In another life, Brian was a painter. Inspired by the abstract expressionists and eventually found his own style, large canvas paintings with imagery of Catholic nuns. When he and his wife moved to Richmond in 1982 to find work, he was “reincarnated as a coyote,” forced to adapt in order to survive. Going back to school, King became a computer engineer. Since then, he has had a successful tech career, primarily developing architecture software.
He doesn’t paint anymore. Instead, he writes poetry. For the past seven years, Brian has embraced this new medium of expression and has been performing at open mics around town regularly. Brian’s poetry evokes a certain stillness and introspection that we loved.
This episode features several of his poems, including “Jumper,” “Memorial,” and “Government Cheese.” Poetry is cool, so give it a listen!
You can see Brian perform at Cafe Zata’s open mics (fourth Friday of every month) and at River City Poets. One of Brian’s poems, “Hurt,” will be included in the upcoming anthology, Between the Margins, which will be available this September.
Life in 10 Minutes: Stories that are Brave and True.
When Valley Haggard came on our show, I asked if she might be interested in starting a podcast. A few months later and now, here we are! Producing the L10 podcast has been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope some of you will find it meaningful enough to give it a listen.
The Vietnam War is a fundamental piece of our country’s history. It’s a war we see often in movies, but rarely do we get an honest, accurate portrayal.
Dave Aldridge is a force. Looming at well over 6 feet, his age does not diminish his stature or his presence. He brought three stories to this interview, all three will plunge you into his world and surprise you with their somber spirit and colorful cameos.
We met Dave at a weekly meeting of The Mighty Pen Project, a writing group comprised entirely of veterans. The group is led and taught by the prolific David L. Robbins, former P&C guest, and Richmond writing giant. If you served in the armed forces and would like to be involved, you can register here.
From the author: “Carlisle Montgomery is, in her own words, ‘A six-foot-five, redheaded, pigtailed, gap-and-buck-toothed, nine-fingered, guitar-playing freak.’ Out of Richmond, Va., she fronts the Live Wires, a bluegrass band with a honky-tonk problem that they’re not trying to fix. She writes and performs what music promoter Page Wilson dubbed, ‘purebred American mongrel music.’ The Live Wires are acoustic and unplugged. It’s the 1990s, and the radio airplay world is divided between grunge and Garth Brooks.”
Harry would also like to cordially invite you–yes, you!–to the upcoming production of Hand of God put on by the 5th Wall Theater. Mr. Kollatz has been working behind-the-scenes for the 5th Wall for a long time and would appreciate your support. I would like to add personally that Richmond has a great local theater scene and you should check it out ASAP!!
Listen to us jabber about old-timey Richmond, blather on about bluegrass, hem and haw about this and that. It’s a whole lotta fun!
Follow Harry and Carlisle on social med for more updates on the book, expect it to hit shelves soon!
If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet… just… why? Also, please like us on Facebook, we’re desperate for friendship. We’ll pay you. Well, Dom’ll pay you. Ask him.
Blair produces music under the name lovenloops, as a part of the creative team SolHot and its band, We Levitate. She is a producer and writer, currently penning her PhD thesis on the shared space for black girls created by SolHot, and the meditation and music that is created there.
Dom and I had a great time chatting with Blair about hip hop and poetry and beatmaking and community building and more! Her music is one-of-a-kind, like its creator.
I first met Gail and Brittney at Ian Bodkin’s Poetry of the Whatnot reading as part of this year’s RVA Lit Crawl and knew immediately that we absolutely had to get them on the show.
Brittney Scott has a new collection of poems called The Derelict Daughter, the culmination of her writing career thus far. Much of the book focuses on her relationship with her mother, father, and brother.
Gail Giewont is a soft-spoken teacher at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, but her poetry shakes with a force that will surprise you. Her book, Vulture, is available through Finishing Line Press.
Michele’s new novel, Lost in the Beehive, has a lot of buzz! That’s a little bee humor for ya. It was featured in O! Magazine last month and Patricia Smith–acclaimed author of The Year of Needy Girls, co-organizer of the RVA Lit Crawl and, most importantly, previous P&C guest–calls it “a heartbreaking, life-affirming novel that champions the radical notion that to embrace our truest self is the one thing we can do to save ourselves. These characters and their lives and this beautiful story remained in my mind long after I finished reading.”
Lost in the Beehive is a coming of age story with magical fantasy elements. It’s about life and love and growing up gay in the 60s and BEES!
We landed ourselves an interview with a national bestseller! Yes sir, Prose and Cons sure has hit the Big Times. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure to thank all of our devoted listeners when we win our first Podcasty, or whatever the Grammy equivalent is…
David had graciously invited us to record in his home and was idly strumming a well-worn guitar on his deck as Dom and I walked up. Before we knew it, we were seated comfortably on the second best back porch in Richmond, ice waters in hands. As I handed him the mic, he quickly grabbed a nearby candelabra and, snatching a large candle off the top, created a damned functional mic stand.
Dom characteristically bungled his “research” within the first 30 seconds of the interview, fortunately, I was there, armed with my wealth of knowledge and snappy wit.
From there, it was smoooooth sailin’! David is as gregarious as he is prolific, and he is prolific. In the second half of the episode, he reads the first two chapters from what will be his 15th published novel, Isaac’s Beacon.
This really is a fantastic episode, and well worth a listen. If you haven’t already, could you please subscribe to our humble podcast? We’d sure appreciate it.
GRAND SLAM CHAMP Imani Thompson and PAGE POET SLAM CHAMP and VCU SLAM CAPTAIN Pressman Pressman from The Writer’s Den delight our ears and hearts with their pomes of love and anguish. Ben and Dom are also present.
Catch their slams the last Thursday of every month at Infuzion RVA. Doors open at 7, pomes start at 8.
It’s not often that you meet a 13-year-old who has already accomplished more than a studio full of radio hosts in their mid-20s combined… but Henry Haggard is no ordinary lad! He’s organized rallies, written columns, and been involved with some of the heaviest-hitting non-profits around. Henry Haggard is my hero.
Aaaaand in the chair next to Henry is his amazing mother, Valley! Valley Haggard founded Life in 10 Minutes, an online literary magazine, back in 2010. Since then, it has grown into so much more! Valley offers classes, workshops, and all kinds of writing-tastic events at the Life in 10 Minutes./Richmond Young Writers space in Carytown. Instead of the soul-crushing pressure to get published (ubiquitous in most workshops) Valley’s classes focus on the therapeutic power of writing. I myself got a chance to participate in a one-on-one Life in 10 Minutes session and it was even more lovely than I had imagined. (I’m currently signed up for a “Meditation and Musing: Focus Your Mind While Honing Your Craft” workshop with Sadeqa Johnson and a six-week class. I’m friggin’ hooked!
So many goodies in this episode. Lots of gems. Wisdom. Words! Laughter. More words.
Henry wants to spread the good word about Love 146, an international organization dedicated to stopping child trafficking and exploitation. He also wants you–yes, you–to vote!
This young man gives me hope for the future.
There are so many great things in the works for Life in 10 Minutes. You can sign up for classes, workshops, even in your very own living room! (“It’s like a Tupperware party, but for writing.”) Valley is even developing a hybrid press, with her next book as the first publication!
And since you have dutifully read all the way to the end of this long-winded blog post, I’m going to let you in on a little secret….
[I’m working with Valley to create a brand-spanking new weekly Life in 10 Minutes podcast.] Don’t tell anyone. Wait, actually–do, we want people to listen.
Mikemetic is a man of many modes and balances life as a father, musician, community advocate, and educator with a constant influx of new creative engagements each year. He is an Honorary member of University of Richmond’s Alpha Psy Omega Theater and Dance Society, a former Style Weekly “Top 40 Under 40” selection, and an author with a number of forthcoming titles. His 2017 release “Hood Haiku Volume One: Sidewalk Science” earned him the characterization as “part Public Enemy, part Zora Neale Hurston” and has allowed him to continue pushing forward the dialogue around art, culture, and identity. Mikemetic has also been a volunteer at WRIR for over a decade with 8 years as host of Middle East Coast Mecca, and several more years as a regular contributor and guest host on Mellow Madness and a number of other shows.
A.M. Pressman is an Indonesian-American poet living in Richmond, Virginia. Their work has appeared on Button Poetry and Write About Now, and explores issues of mixed Asian identity, family, faith, and trauma through personal narratives. They are currently an undergrad student at VCU. Their work has appeared on Button Poetry, Write About Now, Slamfind, and other publications. Pressman is the 2015 VCU Grand Slam Champion, 2016 CUPSI Best Poet Nominee, 2016 Southern Fried Indie Finalist, 2017 WOWPS and IWPS Representative for Washington D.C.’s Beltway Slam, and 2016-2017 President of VCU’s internationally ranked poetry team, Good Clear Sound.
Lydia Armstrong lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia, with her two cats. Her work has appeared in Voicemail Poems, Blotterature, Neon, The Axe Factory, Arsenic Lobster, apt, and others. Her poem, “The November We Are Fifteen,” was selected for the Crack the Spine Anthology XV and The Best Small Fictions 2017 (Braddock Avenue Books). She was a 2017 nominee for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. In 2016, Lydia helped operate Slam Richmond, a local spoken word venue, and facilitated writing workshops in conjunction with Slam Richmond open mics, in high schools, and for private groups. She is currently working on a novel.
The second annual Lit Crawl is upon us! This year’s events will be staged in various venues throughout Carytown and will feature dozens of local authors. We will be there to record readings and perhaps even give out some P&C swag! For more information, check out their website.
Lydia Armstrong is a prolific and deeply personal poet. We Prosers sat down with Lydia to discuss her poetry and writing, and we are pleased to share our conversation and her performance with you here on the airwaves.
The piece she chose to bring in (something which inspired her) was an excerpt from Seymour: An Introduction, a novella by the late J.D. Salinger. Initially published in The New Yorker in 1959, since 1963 it has been published together with another one of his novellas, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenter. Like many of Salinger’s post-Catcher in the Rye stories, Seymour features members of the fictional Glass family. The Glass’ seven children are all as bright as they are precocious, and are the basis for the Tenenbaum children from Wes Anderson’s 2001 cult classic The Royal Tenenbaums. Seymour: An Introduction has been maligned by many literary critics for its lack of structure and its stream-of-consciousness narrative style, but others, like Lydia, have found a wonderful sense of sadness within Buddy Glass’s lament of his lost brother, Seymour.
Lydia read two poems for us. The first is The Highway is Just Concrete, published in the Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal. It’s a deep look into Lydia’s struggles with Intrusive Thoughts and O.C.D. by way connecting the concrete making up the highway, on which she has had unwelcome thoughts of intentionally causing an accident, with that of the walls we surround ourselves with for safety and security.
Yet another great episode with yet another great writer! We discuss memes as works of art, the lasting legacy of Marina Abramović‘s popularization of poignant performance art, and what it’s like to slog through the writing of a first novel.
You can catch Lydia at a number of open mics around Richmond, especially the Open Mic Poetry night at Café Zata in Forest Hill, 7pm – 9pm, fourth Fridays. You can also follow her on Instagram, and watch videos of her slam performances on her YouTube channel.
Phil and Bill are two fine fellows. They are also extremely talented Middle Grade and Young Adult authors!
Phil Hilliker has been a successful freelance illustrator for sixteen years. After working so closely with many different authors, Phil started thinking about the stories that he wanted to tell and became a writer himself. As a writer and as an illustrator, Phil tells us that he quickly recognized Middle Grade (the expanding literary genre aimed at 8-12 -year-olds) as his true niche. Though as yet unpublished, Hilliker has secured a literary agent for his exciting new novel, Atomic Diner, and is working on his next novel, this one based around “frontier” tall tales of the American West.
Though not a Richmond native, Phil says that the local writing community here has played a huge part in making the city feel like home. Hilliker is the Membership Coordinator for James River Writers, the largest writing group in Richmond (including more than a few prior P&C guests, like Kris Spisak, Patty Smith, and Cheryl Pallant). He has also created a wonderful hobby: Scrabble paintings. For years, Phil has created micro-paintings on the back of Scrabble tiles and has been leaving them in random public spaces. So, if you happen to find one around the Greater Richmond Area, hit him up!
Bill “Wildcat” Blume has been on our list of guests we want on P&C for a long time. A longtime member of JRW, Bill served as the chair for their 2013 annual writing conference and is a frequent moderator of The Writing Show, a monthly writing panel at The Firehouse Theatre.
A writer since way back, Bill is the author of many published short stories, as well as the exciting Gidion Keep series, of which the first two books, Gidion’s Huntand Gidion’s Blood, have been published so far. It’s a YA series about a teenage vampire hunter, navigating the tricky path of adolescence while using his wiles to kill devilish vamps.
Bill and Phil were wonderful guests, and we had a ball talking about Howl’s Moving Castle, Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, and the vexing vampirical post-Twilight landscape for Young Adult Paranormal Fiction. Plus, advice for anyone who wants to publish a book! Check it out.
Since we’ve recorded this episode, Phil has sent me a couple of clarifications from our discussion, which I will include here. There has been quite a bit of criticism of the Indian in the Cupboard series from the Native American community, some links to which can be found here. Also, the story about Stephen Fry being unable to say the phrase, “pocketed it” while recording the first Harry Potter book is, sadly, untrue. On a positive note, Felica Day has, in fact, narrated quite a few audiobooks!
Bert Ashe is an English professor at the University of Richmond, and author of Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles. We sat down with Dr. Ashe in the WRIR studio to talk about his influences, his book, and his dreads.
Origins. Growth. Twisted. Golden Age. Locked. Confession. Twistedis structured according to Bert’s own journey of cultivating his dreadlocks, interspersed with Black history and the context of the modern dread, voiced in Ashe’s characteristic pithy wit.
The book starts with a confession–which Dr. Ashe reads during the second segment of the episode–he goes on to explain that he missed the Golden Age of dreads. That Bert, a down-to-earth husband, dad, and dude, has contributed to the normalization of the hairstyle that once, not so long ago, was a clear sign of righteous rebellion.
“from Uppercase Dreads to common-denominator lowercase locks…”
Dr. Ashe is not only unquestionably intelligent and well-educated, he’s also funny as hell! We had a ball chatting with our new friend Bert, and we, your ever-humble hosts, hope you’ll enjoy listening to this episode.
Bert also wants to promote his RVA reading group, Black Men Read?! If you’re a readerly black man in Richmond, you can contact Dr. Ashe for details!
On the last Thursday of every month, poets and poetry enthusiasts gather at Infuzion RVA for The Writer’s Den Poetry Slam. Poets include members of The Writer’s Den slam team, as well as walk-on performers. Slams provide a unique experience: during the course of three rounds, poets advance (or are eliminated) based on the combined scores of judges from the audience. The growing success of these events is due largely to the efforts of the founder of The Writer’s Den, Roscoe Burnems (one of our guests for our second-ever show, along with fellow TWD teammate Monica Edwards).
Last month, I attended my second Writer’s Den Slam. Upon arriving, I was asked to be a judge. I was given a small whiteboard and an unexpected dose of anxiety. How do you judge a poem? How do you compare one poet to another? Turns out, it’s as simple as it is stressful. I decided on a handful of basic criteria and tried to keep my cool when my score was met with pained yelps from the back of the room.
Each poem had its own distinctive style and tone. Some were bitter, cursing an ex-lover. Others downright hilarious. Two particularly charismatic performers were Michelle Dodd and Rob “Robalujah” Gibson.
“The Dodd is good…” “All the time.” “All the time…” “The Dodd is good.” Michelle Dodd is the only member of the Writer’s Den who receives her own battle cry before each performance. Michelle is a black woman who was adopted by a white family, and much of her poems revolve around feeling out of place and uncomfortable in her own skin. She is also a musician, often incorporating ground-shaking vocal performance into her poetry. Michelle Dodd is a powerhouse poet. She has published two books of poetry, which you can find on her website.
Robalution. Robalujah. Robalu. Rob Gibson is a poet, artist, musician, and coach. This man breathes verse. While we were recording this episode, I saw that Rob was writing or doodling on some scrap paper while we spoke. Afterward, we saw that he had sketched each of us in the room.
Writing this, I realize that I actually know very little about Rob. Maybe that’s part of his charm.
During our conversation, Michelle mentioned that another member of The Writer’s Den once said that all poets can be classified as of the elemental “benders” fromAvatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra: water, earth, fire, and air. Michelle is a self-described water poet, Rob an air poet. This seems about right to me. Michelle’s poems will wash over you with total emotion. Rob is whimsical and daring with his poetry, like Aang riding the wind on his glider.
Kris Spisak does it all: fiction, non-fiction, blog writing, editing, web design, even hosting of (probably) the first ever grammar gameshow! Kris sat down with us humble P&C hosts in the WRIR studio for a delightful chat about grammar, writing, and the surprising similarities between emojis and Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Though a passionate editor and grammarian, Kris didn’t set out to join the grammar police. Since deciding to become a writer at sixteen, she has written several novels, many drawing on her background as a Ukrainian American. Although Get a Grip is Spisak’s first published book, she currently has a manuscript out which she hopes will earn her a publishing deal soon.
You know that nightmare where you show up in school in your underwear and have to take a test you didn’t know about and didn’t study for? That is how I felt when Kris started an impromptu grammar quiz (though for the record I was wearing most of my clothes). Despite me making an utter fool of myself by using the non-word “funner” (and being called out on it by our lovely co-host Dom), we really had a great time chatting with Kris. She even got us pretty excited about grammar tips!
Patty and Cheryl, authors and organizers of the RVA Lit Crawl, joined the full Prose & Cons crew in the WRIR studio to chat about books, poetry, and life!
Patty Smith is a full-time Literature and Writing teacher at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg and the author of The Year of Needy Girls, her debut novel set in Smith’s native Massachusetts. Many settings and themes from the book stem from Patty’s own life, such as the struggle of a working-class woman teaching at an elite school, the fear of being an openly gay teacher in a tight-knit community, and the tragedy of a local ten-year-old boy’s murder. The stage of this grisly tale is set with a immersive and ominous prologue describing the events leading up to this boy’s untimely death, and the story delivers a powerful and thoughtful examination of false accusations in a small town.
Michael Donovan, author of Hook Haiku, joined Dom and I in the WRIR studio as the guest for this week’s episode. Last year, Donovan was featured in a Style Weekly article, focusing on the origin and evolution of Hood Haiku (read it here).
During the first segment of our show, Michael chose to read a poem titled Earthseed, by Octavia Butler. The poem comes from Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower and, in the book, describes the core tenet of the fictional religion of Earthseed, that “God is change”. It is also a prime example of late-20th-century Afrofuturism and a powerful think-piece, which will cause you to reexamine your belief (or unbelief) in God.
We started our second segment with selections from the “Knowledge” chapter of Hook Haiku. Dom and I each read a haiku and Michael read two, with plenty of context and conversation in-between.
“Mikemetic” Donovan is not only a poet and musician, he is also a WRIR veteran and a great dude. We had a great time chatting with him, and we hope you’ll enjoy this special episode.
Hood Haiku, Vol. 1: Sidewalk Science is published through Fist City Press and is available now. You can purchase it here.