You May Contribute A Verse

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June 30, 2020  

Claire Rudy Foster, Writer, Shine of the Ever

Our guest this episode is author, activist, and awesome advocate Claire Rudy Foster.

They have a short story collection that came out in November 2019, titled Shine of the Ever, based in grunge-era Portland, Oregon. It’s a radical, joy-filled book of linked vignettes, characters intertwining in intimate ways, hurtling toward evolution, with no sad endings. It was named by O: The Oprah Magazine as one of the best LGBTQ books of 2019.

Foster’s also a radically transparent and joy-filled freelance author, with pieces appearing all over the place: the Washington Post, New York Times, McSweeney’s – the list goes on.

I became aware of Foster’s very personal voice and encouraging perspective for the first time in late 2017 and early 2018, as emotions… began to run a bit higher for many folks. Foster’s quite active on social media, and I have been fortunate to witness their evolution as a writer and of their identity as a queer, nonbinary trans person.

Foster is on social media as @crf_pdx – buy their book and learn more at clairerudyfoster.com.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

May 23, 2020  

Ausma Zehanat Khan, Author, Khorasan Archives

Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of two series that we talk about in our conversation today. She’s got an incredibly storied and qualified history as a former professor and current Ph.D in International Human Rights. Her debut, the first in her mystery series starring Toronto detectives Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak, was released in 2015 and deals with the aftermath of the 1995 Bosnian Srebrenica massacre as the central investigation, with a lot more to it that we’ll get into during our chat.

Khan also has a fantasy series wrapping up this year. It’s a quartet of novels, originally planned at three but expanded in the style of George RR Martin, set in a fantastical version of the Muslim world. The Khorasan archives, incredibly, are an epic fantasy series that have come out one per year, starting with 2017’s Bloodprint and concluding with this year’s Bladebone. The books, starring Arian, Sinnia, and Daniyar, on a quest to right wrongs, depict an all too familiarly adjacent anti-intellectual setting, with the heroes trying to preserve knowledge and heritage in the face of ignorance.

Speaking of things concluding. We talked, appropriately, on the eve of Ramadan’s end, in a unique year where our collective situation is ripe for month-long reflection, but at least in my case really challenging when it comes to fasting, if the snacks we keep in the house are any indication.

This conversation is one that’s been a long time coming, and I’m really happy to have had a chance to do this chat.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

May 4, 2020  

Carlin Trammel, Podcaster, Nerd Lunch

Carlin Trammel and I have been planning on having a chat about his long running podcast, Nerd Lunch, put together by both carlin as well as his two buddies, Jeeg and Pax, for many moons now  

Nine years this podcast has run, and the occasion of my conversation with Carlin – or CT as he’s known on the podcast – was the end of that podcast.

We talk a lot in our conversation about transition, finality, and the passion it takes to keep something going so consistently for so long. By comparison, I made the first season of verse show run from April to September, then took a break for as long as the show ran.

Much love and many props to Pax, Jeeg, and CT, who have weathered a lot of changes to their personal life, as well as to how the internet works, over those nine years.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

September 12, 2019  

Joyce Wan, Author-Illustrator, Dream Big

Children’s board books seem simple, right? In a sense they are. A handful of page turns to make sure you don’t lose the smallest of attention spans from the smallest among us. Simple illustrations and not a lot of words so kids can grasp broad concepts and explore pictures at a pace that suits them.

If you’re not in the children’s publishing (#kidlit) world, you might also think a discussion related to books aimed at an audience of babies might not interest you.

Joyce Wan is here to tell you that’s absolutely not the case. Our conversation today focuses on her path from architecture student through her entrepreneurship and ownership of her greeting card company and on to children’s book authorship and illustration.

Joyce has, at time of recording, two dozen children’s books to her name. Over the course of her ten-year career in publishing, she’s picked up a lot of universal advice to share not just within this industry, but in any industry whatsoever. She’s learned that you have to find your strengths and your passion and play to them while remaining flexible and adaptable.

She’s learned how to be a creative person while managing herself with a business mindset, talking about those strengths and what sets her apart, not being afraid to be her own champion.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

September 6, 2019  

Jeff Miller, Singer-Songwriter, Looping Guitarist

Jeff Miller and I go way back – back to the days before cell phones, when MTV played music videos, before the Matrix, before YouTube and the internet as we know them were invented. Back in OUR day, all we had were trumpets and trombones and marching band trips. And we liked them!

The best way I can introduce you to Jeff Miller and his work is, I think, through the lens of how I re-introduced myself to him over the years as lots of high school friends do, by liking precisely one facebook photo of the other person per year, just enough for it to not be creepy.

I’ve seen for the better part of the past two decades what Jeff is as a singer-songwriter – touring, putting in the work, playing for intimate crowds, releasing albums steadily. What I didn’t understand before our conversation I do now, or at least I think I do a bit better.

Jeff is a multi-instrumentalist primarily playing looping guitar, which will make more sense as a concept once you’ve listened to our chat. I am an unbiased journalist when I say he’s quite good at what he does. He’s Nashville-based and hits the road seasonally across the eastern US as he books, tours, plays, and loops.

What follows is a refreshing and super fun conversation – yes – between two old high school buddies who are playing catch up after decades, but it’s a lot more than that. Jeff Miller has really put in the work and through a lot of exploration and tenacity has found a version of success that’s on his terms, by his own hand, grown-up workable, and allows him to keep producing the art he’s passionate about.

Stay tuned at the end of the episode for a sample of Jeff’s music as we outro to a song from Jeff’s 2016 album Loops, titled Cinquantuno.

I got a lot of encouragement and wisdom from this conversation and am glad to share Jeff Miller’s verse.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

August 15, 2019  

Paige Walden-Johnson, Dancer and Founder, CommUNITY Arts St. Louis

Paige Walden-Johnson is a dancer, an Ohio native who has made St. Louis her home. She’s the founder and director of the local St. Louis arts, education, violence remediation, and community unification nonprofit appropriately titled CommUNITY Arts St. Louis. The third annual CommUNITY Arts Festival and Concert are happening on September 7th and 8th, 2019!

As we enter a discussion of what CommUNITY is and what Paige and her team are hoping to do with the festival, some level-setting and history is necessary. We start our chat talking about a woman named Rain Stippec. Rain is a St. Louis dancer and was the victim of a random act of gun violence in February of 2017. She was shot eight times.

Rain has since made a great recovery and I don’t want to spoil any of the conversation, but I think I need to in order to give context to who and what Paige and I talk about. The CommUNITY Arts Festival was set up to support Rain in her recovery in the festival’s first year, occurring over two weekends in late Summer 2017. The planning for this festival started before Rain had even become conscious.

The story Paige has to tell about the evolution of the St. Louis arts community’s support for Rain’s recovery is one of love and dedication, but it’s also about recognizing opportunity when it presents itself. There are lessons in there too about being open to change, to evolve as a situation evolves.

Since the success of the first festival, the CommUNITY Arts infrastructure has grown into something bigger. The coming festival is in its third year in 2019 and looks quite different. Under the roof of St. Louis’s Intersect Arts Center, there are local art performances, but there are also arts workshops, the Midwest premiere of a documentary on endemic violence called The Sweetest Land, and a Voices Against Violence panel discussion, again intended to connect CommUNITY and its partner resources to the community it seeks to serve.

CommUNITY Arts St. Louis focuses on proper communication, education, and healing through the arts – the effort came from tragedy and flourished into a community celebration.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

August 9, 2019  

MiniVerse 2: A Moment of Silence

Bear witness to the dead, to those who may no longer contribute a verse. Today's episode is an essay meditating on the mass shootings - the terrorist attacks - that occurred in El Paso and Dayton on August 3.

The victims of these attacks, and all like them whose lives are cut short, deserve for us to hear their names and pause to reflect how fortunate we are to have the chance to keep creating, keep changing the world.

Why write a novel or make a movie or make music? Why try to advance equality for all, or make some small change to what seems like a doomed environment? Why even try to keep one bullet from taking an innocent life? Surely we can’t change things.

Surely we can’t change things if we don’t try.

I do find it helpful to look for the good in the world. Small things. Look for the helpers, as Fred Rogers tells us. Not just the helpers, but any place where you can find light shining on the world or shine some light in your own way.

In trying, crying, stressful, messy times, look to the helpers in whatever ways you can. Be a helper in whatever ways you can.  However you may, keep creating and keep contributing your verse.

August 1, 2019  

Lindsay Amer, Creator, Speaker, Activist, ‘Queer Kid Stuff’

Lindsay Amer is someone we all should be aware of. Their TED talk, launched in June 2019, surpassed one million views within just a few weeks. This seven-minute video, which you should watch or listen to as soon as you can, begins with Lindsay singing and playing the theme song to their four-season YouTube video series called Queer Kids Stuff and ends with a very real entreaty for better LGBTQ+ representation in media and better conversations with kids, to arm them with a better understanding of the world outside the mainly heterosexual-presenting and cis, or normal, gender environment that makes up most media consumed by both kids and adults.

The Queer Kid Stuff video series is very different from the Minecraft streams and political vitriol that makes up a lot of what uncurated YouTube has become. It’s fresh, bright, friendly, upbeat, welcoming, entertaining, and educational. All done with Lindsay, the engaging host, and their co-host, a voiced-over teddy bear, behind a desk covered in letter blocks that spell out words like ‘Intersex.’

Queer Kid Stuff is uncomfortable in a heteronormative world, and that’s the point. Lindsay Amer’s professional theatric and media life has centered around pushing the bleeding-edge boundary of what we’re okay with, backed by a very real urgency: to reach kids who may be struggling now with the sorts of topics they cover in their videos.

Success is weird. What is it about creation and creativity that draws us, pulls at our souls to do something outside ourselves? It’s a wrongness with the world, a missing piece or an injustice or something about yourself that needs to grow and fill the space inside. And what happens when you grow and finish and do and become isn’t always painless and is instead frequently quite painful and difficult.

The simple act of creating anything new in the world is difficult enough, let alone putting into that creation a passion informed by pain and struggle, knowing that hateful, bigoted headwinds are coming and won’t let up for a minute. Still. Lindsay has kept it up for four years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Please enjoy as we explore Lindsay Amer’s verse!

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

July 25, 2019  

Samantha Berger Pt 2, Children’s Book Author, TV Writer

My guest this week needs no introduction. That’s partly because she is a force of nature, a wonderful presence, an engaging encourager, and a real pleasure to talk to, but it’s also because I introduced her last week in part 1 of our conversation!

If you haven’t already, do go back to last week’s episode and listen to the beginnings of my conversation with Samantha Berger, where we cover a lot of her history in children’s media, from working at Nickelodeon to her years at Scholastic to zine publishing to independent picture book authorship.

We start this week by talking about more of her books – specifically in the follow up to talking about the sloth-love show Snoozefest at the end of last episode, we discuss the touching and therapeutic Rock What Ya Got, and go into why a book called Glam-Ma is so necessary for proper representation. Later in the conversation we talk about one of my favorites of hers, What If..., and why you should always create.

Finally, do stick around for our discussion of Samantha’s work with Sesame Street in Communities and Sesame Street International. There’s a lot of well-deserved praise both for Samantha as well as for Sesame and what it stands for.

We start by talking about more of her books – specifically in the follow up to talking about the sloth-love show Snoozefest at the end of last episode, we discuss the touching and therapeutic Rock What Ya Got, and go into why a book called Glam-Ma is so necessary for proper representation. Later in the conversation we talk about one of my favorites of hers, What If, and why you should always create.

Finally, do stick around for our discussion of Samantha’s work with Sesame Street in Communities and Sesame Street International. There’s a lot of well-deserved praise both for Samantha as well as for Sesame and what it stands for.

July 18, 2019  

Samantha Berger Pt 1, Children’s Book Author, TV Writer

For those who may not know Samantha Berger, you’re missing out on a real good and delightful person. It would be impossible for me to track down all EIGHTY-some of her children’s books to read, as some of them aren’t even published under her name proper, but the recent ones are really good and usually pretty close at hand at your local library or bookstore. It’s also impossible to track down all the rest of the TV, illustration, voiceover, and other miscellaneous – yet critical – writing threads that make up the Samantha Berger tapestry.

The more I read and learned about her as I prepared for our conversation, the more I felt intimidated by compressing all her writing experience – and otherwise! – into just one chat. We do manage to cover in this conversation the gamut from differences with your parents to zine publication to corporate culture to supporting peers to heavier backdrops informing more joyous works.

Samantha Berger’s words in an email she wrote to me, "Believe in yourself and your work. Get it to the place where YOU love it. All it takes is one person to believe in you back. Believe in someone else, as well," resonate throughout this conversation. What could have been a very self-focused trip through her incredibly prolific writing career thus far is peppered with support, recognition, acknowledgment, and love for those she looks up to and those who have helped get her to where she is.

#VerseShow comprises conversations that give voice to creators, their process, their struggles, and the celebrations of their work. It's an interview podcast with a bend toward curiosity about the creative process.

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