Category Archives: Literary

Written pieces.

An Interview with the Foundry’s Matt Young

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and the next show is Saturday, June 10th at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa, featuring readings from Steph Cha, Hari Alluri, Elizabeth Marro, Kali Wallace, and today’s interviewee, Matt Young.

Matt Young, who we first got to know when we published his story in Incoming: Veteran Writers on Returning Home last year, and is the author of the forthcoming memoir Eat The Apple“Fractured Flashes: Writing The Very Short Narrative Essay.” (Enroll now!) (Bloomsbury, 2018). He’s a college writing instructor in Washington State and will join us to read on June 10th, as well as teach a master class on flash narrative non-fiction writing.

So Say We All’s production director and Foundry host Julia Dixon Evans recently had a chance to ask Matt a few questions.

JULIA DIXON EVANS: Hi Matt! Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. And thanks for agreeing to come out to San Diego to read and teach.

MATT YOUNG: Hey Julia, of course. I’m a bit nervous coming back to Southern California. It’s a bit like returning to the scene of a crime.

JDE: So when’s the last time you’ve been here? The subtext there is WHAT DID YOU DO?

MY: I think the last time I was there was 2011 to visit my old battalion after they got back from Afghanistan? It’s hard to remember if that tells you anything. I do remember getting sunburned so badly that one of my friends had to give me prescription painkillers.

JDE: You have recently put out some fantastic short narrative nonfiction, but you also have a book-length memoir on the way (Eat The Apple, Bloomsbury, 2018). What is gained in going short when writing narrative nonfiction? What is lost?

MY: I found flash because I was trying to figure out a way to tell a huge story with a lot of different narrative threads. Flash gave me a way to explore those threads without worrying too much about narrative continuity. The whole thing is held together thematically and chronologically with some recurring characters sprinkled throughout, but ultimately the stories are fairly disconnected and most of them can stand alone. They each pack an emotional little jab to the solar plexus in some way, which I think is common to the flash genre. You often give up context for lyricism in flash, but that’s the kind of writing I love, so I guess I don’t see it as giving up much. Brian Oliu has said, “I write to devastate.” I love that. I think that’s what you gain from the flash form, a tiny drop of devastation.

JDE: One of my favorite pieces of your recent work is “Fata Morgana,” which is a stunning, unexpected look at death, family, nostalgia, and creepy medical stuff. I love the way this is fragmented into headed sections, but has an incredibly strong narrative. I equally love and am baffled by the section headings. Tell us about those? 

MY: Thank you, that’s really kind. I don’t know what I can say about those. I guess when I started the piece it was called “Ichthyology” (which later became a section title) and it wasn’t a modular story at all. I started writing it right after my wife and I returned home from the memorial and I was still feeling really raw, and I remember having a thought while I was trying to work and instead of pulling out a notebook or opening a new document I just wrote that thought directly in the document where I was working on “Ichthyology” and it ended up becoming the “Oversight” section. The form just kind of chose itself.

Oversight
A placard on the interpretive center wall reads, Beware! Deserts might look empty, but they’re full of things that kill! More placards on the wall below show gila monsters and mountain lions and coyotes—which can kill in packs when they’re desperate. In the foreground of the placards is a poster board covered in pictures of my grandfather. Next to the poster board is a computer monitor playing a slideshow of photographs of him and our family on a loop. There is no placard on the wall of the interpretive center showing the pancreatic cancer that killed him—though neither is there a placard of a rattlesnake.

(excerpted from Matt Young’s “Fata Morgana, appearing in Split Lip Magazine, 2017)

JDE: “Fata Morgana” is a relatively short piece — 1700 words (I counted) — but this is your thing, the very short essay, often referred to as flash nonfiction. I know I have a default, a word count that I always seem to end up near, and I assume most other writers are the same. But I also have a dream word count, an aim. I’m wondering if pieces like “Fata Morgana” and your other short works fall into either of those categories: short because you seem to have no choice, the length chooses you, or short because you work at it and try to get a story to be particularly short? 

MY: Yeah, like I mentioned “Fata Morgana” started out as something totally different. It was going to be longer. It was going to be more about my grandfather, his life, fly fishing, our relationship, grief. And then I think my grief got in the way of that and I let it. Sometimes though I do try to work into flash, I think it’s a good way to sharpen your prose.

Ichthyology

At the memorial service, held in a regional park interpretive center, I read a placard that informs me the Sonoran Desert is the most biodiverse desert in the world. I think about how the night before, my family gathered in the middle of that desert at a sushi restaurant in a strip mall. Another placard tells me there are thirty species of fish endemic to the Sonoran—suckers, shiners, pupfish, chub, trout, catfish, more. I wonder if my grandfather ever caught any of those native fish with the fly gear he gave me two years ago. I wonder if he tied any of the flies himself. Then I wonder if I’ve already lost some to poorly tied knots or overhead foliage. I think of a large trout that broke my line a month back swimming somewhere in tributary river in Eastern Washington with a piece of my grandfather stuck in its jaw. I tell myself that’s where he’d rather be anyway. Don’t handle them too much, Grandson, catch and release, he wrote in a note that came with the gear. In his younger years he would’ve built a throne from their skeletons and not thought twice. He wrote, I haven’t trusted my legs against the river for a long time. None of the fish we ate at the restaurant were native—they were all caught, bashed over the head with a club, gutted, filleted, and shipped to what used to be a primordial ocean to be unceremoniously masticated in a mix of saliva and cheap beer.

(excerpted from Matt Young’s “Fata Morgana, appearing in Split Lip Magazine, 2017)

JDE: Your upcoming class with us on June 10th, “Fractured Flashes: Writing The Very Short Narrative Essay,” seems to focus on the idea of fracture. Structure, content. What draws you to this concept? What sort of things does fractured writing challenge? Or what kind of things do writers or readers alike need to be untaught to swallow something fragmented?

MY: I write a lot about memory and I also blur the line significantly between fiction and nonfiction in my writing, which I think—or at least hope—gets the reader to consider the subjective nature of memory and truth. I was really nervous when I started writing about my experience. I thought, What will the guys I served with think? Do they remember this the same way? Will they call me a liar if they don’t? I even started questioning my own recollections. Fractured narratives tend to have this effect—they obfuscate and gray the black and white, they make us question everything. That tends to upset what we’ve been taught about truth. But I think it’s important to remember that truth and fact are very different. Truth is subjective. I think that’s something we’re all getting a pretty rough lesson in right about now.

JDE: You’re a veteran, and an active contributor to the newest bloom of veteran literature finally making its way into the hands of readers. Though “Fata Morgana” makes no mention of it. Do you feel a responsibility to have your work periodically check back in, and re-establish your place as a veteran writer?

MY: No, I don’t. I don’t know that I want to be defined in that way. Is that pretentious? Should I just give in to that designation? Anyway, I read very little veteran or war writing while writing the book. Dispatches by Michael Herr, In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff, and Jarhead by Anthony Swofford—nothing from the Forever Wars. I do think war has leached into our cultural groundwater, but I think to continually look inward at that thing you lose what’s going on in the periphery, forget that life is happening outside of those other places. It makes us look into a mirror instead of out a window. Measuring ourselves against already published narratives can be really damaging, can make us feel like our experiences aren’t worth writing about because we see them as different or less than those that have been published. They of course can be useful in some ways, but I say look outward as much as you can. Expand horizons. Go read speculative fiction or poetry. Maybe it will help you create something different, you know?

JDE: What does it mean to you to be a veteran writer not explicitly writing about the things the civilian world accepts in a piece of veteran writing?

MY: I guess it means I’m just another writer, but I’m okay with that.

JDE: The writing you do that is explicitly ensconced in being a veteran is also somewhat irreverent, though I know that word is thrown around a lot. More simply put, you tend to zoom in on one element, one scorn, one moment, one thing to cope with. What drives this sort of writing?

MY: Self-loathing? Haha. I feel like the thing I zoom in on a lot of the time are my own shortcomings. Most of the things I write that have to do with my service use the war or the Marines as forward narrative momentum—background. Otherwise I’m usually poking fun at myself or trying to figure out why I acted the way I did, which maybe might help someone else.

JDE: Your book, Eat The Apple, is forthcoming next year. First of all, tell me about that title. 

MY: It’s a Marine Corps saying: Eat the apple. Fuck the Corps. It’s not exactly a term of endearment. It’s a nod to the impermanence of an enlistment.

JDE: Did you set out to write a book-length work? Or did you start writing with the intention of it being a shorter piece, and then just couldn’t stop? Or something else?

MY: I started out not wanting to write it at all. I’d tried writing fiction and nonfiction about my experience and it just wasn’t good—it felt indulgent and overly dramatic, and also like I was trying to tout this experience I thought of at the time as unique. Something that gave me specialized knowledge that elevated me above people who hadn’t served in some way. It felt wrong. So I went to my grad program selling my faculty on writing weird speculative stories set in the Midwest. I wasn’t super proud of the work I was doing, but it wasn’t that bad. Then for a graduate student reading I wanted to try something new so I sat down and popped out four really short vignettes about being in the Marines. They all had different voices, were written in different perspectives, they were funny and tragic and they got a good reception. I tried to call it a fluke for a couple months, but I kept going back to them, and then that summer they all just kind of poured out of me. I probably wrote two hundred pages and ended up with over a hundred usable pages and then kept developing those and creating new stories over the next year. I ended up with a thesis length manuscript, graduated, and then spent the next year finishing the book.

JDE: Do you draw inspiration from different sources for different end products? Who are some of your big go-to writers?

MY: I watch a lot of movies and television. I read a lot of speculative fiction and poetry. I borrowed forms from medical evaluations and diagrams, multiple choice tests, military publications. Some writers I’m really into right now are Claire Vaye Watkins, Brian Oliu, Elena Passarello, Chris McCormick, Brit Bennett, Chris Bachelder, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ben Loory, lots of others. The thing that probably inspired the book the most was Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, which I’d read during undergrad, but came back to and keep coming back to.

JDE: As you wrote your memoir, what other things were you doing? Not just what books you were reading, but big things like where were you in life? And also small things like if you remember a movie or an album or a friendship from that time.

MY: A lot. When I started, it was 2013 and I had just moved to Ohio from Oregon. We were listening to a lot of Wilco during the cross-country drive. My wife and I had gotten married in June of 2013 and then we moved in early August. I was working towards my MA. My wife was getting her second Master’s degree. It was my first year teaching—building syllabi, instructing, assessing. I saw Twelve Years A Slave in a snowstorm in some town in Ohio. There were eight people in the theater, one guy walked out during the scene when Patsey gets whipped. I used to meet a buddy of mine who was in the composition and rhetoric program every week to have breakfast and watch the newest episode from the first season of True Detective.

JDE: I could get behind that for breakfast. 

MY: In the middle of my first year of grad school I found my biological family. Then I contacted them about a week before my wife and I went to Thailand for our delayed honeymoon. Then we drove out to Massachusetts to meet them when we got back—they had gotten back together some time after putting me up for adoption and nine years later had another kid, and another, and another. So I got to meet my biological mom, dad, two brothers, and sister. It was wild. I think those emotions made it into the book. We’re close now—me and the bio family—we stay in touch, I visit whenever I can. We’re going out there in July actually. My brother just graduated college and my sister just graduated high school. My middle brother is thinking about joining the Marines. That was one hell of a digression. Sorry—it’s hard to bring that up and not go into some kind of detail.

JDE: No, I think this is exactly what I meant, how could you even separate the writing process from what you were going through at that time? The big, emotionally draining stuff, but also yeah, True Detective for breakfast.

MY: Oh! I spent most of that summer and fall writing to Slothrust’s album Of Course You Do—great lyrics, vocals, and guitar. The week before my thesis defense I ran my first marathon in Cincinnati—the training for the marathon really helped me tap into some weird places and also helped with memory recovery. When I graduated from my Master’s program in 2015 my wife got a job in Washington State, so we moved again. I was accepted to a couple writer’s residencies with Words After War and Carey Institute’s Logan Nonfiction Program. I worked third shift at UPS when I returned from those through the winter then started adjuncting at a couple community colleges. The writing of the book was really like a three-year process. I’m still running through final edits right now. So I guess it’s verging onto four years.

JDE: Have you always been a writer? Or is this something that you discovered after you served in the military?

MY: Like capital W Writer? I wrote a bit in high school for our literary magazine. I was a burnout and a wannabe punk and I wrote shitty articles about why pot should be legal. I didn’t really start writing with the intent to publish until after the Marines in college. Though I did write a really shitty novella during my third deployment to Iraq. I wrote it as a serial to the woman who’s now my wife to try and impress her—I can’t explain my thought process at all in that regard. But we’re married now. So I guess I did something right?

JDE: Does it even matter when people find writing? Or is it something that you notice in other writing?

MY: No. I think people come to writing at different times. I do think some people are naturally predisposed to writing (just like some people are predisposed to addiction or athleticism), but I also think it can be learned and cultivated and lost.

JDE: I like that. Where do you fall with writing?

MY: I’ve always loved to read, which piqued my interest in writing when I was young, but I don’t know if I have natural writing talent. I’ve always been happy making stuff up or imagining things, scenarios, people.  I think what I have is a natural enthusiasm for writing, and a desire to get good at it — I like making people feel things. I’ve been privileged enough to work with some great teachers and mentors in the past eight years who’ve fostered that enthusiasm and desire and have helped me make that brain-to-page connection. I feel really lucky thinking about that.

JDE: What are you working on now?

MY: I just got done building some raised garden beds. I just finished a draft of an essay about John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m going through the first pass of the memoir. I’m teaching. I just ran a half marathon, and I’m training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I’m hoping to do some fly fishing and work on my roll cast at some point this summer.

JDE: I had to google roll cast which I’m not afraid to admit. Thank you so much, and we can’t wait to have you read to us at The Foundry

MY: Thank you, and me too! I’m looking forward to meeting you all in person.

For some more of Matt’s writing, check out “A New Species of Yucca,” at Tin House.

So when we find the leg, we think we might be delusional from any number of things. But the leg is there and we think we can hear one another’s thoughts about the leg: Where’d this fucking leg come from? Why’s it in the middle of the desert? Whose leg is it? It’s not mine. Is it mine? I bet whoever’s it is probably misses it. Is it wearing pants? Think there are cigarettes in the pocket? It is wearing pants. Linen, maybe silk—this could be a rich leg.

(from “A New Species of Yucca” by Matt Young. Read more at Tin House.)

Catch Matt Young, along with Hari Alluri, Kali Wallace, Elizabeth Marro, and Steph Cha, Saturday, June 10th at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee in La Mesa. And don’t forget to enroll in Matt’s class that morning!


Matt Young is a Marine Corps infantry veteran, teacher, editor, and writer. His work can be found in Incoming: Veteran Writers On Coming Home, CONSEQUENCE magazine, Split Lip, Word Riot, Tin House, River Teeth, and many others. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Centralia College in Washington State. He is the author of Eat the Apple (Bloomsbury 2018), a multi-genre flash nonfiction war memoir about his three combat deployments to Iraq between 2005 and 2009. Find out more at www.mattyoungauthor.com or follow him on Twitter @young_em_see.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, an education, performance, and publishing nonprofit based in San Diego, please consider becoming a sustaining member here.

Call for submissions: Incoming, “Sex Drugs and Copenhagen.”

So Say We All’s Veteran Writers Division is accepting submissions for its next Incoming anthology, tentatively titled: “Sex, Drugs, and Copenhagen.” We were originally going to call it “Sex Drugs, and Coping Mechanisms” but couldn’t help paying homage to the great and horrible chaw that has kept so many service members awake on watch through the night.

We’re looking for non-fiction stories related to coping mechanisms, affairs, violating protocol in the name of escapism, mental health vacations, shore leave / R&R adventures, emergency sex, adopting a base cat, or other extreme actions taken to alleviate boredom and preserve sanity during one’s service or the period that followed during reintegration to the civilian world. We’re interested in any interpretation you might take on the theme, so feel free to surprise us.

We hope in choosing this topic that we’re able to offer veteran writers a chance to consider their service through humor, absurdism, and surrealism if they find it appropriate (though all takes on the theme are welcome), and provide our readers insights into the lesser-talked about  inglorious aspects of service: the tricks and tales of what people have to do to endure boredom, loneliness, heartbreak, trauma, and other human traits that undermine the all-consuming need to remain “effective”. Active duty writers concerned about negatively affecting their careers are welcome to submit under a pen name. We get it.

Veterans of all branches and generations, active duty service members, military family members, and interpreters are welcome to submit non-fiction works up to 7,000 words in length or less. Previously published work is welcome as long as you indicate in your cover letter where the work received its first publication. Simultaneous submissions are encouraged. Contributors will receive a contributor copy by mail.

You can learn more about our previous volume, Returning Home, read reviews, and hear stories from previous contributors at www.incomingradio.org“.

We look forward to reading your work!

– So Say We All

 

Call for submissions: Southeast Stories

Image credit: Southeast SD Map by Isauro Amigable Inocencio Jr.

– Submit here!

So Say We All is collaborating with the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation’s Placemakers program to tell the story of Southeast San Diego through the written and spoken perspectives of the people who live and work there! Whether poetry, essays, or non-fiction prose, we want stories that take place in the neighborhood or strive to define an aspect of it, however you choose to interpret that.

Here’s a handy map detailing the neighborhoods and communities that define Southeastern SD if you’re wondering about the geographic boundaries.

Works would ideally be under 5,000 words, however we will still happily consider them if they run longer. Want to see an example of what we’re received in the past? Here’s a performed story written by Michael Billingsly that debuted at our City College Showcase a few years back! Any subject matter or approach is welcome, as long as it features the neighborhood.

All accepted writers will receive edits and one-on-one coaching from our teaching artists, have their work published through the project, and be invited to perform their piece at an upcoming performance series in the fall of 2017 in addition to receiving fellowships to attend Masterclasses by visiting writers for free.

Thank you for helping us tell the story of one of San Diego’s most significant neighborhoods, and we look forward to reading your works!

PS: Photos and artworks that interpret or document the neighborhood are welcome as well, so send us your goods!

– Submit here!

Alex Zaragoza reads at The Foundry this Saturday!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and we celebrate our 4th event this Saturday night, March 18th, at 7 PM, at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. We feature both emerging and established writers, novelists, short story writers, poets, memoirists, and journalists, like today’s feature, Alex Zaragoza.

Alex Zaragoza is a freelance writer covering arts, culture, food, the border, feminism and music in San Diego and Tijuana. She is a columnist at San Diego CityBeat, and Host+Writer/Producer of music/pop culture show ‘Unherd.’ She was raised on both sides of the border and works to share stories from the other side of the fence. 

As a columnist, journalist, and television host, we love Alex’s writing about feminism, race, the border, art and music, and relationships. She writes with a delicious mix of wisdom and irreverence, and can slip between in-depth, impressive journalistic coverage and hangover barf jokes from one piece to the next.

In a column for San Diego CityBeat, Alex examines her adolescent views of immigration, refuge, and humanity.

Fear of death has always been a major driver in my life. It’s like in one of my all-time favorite movies, Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage. Olympia Dukakis, who plays Cher’s mom in the movie and is a goddamn queen, asks, “Why do men chase women?” and when met with some bullshit answer from an older, skirt-chasing professor (played by John Mahoney, the dad from Frasier ), she answers, “I think it’s because they fear death.”

Death, as the movie explains, is the reason people (the movie pinpoints men, but I think this goes for all people regardless of gender) relentlessly pursue love and sex. But really, doesn’t that reasoning apply to anything? Why jump out of a plane? Why eat this whole pizza? Why go on a years-long cross-country trip? Why slip your number to that cutie at the grocery store? Why quit your corporate job to follow your dream of being a performance artist that smears shit on your face? Because I’m going to die someday so I must push myself to the limits of extreme experience so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything when the bell tolls for me.

Alex’s coverage of the US-Mexico border has also been featured by NPR, including this piece on food merchants at the border crossing:

Just about any time of day, there’s no going hungry in the border line. In the morning, warm burritos and tortas beckon. Afternoons bring street foods like bacon-wrapped hot dogs and tacos, tostilocos (Tostitos Salsa Verde corn chips covered with toppings including lime juice, hot sauce, Japanese peanuts and pickled pork rinds), and fruit salads smothered in lime, the Mexican spice mix Tajin, and a savory, fruit-based chamoy sauce. For the sweet tooth, there are desserts like the handmade, sorbet-like nieve de garrafa.

Feeding people is a deeply ingrained part of Mexican culture, and many of these vendors will tell stories of how they learned to cook (usually at home with their mother) and why they love making food (because food is love).

Her writing is evocative, enriching, and notably not here to make you comfortable. At The Foundry, Alex will read a little bit from some non-fiction that will be featured in O Magazine. (OMG OPRAH). Don’t miss it! Saturday, March 18th, at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair. She’ll read alongside Jami Attenberg, Kiik A.K., Wendy C. Ortiz, and Karolina Waclawiak.

The Foundry #4
Saturday, March 18th, 7 PM
Tiger Eye Hair
811 25th St, San Diego, CA 92102
all ages // $5 suggested donation

Here’s Drake enjoying Alex’s company


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary non-profit, please consider becoming a sustaining member.

An Interview with The Foundry’s Kiik A.K.

The Foundry is our literary reading series, now in its second year. We love this opportunity to bring both new and established writers into your lives. Our next reading is this Saturday, March 18th, at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill, with readings from Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Wendy C. Ortiz, Alex Zaragoza, and today’s feature, Kiik A.K, a San Diego poet.

We love Kiik A.K.’s invigorating approach to poetry and art. So Say We All’s program director and Foundry host Julia Dixon Evans had a chance to ask Kiik a few questions about his work and his writing life.

JULIA DIXON EVANS: Matt Lewis (So Say We All’s Radvocate editor) described your manuscript as “a beautiful magical realism story about the Japanese internment camps.” Can you tell me a little bit about it

KIIK A.K: Almost every piece of fiction I’ve written in the last five years is somehow connected to my grandparents. I’m working on a manuscript called THE BOOK OF KANE AND MARGARET, and all its stories take place between the years of 1942-1945 in a Japanese internment camp in Gila River, Arizona. This was where my grandparents fell in love, married and had the first of their three daughters.

I’m not a historian or a scholar or a very good researcher. So I actually thought it would be an uphill battle and a disservice to my grandparents if I tried to write their stories as nonfiction or historical fiction. That is why a lot of my stories are about things like supernatural cicadas, people who sprout wings, aircraft carried by desert birds, girls who can trade human teeth for divine wishes. But there is usually some kernel of my grandparents stories embedded in that magic.

JULIA: Your poetry, to me, either feels incredibly narrative or incredibly unusual. It all seems very boundary-smashing to this here non-poet. What drives this? 

KIIK: I think it’s really an inability to write poetry. I want to think of myself as a poet. But for the amount of training I’ve had, I’m probably the most incapable poet I know. I sit down and I say, “This is going to be a sonnet.” And then some weird free-verse thing about dying naked in the woods emerges. I sit down and say, “This is going to be a love poem.” And then a thing about grandmas who rescue babies from car accidents emerges.

So now what I call poetry is this journey of trying to write a poem, failing, and then being critical about the failure. I think maybe that is where the narrative and strangeness comes from. A lot of my poems also contain apologies. A moment when I say, “Sorry for what you just read, I’ll do better next time.”

JULIA: And do you approach a piece with structure in mind first, or with narrative? Or a word or a line? 

KIIK: Almost always a scrap of language that has just been repeating in my head. Do you know the song “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj? I had this line stuck in my head for like a week, “He toss my salad like his name Romaine . . . ”

I went back and forth trying to unpack the meaning of the line. Romaine lettuce is in salad. So does the salad toss itself? But the speaker’s salad is being tossed. So is the speaker watching Romaine toss his own salad? It seems like her salad is the one being tossed though.

And then I think to myself – why is this the line I’ve chosen to think about for two weeks now? Why am I mining this particular salad in Nicki Minaj’s work?

JULIA: I anxiously await this salad poem. 

In your work, most notably in “A Pupa Wraps Its Mitten Of Fur Around The World,” published by Electric Literature, the reader is taken on something of a journey of revelation and understanding about the form, and that revelation exists separate from, or at least prior to, any revelations about this character. It reminded me of those moments when you realize the extra is the primary. I’m thinking of a commercial in the middle of SNL that’s actually a skit. Or “Too Many Cooks.” The prologue to Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Where do you see the intersection of audience awareness to form and the breaking of this literary 4th wall vs. what an individual work means? Do those things sort of work together? I’d love to hear about your process and thoughts with this.

KIIK: That question is more beautiful than my work! And I think gets at something deeper than those “about the author” pieces.

I think as an audience member I’m attracted to those moments where the speaker says, “I get that our relationship is an agreement to put you under the spell of this aesthetic form. But maybe another agreement is to break the form and work through its peculiarities together. And then we have this entirely new relationship.”

I think I like those moments because it makes me feel like an insider. I can be under a spell and floating above the spell – watching myself be under the spell simultaneously. I am both patient under the anesthesia and doctor looking at the unconscious patient. I am Snow White passed out on the ground, the Queen and the Witch.

I got a little lost. Did I even answer this question?!!

JULIA: Yes. That was so perfect. And I’m curious to know if you originally wrote those pieces when tasked with writing your actual “about the author” bio. Because I think anyone who has had to write any sort of profile can understand the need to screw with the system a little.

KIIK: I can’t remember exactly – but I think for me the pieces come out of an anxiety of failure, amateur-ness. Maybe also a lack of professionalism. I like reading writers’ “about the author” sections. It’s one of the first things I read when I buy a new book. I always think, “They sound so accomplished! So confident!” They’re also often written in the third-person, which is part of the spell of the form. “The writer was so important they didn’t even have time to write their own bio! Some servant did it for them!”

When I sit down to work on a bio, something inappropriate to the form always emerges. Alright, I know I should talk about how many books I’ve published and how many awards I’ve won. Okay I haven’t published any books. Can I talk about how many books I fantasize about publishing? Hmm, that seems wrong. Can I lie and say I’ve published books in another country that doesn’t exist? Hmm, seems unethical. What if I say I’ve published several Yelp posts rating the local cookie establishments? Well that third option sounds slightly better than the first two . . .

JULIA: So Say We All was lucky to publish some of your work in The Radvocate, and I consider those pieces the funniest poetry I’ve ever read [http://www.sosayweallonline.com/kiik-ak-poems-in-the-radvocate/]. There’s humor in your work, but also elements of insecurity and sadness. Do you tend to balance out those things on purpose? Or is it more inherent/unavoidable?

KIIK: Gosh, thank you! If the work makes you laugh a little, then it’s doing its job. I want to say the humor is part of that apology thing I mentioned earlier. A lot of my poems apologize for not getting the form right. Or for not doing poetry in a decent way. Or for having an amoral speaker. Not that there is a right or decent way to poetry or that people should look for it. I guess I just mean I feel guilty sometimes when I look at the work and I think, “Wow, you don’t look right. Poems are not supposed to have so many cannibals in them! Poems should not have a person wearing a stinging jellyfish for a hat! Jeez, I blew it.” So then I start to think – but can this failure be entertaining? How exaggerated or strange does this failure have to look to make someone laugh?

The insecurity and sadness question is another really good one. I want to say part of that must be because my writing practice is such a lonely endeavor. I think it was Toni Cade Bambara who said something like, “It is a dismally lonely business, writing.” I’m not sure if that’s how it feels to most other writers. But when I’m sitting by myself, looking at this strange poem in front of me, all the insecurities do seem to come out . . .

JULIA: What are you working on at the moment?

KIIK: I wanted to write a few pieces specifically for The Foundry event. The readers at the So Say We All shows are so fucking good – it’s a little out of my league. So I want to write a couple of new things that will just be offerings to that show.

I’m working on something about Burger King and something about The Smurfs – we’ll see if I finish in time . . .

JULIA: What is the most recent book you’ve read?

KIIK: Right now I’m reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It’s so good! For poetry I’m reading salt. by nayyirah waheed. She’s a genius!

JULIA: Thank you so much for answering my questions and we are so excited to hear you read at The Foundry on Saturday! Thanks!

KIIK: Thank you Julia!

Kiik A.K. earned a MA from UC Davis where his poetics thesis was titled THE JOY OF HUMAN SACRIFICE and a MFA from UC San Diego where his collection of counter-internment narratives was titled EVERYDAY COLONIALISM. He is currently at work on a collection of poems titled HOGG BOOK. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Okey-Panky, iO, Washington Square, Action Yes and Alice Blue Review.


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Jami Attenberg reads at The Foundry on March 18th!

The Foundry is So Say We All’s literary reading series, bringing you both established and emerging authors from all over and from right in our backyard. Come find your new favorite writer with us. Our next reading is Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair!

Today we feature novelist Jami Attenberg, who will read to you from her 6th book, All Grown Up, brand new, published this week (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). It’s an enchanting and entertaining read, often quite sad despite its humor, and challenges us to root for and fall in love with a character who doesn’t always make the best decisions. Unlikeability can be risky business, and Attenberg pulls it off. Her main character, Andrea, carries us through her transition to 40, her relationship with her mother and brother, many (many) men and women, and maybe most triumphantly, her comprehension of herself.

Here’s an excerpt from All Grown Up on Lenny, “Charlotte.”

I call my brother. “Mom gave me the chair Dad died in,” I tell him. “And you took it? She tried to give it to me, too,” he says. “Well, I didn’t know what it was,” I say. “I guess I blocked it out.” That is a thing I’ve been known to do, and my brother doesn’t argue the point. “I’ve had nightmares about it,” he says. “Just toss it.” “Like in the garbage?” I say. “Andrea, just throw it away,” he says.

But I understood why my mother held on to for it so long, and also why she felt like she had to hand it off to someone instead of putting it in the garbage. It was Dad’s chair. So I decide to sell it on Craigslist, that way I know where it’s going. I look up the value of the two pieces online. The set is worth about a thousand dollars. On a Saturday morning, I list it for two-fifty. Priced to move. Looking for a good home. P.S., my father died in it.

[Read the full excerpt here: http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/a662/charlotte/]

You can also listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition interview with Jami from this Sunday here: http://www.npr.org/2017/03/05/518364707/a-middle-aged-coming-of-age-in-all-grown-up

ATTENBERG: I mean, I don’t know who made these rules, who made this list of milestones, but somebody did it. And you know, it looks something like being married or partnered up, having a kid, owning a home, knowing what your career is and what direction you want to be going in your life, kind of really wanting to know what’s next, which is something that she says a couple of times in the book. And sometimes, those milestones aren’t of interest to people or available to people. And how do you figure out what it means to be an adult if you haven’t achieved those traditional milestones?

And here’s a longer, in-depth interview with Jami at Lit Hub: http://lithub.com/jami-attenberg-on-literary-break-ups-credit-card-debt-and-epic-book-tours/

We’re looking forward to having Jami Attenberg read at The Foundry, alongside Wendy C. Ortiz, Karolina Waclawiak, Alex Zaragoza, and Kiik A.K., on Saturday March 18th at 7 PM.

We will have books for sale, drinks for donations, and some very good stories read just for you. Tiger Eye Hair is a hair salon in a scooped-out historic Texaco station in San Diego’s beautiful Golden Hill neighborhood. $5 suggested donation at the door.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary non-profit, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Details here: www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

Karolina Waclawiak reads at The Foundry on March 18th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, bringing you the finest, the weirdest, and the best writers from across the country and across the street. The next event is Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair, and features readings by Jami Attenberg, Alex Zaragoza, Kiik A.K., Wendy C. Ortiz, and today’s feature, Karolina Waclawiak.

Karolina Waclawiak’s critically acclaimed first novel, How To Get Into The Twin Palms, was published by Two Dollar Radio in 2012. Her second novel, THE INVADERS, which was published in July 2015, was recently optioned by ABC Television. AWOL, a feature she co-wrote with Deb Shoval, will premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Formerly an editor at the Believer, she is now the Deputy Culture Editor at BuzzFeed. Waclawiak received her BFA in Screenwriting from USC School of Cinematic Arts and her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. Her last name is pronounced Vahts-Slav-iak.

Karolina’s latest novel, The Invaders, is a dark look at suburban elitism. From a review in The Guardian:

David Lynch’s cinema of suburban horror would pair well with Waclawiak’s work both [in The Invaders] and in her first, LA-based novel, How to Get Into the Twin Palms. Both writer and film-maker blend traditional social criticism and with a sort of rhapsodising of the quotidian and grotesque within suburbia. Along with DJ Waldie, Bret Easton Ellis, Jeffrey Eugenides and AM Homes, Waclawiak’s The Invaders belongs to this expanding genre of “new suburban” literature.

[…]

Despite its patent cynicism, The Invaders contains hints of the same fantastical realism found in Ellis’s Lunar Park or Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. All these books romanticise the lonely topographies, both emotional and natural, that its characters inhabit. Waclawiak’s unadorned prose puts in stark relief dark houses, vacant gardens, even the ominous churning of the sea without resorting to belaboured Freudian cant.

Here’s a brief excerpt from The Invaders, up at Lit Hub.

When our father left, our old rotary phone would ring and my sisters and I would fight like rabid dogs over who would answer it, hoping it was him, but it never was. My sisters spent less and less time at home, wanting to be away from all the sadness, the outline of missing people too grim. Boys would take them away, my mother would yell, warning them they’d end up like her, alone with a brood of ungrateful girls of their own, but they didn’t listen. Neither did I.

[read the full excerpt here]

Waclawiak’s first book, How To Get Into The Twin Palms, published by our friends at Two Dollar Radio, is a dreary, fiery (literal fire) portrayal of outsiderness and otherness in Los Angeles, devastatingly crafted. Her writing is rich, sometimes dismal, and unsettling.

And Waclawiak was announced yesterday as a National Book Awards fiction judge, alongside Dave Eggers and Alexander Chee, among others.

We are looking forward to bringing Karolina to town to read to you. Join us at The Foundry #4 on March 18th at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill! Karolina Waclawiak reads with Jami Attenberg, Kiik A.K., Alex Zaragoza, and Wendy C. Ortiz. Stay tuned as we introduce you to all of the readers!

RSVP and invite your friends: https://www.facebook.com/events/274611539626150/


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Wendy C. Ortiz reads at The Foundry on March 18th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series! We want to introduce you to your next favorite writer. Each reading features established authors and emerging writers, both from San Diego and across the country. We’re going to do a little web series so you can get to know each of the readers for The Foundry #4, coming up on Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM  at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill.

The Foundry #4 will feature readings from Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Kiik A.K., Alex Zaragoza, and today’s feature: Wendy C. Ortiz.

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir, Hollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Hazlitt, The Lifted Brow, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, StoryQuarterly, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy lives in Los Angeles. Visit her public notebook: wendycortiz.tumblr.com.

Wendy’s writing is powerful, thick with imagery, and beautifully sparse. The things left out from her work carry nearly as much weight as the words included. From a recent interview at The Rumpus, here’s Wendy on how perfecting the art of omission works with her self-coined genre “dreamoir” used in her new book, Bruja, published in 2016 by Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Rumpus: You’ve said in the past about your writing, “What can I omit to make it a sharper piece?”

I’m fascinated by the way Bruja forces the reader to piece together the story through symbols and narrative threads as opposed to a linear story arc. As a reader the dream format compelled me to think more deeply about the journey of the narrator—to engage in the process of discovery in a much more visceral way than I might with a traditional memoir. In a way, the omission, made the narrative more engaging. Was this something you had to think through?

Ortiz: In the original writing of it online, I never thought this through—the website was a receptacle for dreams. In editing it, I had to think through which dreams had the most to “tell,” which forced me into omitting dreams that didn’t have much of a thread (or threads that might be too obscure to follow). I also omitted dreams that felt like they told too much. It felt like a very careful removal of organs from a body, to see if the body might still function without one dream thread or another.

And her work, both in Bruja and in her earlier memoir texts, Hollywood Notebook and Excavation, is intensely personal, revelatory, and groundbreaking. She plays with genre in the same way that she plays with language and structure, pushing the boundaries of what is non-fiction, what is memoir, what is truth, and the boundaries of what a page or a story might look like: prose, poetry, truth, dream, magic.

Here’s Wendy on magical realism and magic in writing:

Rumpus: […]I felt keenly that Bruja, had an intentional spell-like—almost a magical realism—quality. Certainly, the gorgeous cover art by the artist Wendy Ortiz, and the title itself is evocative of a female archetype—a woman with magical powers. Were you thinking about this when you composed Bruja?

Ortiz: I was thinking of it the same way I think of brujería everyday without calling it that, necessarily. To me, magic is everywhere. Synchronicities fall under the “magic” heading to me. I pay attention as much as I can. I try to surround myself with other women with magical powers and a lot falls under the heading “magical powers.” To me, a bruja is able to live on and in different planes at different times and sometimes simultaneously—this is what I thought of most as I edited the text of the book—that this was my life on another plane while living on the one most people call “reality.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

I love this stunning, boundary-squashing and structure-squashing piece of her writing you can read online at the literary magazine Poor Claudia, “Celestial Body Language.” Here’s a brief clip:

Pluto Conjunct Midheaven

“personal power is mobilized”

Pluto at the top of the chart, Mars at the bottom.
“You’re here to destroy,” she said.
I stepped out of the salon clutching the cassette tape. In the attic I reset its spools.
She gave no definition for “destroy.”
Months wandered by like clouds. I counted. After five had passed I forgot I was counting.
The sixth cloud hung heavy.
Midway I sprung out of the cloud, soaking wet, then engorged with flames. Destroying came naturally, as it turned out.
I hit the ground. When the ground opened, kept running.

We are honored to have Wendy come read to you at the Foundry, and teach her (SOLD OUT!) masterclass, “Public Notebook to Book,” earlier that afternoon. Come join Wendy, Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Kiik A.K., and Alex Zaragoza on Saturday, March 18th at Tiger Eye Hair!


If you appreciate what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Details here: http://www.sosayweallonline.com/membership/

 

Black Candies: The Eighties

Announcing our next Black Candies theme! The Eighties.

blackcandies80s

Black Candies is a journal of literary horror and darkness. In these dark corners, we have infinite room to grow, and to innovate. We’re allowed to push boundaries and set precedents. We revel in the daring. We aim to scare. Scary can be good. Scary can cause change.

This year, our theme is The Eighties. Whether you lived through it, or fetishize it, there’s no denying its continued effect.

Horror and the ‘80s go hand in hand. Movie fans can point to it as the decade where franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Hellraiser and Friday the 13th turned monsters into celebrities. It’s a decade that gave birth to the VHS, which allowed us to mainline horror right into our living rooms. The format also enabled a generation of crude, disgusting, and often brilliant filmmakers whose access to the expansive market gave them free reign to coat their screens with blood.

But art wasn’t the only thing that became horrific. Both consumerism and nationalism surged. Hate and bigotry blinded us to an epidemic that ravaged the country, while those in power laughed about it. We were ruled by an idiot entertainer. Any of this sound familiar?

What we’re looking for: We’re looking for stories that are set in, pay homage to, or reference the ‘80s in a major way. No smartphones, no Internet. Analog technology. Drugs. Yuppies. Wealth. Social commentary. It’s pretty open to interpretation, really. Think Stranger Things. Think nostalgia. Think Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

What we’re not looking for: Even though splatter films ruled the era, that’s not what we want. Black Candies attempts to publish the best in literary horror. We want to be scared, shaken and disturbed by your story, but at the same time, we want to fall in love with your prose. We want it to be smart. Gore and blood is fine as long as your story doesn’t obsess over it.

No word limit, but 2,000-6,000 is ideal.

As always, Black Candies makes a concerted effort to make horror less of a white dudes club. We would love to read more submissions from women, POC, LGBTQ, and diverse voices.

[You can buy some of our prior issues on Amazon: Black Candies: Gross and Unlikeable and Black Candies: Surveillance.]

Submission deadline: August 31st, 2017

READY? Go to our submissions portal here.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, the literary non-profit and small press that brings you books like Black Candies, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month.

Wendy C. Ortiz teaches a master class with So Say We All

The Foundry #4 is coming up on March 18th, and with it, Wendy C. Ortiz will be joining us to read. She will also teach a very special master class with us that day.

Master class: Public Notebook to Book
Wendy C. Ortiz
Saturday March 18th 1-4 pm
Words Alive
5111 Santa Fe St # 219 (upstairs),
San Diego, CA 92109

There are infinite ways and means of writing a book, and social media platforms such as tumblr, Twitter, and Snapchat offer some particular and innovative ways of moving from the “public notebook” to book. Hollywood Notebook, a prose poem-ish memoir, and Bruja, a dreamoir, both began as public notebooks and eventually found their way to becoming print books. We will discuss different social media platforms and how using them in specific ways can contribute to multiple narrative threads we might use in the creation of a book. Discussion topics will include journaling, persona, audience, and the art of omission. By workshop end, participants will have experimented with creating a “public notebook.”

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir, Hollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Hazlitt, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, StoryQuarterly, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy lives in Los Angeles.


Limited to 7 workshop participants. Scholarships available.

$55 non-members
$45 sustaining members

REGISTER NOWhttps://squareup.com/market/so-say-we-all/item/m-master-class-with-wendy-ortiz

Members: Enter code WENDYMEMBER at checkout to get your discount (and be honest like your mama taught you). To become a member for as little as $5 per month, visit www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

To apply for a scholarship for this fantastic class, fill out this application. The scholarship deadline is February 25th, and we will notify you by March 1st.


Stay tuned for more details about The Foundry #4 at 7 PM on March 18th, the night of the workshop, featuring readings by Wendy, Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, and more.