Winter 2015 Contributors
Marcia Aldrich is the author of the free memoir Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton and part of the Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Series. She has been the editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. Companion to An Untold Story won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction. She is at work on Haze, a narrative of marriage and divorce during her college years. Her website: MarciaAldrich.com.
Barbara Bridger taught theatre and writing at Dartington College of Arts, becoming co-director of Writing in 2009. Her first script for live performance was performed in 1988 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and her most recent was performed at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden in 2013. Barbara Bridger's digital films have been shown in the UK and internationally and her prose, poetry and critical writing have been published in a range of journals. In 2002 she won Prose Writer of the Year (Writers Incorporated) and she has been shortlisted for a number of awards, including Asham and Raymond Carver. At Dartington, Barbara Bridger helped to develop Scripted Media. This explored experimental approaches to script and scripting and her research also focuses on women's writing and inclusive dramaturgical processes. You can find more of her work at independent.academia.edu/BarbaraBridger.
J. R. Carpenter
J. R. Carpenter is a Canadian artist, writer, researcher, performer and maker of maps, zines, books, poetry, short fiction, long fiction, non-fiction, and non-linear, intertextual, hypermedia, and computer-generated narratives. Her pioneering works of digital literature have been exhibited, published, performed, and presented in journals, galleries, museums, and festivals around the world. She is a winner of the CBC Quebec Writing Competition (2003 & 2005), the QWF Carte Blanche Quebec Award (2008), and the Expozine Alternative Press Award for Best English Book for her first novel, Words the Dog Knows (2008). Her second book, GENERATION[S], a collection of code narratives, was published by Traumawien in 2010. In 2012 her web-based work CityFish was short-listed for the New Media Writing Prize in Bournemouth, UK, and the Electronic Literature Organization presented a retrospective of her work in Morgantown, WV, USA. She has served as a Digital Literature and Performance Writing faculty mentor for the In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge residency program at The Banff Centre since its inception in 2010. She was recently awarded a PhD from University of the Arts London. She lives in South Devon, England. luckysoap.com
The New York Times declared Jennifer Curtis "an artist of keen intelligence and taste." An improviser, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, she has been a featured soloist in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Brazil's Teatro Amazonas, Peru's Teatro Municipal, and Mexico's Palacio de Bellas Artes. She plays on a 1777 Vincenzo Panormo violin.
Matthew Gavin Frank
Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squidand Its First Photographer, Pot Farm, and Barolo, the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and 2 chapbooks. His essay collection/cookbook, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America's Food, is forthcoming November 2015 from W.W. Norton: Liveright. He teaches at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction Editor of Passages North. This winter, he tempered his gin with two droplets (per 750ml) of tincture of odiferous whitefish liver. For health.
Jenny Goldstick is a designer, illustrator, researcher, and writer. You can find more of her work at jennifergoldstick.com.
Stephanie Elizondo Griest
Stephanie Elizondo Griest is the author of Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana and Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines, and writes for The Oxford American, The Believer, and Earth Island Journal. She has performed across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and teaches creative nonfiction at UNC-Chapel Hill. Visit her website at www.StephanieElizondoGriest.com.
Eric LeMay's latest book is In Praise of Nothing. You can find more of his work at ericlemay.org.
Danyelle Morrow is a photographer, graphic designer, and writer. She was employed as a staff photographer at The State News for two years, and has since become an avid tea and coffee drinker.
Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey & has taught at the University of Alabama since receiving his M.F.A. in 2009. His work has been anthologized in Best Creative Nonfiction Volume 2, 30 Under 30: An Anthology of Innovative Fiction, & has been twice selected as a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays series. He is the author of So You Know It's Me, a collection of Craigslist Missed Connections, & Level End, a series of lyric essays about videogame Boss Battles. He is also the author of Come See For Yourself, originally published in The Fullness of Everything with Christopher Newgent & Tyler Gobble. Come See For Yourself is available in its entirety online on Google Maps. Excerpts from his newest book, Leave Luck to Heaven, have been published in such journals as Sonora Review, Conjunctions, Hotel Amerika, & DIAGRAM, as well as served as inspiration for "Another Castle," an art installation by L'etablissment en face in Brussels, Belgium during September of 2012, which featured art from Juan Munoz, Luciano Fabro, & Claes Oldenburg. A memoir, titled "i/o" will be released in 2015 by Civil Coping Mechanisms. He is at work on several projects, including a series of micrononfiction about pop songs, a series of lyric essays about professional wrestlers, and a translation project about marathons. Email Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as follow him on Twitter @beoliu.
Renita Romasco is an independent performer/choreographer. She is interested in silence, gesture and the use of improvisation in her work.
Phillip Russell is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University where he studies English with a concentration in Creative Writing as well as a minor in Japanese. He published his first personal essay when he was procrastinating to write a college final. To his friends' dismay it bolstered his big-headedness. A trait he'd discovered in the Bahamas, in a taxi, as he waited for paramedics to free his head between the car's two front seats. His work has appeared in Writer's Digest, Crunchable, HyperText Magazine, and Dialogual.
Joseph Spellman, MS is Winery Sommelier for JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery. He has worked with wine since 1979, principally as a sommelier, in Chicago's top restaurant cellars, including Tango, Maxim's, The Pump Room, The Park Hyatt Hotel, and Charlie Trotter's. He has been a leading wine educator, writer, and consultant, and has led wine seminars in the US, UK, Japan, and Australia. He earned the prestigious Master Sommelier Diploma, the 29th American to do so, in 1996. He is a frequent instructor and examiner in the Court of Master Sommeliers, and in 2005 was elected Chairman of the American Chapter of the Court. Another rare achievement was winning the 1997 French Sommelier Competition in Paris sponsored by SOPEXA, and the title"Best Sommelier in the World in French Wines and Spirits."Â He is only the second American to have done so. In the following year (1998) he was named the Bon Appetit Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year.
Jill Talbot is the author of Loaded: Women and Addiction, co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together, and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from Brevity, DIAGRAM, Ecotone, The Normal School, Passages North, The Paris Review Daily, The Pinch, Seneca Review, and more. Her memoir, The Way We Weren't, will be published by Counterpoint/Soft Skull in Summer 2015.
In the spirit of the essay to test new forms and practices, "Conjunctions" brings together work created through collaboration. We asked writers to collaborate with other artists or artisans in the co-creation of an essay that, in some way, pushed the genre beyond words.
What might such an essay look like? We weren't sure. Perhaps a performance, a visual work, or an audio composition. We encouraged our contributors to choose whatever medium might create the most engaging conversation. The aim would be to see what "essaying" might look like if we pushed it beyond a reliance on writing alone. How might other arts and crafts push the purpose of the essay--to test and try what we know, to explore who we are--in new and surprising ways?
We're delighted by the range of work our contributors created. "Conjunctions" includes work that explores the essay through early modern maps and digital navigation, through music, dance, theater, photography, and images, even through wine and crawfish.
We invite you to enjoy each essay as a work in itself, as well as a large exploration into potential and the possibilities of the essay.
Matt Mullins writes screenplays, fiction, and poetry, and makes filmpoems and digital/interactive literature. His work has been screened at conferences and film festivals in the U.S. and abroad including Zebra, Video Bardo, Visible Verse, FilmPoem, Liberated Words, Co-Kisser and The Body Electric. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online literary journals such as Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, and Hobart. His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist for Foreword Reviews Book of the Year. Matt teaches creative writing at Ball State University where he is an Emerging Media Fellow at the Center for Media Design. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com.
Darik Hall is a motivated individual with a passion for all things interactive and a devotion to technical development. As a programmer, he has worked to develop start-up businesses and mobile apps. He now works for Garfield creator Jim Davis, at Paws INC. Darik primarily focuses on video, web, gaming, and their dissemination to mobile devices. He has a highly logical approach to solving technical problems as well as experience presenting to all age ranges and skill sets.
"Our Bodies" began with a filmpoem of the same name. One day while surfing the net I came across public domain footage of an Oral Roberts sermon on Youtube. What breadcrumb trail led me to this specific footage, I don't recall, but within this footage I saw the seed of a poem in praise of rational humanism revealing what I feel is the ultimate truth: In the end, it's humanity that's holy. Our bodies with their flaws and potential. So I took Roberts' sermon apart, reconstructed it, and used Roberts' voice/words to deliver an original poem in praise of the inherent divinity of our bodies. In addition, one of my goals with this piece was to create a rhythmic flow and visual collage, a kind of dance that uses the exaggerated gestures of Roberts' preaching style as a visual counterpoint to the poem's language. Overall, the intent of the filmpoem was to reveal new layers of meaning (subtexts) inside the words of others in a way that expands upon, rather than belittles or mocks the source material. That is--Âwe can mean what we say, but sometimes we mean even more than that, knowingly and not.
But as someone who also makes interactive/digital/electronic (whatever the heck we want to call it) literature, I also saw other potential applications for this filmpoem. Like numerous other people working in digital literature, I want my pieces to be focused on interaction and possibility for the user. I am less interested in having someone follow my Easter egg trail to find out the intended "meaning" of my work (though much of the work I've seen in that vein is fantastic) and more interested in giving people a palette to play around with on their own. This is exactly what I did with "I Will Make an Exquisite Corpse" (which ran in The New River a few years back) and to a lesser degree with the pieces "Highway Coda" and I Am Not [ ] Enough.
And this is why the visitor gets the original "Our Bodies" filmpoem as the default visual experience when they first arrive at the interface. That offers them my version, my "intention," so to speak. But my intention in this case is obviously only one of the nearly infinite possible combinations of those clips and the poems it can potentially speak, which is a fact I'm trying to point out with the remix capability that allows users to create their own version. That's the core of the piece, the remixer that allows the user to create within the context of my overall concept of the surface versus infinite possible subtexts/remixes.
But then I came up with the idea of displaying the remixer inside the frame of an old analog television (one that looks like the type the footage would have originally been broadcast on). Once I saw the channel dial, I thought, "Well, I have to make that dial interactive and put content on those other channels." The next question became,"ÂWhat kind of content and how can that mesh with the 'Our Bodies' content/remixer?"Â To my mind it had to be something that would play a bit with the idea of TV and the concept of "what's on" (not the usual fare in this case).
The natural fit here seemed to be my filmpoetry and other material that comments on what TV is and means. That's why we have the ironic, self-referential footage of the commercials remix, the Burroughs/flag/Hendrix remix, and the "Charge" sequence that make their own kind of statements about the concepts we attach to conflict, patriotism, and consumerism via film/TV/visual imagery. Beyond that I'm also playing off the well-worn pitch of how evolutions in cable TV and online content streaming allow users to "take control of their viewing experience." This is not true control. It's only control of what we want to watch, how much and when. True control means to actually be able to change the content itself, as if you could reach into your screen and manipulate the characters' words and actions. The "Our Bodies" interface aspires to both comment on and give the visitor this truer kind of control. A kind of metaphorical ability to truly "change" the channel not by simply switching it, but by reaching into it and reshaping the experience in a way that allows the former passive watcher to become the active creator driven by their own artistic intent.
Though Lyndee Prickitt is a native Texan, she began her career with the BBC in the UK as a regional radio and TV journalist over 15 years ago. She then moved into international news, working for the Associated Press and then Reuters as a multimedia reporter and producer based in London, Singapore, Mumbai and New Delhi. Then digital storytelling beckoned... Prickitt wanted to use her multimedia skills in fiction -- breaking new ground with her debut story, Weareangry.net, an award-winning digital short story about India's rape crisis that incorporates audio, video, graphics, cartoons, art, music and more into the text narrative and is bolstered with hyperlinks to real facts on the subject. This revolutionary way of storytelling is nominated for a Webby, won the Transmedia Story of the Year, and was a runner up in the New Media Writing Prize. The Guardian calls it "Âdevastatingly powerful" and the South China Morning Post calls it "groundbreaking."Â Prickitt lives in New Delhi with her Indian husband and their daughter.
As a woman, a mother of a daughter and a multimedia journalist, the message of "We Are Angry" is as important to me as the medium, digital fiction.
After the upsettingly brutal December 16, 2012 gang-rape in New Delhi people in India - my adopted home for ten years - felt a need to express their anger, fears and deliberations about why this was happening. Women and men took to the streets to put a voice to their anger. Social media swelled with introspection and pontification. Anonymous mourners created real life and online commemorations. Movie stars satirized and campaigned. Artists painted street walls and canvasses. Actors staged plays in local parks and international cultural festivals. Screenwriters wrote movies. Singers sang.
"We Are Angry" is an effort to capture this turning point in India as well as give the victim of sexual violence a voice - fusing traditional fictional text storytelling with other media, bolstered by real news content and annotations, and showcasing a range of art and expression.
Andrew Beales is the founder/owner of Lee Rosy's, a tea house and multi-purpose arts venue in Nottingham, UK. He is also a writer, performer and self-taught coder, and occasionally attempts to combine these. Another such work, "Generate Your Own PhD," creates a suggested title for a PhD using a variety of components put together randomly. Website: birophilo.com
"New Slideshow" aims to create something akin to an analogue slideshow experience, such as the ones often sat through during my childhood, using content from the web. It uses real-time Instagram picture uploads, along with random song lyrics, lines from romantic novels and the data from the images themselves, and creates an audio commentary to accompany the slides.
The data is fed into a variety of sentence structure templates and a few constant phrases are also used. The process combines careful proportions with random choices, and repetitive with novel content, to create a particular speech aesthetic, and the slideshow and commentary are intended to run endlessly. The pauses vary in length according to the types of speech pattern used, which is in a way an attempt to give the computer a sense of comic timing. The piece aims, with varying results, to achieve speech rhythms and cadences that are by turns soothing or trance-like in spite of (because of?) the voice's robotic quality.
On a simple level, the piece can be a satire on the self-absorption and banality of Instagram culture. Yet the presence of pop culture literary and poetic lines adds unpredictable interjections, which may create a tone of longing, regret, menace, or any other emotion, or indeed absurdity and non-sequiturs. For all their flaws and dangers, Instagram and other social media sites are vehicles for sincere human experience as well as contrived persona, and the audio commentary could even begin to resemble the musings of some kind of pan-internet mind.
Amanda Manns is pursuing an MFA in fiction at Virginia Tech.
Ana-Christina Acosta Gaspar de Alba
Ana-Christina Acosta Gaspar de Alba is pursuing an MFA in fiction at Virginia Tech.