Tag Archives: Vermin On The Mount

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.

foundry2

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.


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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.

Vermin On The Mount

Coming to San Diego’s East Village this Saturday is Vermin On The Mount, a series of writers telling stories that was based in L.A. starting in 2004.  Lucky for us, Vermin has decided to take a trip down south to celebrate it’s sixth year on the planet.  The evening will consist of a slew of “irreverent readings” from a variety of scribes, including So Say We All communications director Jess Jollett and hosted by featured SSWA artist and Vermin founder Jim Ruland.

According to Vermin On The Mount, the night will consist of…

“…four writers from across the country, touring together in a van out of Tucson, Arizona, will perform alongside four of San Diego’s finest writers. Vermin on the Mount represents a fantastic opportunity for San Diegans to see an eclectic showcase of emerging literary stars and exceptional local talent.”

The night’s performances include works by the following writers and artists:

  • AARON BURCH
  • LISA FUGARD
  • AMELIA GRAY
  • LINDSAY HUNTER
  • JESS JOLLETT
  • ENRIQUE LIMÓN
  • ADAM NOVY
  • ANDREW ROE

Come out and support a great night of storytelling in San Diego with some of SSWA’s favorite raconteurs.

Also, get more information about San Diego storytelling, Vermin On The Mount, and So Say We All’s performers at:
Vermin’s Blog
Sushi Arts & Performance Space
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