Songs Without Music: A Conversation with Cathy Ulrich

Cathy Ulrich

“The thing about being the murdered girl is you set the plot in motion.” All 31 pieces of flash fiction in Cathy Ulrich’s debut collection Ghosts of You (Okay Donkey Press) begin with a variation of this sentence. Ulrich is a writer from Montana, whose work has appeared in Fiction Southeast, Cleaver Magazine, and The Atticus Review, among other venues. In Ghosts of You, she gives the murdered girls and women so frequently used as plot devices back their stories. In this conversation, Ulrich explains her deft use of repetition, the anger that fueled the collection, and the influence Law and Order reruns had on the collection.

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An Unexpected Portrait of a Fictional Seattle: Talking “Emerald City” With Brian Birnbaum

Brian Birnbaum

Some novels hew their focus to one particular character or motif, pushing that theme through infinite permutations. Others opt for a sprawling and vivid campus, sometimes combining elements in ways that have never been seen before. That’s the case with Brian Birnbaum and his novel Emerald CityIt’s at once a portrait of institutional corruption, a description of a familial relationship unlike many that show up in the pages of fiction, and an illustration of changes taking place in the city of Seattle. I spoke with Birnbaum about the genesis of his novel and how its unique structure evolved.

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“I’m Looking For the Surreal Moments of Real Life”: An Interview With Jac Jemc

Jac Jemc

Whether she’s navigating the secrets people keep from one another or venturing into the world of the uncanny, Jac Jemc has established a particularly haunting corner of fiction where she explores the unpredictable and disquieting. This week brings with it the release of False Bingo, her second collection of short fiction, and one which demonstrates Jemc’s impressive range as a writer. I talked with her about the collection’s origins, her work in both the supernatural and realistic, and caught a glimpse of what might be next from her.

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Six Ridiculous Questions: Chuck Greaves

The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.

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“I Wanted It To Be Like a Country Song”: An Interview With Noah Cicero

Noah Cicero

Noah Cicero has written several books. I find great comfort in Noah’s ouvre, in the sense that he has never seemed interested in limiting himself to a particular type of story. The Human War was an influential, early-millennial beat-style meditation that unsarcastically grapples with the pointlessness of war, while Go to Work… is basically a political action-thriller, replete with government conspiracies and a firefight. There’s the philosophical discussion of Buddhism in Blood-Soaked Buddha/Hard Earth Pascal. There’s both lost-love poetry (Bipolar Cowboy) and bleak observational poetry (Nature Documentary). There’s a menagerie of stories, snippets, eBooks, collected works, all testaments to Noah boldly exploring new territory without any sense of self-doubt or obligation to construct some kind of “brand.” And so now there’s Give it to the Grand Canyon, which is a deeply personal, plainly written travelogue about living and working in the Grand Canyon National Park. From the casual discussions of how one goes about getting a job there (they will hire anyone) to how one goes about getting to the job there (a lot of driving, no matter where you’re coming from) to how one goes about, well, doing the job there (serving ice cream to disappointed tourists), Noah’s story is a relentlessly realistic collection of vignettes. What I mean is that there are no twists, no manufactured dramas, no heroic deeds, but instead everything – from the unadultered danger and beauty of the canyon itself to the vague interpersonal relationships among the staff – is written as it is experienced, is remarked upon as it happens, is left to fizzle or ferment without any constructed symbolism or structure.

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Six Ridiculous Questions: Janice Lee

The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.

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Sonic Monoliths, With Poetry: Kid Millions and Sarah Bernstein on Their New Album “Broken Fall”

What happens when two supremely talented musicians collaborate on a new recording, and then throw some poetry into the mix? That’s the case with Broken Fall, the new album from Kid Millions and Sarah Bernstein. Millions demonstrates his fondness for frenetic rhythms, while Bernstein summons up fantastically atmospheric sounds with her violin and voice, creating a haunting and unpredictable sound from beginning to end. I talked with both musicians about the process of making this one, how it relates to their prior work, and how they got some of the album’s most distinctive sounds to emerge.

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Haunted by Memory Itself: Karen Stefano on Writing “What a Body Remembers”

Karen Stefano

Karen Stefano‘s memoir What A Body Remembers is an absolutely harrowing literary work. Initially it focuses on Stefano’s experience of an assault and what came next — but it turns into something even more complex as the years go by. Stefano explores questions of justice and empathy throughout the book, and there’s a moment towards the end that made me gasp in shock. I talked with Stefano about the origins of her memoir, its structure, and the themes she grapples with within it.

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