Episode 61: Uplifting Survivors of Sexual Violence with Emma Collins

Content Warning: Discussion of sexual and domestic violence, please listen with care.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual and/or domestic violence/abuse, you can find support through: RAINN & RSVP (for USC community). More resources available here.

In Episode 61, Dan Dissinger & special guest host Danielle Lee talk to USC alum Emma Collins about being an advocate for survivors of relationship and sexual violence, working for RSVP (Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention Services) at USC, and rape culture on and off the college campus.

Emma Collins (she/they) recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Psychology. She worked as an Intervention Coordinator for USC Relationship and Sexual Violence and Prevention Services (RSVP) throughout undergrad and is now pursuing a career in violence prevention and education. She is passionate about survivor advocacy, intersectional feminism, and building community. When she is not working, Emma can be found volunteering as a counselor for USC Troy Camp, a student-run philanthropic organization providing long-term mentorship for students in South Los Angeles, and creating art through various mediums. Check out her work on Instagram @StitchForChange (50% of proceeds go to The Loveland Foundation).

This episode was recorded on May 10th, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“I’m ready to not be a student anymore […] I’m excited to leave this bubble.” -Emma Collins

“In 2018, only about 30% of the USC body knew what RSVP was, which is so disheartening because it’s one of the only confidential resources around campus.” –Emma Collins

“I’m really glad that we’ve [RSVP] been able to amass more of a following and that more students are going to know what RSVP is […] and hopefully help facilitate a better culture around sex and around relationships on campus.” -Emma Collins

“Working at RSVP really honed in just how clearly I need to be doing some sort of advocacy in whatever field that I choose and how passionate I could be about something.” Emma Collins

“There was a long time where […] I really wanted to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and become a therapist, a really well-educated therapist, and try and make a lot of money […] Now it’s sort of shifted to how can my job position help build community and help heal different communities. [The] community I’ve been focusing on for the past couple of years has been the community of survivors and people that are impacted by sexual and relationship violence.”
-Emma Collins

“I think when most people think of a survivor of sexual assault, they think of someone that looks exactly like me, usually a white cis-woman [and also a] straight woman. When in reality, Black and Brown communities are so much more affected by sexual and relationship violence, and then we can think about the fetishization of Asian communities (AAPI communities), […] and Queer communities as well.” -Emma Collins

“There’s sort of this stereotype that Queer communities can’t experience domestic violence because the men [can be] also feminine and women all get along so well, but there’s actually very low reporting of domestic violence within these communities because of those stereotypes and it’s just something that’s not really talked about very often.” -Emma Collins

“[Being in quarantine] has definitely changed how I facilitate, […] and I think has made RSVP more accessible for a lot of people.” –Emma Collins

“We’re constantly putting new pop-culture things in [our workshops]. Our latest healthy relationships workshop has a TikTok in it. We wouldn’t have done that a year ago.” –Emma Collins

“If we don’t have these conversations [about relationship and sexual violence] it’s not going to change.” –Emma Collins

“1 in 3 women in The United States has been sexually assaulted, and then we can think even at USC […] the statistics are actually very believable to someone who understands rape culture and is educated on it. But, presenting these workshops [to the USC students], people are so blown away that even at USC 1 in 3 women has been the victim of unwanted sexual contact or sexual touch or something like that and those numbers are even higher for Queer, Transgender students, and students of color.” –Emma Collins

“We are raised in rape culture. I always say that during presentations, like, ‘You are not an exception and I know you want to feel that you are, but I’m here teaching this workshop and even I’m not an exception’.” –Emma Collins

“The way that we’re raised in America and in most places, because rape culture really is everywhere, is that sex and healthy sex is just something we can’t talk about, and relationships are these gender stereotypes things that are kind of set in stone.” –Emma Collins

“I have found that just doing this work, people that are so clearly in positions of power, if [they] understand anything about intersectionality, love to have some aspect of themselves that is a victim.” -Emma Collins

“The percentage of false reports of sexual assault is the same percentage of the report of false murders, it’s 2%-8% and that includes reports that have been withdrawn by the victim after being advised by a lawyer after more reflection […] Survivors don’t want to have to go through a trial and relive what could be the most difficult, most tragic day of their life.” –Emma Collins

“If you’re only going to talk about or advocate for people that could be victims in different situations when it serves your point or when it’s to go against women, that’s just unacceptable and is showing how much you actually care about these different things.”-Emma Collins

“Toxic masculinity isn’t serving anybody.” -Emma Collins

“My hope is that as we continue […] we’re able to slowly move more and more into rhetoric that’s actually productive and that will actually uplift survivors and help them heal […] but then also just educating other people.” –Emma Collins

“Advocacy groups and support groups like RSVP are more there to help uplift the survivor and help return agency and self-advocacy to that survivor, and not the other way around.” –Emma Collins

Episode 60: Dedicating a Life to Service with Andre Luna

In Episode 60, we talk to USC alum Andre Luna about what it means to be a First-Generation college student, his commitment to a life of service and advocacy, and how a film about surfing is helping him meet his goals.

Andre Luna is a son of Mexican Immigrants and is from La Puente, a small town in the San Gabriel Valley, 30 minutes east of Los Angeles. He is pursuing a BS in Public Policy and Law, a minor in Cinematic Arts, and a Masters of Public Administration. Andre is the first in his family to attend university and intends to use his education to enter the political realm and combat issues that continue to plague this country such as our crumbling infrastructure, deep-seated systemic racism, and diminishing social programs. Andre has a passion for giving back to his community, especially the Latino community, through mentorship, tutorship, and guidance. Among many of the interests Andre has, one of the most important is speaking on behalf of First-generation students and the American education experience for minority students. He has been involved in local and state politics throughout his experience with the LA County District Attorney’s Office and with California State Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg. Andre is currently interning at A Political consulting Group in Washington DC and plans to pursue a law degree and an eventual career in government following his time at USC.

This episode was recorded on April 26, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“I think one of the things we always ask ourselves is, ‘Who am I?'” -Andre Luna

“Being First-Gen is a recognition of what’s come before me, but also what’s ahead of me [and] the challenges I face in the present.” -Andre Luna

“One of the things I enjoyed about my time at USC was saying I was First-Generation because even though USC is known as this traditional [institution], it does have that dynamic of being different things at the same time.” -Andre Luna

“There’s a lot of things that…people will try to hold onto as divisions, but one thing that I choose to do, and I think most people in my generation do, is find common ground, and that’s what being First-Gen really is. It doesn’t matter what background you are or where you live or what religion you practice, it’s that common struggle of being the first in your family to go through this shared experience.” -Andre Luna

“[Being First-Gen] is going to push me to give back to students like me.” -Andre Luna

“Ever since I was young, I always said that I wanted to be the voice for my community and voice for people that have inequities and injustices in this country.” -Andre Luna

“We’re always told that America is number one. America is great. But then you look at the reality of things. There’s things that can be improved on. There’s definitely some problems that are not being addressed.” -Andre Luna

“Dedicating my life to service is what I envision myself doing.” -Andre Luna

“My goal is to basically make people’s lives better, and especially for my own community.” -Andre Luna

“There’s a lot of things in this country that need to be fixed, and I think the biggest critiques that I have is there’s a lot of people that say we have problems, but there’s not anyone actually doing anything to solve them.” -Andre Luna

“To remain the number one country in the world we have to be constantly improving and that means recognizing what’s at fault and what needs improvement, and I think one of those things is education.” -Andre Luna

“I feel like half the battle is won, metaphorically, in the classroom, but the other half is outside of it as well.” -Andre Luna

“Networks save lives […] I secured my internship because of my network.” -Andre Luna

“I think the best advice I got was always have questions about what you’re being taught because it’s coming from a certain vantage point.” -Andre Luna

Episode 59: Taking Back Your Voice with Jordan Broberg

In Episode 59, we talk to USC alum Jordan Broberg about staying creative during the pandemic, finding a voice in poetry, and coming into her own as an artist and a person.

Jordan Broberg is an American actor, director, poet and playwright. Her primary concentration is in the theatre, but she has crossed all mediums and has enjoyed every minute doing it. Broberg is a 2019 magna cum laude graduate of the USC School of Dramatic Arts and she thoroughly enjoys the exploration of off-kilter, vibrant and unparalleled ways to tell stories. From stage-managing Off-Broadway, to finessing her way to production assisting for Aaron Sorkin, Broberg has worn every hat. She is a SAG-Eligible actress and a proud member of Includiance, a new production division of Schmengie Inc. that has partnered with GLAAD to increase the representation of LGBTQIA+ in commercial spaces. She has just released her first book titled, “I Forgot My Parachute This Time – A Collection of Poetry In Three Acts,” which can be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book retailers. Please visit iforgotmyparachutethistime.com for more information. Her theatrical/film work is located at jordanbroberg.com.

This episode was recorded on April 19, 2021. CW: medical abuse. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“You get tired of being down on yourself…I can just choose to say I’m awesome…I’ve found great power in that.” @JBroberg

“It took a while to really find the joy of creating just for the sake of creating.” @JBroberg

“You do not need anybody’s permission to make art.” @JBroberg

“A big part of me coming into who as I am, just as a person but [also] as an artist, is every poem I wrote is me, and it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” @JBroberg

“I really just tried to write for the love of writing, and that’s the only reason this book is happening.” @JBroberg

“Writing was definitely a big surprise in my life, something I didn’t expect to wake up every morning and want to do.” @JBroberg

“This was my way of just taking my voice back.” @JBroberg

Episode 58: Practicing Vulnerable with Cody Lake

In Episode 58, we talk to USC alum Cody Lake about the collaborative power of poetry, web development, and videography, the pressure of commodification, and the surprising inventiveness of Pinterest. 

Cody Lake is an emerging writer, web developer, and video poet. Maintaining a rigorous art practice in high school, Cody received the Jonathan E. Slater Award for Visual Arts upon graduation. At the University of Southern California, Cody expanded their creative work in as many ways as possible. While juggling two majors in Comparative Literature with a Focus in Critical Thought and in Cultural Anthropology, Cody made time for the Undergraduate Writers’ Conference and elective courses in drawing. They completed internships with the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation and the Fisher Museum of Art. Under the direction of Printmaker Xavier Fumat, Cody assisted in teaching an introduction to printmaking course. Unsurprisingly, Cody graduated USC as Magna Cum Laude as well as Renaissance Honors, a distinction that recognizes students who excel academically while pursuing at least 2 widely separate fields of study.

After departing Los Angeles, Cody completed a boot camp in full stack web and hybrid mobile application development. Eager to establish an online presence independent of big technology companies, Cody began to iterate their own creative studio. Events in film screening, nature photography, writing resources, and of course, their own video poetry, compose the offering that is Intoo.Studio. In the summer of 2021, a print editorial featuring Cody’s poetry will be available from the multimedia cultural collective, Pier To:.

This episode was recorded on April 12, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People, Texts, and Organizations Mentioned in the Episode

“I found my own way to join the writing and the web development […] and really want to see where that is going to lead me.” -Cody Lake

“Some of us weren’t even calling ourselves artists […] yet we’re doing art.” -Cody Lake

“The ability to just […] go on the site and show what I’ve been doing has been really critical for me because one of the biggest barriers that I’ve found for myself is my own, I guess, self-deprecation or the bar that I set for myself–just bringing it down to where I’m actually at and making sure that I celebrate where I’m at right now and what I have right now.” -Cody Lake

“It’s always going to be a work-in-progress and that’s kind of web development and writing, but what I have right now is already a success.” -Cody Lake

“This is a huge surprise for me: I’ve been sharing [my work] on Pinterest […] If you caught me 2 years ago I would’ve scoffed at the idea of a Pinterest board, like, ‘I’m too dark & artsy for Pinterest.'” -Cody Lake

“I feel like people, in my age group at least, are consistently feeling this pressure of commodifying our hobbies and feeling like we have to turn everything into a money-making business, a side hustle.” -Cody Lake

“Part of the ideas on my site are taking photos during walks where I just really try to prioritize mindfulness.” -Cody Lake

“I have a long way to go when it comes to filling up my own cup and making sure I’m aligning on my own spiritual journey towards healing.” -Cody Lake

“People are really picking up on the mindfulness piece [in my writing]. People are really picking up on how present I am whether it’s a difficult situation or a celebratory situation. Hearing that is really cool because here I am just like going through the day and I’m like, ‘I just want to understand what’s going on with me, right now.'” -Cody Lake

“If I look into myself and say what are the topics that I’m writing about, the main thing that I can really think of is just being human, being in my own skin. I know that’s so broad, but it feels so personal inside, to me.” -Cody Lake

“I wanted to make my own stance in that, like, I can also create something that I can share, and it says something about me.” -Cody Lake

“Having had that space to bear witness to myself, and to have other people bear witness to me, I think is what gives me the ability to trust that I can experience what’s going on now without having to project a [false] reality onto it.” -Cody Lake

“I daily remind myself: I’m not going back to a place where I have to project a false self.” -Cody Lake

“It’s actually nice just thinking about when [someone listens to my poem]…I wonder where in the world [they are], and that is something that has helped me with the loneliness of the pandemic. When I go to sleep at night I think about how I’m actually not alone; everybody walking on the earth is still walking on the earth. I’m really surprisingly helped by that.” -Cody Lake

“I’ve realized that that the same things that honestly made me feel really wholesome inside before still do, but to an even deeper level.” -Cody Lake

“I just have FOMO about library programs, which is new.” -Cody Lake

Episode 57: Improving Public Health Messaging with Megan Tebbenhoff

In Episode 57, we talk to USC alum and epidemiologist Megan Tebbenhoff about the U.S.’s response to the pandemic, the role and responsibility of the government when it comes to public health messaging, ways to overcome vaccine hesitancy, and the work that needs to be done regarding climate change and population displacement.

Megan Tebbenhoff recently graduated from Columbia University with her MPH in epidemiology and a certificate in public health and humanitarian action. Megan spent her time at Columbia working on COVID-19 global health research and studying public health in the humanitarian setting. She is passionate about global health equity and accessible healthcare for all. Megan is working in the Strategic Information Unit at ICAP at Columbia University to support dozens of global health research programs. When she is not working, she enjoys getting outside in different parts of Brooklyn and trying new restaurants around New York.

This episode was recorded on April 5, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

“Having the exposure and having the understanding almost makes it more challenging to be in the environment where [the pandemic]’s what most people are talking about. You see a lot of misinformation… You know too much almost. It’s almost an ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of situation.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“It’s so interesting to see how we’ve placed a lot of responsibility on non-government actors to be the guardians of [pandemic policies] and on the individual to be the guardian of what is actually safe and what is unsafe. And I think at the end of the day our government should be the organization that’s leading this.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“I think that there’s a lot more that the government could have done to help people stay inside when they really needed to.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“Climate change is going to be a major issue in the next 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“We’re going to get to the point where people can’t keep living where they’re living because of flooding, because of extreme heat or extreme drought. And that’s going to become an exponential growth in the number of people that are displaced from their current homes over the next century.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“Those apocalyptic movies aren’t that far off.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“Every humanitarian intervention is also very flawed, and it’s very difficult to actually learn lessons from the things we’ve done.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“The vaccine conversation is a very challenging one…People don’t want to be patronized.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“Public health messaging is really an important field and really needs to be taken seriously, and I think for the most part it’s been underdone and underfunded.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

“It’s challenging when you leave public health decisions in the hands of people who don’t understand public health.” -Megan Tebbenhoff

Episode 56: Making Films and Other Things with Jordyn Jones

In Episode 56, we talk to USC film student Jordyn Jones about the expectations placed on marginalized creators, the real meaning of diversity, and making movies that challenge the status quo.

Jordyn, in his own words: “I am a screenwriter and director fascinated with how oppression shapes how we live, love, and who we allow ourselves to become. Honestly though, I think I’m still the same kid I was all those years ago—growing up the son of a criminal and a college professor. Seeing two paths before me, one the all but embodiment of black excellence and the other an all too familiar stereotype. All the while, the world around me seemed to chant for me to follow in the footsteps of the latter. All the while, I saw the struggle that came even with following in the footsteps of the former. As I got older, that struggle began to affect how much I allowed myself to love. Who I allowed myself to become. And it was then I realized, if we all struggle to find love and to know who we are, these stories of oppression are, in many ways, universal.”

Check out Jordyn’s short film Black Lens here. You can find more of his work at joneskjordyn.myportfolio.com and medium.com/pedagogy-of-black-dignity. Help support racial justice and education for Black students at www.naacpldf.org/support/.

This episode was recorded on March 29, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“I’m a maker of things.” -Jordyn Jones

“I’m a filmmaker, right? And so that’s dangerous. That’s really dangerous because films are facsimiles of life. So if I categorize myself as somebody who specializes in a facsimile of life, then how am I going to live my life?” -Jordyn Jones

“Violence on people of color–I’m okay with not seeing that on-screen.” -Jordyn Jones

“I think with the climate right now everybody’s always saying if you’re a person of color, everybody tells you in the business and USC Film School, they’re all like ‘Use that, write about that.’ That by definition is exploitive.” -Jordyn Jones

“It’s really interesting how, me as a person of color, I’m always asked to move the needle forward, or female filmmakers are asked to move the needle forward.” -Jordyn Jones

“Ideologies of femininity on-screen are super reductive, and the only people asked to fix that are female creators […] We don’t put any of that burden on male filmmakers.” -Jordyn Jones

“If I’m a white male filmmaker, I can go and make The Office. I can go and make a show about, essentially, nothing.” -Jordyn Jones

“I don’t like Friends, so I feel okay to talk about it. It’s widely beloved and I understand why. Good television, on paper […] You get to make Friends. You get to make a show literally about just friends […] and you can include whatever types of friends you want to include. You get to exclude whoever you want to exclude […] and you just get to make a show literally about friends. I’ve got to make a show that’s funny, that’s about some niche market, that moves the needle forward in terms of the social consciousness, that does X, Y, and Z, or I’m gonna get backlash from everybody.” -Jordyn Jones

“We’ve never seen a female filmmaker, in my personal opinion, get wide critical acclaim and make films like a Tarantino film.” -Jordyn Jones

“There are a lot of films I want to make that challenge the form, that challenge where we are culturally […] I want to hold off on making those films […] because I don’t want to get into the industry and that’s what you think I have to make. I’m gonna make whatever the hell I want to me and if I fail […] I’ll live with that, and I’ll die with that.” -Jordyn Jones

“We need more people doing what people don’t expect because that’s how you move the needle forward.” -Jordyn Jones

“I do not like the deck stacked against anybody.” -Jordyn Jones

“You just have to play the system better than the system is trying to play you.” -Jordyn Jones

“We’re at the point where we are in existence where stakes are high. We just don’t want to save the world more than we want to feel powerful or feel power over somebody. It’s weird to me.” -Jordyn Jones

“I typically feel like I’m being, in a way, cheated out of the additional part of education, which is critique […] I want the real criticism. Everybody else gets. That is how you improve. I want to be in on that as well.” -Jordyn Jones

“Diversity is diversity of thought or diversity of experience or diversity of voice. Representation is almost irrelevant if it’s not coupled with that side of it.” -Jordyn Jones

“If you’re gonna puppet me then that’s even worse. I would rather you just literally not have any Black people than for you to use me as a Black person to say what you want to say.” -Jordyn Jones

“And I don’t want to be the one Black dude in the class who is bad because then that is literally going to change how everybody sees every Black filmmaker of all time.” -Jordyn Jones

“I’m trying to save the world in a weird kind of way.” -Jordyn Jones

“I tell white people […] my success has no impact on you but positive […] but you’re so unwilling to do that and to shaft yourself because you’ve been told that you have to shaft me to be okay.” -Jordyn Jones

“I don’t really care about acclaim, but I do in the regard that I want to be so acclaimed at some point in my life that I can’t be stricken from the history books, specifically so that there is one of us who they can say something about, just one who they can’t afford not to talk about.” -Jordyn Jones

“No Black director has ever won [an Oscar for] Best Director. As a matter of fact, this year, Judas and the Black Messiah is nominated for Best Picture. The director is not nominated for Best Director. He’s one of the only directors on the list of best picture noms that is not nominated as a director […] They refuse to do this.” -Jordyn Jones

“The whole industry I work in exists as a proxy of women making films for women to go see.” -Jordyn Jones

Episode 55: Creating New Realities with Jephtha Prempeh

In Episode 55, we talk to USC student and Editor-in-Chief of PEWM Magazine Jephtha Prempeh about creating new spaces for marginalized voices, working in community, and forging paths outside of mainstream media outlets.

Jephtha is a multi-media artist from the Bronx. They will be returning this fall to finish their last year of studying NGOs and Social Change as well as Music Production at USC. Jephtha has pursued a multidisciplinary educational program including international relations, psychology, sociology, and anthropology– marrying these academic fields with audio engineering, dance, and vocal performance. Despite this immersion in their personal interests, Jephtha has returned to grassroots organisation and mobilisation, catalysed by the revitalisation of American civil rights politics in summer ’20. During this gap year they have brought together all their interests to found PEWM Visions, a rising media outlet. Acting as Editor-In-Chief and Creative Director, Jephtha organised the print debut of PEWM (Proud of Everything We Make) Magazine released this March, with its next issue set to come out in July. 

Check out PEWM at pewmmag.com.

This episode was recorded on March 22, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

“I think what I’m starting to realize has kind of defined my path over the years has really just been the way that I get in touch with the community.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“That’s kind of how I see myself now, more than anything else, is a storyteller.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“I don’t want to reform something that can’t be reformed.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“This magazine, this media outlet, this movement that I want to build around it, has come from the need to actually construct a new reality.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“I’ve got to take matters into my own hands rather than sitting around waiting for people to change it for me.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“Creating a new reality…does very much depend on grappling with what’s actually in front of you.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“It’s not about anything more than actually building community.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“I think people are so afraid of pairing logic with emotion. People are so afraid of understanding how logic can inform emotion and vice versa…Sometimes the clearest logic comes from massively internalizing emotion rather than pushing it out of the way.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“I am constantly code-switching, constantly thinking of how I’m being heard, being perceived, rather than [asking myself] am I saying the truth? And am I saying it in the way that’s most accessible to me?” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

“[PEWM is] very meaningful for my understanding of how to continue to share knowledge with people and how to continue to circulate what I think is important about life but to also let that shift and change as I receive from other people.” -Jephtha Prempeh @Pewwwm

Episode 54: Going Short with Nancy Stohlman

In Episode 54, we talk to writer Nancy Stohlman about her award-winning book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, the power of flash fiction as a fully realized genre, and how to write and teach flash fiction.  

Nancy Stohlman is an award-winning author who’s been writing, publishing, and teaching flash fiction for nearly 15 years. Her books include The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, The Monster Opera, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, and Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, which received the 2021 Readers View Gold Award. Her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the W.W. Norton New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for both stage and screen. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder and leads workshops and retreats around the world. You can learn more at her website nancystohlman.com and find her on Instagram @nancy_stohlman and Twitter @nancystohlman.

Find Going Short here!

This episode was recorded on March 15, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“What I really discovered, and was such a relief for me, was not every story is 60,000 words, and if you push it to try to make it cross that finish line so that you can call it a novel, then have you sold out your own idea, perhaps?” @nancystohlman

“It was so liberating for me to have permission to let my story decide how long it needed to be and not [let] conventions decide.” @nancystohlman

“Flash fiction is like when you’re at the airport and you are sitting next to somebody and they’re gonna get on a flight in 20 minutes and you’re gonna get on a flight in 20 minutes and you end up having this amazing conversation for 20 minutes. And then they go their way, and you go your way, and you never see them again. Is there anything less profound and wonderful about that 20 minute conversation versus if I was that person’s friend since childhood and knew every little thing about them?” @nancystohlman

 “This is the kernel. This is the heartbeat here. And I can give it to you in this little flash fiction piece.” @nancystohlman

“Sometimes you want to go on the whole journey. But sometimes you just want to see the heart beating and just look at it and just realize how powerful that is.” @nancystohlman

“Poetry and flash fiction, they share brevity, but they also share complexity, and they share a lot of depth. A lot goes on in these tiny little spaces.” @nancystohlman

“Flash fiction is not just a little knock-knock joke on your way to work. It’s like a whole thing that’s going to be ringing in your head for the rest of the day.” @nancystohlman

“That’s one of the things I really love about the constraint of flash fiction […] You’re playing with the form. You’re pushing against it. It’s like air inside of a balloon.” @nancystohlman

“Knowing what the edges are in any form allows me to kind of create a shape that I may not have created if I just had all the room in the world.” @nancystohlman

“Are you writing what you think other people want, or are you writing what’s really in your heart screaming to get out?” @nancystohlman

“When you start listening to your own work and seeing yourself as being in service of the story–the midwife of the story–you’re not the creator. You’re the midwife, and it’s coming through you. So get out of the way, and it will tell you when it’s done. I think if that’s where we can position ourselves as writers, I think the best work will come through that way.” @nancystohlman

“So many of the lessons that I have in the book Going Short come from years and years and years of creating context for [my] workshops.” @nancystohlman

“I think that most writers or artists in general, just kind of feed off that novelty where everything is unfamiliar and I’m suddenly actually present in my body paying attention to the world in a way that I’m not when everything is familiar…I think that’s really what I love about being a writer who travels–is just forcing myself to slow down and actually not be sure of anything and notice everything.” @nancystohlman

“I think it’s important to remember too that our creativity [is] seasonal.” @nancystohlman

“Around 2010 or so, I was like all right, well, there isn’t this book [about how to write flash fiction], and there needs to be this book, so I guess I should write this book.” @nancystohlman

“Women have helped create [flash fiction] just as much as the men.” @nancystohlman

“Learning how to finish a book is just as important as learning how to begin a book, but we don’t practice that enough.” @nancystohlman

Episode 53: Crossing Boundaries with Tim Hernandez

In Episode 53, we talk to Tim Hernandez about teaching at the University of Texas El Paso in the only bilingual creative writing program in the United States. We also chat about investigative poetics, finding the right shape for a story, and the importance of crossing genres, borders, and other boundaries.

Tim Z. Hernandez is an award winning poet, novelist, research scholar, and performance artist. His debut collection of poetry, Skin Tax (Heyday Books) received the 2006 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and the James Duval Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. His debut novel, Breathing, In Dust (Texas Tech University Press) was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and went on to receive the 2010 Premio Aztlan Prize in Fiction. His second collection of poetry, Natural Takeover of Small Things was released in 2013 and received the 2014 Colorado Book Award, and his novel, Mañana Means Heaven, which is based on the life of Bea Franco, also released in 2013, went on the receive the 2014 International Latino Book Award in historical fiction. Both books are with the University of Arizona Press. His latest book, All They Will Call You, was released on January 28, 2017, also with the University of Arizona Press.

Tim holds a B.A. in Writing & Literature from Naropa University, the first accredited Buddhist University in the United States, and an M.F.A. from Bennington College in Vermont. He is currently a full-time Associate Professor in the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. You can learn more about Tim on his website.

This episode was recorded on March 8, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“It’s always been a challenge for people who code switch, who write in different languages…not just the translation but having to translate one’s culture and the dynamics of that.” -Tim Hernandez

“It’s really a privilege for me to be in a classroom with students who are basically forging their own narratives…who are speaking their own stories.” -Tim Hernandez

“There’s this real geographical experience of being by the two communities, the two countries [the U.S. and Mexico], that’s always playing out in our daily lives here.” -Tim Hernandez

“I’ve always just been curious about things…What I’ve done is just follow those curiosities…And that’s kind of my approach also to teaching…We have a question to be answered….Let’s follow that thread until we run out of questions.” -Tim Hernandez

“You’ll have enough material for a book if you track your journey in writing and you just keep asking questions and following [them].” -Tim Hernandez

“We have everything we need to start where we are.” -Tim Hernandez

“Usually the first point of entry is: talk to an elder in your family.” -Tim Hernandez

“Rather than determining the form, I try and just say let’s look to the subject of what we’re trying to say first and let that determine the form. Let that determine the shape of the writing…Our only job is to tell it in the best way that we can…The subject determines the form.” -Tim Hernandez

“What we’re doing here is I think very much a humanitarian pursuit. It’s about telling stories and it’s about utilizing the power of stories to have and engage in bigger conversations with the communities and the world we inhabit.” -Tim Hernandez

“For me, a book is always a ticket to the conversation.” -Tim Hernandez

“I have a lot of questions, and I’ve just learned that along the way as I’m working and I have questions, write them down and bring those to the class, and we’ll work them out together.” -Tim Hernandez

“I’ve learned over time that there’s a lot of power in sharing one’s own story with students.” -Tim Hernandez

“Poetry…is my playground.” -Tim Hernandez

Episode 52: Working in Community with Atia Sattar

In Episode 52, we talk to USC faculty member Dr. Atia Sattar about the power of meditation groups and affinity spaces for people of color, how storytelling and the acknowledgement of our embodied experiences empowers both students and faculty, and the importance of community for creating a humanized academic experience.

Atia Sattar is Assistant Professor (Teaching) in the Writing Program and the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her interdisciplinary research areas include Medical Humanities; Science and Technology Studies; and Gender, Race, and Health. Atia has studied mindfulness since 2013 and leads the Mindful USC BIPOC Meditation Practice Group which she established in 2018. She has published articles on laboratory notebooks, public health campaigns, and cochlear implants in such scholarly publications as The Journal of Medical Humanities, Isis, and Configurations. Her writings on meditation and mindfulness have been published in the Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics and Tricycle: A Buddhist Review.

This episode was recorded on February 15, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

People, Texts, and Organizations Mentioned in the Episode

“There’s a lot of racial trauma around being a Pakastani immigrant post-9/11.” -Atia Sattar

“I found that the spaces that I was in that were integrated meditation spaces were spaces where I didn’t feel like I could safely hold my trauma.” -Atia Sattar

“One of the things that is true, or that can be true, rather, of meditation spaces–but also I think is true in an academic context too, in the way that it has us deny who we are and become this disembodied scholar–is I felt like there was a lot of spiritual bypass, or this sense that if I really wanted to not be suffering I had to get over my race, and that there was not really much accounting for what it meant to be in the world in this body.” -Atia Sattar

“I was surprised that […] while there were meditation spaces at USC, there was no space for people of color–faculty, students, or staff–and I wanted to create a space where we could just get together and hold space for one another and just breathe that sigh of relief that happens when you’re in such affinity spaces.” -Atia Sattar

“One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is: what is my purpose?” -Atia Sattar

“For those of us who are scholars and educators, if you want to do this scholarly or rhetorical work of so-called emancipation or decolonization, you have to emancipate yourself. Start with yourself.” -Atia Sattar

“[Emancipating yourself] is not something you can just intellectually sort through because this is part of our experiences. It lives in our body.” -Atia Sattar

“Our experiences of race, of trauma, of our intersectional identities are all embodied.” -Atia Sattar

“Being aware of where I’m coming from and being able to notice when my biases are coming up or when I’m tightening or when my voice is tensing–I’ve learned through my practice that that’s when I can kind of pause and ask myself what’s going on before I react or before I put it on my students.” -Atia Sattar 

“I want [my students] to think about their own bodies and minds as a site of knowledge production.” -Atia Sattar 

“Telling stories and experimenting with genre is not just for marginalized communities […] because everyone is being denied of telling their stories or being denied of this context to really get to know where you’re coming from and to know what you have to give.” -Atia Sattar

“The work to racial justice […] starts with knowing the self because that’s where the change has to be.” -Atia Sattar

“How do you not center your guilt, but instead center your transformation?” -Atia Sattar

“Even if you look at health research, whiteness is a category that goes uninterrogated […] How does race stand in as a proxy for other things?” -Atia Sattar

“Students notice this stuff. They just feel like they just have to suck it up, and I think we have to make it comfortable for them to speak up somehow.” -Atia Sattar

“You can’t just plunk [anti-racist] pedagogy onto what you’re doing. It can actually cause more harm if you don’t recognize what’s within you.” -Atia Sattar

“I think part of the problem here […] is that there’s this metrics of individual evaluation when we can’t actually do this work alone and it has to be done in community […] We have to be able to create safe spaces for each other [as faculty] so that we can do the work.” -Atia Sattar

“And I think that’s also a problem that happens in the western appropriation of eastern practices such as meditation, they become individualized, and it’s as though you’re supposed to attain self-realization in a vacuum by yourself. It does not work that way.” -Atia Sattar

“I think it’s okay to go to your students and ask for forgiveness.” -Atia Sattar