Language of the Soul Podcast

Liberating your Fullest Expression with Author and Writing Coach Anya Achtenberg Sefara-Rabi

November 21, 2023 Dominick Domingo Season 2023 Episode 7
Liberating your Fullest Expression with Author and Writing Coach Anya Achtenberg Sefara-Rabi
Language of the Soul Podcast
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Language of the Soul Podcast
Liberating your Fullest Expression with Author and Writing Coach Anya Achtenberg Sefara-Rabi
Nov 21, 2023 Season 2023 Episode 7
Dominick Domingo

Today we welcome the brilliant Anya Achtenberg Sefara-Rabi, author and longtime writing consultant.  Anya shares her historical roots and what it is to identify as a 'person of the mix.'  She chronicles how innate defiance of writing convention yielded deeper access to the associative web that connects humanity. She suggests that by navigating it and turning the blind corners of language, we liberate our most authentic selves—our unique 'music.' She explains how rigid and often trite conventions like 'writing from a sense of place' rob work of authenticity and specificity, citing the phenomenon of displaced individuals who are not afforded the luxury of feeling grounded.
       
Today's conversation is inspiring, to say the least.  Join us in this first step toward liberating your own musical language.

Guest Bio: Anya Achtenberg is an award-winning fiction writer and poet whose publications include Blue Earth (novel); The Stories of Devil-Girl (novella); poetry collections The Stone of Language; I Know What the Small Girl Knew; individual works in many literary magazines, including Harvard Review; Gargoyle Magazine; Tupelo Quarterly; Beltway Poetry Quarterly; Poet Lore. Awards/distinctions received include from Southern Poetry Review; Another Chicago Magazine; Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story; New Letters; Raymond Carver Story Contest; Minnesota State Arts Board. Completing: novel History Artist, with an ensemble of characters centered around a young Cambodian woman born at the moment the U.S. invasion begins; poetry collection, land in water rise in flame.
Her blog Writing in Upheaval explores her organic approach to writing craft that expands creativity; counters historical amnesia; examines how trauma and narration connect, and how history sits in us.

Anya consults individually; teaches two series of fiction/memoir/multi-genre creative writing courses: Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World; and The Disobedient Writer Workshops.

Learn more about Anya Achtenberg at https://anya-achtenberg.com/  

We would love to hear from you! Sent US a text message.

Support the Show.

If you would like to make a one-time donation, CLICK HERE, or you can click the support button for other monthly support options.

To learn more and order Language of the Soul: www.dominickdomingo.com/theseeker

Think you would be a great guest for our podcast; please submit a request at LOTS Podcast Guest Pitch Form.

Now more than ever, it’s tempting to throw our hands in the air and surrender to futility in the face of global strife. Storytellers know we must renew hope daily. We are being called upon to embrace our interconnectivity, transform paradigms, and trust the ripple effect will play its part. In the words of Lion King producer Don Hahn (Episode 8), “Telling stories is one of the most important professions out there right now.” We here at Language of the Soul Podcast could not agree more.

This podcast is a labor of love. You can help us spread the word about the power of story to transform. Your donation, however big or small, will help us build our platform and thereby get the word out. Together, we can change the world…one heart at a time!

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Show Notes Transcript

Today we welcome the brilliant Anya Achtenberg Sefara-Rabi, author and longtime writing consultant.  Anya shares her historical roots and what it is to identify as a 'person of the mix.'  She chronicles how innate defiance of writing convention yielded deeper access to the associative web that connects humanity. She suggests that by navigating it and turning the blind corners of language, we liberate our most authentic selves—our unique 'music.' She explains how rigid and often trite conventions like 'writing from a sense of place' rob work of authenticity and specificity, citing the phenomenon of displaced individuals who are not afforded the luxury of feeling grounded.
       
Today's conversation is inspiring, to say the least.  Join us in this first step toward liberating your own musical language.

Guest Bio: Anya Achtenberg is an award-winning fiction writer and poet whose publications include Blue Earth (novel); The Stories of Devil-Girl (novella); poetry collections The Stone of Language; I Know What the Small Girl Knew; individual works in many literary magazines, including Harvard Review; Gargoyle Magazine; Tupelo Quarterly; Beltway Poetry Quarterly; Poet Lore. Awards/distinctions received include from Southern Poetry Review; Another Chicago Magazine; Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story; New Letters; Raymond Carver Story Contest; Minnesota State Arts Board. Completing: novel History Artist, with an ensemble of characters centered around a young Cambodian woman born at the moment the U.S. invasion begins; poetry collection, land in water rise in flame.
Her blog Writing in Upheaval explores her organic approach to writing craft that expands creativity; counters historical amnesia; examines how trauma and narration connect, and how history sits in us.

Anya consults individually; teaches two series of fiction/memoir/multi-genre creative writing courses: Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World; and The Disobedient Writer Workshops.

Learn more about Anya Achtenberg at https://anya-achtenberg.com/  

We would love to hear from you! Sent US a text message.

Support the Show.

If you would like to make a one-time donation, CLICK HERE, or you can click the support button for other monthly support options.

To learn more and order Language of the Soul: www.dominickdomingo.com/theseeker

Think you would be a great guest for our podcast; please submit a request at LOTS Podcast Guest Pitch Form.

Now more than ever, it’s tempting to throw our hands in the air and surrender to futility in the face of global strife. Storytellers know we must renew hope daily. We are being called upon to embrace our interconnectivity, transform paradigms, and trust the ripple effect will play its part. In the words of Lion King producer Don Hahn (Episode 8), “Telling stories is one of the most important professions out there right now.” We here at Language of the Soul Podcast could not agree more.

This podcast is a labor of love. You can help us spread the word about the power of story to transform. Your donation, however big or small, will help us build our platform and thereby get the word out. Together, we can change the world…one heart at a time!

Speaker 1:

Hi guys and welcome to Language of the Soul, where life is story. I'm Dominic Domingo, author, your host, and I'd like to welcome Virginia Grenier, our fabulous producer and co-host. Say hello to the folks.

Speaker 2:

Hello, and I didn't get a title.

Speaker 1:

Usually. I know I dropped the ball. I told you I'm off my game today. Oh man.

Speaker 2:

We can call me the pumpkin queen, because I'm going to be getting ball pumpkin-y with a fox on it. Nails from my day of the dead nails that I had from last time.

Speaker 1:

Right, okay, what is it? The pumpkin lady?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I can call me the pumpkin lady.

Speaker 1:

Okay, just don't order a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. That's where I draw the line.

Speaker 2:

I don't like those to be honest.

Speaker 1:

I just don't. I kind of run the other way from anything trendy. So pumpkin spice has run its course in my book. Anyway, welcome. And we're very excited about today's guest, as usual, I mean, but it's always earnest. We're so lucky we've had nothing but really inspiring guests. So this week is no exception. And, anya, if I butcher your bio, this is the standard disclaimer. If I butcher it, it's on you to correct me. I guess my first question is Anya Ochtenburg. I've been saying Anya Ochtenburg Is that.

Speaker 3:

I'm afraid there's always a longer answer, because this was a name that was imposed on part of my family in like the late 18th century by some emperor. Because, because we didn't have last names. So they you know, people with money bought their names to reflect their occupations. And then there was, you know, we didn't. So this is what they gave us and I'm not. I'm not German, as much as it sounds German.

Speaker 1:

Right. Well, I did learn Ochtburg with an R Ochtburg is more common, but in the United States Ochtenburg seems to be more common, but it's behind the hill, right, or so yeah it's.

Speaker 3:

I've had. I've had people say it's eight villages, it's eight, Right right, right, right Behind the hill. It's. It's lots of luck.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's what I noticed, like the difference between Okta and Ochten. Right, it could be the eighth hill, it could be behind the hill, fascinating. I just want to pronounce it correctly so Ochtenburg or Ochtenburg.

Speaker 3:

That's it, it's all good, it's all good. I want to hear you say then because I'm not sure, then because I would say Anja Ochtenburg and I would say Berg, but I think I'm pretentious. All right, right.

Speaker 1:

No, that's. I have that problem because I speak French and I can't say the Champs Elysees. It's like names on a chalkboard to say it Champs Elysees. So if I say Champs Elysees, suddenly you're pretentious.

Speaker 3:

Right exactly.

Speaker 1:

I would never do that to you. So Anja Ochtenberg is an award-winning fiction writer and poet whose publications include Blue Earth, a novel, the stories of Devil Girl and Avella poetry collections, the stone language I know what the small girl knew. Individual works in many literary magazines, including Harvard Review, gargoyle magazine, tupelo Quarterly, beltway, poetry Quarterly and Poet Lore. Awards and distinctions include Southern Poetry Review, another Chicago magazine, coppola's Zoey Troll, all Story have actually applied. I think I've submitted to that quite a bit New Letters. Raymond Carver Story Contest, minnesota State Arts Board. Anja is completing a novel titled History Artist. I'm going to ask about that title. It's very intriguing. You have some great titles, by the way. Anyway, completing a novel titled History Artist with an ensemble of characters centered around a young Cambodian woman born at the moment the US invasion begins. I think you're also finishing a collection, land in Water, rise in Flame. Is that up and coming?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's getting very close.

Speaker 1:

Okay, yeah, I'm just trying to read my own little bio here. Her blog, writing an Upheaval, explores her organic approach to writing craft that expands creativity. Countries historical amnesia I really will be, like I said, minding your brain about that alone. I love the way you worded that. Countries historical amnesia Examine how trauma and narration connect and how history sits in us. Love the wording of that. You can't not write poetry. That's what I'm noticing. Everything you say is so layered. Do you know what I mean? It transports me and it's intriguing, to say the least. So I love the wording of countering historical amnesia, or the idea. And then I love how history sits in us.

Speaker 1:

Anya consults individually, teaches two series of fiction slash, memoir slash, multi-genre creative writing courses. I think one of them is writing for social change. Is that right? Redream a just world. We could spend our entire session talking about Redream a just world. I want to ask if I don't ask more about that. Please prompt me. I think I know what it means, but I want to. I don't want to presume anything, I want to ask, okay. And then, finally, the disobedient writer's workshop or the disobedient writer workshop. Does that sound like you? That sounds pretty much.

Speaker 3:

I'll just say the name of my book, the name of my. My second book of poetry is the Stone of Language. So considering of is just a little preposition. You know, that was pretty good.

Speaker 1:

What did I say? Not the stone of?

Speaker 3:

the stone language.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I'm so sorry That'll be my next book. Right, I like. Well, just give me a quarter and you can have that oh thank you, I'm searching. Well, welcome.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we're really glad to have you here on you and you know, obviously, social media, that's how you know you and I have connected, which is why I, you know, mentioned to Dominic like, hey, here's like a really good guest to have on and we, I mean, I knew some of some of your work but I was blown away when I actually got everything from you to prepare for this. I was like, oh my gosh, wow, you're like really, you know, got this just breath of you know expertise, which is just amazing. So, with that in mind, you know, I would love for you to share with us because you know you do work with authors and you, you know you are in the poetry and creative writing and stuff, and I know you've emphasized the importance of helping individuals find language for their unique experiences and cultures I would love for you to kind of share with us. You know, particularly striking, you know, the transformative parts that you've witnessed in storytelling through that process.

Speaker 3:

I think one of the well there's, it's I'm a complicated person. We've got all the time in the world With simple, with simple taste, except for cheese, because I was in France and oh yeah, no, I'm ruined.

Speaker 1:

I'm ruined. Do you remember habite or non-habite, when? It comes to non-habite, no Inhabited or not inhabited, right by worms.

Speaker 3:

But oh, no, kidding.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they're not legal here, but um yeah, so many cheeses.

Speaker 3:

So many cheeses, little time Right. Well, the. I think that there's an extraordinary sort of arc of of in my own development of understanding what that liberation means in language and in story, and I, I, I usually say both in language and in story, and when I, when I speak of language, I'm, I'm, I'm speaking in a sense of the poetic, but not only in poetry, as I think that the sort of one of the things that, of course, is the most basic to poetry is is is association, is bringing together in in a, in a flash, in a way, things that seem not to be connected, so that we understand that they are connected, which I think is probably one of the most fundamental principles that could possibly lead and you know, in the future, obviously to peace. It is that mining of of connection, and and then the whole, so the whole.

Speaker 3:

The issue then, of liberating. Liberating language into its its dynamic sort of force means liberating it into its ability to find its connections in this sort of massive web of of language and this multi-dimensional kind of universe of language, because when we find those connections, not only do we come forward with exquisite language so everyone can part us and say this is beautiful, but we come forward with this, this stunning and striking realizations of how events are connected, races are connected, humans are connected, species are connected. So so there's that liberation, both of language and into a kind of a free field of language that has an enormous amount of work to do, and it's and it's, you know, in these times which are strikingly painful.

Speaker 1:

You know hard to get up in the morning some days, yeah, and it's, and it's sort of it's still.

Speaker 3:

There's still this place of language that I think has and obviously it doesn't do the whole job, it's not Well, that's that's what I'm hearing a little bit.

Speaker 1:

I just want to make sure I'm following. It's almost like the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. Right, language is figurative by nature, so if you have an absurd juxtaposition, it sounded like you were saying the connecting of dots intuitively on the part of both the writer and the patron, right. But it's also the absurd juxtapositions that can't be explained, the numinous psychology or the ineffable part of language that may. That seems like you were saying that through language, by addressing that abstract territory, we can heal on a macro scale. Is that a little bit of what I heard?

Speaker 3:

I think it is in part because clearly part of what has happened to people is a pushing back of their authentic expression for many, many, many, many reasons. There's also and when I move into the thinking about story it becomes, I think, even clearer and very, very potent because we have been so overlaid with ideas of story that are historically based but come forward as absolute. Every story is a hero's journey. They're extracting that being away from its entire context. I mean, there's a wonderful old poem by Bertolt Brecht where it called something like a worker reads history and it's a sort of litany of what about? You know, with the night, the, you know something happened. You know the city fell. Was there?

Speaker 3:

not even a cook Was there not a you know, and sort of bringing together, bringing forward the context of each historical event and dismissing this idea of, you know, the great man and the hero's journey, which, of course, is a decontextualized it's always a decontextualized story.

Speaker 3:

So and that the other thing about that is that that those old stories which are, you know, we want to know about Abraham Lincoln and we want to know about you know whoever, it is right, but those stories come with you know, they sort of merge with this idea of story is structured this way it's five parts. I mean, aristotle said so, no horror, he said so. And then it's this, you know, the story of the story I have to use this word because I think it's so appropriate this sort of ejaculatory structure of story. It's like, you know, it starts with the exposition, it comes, it goes with it, and then it reaches this climax, you know, and then everything falls.

Speaker 1:

So it's the so format wise, it can be nonlinear. In other words, you don't have to follow the Western storytelling arc.

Speaker 3:

in other words, Well, yeah, and that you know, the question of linear is chronological. There's not a single person that passes a day living chronologically without telescoping to the past or right, dreaming about the future. It doesn't, it doesn't exist. So the linear, the linear to me is also an overrated.

Speaker 1:

Right, it's not. It's not true. It's not, it's a it's a march I love it.

Speaker 3:

I think that it has a sort of military force Right. This is. This is a story, this is how it unfolds. Anything that doesn't fit with it when, when so much of the power of story has to do with the story next to the story with the digression from the main story, with the story behind it, of course, of course you know.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, it sounds a little bit like you know, impressionism is an impression of light and how it affects the firm right and how it results in a color, and your eye, like a camera, can't expose for the lights and the darks equally. You tended to crunch the darks or blow out the lights, if that makes sense, and so it actually rings truer because it's an impression, the way you experience it in life, not the hyper realism that cameras are capable of capturing, you know? Yeah, so I love what you said. There's so much there, though I wonder if I could follow up on one little rain in there. I'll, because I noticed the title history artist and I was intrigued by, again, just the juxtaposition of those two words. It's already a mind fuck.

Speaker 1:

I mean, is that all right for me to say? Because, like, like you're saying, the linear Western storytelling structure, part of me wants to say but we don't get to play fast, loosen, fast with history, right, that's so ingrained in us and I do. I think I just realized this morning reading over this that I, I guess I have opinions, but I've never formulated them. So let me make sure, firstly, that I under I mean what I get is you're implying that history is in the eye of the beholder right, and we've always heard it's told by the winners. But I also heard a little bit in there that we decontextualized by not being specific to, maybe, cultures that haven't yet had the opportunity to tell their stories right, or by individuals that are not, I guess, marginalized or you know own voices, that that sort of idea that now I don't know, that we do try to fit them into templates like the hero's journey and that robs them of their, maybe, authenticity. Is that what I heard?

Speaker 3:

Well, I, you know, I and I want to. I want to deepen this, this idea of what history artists is for me, but the hero's journey, I'm just pretty sick of it why you've been hanging out at Starbucks and I mean it's, it's everywhere. It's a garage, and it's at this barrage, at a moment when, globally, so many people are making history you know, and so many people without stars on their you know shoulders and without you know books about them etc.

Speaker 3:

Are making history and it's always been so. I mean the idea that, for instance, the the how many people in the United States understand that all through the Americas there were quote maroon colonies of escaped Africans. Some of them lasted, as in Brazil, some of them last. That one lasted, for what was it? Padmati? It lasted like 70 or 71 years and people do not know that because it doesn't.

Speaker 3:

It does not only because it doesn't serve many people to know that, but because of the sort of obscuring and pushing, pushing back of of history which is not new to this moment. It's not like we had the full history and now we have these right wing etc. Who want to keep that back. We are just at a moment of a blossoming of of of histories and how they fit together, because it's not just this one's over here and that one's over there, but that that utter interrelationship embrace embracing the full spectrum, right, you can't push it back through the prison and get white light again, but you can embrace the full spectrum of colors, and yeah, and then there thereby find our interconnectivity.

Speaker 1:

But I want to be clear because I think about history. I mean, let me see if and I don't want to make it about me, but ironically my neighbor this week just gave me he's been hinting at it for a while, but he just handed me a bunch of hard copies of articles and different things his mother had collected about. I'm not going to remember the name right now. Anyway, history is never what you think. It is right, it's. It's kind of this untold story that he wants me to write. And just today he said, oh, now I'm picturing it as a graphic novel where they travel and write the wrongs of colonial America.

Speaker 1:

And so I thought, well, there is this trend and I just want to see if you have seen this trend of, I guess, wish fulfillment or aspirational retellings of history. And it is wish fulfillment, and so it's a revisionist history of sorts, but through a modern lens of our capacity and our potential. Is there a point where it's something is too sacred? I remember 15 years ago I thought well, I do love when Mel Brooks makes Hitler look absurd, but you know what? I can't go see unglorious bastards, for whatever reason, because it seems like appropriation to me. So is there a point at which history is too sacred to mess with, if that makes sense, or to retell?

Speaker 3:

Well, here's. I mean I just want to clarify what I feel the real work of what history artists is. It is not so much a sort of abstracted looking at history. I'm looking more. I think at those and it is in a sense many of us, in a sense all of us, but clearly some more than others but those upon whom history has pressurized everything for them.

Speaker 3:

History has impacted them so profoundly, history has Are we talking like ancestral trauma, in other words, Certainly, certainly that, and, of course, ancestral trauma is not something that's ever left, in a sense, and so, for me, more of the question is that power of in some way making a life from a life that is in many ways shattered. And this, I think, is for me very, very essential, and also for many people, including myself. Our own histories have been lost.

Speaker 1:

Are personal histories or again the ancestral?

Speaker 3:

They're utterly interwoven and for many of us we lose generations and we have an overlay of what people say our history was, and it disagrees with many other people about what our history was. And so there is for me. I thought I could never write a story. I started writing poetry because it was that, not because it was easy, but because I was in many ways suffocated and pushed back in science.

Speaker 1:

Well, yeah, I'm a member of the LGBTQ community, so I feel like, of course, there's been decades of silencing and erasure and so it is very satisfying to tell those untold stories, right? I wonder, because this podcast is largely about, yes, the catharsis of writing and then the healing that's possible through the creative process, right, but it's also about telling a new story, because we have the agency and the power to do that. So I struggle with this and I'm not implying anything. I just want to learn more, truly For me, yes, I've done therapy many times in life and yet I just can't stop engaging in the catharsis of writing.

Speaker 1:

I know full well there's a reason actors are in therapy. When you inhabit a role for too long, right, and you replay the same warbly records, it becomes a neural circuit that's very, you know, hardwired. So I know for a fact, if I indulge a counterproductive narrative for too long, that it's really hard to shed that afterwards, just like an actor, you know. But yet I will never stop writing. I just wonder at what point you feel you might be kind of reinforcing a narrative that's no longer serving you.

Speaker 3:

This is absolutely not what I'm talking about, if I can be that clear. It's absolutely not what I'm talking about. I've certainly worked with in many populations and for years, and I don't especially do want to do that anymore but I've worked with people who are in agony in various ways. You saw the list of the kinds of people, the kinds of experiences, and I'm not sorry for a bit of it, but there was also a difference within that of people who are getting stuff out and people who were working into the craft of writing in a whole other way. So my understanding of this is that it's not to go over quote old stories, even though some of those old stories are moving people and driving people. It is.

Speaker 3:

It goes more to understanding, then, how history sits in us, because we can go over the stories and most people on the planet endure extraordinary things without the kind of assistance that some people get.

Speaker 3:

So what people do with their lives, what people do to survive, what people do with their stories, what people their paintings, their conversations, their relationships, how that history sits in them, and what they manage to do to create a life, to delve into the gift of life, the beauty of life, at the same time, bringing forward truths that are not a recycling of trauma, but truths that are extraordinarily specific to their experience and, with that, also the work of crossing that magic, as you mentioned, of juxtaposition, so that our stories for me, our stories, our being is multiple, our stories are complexly joined and that's sparked between one story next to the other story next to the other story and sort of finding the connectedness and the coherence in this fragmented world, in these fragmented telling of stories.

Speaker 3:

For me, as part of the work and part of the way that I'm understanding the workings of history, in individuals, in communities and in, for instance, the current, the thing that is the most foremost and which I won't go into, we know what it is. So it's not a recycling, it is a creative act and there is no telling, because this work and this work that is, for instance, of a narrator that wanders, of a web of association that keeps connecting, out and out and further and further, helps to throw light on story and certainly on history, in a new way, a new way that gets people working and whether they are in the center of those stories or whether they are, have looked at those stories as spectator. It is something to make live. Not recycle, but live and examine and illuminate.

Speaker 1:

Right, yeah, I like that distinction.

Speaker 2:

I was going to say, dominic, what this is kind of making me feel.

Speaker 2:

And I actually just recently was having a conversation over tea with a couple of friends of mine who are in the writing world and we were kind of talking, obviously crazily, about the hero's journey and just that very rope kind of you know matrix of how to tell story.

Speaker 2:

And one of the things that we kind of started talking about is, you know sometimes, because one of my fellow author friends was working on a new story and she was kind of saying, you know, hey, you know, I know you always have like your main, you know protagonist and your main antagonist, but you know, I have like these really great supporting characters and so just kind of listening to you, I mean this is and we kind of like talking about, because the thing about life, which is, you know, obviously what we're talking about is how you know story is life, is that, you know you have like like you're saying you have these main people that we always hear about in history or in fictional stories are like the main characters.

Speaker 2:

Yet there's these supporting characters that people think are just there to help those main people. But sometimes who we think is a hero isn't always a hero is kind of where our conversation went, where sometimes those supporting cast so, like you know, in history, like the supporting people who were around, the historical icon that you hear, this you know, that you hear about in the history books, you know, those other people tend to have their own journey to where you realize, maybe and I always think about this kind of like when I think of people who get marginalized because they think, oh, they're just kind of off to the side and, yeah, they kind of influence stuff, but maybe we forget sometimes how much they influenced, you know, and so they actually are more of somebody we need to focus on and hear about, you know. Does that make sense?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

If I could just say, because part of part of what I understand in my writing, the way that that I approach it, is that I seem to to in prose. In the novella it was, it was an I voice and it was, and it centered in in one character, and that was my sort of transition and away from poetry into into the, into short fiction, and which then became the novel. For me, the novel is the world that that I want to inhabit, because it's always. I always have a cast and ensemble, and not because I'm excited, but because they exist and they grow and they speak and I just want to. I love this.

Speaker 3:

It's a quote from an old Grace Paley story. I think it was called conversations with my father, and she's talking to him. He's in his hospital bed and he's talking about her writing with was the beginning, middle and ended, and at some point she says every character, real or imagine deserves the open destiny of life. So so that you know, and and I think that you know the whole question then of what we focus on, if we are writing the hero's journey, we're focusing on the excuse me, a damn hero and the idea that people are, that, that a story is only that that here is the person in the center of the story. I mean, there are stories that work that way and they're magnificent. But I'm, I guess I'm, I think I was ahead of my time. I'm very old now, but the but, the but. The question then of whose lives connect, how deeply, how impact, how surprisingly, and a lot of, a lot of my work with within teaching is to get to get these things sparking for people, and and doing that, I mean I have is sort of it's.

Speaker 3:

The act of crossing itself is a profound one. If we think about crossing and we think about refugees trying to cross, you know, into another place, and we think about people whose gender is is crossing constantly. We think about people who are, you know, there's so many ways that we cross, and there's that sort of elemental idea of the crossroads where Robert Johnson, the great blues player, supposedly sold his soul to be that unbelievably brilliant blues artist. That that he was. But the thing of crossing, of crossing and and, and one thing that strikes me about that, there's a. There's a Mexican performance artist named Guillermo Gomez Pena, and years ago he, he wrote, he wrote a sort of manifesto about the border, and one of the things he wrote about the border is that as you approach it, it disappears that at the border it's a rich place of crossing and and so getting people to get to their borders and realize that that that membrane might be so thin.

Speaker 1:

The English patient had a really beautiful metaphor around right, the borders that divide us and I just remember they they connected under the surface of right. They're literally buried in the sands when they made their connection. But I love that metaphor. I am I'm more and more interested in the universal these days, even if it's just a template, right like the hero's journey. It is a template, but I like in memoir and narrative or creative nonfiction, the idea that the more authentic you can be right in the storytelling of your story, the more personal you make it, the more universally at lands. You know what I mean. I think all of that can coexist the universality of story structure, but also by being more specific and authentic with your details. The more personal you make it, the more universally it can land.

Speaker 3:

Well that it's good writing. It's like in a moment of incredible flux where, no, it's not the man, know it's not. You know the white person, know it's not the rich. But we're, we're, we're in, we're in flux and yeah that's what I'm saying.

Speaker 1:

to embrace our interconnectivity right and embrace unique, marginalized voices, we do have to acknowledge the universal or our shared humanity, if that makes sense.

Speaker 3:

Well, you know, but here's the thing. For instance, Tony Mars and one of the greatest US writers ever and Nobel Prize winner, all that and someone whose books so many people relate to, said I'm writing about and for black people.

Speaker 3:

And she did. And so, in other words, where where there has been disappearance and erasure, I think people get to do whatever they want. And the fact is, fine writing, deepened writing, does what I mean. You know I do. I think Hemingway is the greatest writer in the world. Know, I absolutely do not. Could I learn a couple of things from him? I guess so. But I have other teachers, and I mean, for instance, if you, you know a very ridiculously young writer who's one of the most extraordinary writers and a poet and memoirist, and I think he just may have gotten another book out, but Ocean Wong.

Speaker 1:

Oh my God, it's on my coffee table right now on Earth where briefly gorgeous, I got three pages into it and I had to go right. I can't get through it because it makes me want to go right. Yes, so haunting.

Speaker 3:

And so he doesn't need to think about the universe, because there's no such thing. It's an, it's a, except that you know, we're all going to live or die on this planet.

Speaker 1:

Well, existential terror is pretty universal. Comes with the deal yeah.

Speaker 3:

And the destruction of the planet in many, many, many, many ways. So you know, but there's a writer, it's a very specific experience, right, right, why is Tori.

Speaker 1:

It's a silly example. But Tori Amos? I don't know if you were a fan, but her lyrics are so obscure you don't know what the hell she's talking about, and yet it resonates. It's fascinating.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah. So I think I just think and truly believe and won't. How can I say I don't have time, as many of us do, not to fight? Preordain notions of structure.

Speaker 1:

I've I've been holding. I call it.

Speaker 3:

I've interrogated you know those. You have to do this. I mean, if you think about, you know people shrieking, you must write from a sense of place and you don't explore what that means, what that means in a real world where people are, you know, are, are jumping hundreds on a boat that's going to sink, a sense of place where, where the very ground that people live on is being disappeared by climate catastrophe, and you know there's just and by, even you know, those folks with, with, with generations of intergenerational trauma, that that means that they're, they're always looking to flee, that they, that, even if they live in a certain house, you know and if you look at, trauma itself, I mean trauma, one thing that trauma does, if it, you know, and it's real live, say it's it's.

Speaker 3:

We don't even have to look in that sense at intergenerational trauma, which I think is is well, has constant and profound effects. But but trauma, you know, it dislodges people from place and time. So how then, does one write from a sense of place as a fixed thing when it's right.

Speaker 3:

And the and the fact of place and how one relates to place and the loss of place and the placelessness and the multiplicity of place, because so many people have fled from place to place, to place, to place to place or been kidnapped from their own continent and moved from place to place to place to place to place. You know the, the, the impact of of that it's, it's just, places is a, it's a privilege in the sense that it's been.

Speaker 3:

You know that it's been. We've been beaten over the head with this right from a sense of place. Right from a sense of place and and obviously, whatever we're writing needs the richness, whether it's spare or whether it's lush, the richness of, of detail to to help put the reader there, whether it's external detail, whether it's, you know, inner experiencing of something and not arguing with that. But this idea of place is something that we can all get to in the same way is is is completely untrue and the power of it, of understanding and working with the delicacy, the precariousness that the differences in the relationship to place means, also the differences in narration and, for instance, one reason that you know, let alone culturally like. For instance, you have the really exquisite writer, african American, John Edgar Weidman, and I always remember a story of his. It's in a little book called all stories are true.

Speaker 3:

How's that one? It's the title, it's the title story and one of the things that he in that story he's going, he's right near his mother's house. He's going to talk to his mother who is now ill with cancer and limited time, right, so he should be there in a couple minutes, right in a minute, or. It takes some pages because he's walking towards this conversation that is going to be really painful, because he's returned to this town, that is, is he doesn't live in, with the sort of litany of streets that he's remembering of, of you know events, of people and places, and it somehow for me merges to a kind of a jazz, that powerful cultural stream of jazz which wanders and returns. And so it takes some pages and he's all over the map and it's like except, what do you get by this wandering? You get a profoundly deeper understanding of him, his family, his story, and then he arrives, he comes back, there's the mother, he arrives. So it's a sort of you know there are.

Speaker 1:

So the pain. The pacing is lyrical, right, it's not a construct that you try to conform to. It also sounds like a little bit like your voice is only fully fleshed out when you embrace the trauma and the PTSD right and all those things that determine your sense of place and your pacing and all that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, they'll be, in different ways.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

You mentioned the jazz. I'm going to take that opportunity to follow up on. I noted, I highlighted every time you said music. So yeah, in your form, and so I was really intrigued by that. And, if you don't mind, I want to just read a couple of phrases. I had to write breathlessly, through fear, into a discovery of my language and my music in the language Above that it says and brought them into discovering the language, slash, music and forms of their own ways of experiencing the world. There was a third one. Yeah, so can you speak to that a little bit? What you mean by I mean, I think I know, but I want to hear you say it the music in one's voice as a writer, yeah, well, I I a couple of things.

Speaker 3:

When is that? You know, in like the 50s or something, people like Denise Leveretov and Charles Olson were talking about organic form and poetry and this was like, well, it's a big deal right, and that had to do with the, with not only the subject of the poem but the writer, and had to do with the breath of the writer at that particular moment. In a sense, now, the, the, the. I don't know if anyone talks about organic form in prose, but it's certainly. You know, the question of, of, of not being formless, because I've had people go. Well, if I'm not being choked by the five part story and the hero's journey, well, what am I doing?

Speaker 1:

Oh, just wait, I think they're lip service given to rhythm and alliteration, and you know, I think there's a little talk of that in prose, isn't there?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, but. But I guess you know someone will say, oh, the prose is musical, but but this is.

Speaker 3:

I'm wanting a deeper and deeper and truer and more specific chorus, and there are infinite musics even within us. In terms of you know, I don't want this book to sound the same as that book, and I don't have to consciously do it, because I am one of those people that have that very thin membrane. So beings come and I don't, you know, and of course even that's been pathologized, if a writer is a little, you know, too unusual.

Speaker 1:

I've been accused of head hopping. I get accused of head hopping and I'm like Well, but we know more than we know. We know like welcome to my world. Yes, and that's actually the whole point of my voice is to enlighten people. I guess sounds condescending, but to the fact that we do know more than we know, we know, and so you can call it head hopping all you want, I call it, you know, omniscient or whatever, but it's so rigid, isn't it?

Speaker 3:

And that thing of that is part of the point of this sort of extraordinary opening of the associational web, which is in a sense the essence of creativity right is finding something that you didn't think had anything to do with it and like you know, but that that opening, that opening leads us.

Speaker 3:

For me, one of the most both spiritual and political aspects of this sort of associational work with writing and with language is that it helps one arrive at the hidden, it helps one arrive at the invisible, and people can talk about that in a political way and people can talk about that in a spiritual way, and it is, and it is clearly related. But it's that, that, that journeying through language, as if language were indeed a road, and it ain't.

Speaker 1:

I 94.

Speaker 3:

You know, and I do, and I think that also, that question then of crossing, of getting up to, you know, if one gets up to a wall, up to a border you know, this is not about this is is knocking them down there's, you know, cutting an enormous hole through it so that one can see, one can feel, and and that sort of lessening, that thinning of membrane that is around us, that keeps us. I mean, I got ego, ego. I'm a writer, I got ego, but in the writing I don't.

Speaker 3:

Exactly Right you know the membrane is so thin that beings, beings cross, voices cross, and I totally agree with you we do not know what we contain. And part of the joy and the work of working with writers is that they're so sure they have this limitation or that limitation, or they've been yelled at or they've been shamed, and it's to to to to push against all of that into that.

Speaker 1:

Well, let me, let me see. I mean it. You know I have my worldview and you've got yours, but I sometimes hear a little grain of something I want to pursue and I guess you know the idea of archetypes and the reservoir of the collective unconscious, I do think to a degree, the membrane you're referring to. We have access right to a lot of experiences by virtue of being human. So is there appropriation? When do you feel what's the line between appropriation? When you start, I guess exploring, like Virginia was hinting at, your secondary characters might, for no other reason other than diversity and inclusion or representation, right, be from some experience other than your own. Where you draw the line with appropriation? Do you have any thoughts?

Speaker 3:

on that I mean massive, massive, massive discussion and part of what is difficult. For instance, you know I speak from my experience that I am. I am a person that comes from refugees. I'm a person that does not know where everyone has been. I have a few details. I know there was someone who was Spanish and kicked out, you know, in the Spanish Civil War.

Speaker 3:

No, no, we're talking hundreds of years ago. The expulsion, I know that there was. I know from various evidence there was likely mixing of another part of the family with which is happens happen. The Jews that came up out of Palestine straight north and were in sort of the East, in what became Russia, and such places were often mixed with Siberian nomadic peoples. So I, you know, I know these things, that this, the Sephardic side, those folks went all across North Africa and then up into the Iberian Peninsula before actually the Christians and, of course, the Muslims, and so and the sort of being kicked out, 1492 and physician expulsion and all of that.

Speaker 3:

And so do I know what I am. I have been, I have been told, accused, asked, stared at, like you know, and I'm just an older person, so it things. I don't know if things show as much, but but people did not know what I was. And the United States is organized, or much more, around the reasons of the. This is the site of, of an. You know of these horrors of slavery where skin color meant everything in terms of who can be seen and not seen. So I understand myself, for instance, as the only way I can call it is I'm a person of the mix. I'm not this, I'm not that. I'm not that. I'm not that. I'm a person of the mix, as are many, many people.

Speaker 1:

Is nomadic a good word. Do you feel nomadic?

Speaker 3:

Well, nomadic would refer more to a group of people who are nomadic within a certain area, as in, as in, I believe, the mong Right.

Speaker 1:

But you ever feel at home, I guess is the question.

Speaker 3:

Not so much, and I've been around the block.

Speaker 1:

But that speaks to what you said earlier. You know like your whole life is affected by trauma and just being in your own skin or feeling like you're you have a home, to begin with, it's fascinating.

Speaker 3:

And someone, someone, a wonderful, wonderful, brilliant poet named Fred Marchand, read some earlier stories of mine and and like them. Thank you, fred. And and he said one of the reasons he liked them was because let's see how he said it. He said within these are an imaginative embrace that does not appropriate. And that was.

Speaker 1:

Wow, that's a really tricky thing to accomplish, isn't it?

Speaker 3:

I think it is and it isn't, and I think so, if that makes sense, to go back to that idea of of wondering, of crossing border after border, of being displaced, of being dislodged, what does it mean to be dislodged from body, from place, from culture, from from a kind of a linear history in one place? That is a is is painful, but for me in another words, that is part of what I understand as history artists is is that this pain? And it is painful? I like to think, oh, you just like to travel. It's like between you know, I can't afford a place to live in the US and everything else, but but I think that is that that is how history artists is also that we become embodiments in some ways, and not in a, not in a holistic way, but we become embodiments of some of the deepest aspects of our histories sometimes in opposition to what our histories would tell us to do.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's not always just ancestral trauma, I just call it historical baggage. We're working out our parents unresolved issues right all day, every day, and I call it a patch in one of my stories, just called it the patchwork quilt of the subconscious. You know it's all of that. And in my teaching I taught at art center, college of design. I founded their entertainment track, so taught there for 20 years and the I have more and more international students. I put that in quotes, by the way, but you know a variety of cultural backgrounds and it was fascinating to me how and I distinguish between style and voice a little bit.

Speaker 1:

I would love to hear if you have any distinctions between style and voice. But it was fascinating. Like I could look at the crit rail and say, okay, this person's had a broken heart, this one not yet, but their work will explode the minute. You know they've got nothing to lose. And then, but always, always, you saw this indefinable thumbprint that inevitably included their cultural background and even if they strove for a given style, for a given project, they couldn't erase, yeah, the ancestral trauma and just even little motifs that they didn't even realize they were doing. They might even be trying to emulate a more Western style, but yet you see it all right there on the crit rail. It was fascinating to me. I don't know if that made any sense, but do you distinguish between voice and style?

Speaker 3:

I, I, I go to another place with it because I don't. I mean, I've read a lot and I've read a lot from many different cultures and I don't. The question of voice for me is multiple voice for me changes. So I don't, you know, I know that there are certain things about, about my voice that maybe some people recognize, but not I sort of defy them to say what it is.

Speaker 1:

Well, it evolved. One hopes it evolves with, and the question of a style.

Speaker 3:

A style is a kind of her hair. For me it's not. It's. For me, it's not a writing, it's not a craft element.

Speaker 1:

Oh, really, you don't acknowledge it as a tool at all.

Speaker 3:

No, I mean, I'm not. I'm not on a genre genre writing would require right.

Speaker 3:

I mean, I don't know if fiction doesn't really, yeah, I don't, yeah, no, I mean, that's the thing I don't. I've worked with genre writers and I'm happy to Because, for instance, I can do a lot of work with people around a deeper development of the characters. So sometimes genre writers feel like so, in a way pushed because they have to do, they have, they have to follow conventions and right, and so they may say I just want my characters to be better. Well, that takes work and that takes work that I love. So sometimes they come to me and we and we do that and I'm, I'm just, I have a great deal of fun, as hopefully they do in terms of, you know, really bring forward these characters and deepening them, and you know so. But I don't, you know, the idea of literary, literary writing or literary fiction is some refined, like it's, it's, you know, and the real writing being genre writing is just not true.

Speaker 1:

And if so what is? Is there a distinction between literary and, I don't know commercial fiction?

Speaker 3:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

Is it the intent?

Speaker 3:

I think it varies with with every literary writer. In other words, there is a deeper use and encounter of with right, with language itself. There is an understanding of finding.

Speaker 1:

Well, I'm going to, I'm going to, sir, I think it's the intent, I think it's entirely different. And the authenticity factor, of course. Go on, virginia.

Speaker 2:

Well, I was going to say you know when you're talking about. You know stylistic writing. What kind of goes to my mind is probably because of the fashion background of me, but I know when I sit there and talk to people and that conversation comes up, I always see that people who tend to write in a style is usually whatever is the current trend, so like when vampire stories were huge and stuff like that, so they, so it does. It becomes a very rote, stylistic, trendy way of pushing a story out.

Speaker 1:

Yeah Well, the the elitist in me, and again I've got. I went to art center and you know it was pounded into my head and I am what I am. But if you expand the scope and away from writing and just talk about the creative process in general, you know me, virginia I'm going to say that inspiration comes from the universe itself and it is demanded by collective consciousness because it knows what it needs in our proliferation. So I think genre writing often is uninspired and done for, you know, commendable reasons, like a love of craft or simply having a childhood love of I don't know, through the rabbit hole tales, and I just want to be a part of that tradition and you know that's that's admirable.

Speaker 1:

But it is distinctly different. I call that content, whereas something with literary value and artistic integrity was inspired. And that's the difference to me when I say maybe literary fiction, the intent is different, it's inspired, whereas sometimes somebody writes for a given readership and of course it's not going to be authentic. If you're observing all of these constructs and maybe not telling the good, the bad and the ugly or the truth because you're more concerned with your readership, I mean that's a universal when you concern yourself with outcome in the creative process, the very literary value and artistic integrity will suffer.

Speaker 3:

All right, I've said my and I think, and I think also the reason that I sort of went in my intent, because there are lots of people with literary intent who have to do more work to fulfill that literary intent.

Speaker 1:

I mean they hit a wall in their ability to access their that's that that I mean.

Speaker 3:

That's the question and it's a question for all of us. There's not, there's not a literary writer, I think, who just has it has a constantly easy time. So I think it's because every literary work of, of, of you know, of quality. I actually was very blessed a very long time ago, so before a number of books, but to I was in Michael and dodges class along a long time ago when I was still thinking that I'm only a poet and I was writing fiction in his class and I thank him, you know, up there in Canada somewhere. But I think that that's, then one can have the intention. So part of it, part of the work, is to help people fulfill to fulfill that intention and also to discover it, to just for what it is, even more deeply than because it's never the same when you finish the book as when you write absolutely.

Speaker 2:

It's a narrative truth that basically shapes the reality of the story.

Speaker 3:

Um. How do you use?

Speaker 2:

Um, so gosh. So like when you're, when you're trying to story like you're leading the narrative instead of writing, you know, like I know because I focused for a long time on within the children's thing and don't market. They always were like oh, you're always, you know, have like this specific theme that you're working toward, right, like a lot of times when you're writing more in a literary fiction standpoint, the narrative develops its own truth.

Speaker 1:

It's on a life of its own.

Speaker 2:

Exactly so it shapes. It shapes this. You know our own reality of why we're in that story of what you know to a deeper meaning.

Speaker 3:

I totally agree. You know when, when one of the things that used to drive me crazy and I think it drove a lot of people crazy in in school as a young person in school I said you know, um, okay, well, you know, but this doesn't have anything to do with that. This part cut it.

Speaker 1:

It's tangential Right.

Speaker 3:

No, you don't know why exactly. You're young. You just wrote this thing you need. You only have two days to write.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 3:

But but that, that work of discovering why that popped up doesn't mean absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Well, you don't even need to analyze it, Do you? I mean well, I've sorry.

Speaker 3:

I mean you need to go back. I mean you can write and like, I think that writing is when you don't think, and I think that that then I mean what's a wonderful old, dead writer, john Gardner, who wrote Grindel and but he also wrote wonderful books on the, the art of fiction and on becoming a novelist. And he says and I I took it to heart, I think he's going to count them because he said you should read your own work over 100 times, because it's what is true is that is that your work will teach you what you're doing. Right.

Speaker 1:

I guess that's what I was hinting at, like I know, in the first gut level iteration that's 100% intuitive, it's just a gut level expression of the inspiration, right, I do find. Yeah, don't know why that's there, but I'm going to trust it. And sometimes I had a butterfly land once and I'm like I know that's not the cliche transformation arc type, but I knew it, I just needed to bring it back around and so, without examining it, like consciously choosing not to examine it, I just knew, oh, I should probably introduce it earlier so that it has resonance, and then follow through and it became the strongest metaphor in the piece and not what I expected. Yeah, after the 103, I figured out what it meant. But I, that's what I mean. I just feel like sometimes, if it feels right and it's a hunch, your intuition knows better. So sometimes don't analyze it and let it unfold.

Speaker 3:

Is yeah, and that, and that's the thing about language that I think is so important it's it is the most collective thing that human beings have.

Speaker 1:

Virginia agrees with that. I know that I do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, it don't like that. I've had that conversation, you know, many times, obviously not in the podcast.

Speaker 1:

It's the name of the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so yeah, I guess, which is what brought us here because I was taking a, was philosophical psychology is what it was, course, and we were talking about how, you know what, what binds us as a society, no matter what your cultural background is, is language. That is what brought people together, you know, is the oral storytelling and the creative process of you know a group of people that were together, you know, be it you know an actual city civilization or in a nomadic kind of like it's cement.

Speaker 1:

It's cement the universal. We all have our subjective reality, but it's immense, the universal truth on some level. And I jump in, though I know you have more to say, but I it's triggering and this might seem like a tangent, but that's what we're here for.

Speaker 1:

You said nonlinear earlier, I just find it fascinating because I am a dude, I'm very linear.

Speaker 1:

You know, I'm socialized linear and logical and rational, and all these I trust me, I, my pendulum swings. But I think I was socialized to be very linear and so I and I come from a long line of, you know, men of their words or women of their words, being impeccable with your word, as the four agreements would say, and I call it integrity. I feel very fortunate, you know, on both sides of my family, and so I always said, you know, that's all we've got, is our contract, our codes in relationships, I would say, but you know, I dated somebody who said, well, words are cheap, it's actions that matter. And I said, well, I didn't say this, this is all in my mind, of course, and I was like, well, you know who have you been hanging around and how sad that you don't trust you know. And so, completely different world view, it's actions that matter, words are cheap or words are all we've got. And I still I'm in between, but I do feel like there's got to be some value to words. Is that related at all?

Speaker 1:

I I in that words do represent some kind of universal meeting ground.

Speaker 3:

Some kind of I, I, I think. How can I say I think that's that's been used to beat people with?

Speaker 1:

which one.

Speaker 3:

The universe, the universal. Oh, I saw you know, and, and, and clearly there is at some level. You know we came from the stars or however it is, but it has been. And see I.

Speaker 1:

I love language.

Speaker 3:

But I do think, and the vastness, for instance, of just English is extraordinary. I mean, if you look at Derek Walcott and and come out breath weight and you look at all kinds of people who have layered in other languages and there's silence languages and other attacked and forbidden languages of all kinds.

Speaker 1:

So the diversity of language if I can, let me see if you do you feel more nuances available to English speakers or no?

Speaker 3:

then, then whom?

Speaker 1:

other languages.

Speaker 3:

You know, okay, I mean, it's the one I speak Spanish, but I but I write in English, but no, I mean, every language is astonishing.

Speaker 1:

Why did you mention English just now?

Speaker 3:

I might have missed, or something we're using it so, but in other words, english is not one language.

Speaker 1:

Right. Well, that's what I'm hinting at, because I've heard there was a meme that said we don't just bar from other languages, we follow them down a dark alley and beat them over the head and ransack their pockets. So I at one point just thought hmm, I feel very lucky that we have right borrowed from so many languages, and I feel that there's a lot of nuance available.

Speaker 1:

So I took French for three years privately with my friend Mary Martin Besso At one point, you know. I mean, it's true, the English dictionaries three times the thickness of the French. But what that means is, in French, you have to be more inventive with your idiomatic reflexive verbs, for example. What that creates is more poetry actually. So the language is designed to rhyme and there's a beautiful resonance in that. And you've got all these idiomatic reflexes, reflective verbs, because you got to recycle and reuse their limited words. The point is I just had a hunch that you know there is some more nuance available and, granted, my French was limited, but I felt like a caveman sometimes. After 11 years of living here, she then went home to Paris and not only did she have to explain not everybody's a Trump, or you know, she had to explain like a lot about her experience here. She said she found it frustrating because she couldn't express herself the way she got comfortable expressing herself in English. I found that fascinating.

Speaker 2:

Sorry, I just want to say something too. When you speak about English, I guess we should be very clear that you mean.

Speaker 1:

American American.

Speaker 2:

American English because if we think about like those in Britain, they're like their word usage is not as vast as ours here in the United States. But with that said, too, I think what people forget who aren't from the American culture and this is this is just gonna be my rant on this, sorry, I just, I just want to speak to this is because we are supposed to be and I know not always is the case, but we're supposed to be the melting pot of the world. It's not that we're stealing language from other people's because we're embracing that language. That was a facetious reference to a very funny meme.

Speaker 2:

I just wanted to speak to that way that we did embrace it.

Speaker 3:

But I, in terms of the French, I just want to bring up one of my writer that I revere because it's really quite interesting, right. So, so there's already a turn. Who the father of surrealism, right? And? And he comes across and they say there, from that week in Paris I forget the year like the 30s or something like that and and and he writes, and he says he's writing and Brita is like well, I'm gonna use so because it's pretty amazing. And then he's going back to his poor, colonized, screwed over island, right, and after being in the mother country, you know which, which made people in the French, caribbean and, I'm sure, in Africa, to take their exams at the same moment that they took them in France, which meant sometimes those folks were taking it and you know it's some ridiculous like three in the morning right.

Speaker 3:

So there's a ms, a chair, and he's on his way back and he writes notebook on a return to my native land and it is unbelievably, brutally magnificent, I mean it's. It's sort of like, let's see, I want to rediscover the secret of great speech and a great burning. I want to say leaf. I want to, I want to roll words like maddened horses, like curfew, like, you know, the man who couldn't understand me, couldn't understand the roaring of a tiger, and it is just an extraordinary book and it's, and it's, it's, you know, and, and Brita, I, you know, I read and then I put away because there was a dryness. You know it's, you know, certain kind of cerebral, lovely, and I'm pretty cerebral, but but, in other words, so what?

Speaker 3:

there are so many ways that that the languages that we intersect with, with with what's considered our language. I don't.

Speaker 1:

I think it's inextric, the experience. It's inextricable meaning. I read Lopiti France, right with my, with my limited French, but it's about my speed, lopiti France, and even that. It's kind of like the idea that well, apparently in inuit there's a million words for snow, because obviously it's a you know different types of snow and it's they're surrounded by it all day, every day. So it might take 12 words to get across a concept in one language, because it's culturally relative and it takes if I said 12, I meant 12, if I didn't say 12, I meant 12, and then it takes one word and another language. So I know, you know, with the amount of French that I've mastered, the little prince does not land quite the same way in English, because up crevoise there's a whole chapter with the fox about this taming idea. Well, unless you're raising a culture, where you like, here in America, we just go hi, how you doing at a party, how, what do you do for living? How much do you make, right? And so there's no reserve, so there's no taming to be had, and so it just lands so differently.

Speaker 1:

And I don't know if you guys have read the Alchemist by Paul Coelho. Well, it's been translated into more languages than the Bible and it's a great book. However, I think that a horrible translator because, like you're saying, you can read early modern English, you can read Shakespeare and it lands. The language is an inextricable part of the experience with the Alchemist. I'm like no bad translator, it just didn't work in English. So, anyway, I do think it's not just culturally relative, but the language is part of the experience. Again, in French, I had walked, I had eaten. The past imperfect is designed to rhyme. It's so lyrical, I mean.

Speaker 3:

I'm sorry, that's my feeling. Yeah Well, I think you know, and I'm, and I'm interested very much in the vastly different musics of language, and you know, and I know people who can rhyme like beyond belief, and and it's not me, but my rhymes are of a different you know they're, they're off rhymes more there, and the music of the language. I think it also depends not only on rhyming but on the you know the fuel, the varying pace of it, the fuel, the sort of drive toward or explosion out of.

Speaker 1:

You know it's it's, and connotations and denotations there's, there's so many layers. Right, humor is a tough one because of connotation alone.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, but it's an endless. It's an endless field and I think I mean you know, I've, I've how can I say there's a lot of? I think I learned various things and I never learned them in terms of how I am supposed to write. I think I always lucky you.

Speaker 3:

It was my. I was not from this, first of all, I don't, I don't think there is one American culture. I think for me, in a sense, part of the deep, the deepest aspects of American culture are are actually from the black diaspora, from the African diaspora. That, to me, is, is is profoundly important. As well as you know, as well as all all of the you know, the original cultures, and so I don't, I, I've always been an outsider in that sense, which actually has placed me, I think it, closer to the very extraordinarily diverse heart of this country and of the Americas, which is a really complicated place.

Speaker 3:

But I'm you know, I was always like. You know, if someone told me to do it, you know I wouldn't.

Speaker 1:

And now probably without a cause.

Speaker 3:

Well, but but I had one and I had this nagging aching, you know, that this would kill me. And then I felt would kill me and things, and it would. That would have killed me. And I tried earlier I try, was you know, let me try to write this way because this is right and and it was a misery. It was a misery, it was an exclusion of the depth, the truth, the beauty that it was an exclusion. Now, when I, when I was, when I was younger, I remember I remember doing poetry readings and everyone's know how someone would come up and they liked it, but they look at me and they go um, that was, um, it was, it was so intense.

Speaker 3:

Many years later, as the beginning of the 100 years of solitude starts away, many years later, when Colonel, out of the end of when, the when his father took him to discover I long story, but but but it, it, it, oh God, where did it go? But I think I couldn't, I absolutely couldn't follow it. I did it wasn't like, it wasn't even just a rebellion, it was an absolute inability. And what what I want to mention is a really extraordinary book written by two French guys.

Speaker 3:

Imagine that to be able to just probably sitting in every cafe. You know there's always.

Speaker 3:

I think that's why I wrote a book little, it's one of their, they say, a little book called Kafka toward a minor literature and and for me this was really important because it articulated things that I I knew and felt.

Speaker 3:

Part of it was the question of displacement and what they call de territorialization, because they said that the the, the larger, the the sort of amount or quotient of de territorialization and language, the larger its radical or revolutionary potential. So I went hell, yeah. And the other thing they said that that applied so much to what I understood of myself and of many other people coming from different experiences and cultures, trying to be writers in the midst of America is is that they talked about Kafka as writing in a cramped, subterranean way with it, with it with a kind of intensity that did not happen in various things. Why? Because if you are, I mean if you are displaced, he was, they talk about him as you know, I mean, he was, he was a German, a German Jew in Czechoslovakia and in another place, another culture and other language, and all of that, and there's that, there's that being pushed. You know, you're not the mainstream, you're being, you're being pushed is subversive.

Speaker 1:

A good word for that. The cramped things is sticking with me.

Speaker 3:

I. I think it is, but I think it's not the. The originating idea is that I'm going to be subversive. Right, right, it's a byproduct, the only space that I have in it. I will do what. What I do, you know so. So I've always, you know, to read that years after I like, suffered through trying to do this, and that was was extraordinary.

Speaker 1:

I wanted to go back to something you said a minute ago, partially for humor, but also as a transition. I wasn't sure what you were making with the reaction. Oh my God, that was dot dot dot intense. Is that a good review in your book?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, but in other words, people didn't. They didn't know what to do. Right, right, well.

Speaker 1:

I guess that's my point is, you know, I'm a Scorpio and I'm Italian and you can probably tell I don't have an editing mechanism, so I often hear, you know, passionate is my euphemism for temperamental, All right, passionate, but I think, intense. I've heard that my entire life and I've always thought, well, what's the alternative?

Speaker 2:

boring like you know what's the alternative.

Speaker 1:

Well, so intense doesn't mean a lot to me. But I guess I wanted to say to like, you know, I'm 55, I'm over half a century and I identify as somebody. I've told this story. Let's put it that way, because that's what this podcast is about the stories we tell ourselves.

Speaker 1:

So my entire adult life I said well, I never bought the matrix, I've always seen through social conditioning and I'm like I. I guess I pride myself on it, but I more identify as a gay man. I just never bought it, hook line and sinker, none of it. The status quo is social conditioning. But now, at 55, like literally last week, I thought, well, why would I be the only one on the planet impervious to social conditioning? That's, that's not logical. So I'm more in the place of like, yeah, when and where, of course, I was silenced and erased as a gay kid, right with a blue collar Italian father. I'm aware of that and I've spoken my truth for many decades now. But I just thought, you know, there's always more work to be done. As much as you identify and you tell that story, maybe not you look into the areas where, yes, you have sold out or unconsciously, like the crab in the boiling water bought, some form of social conditioning?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and I think I mean I think that question of I think that's part of the work of the writer is to find ways to liberate. I mean it's not even. I think it's not even. Some people are clearly sellouts right. It's like let me make a bunch of bombs because it will make a rich, you know, sell out on every level.

Speaker 1:

I put food on the table and roofs overhead.

Speaker 3:

But I think, I think most of us have areas in our being that have not spoken yet, and and and the war.

Speaker 1:

that's the thing you don't arrive, you never fully arrive, right now, but we keep, we keep finding them.

Speaker 3:

And that's the thing of the sort of surprise of turning the corner, the thing of crossing, the thing of allowing one bit of language to connect to another, to another, to another, in these expansive maps, these expansive webs and and I think that that, in that I mean I have not I've worked with so many people who were writing okay, and then, with with a process, are absolutely shocked at their own at what they are able to do, absolutely shocked that that makes me think it's yes.

Speaker 1:

Well, I did want to ask you, I did want to ask you this, and that's actually the perfect transition when you I don't know liberate yourself, for one way of putting it is until the good, the bad and the ugly and I think that's the true empowerment or the explosion of your writing is when you can, without fear of, you know, hurting people or any concern for outcome, as I said, how it's going to land with any kind of readership. So I'll just step into those shoes. I do you remember, harriet this by another? I guess we had to read that, and I read that in literally third grade, and that was your warning right, that you can hurt people with your talent by telling the good, the bad and the ugly.

Speaker 1:

And I'll be honest, I have a collection of memoirs that are humorous, and I think that was a big influence in Augustine Burroughs and Bernard Cooper, and so they're humorous and there's a lot of love in them, a lot. My aunt just found it on. I just completely forgot about this one story and she's completely cut me off Now that she knows how I feel. And talk about the Italian passion that I mentioned earlier. There you go, so, where you know, where is the concern for hurting others? And is it more important to tell the good, the bad and the ugly without concern? What do you, what's your take on that?

Speaker 3:

Well, I think that's that's. I think that's, of course, much more specific to memoir, which is probably one of the reasons that I don't write memoir.

Speaker 1:

Well, I've learned my lesson. I took it off Amazon, let's just do that.

Speaker 3:

But I've seen the extraordinary work that people do with memoir because part of it.

Speaker 3:

I want to try to tell you two things that answer this.

Speaker 3:

One is that, for instance, I've worked with many people who've come to me and said well, I have three books, I have three memoirs or four or five, and there are different times in their lives and there are different aspects of them. And all of this and I came to realize and working with people, it was extraordinary to see them come to it that part of the work of memoir may concern the building of a narrator, of a voice from within oneself that can hold the whole story. It doesn't mean people don't need to maybe write more than one memoir, but very often I've seen people compartmentalize and it is because they haven't yet developed the narrator from themselves that can hold all these pieces. And when they do, it's extraordinary because they are then able to stop and look and see all of these pieces and integrate them into themselves. And I know there's various kinds. Like, I am not a therapist, I never was, I never will be, but I have seen the power of that because when people find a narrator that can hold all of these pieces of their story.

Speaker 1:

Does that mean in reference to hurting others? Is that like owning all the perspectives and worldviews expressed in that memoir? Like owning it rather than maybe villainizing somebody?

Speaker 3:

or blaming it. The villainizing and blaming doesn't make for good memoir period.

Speaker 1:

I agree.

Speaker 3:

Well, that's what I was hinting at.

Speaker 1:

I seriously look back at that story that deeply offended somebody and I thought, well, with a little sense of humor about yourself, number one. Everybody else finds it funny, right? So a little perspective. And it wasn't even that answer. That whole side of the family, let's just say it was like a mafioso kind of thing and it's funny, it's very funny. But it's like if you can't see the love in it and have a sense of humor about yourself, it's more about you at that point.

Speaker 3:

But the whole, I mean when I wrote poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry and part of what brought me back to fiction was that I felt done in a sense, and other voices were kind of inhabiting me, possessing me, and I moved back to story, which I had written some before. But I remember my very first baby juvenilia book of poetry, bless you. Mom and I grew up in actually a very difficult, extremely difficult family, but it wasn't that all of it was about that. But there's one thing that there was a poem where there's my mother standing in our underwear washing the dishes and I was just it's, you know, it's there. And so I was terrified that she would go. Oh my God, you know she would flip out completely. And we, you know we had very difficult relationship. And when she read it and I was visiting her and she said you know, I read your book and I'm like, oh shoot.

Speaker 3:

And she said she said, and I know that you know you're a writer and so writers, you know they make their stories the way that they want to make their stories.

Speaker 3:

So I'm fine and I was like I was celebrating that.

Speaker 3:

But, but I do I moved to fiction, not not because I was afraid of hurting anyone or bored with my life or but because I had something else to do and the expression, the fullest expression of my being is, is had to do with placing how can I say being in the midst of the world because I was, and being in the midst of so many kinds of people because I was, and being intimately, deeply connected as as as family, as partner, in so many ways, to different kinds of people, in in in the political sense and struggle, in the aesthetic sense, I understood, and then, part of why I feel I've been a little bit, even though I've had to fight through it, but immune to what I was told I had to do, to be an American, quote, american writer, it was because I understood America as Indigenous peoples, as African diaspora people, as an on and on and on, and and it, and not in a, not in a way that was just political, but in a way that this was, this was, was my world, this was my community, this was my, this was my music, the, the, the sort of mix of the world, because I am a person of the mix and I don't know how else to say it.

Speaker 1:

Yes, Well, you wrote again in in the document that I'm looking at it. You wrote a little bit about how, how your history sits in you, right, but it's almost reciprocal too. What is my place in the world? Or in the United States right, or in this tribe?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's right, that's right, it's really beautiful.

Speaker 1:

I want to ask you, you know back to voice. You have a beautiful speaking voice. Do you hear that a lot?

Speaker 3:

You know I do and I don't. I don't hear it.

Speaker 1:

Oh well, just own it. Own it because you know they say I forget. I know why the cage bird sings. What the hell is her name? Maya Angelou? Oh yeah, like I mean, it takes on such resonance when you hear her speaking her own, so this is obviously a transition Also on a time level, we probably have to wrap it up, but I would love to, because we've spoken so much about your, your next work. Are you inspired to share an excerpt, or should that we do a whole another episode and devotee?

Speaker 3:

Oh, you know, I mean, you know how writers get they go, and then I wrote, and then I wrote. So, but I would, I would love to read something, and what's so strange is, of course, that because this is an ensemble sort of, you know, it centers in this young woman, but it is. It is kind of an ensemble, so parts of it are different, very different, because they're different voices. But I'm gonna, I'm gonna read a part that let's see.

Speaker 1:

This is from the history artist, correct. Yeah, history artist, and I have to just let me think of While you're looking, this is the one about the Cambodian woman born during the US invasion. Yes, okay.

Speaker 3:

Yes, okay, and she is, yep, there, it is Okay. So she is it's a long. She is in Boston with a man that she lived with and yeah, and, and he okay, because this this speaks directly, I think to okay. So it's a long story, that's right. It's a novel, okay.

Speaker 1:

Well, but is there setup? I feel like we're on a talk show. Do you want to set up this clip?

Speaker 3:

Oh no, but no, they're in, they're in Boston, they they met he. She was younger, he was, he did relief work in Cambodia, in part because, like 10 years before something, his brother, his brother was an activist and committed suicide after the US ground invasion of of Cambodia. And so, years later, he goes to Cambodia, he does, he does work with it, with a church, to feed people, to do various things and and meets this young woman who he is completely respectful of, etc. But and she has been someone who was in the killing fields and then came back and was basically still a child, pushed into prostitution because she, her mother, was ill, she had a younger sister, she was in terms of earning money, as often happens. So she has all of all of that, but and and, and it's important. But so it's she and this, this sort of son of Boston Brahmins, edward, who spent all this time in Cambodia.

Speaker 3:

Her name is Debbie Mao and and here it is Okay and and was a word she liked. She chanted it in her head that day in Boston, near the commons, as she looked at dress after dress, this one and that one, and this one and that one. She made a song of what she could have, and was a word that connected things, even if they seemed far away, even if they seem to have nothing to do with each other. So when she started a sentence with and though her teacher told her not to, and sometimes, edward made one of his faces. She refused to listen and started one sentence after another with and, and, and, and. And I am still a girl. She told Edward he, yes, dear at her, but she couldn't care less and she felt like a girl still alone in this Boston house. Debbie was frightened. This was funny to her. I am the queen of alone. She announced to Edward as he was packing to go on yet another trip, this time to see his mother. You can come with me, why don't you? Edward said it would not please your mother to see me again. What's that supposed to mean? She was perfectly nice to you when she was here. Yes, perfectly like a zero. Sometimes you were really crazy, crazy enough to keep away from the crocodile. I'm asking you once more, and then I'm going to finish packing Come with me, please come with me. You can do anything you want to when we get there. You don't have to sit and talk with her all day. I have business to discuss with her anyway. Yes, business not for me to understand. But when you met me, I did business. Taking money for sewing is not doing business, it's just a job, what every working person does. You don't understand or you won't say I did business. Enough, now I was business. Business was here in me. Look, I have to get going. Don't you want to see my business? Don't you want to check my business? See how I do it, see if I know enough about it to sit with you and your mother like a person and talk, discuss, I mean this business.

Speaker 3:

He headed for the bedroom. He was trying not to yell at her. He hated when she brought it all up. After these years of his saying nothing, he could see her, that girl. She was that little girl in Phnom Penh and what he knew could kill him. He felt blind rage or the wash of the years. The forgetting covered him. He was tired for all he had to do to love her, not the beaten child within her, but to get to the woman, lovely, desiring, grown.

Speaker 3:

He zipped up his suitcase half-path. He would buy whatever else he needed. There's money in the usual place and the drawer. He pointed she was standing in the doorway. Oh, so we can do business, don't be an idiot for some groceries and to buy new sneakers.

Speaker 3:

She lay on the bed and looked over at him. I know everything any person could know about business. Business is in me. Here it is. And what she did then was horrible to him. But he knew it was true. And you can put yourself right here in my business. I give you for free Big sale today, free sale, but next time you pay double. Stop it now. Now that's business. I have to go. Oh, but this is American business. You can tell your mother I am a businesswoman and a friend to the Americans, a patriot in my business.

Speaker 3:

He was frightened. He knelt by the bed and lifted her hand from between her legs, kissed it gently. She was small. Today Her whole body curled into itself, fit into his arms. He lay down with her and wept behind her. She was silent. She felt blind. It was a crack in the ceiling, a whisper of rain. She went there and all the words were gone. She was a child in the rain. And Edward, he was not even there. I'll stay home, he said many minutes later. Good, she said without thinking and began to enroll her body against his in the moonlight. No more business.

Speaker 3:

Well so yeah, that's it.

Speaker 1:

That's no wonder, god, no wonder that girl had that one word review Intense. I mean I'm sure you get that reaction a lot. Wow, powerful, powerful so beautiful.

Speaker 3:

And it's not all. I found what you know. There's all kinds of scenes in there. Some of them are beautiful and happy, and but that's I love the one line, the one sentence.

Speaker 1:

she was small today. I don't know why. That really struck me, yeah, but I also. It kind of tied everything together too, because the and and and, like this whole idea of structure has come up a lot today. Right, like, not just you rebelling against structure, but the kind of nonlinear, intuitive space that it can transport you to right when you break the rules. You took it. I know nothing about the con, you tried to set it up a little bit, but with very little context. You brought us there. It was really touching and profound. Thank you, and I just it's just a weird side note, but talk about synchronicity.

Speaker 1:

I don't know this is going to sheepen it. I shouldn't say it, but just last night I saw that scene from Full Metal Jacket. Do you remember that? Oh, it's been a while. Yeah, well, a friend of mine in the nineties would say Mitho, I don't even love you long time, she, she made it a catchphrase, but that that scene it was, it was had extra resonance for me because I just watched that and it was really hard to watch, to be honest. Yeah, anyway, wow, that, I will definitely be picking that up. One is it out?

Speaker 3:

Well, I have about probably three months more. It's taken me really long because I have a, because I have a, well, I don't, I haven't had good circumstances, let's say for for doing it, but it's almost finished, it's. I have just less than writing. I probably have a few more scenes to write, but but it's, but it's more. I have some organizing, in part because it is a book that has a number. It has sort of I think six, probably Deve and Edward, franny and her mother, charlotte Simile, and then there's a, there's a someone who's past, who's a very prominent figure, who's a playwright, and we have bits and pieces of his notes and recordings. And then, and then the last part of the ensemble is a, an African great parrot who is very local.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's awesome.

Speaker 3:

Yes, and was, was, was perhaps in Pol Pot's room and got brought to the United States in one of those Air America airplanes. So he's seen a lot, but perhaps he just was from the Bronx where he was found by the playwright and so so yeah.

Speaker 1:

So it's no, no pressure from me, but I I feel very honored that you shared it with us.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, considering it's not out.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much. Thank you, no pressure from me but please, I'd like to pick it up.

Speaker 3:

Well, send me, send me good completing energy, because I'm also finishing a book of poetry, that that landed, landed in water, rise in flame and that's very close and I'm, I'm, I'm going to get some response to your back to poetry. I I well, I didn't mean to be, but you know, I got, I got, I I. It sounds so strange and it sounds so privileged, but it wasn't that. I got stuck in Europe with COVID.

Speaker 3:

I didn't have it but because I was asked to come for three months to work with a long term client in Europe and I went and five weeks later it was. I was in Athens. It was serious lockdown and I couldn't. I couldn't get flights and then I kept sort of going from country to country and I couldn't. I, everything in here was in, was in the storage room, I and I and nothing worked out. I couldn't get a place, so I went. I went from from, let's see, basically from Greece. I lived in Ireland for 11 months after.

Speaker 1:

So you could fly from Greece to Ireland, but you couldn't fly into the United States. Well for a travel ban right In the United.

Speaker 3:

States, yeah, and, and also I kept trying, I'd get a ticket, and then I'd see the news that 500 of this airlines employees had COVID, right right. So it was also terrifying. If you remember, back there the idea of flying, and flying long distance was my sister was flying to Argentina.

Speaker 1:

Her first grand kid was born in Argentina and she flew there. They waited till they landed on the tarmac and turned the plane around. It's never been. Oh my God, yeah, they couldn't get out. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

So and then, not having I essentially I didn't, I didn't have a place to go. You know, I had no place to to go. So, you know, and it wasn't the time to, you know. But, but, and then, after Ireland, I spent two years in Berlin on an artist's, writer's visa called the Fribe Huffler. I love that word. And then I was then I was in France, I was in the, in the South, mostly for a few months, and then I came here.

Speaker 1:

Lucky you, I'm taking a mental vacation in the South of France.

Speaker 3:

It was. It was all that was okay, but it was very tough. It was applications. It was moving constantly. It was not being able to find places to live. It was not having things that I needed. It was, you know. It was what the heck is this language?

Speaker 1:

I wonder if that informs the work. Do you feel like there's yeah and that?

Speaker 3:

pushed down. That's why I brought it up, because it it a lot of poems happen and of course it was. I was living in Minneapolis before I left, and so just some months later was the murder of George Floyd, which globally was you know, was yeah, I mean I would drive.

Speaker 1:

How was it? How was it witnessing that from abroad? I remember the first time I went to Europe it was during the OJ trial and I actually remember thinking thank God I can escape. You know the madness, and it was on every TV. Not that I see many TVs when I'm traveling, but I remember it was inescapable.

Speaker 3:

I mean this was. This was very personal, because I, you know, I know this place, I've lived in this place on and off altogether for about 13 years. I'm back there. I'm back here now in Minneapolis. I'm about 12 blocks from where he was murdered. So you know.

Speaker 3:

But that, and then I sat with dear, dear friends three generations of them in Galway in the West of Ireland and watched January 6th. And luckily these, these friends, are super, beautiful, conscious, serious people, and so we watched, we watched this, you know, january 6th, that's all we have. So so it, you know it was, it was a. It was brilliantly fascinating to see people respond, to see how people took up the name George Floyd and there were murals everywhere and they're, you know, because people of course in other countries have had connected kinds of experiences and all of that.

Speaker 3:

But one of the things I just really want to say is that being being in Berlin was, in ways, very difficult. You know, I've got a little history with with folks. But it was also the whole question of place. There's a part of Berlin that there's a big exhibition hall. Outside of it is a permanent exhibition, like it's right near DeMauw, it's right near the wall and it's and it's 1933 to 1945, documenting that on the sort of panel after panel outside right.

Speaker 3:

And then there's this big exhibition hall and the, which is called, and the whole area basically is the topography of terror. And so there was the you know the SS office here and this, you know all the Einsatzgruppen, and I don't even know what, all of the, because they were, you know, seriously organized, and the Stasi office here. And so so this, this part of Berlin, I mean Berlin is is so rich in history from beyond that not just that right, but the, the, the, this whole idea of the topography of terror which I grew up with, this constant, free, floating sense of terror for a lot of reasons and and some individuals, some larger right. So standing there, standing on a place that was recognized, that was called a topography of terror, was almost was horrible, but it was almost a liberation because it, it shifted, it made concrete and specific for a while that you know so, so, you can't, you can't write that shit.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, life provides those opportunities.

Speaker 1:

That's amazing.

Speaker 3:

So, and now I'm back and I I don't know what shall become of me and this when this book comes out. Please tell all your friends Absolutely, and, and, and let's, let's change my life with artistic success. How about?

Speaker 1:

absolutely all good vibes and I will be the first to pick it up or send us a PDF, maybe before it? Oh, okay, well, we'd love to have you back on. I'd love to, if you don't skip town and leave the continent.

Speaker 3:

We are connected right.

Speaker 1:

Even if.

Speaker 3:

I do. I stay up very late because I know, I know that I'm used to wanting to be in an event that you know would take place at three in the morning in your Well, I'll try not to do that to you, okay. Thank you, it's been such a pleasure. It's so lovely to talk with you both and I'm really grateful. I'm really grateful. I love to talk.

Speaker 1:

It's obviously, it's mutual, we've gone over. But yeah thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

Thank you. So you let me know we don't we don't have to record that, but you'll let me know, like, where it is, how people link to it and all of that kind of stuff. Yeah, right, and I will, because I have lots of people who are like I want to hear it.

Speaker 1:

I thought Virginia would jump in as producer, but yeah, we have a. We'll follow up with the link to the episode. Please do share it, because we're in infancy, as you know. Yeah, we want to do it as a labor of love and we want to reach as many people as possible, so we're counting on you. We want to write your coattails and your platform and we'll send the link probably send the link within a week, for sure.

Speaker 3:

That's great, no rush that, and I can let people know. And that's, that's a service to me, because I well, it's cross pollination, everybody benefits. I like that All right. Please have a wonderful, wonderful, what's it Sunday? Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Before you go on here, we actually have a ritual that we do. Oh, do I explain it?

Speaker 1:

Dominic, oh my God, really. Okay, I've got well, I was going to drop it this week, but all right, Quickly, quickly pick a. Well, it seems so silly now because we just heard your beautiful poetic prose, prose, yeah, but so this is a book. It's my only nonfiction book. It's the one the podcast is based off of, but it it talk about linear? I mean it's a nonfiction book, so everybody take a snooze while we do this. I mean, really, that was it seems silly at this point because your work was so powerful. But pick a number on you, if you would, from one to three hundred and seventy, I'm sorry, three hundred and fifty three.

Speaker 3:

Oh, okay, I got it. Should I tell you what it is?

Speaker 1:

Oh no, you should tell us yes, oh, the suspense was killing me.

Speaker 3:

I'm sure it's actually ninety nine, which seems trite, but it's. I like this number.

Speaker 1:

So what we do. While I'm flipping to that page, just for fun, we, I flipped to the page that the guest mentions. I read it from the top and it it's strangely synchronicity wise always so far has keyed in to what we've spoken about. But it's just a way of sharing a little bit of the book each week, if that makes sense. Yes, all right, so, fingers crossed, here's what we've got the writing of the climactic sea. Okay, it's been required context. I guess I'm going on about the writing of the seeker. That's my latest mythic fiction novel, so I guess I was talking about the writing process. And at the top of page ninety nine, it just says the writing of the climactic scene.

Speaker 1:

And my spontaneous coffee run took place mid pandemic. I was sipping my coffee on the Starbucks patio and my neighbor sat down at my table. Like many, he was discouraged by the months and months of lockdown. This is already related, right? Because that feeling of mid pandemic lockdown by months and months of lockdown, the restrictions, the surreal tone of life. I hadn't batted an eye when COVID came along, as I'd have my proverbial brush with death a year earlier and the world had long since become unrecognizable. In fact, my close call is what had lit the fire to connect my craft with true purpose. The seeker was the product of that fire. That could not have been more inspired, motivated or on fire creatively.

Speaker 1:

When my neighbor sat down, my mind had been mulling over the half finished scene. In it, zeus literally sticks his head between the clouds and appears to Ameteus, the demigod protagonist, in his darkest moment, the dark night of the soul. Ameteus an aspect of me, of course finally confronts him about why the gods would have it in for him. I didn't share any of this with my neighbor. To say he was in a pissy mood would be an understatement. His usual bitterness, pessimism and cynicism was jacked up by COVID, the Black Lives Matter movement, incidents of police brutality and the political divisiveness dominating the news. Wow, we talked about that too.

Speaker 1:

I made some off the cuff comments that I wasn't quote unquote playing code for the fact I had bigger fist to fry and I didn't engage in the divisiveness. That appeared petty to me in my state of broadened perspective, the brush with death will make almost anything trivial by comparison. I'm going to cut this short, but the scene it's basically about when you're engaged in the creative process and it's organic, right and you're evolving through the creative process. Art reflects life and so in my experience, the universe just provides what's needed, and things literally appeared in my path on an as needed basis, because it takes a while to write a novel right. Every day it was informed by these gifts from the universe. So just to this one is worth, I'll tell you the end of that story.

Speaker 1:

So my neighbor sat down and I had been kind of avoiding writing this scene actually, but I did at some point go. Well, talk about formula. I thought well, the protagonist never really does go head to head with the antagonistic force which it's all symbolism. But it turned out to be Zeus himself. So I was just going to write the scene where actually they go head to head and he shakes his fist at God and says why do you have it in for me?

Speaker 1:

But I hadn't written the scene yet when my neighbor sat down and he's African American and you know we're in the middle of the Black Lives movement and he was not in a good mood. So he sat down and I made the mistake of saying and now I'm just telling it it was too long to read. But somewhere in there I said you know I'm not engaging in the divisiveness because I'm just trying to stay alive. And that was the truth. I was fighting for my life because, we were right, the healthcare system was already broken. I had to fight for every bit of care, including physical therapy, to remain on the planet. I had to fight for it.

Speaker 1:

So anyway, he heard me say and he didn't know the details of my medical emergency or any of that but I said, yeah, I'm just trying to stay alive, to be honest. And he goes. I've heard that people all over saying they're trying to stay alive. But what for what the fuck are their lives were? He literally said you know what the hell? What kind of life is it? Something like that. And I thought A, you never know from the outside. You can't assess other people's value to the planet from the outside. But I also walked away and thought okay, I've got my scene, because the very scene is we've chewed you up and spit you out. Right, the gods had chewed Amityus up and spit him out and they were done with him and he was digging in his heels and saying no, I want to co-create with the universe, I've got more to do here. So how? That was the exact conversation. The thing is, his name is Zeus. My neighbor's name is Zeus.

Speaker 3:

No, maybe. Oh, my God.

Speaker 1:

That happened every day in the writing process, though, like I needed, I was making up myths on an as needed basis. You know, someone was Minoan religion and I honored it, but then I would make up little myths, and one of them just came out of the mouth of a patron at Starbucks. It was amazing. Anyway, did you follow that at all, like telling me my life had no value?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, his name was Zeus. His name was Zeus. Oh my God, I only met one person named Zeus in my life in San Diego.

Speaker 1:

It's a great name, isn't it? It's so powerful.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it was Cambodian, so I don't know if it you know where his name came to be Zeus, but I think I met dogs named Zeus, but never a human, until my neighbor.

Speaker 1:

Anyway, thanks for indulging that.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. Do you know someone named Peter Fay by any chance? Peter Nope I don't, because he, he, he has. I haven't. I spoke to him a long time ago, I haven't spoken to him for a very long time, but I think he has a his, his work, his project. I think his site is called into the mythica and it has to do with story and and this level, the sort of mythical level.

Speaker 1:

What's the last name? Faa.

Speaker 3:

FAA, I think, is what is what he goes by and it's, but the site I think was is called into the mythica. I'll find it and send you that.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, I would love that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah Well it's been a pleasure having you on.

Speaker 3:

Oh, thank you so much. I just want to say that that it you know we work, so we work so hard and so much, and so much of it in an isolated way that to be able to have this kind of talk and and bringing forward, you know, ideas, and exchanging them and and being heard as as a writer and a teacher is is is a real gift.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for saying that. That's, that's truly. The spirit is just, we may not have any answers, but having the conversations you know, yeah, especially because of the isolation of COVID, it's like it's time to start, yeah, yeah, inspiring one another and talking about why we do what we do.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Well, thank you guys.

Speaker 3:

Everyone stays well. Your, your, your loved ones are, are well, and I'll, I'll look forward to hearing, without any pressure, whenever you're ready, because I know how these things go, so you know, but I'll, I'll, and then I'll get it around, believe me.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

And look into your other other podcasts too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, please do Look around on that.

Speaker 3:

I will Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Have a great day, take care, bye, bye. So with that, I think we're going to wrap up by saying, please join us for future episodes, if for no other reason than a little inspiration. Remember, life is story and to mix metaphors, we can get our hands in the clay. Individually and collectively, we can write our own story. See you next time.