Tag Archives: Jim Ruland

Southeast Stories: FREE Writing Workshop in Skyline Hills

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.

 

Together with the Skyline Hills Public Library, we are hosting a FREE generative writing workshop to help those of us who live, work, or otherwise exist in the area of Southeast San Diego to write their stories. This workshop is open to everyone: all ages, all levels. No prior writing experience necessary. You do not need to have started a story to attend. There will be in-class writing time, so bring something to write on/with.

Southeast Stories Writing Workshop
Wednesday, May 17th
6:00 – 8:00 PM

Skyline Hills Public Library
7900 Paradise Valley Rd, San Diego, CA 92114
(619) 527-3485

FREE
RSVP
(not required) –
https://www.facebook.com/events/798290263657673/

Led by So Say We All teaching artist, Jim Ruland:

Jim Ruland is the co-author of My Damage with Keith Morris, and Giving the Finger with Scott Campbell Jr. of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. He is also the author of the award-winning novel Forest of Fortune and the short story collection Big Lonesome. Jim’s work has appeared in many publications, including The Believer, Black Warrior Review, Esquire, GrantaHobart, Los Angeles Times, McSweeney’s, Mississippi Review, and Oxford American, and has received awards from Reader’s Digest and the National Endowment for the Arts. He runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its thirteenth year.

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

The deadline for our Southeast Stories project is June 2nd. We hope this workshop provides the communities with the inspiration and tools to tell their own story, in their own words.

For more information, please contact us.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, an education, performance, and literary nonprofit organization and small press, please consider becoming a supporting member to sustain this work.

Jim Ruland reviews Black Candies for CityBeat

We just launched our winter fundraiser. Your generous contribution to our year-end fundraiser will go directly to helping us providing brave new voices the attention they deserve and our culture needs.


We are so happy to see Jim Ruland, who we consider a gifted, insightful, and tough critic and friend, review Black Candies: Gross and Unlikeable for San Diego CityBeat this week!

He describes the work as “disturbing,” points out that some stories “make the grotesque more palatable with a dash of humor,” and some are “epically gorgeous.”

Gross and Unlikeable is our women-only collection of dark fiction and art. Jim writes, quoting guest editor Natanya Ann Pulley:

For this edition, Black Candies turned to guest editor Natanya Ann Pulley who writes in the foreword, “I believe writing stories (like all art) is a political act. Whose story we tell, whose we share, and how we expect them to be handed to us is an engagement with truths… This collection doesn’t just give women a space to tell vile stories, it grapples with notions of story and reality handed to women through things dark and dangerous.”

We are proud to have created a space for women’s voices in horror and dark literature. Read the full review here. And get your own copy of Black Candies: Gross and Unlikeable today: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997949902/ And! Join us at the release party, next Thursday, 12/8 at 8 PM at Whistle Stop Bar.

Thank you so much, Jim, and San Diego CityBeat, for the fantastic review, and thank you for reading and continuing to champion literature and the arts in San Diego and all over the place.

jim-ruland-review-featured-image


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The Foundry #2: Almost here!

The Foundry, our fiery new literary reading series, returns Saturday for an evening of readings from some amazing writers. We are looking forward to hear Scott McClanahan, Juliet Escoria, Uzodinma Okehi, Jim Ruland, Jean Guerrero, and Aaron Burch read to us, Saturday, 7/30, 7:00 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. It’s gonna be smokin’.

Over the past month, we’ve featured these writers here on our site, and we hope you enjoyed getting to know them, browsing their work, or reading some interviews.

Here’s each feature in a handy list.

PEN/Fusion Prize Winner Jean Guerrero reads at The Foundry No.2


Aaron Burch Reads at The Foundry No. 2: An Interview


Uzodinma Okehi reads at The Foundry No.2


Juliet Escoria Reads at The Foundry No. 2


Jim Ruland Reads at The Foundry No. 2: An Interview


Scott McClanahan reads at The Foundry #2


That’s the round up! It has been a joy to work with these writers to prepare for this reading: not just talking to them about their work and running interviews, but actually reading their brilliant writing. It’s been a killer binge-read sesh. We really look forward to sharing all of this with you. Hope to see you tomorrow, Saturday 7/30 at 7:00 PM at Tiger Eye Hair, 811 25th Street, Suite 105 San Diego. Bring your people. Show ’em how we do lit in San Diego.

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If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here.

Scott McClanahan reads at The Foundry #2

The Foundry is our new literary reading series, just launched this spring. Our second installment is this month, July 30th, at the delightful Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. Our readers for Number 2 are Jim Ruland, Uzodinma Okehi, Juliet Escoria, Jean Guerrero, Aaron Burch, and today’s feature: Scott McClanahan.

scottScott McClanahan in a three piece suit

In a recent feature at The A/V Club, here’s how they introduced Scott:

Scott McClanahan might be today’s best-known indie press writer. He also makes short films and his readings are some of the most engaging pieces of performance art to ever hit your local bookstore. Perhaps best known for Crapalachia: A Biography Of Place (Two Dollar Radio) and the more recent Hill William (New York Tyrant), McClanahan’s short-story collections function as pseudo-memoirs with a crackling electricity rarely found in literary fiction.

The first time I met Scott, a few years ago, he was visiting San Diego with his wife (fellow Foundry reader Juliet Escoria), and he performed a reading organized by the great Matt E. Lewis. I had never read any of his work, but his writing’s legacy is significant and I knew enough about it to have some level of anticipation. However, during the reading, there was a football game on the bar’s TV screens, and let’s just assume it was a Chargers game, just to properly set the scene. Irritated yet?

I felt somewhat unsettled and without purpose at the event: I wasn’t working or reading, I came alone, and everyone else had already sat down with the people they arrived with. I just kind of stood nervously off to the side in the back, barely able to hear the readings over the low-grade noise at the bar.

When Scott took the stage, maybe a ref made a poor call and the Chargers fans at the bar booed. Maybe they were booing at us, trying to appreciate literature instead of their sports. But their noise was no longer low-grade.

And then Scott sang.

Partway through, he climbed down from the stage, mid-reading, still reading, and passed out homemade fudge (which connected to the story he’d been reading), and even took his offering back amongst the football fans. He chanted a refrain, no mic, in the back, by the bar, by the Chargers fans, and the entire place fell silent. We’d all stood up by now, passing the container of fudge around. Nobody sat with their pre-packaged friends. That no-purpose, adrift feeling vanished and I felt part of something: Not just inspired but responsible somehow. To this day, I wonder if I imagined this experience, or if memory has colored it in a more profound light than it was in the moment, but that day is Scott McClanahan to me.

Unfortunately for our tastebuds, there’s no tie-in with fudge in his latest book, a graphic novel freshly published this month by our darlings, Two Dollar Radio, one of the finest and gutsiest small presses of our day.

I read The Incantations of Daniel Johnston in a single day, carrying it around with me and reading it whenever I could sneak a minute. McClanahan’s writing is so propulsive that I flew through it faster than I probably should have, given how intricate and compelling each Ricardo Cavolo illustration is. It might be the kind of book we all read twice. At least.

 

Incantations is sometimes troubling, sometimes comforting. It seems to both tackle and encourage our collective curiosity, myth-like, of Daniel Johnston’s life. The illustrations are grotesque at times, but the story reminds us something both forgiving and unsettling: This could’ve easily been you.

Shortly before the book came out, Buzzfeed ran a sample of the first few pages. Take a look here.

scott excerpt

As for Scott’s non-illustrated fiction, here’s a short story we love, published online at Guernica: Psychiatrists and Mountain Dew. This story kicks off his brilliant short story collection Hill William.

We can’t promise fudge at this Saturday’s Foundry reading, but we can promise no football game on any TVs (sorry?). Come join us 7/30 at 7:00 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill to hear Scott read, along with Aaron Burch, Jean Guerrero, Uzodinma Okehi, Jim Ruland, and Juliet Escoria.

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Scott McClanahan wrote The Incantations of Daniel Johnston and The Sarah Book. He lives in West Virginia. You can buy his books here: The Incantations of Daniel JohnstonCrapalachia, and Hill William.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here.


by Julia Dixon Evans
cover image by Juliet Escoria

Uzodinma Okehi reads at The Foundry No.2

The Foundry is our shiny new literary reading series, just launched this spring. Our second installment is this month, July 30th, at the delightful Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill.

Today we feature Uzodinma Okehi, a writer I had never read until Aaron Burch let us know he was coming on tour with him. I quickly picked up Uzodinma’s book, Over For Rockwell, published in late 2015 by Short Flight/Long Drive Books.

kidcrop-bio

Uzodinma Okehi, a little bit ago

Over For Rockwell is an intense and vivid novel, as we follow his character, Blue Okoye, across the globe doing his best not to fail at being an artist. When Blue is not drawing comics but knowing he should kinda hits below the belt. Uzodinma’s writing is powerful, irreverent, and vulnerable. Here’s a sample of his fiction, “The Deuce,” a segment of Blue Okoye’s strife, published in The Adroit Journal.

 I blew off Jackie, I told her, forget about the coupons . . . Two-for-one dinner-date, Brooklyn, select restaurants, twenty-eight bucks, and what’s that gonna buy me? Forget the first hour, which is easy. That could be testing out pens, looking for my ruler. It could be putting on socks, on then off again, too hot, or stretching, still not drawing, at the table, my chair, against the springs, I’m tense but I’m bouncing.

And here is a rad interview with Uzodinma at The Rumpus.

OKEHI: […]Cities always, at some point, fail to meet our expectations. Same way people do. At some point you realize you’re struggling to keep that mythology alive. You either project your frustration, your disillusionment, on that person, on the city, or you can turn back, you can choose to reinvest that belief in your own strengths. In the book, Blue goes to Hong Kong, believing, typically, that all he needs is a change in scenery to turn his life around. From college in Iowa City, to Hong Kong, then to New York, only to be confronted again and again with the same issues that seem to be rooted more in his personality than any specific city or place.

As a writer, as you know, it boils down to you in a room, in front of the computer…

Come hear Uzodinma read from Over For Rockwell at The Foundry, coming up Saturday, July 30th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. Uzodinma will be joined at the Foundry by many other greats: Aaron BurchJean Guerrero, Juliet Escoria, Jim Ruland, and Scott McClanahan.

foundry2


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here.


by Julia Dixon Evans

Jim Ruland Reads at The Foundry No. 2: An Interview

The Foundry is our shiny new literary reading series, launched beautifully this spring. Our second installment is this month, July 30th, at the delightful Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. As we approach the show, we’d like you to get to know the readers a little bit, and today we land on one of our heroes, Jim Ruland. Jim will be joined by many other greats: Aaron BurchJean Guerrero, Juliet Escoria, Uzodinma Okehi, and Scott McClanahan.

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We love Jim’s writing. It’s intimate and obscure at the same time, delivering the fringe in oddly palatable and approachable ways. One of our favorite pieces is Cat Party, published this spring at Shadowgraph Quarterly.

So Say We All’s production director (and Foundry host) Julia Dixon Evans had a little chat with Jim recently.

jim only RulandTinWhistle Jim Ruland: pretty talented his entire life

JULIA DIXON EVANS: Jim! Thanks so much for agreeing to read at The Foundry, and for all your support in general. You’ve been a friend and volunteer of So Say We All far longer than I’ve been around. Tell me how you got involved?

JIM RULAND: I went to San Diego Animal Control and saw Justin Hudnall huddled in the corner. The rest is history.

JULIA: You’ve collaborated on some phenomenal co-writing projects lately: Giving The Finger, and My Damage. Co-writing seems like an incredibly daunting undertaking, mostly because I imagine you and your cowriter sitting together in someone’s dining room, typing and reading out loud together. I’m sure that’s not the case, but were both of those projects similar in how the work and the writing got done? That is, did you spend a lot of time on-location, getting your hands dirty? And is it still as lonely as typical writing can feel?

JIM: No, it’s not lonely at all, because you constantly have your subject in your ear. The backbone of the book comes from recorded interviews so the first step is getting the subject’s voice down. I’ve been writing for punk rock zines and interviewing bands for most of my adult life. Collaborating feels like an extension of that. I think that’s why so many journalists get into these kinds of projects. It’s a combination of access and know-how.

With Keith Morris, we spent a lot of time together because he is 100% committed to the project. We went to his old haunts in Hermosa Beach, Hollywood and Chinatown. He read each draft with laserlike editorial focus. We ate a lot of tacos and drank a lot of coffee together. To be honest, I’m going to be sad when it’s all over.

JULIA: What would be a dream co-writing assignment for you right now?

JIM: Raymond Pettibon. Not that he needs a collaborator. Raymond did the artwork for My Damage and my name is right there on the cover so I don’t think the universe is taking any more of my requests. 

JULIA: Back to loneliness. (Of course). In your novel Forest of Fortune, which is excellent, you follow the arc of three characters: Pemberton, Alice, and Lupita. And every single one of them seems so lonely. Even in the 24/7 world of a casino or a city after dark, you write very desolate characters. But they each have a confidant, a companion, and sometimes that does very little for their loneliness. In a bigger picture, isn’t that part of the appeal of a thing like gambling, of a thing like a bar: together, alone/alone, together? 

JIM: Casinos are very lonely places. People don’t strike up conversations with each other the way bar patrons do. It would be very hard to sit in a bar for three hours and not talk to anyone. In a casino? No problem. Although card games like blackjack and poker are very social, there’s nothing social about a slot machine.

JULIA: I loved your TNB Self-Interview. It’s equal parts depressing and encouraging. Your journey from starting out to publication truly took 20 years? And at what point in that was Forest of Fortune born? How did you keep at this? I understand that there’s some novelty to this interview, but the interviewee gives off a sense of true inevitability. Inevitable writing in the face of inevitable failure. That’s amazing.

JIM: Thank you. It did indeed take me 20 years to publish a novel, but I had many other successes and setbacks along the way (I won an NEA, published a short story collection, got fired by my agent, drank waaaaaay too much, etc.). Forest of Fortune was born after I’d completed my third novel and my agent invited me to explore other opportunities. I’d been working at an Indian casino for two and a half years and decided to finally write about it. I knocked out a draft in 2008 and in early 2009 I lost a friend to a drug overdose. That was a very potent reminder that our time here is finite. After I got sober and put my house in order, so to speak, I went back to work on the book. I’ve been turning and burning ever since.

JULIA: You and I recently discussed your [unpublished] collection of short stories [note: one of these stories appears in So Say We All’s dark ficton/horror anthology, Black Candies: See Through]. Tell me a little more about it. How is your short work — and this collection — different from your novel, Forest of Fortune

JIM: Cat Sitting in Hollywood is a linked collection of stories that draws on my adventures as an amateur cat sitter during the time I was commuting between San Diego and Los Angeles. After working in the casino for over five years, I was seeing LA through new eyes and writing these very odd stories. As much as it pains me to admit it, I owe a debt of gratitude to Ryan Bradford because his solicitations for Black Candies helped me see that these stories I was writing were all variations on the theme of cat sitting.

JULIA: Your reading series, Vermin on the Mount, is as vibrant as ever. I think one of the reasons I asked you to read at The Foundry is because I love hearing you read, but it seems the only chances I’ve had to see you read the last few years are in different cities, for AWP. Do you find that, as a sort of San Diego gatekeeper figure for other people’s work, helping get it out into the world, you are more inspired and empowered to create your own work? Or are there some consequences, like lower productivity, too much multi-tasking to write?

JIM: I wouldn’t say I’m a gatekeeper. Far from it. I think VAMP [So Say We All’s monthly curated literary storytelling showcase] does a far better job of showcasing San Diego’s literary talent. If anything, I play a small role in bringing writers from outside of San Diego to our city. Vermin on the Mount, which is about to celebrate its 12th anniversary, continues to inspire me. When that stops being true, I’ll stop doing it.

JULIA: I love that you always ask your Vermin readers this, and as a fledgling member of the well-t-shirted Legion of Vermin myself, I wonder if it’s all right for me to ask this of you: (to quote the great Jim Ruland) “What’s the most unusual experience you’ve ever had at a reading?”

JIM: A long time ago, a reader at Vermin on the Mount in Chinatown, through a combination of nerves, alcohol and white powder, was so wasted she could barely get through her reading. She thought every word that came out of her mouth was absolutely hysterical. At first I was horrified for the reader. Then I thought I was going to have to gong her off the stage. Finally, I just sat back and enjoyed the performance.

The strangest part was when the show was over she sat down next to me and asked me all kinds of questions about my family. The kind of conversation you have with a really thoughtful acquaintance. To this day I have no idea which part of her show was an act.

JULIA: And what are you working on next? What are you reading?

JIM: I’m working on a bunch of stuff, including a novel set in LA in the near future that I’ve been drafting in fits and starts since 2012 but is finally coming together, and a couple of collaborations that I can’t say too much about other than I’ve been reading nothing but commercial fiction this summer: thrillers, mysteries, spy stories and crime novels. I’m finally reading San Diego writer Don Winslow and wondering why I waited so long.

JULIA: Thanks so much, and we look forward to hearing you read on the 30th!

JIM: De nada!  


Come hear Jim read alongside Aaron Burch, Jean Guerrero, Juliet Escoria, Uzodinma Okehi, and Scott McClanahan at The Foundry, So Say We All’s new literary reading series. The Foundry #2 all goes down on Saturday, July 30th in Golden Hill.

The Foundry, No. 2
Saturday, July 30th at 7:00 p.m.
Tiger Eye Hair
(by the new Golden Hill Dark Horse Coffee)
811 25th Street, Suite 105 San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 798-3996
$5 (all ages)

Jim Ruland is the author of the award-winning novel Forest of Fortune and the short story collection Big Lonesome. He co-authored My Damage with Keith Morris, founding member of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and OFF!, which will be published by Da Capo on August 30, 2016. Jim is the books columnist for San Diego CityBeat and writes book reviews for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Jim’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The BelieverEsquire,GrantaHobart and Oxford American, and he runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its twelfth year.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here.

Juliet Escoria Reads at The Foundry No. 2

Today, we feature The Foundry reader Juliet Escoria, author of the story collection Black Cloud and the poetry collection Witch Hunt. Come meet Juliet at The Foundry No. 2 on Saturday, July 30th in San Diego.

juliaJuliet Escoria

I first met Juliet Escoria in early 2013, when she was reading a non-fiction story in a VAMP showcase about working at a foot fetish club. She’d been writing for So Say We All long before I stumbled upon my first show. Juliet said “I love SSWA because I met so many rad people through it,” and we are all definitely taking that personally. She grew up in San Diego before recently relocating to West Virginia with her husband, writer (and also a reader at this month’s Foundry) Scott McClanahan.

Juliet’s new book, Witch Hunt (2016, Lazy Fascist Press) is a gorgeous, funny, and disarming collection of poetry and stories. I flew through the book, nearly incapable of putting it down. I often felt sad while reading it, but I also felt implicated. I felt like I was part of it, like I was in on the joke, and it’s a super dark joke.

From the poem “David Foster Wallace’s Rock Idol Was Axl Rose,” in Witch Hunt:

But maybe Axl was aware and just didn’t care,
just wanted to see what he was fucking with.
Maybe he wanted Stephanie to be dead,
incapable of letting anyone but him
love her ever again.
Maybe he wanted her beautiful body
to rot away,
maybe he knew that we all look the same
when we’ve been dead for long enough.

[Excerpted from Witch Hunt]

Juliet writes unapologetically, in all genres, but she treats poetry as something both inevitable and curiously experimental. Here’s a brief interview Juliet did with The Kind’s Lindsay Maharry, in which they discuss Juliet’s “cool approach to poetry.” And here is a longer conversation at Hobart about the book and Juliet’s process and inspirations.

If you’d like to read some of her work, here is a story from her collection of short stories, Black Cloud (2014, Civil Coping Mechanism/Emily Books).

We can’t wait for you to hear Juliet read from Witch Hunt at The Foundry No.2, coming up Saturday, July 30th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. Juliet will read alongside Aaron Burch, Jean Guerrero, Scott McClanahan, Uzodinma Okehi, and Jim Ruland.

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Juliet Escoria is the author of the short story collection Black Cloud, which was originally published in 2014 by Civil Coping Mechanisms. In 2015, Emily Books published the ebook, Maro Verlag published a German translation, and Los Libros de la Mujer Rota published a Spanish translation. Witch Hunt, a collection of poems, was published by Lazy Fascist Press in May 2016. Escoria received a BA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Brooklyn College. Her writing can be found in places like VICE, The Fader, Dazed, Hobart, and more. She was born in Australia, raised in San Diego, and currently lives in West Virginia.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here.

by Julia Evans

Aaron Burch Reads at The Foundry No. 2: An Interview

When we found out that Aaron Burch would be touring along the west coast in support of his forthcoming book, a “Bookmarked” memoir structured around Stephen King’s The Body and Stand By Me, we thought: dibs.

The Foundry is our shiny new literary reading series, launched beautifully this spring with fantastic readings from Adrian Van Young, Lizz Huerta, Ryan Bradford, and Lauren Becker. Our second installment is this month, July 30th, at a fantastic and curious venue: Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. Aaron will be joined by many other greats: Jean Guerrero, Juliet Escoria, Jim Ruland, Uzodinma Okehi, and Scott McClanahan.

So Say We All’s production director (and Foundry host) Julia Dixon Evans had a chance to email back and forth with Aaron recently. We discuss memoir, Stand By Me, and “the most important things,” to name a few. Enjoy Aaron’s answers (we did).

Stand-By-Me-DI


JULIA DIXON EVANS: I’ve seen Stand By Me countless times, though not in years, and I have never read The Body. I think, going into it, I felt unqualified as a reader for that reason, but that feeling vanished on the first page. I love the way the movie and the book have non-warring real estate in your memoir. They do not compete for superiority, and neither feels more literary, more intellectual than the other. Have you always felt that way? Or, did you have some sort of evolution? Did you once think: “I should like the book better than the movie, because I’m a professor or whatever,” and then finally one day come around to recognizing that both book and movie are great?

AARON BURCH: I like the way you put that. That they have non-warring real-estate, and I’m glad any feelings of being unqualified vanished.

A couple things: Bookmarked was pitched to me as kind of like a “33-1/3, but for books.” I’m familiar with the series, though more as concept; I haven’t actually read very many. I think I’ve read all of the Boss Fight Books series though, itself a kind of “like 33-1/3, but for video games.” That said, of the first 12 books in that series, I think I’ve only played two of the games. What I learned from reading them was that whether or not I’d played the game had a small impact on my reading experience, via the pleasure of the familiar, but it was pretty minimal. Whenever a book got bogged down in the details of the game, either I’d played the game and those details felt only like they were telling me something I already knew, or I hadn’t played the game and the details felt confusing and distancing.

That gets at the first half of your question, I hope. The idea of being familiar or degree of qualification. As far as book v. movie… I kind of get at this in the book, I think, but I really love both. I don’t think I ever had any thoughts that I should prefer one or the other. Like many (I think?) I saw the movie first, and came to the novella through that, and though I read the novella at some point growing up, unlike the movie, I never revisited and reread. Until I added it to a syllabus, without rereading it first, so if anything there was something of a sigh of relief when the story held up in the classroom and gave us enough to talk about. I just think each is really strong on its own merits, though part of what I love about each is how similar they are, so the pleasure in one is often echoed in what I love about the other.

JULIA: [Mutual friend] Ryan Bradford and I both joked that we felt like we’d gone through one of your classes as we read the book. (Well, technically, I’m 99% sure I wrote it in the margins and then he read my review copy, so I like to think that I subliminally gave him that idea). I felt like I not only understood The Body / Stand By Me on an academic level, but I felt like I understood writing. It made me want to write. As an academic, did your teaching change over the year you wrote this book? How will you tackle this story in the future?

AARON: I think maybe I won’t teach the book again, actually. Part of my approach to teaching is encouraging my students to try to figure something out. As I say in the book, to ask interesting questions, and then struggle for interesting answers. And I often find myself in the process of discovery right alongside them. I don’t think I “figured out” The Body while writing this book, but now that the book is written and done, it does feel like maybe I’d be a little less open to discovery, which feels like it would be a hinderance in the classroom.

I think my understanding of my teaching changed more than my actual teaching. Like, I don’t think I would have said the above paragraph in quite that way before working on this book.

JULIA: I was eager to hear about friendship in this book. I expected it. I think, though, in the end, that we didn’t so much learn about your “four,” just the fact that you’ve always had that as your touchstone. I think the book gives us your ideas of friendship rather than the grit and the intimacy of your actual friendships. Did you feel guarded about that? Or do you feel on some level, that the idea of friendships — and the availability of them — are maybe the biggest source of comfort in the friendship anyway? That is, the details aren’t the thing here?

AARON: Here’s a theory I came up with after reading through these questions, which means I haven’t really road-tested it yet or anything, so I’m not sure how it’s going to come across. I think it’ll start self-deprecating and turn into a humblebrag, and it also might be wrong, but here goes…

I think most books (all? all that are good?) are “failures” in two ways:

One being that, unless you have an incredible ego about your own writing and/or are unimaginative in ambition, they feel not quite as good as what you’d envisioned it to be. The second is a failure of expectation, not so much expectation of quality but that it isn’t quite about what you thought it would be. (That isn’t really a “failure,” but I’m calling it one for sake of theory.)

Both of these are because what’s on the page is just never quite what was in your mind. Ira Glass called that first way “The Gap“; it’s often at the heart of writer’s block, etc. Embracing that gap is kinda the only way you’ll ever finish anything. And then, embracing that second “failure,” is what makes most good writing good, I think. Letting something become what it wants to be, instead of what you think it should be, or want it to be, or had set out for it to be, or whatever.

Which is a long, kinda bullshitty way of saying: half the reason I chose The Body to write about was because I wanted to write about (male) friendship. Maybe I was too guarded to do so, or maybe I just didn’t have as much to say about friendship as I thought I did, but at some point the book ended up being about teaching and marriage and narrative–how and why we tell the stories that we do–and so I tried to embrace those ideas, even though they weren’t what I’d set out to do.

JULIA: So many of my questions for you are whether you knew something all along or developed the idea as you examined the story to write this book. Gordie says: “The most important things are the hardest things to say,” and I think every time that came up, I read it through my hands, cringing a little bit, hoping you wouldn’t apply it to marriage. But you did, because: of course. Because that’s the trouble, isn’t it? And I wonder: Did you know this all along? Every read of The Body, every watch of the movie, every class you taught this to, did you know that this is a profound concept for friendships, for parents, for life, but the most difficult and most worth-it relationship you’ll ever want to say the hard things for is a marriage? Or was that a connection you made in writing your book?

AARON: Totally while writing the book. Almost every idea in the book was developed while actually writing the book. That sentence isn’t in the movie, and it had actually never stuck out with me when reading and teaching the novella, until I started working on this book. I just kept coming back to it, and at some point was like, shit, I guess that is how and why this book is gonna become about marriage…

JULIA: I feel like this is the tricky part of what I want to ask you, because it’s always the tricky part of things I want to talk about, and this part of the book was both beautiful but horrifying in its resonance with me. The way you write candidly about your marriage — and I use the word candid in a non-lip-service sort of way: You not only speak openly and kinda shrug-y about the difficulties of marriage, but you seem like you actually just feel open and shrug-y about it. I got such a strong sense of waiting as I read this. I think of early re-watches I’ve done of Stand By Me, and how you know the action is mere minutes away, so why are they just sitting there doing nothing at the dump? Get on with it. But the waiting is magical in really quiet ways. I know that waiting out the dark parts of a marriage is anything but magical, but the truth is: every marriage has dark parts, and even though that’s a unifying thing, those dark parts are different for everyone. And the end product of this in your book is that we are left with a suspended state. A marriage in flux, in suspension. And I wonder: as you finished the book, were you tempted to go back and either clue us in or clean it up? Show us what was resolved, the way Gordie does at the end of the movie and the book?

AARON: I think “open and shrug-y” is actually probably a pretty apt way of describing me in general. I started to answer a lot of questions not actually asked here, but instead will just say, no, I wasn’t ever really tempted to give that aspect of the book more resolution. I’m not sure why not but the lack of resolution always felt right. My question, a little more, became trying to pull that off, to end the book while still leaving some aspects of it in flux.

JULIA: Shortly before I started reading your book, writer Wendy C. Ortiz tweeted this: “I like when I’m familiar with a writer’s spoken voice & I like it & then read their whole book hearing it narrated in their voice.” And I thought about this tweet often as I read. I heard this entire book in your voice, which made it amazing. It felt like a friend. And I think what is masterful about the book is that I think it would feel like this regardless — your style is very conversational, very informal, even while dropping some major concepts. You have a very untidy and approachable style. You write a lot about not writing much non-fiction, but I’m curious if you studied it before diving in. If this was a calculated move: writing in a spoken, casual style?

AARON: Thanks! That’s an incredibly kind sentiment. I wouldn’t say it was calculated but… purposeful, maybe?

I think all good writing probably has its own specific rhythms and timing, and I think my own writing is usually strongest when it feels most conversational. I’m not sure how I found or realized that, but I’ve done a good number of readings and tours over the years, often with really great readers, and I think if and when I hold my own it is via a more informal, casual tone. I think when it’s felt both most natural and strongest or best or whatever is maybe when it feels most like I’m just telling a story.

As far as study or calculation… I didn’t “study” any nonfiction for this book, but I at times teach my Intro English classes as a kind of creative nonfiction class, despite having never really written creative nonfiction, and I ended up finding my own teaching to be incredibly self-instructive, in a way that I hadn’t realized it ever would be at the time. My second piece of “study” was probably reading so many of the Boss Fight Books. Each book took its own tactic at being “about” the game it was about and the ones that affected me the most were the ones that most braided being about the game and about the author. It’s funny, I’ve glanced at those books’ Goodreads pages and everyone (of course) has totally different opinions–some people aren’t really fans of the books that go personal, some people most loved the books in the series that I just didn’t. I reminded myself of that while working on this. I’d have moments of, “Ugh, nobody cares about you,” or “Oh, no, what if people just want to read more about Stand By Me,” but I’d remind myself of my own tastes, I’d remind myself that I was trying to write the book that I myself would most want to read.

JULIA: Early in your book, you talk about the origin story of Hobart, the literary journal you founded 15 years ago. Hobart is possibly my top “go-to” in the literary world. It’s the thing I recommend to the most people, either readers or writers. Sure, you’re boundary-pushing in many ways, but it’s still a very literary and very respected thing. But it had such a simple start. It’s so earnest, in a way, that you just started a website with a cool name. That you didn’t even understand that you were making a literary magazine when you first made it. You just knew what you liked. In a way, it sounds similar to your writing process for Bookmarked: The Body: That you wanted to write the kind of book you’d read. What’s your favorite piece you’ve published in the last 15 years? Maybe asking for a favorite is unfair, but what’s the first piece that comes to mind when I asked that? The most Hobart-y?

And can you sort of track your own tastes by looking at the kind of work you’ve published over the years? I suppose that would be a really cool look at the changing lit scene of the last decade and a half.

AARON: Again, Julia: thanks. That’s a very kind way of putting it.

[Wife and partner] Elizabeth gives me shit sometimes, for not really having goals; or, more specifically, I think she gives me shit for being afraid to say I have goals, or afraid to name them specifically. Which is fair enough. I’m more ambitious than I typically want to admit, which I think comes back to the “shrug-y”ness we talked about, my general “aw shucks”-y attitude. But, mostly, I want to write things that I would be most stoked to read, as a reader; and with Hobart, I mostly want to put out a journal that I’d want to read, and I don’t really read many journals.

Anyway. Again, that wasn’t quite your question. Nothing jumps to mind as a favorite. The more I think about it, the more Mike Meginnis’s “Navigators” stands out, in part cause I really love that story, in part cause it was in Best American Short Stories, so it’s easy to point to the anthologized thing as something that stands out. Also, I wasn’t only stoked for Mike to be in BASS, or for Hobart, but I thought it was extra rad just to see a story about video games get so recognized. I think that speaks to Hobart: literary and quality, all that, but also fun, a little more goofy or pop culture-y, or just generally not taking ourselves that seriously.

Speaking of, Roxane Gay’s “North Country” was in that same issue and was also in that year’s BASS. And as much as I loved the story at the time, I’ve taught it a number of times since, and I love it more each time I get to discuss it with a classroom of students, which I guess brings us back to The Body.

JULIA: Thank you so much, Aaron. We look forward to having you in town! And, of course, hearing you read from The Body: Bookmarked at The Foundry reading series on July 30th. It’s gonna be a great night of readings and I can’t wait to pour you a drink!


Come hear Aaron read at The Foundry No. 2, our literary reading series, Saturday, July 30th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. For more details and to invite your Stand By Me-loving friends: https://www.facebook.com/events/1762857903955708/


foundry2


Aaron Burch is the author of Stephen King’s The Body: Bookmarked, a memoir about the King novella and Stand By Me. He is also the author of the short story collection, Backswing, and is the Founding Editor of the literary journal Hobart. Read an excerpt of The Body: Bookmarked here.

high school id(Aaron, a couple of months ago)


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here.


The Foundry #2 is Saturday July 30th

Our second installment of The Foundry, So Say We All’s brand new literary reading series, is coming Saturday, July 30th.

foundry2

We are really, insanely excited about (a) this line-up (b) the rad scooped out Texaco garage that is Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill, and (c) you coming to see it all.

More details about our readers soon, but for now, here’s a quick teaser. You should ask us in person how much we love these writers, and we will likely get overly excited and gush and hold you by the shoulders and read our favorite lines of their writing and you might be a bit embarrassed for us. But until then here’s some formal bios:

Aaron Burch is the author Stephen King’s The Body: Bookmarked, a memoir about the King novella and Stand By Me. He is also the author of the short story collection, Backswing, and is the Founding Editor of the literary journal Hobart.

Juliet Escoria is the author of the short story collection Black Cloud, which was originally published in 2014 by Civil Coping Mechanisms. In 2015, Emily Books published the ebook, Maro Verlag published a German translation, and Los Libros de la Mujer Rota published a Spanish translation. Witch Hunt, a collection of poems, was published by Lazy Fascist Press in May 2016. Escoria received a BA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Brooklyn College. Her writing can be found in places like VICE, The Fader, Dazed, Hobart, and more. She was born in Australia, raised in San Diego, and currently lives in West Virginia.

Jean Guerrero is the 2016 recipient of the PEN/FUSION Emerging Writers award for her manuscript Crux, a cross-border memoir about her quest to understand her Mexican father, whom she grew up believing was schizophrenic. She is the Fronteras reporter at KPBS, San Diego’s NPR and PBS affiliate, where she covers immigration and other border issues. Previously, she was a correspondent in Mexico City for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, trekking through mountains with coffee smugglers, opium poppy producers and maize farmers. More recently, she ventured into Tijuana’s sewers to expose the plight of deported migrants. She holds a master’s in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, as well as a University of Southern California bachelor’s in journalism and minor in neuroscience. She is half Mexican, half Puerto Rican.

Scott McClanahan wrote The Incantations of Daniel Johnston and The Sarah Book. He lives in West Virginia.

Uzodinma Okehi spent 2 years handing out zines on the subway. Wasn’t as fun as he thought. His work has appeared in PankHobartBartleby Snopes, also many, many places, no doubt, you’ve never heard of. He has an MFA in writing from New York University. He lives in Brooklyn. His son is 8 yrs old, smiles a lot, (too much?), and will absolutely, cross you over and drain a jumper in your face.

Jim Ruland is the author of the award-winning novel Forest of Fortune and the short story collection Big Lonesome. He co-authored My Damage with Keith Morris, founding member of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and OFF!, which will be published by Da Capo on August 30, 2016. Jim is the books columnist for San Diego CityBeat and writes book reviews for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Jim’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The BelieverEsquireGrantaHobart and Oxford American, and he runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its twelfth year.

About the venue: TIGER EYE HAIR is a cut/color/barbering lounge situated in an architecturally preserved Texaco gas station in Golden Hill.

There will be food for sale, and maybe a little something to whet your thirst. Because these readers are gonna be fiery hot.

The Foundry #2: A Literary Reading Series
Saturday, July 30th
7:30 PM
Tiger Eye Hair
(behind the Golden Hill Dark Horse Coffee)
811 25th Street, Suite 105 San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 798-3996
http://www.sosayweallonline.com
$5 (all ages)

http://www.sosayweallonline.com/introducing-the-foundry-a-literary-reading-series/

The Best Things We Read in 2015

We asked some of our very special friends and worker bees what their favorite story was this year, whether it be a book, a short story, a piece of journalism, a podcast, an email from their mom, anything. 2015 was a year of big stories. Please, if you can, support us in our year-end fundraiser and let’s tell some great stories together in 2016. And as we say farewell/good riddance to 2015, take a look at what our friends and staff came up with for their picks for the year. We love them and we love what they love:


JUSTIN HUDNALL
(So Say We All’s Executive Director)
I discover and fawn over a load of artists in the course of a year. Good work seems like it’s being made from all corners of the creative spectrum on a near daily basis. Even television is good these days! But it’s the rare, notable occasion when I discover art that feels important, and when I do, it often has something to do with how it was made. That’s what it was like to be introduced to Scott Carrier this year, specifically his work in radio and podcasting. Imagine if Jack Kerouac was a Peabody-award winning journalist who railed at NPR for boiling the sound and style of their contributors into milquetoast homogeneity, and empowered normal people to talk about their lives and the issues that effect them in their own words. His newest work, ‘Home of the Brave”, can be found at homebrave.com and wherever fine podcasting is served.

–Justin Hudnall

LIZZ HUERTA
​I read a lot and listen to a ridiculous amount of audiobooks so I’m struggling trying to figure out what moved me. The most recent thing that made me bawl was the middle grade novel “The Thing About Jellyfish,” by Ali Benjamin,  about a 12 year old girl whose former bestie dies in a drowning accident [editor’s note: not much of a spoiler]. The protagonist is trying to make sense of her friend’s death, the unraveling of their once-close friendship and adolescence. What made me ugly cry was my own inner 12 year old, nodding along and getting that ice-blood feeling of alienation. I was right there with the protagonist, wondering of the cool girls were laughing at me, not knowing the socially acceptable conversations and wardrobe choices, wanting to get the fuck out. To read a story that reminds you of a part of yourself you’d forgotten is pretty damn cool.

I also received an extraordinary email from the current lover of a former lover of mine, who google stalked me, found my writing and sent me an email telling me my writing had broken something open in her. We had a brief exchange. It was weird. And actually very cool. When I was deciding whether or not to respond to the email, I had to sit and consider the two faces I was making up in my head; was she a stalker, or the woman who took a risk to send a really vulnerable email? I chose the latter. I’ve made some brave-ish, strange choices before and it makes a world of difference when someone steps into your risk with you and says yes.
–Lizz Huerta 

RYAN BRADFORD
My favorite thing I read in 2015 was The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’d seen the movie, which I thought was okay, but kept hearing from friends about how extraordinary the book was. They were right. It’s a romance that doesn’t shy away from creepy obsession and the consequences of deifying the targets of our affection. The story is told from a collective narrator, which is a literary feat unto itself. I haven’t been as inspired by a piece of writing than this.
–Ryan Bradford

It’s a classic Cinderella story, but replace the girl with four overweight, awkward, blue-collar guys from Chicago and the prince’s ball with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Scraping by all year to live out their fantasy of fine dining, they arrive, homely and humble, to the snide regard of the wealthy patrons. And whose eye do they catch but the prince himself: the corpulent, unpredictable, and frankly genius chef, Charlie Trotter. Charlie remains a constant throughout their lives, giving motivation in the good times and the bad, bound together by a love of great food. It’s brilliantly written with a lot of passion, but more than that, it’s brilliant writing about food, an oft-ignored subject (besides in Lucky Peach, of course) in a lot of “literary” prose. It’s hard to imagine why – food is a universal constant for all of us, and like death and taxes, can be a thing that can bind us all together, particularly when divisiveness is so en vogue.

CLOSE SECOND – “Robert Kloss: The TNB Self-Interview” , because it gives an unsettling peek into the darkness within.

–Matt Lewis


KINSEE MORLAN
I’m going with the first thing that popped into my head: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/magazine/the-displaced-hana.html?_r=0

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately. I have kids and I want to make sure I pack them full of feelings for other peoples’ feelings.
Technology connects, but also disconnects us from other humans and the world around us. My children, for example, are going to grow up in a world with virtual reality. The New York Times has already rolled out virtual reality stories that, in theory, have the possibility and promise of making readers connect and relate to content on a much deeper level.
I hope that’s the case, but this NYT story I picked about a young Syrian refugee girl reminded me that really well written and beautifully photographed “old-school” print or online stories can be incredibly powerful and moving on their own. Reading this story made the Syrian refugee crisis so real and seemingly close. It’s hard to read it without wanting to do something to help. It inspires a great deal of empathy by describing another person’s reality so carefully.
I hope stories like this don’t use virtual reality as a crutch in the future. A powerful narrative is all you need.
Oh, and this podcast about its host doing acid at work was a close second: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/44-shine-on-you-crazy-goldman/
-Kinsee Morlan

AMY WALLEN
That’s easy. I can’t tell you what my favorite novel is because I’m a juror for the LA Times book prize and that’s top secret, but I can tell you the most special book I encountered that included both art and prose.  AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE. It’s a collaboration with “Salmagundi” the literary magazine and the Tang Art Museum. The art chosen to go with each piece of writing is meant to provoke and surprise.

–Amy Wallen

NUVIA RULAND
(Science teacher at High Tech High Chula Vista and one of the leaders of the recent storytelling and writing collaboration between HTHCV and SSWA)

I’m one of a million nerds who listens to NPR while driving to work. On 11/23/15 I turned up the volume to listen to a piece on recommended podcasts and heard writer Domingo Martinez recommend the podcast CryBabies. He was struck by comedian Guy Branum’s tear-jerk reaction to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a song I belted out several times as a teen with classmates on the back of the school bus and continue to join in when my students burst into song during project work time. This piece made me think of the tough relationship I had with my mom and how powerful I used to feel singing that song as a teenager.
-Nuvia Ruland


GILL SOTU
Genuine moments are hard to find on the Internet.  Or rather, there is so much dark noise, when light shines it can almost be unrecognizable.  When an African American rapper named Killer Mike steps to a podium and eloquently, passionately, and whole heartedly endorses an old white Jewish man for president, something happy tickled the inside of my chest. I wasn’t even a huge fan of either before I saw this clip. However,  anytime I see more evidence that despite physical and economical differences, a true commitment to the greater good can allow us to coexist, well then I know it was a good day.  So because of that I am thankful, very thankful for this moment.

Another one: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Is it cliche to like Sir Stephen King? (In my head he is knighted). Sometimes when someone asks me who are some of my favorite authors are and Mr. King comes to mind, I can already see people rolling their eyes thinking I went for the easy answer.  But the man can write. Period. I have no problem naming him the Michael Jackson of literature, he just comes out with hit after hit.  In whatever genre you wish.  And guess what Mr. King…detective stories are my jam. Thank you sir, thank you…
–Gill Sotu


JESSICA HILT
As a writer, I often read other writers and figure out what I can steal from them to add to my own writing. Leena Krohn is a Finnish writer that mixes detail with a philosophical take on the natural world. Her writing is this grotesque and wonderful level of body horror that makes us keenly aware of human mortality but what I want to steal from her writing is that she also combines this with the environment (the bugs, the plants, the soil) that makes me realize the ecosystem of which we’re all part. http://electricliterature.com/lucilia-illustris-by-leena-krohn-recommended-by-jeff-vandermeer/

Right now you can also buy her collected fiction at Story Bundle (pay what you can).
–Jessica Hilt

Sean Bonney
“Corpus Hermeticum: On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres.”

Dressed in a porkpie hat, a shabby coat and with ACAB tattooed on his knuckles, I knew I would like Sean Bonney right away. The English poet, who now lives in Berlin, read at the Vermin on the Mount/VLAK collaboration held in the basement of Power Lunches Arts Café in Hackney. Bonney read a piece called “Corpus Hermeticum: On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres.” It’s an electric piece of writing that I haven’t stopped thinking about. The piece begins in language that is borderline apocalyptic—cryptic with a bit of humor—before delving into incidents of state-sponsored violence in the city of London from the building of the debtor’s prison Newgate in 1188 to Robert Peel who created and organized the modern British police.

Bonney delivery was angry and deliberate, punctuated with reminders that “This really happened.” The poem culminates in an incredible rant against police oppression that hasn’t left me since I heard it eight months ago:

don’t say “tall skinny latté” say fuck the police, for
“the earth’s gravitational pull” say fuck the police, for
“make it new” say fuck the police
                                                       don’t say “spare change”
say fuck the police, don’t say “happy new year” say fuck the police
perhaps say “rewrite the calendar” but after that, immediately
after that say fuck the police

Bonney’s poem serves as both a reminder and a wake-up call. The problems we’re having here with police aggression in the United States aren’t due to a bad cop in Cleveland or New York or a few bad cops in Ferguson or Baltimore but with our institutions that prey on society’s weakest and most vulnerable members: the poor, the uneducated, the unsheltered. And if you don’t share the same class, skin color, or belief system as the people in power, you’re fucked. This story, in all of its many shapes—class warfare, gender violence, racial injustice, religious intolerance—is the story of 2015 and one we cannot ignore in 2016 and going forward.

You can read the poem here or listen to him perform the piece (highly recommended). Bonney’s new book Letters Against the Firmament is available here.
–Jim Ruland


JULIA EVANS
(So Say We All’s Program Coordinator)
While I would like to say that my favorite book this year was Black Candies, it was published by SSWA and edited by one of my best friends which feels like total nepotism. So I’m going to cheat by mentioning it anyway before my official answer, which is: The thing that hit me below the belt the hardest this year was this piece by Elizabeth Ellen on Hobart: A REVIEW OF BY THE SEA, OR, HOW TO BE AN ARTIST AND FEMALE, I.E. HOW TO BE UNLIKABLE, OR, HOW TO (NOT) PANDER

At first you think it might be a review of By The Sea, an Angelina Jolie movie you haven’t seen, and then you think it’s a review of Angelina As A Person, but before you know it you realize the story is about you, it’s about your own writing, your own art, and your own marriage, it’s about your own experience as a woman trying to make art, your own unlikableness, and you’ve never even cared about Angelina Jolie before anyway. It’s a beautiful, fractured read, vulnerable and raw, and it comes on the heels of a year that was very difficult — and very transformative — for women in art. In particular, for women in writing. Also the title is killer.
–Julia Evans

We thank you for reading, we hope you enjoy our picks for 2015, and we’d love to hear from you in 2016. Until then, please consider donating to our year-end fundraising drive. It takes a village, and we love it when you pop in for a cup of tea. Let’s make some art together.