Interview with Linda Ashok and Jamel Brinkley

Our blog editors, Maria Prudente and Joanna Cleary, were interested in interviewing writers about their obsessions and repulsions and how they influence writing. Scroll down to read their interviews with two writers we love, Linda Ashok and Jamel Brinkley.


LINDA ASHOK

Maria Prudente: I find that writers need to return to their obsessions in their work. Do you write about your obsessions and, is it challenging to find new ways to write about them?

Linda Ashok: I am not sure about what is implied by obsession. Are you referring to recurring motifs? The thing about my writing is that I never have to think too hard and I mostly go with the flow; writing is quite organic for me as I extract elements from my unsettling dreams. In this process, there are elements that appear quite frequently but they neither demand anything nor dictate. 

MP: Are you ever driven to write about what repulses you? How do you fight the urge to not write around it but through it?

LA: Like anybody else, I am repulsed by any kind of violence but I do write about it because it is therapeutic for me. It helps me to see the underlining of what we perceive as violence. It also builds familiarizes the readers to recognize violences they experience in their personal or public spaces.

Joanna Cleary: As a Communications and Branding professional as well as a writer, how do you think the increasing role of virtual reality and communication in our lives has affected your creativity and creative work? 

LA: Well, virtual reality has built and broken our lives in many ways. In my case, I leveraged virtual reality to expand my creative pursuit; I lived places before I literally travelled to those places. Imagining I am in a certain place, imagining the lives of people local to those places, helped me manifest my desire to live those places in real life through positive affirmations. I experienced their poetry, their struggle, their joys through virtual reality. So yes, it contributed a lot to my writing while also exposing me to a lot of toxicity that affected my mental health in several ways. That I am currently dealing with social anxiety is because of being overwhelmed by the duality of people as seen on social media vs real life. And of course when your life is affected, it does reflect in your work too.

JC: Can you speak to what inspired the title of your 2012 book of poetry, whorelight

LA: My book came out in 2017. I imagined a different name for it and that was whorefrost. But over the four years of its preparation, I found a mention of ‘whorefrost’ somewhere on the net and that really upset me. I wanted to have a unique name to my book. So I continued brainstorming until one day I coined ‘whorelight’ to define how light streams into our darkness, sleeps with it, and leaves everything illuminated. I feel it is akin to those sex-workers who somehow fill in a lot of void in the lives of their customers; and therefore ‘whorelight’ talks about many such moments and experiences that prostituted to fill the many spaces in my life forever inquisitive about meanings.

MP: I was so moved by your poem, ‘We Two Women Can Father A Child.’ Can you elaborate on how that particular piece came to be? 

LA: A certain phase of my childhood happened in the company of my biological mother and my step mother. My mother was too courageous to share her family space with my step mother and she did it to help my dad manage his finances better. In the wake of the world being more accomodating of non-binary relationship, that childhood experience of mine acted as a prop wherein I imagined my mothers discussing how they alone can father me without my dad being around. It is also a depiction of my queer sensibilities imagining two women fathering a child with more considerate human values.

JC: When I read “chew my tongue like a cannibal/ eating a red, fleshy berry” from your poem, ‘Tongue-Tied,’ I was  struck by the theatricality of language. Do you ever perform your work live?

LA: I do. But to myself. These poems are not for a listening audience as the kind of patience they have wouldn’t be enough to simulate the interior theatricality of the poem or poems as such. And even if I am given a very patient and perceptive audience, I would still refrain from performing it as these are very intimate pieces. 


JAMEL BRINKLEY

Maria Prudente: Writers seem to write a lot about their obsessions. Maybe that obsession is a place or a type of person. A writer I know constantly writes about going back inside her mother’s womb. Do you write about any of your obsessions?

Jamel Brinkley: I would say I do, but I’m usually not aware of that fact until after after I’ve written and I can retrospectively look at my work to truly see what I have done. For example, only in hindsight did I see that in my book I was writing about, and obsessed with, families, brotherhood and male friendship, masculinity, and love of various kinds.

MP: Are you driven to write about what repulses you? How do you face that challenge head on?

JB: I think I’m driven to write about what fascinates me, about what I have questions about, and perhaps that sometimes means writing about what repulses me. I think the challenge is making sure that what I’m writing about is interesting to me, so if feeling repulsed is the only response I have to a character or action, then I probably won’t write about it. Complicated or even contradictory emotion is key in driving and sustaining my interest in any story.

Joanna Cleary: According to your website’s description of your collection, A Lucky Man, the work “reflects the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class—where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.” Can you speak to what luck means to you? Is it an obsession or a repulsion, or both? 

JB: I wouldn’t say that luck is a repulsion; maybe it’s something like an obsession. On the one hand, luck, or the idea of being lucky, is one that I mean to take seriously in the book. I hope that every story contains at least one moment of genuine joy or pleasure or grace for my characters, the kind of moment that makes one feel lucky to be alive. On the other hand, or at the same time, I do mean my invocation of luck to be seen with some irony. For the protagonist of my title story, for instance, luck comes to mean something painful. His life hasn’t turned out the way he expected. And the idea of being fortunate, of being blessed by fate, means that his sense of deserving good things in his life is a lie. What I’m talking about now isn’t unrelated to the myth of meritocracy, which, for some reason, so many people in this country believe in wholeheartedly.  

JC: According to your website, you have many literary events and workshops coming up. Can you speak to how you find that participating in these events influence your work as a writer?  

JB: It’s a real pleasure to meet with readers of my work and with those who are interested in reading my work, and it’s fun to meet with people who are devoted to the writing life. That said, there is a difference between being an author (a public figure) and a writer (a private figure), and participating in all these events has pulled me away from writing. I’ve felt less like an artist than a promoter of my own work. In response to that feeling, I’m learning to be a little less precious about the conditions I require. For example I’m learning how to write in the sterile environments of hotel rooms and, at times, even on airplanes, instead of always needing my apartment, my desk, my coffee mug.

JC: Can you tell us about your current writing fellowship at Stanford?

JB: The Stegner Fellowship is a two-year gift of time and money for which I am very grateful. I benefit from the amazing writing and insights of my peers, the other fiction fellows, when we meet for workshop every week. And we all benefit from working with the Stanford creative writing faculty, with incredible people like Elizabeth Tallent and Chang-rae Lee.


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Author of whorelight, LINDA ASHOK is the 2017 Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Chichester, UK. She is the publisher of RLFPA Editions, Founder/President of RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts that funds the annual RL Poetry Award (since 2013), and the founding editor of the Best Indian Poetry series. For features, press coverage, published works and more, visit lindaashok.com

 

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Photo credit: Arash Saedinia

 

JAMEL BRINKLEY is a graduate of Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has received fellowships from Kimbilio Fiction, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Stanford University. A Lucky Man is his first book. He lives in California.

Conversation between Joanna Cleary and Maria Prudente

Blog editors, Joanna Cleary and Maria Prudente, talk about their writing lives and its challenges, writers who inspire them, the importance of an artistic community, and, of course, blogging and their plans for the Inklette blog!


Maria Prudente: Hi, Joanna. I’m going to start us off here and begin with sharing a little about me. I grew up in the suburbs of a tiny university town in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I tacked up pictures of New York City behind my bed. I always knew I wanted to be an actress, so I moved a few weeks after I graduated high school to begin my conservatory program in musical theatre. It was super intense. I barely remember eating, sleeping or talking to people, really, but it helped me get started on my career at 19 and, I never looked back. When I was younger I made everything so romantic and that included how I viewed my life as a performer but being an actor is tough. Your dreams build and break within an instant. A couple of years ago, I found myself emotionally and creatively depleted. I wanted to create myself all over again. My brain was hungry and I longed to fulfill the academic in me. Now, I’m at Columbia in my second year studying Creative Writing. Before I go more into detail on that, I want to know about you and your life at the University of Waterloo where you are studying English and Theatre, correct?

Joanna Cleary: Correct! I grew up in Toronto, Ontario (that’s in Canada, eh) and, much like you always knew you wanted to act, I somehow always knew that I wanted to write. Even though I didn’t start to write creatively until I was a teenager, my childhood was consumed with books and visits to the library. I found there was a specific sense of peace within the worlds that the written word created, one which I couldn’t always find in real life. Because I spent multiple periods in my childhood struggling with anxiety, retreating to these worlds offered me a break from my own problems. I found that reading, and later, writing, helped me understand myself and the world around me more deeply. As I began to branch out into writing plays as well as poetry and the occasional rambling short story, I realized I want to create worlds that do for other people what the written word did for me growing up; I want to help people escape, reflect on who they are, and find the strength to return to reality more prepared to cope with it. This brings me to a question I have for you, Maria – how did you first get into writing?  

MP: I started writing as a kid. It offered me a sense of relief. You mentioned struggling with anxiety which I can completely identify with and it all began in my childhood. Growing up I could put on this face of being very normal and, you know, playing flashlight tag with the other kids in the neighborhood, but, I also felt like an outsider. I was the only kid with a single parent who also happened to be sick. I spent an unusual amount of time worrying. I was alone a lot. We didn’t have as much money as the other families. When you are a kid, your imagination is what keeps you company but, I found that writing was a more immediate way to express myself. I could create the worlds of other people and writing allowed me to consistently return to those worlds.

JC: I completely agree that your imagination keeps you company when you’re a child, but, especially as you grow up, writing can offer a more direct way to create the worlds you want to make real. Having always been an introvert, I also felt like a bit of an outsider many times during my childhood. I often felt as though there was something about other people that I didn’t quite understand, or that I was afraid of. Reading and writing helped me cope with this, as I didn’t need the people in books to understand me; I was happy just to co-exist in their worlds. Growing up, I often became extremely irritated when watching book-to-movie adaptations that didn’t create the exact world I had imagined for the book in question (which was most of the time, if not always). However, as I continued to grow older (and realized that I may have a slightly obsessive need for control), I realized that subjectivity is one of the most empowering aspects of art. Nobody can ever completely control how another person writes, as we all have unique writing styles, as well as writing ideas, that can’t ever be truly micromanaged by others. With this in mind, I began to delve into writing as a form of emotional expression that created the worlds I knew I imagined and nobody else did, at least not in the same way. Do you find writing to be an immediate form of expression for you as well?

MP: Absolutely. Today, it’s still a great relief to put a word to a feeling. The writing program at Columbia has challenged me in such a wonderful way. It’s humbling to sit in a workshop and listen to people read your work aloud without you, the writer, being able to explain it or justify your choices. I admit I am hypersensitive. I have all but cried when a piece gets gutted because one tiny moment in the story doesn’t click with them. I try not to sit and self-loathe. I’m getting better but some days can be harder than others. I do care a lot but I try to pick what’s necessary to think about for revision and what isn’t. I try to stay focused on improving content and less on perceptions of my work over all. Some things will resonate deeply with people and some things won’t. How do you deal with workshops and critiques of your work? How do you move forward?

JC: I can be extremely sensitive to feedback if I feel that my work is misinterpreted. For instance, if I write a piece that specifically intends to play with the conventions of typical narrative structure and people spend all their time talking about how they don’t understand the lack of a proper beginning/middle/end, I’ll struggle not to dismiss feedback as having missed the entire point of what I was trying to do. My childhood desire for control clearly has not diminished in the slightest. However, the creative writing and play development workshops I’ve participated in throughout my university education have taught me that everyone has something useful to say, even if I may not agree with it. For instance, comments made by people talking about the lack of a conventional narrative arc in a piece without a clearly defined beginning/middle/end may help me understand that I need to be clearer about my aesthetic intentions. As a creative writing professor once told me, we’re usually the most defensive about criticism we know is true. Hence, I always try to keep an open mind when listening to feedback, even if my gut reaction is to shut down. If I succeed, I often find that people offering feedback can help me as much as my initial sources of writing inspiration. Speaking of which, can you speak to which writers influence you?

MP:  When I was eleven, I stole “The Virgin Suicides” by Jeffrey Eugenides from my brother’s bookshelf and read it over and over. I became obsessed with that story the same way the boys in the book grow obsessed with the Lisbon sisters. I read the
“The Marriage Plot” on a trip to London and had to stop reading because I was irritated I hadn’t written it myself. I like the darkness to Eugenides’ work. I’m a massive fan of playwrights. After getting the chance to put their work into action, it’s hard not to feel creatively committed to them. From Shaw, Strindberg, and Chekhov to John Osborne, Ariel Dorfman, Mamet, Rabe, LaBute. I think Leslie Jamison should be required reading for nonfiction writers on how to master work that combines the personal with research. My list keeps growing as I keep learning. Who are you favorite writers?

JC: I love e.e. cummings, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Lucille Clifton, Sarah Kay, Lauren Groff, and Hanya Yanagihara (in no particular order). One of my favourite hobbies, however, is picking up a writing collection or visiting an online magazine, going to a random page, and reading what’s on there. I love discovering new artists as much as I love revisiting familiar ones. Becoming suddenly acquainted with the unique style of a contemporary artist I have never heard of before often inspires me to continue writing when I feel stuck. It’s important to remember what makes you want to write and what you want to write for. I often find simply being exposed to the sheer desire to write and the energy that the written word can have compels me to write for those moments and emotions in my own life that can’t be expressed in any other way. What about you – what you you write for/against? What compels you to write?

MP: I do feel this urgency to write about what repulses me. I had a professor encourage this notion to our small group of maybe six writers last summer. It’s tougher in non-fiction. In that particular class, I started writing about being a hypochondriac and having contamination OCD. I’d had some distance from it so I understood that I could imbue some humor into it because on some level it is funny. It also feels deeply selfish. I was a nervous wreck to share that with my class but they encouraged me to go even further. That same summer I had this assignment that I didn’t like. We had to do an art review and I was having a tough time picking one piece so, I ended up writing this ultra-cynical meta-critique on several paintings and simulations. It ended up being this dark-humor commentary on corporatized art in Chelsea. I had clearly made a mistake choosing Chelsea Galleries and yet it worked! I would say that I am like most non-fiction writers: I write to understand. I have to ask because we are co-editors for Inklette, do you have any prior experience writing blogs?

JC: Almost none! Aside from a writing a few Inklette blog posts over the past few years, blogging is a new medium for me. This is why, after having been a poetry reader/dditor ever since I joined Inklette, I wanted to try and form of writing with which I have less experience. I’ve always been interested in creative nonfiction and I love reading blogs because they are often intimately related with the idea of knowing writers as people. I believe that is essential to the empathetic interpersonal bonds that writing creates. However, I know that you have a blog because I’ve shamelessly stalked you on it. Tell me more about your blogging experience!    

MP: Oh gosh! Sometimes I forget that it’s out there and I suddenly feel naked. I didn’t know you posted for Inklette before, that’s so cool! My blog, Pink Moon, is a year old. It is a mixture of the political and the poetic. It’s not meant to be polished, it’s messy and honest. I insert my voice in the kinds of work I post there but, for Inklette, I think the work should primarily be about telling the stories of others and exploring shared conversations. Supporting other writers, learning about them and reading what they have to say is so important for our growth as writers.

JC: I agree – community is essential to the life of writing, which is why I’m thrilled to be working on the Inklette blog with you. As for everyone reading, we hope that you’ll stick around for more messiness, opinions, art, and random tidbits coming your way.

MP: Agreed! Stay tuned!


149460297287447JOANNA CLEARY is an undergraduate student double majoring in English Literature and Theatre and Performance at the University of Waterloo. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The /tƐmz/ Review, The Hunger, Pulp Poets Press, Every Pigeon, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Subterranean Blue Poetry, among others.

 

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MARIA PRUDENTE has written about feminist ethics for Manifest-Station and is featured in Grey Wolfe Publishing’s upcoming anthology of nonfiction short stories. Maria is a professional stage and film actress. She received her training from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and graduated from the American Musical & Dramatic Academy with a concentration in Musical Theatre performance. Maria is the Content Editor at CountrySkyline, LLC and proud member of Actor’s Equity Association. She lives in NYC where she studies Creative Writing at Columbia University.

 

Interview with Cema D’Souza

Read Cema D’Souza’s story here. 


 Inklette: How did your story, “Unseen,” come into being? What was your inspiration?

Cema: Trying to overcome a writer’s block was my inspiration, honestly!

Inklette: What is your relationship to writing? When did you first begin and what do you prefer writing?

Cema: I’ve been writing ever since I began reading at the age of ten. The process of story-writing always fascinated me. I would wonder how an author concocts brilliant plots and characters to bring out stories. So, I tried writing my own. I prefer writing short fiction.

Inklette: Are there any works or authors who have significantly influenced you? 

Cema: Harnidh Kaur’s poetry, definitely.

Inklette: Do you have a writing community around you? What is the writing scene like where you live? 

Cema: I currently reside in Bangalore, India and there is quite a wonderful writing community here. I’m lucky to call some of the best writers I know friends.

Inklette: What is the kind of writing you want to see more of?

Cema: Since it is so hard to find representation in mainstream literature, I would say Indian Writing in English.


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CEMA D’SOUZA, 19, is currently studying in Christ University, Bangalore. She’s happiest when surrounded by books and dogs.

Inklette interviews Sprout Magazine

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Inklette interviewed a dear friend, Sprout Magazine, that turns one next month. 

Sprout envisions “a space where young minds can share their thoughts and opinions about society through creative expression.” Sprout is a nonprofit, online literary journal for teens, by teens and publishes “creative media that demonstrates awareness of the world and social commentary, sharing art in its purest, rawest form.”

Here is Victoria Hou, the Editor-in-Chief of Sprout, interviewed by our Prose Editor, John S. Osler III. 


John: How would you describe Sprout to someone who’s never heard of it?

Victoria: I would describe Sprout as a curation of creative, developed political thoughts from young artists. Sprout’s mission is to promote awareness through art, so that’s pretty much who we are at the core.

John: What inspired you to create a magazine like that?

Victoria: I’ve always been an artist, but I didn’t become politically active or aware until I started getting on social media. When social movements such as #blacklivesmatter and intersectional feminism became increasingly more relevant on social media, I found myself and my peers becoming more and more educated about political and social issues. So, Sprout’s a happy marriage between the two things I find most important in life – self-expression and awareness.

John: And do you think Sprout has done that so far, reflecting social issues through art?

Victoria: I think so. As with all art, many of the pieces featured on Sprout are personal, but all of them align with a greater social issue. For example, we’ve featured many pieces on bullying and gender inequality. Both of these topics are ones that affect the individual, but are issues that connect with our society as a whole.

 So, Sprout’s a happy marriage between the two things I find most important in life – self-expression and awareness. 

John: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember hearing that, up until a few months ago, you and Sophie Grovert were the only editors for Sprout. What was that like, editing and publishing an entire literary magazine with a staff of only two?

Victoria: To be honest, it was pretty tough at the beginning. I founded it on my own and Sophie started helping me out in the months following Sprout’s birth. But eventually the word got out – Sophie helped me out a lot on that front, she’s got a lot of writer friends that I didn’t have – and Sprout started expanding.

John: It certainly has. How has Sprout changed since taking on seven new staff members?

Victoria: Well, our productivity has certainly increased. Our focus has shifted from developing internally to growing outward. But we’ve stayed true to the feelings that led us to create Sprout in the first place – a motivation to offer something meaningful to the world and an enthusiasm for honest, raw work.

John: With a larger staff, do you have any new projects in the works?

Victoria: We want to create an issue featuring selected works from our magazine! Currently, Sprout features a piece weekly on our website, but we’re looking to put out a collection for our anniversary in April.

 But we’ve stayed true to the feelings that led us to create Sprout in the first place – a motivation to offer something meaningful to the world and an enthusiasm for honest, raw work.

John: Interesting. Are there any topics you wish more people submitted pieces about?

Victoria: With so many political topics and social issues in the world, it would be impossible to prioritize a few over others. That being said, however, I think issues such as gun control, immigration, and Islamaphobia could be really interesting if expressed creatively.

John: What would you say your personal favorite piece so far has been?

Victoria: I can’t pick a definite favorite, but recently we featured a piece titled “White on White” by Lucas Bigelow that expresses frustration at internalized racism. It’s a wonderful read and basically captures Sprout’s essence of political realization and clear, elevated thought.

John: Would you say Sprout has a certain ideology, or that you publish anything, so long as it’s political in nature and well written? Would you, for example, publish a thoughtful piece that argues against legalizing same sex marriage?

Victoria: Sprout itself doesn’t have an ideology. Although staff members may have certain opinions on political issues, Sprout will publish thoughtful political pieces so long as they aren’t hateful or threatening in nature.

At the end of our mission statement, it states “We encourage all opinions and points of view, but that being said – Sprout does not reflect any biases present in the work we publish. We are simply a plot of land for seeds to grow. Plant yourself here and watch yourself prosper.”

And we like to stick to that whenever possible, regardless of our personal views or opinions.

John: Huh, and have you run into any problems with that thus far, staff members conflicting over political views or readers complaining about pieces they didn’t agree with? 

Victoria: No, we haven’t. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

In all seriousness, anything that cultivates and encourages political opinion is a breeding ground for controversy. I think that if readers disagree with pieces featured on Sprout, we’re doing our job in promoting differing views on issues that matter. And by all means, if you disagree with something on Sprout, we’re glad to consider your opinion for publication as well!

When talking politics, its important to include the voices of everyone. Sprout will always have room to grow in this respect, because there’s always someone out there who’s voice isn’t heard.

John: So you’d be willing to publish counter opinions to published pieces?

Victoria: Yes, if we ever received any that followed our mission statement and submission rules. Sprout believes that any mature political conversation is a good political conversation, and we’d be happy to feature any well-crafted opinion piece, whether it counters a previous piece on Sprout or not.

John: So in your submission rules, I see that you only accept submissions from writers and artists ages thirteen to twenty two. What do you think publishing only pieces by young writers adds to Sprout?


Victoria:
Sprout acts as a medium for young people to nurture their thoughts. It is, by extension, is a learning environment. You can flesh out different avenues with Sprout. Because we only publish young artists, we’re able to build this safe space for young artists to express themselves and learn at the same time. A platform to explore opinions is especially important in a time of life where it seems almost impossible to have your voice heard. And that’s just not the teenage angst in me speaking either.

John: Okay, last question: besides publishing an anthology, how do you see Sprout growing in the months and years to come?

Victoria: Well, I hope to see an inclusion of more political issues from around the world. We have two staff members who are from countries other than the U.S and it would be wonderful to see more international submissions regarding issues that aren’t necessarily Western in nature. When talking politics, its important to include the voices of everyone. Sprout will always have room to grow in this respect, because there’s always someone out there whose voice isn’t heard.

John: Well said. Thanks so much for agreeing to the interview, it was a pleasure to speak with you! 

Victoria: Thank you so much for the opportunity! The pleasure was mine!

Blog Credits: John S. Osler III (Prose Editor)


14572798657827VICTORIA HOU is a sixteen year old poet and artist. Along with being the Editor-in-Chief of Sprout, she is also the executive editor of her school’s print literary magazine, The Highland Piper. Her poetry was awarded Silver Key for Scholastic Art & Writing, West Region in 2014. She is also a two-time gold medalist and one-time silver medalist in Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts’ National Brush Painting & Calligraphy competition. Passionate about politics and law, Victoria spends her free time reading up on current events. 

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JOHN S. OSLER III is currently a senior at Edina High School, where he writes for both the school’s underground, satirical newspaper, The Southern View, and their legitimate newspaper, Zephyrus. He has attended the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. He is currently a Prose Editor for Inklette, where his story, ‘Farrand Pride’ was published. Another story of his, ‘Howard Houghton,’ was published in Phosphene Literary Journal. Recently, his short story, ‘Bobby’s Song’ was published in the first issue of Moledro Magazine. 

Inklette interviews Loud Zoo Magazine

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Inklette interviewed a friend, Loud Zoo Magazine, which  is “concerned with powerful and unique visions rather than chasing markets and pandering to trends.”  

Loud Zoo is a fresh and daring magazine. Its journey is marked by a grounding honesty. In this interview, we have tried to bring to fore its ideology, story and more so, its unique voice. 

Here is  Josh Smith, the Editor-in-Chief of Loud Zoo, interviewed by our Intern, Haley Zilberberg.


Haley: Can you elaborate on your ideology and future goals?

Josh: I’m historically terrible with goals, but around a year before we started Loud Zoo, I approached a longtime friend about joining the staff and he responded by asking what we were hoping to accomplish by reviving Bedlam from its dormancy. That friend was onto something. Maybe he knew we needed some direction, maybe not, but in asking that question, he sparked a string of potential projects and outcomes that ultimately led to what we’re doing today. The pieces were all there; I just hadn’t stopped to consider the possibilities until that moment. We had been kicking around the idea of shutting Bedlam down on our tenth anniversary, but I still had a feeling that we could do more. I knew that if we built a magazine on a socially-conscious base, it would not only keep us more engaged, but we could make a deeper connection with our readers as well. Our ideology is sustained by this drive, and sharpened by paying attention to the climate shifts both in literature and the world at large.
We acquired our first translated work for the last issue, which was stunning, and we would really love to feature more. It seems that beyond the works of well-known writers and magazines that focus exclusively on translations, American literary publications don’t often contain them. Of course, there are exceptions, but from where we’re standing, far too many perspectives are ignored, unable to breach the language barrier. If we see increased translations in the greater literary arena, I feel like we’ll see an immense shift in the types of stories and books that people will seek out, which will likely affect film and television productions, making the wider scope of storytelling more interesting. We’ll keep pushing with our platform, hopefully other editors will as well!

Our ideology is sustained by this drive, and sharpened by paying attention to the climate shifts both in literature and the world at large.

We also haven’t talked publicly about our first book yet, and I can’t keep it contained any longer… We’re working with Ali Eteraz (who appeared in Loud Zoo #1) on a collection of poetry by Ramez Qureshi. Ramez was a Pakistani-American living in New York who took his own life just months before 9-11. His poetry embodies an energy and direction that virtually disappeared in the wake of the September attacks. It weaves between academic and cathartic, intimate and community-minded, and is wholly engaging throughout. The Qureshi family discovered an immense body of work, much of it handwritten, and provided us with copies to review. Catherine, one of our editors, has been meticulously transcribing all of these pages, and we’ve begun making selections for which pieces will appear in the volume. We hope to have it out by late 2016 or early 2017, with plans for a short-run special edition in the works.

Haley: Also, what is your perspective on this question: In a world that is becoming increasingly connected, what is the importance on focusing on individual communities?

Josh: The increased global connectivity is changing how we perceive just about everything, and no community is left unaffected, even if the impacts are indirect. We’re seeing communities of all types thrive and struggle, and if we pay attention, we can learn something and lend a hand when things are leaning in our favor. With artistic groups, we’re seeing people come together who never would have made contact otherwise, and absorbing each other’s far-reaching influences and inspirations. Once one or two people hit a groove, they tend to inspire their cohorts, and all of a sudden, there’s a kinetic burst where several undeveloped ideas catapult into something its creators never imagined possible. The larger the range of perspectives and new influences, the more powerful this burst, and the work it produces, tends to be.  Small, isolated groups can stagnate and start to repeat themselves without new ideas to stir them up, and will eventually either dissolve or become toxic. Of course, we see this in political and other social circles as well.

What is important about differentiating from mainstream journals and who defines mainstream/alternative? What does it mean to be mainstream/alternative to you?


Mainstream and alternative journals each serve important purposes in the lit world, and I don’t think one type could exist without the other — at least not currently. While mainstream publications tend to target the casual reader, alternative press is free to charge into the unknown, and in my opinion, the farther the better! Not every experimental work will change how we read, but a far fewer number of absolute Earth shaking pieces come out of the mainstream.

For us to be an alternative isn’t to catch the dregs from the mainstream, but to lift up the brave new voices who are poised to be the next mainstream, but haven’t yet had their opportunity for the world at large to understand them.

Literature is just as bound by the constraints of what sells as movies, music, and any other medium, and if a work doesn’t check off enough of the required elements for a publisher to consider it a money maker, it’s jettisoned without alternatives to provide it an opportunity. Journals are generally more accepting of challenging work than major book publishers, but there are definitely enough parallels to keep the little mutants like us charging through the underground. Also, as far as I can tell, there are approximately nine billion lit mags currently being produced, and as much as that may seem like a reason to not add another one to the stack, if we look back at this global connectivity, we see it opening up worlds of new interests for people to enjoy. Sects and sub-genres and niches, each one validates itself by its own guidelines, merits, and communities, and each one needs a platform to keep its fans sated and its creators productive. As such, we don’t focus on any single genre because we see merit in all of them. For us to be an alternative isn’t to catch the dregs from the mainstream, but to lift up the brave new voices who are poised to be the next mainstream, but haven’t yet had their opportunity for the world at large to understand them.

Blog Credits: Haley Zilberberg (Intern)


 

145688373036873JOSH SMITH is not a pseudonym. He is, however, a jack of some trades. An aspiring mad scientist, he builds and amplifies noisy contraptions when time and space permit. He’s on Twitter – @jsbedlam. This is probably not his real face. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Loud Zoo Magazine.

 

145688373036873 (1)HALEY ZILBERBERG is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Social Work with a
Creative Writing minor. She writes about many topics, often surrounding disabilities and social justice. Haley has been published in Inklette and Loud Zoo (Issue 5).

 

Jim Harrington interviews Inklette

The Editors-in-Chief of Inklette, Trivarna Hariharan and Devanshi Khetarpal, were recently interviewed by Jim Harrington.

Read the full interview here.

 Thanks to Jim and best wishes for his blog.

LitBridge interviews Inklette

Melissa, from LitBridge, recently interviewed the Editors-in-chief of Inklette, Trivarna Hariharan and Devanshi Khetarpal.

We sincerely thank LitBridge for supporting us. Read the full interview here.