Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Goodbye, Grand

Photo credit: The Kansas City Star. Natch.

I was saddened to hear recently that the Kansas City Star building at 1729 Grand is up for sale. That historic building is where the Star’s founder, William Rockhill Nelson, once had his office; the site where Ernest Hemingway once worked as a young reporter.

My childhood was colored by newspapers. My earliest memories of Sunday mornings involve spreading the comics on the kitchen table, helping my mother clip and sort coupons. As I grew older, my interests expanded: the crossword puzzle, Dear Abby, the op-ed section, film and book reviews, local events, political cartoons. Eventually, I got around to the front page headlines. During the summers, when I spent most of my time at my grandparents’ house, I would accompany my grandfather to the convenience store to pick up a paper every day before breakfast.

By the time I was ten, I loved being the first one up in the morning because it meant running out to the driveway to grab the paper, so I didn’t have to wait for anybody else to read it. 

When I was thirteen, the Star posted an article announcing their launch of Teen Star, a section that was to be written by and for teens. There was an all-call for young writers and photographers, with a number for the newly-appointed Teen Star editor, Bill Norton. I immediately called up Bill and after a brief interview, I was hired. We agreed that my best friend at the time and I would start out by writing a series of TV reviews. (Even then, I was a collaborator.)

A week or so later, my friend and I went to the building at 1729 Grand and met Bill in person. He gave us a tour of the facility. The printing press was still housed there in those days. We got to see the open floor where the reporters had their desks. A professional photographer snapped headshots for our bylines. At thirteen, Bill told me, I was the youngest regular contributor to the Star. I don’t know if I still hold that record or not, but it’s an honor I’ve never forgotten.

My friend and I wrote a handful of TV reviews: Grace Under Fire, The X-Files, Home Improvement, a few others. We even got paid. I don’t remember the exact amount, $25 or $30 an article. It seemed like a fortune to my thirteen-year-old self—getting to do something I loved, and getting paid for it? Was this real life? I was rich! And famous! Word quickly got around at school that my friend and I were writing for the Star. When our first article came out, classmates asked for autographs. Fellow TV fans sent us letters telling us why they agreed or disagreed with our assessment of their favorite shows.

After a few months, my friend lost interest, but I kept going. Throughout high school, I wrote a humor column, fancying myself Erma Bombeck for the letter jacket set. I clipped and saved most of those articles in a scrapbook (which I would share here, but they’re in a box in my parent’s house back in KC).

Recently, I watched the film Spotlight, which was a heady reminder of just how crucial journalism is—not just to democracy, but to our society as a whole. Good journalism, I mean, reporting with integrity, not whatever some random guy on the Internet happens to be spewing at any given moment.
I know, I know. Journalistic ideals are just that—ideals. Some people took their work very seriously, abiding by ethical guidelines and a standard of quality—some people still do. Some people never did. Ever since the beginning of the press, there have been people with agendas to push, or people who are just plain greedy, willing to do whatever it takes to sell more papers. “You supply the war, I’ll supply the headlines,” the yellow press, muckraking, tabloids. There’s no such thing as a perfect system.

Being at the end of an era is always a strange thing. Print media is dying. With the constant demand for online content, quality is sacrificed, as is veracity. And people don’t clip coupons with their moms anymore. Instead of stepping outside every morning to pick up the paper that someone delivered, I roll over in bed and turn on my phone to see the headlines.

So many writers once cut their teeth in the newspaper industry. Now we do… what? Blog, I guess? It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just change. But mourning what once was isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Reviews and Interviews

2017 continues to be a good year, you guys. Here's the latest:

In February, the lovely Erika Beebe reviewed The Winter Prince over on her site, Cloud Nine Girl. She writes, "If you're a fan of fairy tales, you'll love The Winter Prince. Captivating, vivid, from the creatures you'll meet to the outstanding dialogue, The Winter Prince will draw you in and hold your attention all the way through the fantastic end." Thanks, Erika!

More recently, I was interviewed by Darrell Laurant over at his website, Snowflakes in a Blizzard. He seeks out books with unique topics that don't fall neatly into genre categories, so he invited me to talk about Under Julia. I hope you get a chance to check out not only my interview, but take a moment to look around. Darrell has definitely unearthed some hidden gems of the indie world-- I know I've downloaded quite a few books featured there already. Keep up the good work, Darrell! 

I have some exciting projects in the works. One magazine has accepted three of my poems. They've asked that I do audio recordings of all three, and even put them to music, so I'm working with Tripp Kirby of The Electric Lungs to make that happen. This just might be the most awesome thing I've ever done. These guys are amazingly talented, and you should definitely check out some of their tunes.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Poetry for the ears, brain and heart: Aging and Other Side Projects

I first met Tony Plocido… geez, seven years ago? We met at a midnight poetry reading in KC, in what was to be my introduction to the spoken word performance/slam poetry scene.

Since then, I’ve seen Tony perform many times, and have even been privileged to read new work on occasion when he needed feedback. It was through Tony and other poets in that circle that I’ve come to really appreciate performance poets, whose work places a whole different set of demands on them than if they were merely scribbling things down.

But from the get-go, I could see and appreciate Tony’s lack of ego. He was just as happy to speak other people’s words as he was his own, to write and perform duets with other poets, and to tirelessly promote other artists whose work he believes in. His poetry is honest, funny, self-deprecating, warm, and above all, true. This comes as no surprise, since Tony carries these qualities with him always. With his work, what you see is what you get, which, in the poetic world, can be incredibly refreshing. I’m pleased to say that it shines through in his first (mostly) solo collection, Aging and Other Side Projects.

Because of that spirit of collaboration, two of the poems in this collection were written with other poets. But Tony’s voice, with its wry, clear-eyed observations, is definitely the centerpiece. Upon reaching age forty, he explores multiple aspects of aging: the loss of loved ones (including pets), the vanishing of youthful dreams, the way that relationships never seem to get any easier. It also examines the way in which the world seems to speed up around us, and, perhaps most disconcertingly, how we cease to recognize the face in the mirror. It’s been said that getting old is not for sissies, and Tony cuts right to the heart of the axiom with this short but sharp little book.

“Biko Kitty” broke my heart. “Breathing the Story,” (written with Prim-One), knocked me out with these kick-ass lines:

I long to tell stories
that will breathe when I cannot.
That dance
when my feet fail me.
That sing in notes
only known to those who have felt me love.
That will remember love
when the world has forgotten it.
That will form over the wounds
of the broken, like fresh flesh mending them…

Given the nature of spoken word performance pieces, of course, these poems are best read aloud—it’s the best way to enjoy the incremental repetitions, the alliteration, the slanted and internal rhymes. But it is a testament to the poets’ skill that they can be enjoyed just as well in silence, a voice speaking so matter-of-factly inside your head, it’s like they’re right there talking to you. Even if you’ve never met them, they’re already old friends, and this is a cozy chat over coffee, one where you find yourself constantly nodding along in agreement.

Purchase Aging and Other Side Projects on Lulu here

Connect with Tony:
Twitter: @teeplo

Friday, January 27, 2017

More publication news

Hey, folks. I wanted to share that I had some more work appear in literary magazines this month.

In Joey and the Black Boots: the reBoot"Storm" and "The Love Song of Trees." The latter was inspired by the work of KC-based photographer (and a very dear friend of mine), Robert Gano.

In Wraparound South"Mother's Day," "Liberation," and "The Laborers." Editor Laura Valeri said these poems "lyrically portray the humble plight of the down-trodden."

And just ICYMI, The GNU Journal's Feast for the Mind: "The Debriding."

As you can see, I've been a very busy little writer bee. I'm working on some short stories, so hopefully those will find a home the way my poems have.

I hope you get a chance to stop by and check out the new work. If so, please feel free to leave a comment. I'm always thrilled to hear from you!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"The Debriding" in GNU Journal

The Winter Poetry issue of GNU Journal is out, A Feast for the Mind. It includes my poem, "The Debriding."

The magazine is available as a free ebook, so get yourself a copy!