Episode 44: Practicing Radical Pedagogy with Carmen Kynard

In Episode 44, we talk to Black Feminist Educator, Agitator, and Dreamer Carmen Kynard about practicing radical pedagogy; centering Black language, rhetoric, and affect in the classroom; prioritizing self-care and equity in our teaching; and holding universities–and the field of composition and rhetoric in particular–accountable for oppressing BIPOC voices and upholding white supremacy. This episode was recorded while white supremacists were storming the Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

Carmen Kynard is the Lillian Radford Chair in Rhetoric and Composition and Professor of English at Texas Christian University. She interrogates race, Black feminisms, AfroDigital/African American cultures and languages, and the politics of schooling with an emphasis on composition and literacies studies. Carmen has led numerous professional development projects on language, literacy, and learning and has published in Harvard Educational Review, Changing English, College Composition and Communication, College English, Computers and Composition, Reading Research Quarterly, Literacy and Composition Studies and more. Her award-winning book, Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacy Studies makes Black Freedom a 21st century literacy movement. Her current projects focus on young Black women in college, Black Feminist/Afrofuturist digital vernaculars, and AfroDigital Humanities learning. For more information about and access to her publications, click here. 

Carmen co-edits the inaugural journal run of Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture and maintains numerous web projects including: 1) Black Feminist Pedagogies .Com: Open Graduate Coursework Towards an Anti-Racist/ Intersected/ Black Feminist University, 2) Funkdafied: An Open Digital Classroom Dedicated to African American Literacies, Rhetorics, and Resistance, and 3) Digi Rhetorics: Digital Justice/ Digital Rhetorics. Her latest digital project is in collaboration with Dr. April Baker-Bell at Michigan State University on the Black Language Syllabus which also houses the Black Language Magazine. Carmen traces her research and teaching at her website, “Education, Liberation, and Black Radical Traditions” (http://carmenkynard.org) which has garnered over 1.8 million hits since its 2012 inception.

This episode was recorded on January 6, 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 identify as a Black Feminist Educator, Agitator, and Dreamer.” -Carmen Kynard

“English departments are largely imperial projects, through the language of English, maintaining imperialism and colonialism, so language does a specific kind of work.” -Carmen Kynard

“When I landed in graduate school, I saw the ways in which all the problematic whiteness around literacy and language that I was up against in high school sat right in composition/rhetoric.” -Carmen Kynard

“It was really the classroom that made me a compositionist, not the theories of the field.” -Carmen Kynard

“I think saying we repeat the same history is problematic because it assumes that one of those histories ever left.” -Carmen Kynard

“If you take away the special issues, for instance, in the journals, if you take away the special issues that go to Black people–I mean that’s really what’s happening right now–and if you look at the sort of field-sanctioned body of work, what does it give you that helps you ideologically, in radical ways, situate your teaching and your pedagogy and your understanding of the university right now on a day when white supremacists are storming the Capitol because a white supremacist is leaving office?” -Carmen Kynard

“What is this record we’re gonna leave behind, not just of what classrooms and pedagogies are, but what we do with the university that is implicated, that is an accomplice to oftentimes […] the very kinds of white supremacist racial warfare that’s literally happening as we sit here in these chairs?” -Carmen Kynard

“I don’t mean to say that there aren’t folk who are doing the work but that the sort of mainstream of the field hasn’t taken it up in really critical and radical ways–not that that’s a surprise–but then it imagines that it has. So that’s the kind of conundrum of particularly white progressivism. It is very impressed with itself without ever having to put itself on the line.” -Carmen Kynard

“That’s very difficult to think in, to teach in, to be in, when everything is telling you that it’s about you, but it’s incredibly anti-intellectual and anti-Black in its utter misunderstanding and non-understanding of everything it utters.” -Carmen Kynard

“Universities can be very arrogant […] it circulates this idea of itself as knowing best.” -Carmen Kynard

“We let universities off the hook as if the classroom and what’s happening in the classroom and what’s happening on the campus isn’t the real world, isn’t a real world that is influencing other things. We’re talking about spaces that are investing in prisons, investing in the prison industrial complex, and had deep investments in slavery. There’s a world happening right here, and so to think that this is some utopia and we prepare you for something out there, no, you’re doing some crazy mess right here, right now, in this moment. This is the world. It’s like a netherworld or no-world pedagogy that just doesn’t work.” -Carmen Kynard

“This is not about the best ways of teaching online. This is teaching online in a pandemic. It’s not the same thing.” -Carmen Kynard

“Critical pedagogy is also attuned to self-care.” -Carmen Kynard

“One of the things that’s always been very clear to me is that classrooms have this incredibly white affect, and it’s something we don’t talk about in terms of how classrooms can feel. I feel like I can muck that up. I feel like the feel of my classrooms are different, but I’m still figuring out how to do Zoom teaching with a Black affect, or what that even means.” -Carmen Kynard

“Not all students can navigate this. There are ways that ableism works within Zoom and in ways that I don’t feel like we’ve come to terms with yet.” -Carmen Kynard

“I think what Black language and Black rhetoric lets you do is think really deeply and critically about what is it that language does.” -Carmen Kynard

“I don’t use my classroom to prepare Black children for their slaughter. My job is to teach them to survive that–not even survive it, but to understand that this is about your spirit murder.” -Carmen Kynard

Episode 43: Working in Story with Audrey Dimola

In Episode 43, we talk to poet and teller-healer Audrey Dimola about radical mental health, ecological wellness, and working with archetypal stories and myths to foster healing, personal growth, and community.

Audrey Dimola is an earth-centered storyteller-healer exploring myth, mental health, and the ecologies of spirit; a proud Queens NYC native and 1st generation Southern Italian (Polignano a Mare!). She is a lifelong artist, writer/poet, and performer; youth mentor and public speaker; and has nearly a decade of experience as a NYC-based event curator and sacred space-holder working creatively in diverse communities– including her beloved Socrates Sculpture Park, the renowned community-engaged outdoor art museum where she has served as Director of Public Programs since 2016. Audrey is the author of 4 books of poetry and prose including the most recent “WILDLIGHT” and “THE BOOK OF LEGEND,” which has been called her “own unique unrepeatable genre, a new species of book.” She has been published in Mad in America, Dark Mountain Project, and Rebelle Society; created immersive art installations for the Southeast Queens Biennial and CultureLab LIC; and performed in venues both intimate and massive around NYC including The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, and Brooklyn Museum. Audrey is passionate about empowering alternative healing modalities, (re)connection to nature and more-than-human kin, multidisciplinary art, radical vulnerability, co-creating safe and generative spaces, and sharing “folkloric futurism” and the sacred aliveness of Story with the world. Thanks to all who Stand With Her Always, both in the topside world and the other realms. Learn more at her website, audreydimola.com; follow her on Instagram @audreydimola; and check out her books here.

This episode was recorded on December 16, 2020. 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 Places Mentioned in the Episode

“It’s so beautiful and such a blessing to work for a place where…you can be yourself.” @audreydwrites

“Being a student and just listening and feeling what was happening in my body…that was what changed my path, my journey, my life.” @audreydwrites

“Being a poet and being an alchemist is the same damn thing.” @audreydwrites

“It’s all about context. It’s all about narrative. And if you can choose something that is empowering versus what is given to you, all this other landscape opens up.” @audreydwrites

“Be[ing] adaptable [is] what I think is going to carry us forward. That’s one of the things that should come out of this time of breaking this container of all of these habitual patterns and this grind and the narratives that we’ve been running along with…How do we get back to presence? How do we understand? How do we adapt? Shapeshift?” @audreydwrites

“How do you work in story? How do you walk inside these myths? How do you show people that they have these landscapes inside them right now?” @audreydwrites

“It really was the difference between life and death for me, experiencing these alternative narratives.” @audreydwrites

“Myth is about holding tension and…being able to hold and be in the space of paradox.” @audreydwrites

“We are in mythic time.” @audreydwrites

“Sometimes there are stories from other traditions and other histories, other lives, other paths, and they arrive to you, and they work inside you and in you.” @audreydwrites

“Stories work inside you for years before you’re ready to tell it sometimes.” @audreydwrites

“So much about myth is about place.” @audreydwrites

“I come from a tradition that is beyond me, that is lives beyond me, that I am here to carry.” @audreydwrites

“Surrender to what’s greater so it can co-create with you and it can move through you…Lean into the great mystery. Be okay with not knowing…That’s myth too, how much comes from the admittance and the surrender to the uncertainty.” @audreydwrites

Episode 42: Piecing Together a Narrative with Samir Abady

In Episode 42, we talk to New York photographer & Fast Company digital photo editor Samir Abady about creating photo narratives, being authentic in your art, and how the current moment provides new context to old work. 

Samir Abady is a documentary photographer and photo editor born and based in Queens, New York to Lebanese parents. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from St. John’s University (2012), he attended the International Center of Photography for Documentary Photography and Photojournalism (2014), receiving the John and Anna Maria Phillips Foundation Scholarship and the Eddie Adams Workshop (2017). Since then he has been honored to be selected for American Photography 32 and was a finalist for the portrait prize in Australia’s Head On Photo Festival in 2016. He has photographed for The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed News, and Fast Company and his work has appeared in Refinery29, The Village Voice, Juxtapoz, and FeatureShoot.

Check out his work on his website: samirabady.com. You can also follow him on Instagram @samir_ and on Twitter @Samir_

This episode was recorded on December 14, 2020. 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, Places, and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“My practice was always kind of long-term projects on people and finding a way to tell psychologically revealing slow-paced stories.” @Samir_

“[I’m] photographing without a story most of the time until the rare occasion that [I] see something and call it a project; so I’m just kind of piecing together conceptually and finding a thread related to the pictures I’m selecting and calling that a narrative.” @Samir_

“Finding this outlet of […] digging through the archives and seeing what’s there […] that’s helped the gears keep on moving.” @Samir_

“A buddy of mine…said, ‘Oh it’s an interesting time to showcase meeting places and people in either bars or on the street or what have you, hanging out, because we don’t have that.’ I never thought about it as a commentary on our times until he brought that up.” @Samir_

“[The pandemic] makes me miss, more than anything, contextual relationships with people. Like if you’re a regular at a place and you only know so-and-so person at that place on Thursdays, that’s something totally missing. I might not know that person’s name, but I talk to him every week.” @Samir_

“If I approach people with kindness or understanding or curiosity, then I think they respond well to that.” @Samir_

“I feel like every generation has something that democratizes the image.” @Samir_ 

“I think everything has an aesthetic, an intention or mood…Everyone has their thumbprint I think once they pick up a camera.” @Samir_

“Where it’s fun to kind of find meaning is when you put picture A next to picture B, and do they say something to each other when they’re followed by picture C? That’s, I think, where the wild creativity can come in.” @Samir_

“I’m just trying to think about this medium in every way I can at this point.” @Samir_

“If I had to think about what the reoccurring motif is [in my work] it’s the idea of why I’m photographing people to begin with. It’s always kind of these […] smaller communities. I just try to make them seem as normal as possible, whether it be a sex worker or hidden bookstore or whatever it may be; it’s people, with a common language, and perhaps interest or lifestyle, just finding each other.” @Samir_

“I’m happy and honored that I can make you sad with me.” @Samir_

“Even the simplest things can change the concept.” @Samir_

“Being authentic to one’s own voice is the key.” @Samir_

Episode 41: Welcome Back with Katie and Dan

It’s a new semester and a new year! In Episode 41, Katie and Dan discuss their goals for their teaching and the podcast in 2021.

This episode was recorded on January 1, 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 Mentioned in the Episode

“We’re doing more than just teaching now. Our courses are these little microcosms…We have to take more control over developing very specific experiences.” @ddissinger

“We need to be open minded going into 2021.” @ddissinger

“I think it’s important to invite our students into the process and to give them ownership in the class and to really collaborate with them.” @KatieARobison

“I like talking about what’s happening in the current moment…really trying to make the class feel relevant for them and use it as a way to help make sense of what’s going on around them.” @KatieARobison

“Every single day I felt like in the semester was totally different. There was a new challenge. There was a new way to approach writing. There was a new question. There was a new crisis to confront.” @ddissinger

“I think being online has…challenged me in ways that have made me a better professor…It showed me much more in black and white what’s worked and what hasn’t in my pedagogy.” @ddissinger

“We now are teaching in a 21st century mode.” @ddissinger

“The need for empathy and compassion is going to remain crucial.” @KatieARobison

“Our lives are online…I think digital media literacy is really important and that’s something I try to make a big part of my class and will continue to do.” @KatieARobison

“[We need to ask ourselves] what is the new reality we’re in and what needs to change in order to reflect that in our curriculum?” @KatieARobison

“What I love about the podcast is that it feels like this living project.” @KatieARobison

“I think one of the aims of our podcast is really to make these kinds of conversations that we’re having within the university accessible and available to people outside the university, and then at the same time invite other people in and hear their perspectives so it’s not just like we’re stuck up in the ivory tower, trapped in an echo chamber. We want to broaden that discussion, that conversation.” @KatieARobison

“The space that a podcast opens up is a collaborative, networking type of hybrid space where different types of academic worlds collide.” @ddissinger

“We can come together and put aside differences to understand what our job is, and that is to create a meaningful academic experience, and humane experience, for our students and each other.” @ddissinger

Episode 40: Running a Small Press with Jane Ormerod and David Lawton of Great Weather for Media

Dan and guest host Aimee Herman (from Episode 4) kick off 2021 by talking to poet/co-founder Jane Ormerod and writer/editor David Lawton of NYC small press Great Weather for Media. They discuss the challenges of running a small press during a pandemic, the power of poetry, and tips for submitting your work. 

There’s still time to be in their next anthology! Submit your work by January 15th, 2021. You can find all the guidelines and the submission portal here. You can also purchase their anthologies and solo poetry collections on their website. Use the promo code PODCAST21 for 20% off your purchase. Support this amazing small press! Follow them on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Jane Ormerod is the author of the full-length poetry collections Welcome to the Museum of Cattle and Recreational Vehicles on Fire (both from Three Rooms Press), and the chapbook 11 Films (Modern Metrics/EXOT Books). Her work also appears in numerous publications, including From Somewhere to Nowhere: The End of the American Dream, Maintenant, Marsh Hawk Press Review, POSTstranger, The Pedestal, Sensitive Skin, and Paris Lit Up. She is a recipient of a 2020 Acker Award and is a founding editor at great weather for MEDIA, an independent press focusing on unpredictable and innovative poetry and prose. www.greatweatherformedia.com Learn more on her website: janeormerod.com.

David Lawton is the author of Sharp Blue Stream (Three Rooms Press) and has had his work published in numerous journals and anthologies. David is a graduate of the theatre program at Boston University, where he was also a Guest Artist in the graduate playwriting classes taught by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. For ten years he was a background vocalist in the New York underground band Leisure Class. At the band’s de facto headquarters in the Chelsea Hotel, he befriended Beat godfather Herbert Huncke and San Francisco poet Marty Matz, and was inspired by their embodiment of the written word. David also serves as an editor for greatweatherforMEDIA and collaborates with poet Aimee Herman in the poemusic collective Hydrogen Junkbox.

Aimee Herman is a two-time Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and performance artist based in Brooklyn, New York, and an adjunct professor at Bronx Community College. Aimee Herman (they/them) is the author of the novel, “Everything Grows” (Three Rooms Press) and two full length books of poems, “meant to wake up feeling” (great weather for MEDIA) and “to go without blinking” (BlazeVOX books), in addition to being widely published in journals and anthologies including BOMB, cream city review, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books).  Aimee is a queer writer and educator and a founding member alongside David Lawton in the poetry band, Hydrogen Junkbox.

This episode was recorded on December 21. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups (and the ambient sounds of NYC!). 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 interesting things about [Great Weather for Media] is that a number of us come from other disciplines and…apply some of the other things we learned in the other disciplines to writing poetry and then editing poetry and prose in our anthologies.” -David Lawton @greatweatherfor

“We like poetry that looks good on the page and sounds great on the stage.” -David Lawton @greatweatherfor

“Since the election, we’ve had less pandemic work sent to us. There’s been more of a softness […] There seems to be a lot of writing about gardening, freedom, light.” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“I’m much more aware of the things that have been taken away from me, my gratitude for my community […] I’m someone that lives alone already, and normally I like living alone. It’s been hard because I don’t have my community.” -David Lawton @greatweatherfor

“I actually work at a college in an office for international students. I feel so much for what those students are going through and what they’re missing out on.” -David Lawton @greatweatherfor

“I think that all of us found [our poem of the week series] really nurturing. It felt like we were giving something back, and something was coming back to us. And then after that, it felt like we were ready to do the next step, which was starting the open mics again.” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“I think there’s some really interesting things that have come out of this [time]. And we’re all beginning to feel a little more comfortable doing readings online as well.” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“We’re using technology in a positive way.” -Aimee Herman

“We have a duty to our authors to be able to sell their books.” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“Every time we sell a book, I’m like cheering. I literally cheer in the apartment I’m so excited. It’s thrilling that I’m suddenly going to the post office.” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“Please people, buy books. I want to go to the post office!” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“Just as people are getting an awareness and a greater appreciation for small businesses and are being encouraged to support small businesses, that’s the hope for small presses too.” -David Lawton @greatweatherfor

“Small presses are necessary to keep things bubbling. If it ends up being just the big presses, certainly, especially for something like poetry, it’s not a healthy thing.” -David Lawton @greatweatherfor

“I think that if more people talked about the wildness of poetry, that it doesn’t have to have a label, it can just be […] more people would be poets.” -Aimee Herman

“We love new writers.” -Jane Ormerod @greatweatherfor

“It’s not just the writer sending to the small press, it’s the people who are volunteering their time at an independent press, and you feel that.” -Aimee Herman

“The intimacy of an independent press is what we need to keep alive because it’s not about making money, it’s about we need to get these words out there because these words need to be read.” -Aimee Herman

Episode 39: Writing about Beauty and Wellness with Kamala Kirk and Lizzy Sherman

In Episode 39, we talk to beauty editors (and USC alum) Kamala Kirk and Lizzy Sherman about their website Spa and Beauty Today. We also chat about freelance writing and content creation, writing about your passions, pitching your work to editors, writing for digital vs. print outlets, doing social media copy, and carving out your own space.

Read their work (and snag some terrific recommendations!) at spaandbeautytoday.com and on Instagram @spaandbeautytoday, Twitter @spabeautytodayFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Kamala Kirk is a University of Southern California graduate and has been an editor/writer for more than a decade. She is the editor of The Argonaut and has written for E! Online, Total Beauty, TravelAge West, Malibu Times Magazine, and many more. She resides in Los Angeles and is a proud pug mom. Follow her on Instagram: @kamalakirk.

Lizzy Sherman is an award-winning digital content writer/editor. She has been a featured guest speaker at Cal State University Northridge, Digital LA and The National Association of Audience Marketing Professionals. When she’s not writing, Lizzy enjoys yoga and playing guitar. Follow her on Instagram: @zillizy.

This episode was recorded on December 9. 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.

“It’s definitely a great opportunity that writers have to be able to explore new places, meet really interesting people, and ask them questions that the normal person wouldn’t necessarily be able to and just get to learn and explore while creating a profession.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

“All these different opportunities come up that you maybe don’t think of at the time, but someone else comes across your content and wants to collaborate with you, or you end up discovering a new product that you write about…It’s been really fun just being open-minded and seeing what comes our way and trying different things out.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“If you’re committed and are willing to put in the time and the effort, and if you’re consistent, then you can make it happen.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

“Try to get as many opportunities as you can. You’ll get a lot of no’s, you won’t hear from places, but all that matters is that one yes.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“There’s so many opportunities to self-publish online. Even if you don’t have a big audience yet, you can build your portfolio that way.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

“If you’re thinking about sending that email, just send it.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“Sometimes you have to pick a goal, focus on that, see that through, and then [it’s] on to the next adventure.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“There’s a lot of mystery around spas…When we started the site, one of our goals was to make [the spa world] more accessible to everyone.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

“With freelancing, it can be a wonderful thing. You can kind of create your own schedule and have more freedom. But…you have to be responsible. You have to be able to meet deadlines. You have to be able to sit down and write.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“You can be successful [at freelancing], but you have to look for the opportunities and keep pitching ideas.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“You have to be really persistent if you’re going to have a freelancing career…But overall, I love freelance writing and highly recommend it.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

“What I’ve found has worked for me is being able to write a lot of different subjects…Have experience in a few different areas, so that if one area is slow or you’re not getting as much work, there’s still other areas where you can get more writing work.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“It seems like the opportunities in digital are just constantly increasing, so even if it’s not what you want to do as your ultimate goal, I think learning the skills to be able to [write] for digital too and learning about SEO and stuff like that is definitely somewhere that you can find opportunities while you work toward whatever your goal is.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

“Just go for it. You never know what’ll happen, and you’ve just got to try…You’ll be pleasantly surprised, no matter where your path takes you.” -Kamala Kirk @spabeautytoday

“Don’t be afraid. We all get rejected a few times. Just keep going until you get the yes. And eventually you will.” @zillizy16 @spabeautytoday

Episode 38: Owning a Bookstore with Rebecca George

In Episode 38, we chat with Rebecca George about the nuts and bolts of owning and running an independent bookstore, particularly during 2020.

Rebecca George is the co-owner of Volumes Bookcafe and Volumes Bookstore in Chicago, IL. A former educator and writer, she now spends her time slinging books, reading books, talking about books, sleeping with books, and everything else with books. 

You can find Volumes Books at volumesbooks.com and @volumesbooks on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

This episode was recorded on December 7. 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.

Texts, People, and Booksellers Mentioned in the Episode

“As teachers…you’re selling the value of books and of words and getting people to write so that they take value in what words they’re creating as well.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“I’ve been just really working on local people that I love, if they’ve got a book coming out, something I feel like I think I can champion.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“We’ve gone from having three hold shelves to 11.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“You can tell people are reading more…They’re exhausted with computer screens…I think everyone wants to get out of where they are right now, and books are the one thing that can transport them there, effectively.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“I think the cool thing about indie bookstores is they’re a direct reflection of the community they’re in.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“80% of your sales are in 20% of your books.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“The L lines were designed around dead people.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“If nothing else and we lose our business…I’m proud of that, of those relationships that we’ve created with people, that we’ve helped people.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“It seems like people…this year are really trusting in small business…What do they want their neighborhood to look like? What’s important to them to stay in their community after all this?” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

“I think that the one thing that people coming out of MFAs [need to realize] is that not everyone becomes a writer, and I think that the best thing you can do is find ways to champion other people’s writing.” -Rebecca George @volumesbooks

Episode 37: Imagining a Better Normal with Stephanie Renée Payne, P.T. McNiff, and Sarah Orem

In Episode 37, we reflect on the fall semester–and this tumultuous year–with USC Writing Program faculty members Stephanie Renée Payne, P.T. McNiff, and Sarah Orem. We discuss the unveiling power of 2020, the new approaches we’ll carry forward in our teaching, and the importance of self-care and rest.

Stephanie Renée Payne teaches writing in both the freshman and advanced writing seminars at the University of Southern California. Payne’s special topics include experiential and collaborative learning using the city of Los Angeles as an extended campus in her Food & Culture course in the Advanced Writing seminar. Payne’s aim in collaborative and experiential learning is to foster within her students a consideration of the self, the intersection of self with the other, and the self and the other within multiple environments to produce thoughtful, rich, and probing writing that is relevant in a 21st century context. Payne writes non-fiction and fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and commercial print publications. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Dr. Sarah Orem is a scholar doing research at the intersection of disability, gender, and race in 20/21st C American literature and performance. Dr. Orem’s writing appears in Modern DramaThe Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability StudiesAfrican American Review, and Women & Performance, among other venues. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Performance Studies from NYU. From 2016-2019 she was a postdoctoral fellow in American Studies at Smith College, where she designed and taught some of the first disability studies courses ever to be offered on campus. After completing a Mellon/Sawyer postdoctoral fellowship in the Humanities Center at the University of California, Irvine, Orem joined the Writing Program at USC, where she currently teaches.

P.T. McNiff is an Associate Professor in the Writing Program at the University of Southern California. He received a masters in fiction writing from USC and a bachelors in English & Communication from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been teaching both first-year and advanced writing for over a decade; for the last five years, he has also co-taught a summer workshop in creative writing for high school students. In addition, he has served on numerous faculty governance committees at the program, college, and university levels. He writes fiction, non-fiction, and overly long text messages.

This episode was recorded on November 30. 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

“A lot of the questions I see people wrestling with are questions that the disability community has been wrestling with for years.” -@s_orem

“I want to call this the year of equity and the year of unveiling…As a population, we’re different because we’ve had to look at ourselves differently and we’ve had to look at the world differently” -Stephanie Renée Payne

“I think there’s real hope…that in the push to get back to ‘normal,’ that it isn’t back to the ‘normal’ it was originally.” @ptmcniff

“Please, let’s not go back to normal. Let’s be better.” -Stephanie Renée Payne

“As frontline workers, we see that our students see, and we have to reflect that back to our administration…It’s a big boat to turn, but the students, they make that possible.” -Stephanie Renée Payne

“This moment requires us to expand and to see our students and to meet them where they are. I think that’s the mission.” -Stephanie Renée Payne

“I am borderline fascinated that there are people who still have energy to care about stuff like deadlines.” @ptmcniff

“I feel like the pushback on what we all agree is this sort of reassessing–realigning how we’re doing this–is that it’s gonna somehow inevitably lead to a lowering of standards, and that’s such a false dichotomy.” @ptmcniff

“So many things have happened that have exposed the flaws in this country and exposed the flaws in this world, but I do think that we’re being asked to be better. We’re being asked to be better for ourselves, and we’re being asked to be better for our students.” -Stephanie Renée Payne 

“We have students that are so smart and who are so ready to improve things and ready to change the world.” @ptmcniff

“These Writing 150s, these Writing 340s…seem to be meaningful for the students because it was one of the few places where there was discussion, there was conversation, there was a professor knowing their name and getting to know them.” -@s_orem

“Let’s decouple our traditions and our expectation of what’s supposed to happen from what we actually do and what’s actually possible and think about what’s possible and how we can improve things.” @ptmcniff

“Audre Lorde says that taking care of yourself is a radical act.” -@s_orem

“I frequently found myself telling my students…perfect is the enemy of the done.” -@s_orem

Episode 36: Daring to Hope with Anwar Uhuru

In Episode 36, we talk to Dr. Anwar Uhuru about using literature to start conversations about racial justice, reprioritizing the mental health of faculty and students, centering the oppressions and experiences of other people, and grappling with the construction of gender roles and categories.

Anwar Uhuru is an Assistant Professor of African Diaspora Literature and culture at Monmouth University. They are currently writing their forthcoming book, The Insurrectionist Case for Reparations: Race, Value and Ethics, that will be published through SUNY Press. Their recent publications include, “Textual Mysticism: Reading the Sublime in Philosophical Mysticism” in the APA Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience and “Thoughts on the shooting in Orlando: Autobiography as Activism” in Humanities Review. Their research interests include Black Existentialism, African American and Africana Philosophy, Critical Race Theory, Black Male Studies, Surveillance, and Carceral Studies.

This episode was recorded on November 17. 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’ve been thinking about reparations, but not in a fiscal sense […] I’m more concerned with what does it mean to value a whole person beyond a monetary compensation? And of course, I’m not telling anyone don’t take the check, quite the opposite […] but I’m more so concerned about what does it mean for American society to value a Black life, singular, and then Black lives in general?” @AnwarUhuru

“What would it mean for this country and then the world to value Black life period?” @AnwarUhuru

“We don’t talk about culture shock in the reverse where there’s a singular demographic that rules the majority.” @AnwarUhuru

“The students often get a bad letter on them when often they’re open to [discussions about their privileges]. It’s the colleagues I find that stay in that little pit of privilege, and when you call that out that’s when the tensions and meetings, etc. percolate.” @AnwarUhuru

“A lot of students have said thank you so much for just daring to teach this stuff or having the conversation because oftentimes professors don’t want to talk about it.” @AnwarUhuru

“If you don’t get questioned, then you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I stopping to learn and being open to a different perspective?'” @AnwarUhuru

“My whole project is to get people to think about how narratives are constructed that show up in the real world.”  @AnwarUhuru

“We want students to be thinking about their thinking and not just idly going through things.” @AnwarUhuru

“Everybody’s like ‘Oh, we just have to do that so we go back to normal’ and I’m like who’s normal are we talking about here? That normal, I don’t want that. We really need to be thinking about a new way.” @AnwarUhuru

“Just checking in on all the PTSD that we’ve all been experiencing, with not just COVID, but also literally watching a lynching. It’s become kind of cliché now, but that’s still fresh […] as well as what happened with Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and then the list just keeps going on and on, and I don’t want to forget about trans people who’ve lost their lives this year either, as well as people who just lost their lives. All that’s just whirling around in very real-time. So […] the people in charge [of the University] really have to take this into account as opposed to saying, ‘Make an appointment with counseling services.'” @AnwarUhuru

“I want us to think about [James] Baldwin outside of the protester, essayist, novelist, or the queer theorist or queer person and think about how is he grappling with what does it mean to be gendered male, raced Black, and then thinking about loving someone of the same gender during his time and even post-Civil Rights movement. How is he still pushing back against this notion and how when you’re of that construct you’re kind of an amalgamation in everyone else’s eyes except for your own.” @AnwarUhuru

“I’m really grappling in my research with Black masculinity as well as the non-binary discourse.” @AnwarUhuru

“There’s a lot of work done in Feminist Womanist theory [on gender constructs], and rightfully so, but what would it mean for the ‘other gender’ to think about themselves as a construct too, and how does that impact not just racial construction, but also class and national identities, as well as sexuality?” @AnwarUhuru

“When we just look at the binary of male-female, females never get to just be girls for as long as they want to. It’s like, alright, you just get to skip and jump and then soon as puberty hits you’re a woman now, and then literally the shackles of society are on your ankles in ways that boys, for the most part, get to be boys for as long as they want.” @AnwarUhuru

“We’re really in a great space to reconfigure what does it mean to be male, female, or non-conforming in ways that would be super fruitful for society.” @AnwarUhuru

“I know that when I pursued a Ph.D. and then a tenure-track, I wanted to do it on my terms as much as possible, as opposed to being shaped into what someone else wanted me to be. I knew that would not work.” @AnwarUhuru

“I dare to have an audacity of hope, even in this dark chapter we’re all in.” @AnwarUhuru

Episode 35: Transforming as a Writer with Nate Jordon

In Episode 35, we talk to writer, photographer, and RV-er Nate Jordon about masculinity, fatherhood, vulnerability, and coming into your own as a writer. We also talk about seeing beyond the myth of our literary idols, combining writing with other skills, getting involved in your community, pitching your work, running a small press, and writing from the road.

Nate Jordon is a writer and photographer in Pueblo, Colorado. After decades of traveling and working in several beautiful states, Nate has finally planted roots in 2020. His passion for Colorado began in 2006, when he originally moved to Boulder for graduate school. Nate continues to travel with his wife and three kids, exploring the Centennial State and the entire Southwest. His musings about travel, his tragic attempt at full-time RVing, his misadventures in Dadhood and all things Dadlife and other viscera can be found at natejordon.com and screamsfromthetrees.com.

This episode was recorded on November 9. 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 wanted to experience the edges of reality…My attitude was if I don’t have these experiences, I’ll have nothing to write about…Well, I’ll tell you, I kind of had a reality check.” @NateJordon

“Having all of these life experiences that were basically one imaginary Beat party after another, to all of a sudden facing death, tragedy, grief, heartache, it not only transformed who I was, but it transformed my work.” @NateJordon

“Our culture is built upon myth-making.” @NateJordon

“It comes part and parcel sometimes with what we do; there’s drugs and alcohol involved, but the message gets misconstrued, and the reality is for all the drinking and the drugs that are involved in the arts, it doesn’t really create art. It just creates alcoholics and drug addicts. It destroys lives and relationships. That’s the truth.” @NateJordon

“What really matters is the work.” @NateJordon

“In writing, I think there’s this idea of having a plus one. Like if you’re a good writer, that’s great…but if you add another skill, it makes you a little more marketable…[Photography] was my plus one.” @NateJordon

“I started getting involved in the community, and that led to a book deal.” @NateJordon

“Learning about the publishing world was transformative.” @NateJordon

“”If you write it someone will listen…If it’s just one person, maybe that is who you need to be writing to, not trying to meet the arbitrary demands of an audience you don’t know about.” @NateJordon

“I wake at 4:35 in the morning to write because I love it, not because anyone is paying me for it.” @NateJordon

“It’s not about the money, but at some point the money does become important.” @NateJordon

“Vulnerability is the most powerful force behind all art.” @NateJordon

“I opened myself up and started becoming more human in my work.” @NateJordon