Volume I and II Bonus Material Interviews

Parker Tettleton

1. Your three pieces, like a lot of the work we see from you around the web, are remarkably powerful in their brevity. Tell us more about where that power came from for these pieces (read: inspiration)?

Thank you. I am inspired by never feeling like I have to write or force myself to do so — spontaneity is more than favored over deadlines though I am not immune to expectations. These pieces address the topics I am generally searching through : a long, former relationship, the new if it can be called that, & more than anything else, whatever needs to be expressed to alleviate certain thoughts & foster others.

2. You certainly have a unique style: active sentences, stealthy moods, and tight command of concision. Who are some writers/works you feel have had the greatest influence on this style?

I don’t think I do an interview or go through a day without thinking about the work of Kim Chinquee. Charles Simic’s The World Doesn’t End is also a seminal work for this direction.

3. I’ve known you for awhile now online, but we’ve never met in person. You’re a very active online member of the literary community. What is a real life day like for Parker Tettleton, both literary and otherwise?

I’m waking earlier than I used to, & work at least half of the week half of the days or so. Going to the gym & walking & reading a book or so is something I try to do every day. I’m always thinking about writing or editing, but as I said earlier, give myself an open door whether I’m going in or merely glancing. I love grocery shopping & certain other domestic tasks, & really like quiet time & Fall weather.

4. What’s your favorite frozen yogurt flavor?

Unequivocally White Chocolate Mousse. This kid called it mouse the other day & I was torn between cuteness & educating the little fiend.

5. Who are some writers you’re stoked about?

I’ll go with the first five off the top of my head : Michael J. Bible, Thomas Patrick Levy, Trey Jordan Harris, Greg Sherl, & Kat Dixon. These are all people with words you’d give centuries to sleep with.

6. If time and money were no issue, what is a hobby you’d really love to be awesome at?

Oh, baby-making.

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Christopher Newgent

1. I hear you like stories. Here’s one: This weekend, I bought this bookshelf at the mission for real cheap, thinking “Yeah, it’s wobbly, but a couple brackets and BOOM, a place to put that stack of lit journals I don’t have the guts to throw away.” Then, it rained on the way home and that flimsy stuff just kind of fell apart in the bed of the pick-up truck. Today, I tried to put it back together, but shitty wood stays water logged for so long plus I’ve got these tiny hands. Point is, sucky weekend to own a pick-up truck and buy a bookshelf and tiny hands. Question is, what would you have done differently if you could do it all over?

I used to have this mantra, “To regret your mistakes is to regret what you are.” I came up with it myself once late at night, driving north on I-69 in a dark car with no radio. I distinctly remember driving under a bridge when the line popped in my head, though which bridge I don’t recall. But, that I was driving beneath a bridge seems important to my memory, so it’s probably important to the story. I loved driving in that car. Without a radio, I came up with all sorts of thoughts in that car.

But, I made a lot of mistakes living by that mantra, and repeated them, because I never let the regret really set in. If I had it to do all over again, I might not love that car so much. I might have replaced the radio after it’d gotten stolen. I might be a better man now. I might be a worse man now. Every choice you make creates so many other possibilities for your life and the lives of others, for better or worse. Sometimes, when I think of how many choices are made in the world every second, I get a terror in my belly that doesn’t go away until I sleep.

2. Okay okay okay. That’s deep and shit. But really, are you sure that terror in your belly isn’t just some kinda weird body thing? I hear you like beer. Maybe, it’s that.

It seems I “hear” a lot about you. But really, tell us more about your belly, what goes into it, what shakes inside it, what’s the deal with your belly?

My belly maintains a strict regimen of pretty much everything. Standard fare like elk and bear, tubers and berries. When stressed though, I cannot be stilled. I go about eating and eating. The barks of trees, the barks of dogs. It makes no difference. I’m prone to eating music, which sounds good in passing, but as you can imagine, the vibrations can cause a violent heartburn. Words, naturally I eat them. And beer, yes. I eat beer often enough. The barley is good for digestion. The Germans knew this. Those Germans. God bless ‘em. They get a bad rap for that whole Hitler thing, but they’re pretty smart when it comes right down to it. Their cuisine could use an overhaul though. It’s strange that they can be so close to France and Germany and still have such a rubbish cuisine.

3. Speaking of rubbish, what’s up with your writing? Where did your piece in Stoked Volume II come from?

Funny you should say that, because this piece actually came out of a rubbish pile, a garble of words free-written at a local writing conference a couple years ago. A few months after the con, I was looking back at the scribbles and saw a few images that clung to me, the pinata made of cancer-bones, the bones replaced with candy, &c. I played around. I made a home in them. I got sad thinking that I know how I will die, cancer or forgetting my life until I forget to breathe. That line is autobiographical–cancer or forgetting. That’s what I have to look forward to. But it’s not so bad. To think of my body growing out of control, too stoked on what it could be to think twice about what it should be. It’s not so bad. To think of my mind deciding I had spun enough circles, and to shut itself off for me. It’s not so bad. I remember one day after the forgetfulness got hold of my grandma, asking her if she had eaten. She said, “What’s it matter if I’m not hungry?” I wouldn’t mind so much, not being hungry.

4. That’s nice. I like how words form sentences in your writing. Good job. While we’re getting deep, I gotta wonder: Dirty Dancing Swayze or Roadhouse Swayze?

If you know me at all, you know I’m into ass-kicking, so I would have to say Roadhouse Swayze. This question feels vaguely familiar. What next?

5. Nice nice. I stole it from you dude. How’s that for ass-kicking?

That’s pretty good for ass-kicking, but you’ve much to learn.

6. No no, that’s not the next question. I’m seriously interested in writing, your thoughts on writing, etc. What do you think of words in writing? What’s up with them, why use them? What words you like a lot? hate like crazy? Do you like things like ) and “ and < in writing? What’s up with that?

When I was young, 2 or 3 at the most, my mother’s side of the family went on a RV roadtrip out west. I don’t remember where we were, but it was morning (a gray morning) and I was sitting outside the RV eating cereal with my cousins, probably Rice Chex. Grandma Everhart always had Rice Chex. It started to sprinkle on us.
I said to my cousins, “It’s raining.”
I had a terrible speech impediment, so I probably said something more like, “I’sth wainig.”
An older cousin said, “Nah. It’s sprinkling.”
I said, “No, i’sth wainig,” and made a face like this: >:-o
He said, “Sprinkling is raining, but not much.”
It’s the first memory I have, and I feel like that’s important.

I don’t–
I don’t really know what else to say.

7. That’s cute. Reminds me of my home videos where I’d ramble off something like Skeanper fossin momorope and my dad would reply, That’s right, we are going fishing tomorrow. Relatable, man. Here’s a question I’m sure all readers can relate to: when you wake up in the morning, what animal do you most resemble? I’m gonna guess something with big ass claws. Nice people are always that way when they wake up.

Some of my pals in college once said they thought of me as a Kodiak bear, which I’d say qualifies as “something with big ass claws.” I Wiki’d a Kodiak bear and found that many consider it more ferocious than a polar bear, or at least on par with it. That made me feel pretty bad ass. I like to project myself as a bad ass–grit-toothed and skin like rawhide, but really, I’m pretty tender. I can take a punch, can laugh off an unintentional (or even intentional) joke about my mother who died years ago, I can build a fire without matches or lighters, and even shrug off a rejection letter. But I can be hard on myself. If I ruin a batch of cookies or someone mentions me putting on a little weight, I’ll take it to my grave. So, if I was going to choose an animal, I’d probably say a koala. I can get ferocious when necessary, but for the most part, I just want to chew on some leaves.

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Len Kuntz

1. Where did “Mother’s Day” come from? Seems like it’s definitely got some backstory. Tell us about that, please.

I had read a news story about a woman who drove her kids into a lake. The horror of it was striking, yet I tried to put myself inside the mind of the woman, getting to the root of how terribly tortured–to the point of insanity–she must have been. Around the time I wrote the poem, I had also just seen “Shutter Island” and that closing scene was like getting a crowbar rammed through my heart.

2. Every time I finished this poem, I look back up at the title and go YIKES. It’s a rattling pair, this poem and this title. Where did this titling decision come from?

You have to have a license to drive, to fish, to do just about anything, yet there’s no pre-requisite for parenthood. Not every woman should be a mother and sometimes that isn’t evident until it’s too late. For whatever reason, a lot of my writing is about wounded people, mostly damaged children because bad parents have lots of different ways of committing atrocities, some almost worse than death.

3. What would a poem called “Father’s Day” be like?

I attended the Iowa Weekend Workshop this summer and we did a ton of “free writes” using different word prompts, so I’m going to do one off the cuff right now. Here it goes…

Father’s Day

This is where the water waits
has been waiting
has been holding
secrets
has been wearing the blue-veined face
of a full moon
with its steadfast
incriminating eye.

Should he have come sooner
should he have known better
seen signs
sensed things
smelled smoke and breathed her acrid air?

Night wind whispers
“Too late for all that”
too late for anything but
this bitter water
black as grape juice
inky oil
that once took his babies
and lady
his loves.

Stepping down
he slips off a root
slips in fully clothed
open-mouthed and eager
drinking
taking long swallows
full swallows slow and sure
one last communion
on his way
reaching out a hand for
forgiveness.

4. I’ve been seeing your name all over the place lately. What publication got you most stoked?

It’s hard to pick one, really. I’ve been very fortunate. In two years of sending out work, I’ve managed to place over 500 pieces. It’s always an incredible rush to get an acceptance, no matter the lit journal. I will say, however, that PANK was an especially big thrill because I subbed to them 25 times (!) before finally getting a piece taken. Roxane Gay is a big inspiration to me. I love her. I don’t think I would have tried so hard anywhere else.

5. I see you live way up in the USA corner called Washington. What’s the literary scene like up there?

I’m just getting that figured out. We have some great bookstores (Elliott Bay Books) here and The Hugo House where readings happen every week, excluding summer. Portland, with Powell Books, has an enormous art house culture. I’ve done a reading there with Riley Michael Parker and HOUSEFIRE. He rocks. People like him, Rob Gray and Kevin Sampsell really bring a sense of community to the area.

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Sarah Carson

1. Can you tell us more about your piece, “The Problem,”? Where did it start? What’s the inspiration? How did it develop?

“The Problem” is from a series of prose poems I’ve been writing lately that explore romantic relationships as a sort of new, untamed universe—which is really a way I’m exploring my own confusion, I think. Some are set in outer space; some are more apocalyptic. “The Problem” is was an attempt to articulate the way I often feel in a new relationship–trying to conceal all of my bad qualities from a new person and then watching them haphazardly leak out anyway. I would suspect that it’s a common experience, but it’s definitely a poem about one of the scariest things that happens over and over in my life.

2. The problem here shifts, or at least is hidden, coming to full view at the end of the piece. I love how it starts wacky then progresses into this sentimental, but not overly so, moment at the end. How did you see “the problem” portraying itself in this piece?

There are a lot of “problems” in the poem: boredom, obsession, the possibility that one could be in the mafia without knowing, but ultimately the biggest problem becomes the narrator’s regret about taking things too far. It starts off with her desire to find out something about herself but unfortunately it leads to one problem, then another, then another, then this desire to pretend it never happened. To me the poem is really about the way that I often screw things up and hope nobody will see or say anything so I can go on pretending that I’m normal–not just in romantic relationships, but in pretty much every relationship I have with anyone.

3. You live in Chicago now, right? I hear a lot of buzz about the literary scene up there, but haven’t been able to make it to anything yet. What is happening there?

I wish that I participated more in the literary scene here, so I’m probably not the best spokesperson, but, yes, there’s definitely a lot going on. In fact, there’s not just one literary scene, but many. There are so many journals and small presses here that are always putting on events, plus great universities that have their own series or bring in poets. The city also sponsors events like Printers Row. And then there are just independent series all over the series put on by people who love poetry. No matter what kind of poetry you’re looking for —performance, experimental, more literary—there’s always something going on.

4. Your piece, “Self-Portrait on Pop Rocks,” which originally appeared in Diagram, was selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50 Short Fiction of 2011. That was the story that made me go BOOYEAH WE GOTTA ASK HER FOR A PIECE FOR STOKED JOURNAL. Both Diagram and Wigleaf are big-time publications in the online world. How did hearing the news that you made the list make you feel? Had a chance to read that list? What stories did you dig?

I was so excited when I accepted in DIAGRAM. I woke up to the acceptance e-mail, and I told everyone. It was definitely an honor! Then I found out about the Wigleaf from you on Facebook! I didn’t even know! But I was so excited. The only problem was I didn’t really know how to tell people because I thought of “Self -Portrait on Pop Rocks” as a prose poem, rather than a piece of fiction. Obviously a lot of prose poetry–and even more traditional poetry–contains narrative, but it made me look at everything I write in a new way. I started reading through the other things on the list and was really impressed. It made me more interested in short fiction, honestly. And kind of less interested in poetry for the moment.

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