Kristy Lin Billuni's Blog

May 27, 2019

The Writing G-Spot: Interview with Stan Stone

Happy Pride! I’m publishing June’s interview early so you can warm up for the season by meeting a fabulous queer writer, Stan Stone, and snagging tickets to his show. Pride is so much more than a parade. Join me in celebrating queer community by coming out for queer art and culture in June.

Stan has lived in San Francisco for thirty-five years and writes for stage and screen. His play, “Work In Progress” opens this Friday, May 31st, and runs until Saturday, June 8th as part of the Queer as Fuck show at Bindelstiff Studio on 6th Street in San Francisco. Queer as Fuck calls upon the transformative power of black box theater to share stories of love, sex, and the politics of living life as queer. The comedy showcase features four short plays on the theme of queer dating, including Stan’s play, which he wrote and directed. Stan also writes, directs, and performs with Barewitness, an award winning improv-based filmmaking collective.

What is “Work In Progress” about?

My play asks the burning question, is there a difference in how young Queer men and older Queer men experience love and romance? I wanted to explore how we’ve gone from finding a date in a bar to finding a hookup online. The advent of technology and apps such as Grindr have changed how we connect with people. Now the next big thing, pardon the pun, is just a click and a swipe away.

Who is your writing hero?

One of the things that moves me every time I read it or hear it read by the author is, “We wear the mask,” by Maya Angelou. She writes with honest and sometimes heartbreaking emotion. Her words seep deep into my gut and seem to settle there for days. I always feel that her writing comes from some bottomless emotional well that she taps into and pours onto pages for the world to see and feel. She inspires me to be a better writer. She compels me to be a better person by bearing witness to how she lived her life. She charges me as a writer to elicit an emotional response from the reader. Maya is quoted as saying, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What is your writing process like?

I don’t have a set time to write. It’s more sporadic and seems to come out in bursts. Inspiration for what to write often comes first thing in the morning as I’m just waking up next to my husband. Various thoughts will haunt me and ricochet in my semi-conscious mind. A freshly remembered dream. A song playing on repeat. An overheard conversation or a once-distant memory. I like to call them friendly demons. The only way to exorcise them is to write.

I begin by creating a list of words or phrases I may want to include in the writing. After the list feels complete, I read it over and expand on the words or phrases that leap off the page and demand my attention. I write and rewrite until the piece tells me it is complete. Then I put it away for a few days and look at it again later with fresh and more critical eyes. At that point, I usually rewrite and edit some more. I like using a pen and paper and then shift to the computer when it comes time to edit. It can be a long process. There are a few occasions when the muse is firmly seated on my shoulder and the writing just pours out of me from its free flowing beginning to its orgasmic end, leaving me happily spent and satisfied.

What do writing and sex have in common?

Both can feel like you’re working too hard. If you’re lucky you can find the writing G-spot, where you and the words are completely connected and in rhythm. You and the pen and the paper are a thruple, writing as one. And when the piece has reached its climax, the only thing left to do is light up a cigarette and exhale.

What do you love about writing?

There is a peacefulness to writing. Sitting quietly in solitude with pen in hand, staring at a stark, white, empty page and continuously shifting back and forth from a wandering mind to intense focus. It can have the feel of meditation.

I also love the surprises. Characters will often surprise me by saying something I wouldn’t expect them to say or doing something unexpected that moves me to laughter or tears. It’s always fun when that happens.

I consider writing to be one of my children. The other kids are acting, directing, art, and photography. I know you are not supposed to have a favorite child, but writing gets a little extra love. If you tell the others, I will firmly deny it.

Tell us a story.

I was a skinny, pre-teen black boy in West Philly who was just starting to deal with feeling different from other boys. My father would publicly ridicule me and accuse me of crying at the drop of a hat. “Men don’t cry,” he said. His words were like stinging nettles piercing my already fragile self-image. It meant I was weak. I was less than. So I stuffed my feelings and stifled my emotions. It took many years of forgiveness to get over it. Forgiving him. Forgiving myself. Now I cry with abandon. No shame. No guilt. I realized that crying, like joy, or anger, or sadness, means that I am alive. By feeling my feelings, I can fully embrace those emotions and then set them free to roam around in my writings.

Recently I performed a piece I wrote about how my parents met and fell in love, eponymously titled “Johnny and Scrap.” I play both my mom and dad. The end of the piece has my father professing his love to her as he sits on the edge of her death bed. I cry real tears every time. I showed the video of this performance to my 92-year-old dad. We cried together.

I coax sexy writers like Stan Stone to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:

Get tickets for Queer as Fuck, Friday, May 31st, to Saturday, June 8th at Bindlestiff, 185 6th Street, San Francisco

Watch Stan’s film work on the Barewitness website.

Read and listen to Maya Angelou’s, “The mask we wear

Worth repeating! I’ll be there! Get tickets for Queer as Fuck, Friday, May 31st, to Saturday, June 8th at Bindlestiff, 185 6th Street, San Francisco




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Published on May 27, 2019 09:10

May 5, 2019

The Collective Beating Heart: Interview with Amy Bond

Amy Bond is an attorney/pole dancer/small business owner based out of the Bay Area in CA. I have heard Amy refer to her legal work, which includes pro bono detention center work and volunteering with asylum seekers, as a "side hustle." Besides running her two successful Bay Area pole dance studios, she is writing a memoir, Becoming California, about the time when she was a sex worker in Los Angeles.

What do writing and sex work have in common? How are they different?

The sex work that I did (porn) and published writing both last a really long time in consumable form on the internet. I can do a simple Pornhub search and find videos that I was in from 2003  when I worked in adult entertainment. Having a generally terrible memory and writing a memoir are two things that don’t seem to go together very well but having access to a time capsule of my porn on Pornhub has proven very useful for remembering the timeline of that period of my life. Publishing writing is similar - whether self published or through publications - the writing stays online existing like a time capsule of who I was when I wrote the published thing. As a now trying-to-be memoirist, both are very convenient to go back to, to get into my former self’s head.

The differences between sex and writing are everything else. Sex work makes you a ton of cash. Writing doesn’t. Sex work allows you to live wholly in your body in a very flow-state like, zen kind of way (not everyone’s experience but it was mine) where writing requires you to move through your entire internal state of being before eventually using your hands to type the words on the experience of living in your body. For me, having grown up an athlete and now, where I spend about half of my working day as a choreographer and trainer, I am much more at home in work that is body oriented than I am work that requires sitting, so writing is the hardest work to me.

Who are your writing heroes?

I LOVE the Portland-based author Lidia Yuknavitch. Her memoir, Chronology of Water, is necessary reading for memoirists in the sense that it’s both a memoir and a deconstruction/critique of memoir as well. The experience of reading COW is similar to how it feels to eat a deconstructed s’more at a fine dining restaurant. It is pure enjoyment like a s’more, but the experience of it is more indulgent and interactive because you get to see all the component parts as you consume it.

But honestly, though her writing is amazing, it is not the thing that I love most about her.  She makes people - especially the people who fall out of the mythical ‘normal’ box feel seen and heard and many of them are experiencing that seen-ness and heard-ness for the first time in their lives through her workshops. It was in one of her workshops 3 years ago, where I first told a story about having been a sex worker. The Corporeal Writing community was the first to tell me that my stories about that experience mattered and emboldened me to start working on my memoir.  Lidia is like a story mermaid and her siren song is ‘tell me your deepest truth and I will not judge you’ and that is such a rare and beautiful thing in this world.

Other authors I am currently loving are Reema Zaman, Laura Robbins, Dana Mich, and a collective called Moving Forewards that provides resources and community to up and coming writers and which I work with on a business development end.

What do you love about writing?

The thing that I love most about writing is the fact that by doing it, we get to touch other people and connect our heart strings to one another so that we weave this invisible collective beating heart simply because we recognize each others’ shared humanity through writing. The connection to other people part is important to me because it is the foundation of how I decide what I’m going to spend time on in my life. It is the reason I started a pole dance studio and then another pole dance studio and why I do pro bono detention center work volunteering with asylum seekers. They are ways of connecting with other people with storytelling as the medium.

Through pole dance I tell stories with my routines and then help others tell their stories by choreographing their character- and story-driven routines. Through detention center work, I help asylum seekers tell their stories in a way so that they are more likely to pass what is called the “Credible Fear Interview,” which is the test for determining whether someone will be deported back to their country or allowed to stay in the US. Asylum seekers who are represented by an attorney have six-times better chance of passing their credible fear interview than those without attorneys. Helping asylum seekers tell their stories so that the stories meet the credible fear standard is, in my opinion, storytelling with very high stakes.

I had so many people help me find my voice in my 20s and into my 30s. About 6 years ago, when I became an attorney, it dawned on me that I had the resources to help other people tell theirs. The connection is, to me, the ultimate of life forces and that invisible web that storytelling weaves between people is the thing that drives everything I do.

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I coax sexy writers like Amy Bond to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:

Read Amy’s essays about sex work, “Twitter Trolls Outed My Porn Star Past. So I Embraced It.” and “Secret Life of a Mormon Porn Star.

Take a class at San Francisco Pole and Dance or Oakland Pole and Dance.

Follow Amy on Twitter and SF Pole and Dance on Instagram.

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Published on May 05, 2019 03:22

April 1, 2019

A Palpably Kind Conference: Interview with Erika Mailman

I met the award-winning historical fiction novelist Erika Mailman at the Gold Rush Writers Conference in Mokelumne Hill, California, last spring. “Gold Rush takes place in a funky, old, haunted 1870s hotel that really did have Gold Rushers staying in its rooms,” Erika says of the weekend-long event. “I love this conference and hope readers of this interview might be persuaded to sign up.”

Meeting Erika was a thrill because I had just devoured two of her novels, Woman of Ill Fame, about Gold Rush prostitutes, and The Witch's Trinity, about medieval elders accused of witchcraft. I have since read and adored The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel and the first of her young adult series. Under the pen name, Lynn Carthage, Erika writes unashamedly Gothic young adult fiction. Next on my list is House of Bellaver, her novel about Oakland suffragists. She has been a Yaddo fellow, has an MFA in poetry, and is a co-director of the Gold Rush Writers Conference, coming up May 3-5, 2019.

What makes Gold Rush such a special writers conference?

I'm excited about all our presenters and attendees. This conference is truly for those who want to write, and not feel tension or stress around possibly engaging an agent's interest. We don't have agents or editors here, just writers and nice people. A few years ago I was a featured presenter at the conference, and I talked about how the founder, Antoinette May, had managed to create a palpably kind conference, where everyone was cheering each other on and being friendly, without any of the competitiveness that can sully other conferences. Gold Rush offers access to NYT bestselling authors and their wisdom, lets you take your choice of four workshops, and provides two dinners and one lunch. Mokelumne Hill is driveable from San Francisco and environs, and it's a pretty drive, too.

What do you love about writing?

I love the pleasure of a well-turned sentence or a metaphor that surprises me, coming as it does from a part of my brain I wish I knew better, or exercised more often. It's fun when you find something you jotted down quickly and forgot about, and it's wonderful, and it inspires you to use that scrap in something, to honor it by giving it a scene built around it.

What do writing and sex have in common?

I love Emily Dickinson's fabulous thing where she said she knew something was poetry when it felt like the top of her head had been taken off! Is it disrespectful to Miss Dickinson to apply that to sex?

Name an early literary influence:

Whoever wrote those orange-bound biographies of women! Actually, I suspect it was not just one person who wrote for this series. I loved that all-orange row in my town library and forged my feminism there. How wonderful to learn about Clara Barton stepping into a nursing role in the Civil War, or Florence Nightingale or Louisa May Alcott, Jane Adams and so many more. I haven't seen those books since I was a child, but now so many other strong women narratives exist for young readers (I love the Rad Women series, for instance). I loved reading about women bucking the odds and doing powerful things.

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I convince sexy writers like Erika Mailman to reveal their creative secrets and process to arouse you and your own writing projects. Read more inspiring writer interviews and my glowing GoodReads reviews of Erika’s novels.

Sign up now for the Gold Rush Writer’s Conference, May 3-5, 2019.

Read Erika’s historical fiction and the young adult novels of Lynn Carthage.

Read Erika’s piece on staying in the maid's bedroom at the Lizzie Borden bed and breakfast, recently published in The Millions.

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Published on April 01, 2019 03:32

March 11, 2019

Sex and Fiction: Interview with Richard Schwarzenberger

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Richard Schwarzenberger taught me how to do a handstand, so it didn’t surprise me to learn he makes his living, in part, as a swim instructor for people afraid in water. A native Kansan and resident of San Francisco, he also works as a gardener and longtime columnist for The Monthly. He is co-translator, along with Grace Martin Smith, of Listening to Istanbul, poems of Orhan Veli Kanik, and author of several books, including In Faro’s Garden: A Tour and Some Detours, Hapless Males, a collection of short stories, and now a novel published by Ithuriel's Spear: City of Disappearances.

City of Disappearances is the sort of novel where the setting is a character and you fall in love with the villain. Reading it is like unpacking a jewelry box full of irresistible, gem-like vignette chapters, each another doorway into new millenium San Francisco. It flipped my expectations at every turn, reminding me I was reading a story written by the gardener friend who taught me how to stand on my head. In this interview we discuss generation clashes, his pen collection, and happy endings.











Richard’s pen collection





Richard’s pen collection













Tell me a story about being a writer:
The ceiling in the room where I write is covered with pens, thousands of them that my father collected in the years of his retirement. In those days there were farm sales every weekend of spring and summer, and he’d buy cigar boxes full of them, thinking he might find some treasures buried amid the Co-op giveaways. He reserved in a special box the fountain pens and the ones with floaters, the liquid capsule with a trinket adrift. The rest, the chaff, he mounted in panels, and hung on the basement walls of the house in Kansas where I grew up. When he was old and had to move from that house, I brought approximately half of the panels here and attached them to the ceiling. I doubt there’s a single one that isn’t dry. So many times I walk around my house looking for a pen.

How would your parents like City of Disappearances?
My father, I am pretty sure, never read a novel in his life. My mother liked to read, though compared to work, reading had no status whatsoever. If they were alive they would be horrified by my novel, the sex in it especially but also the general laxness. Do we wait until our parents are dead to become who we are? Nah. We are always becoming something and we don’t know what. Some fictitious replica of who we think we are.

City of Disappearances wrestles with the differences between generations. What do you think are the greatest clashes between youth and middle age?
I am becoming more lax, for one thing, as the clock ticks. I walk down Mission Street thinking, there’s where Roxanne, one of the characters in my novel, flirted with the guy hosing the sidewalk, and her experience to me has more depth than whatever the techies and their disposable incomes have done lately to this city. Maybe I should have named my book City of Dissociations. I am of an age to wonder, do strangers still flirt in person? Are sex and fiction interchangeable? Alex, another of the novel’s central characters, lives with the shamelessness I wish I have/had. He gives me that experience, and I thank him for it. Finally there is Martin, the tragic romantic. The one acquainted with grief. I give him a happy ending.  It’s believable.

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I convince sexy writers like Richard to reveal their creative secrets and process to arouse you and your own writing projects. Read more inspiring writer interviews, and if you need more encouragement to buy the book, read my GoodReads review of City of Disappearances.

Buy City of Disappearances, direct from the publisher or from Amazon.
Follow Richard’s blog and read his other books, available through Ithuriel’s Press.


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Published on March 11, 2019 03:29

February 2, 2019

Some Other Kim and Kanye: Interview with Angela Cappetta

Angela Cappetta made me promise not to tell you how we met. And then she sent me the craziest interview photo a writer’s ever sent for the Sexy Grammar blog. That’s just how my New Yorker Italian paisan rolls. She did consent to me saying that our meeting involved the internet, a deal gone bad, and a stranger saving my ass in the town she calls home, and she explained the Kim and Kanye photo in our interview below.

I adore Angela’s photography, a unique blend of highly intimate, candid, poignant and sometimes humorous views of the human condition. Her photographs are in museums and private collections worldwide. She has exhibited in numerous national and international venues and received numerous awards and recognitions, including an NYFA photo fellowship, a VCCA residency and three MacDowell Fellowships.

Her work includes ad campaigns for major brands like Delta, Citi and Dos Equis, edgy+beautiful wedding photography and blue chip private commissions. She is in the permanent collections of museums like the Corcoran Gallery of Art, The New York Public Library, Carlsbad Museum, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Angela has been exhibiting at art galleries her whole career and has been sent on assignment for Wired, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, Refinery29, The London Times Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Vogue, and many others. Her advertising clients include Arnold Worldwide, BBDO, Havas, Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon. She is a regular contributor to the behind-the-scenes coverage of New York Fashion Week.

What’s going on in this photo?

This summer I was exiting Milk Studios, I heard people shouting: “Kim! Kanye! Over here!” My first thought was that it must be some other Kim and Kanye. Shortly thereafter, I realized I was walking within inches of the OG K2 pair, as opposed to an imaginary one. I had somewhere to be, so I didn't pay much attention. Not exactly being a perpetual student of popular culture, I didn't give much of a fuck. I could have gotten in the car with them and no one would have noticed. The upshot of all of this is that later that day, my phone blew up. All of my idiots were sending me lnstagram posts of K2 with me. When I saw the press pictures I realized how much better my outfit was than either of theirs. They looked like Nippletown and a tasteless UX designer. It was nice. Oh, and the internet started referring me to “the lady with the scarf” and saying that I was “fire.” That was nice, too.

What do you love about writing?

When an idea comes full circle in a quietly perfect way, it's nothing short of amazing. I love to write. I am constantly writing things, however, that I don't enjoy. Things like grant applications and residency essays really bug me. I do, however, enjoy writing project summaries. And these emotional things called spiritual inventories. Characterizing my work and intent is recreational for me.

Do you think writing is sexy?

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, sexier than a good love letter. If that doesn't dovetail love and sex perfectly I don't know what does.

Who is your writing hero?

My mom. She is a fabulous writer. I love her lists, they are epic in their ridiculousness.  

Read anything good lately?

I am knee deep in FLASH The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos. It isn't life changing, but it is an in-depth look at the life of possibly the greatest flash photographer who ever lived. The man had serious hustle.

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I convince sexy writers and artists like Angela to reveal their creative secrets and process to arouse you and your own writing projects. Read more inspiring writer interviews here.

Catch Angela’s recent feature in Vice: “Seven Photographers Bring New Energy To Self-Portraiture

Follow Angela on Instagram.

Browse Angela’s work, buy prints, and book shoots on her website.

Read my love-note writing lesson on Angela’s blog, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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Published on February 02, 2019 03:30

January 14, 2019

As Personal As It Is Authentic: Interview with Jodi Lin

Jodi Lin is a New York City-based filmmaker, experienced in both narrative and documentary work. A graduate of the ART Institute at Harvard and Sarah Lawrence College, she has also been invited to complete a course of study at the Maysles Documentary Center. Her work, Borte, Queen of Tibet, a fearlessly honest autobiography about her recovery from schizoaffective disorder, was nominated for the festival prize at the Soho International Film Festival and received screenings at New Filmmakers, Shining Light, and the Asian American Film Lab. In addition to filmmaking, Jodi works as a freelance script supervisor and video editor.

My sister by marriage, Jodi also supports my creative process with editorial feedback and emotional support. Writing teachers need feedback too, and Jodi is one of the sharpest-yet-gentlest feedback partners I’ve ever known. In this interview, she tells us about her love for Amélie, finding hope in Moscow, and her forthcoming film, Back To One.

Who is your favorite character ever?

Amélie, in a film (2001) of the same name by Jean Pierre-Jeunet. She is charming, sweet, mischievous, and lite. I identify with the way that she deals with life, which I love. There is power in the way that she’s able to overcome her personal obstacles. Amélie is an a-typical heroine.

What’s your process?

I begin with a theme, an overarching idea that I want to reveal in the writing and move my audience with. In my current screenplay, Back To One, this theme is first love. I trained as an actress at the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, where we spent years analyzing action. As I write, every action that the characters live out are in pursuit of this theme.

Tell us about your current screenplay:

Back To One is a sweet romance inspired by the classic work of Merchant Ivory. A love story between a cis woman and a trans man, it is a heartfelt examination of binary gender norms, ageism, and misogyny.

What’s the inspiration?

Music is a huge influence of mine. I’m usually struck by three or four songs or a playlist of songs that I play obsessively as I write. For Back To One, these songs were James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” “You’re So Beautiful,”  by Reddish Blue, Lil’ Wayne’s “How to Love,” and the entire Call Me By Your Name soundtrack.

I had the privilege of watching Merchant Ivory’s A Room With a View and Call Me By Your Name over two nights last winter. I was swept away with emotion after this little marathon and tried not to analyze it. I knew I needed to write.

I write very personal stories with endings I wish I were brave enough to manifest in my own life. Like Brianne in Back To One, I am a forty-something year-old script supervisor. I am Asian American, and due to circumstances beyond and within my control, I too have never been in love.  

My cat was sick, and I hired a vet tech to come administer fluids. And so it began. It was such an intimate thing to have someone in my space, sitting on my bed, and I thought, If I were attracted to this person, if I were brave enough, love could possibly happen in this moment. And it does in Back To One.

I recently came out as queer, and being queer has caused me to look inward to my internalized, patriarchal, and oppressive ideas about love. I grapple with these ideas in Back To One and feel what I’ve created is a story that is as personal as it is authentic.

Tell us a story:

I lived in Moscow on a residency there for 9 months, spanning all four seasons. The winter was so bleak, with snowflakes the size of my nose. The city was grey, the people were intense . . . the mood was dark. But then along comes spring.

The buildings that at one time formed a grey, winter prison began to show in pinks and pastels. I couldn’t figure out how or why. Then one day, on a trolly passing the Kremlin, it occurred to me: all the seemingly grey buildings were at one time brightly painted onion domes, the iconic structures that fortress the city’s capitol!

Having faded over the years, the seeming grey was actually at one time painted bright blues, reds, and golds. The pastels were the worn-down remains of histories past. The Moscow I knew now sparkled with spring hope and beauty. I was revived.

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I convince sexy writers like Jodi to reveal their creative secrets and process to inspire and arouse and your own writing projects. Read more inspiring writer interviews here.

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Connect with Jodi on LinkedIn and Facebook for updates about her forthcoming film, “Back To One.”


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Published on January 14, 2019 03:28

December 14, 2018

Forged Heroes & Queen Drama: Interview with Brian and Scott Palmer

Meet creative arts power couple and newlyweds, Brian and Scott Palmer. Brian is the author of almost 40 novels, including his most recent, New Shoes, the first of The Saint-Moreno Novels, an urban fantasy series about two people who might just save the world if they can manage to save one another first. Scott, the founding Artistic Director of the nationally known theater, Bag & Baggage, has directed and produced critically acclaimed theatrical productions across the globe.

Brian and Scott live outside of Portland, Oregon with Mac, whom Brian calls, “the greatest dog in all the world, who moonlights as an international spy and defends the house from ninja assassins.”

Scott and I are old friends from our college years. He used to kick my butt in competitive literary interpretation. In this interview, we discussed process, metaphor, writerly mysticism, and both their next projects.

Kristy Lin Billuni: Tell me how I can enjoy your work right now.

Brian C Palmer: Oh man, there’s a lot going on. I released New Shoes, the first book in the Saint-Moreno series in September, and I’m working to release book two in that series, Coat Tails, in February of 2019.

Scott Palmer: At the moment, I’m not doing a lot of writing; that is something I am leaving to Brian while I focus on directing. I am primarily a theatre director, but am also an adapter of classical work.

KLB: Tell me about the show that’s running at Bag & Baggage now.

SP: As a holiday show, Bell, Book and Candle is both an odd and completely appropriate choice. John Van Druten’s classic allegory of closeted gay life in the 1950s inspired a movie with Jimmy Stewart and also the camp television classic Bewitched! And it is a show about witches and witchcraft, which is odd for Christmas. But it is also a show about community, fear, isolation, and acceptance of one’s self and one’s community. Plus it has a fabulous mid-century vibe, which delights both our audiences and the artists! The show opened Friday November 30th and runs through December 23rd, 2018.

KLB: And Brian, the Saint-Moreno series is your first big move into fantasy, isn’t it?

BCP: Yes, it’s the genre I’ve always wanted to write. Saint-Moreno is an urban fantasy series set in Portland and is about the magical apocalypse and the return of the old Sumerian gods, and the partnership between Vanessa Moreno—a homicide cop descended from monster hunters—and Adam Saint, an alcoholic sorcerer who drinks to suppress the demon he’s possessed by. They do not successfully stop the end of the world, and the series is about them trying to clean up the mess.

KLB: You’re both sort of collaborating with writer heroes right now. Brian, tell us about your forthcoming co-written project.

BCP: I’m writing The Last Promethean with Marie Robinson. It’s mostly a fun adventure about a heroine and her three love interests—a minimum requirement in reverse harem stories—but I’m really happy with how it’s shaping up to have a strong thematic backbone as well. Marie is giving me an interest in harem and reverse-harem romance angles, that I didn’t have before. Working with her, we’ve been exploring a complicated relationship dynamic between three men and one woman, discovering how they all balance one another, why they do and don’t get along, so it’s almost like a thought experiment in polyamory, and of course I love that kind of thing.

KLB: You both have these really sexually fascinating projects! Scott, can you talk a little about  Bell, Book and Candle’s playwright?

SP: John Van Druten is one of the most influential playwrights that no one has ever heard of and an un-celebrated figure in queen drama. Jason Zinoman, wrote of Van Druten in The New York Times, “He steered away from grand provocations or state-of-the-nation themes.” But I think his work is full of grand provocations and state-of-the-nation themes; they are just hidden underneath a veneer of wit, sophistication, and charm because that was the only way a closeted gay man in the 1950s could have provocative opinions about the state of the nation without being outed, accused of being a communist, blacklisted, or killed. In Bell, Book, and Candle, Van Druten used a very convenient metaphor for living a closeted gay life in New York in the 1950s: witches. By using the metaphor of witches and warlocks, and by putting his perspective into that of a female protagonist, Van Druten was able to say a number of specific things to his audience: first, that gays have a right to exist; second, that homosexuality is a community even if the broader world doesn’t understand it; third, that being closeted, and the treatment of queer culture by straight culture, creates deep loneliness and emotional shallowness; and, fourth, that being gay (or a witch) is actually really pretty fun.

KLB: How does queerness show up in your work, Brian?

BP: I don’t like reading a soap-box, and I don’t like writing a soap box. I want it to all feel totally natural, like this is just the reality of the world projected into fiction. It’s a given—all different kinds of people, not just straight, white people. I really want to write a story where every single character is somehow queer, and I think that this particular idea would deliver that well, to an audience that really needs more diverse fiction and to see the different kinds of hero you can be that has nothing to do with whether you’re a boy, a girl, somewhere in between, or feel like you’re just not on that spectrum at all. That will probably be the project that takes the place of The Last Promethean once that series (three books) is finished. I’m really interested in pushing some boundaries regarding traditional lead characters. In Saint-Moreno, I’ve got two POV characters in third person, which is just not done in Urban Fantasy right now and I think readers have found it refreshing for the most part. I want to write characters of color and do so in a way that doesn’t feel inauthentic or forced, and I want to bring a lot more gender diversity to fiction in the same way.

KLB: Do you think it’s important to think about process--how we write--in addition to the actual writing project?

BCP: I’m very, very process driven, and in fact, part of what I do as a side hustle is consult with micro-publishers about how to produce more books, and help them develop templates for genre and even sub-genre specific books. I kind of train outliners, basically.

KLB: Can you describe your approach?

BCP: Up until this project, I had a really clear kind of formula for writing. And by formula I mean that I had a series of questions that helped me zero in on exactly what I needed to know.

KLB: How has your process been different with the current project?

BCP: With New Shoes, I learned that there are kind of two levels of stories. One is a predictable, formula driven kind of story—like almost every romance ever written—and the other is something living and organic that struggles and squirms as you write it, and that the more real your characters get the more they fight you.

KLB: Is that a good thing? Fighting with your imaginary characters?

BCP: Until I wrote New Shoes, I considered a lot of that to be kind of writerly mysticism and nonsense. However, I honestly wasn’t satisfied with New Shoes until I started getting into those fights with Vanessa and Adam. If your characters aren’t fighting you, I think maybe you don’t know them well enough. I have this theory that every story is an argument between the author and the characters. You know what they need, where they need to go, how they need to grow, and they need to give you the finger at every turn. So, as the author you keep throwing them challenges and obstacles to steer them where you want them to go until finally they crack and have to make a little bit of growth, grudgingly, because otherwise they won’t survive.

KLB: It sounds like you work really hard on your stories, Brian.

BCP: I am a relentless workhorse writer. I work hard during the day, and my indulgence is probably just putting down the keyboard at the end of the day, when Scott gets home, and giving myself permission to be done so that we can spend time together.

SP: I do my best writing in my pajamas and with wine.

BCP: I write every single day, usually during any hours that Scott isn’t home. That’s most often a ten-hour day, and I write for eight of those in some capacity at least, though that’s normally spread among multiple projects.

SP: I usually write in long, focused blocks of time rather than occasionally or on any kind of regular schedule.

KLB: Can you talk a little about the process of adapting a play, Scott?

SP: There is a pretty significant difference between being a “writer” and being a playwright, plus there is a huge difference between being a playwright and being an adapter. The processes are radically different, really, especially in scale and scope. I am mostly interested in adaptations; my personal writing is focused on making classical stories seem new again. Of particular interest to me is reconnecting classical stories (which are almost always riddled with homophobia, racism, and misogyny) more deeply rooted in social justice. It’s what I often call the “bait and switch;” audiences think they are coming to see a good old fashioned production of Romeo and Juliet, but when they arrive, the production actually merges Shakespeare with an ancient Sunni Muslim poet’s epic tale of star-crossed lovers! Fun and educational!

KLB: Scott, what’s next for you?

SP: After Bell, Book and Candle, I’ll be directing a world premiere adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale as part of our “Problem Play Project (PPP).” PPP is a three year program that commissions emerging playwrights of color to adapt one of Shakespeare’s so-called problem plays (those plays that don’t fit comfortably within either category of comedy or tragedy) with an equity lens.The first commission is called The Island In Winter and is an exploration of Shakespeare’s play about family, jealousy, and betrayal set in post-revolutionary Cuba. The playwright, Carlos Trujillo, is local to Hillsboro and, as an out actor and artist, has a powerful perspective on the Cuban-American experience. The Island In Winter opens in March of 2019.

KLB: Brian, tell us a little more about the forthcoming Last Promethean with Marie Robinson.

BCP: It’s a post apocalyptic series of fantasy novels for a more YA audience with about a world where the Greek gods have come back to power after taking back the fire that Prometheus stole, and the last scion of that fire, who ends up waging a war for the freedom of humanity. It’s really become about the dangers and limitations of absolute power, and that even when it seems people are as oppressed as they can possibly be—the Olympians in this series are vicious, and cruel, and very, well, true to their mythology—there will always be resistance, and that kind of oppression is the pressures that forges heroes and forces people to act and change their situation. It has a lot of really cool mythology and a pretty dark tone to it. Those books are coming out January of 2019.

I coax sexy writers like Scott and Brian to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:

Get tickets now for Bell, Book and Candle and The Island In Winter on the Bag & Baggage website.

Read about Scott’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo&Juliet/Layla&Majnun.

Buy Brian’s books on his website and his Amazon author page.

Follow Brian on Facebook, Twitter, and Quora.

I cultivate sexy, bold, free writers in stimulating, one-hour private sessions. I  also write essays and short stories about sex, writing, and sometimes pigeons.

Read my writing.

Flirt with me on Twitter.

Get my cafe reviews & reviews of me on Yelp.

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Schedule your free private session.


 


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Published on December 14, 2018 09:56

November 3, 2018

Creator, Performer, and Audience: Interview with Christopher Smith Adair

Christopher Smith Adair is a freelance writer of role-playing games and sometime copyeditor living in San Diego. When I asked Christopher to describe role-playing games (RPGs), they said, “Those are the collaborative games in which players bring creativity and randomness together to create an emergent narrative…oh, and have social fun.”

Christopher has mostly written for Call of Cthulhu, a game of supernatural mystery and horror based on the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft and his literary peers and disciples. Christopher’s first book, A Cold Fire Within, is forthcoming from Chaosium, Inc. for the Pulp Cthulhu game.

I went to high school with Christopher, so we probably met around the time they started playing RPGs in 1982. They began writing for RPGs in 2002, after answering an open call for pitches on the Strange Aeons email list. Their work has appeared in such places as Doors to Darkness, New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley, the Arkham Gazette, and Worlds of Cthulhu magazine.

Kristy Lin Billuni: Tell us about A Cold Fire Within.
Christopher Smith Adair: The adventure starts in 1930s New York with a missing-persons case and continues through time and space as the players uncover a globe-threatening plot.
KLB: So it’s a part of the greater game?
CSA: Yes, It’s a campaign, a continuing storyline designed to be played over months.
KLB: What sets it apart from other campaigns in the Call of Cthulhu world?
CSA: It’s an opportunity to visit some corners of Lovecraft’s worlds that are usually only hinted at in the game.
KLB: Congratulations! How does it feel to have your first book being published?
CSA: This is my first book as sole author, as well as my first time writing anything for a campaign. It’s definitely a milestone in my career. Now that I know I can meet that challenge, I want to see what else I’m capable of.
KLB: Great. What’s next?
CSA: The next thing I want to tackle is designing my own rules and setting, either publishing it myself or working with a publisher. That’s more than a little terrifying, but I want to try. I have a few ideas, and it will also be good to stretch beyond the horror genre.
KLB: Tell me more about your passion for this kind of writing.
CSA: RPG writing is the medium I work in for a few reasons. I was immediately attracted to the challenge. It’s a combination of fiction, nonfiction, and instructional manual, and you have to balance all of that. And what you have written is only a guideline. It’s up to the players to fully form it, often in ways you could never imagine.
KLB: So your role as writer expands--maybe in the way a playwright’s role expands beyond writing? Or the way a playwright hands over the script and then other artists have their way with it?
CSA: Yes, all narratives are interactive to some extent. We bring our unique perspectives to them, and we imagine what came before and after. Role-playing games foreground that and build off of it. We are creator, performer, and audience all at once.
KLB: So many writers have a story to tell but haven’t found the right platform or genre for the work or for their identity as an artist.
CSA: This type of writing also fits my personality better than standard fiction does. I don’t really have a binary view of the world. Why have one perspective or set of answers? It’s also about giving up control.
KLB: So the book is coming out soon. Are you working on something new in the meantime?
CSA: Right now, I’m revising or waiting to revise a few different projects for various publishers.
KLB: Can you tell us about one?
CSA: The one I just finished takes place after the apocalypse. Usually I get to write about things that could cause the end of the world, so it’s exciting to explore life after the collapse.
KLB: Post-apocalypse stories are really hot right now.
CSA: I’ve decided life would be bizarre and dreamlike, drawing inspiration from Expressionist film, Franz Kafka’s fiction, and Edvard Munch’s art. The player characters are a circus troupe, which is a premise I’ve wanted to use for years.
KLB: I love it. That’s so totally different from anything I’ve seen, and I think you’re right. The post-apocalyptic future will be surreal. I usually ask writers what they’re reading, but I get to ask you, what are you playing?
CSA: Right now, I’m excited to be playing Avery Alder’s Monsterhearts, a queer paranormal teen romance game. Playing a confused, hormonal teenager who makes bad decisions is much more fun than it was to actually be one.
KLB: I knew that teenager! I’m so glad I get to know you as an adult writer and tastemaker too. What else?
CSA: Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco, a game about desperate, doomed people like you see in a Coen Brothers film, is probably my favorite game design. I recommend it to anyone who wants a quick introduction to narrative games, especially writers and improv actors. Some writing and theater groups have used its constraints as an inspirational tool.
KLB: I want to get into how you accomplish the writing you do. Let’s start with time. When do you write?
CSA: I work full time, so it’s a lot of finding time where I can.
KLB: Most writers I know have day jobs, so this is really relevant. How do you get a whole book written when you work?
CSA: I naturally wake up earlier than I need to, so sometimes I write a bit before my day job. I rarely write on weeknights, except for minor mechanical matters like formatting, tweaking text in a way that I’ve already decided on, or editing or revising.
KLB: So what do your weekends look like?
CSA: I mostly write on the weekends, sometimes starting almost as soon as I’m awake or easing into it after an hour or two. A lot depends on where I’m at in the process, including how close I am to my deadline. Even when I’m only really writing on the weekend, I’m usually thinking about it throughout the week when my mind isn’t otherwise fully engaged.
KLB: Right. So even when you’re not writing you’re writing. What are some of the things you have figured out before you write?
CSA: Before I start writing a pitch or the actual piece, I’ll have figured out basic plot or structure before sitting down properly. And throughout the process, I’ll send myself quick emails with questions I pose to myself or answers to puzzles I’ve been trying to solve.
KLB: And where do you write?
CSA: My writing space is far from ideal. I work on a desktop in the living room, right next to the television.
KLB: Oh wow, so you’re chained to that spot?
CSA: That’s one reason for early morning writing. It helps that my partner is a late riser typically.
KLB: So many writers get hung up on the “room of one’s own” thing, but many of us do not have dedicated space. How do you handle the distractions around you?
CSA: I’m grateful that I can write while listening to music. The music doesn’t need to have anything to do thematically with what I’m writing, and vocals don’t bother me.
KLB: Lyrics are a thought killer for me. How do you do that?
CSA: I mostly tune it out, but it anchors my distractible mind much more than if everything was silent. I can’t handle outright talking, like DJs or podcasts, though. I need to get more comfortable writing for extended periods on a laptop.
KLB: Your body has to be happy to be able to really let go and write, so do what you have to do to be comfortable! Speaking of happy bodies, let’s talk about sex. Is there a sexual element to the games or to the stories you write for them?
CSA: My immediate thought would be no, because the parameters of the projects I’ve written for so far don’t really call for it. But that’s not really true. Lovecraft was notoriously circumspect in such matters, but fertility cults and weird sexual relationships run throughout. Thinking about it, I realize that sex is present in a lot of my game work, even if only implied.
KLB: Sex is everywhere.
CSA: In A Cold Fire Within, there is a decadent hidden culture, including jaded sensualists who mimic their ancestors’ orgiastic religious rites. But game writing generally tends toward clinical language.
KLB: That makes sense. Clinical language can be more neutral so that players can take it any direction they want.
CSA: Right. There may be sex on the page, but it’s rarely sexy. However, the beauty of role-playing is that individual groups can expand on that as much as they like, and some players love romantic entanglements. Also, there are more and more designers creating games that focus on sex, love, and gender, which has always been underrepresented.
KLB: It’s inspiring when you think about it that way.
CSA: Yes, playing Monsterhearts has rekindled ideas I have for a game about the young adult children of alien diplomats on a space station. It’ll be a game about opposed cultures mixing and about loving people you aren’t supposed to. That’s what I want to work on next.

I coax sexy writers like Christopher Smith Adair to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:

For a taste of RPG writing, read Christopher’s “Billy and the World All Topsy-Turvy,” a tragic story of a Victorian children’s book author, in Protodimension Magazine.
Visit Christopher’s website to keep up with their latest projects.
Check out Christopher’s credits--link coming soon here for A Cold Fire Within (Chaosium, Inc).

I cultivate sexy, bold, free writers in stimulating, one-hour private sessions. I  also write essays and short stories about sex, writing, and sometimes pigeons.
Read my writing.
Flirt with me on Twitter.
Get my cafe reviews & reviews of me on Yelp.
Share books on GoodReads.
Schedule your free private session.


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Published on November 03, 2018 03:37

October 8, 2018

Incorporating the Power of Word: Interview with Genea Barnes

If you’ve visited the Sexy Grammar home office loft for a private session, you’ve admired the work of Genea Barnes while contemplating your own. If you’ve visited the new Sexy Grammar website, you’ve see the unique professional portraits she created for me. I had the honor of helping with editorial on Don’t Forget Me-A Photographic Memorial, the book about Ghost Bikes that Genea published in 2015, and have the pleasure of calling her a friend. Based in Brooklyn but from San Francisco, this artist has inspired me since the day I met her in a yoga class on Folsom Street. I’m so happy to feature her interview in celebration of my new website--especially since the whole design relies heavily on photos she took. (There’s a story behind them--link at the end of the interview.) Below, we discuss Genea’s favorite writers, her Ghost Bikes book, her process, and her work-in-progress.

Kristy Lin Billuni: I know you identify more as a visual artist than as a writer, but I also know we’re going to get some great perspective on writing from you because of that. Let’s back into it a little. Tell me about some writers you love.
Genea Barnes: I am in love with Stanley Donwood’s work. He is also a visual artist, known for doing the Radiohead album covers. His writing is short, dark, and has a twisted humor. I am always inspired by Paulo Coelho. He writes about humanity and the journey of this human life, things that inspire my own work and my own writing.
KLB: See, we’re already talking about your writing! And I bet you have some friends who are doing great work.
GB: Yes, Terry Tapp has released A Serf’s Journal: The Story of The United States’ Longest Wildcat Strike.
KLB: Sounds amazing. Who else?
GB: Nathan McClain is a wonderful poet. His book is called Scale, and one of his poems recently appeared in New York Magazine.
KLB: Tell me about what matters to you in your work.
GB: I’m moved by people and the human experience. The way we live our lives, how we perceive our reality, and how we move through tragedy and trauma inspire me. Through my art and writing, I aim to show multiple views of experience, with the intention of expanding the lens of perception.
KLB: And tell me a little about your creative relationship to writing.
GB: I have always made art and written, journaling, poetry, stories of my experiences. I toy with the idea of writing an autobiography one day. My writing lands in the realm of my experiences. My truth. And in recent years I have used it to support the other types of art that I do.
KLB: I can’t wait for your autobiography! Let’s talk about the Ghost Bike book.
GB: I worked on a project photographing Ghost Bikes (bicycles painted white and placed as memorials for cyclists that were killed while riding).
KLB: And you published the collected photos as a book.
GB: Yes, when I made the decision to publish a book, I knew that the images were not enough. While powerful in themselves, I needed to pay respect to the individuals that lost lives, and the powerful journey I went on to discover these Ghost Bikes. This could only be done with words.
KLB: So you wrote.
GB: So I wrote. I wrote about my journey, I shared my journey, and I published my journey. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this I believe, but the power of the image with the word, well, that kind of power can move mountains.
KLB: Well, the book certainly wields a lot of power. I really treasure my copy of Don’t Forget Me. I’ve turned to it more than once in times of grief to uplift myself. I always ask myself when I spend time with it, How did she do that? How did she create such an uplifting-yet-sad object? So let’s talk about exactly how you write. Any abandoned writing practices?
GB: I have finally stopped buying fancy notebooks, because I don’t end up using them, unless I am traveling.
KLB: Ooh, tell me about how you write when you travel.
GB: When I travel I usually write in a journal, pen to paper, I set aside time to write, to reflect, to bring together the experiences that I am having. To make sense of it all. But the reality is, I don’t travel enough, and life is crazy and busy, and there never seems to be enough time.
KLB: So where are you writing these days?
GB: I write in moments that I feel inspired, and these days, I do much of my writing on my phone, waiting for the subway, on the subway, in a coffee shop, a restaurant, a free moment when I am at work, when I wake up in the middle of the night.
KLB: I write like that too. Julia Cameron calls this “writing in snatches.” I love that idea.
GB: I have learned that if I have a moment of inspiration, I have to get it down, I can’t wait until I have “time.” There may never be that time, or I may forget when that “time” comes. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I have spent years struggling with my need to be perfect. It can be messy. Just get it down, and do it NOW.
KLB: Right. You can edit later.
GB: I find myself scrolling through and editing very rough work on my phone, and eventually it makes it into some sort of document on my computer for further tweaking.
KLB: And can you talk about what it looks like when you don’t feel inspired? Or you feel stuck?
GB: Sometimes I know that I need to write, but I sit there with nothing to say. I know it is in there, but I can’t call it up. There is no flow. Everything is blocked. When I feel this way, it is not just the writing that is blocked, something within myself is usually also blocked and needs to be released. So I write nonsense. I write fuck this, fuck that. Fuck that guy that said I was fat, and that old lady, the one that is always on the corner, what is her deal? Blue forests are better than red ones, and I hate the way cat piss smells.
KLB: Yes! I do this too. And so many writers look at me suspiciously when I try to convince them to do it, to write nonsense and crazy thoughts down. Can you say more about this practice?
GB: I start writing about nothing and everything, things that hurt me, things that made me feel good. I don’t write sentences, sometimes they are just words.
KLB: And then?
GB: Usually at some point, something starts to click, something starts to make sense, and I seem to move into a direction of clarity. The sentences start to form. The paragraphs start to have a point.
KLB: And this is all handwritten?
GB: Yes, it  usually happens pen to paper, but sometimes on the computer.
KLB: And can you talk about the when--when you use this technique?
GB: It especially happens when I know I have something in me, emotionally or creatively that I need to get out, that I need to put words to. Words bring clarity, in emotion, in story, and in everything else.
KLB: That is so true.
GB: There is only so much subtlety and instinct we can rely on in this day and age. Most people don’t get that they have let all the technology and lack of observation dull their senses so much that we really need the words to bring clarity. And beauty… with the word, we can recreate the experience of all the senses and bring someone the gift of experiencing something in that way that they could never get by watching the movie, or by standing outside of our experience.  
KLB: Tell me what you’re working on right now.
GB: I am currently not working on a writing project, but working on incorporating the power of word into my photographic art. This project is called Three Windows. In it, I photograph a person’s hands and their face.
KLB: Oh yes, I got to sit for this project with you when we did my portraits! Great. I want to hear all about it.
GB: The eyes are one window, the hands another. The object of the portrait is to get them to drop the walls of judgement and discernment in their eyes and let us in. These are two windows.
KLB: And the third?
GB: The third window is three words the subjects pick themselves: one noun or adjective that describes who they were, one for who they are, and one for who they have yet to be.
KLB: I love the way you integrate words with your art.
GB: The power of the word is magical. It can say so much, it can give us a feeling, or it can trick us into believing something that is not real. In this project, I love the idea that the hands and the eyes show us something visually, but the words tell us something about what the person feels about themselves.
KLB: And that alters the way we see the images?
GB: It is a completely different window than the one we see when we look at the photograph. I use the words and the two portraits of eyes and hands as my inspiration to develop the piece, to inform the feeling of how I will make the background and the rest of the piece look and feel.
KLB: You mentioned how you value people and human experience in your art. And even the Ghost Bikes symbolize people because they memorialize them.
GB: Human nature is fascinating to me. My subjects have almost always been people, or something related to human experience. In recent years, I have been exploring our humanity, what we think of ourselves, what we show the world, and what we are afraid to show the world. This project is an important way to show where all of these things intersect.
KLB: How so?
GB: Our hands show where we have been, they mark time and experience. How we hold them shows how we may feel, despite what we say.
KLB: And the eyes?
GB: Our eyes show where we are now, and if the guard is dropped, one really does get a glimpse into another’s soul, their soul without the mask, a picture of who they really are in this moment. And the words, they hold the images of what we feel deep inside, a representation of how far we think we have come, and the hope where we have yet to go. These words, the power of the word in this project, shows us not necessarily the absolute truth, but a powerful glimpse into the psyche of the subject, something a photograph could never do.

I coax sexy writers like Genea Barnes to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:

Buy Don’t Forget Me-A Photographic Memorial, the Ghost Bike book. Buy two. It makes a beautiful and thoughtful gift.
See Genea’s photography. Better yet, buy it.
Read the perilous story of how Genea used her magic to rescue me on the day we shot my website photos, in the Yelp review I wrote her.
See four of Genea’s gorgeous, huge-format images from the Body series at your next in-house Sexy Grammar private session. Schedule here.
Read my GoodReads review of Ghost Bikes: A Photographic Memorial.

I cultivate sexy, bold, free writers in stimulating, one-hour private sessions. I also write essays and short stories about sex, writing, and sometimes pigeons.

Read my writing.
Flirt with me on Twitter.
Get my cafe reviews & reviews of me on Yelp.
Share books on GoodReads.
Schedule your free private session.


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Published on October 08, 2018 07:55

September 20, 2018

F*cking Spectacular: Interview with Day Schildkret

Internationally known for Morning Altars, which have inspired tens of thousands of people of all ages across the globe, Day Schildkret is about to go on a book tour. The Morning Altars: A 7 Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit Through Nature, Art and Ritual (The Countryman Press, an imprint of W.W. Norton) launch will take him to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Massachusetts, Denver and Boulder, Washington DC, Florida, Boise, Portland, and elsewhere and will include workshops at the Andy Warhol Preserve in NY, Kripalu in MA, and Wanderlust's Wellspring in Palm Springs, CA.

Morning Altars has been featured in BuzzFeed, VICE, Spirituality & Health Magazine, etc. and has over 85k followers on Instagram and Facebook combined. With workshops, book readings and large-scale earth art installations worldwide, Morning Altars is bringing ephemeral art to the collective human imagination.

Kristy Lin Billuni: Tell me about the book first.
Day Schildkret: This book is a kaleidoscope of mesmerizing impermanent earth art, on the ground stories, deeply learned wisdom, a tangible practice and a way to learn again how to belong and be in relationship again to our living planet.
KLB: And for anyone who’s just discovering Morning Altars in this interview, can you talk a little more about the practice that led to the book?
DS: I make impermanent beauty and patterns with the earth. All of my art is an expression of the time and place it was born in. Depending on the seasons, the weather, the animals, what is growing, what is dying, the time of the day, the place it was made.
KLB: I’m a fan. Your images are beautiful!
DS: Thanks. Every single Morning Altar reflects the animate, ephemeral, changing earth and therefore, is also a reminder and remembering to us that we too are a part of that greater, mysterious, changing force. Yet, this is not obvious to us these days.
KLB: Great, I want to hear about this heart of your work--the altars and the book, the message you’re conveying with it.
DS: In this book, I speak to the trouble of our time — this deranged, high speed, disconnected, tech-obsessed, isolated, self-centered, objectifying, and ending and grief-illiterate culture. More and more adults and especially children are completely removed from their relationship with nature and therefore, suffer the consequences of this disconnection such as obesity, ADHD, depression, and loneliness. Even my own Morning Altars practice began during the most devastating break-up of my adult life thus far.
KLB: How so?
DS: At that time, I was totally grief-soaked and unable to do anything with my days. It was thanks to this practice of getting outside, wandering the land and seeing the enormous and almost invisible beauty right at my feet, that most people step on or over that allowed me to find my way toward myself again.
KLB: So you offer this practice as way of healing?
DS: This book offers the Morning Altars practice and ritual as way to slow down, listen, come alive and connect back into the magic of our days and our living world. Art plus earth plus creativity have the power to do this.
KLB: Tell me more about your experience building the altars.
DS: Morning Altars are inspired by my connection with all of life. I absolutely love being outside and discovering the treasure of the natural world.
KLB: Can you describe a little of that magic?
DS: A spiraling pine-cone, a watercolor-painted mushroom, a sleek black crow feather bring my entire imagination to life.
KLB: And what does that conjure for you?
DS: What I've discovered is that when I sit with the earth and create patterns with these natural material and then witness their impermanence, I can sense my own purpose and sense of belonging in a way that is meaningful, unique and completely human. I can sense how art connects me to a greater purpose of being human, which is being forgotten these days.
KLB: It sounds really powerful.
DS: Though the biggest inspiration is to see people all around the world, from Spain to Iran and Brazil to Seattle get inspired by my art and message and step outside of their homes and into the natural world and try their hands at creating.
KLB: I love how accessible it is. Anybody can do it!
DS: Yes! It's so incredibly powerful to me when someone creates a Morning Altar as a way of celebrating, grieving, honoring, understanding their lives by making beauty with the place they live. Earth art has no boundaries. It is an accessible practice for anyone, at any age, in any location, at any time of the year for absolutely NO cost.
KLB: I think that is spectacular.
DS: That is fucking spectacular! Anyone that loves nature, that loves art, that loves ritual, that remembers their wild imaginative childhood, that loves to play and experiment or longs to play and experiment, that craves to feel more connected and creative, that innately understands how beauty can feed their lives and our world -- all of these people will love this book.
KLB: The tour sounds pretty fucking spectacular too.
DS: We are hosting two HUGE and fabulous launch parties. The east coast party, October 4th is called DREAM GARDEN hosted at The Assemblage in NYC. It is a dream ritual awash in poetry, music, storytelling, with a large scale Morning Altars at the heart of the ceremony. After the dream ritual, there will be a celebration with elixirs, live music, tea service all around the altar.  The west coast launch party is on October 18th in Berkeley, CA and is more of a traditional celebration with a book reading, Q&A, book signing and a Morning Altar built in the center of the party.
KLB: Speaking of building, I want to talk more about your process creating the book. How long did you work on it.
DS: The actual book took me 4 months to write while living the wilds of Southern Utah. Every day, at dawn, I would get up and sit with the muse of this book.
KLB: How did that serve you?
DS: Some days she would come visit and I would actually get some writing accomplished while other days, she didn’t show up at all.
KLB: But you kept showing up?
DS: Yes, for me, it was more about persistence and letting the spirit of this book know that I was showing up for duty everyday no matter what.
KLB: But then there was also the photography?
DS: Right, the photography occurred over 5 years. There are photos that both represent the evolution of an actual piece, from start to creation to destruction, but also the evolution of my art practice over the course of 5 years. What I absolutely love about this book is that it takes my readers on a visual and literary journey through time and space.
KLB: I cannot wait to hold the book in my hands. I feel like this is one of those books that’s going to bring a very sensual experience to its readers. Will you talk a little about how your art and your book are sensual and sexy?
DS:  The earth is the SEXIEST being period, full stop. All humans have learned anything and everything about sex from our earth.
KLB: Yes! What else?
DS: The eruption of nectar from flowers, the hard phallic curve a tight pine cone, the deep dark moist earth after a rain is all about fecundity, attraction, beauty, and sex. So, when I practice creating Morning Altars, I am practicing bringing my body closer to the earth's body and learning from all those greater-than-humans on this planet who do sex and pleasure and ecstasy so well.

I coax sexy writers like Day Schildkret to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:
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I cultivate sexy, bold, free writers in stimulating, one-hour private sessions. I  also write essays and short stories about sex, writing, and sometimes pigeons.
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Published on September 20, 2018 16:40