: Venita Blackburn

Focus. I can’t do it. My mind is so scattered right now, that it’s becoming a real problem. I’ve got too much going on. As I’m sitting here writing The Blarg, I’m also editing the next episode of Hoot n Review, writing promotional copy for Hoot n Waddle’s first book, doing social media things for the new Chatterpod, and I’m transferring music files from my laptop to this new PC. I need to slow down, but I can’t. I need a break, but there’s not enough time. I’ll have to make the time, or I’ll become even more unbearable to the people around me. It’s no good.

Anyway, in the name of focus, let’s focus on the new Limited Engagement. I got to talk to the wonderful Venita Blackburn, and it was great. Her debut book, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, is a brilliant collection of character explorations that blew me away, and if you don’t value my opinion, maybe you’ll listen to the selection committee of the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, because they selected it as a nominee for the 2018 award, and it made really far into the process. Those PEN/Faulkner people know a few things.

I’ve run into Venita a fair amount over the last few years, but this was the first time we’d had any sort of in-depth conversation, and it was great. Turns out we’re both huge nerds. Warning, there’s some Star Trek talk.

Venita will be reading from and signing copies of Black Jesus and Other Superheroes at Changing Hands in Tempe on Thursday, March 22nd at 7 pm. You should go. I can’t go, because I’ll be recording a show at The Nash, but you should definitely go if you can.

If you want to see more me, I’ll be reading at Four Chambers’ In Sight II event on Saturday, March 24th at 4 pm at Megaphone. I’m not sure if there will be any copies of portion of the collection there, because it’s sold out and the reprint may or may not be done in time, but I’ll be reading from it regardless.

Listen to LE 73 – Venita Blackburn

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 69: Jenna Duncan

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had a hell of a time coming up with this edition of The Blarg. Sometimes they flow, and sometimes they don’t. This time it REALLY didn’t flow—no matter how many chips I ate, or how long I stared at the screen, so this one is going to be pretty brief, but don’t let that reflect on the episode, because it’s one of my favorites so far.

I do have a couple of things to plug if you’ll permit me that indulgence. I’m not really sure why I phrased it that way, because I’m about to do it regardless. The Blarg isn’t really democracy, is it? I write something, and either you read it or you don’t. That’s the way it should be.

This Thursday, January 25th at 7pm, I’ll be sharing a story as part of the lineup for this month’s Storyline Slam at the Phoenix Changing Hands location. Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 at the door. The theme is “music.” I may have a story or two (thousand) that fits in.

Last week, I went on at length about my feelings regarding the way the Insight II project went down. Outside of those feelings which had to do with the venue and the way the organizers failed to communicate the affiliations of that venue or their politics, I’m actually really proud of the work I did in collaboration with artist Ryan Parra. If you want to see/read that work, you can pick up the chapbook published by Four Chambers Press. Pick up any of the other 17 chapbooks containing the writer/artist collaborations for this project while you’re at it. The work is stunning—focus on the work.

You may know Jenna Duncan from her work for JAVA magazine, her participation in storytelling events around the valley (including Untidy Secrets and Chain Letter), or more generally for her integral role in the Phoenix arts scene. In addition to JAVA, you can read Jenna’s work in the anthology The Grey Alley: Vol. 2 from Empty City Press; you can also see her on Check Please, Arizona on PBS on January 25th at 7pm (available now for Arizona PBS Passport members); and she will be taking part in a reading on February 3rd at 7pm coinciding with an upcoming art sale for Phoenix Nasty Women Unite benefiting Planned Parenthood (location TBA, though probably Grand ArtHaus or {9}).

This show with Jenna is a long one. I tried editing it down, but on listening back to it there wasn’t much I felt I could cut (except for all the “you know”s—I said that a lot this time, sorry about that). This conversation with Jenna is one of the easiest, most laid back ones I’ve ever had on this show, and that’s saying something, because this show can be pretty laid back.

Listen to LE 69 – Jenna Duncan

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 65: Joy Young

Wearing sweaters as the world burns…

December showed up as it always does. Right on time. One moment it’s November 30th at 11:59 pm, and then, boom, December 1st is right there on top of things. Despite despising the holidays, I actually really like December. I’d say it’s probably my favorite month, and not just because I was born in it. I like the atmosphere, I like the crisp snap of the air, but above all I like wearing sweaters. I love wearing sweaters. I wish it were sweater weather all the time, but in Arizona, sweater time is very, very limited. I’m not weird about it or anything—I don’t have some weird sweater fetish—I like the softness of them, I like that you can get away with wearing them at work, and they’re super-comfortable, so it’s almost like you feel you’re getting away with something. I guess I should say “I” feel that way, because it is extraordinarily presumptive of me to think anyone else might feel the same.

This year, though, something feels off. I’m not getting to enjoy my sweater time as much as I normally do. Maybe, and I’m just hypothesizing here, it’s because it seems as though the entire world is either literally or metaphorically on fire. Hard to feel good about being comfy and cozy when you are also an empathetic person and paying attention to everything going on around you. Again, that “you” is presumptive, and I’m doing my best to quit presumption. I’m sure there’s some sort of presumptive support group or multi-step program, but I’m determined to quit presumption cold turkey.

I had a really fun conversation with Joy Young. I really like their work, and this was the first time I’ve had occasion to talk to them about their process, where their stories come from, and connect creatively. It turns out the reason for this might be that, although we’re both pretty active in similar, often connecting or intersecting literary circles, we’re also both pretty cripplingly shy and suffer from heavy social anxiety. It’s apparently not terribly uncommon for literary types who appear confident and have success on stage to be incredibly introverted. Who knew? Well, I did know actually, but it’s still nice to connect and not feel so alone.

Joy Young is a performance and teaching spoken word artist based in Phoenix, Az. Their poetry and workshops, much of which centers on transgressing borders, entering topics pertaining to social justice through poetic personal narratives has been featured on Button Poetry and Everyday Feminism as well as on stages and in colleges and classrooms across the country. Joy is a co-founder of Off the Page—a monthly recurring workshop and open mic at Wasted Ink Zine Distro that seeks to build connection and community within Phoenix’s diverse literary and performance communities. Learn more about them at https://www.joyyoungpoetry.com/

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 65 – Joy Young

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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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