The Wonderfully Weird World of Back Patio Press

Read the latest peek behind the curtain from Popscure writer Jerome Spencer with independent literature press, Back Patio.

I generally just review books I like. No one assigns me books or solicits my endorsement…and I certainly don’t get free books from publicists (anymore). I review a book when only I am compelled to tell others about it. Recently, I was looking at my stack of books that “compelled” me – a stack of unwritten reviews I was putting off – and had this epiphany.

Most of these books – particularly Cavin Bryce Gonzalez’ I Could Be Your Neighbor, No Glykon’s Numbskull, and Venice by TJ Larkey – were all on the same independent press. Back Patio Press. Not to mention, at the time of this epiphany, I was anxiously awaiting another package with Cavin’s latest offerings. So why not just do a feature of the press? If Back Patio is consistently delivering the good shit, why not just shine some light on this operation? Also, let’s be real…it sounds easier than writing four or five reviews.

So I reached out to Back Patio Press’ Editor-in-Chief Cavin Bryce Gonzalez and Managing Editor Zac Smith on Twitter (this is where things happen, folks), and we talked about making books, running a press, and monetizing our hobbies. Of course, it was chaotic and ridiculous and fun, but it also was a conversation with two people who are passionate about what they do and know exactly what they want, yet don’t adhere to rigid boundaries. And it certainly has me looking forward to the future of Back Patio.


Jerome Spencer: Start at the beginning. Tell me who y’all are and what you’ve done.

Zac Smith: My name is Zac Smith and someone on Twitter just recommended I look up this Shins EP that’s not on Spotify. And I’m listening to it now and it’s pretty good.

Cavin Bryce Gonzalez: My name is Cavin Bryce, and I started reading independent literature in 2017 when I was in college and still thought writing could be a job. I somehow found my way to Soft Cartel where I was an editor and when the other team members wanted to move on I was like, ‘Well, shit…I wanna keep publishing because it’s fun.’ Also, I do not listen to The Shins, but I have two of them…2shinzzz.

ZS: I got into the indie lit scene in like 2017, because I had written a novel and wanted to figure out how to get it published. Then I found the stuff that was going on, sort of post-alt lit, and started writing short stuff and got involved in the community. I met Cavin from submitting a long story about a head to Soft Cartel and we’ve been friends ever since.

CBG: Yeah, Zac submitted a story to me at Soft Cartel, and I was like, ‘I’m going to be his friend now.’

JS: So Back Patio comes from the ashes of Soft Cartel. Was there a gameplan there or just the desire to keep it going?

CBG: Absolutely zero fucking gameplan. I loved working at Soft Cartel, and I put together my first book under Soft Cartel. I love making books and working with people. It’s fun. That’s my whole motivation, having fun. There were all these amazing books and stories and poems and nobody was publishing them. So I thought: I can literally just publish these myself.

ZS: Cavin’s a great editor, and I think he and the community both needed him at the helm of a press. When Cavin said he was making books, I got excited and wanted to help because I wanted to make books, too.

JS: A website seems ambitious enough, but books…

ZS: I remember feeling proud of Cavin when he announced Back Patio and all these great people immediately started sending him writing.

JS: Cavin was the first person I ever submitted fiction to. I just felt like he would “get it” and I think that’s a thing.

CBG: I think homies having fun and riffing is the reason Back Patio continues. There’s a drastic lack of real friendship/genuine passion in the publishing scene. I was blown away. I thought Back Patio would just be this little thing, and I’d just publish my friends or whatever, but the support was amazing. I guess people just jive with the movement.

JS: It does feel like a movement. And it feels intentionally cultivated.

ZS: Definitely. I was blown away by his response when I subbed to Soft Cartel. Super enthusiastic, kind and really friendly. I think Cavin brings that energy so hard, and I think it resonates with people who love writing, but don’t feel like they fit into all the academic bullshit or pretentious lit mag drama stuff.

…Back Patio at its heart is just people fucking around and having a good time.”

– Cavin Bryce Gonzalez (Back Patio Press Editor-in-Chief)

CBG: Running a website is cool and fun and all, but it’s the act of making a physical object of art that really invigorates me. There’s something magical about making a book from scratch.

JS: Your starting line-up is amazing. How do you find these authors?

CBG: Just like this, man. I’ll be talking to someone who enjoys reading. We swap stories and manuscripts and when I like something I think, ‘Oh, I’m going to publish this.’

JS: Is that informal method how you plan to continue? Or is Back Patio going corporate?

ZS: We’re selling out, baby. We’re getting that Long John Silvers money.

CBG: Dude, yeah. I’m just gonna publish really boring, marketable books and buy a new car and drive it into the sun. We’ll keep it informal, for sure. More structure moving forward, but Back Patio at its heart is just people fucking around and having a good time.

Watertown by Dan Eastman courtesy of Back Patio Press

JS: Can you tell me what’s next? How many books have you got locked and loaded?

ZS: 2021 is almost all set. We did Cavin’s book with the bonus book. Next is Watertown by Dan Eastman, then Good at Drugs by KKUURRTT and Liver Mush by Graham Irvin. Dan [Eastman] originally sent me a draft of Watertown for advice on sending it as a chapbook to some loser press, and I said, ‘Don’t do that, this is a book.’

CBG: It is cool how many of our books wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t organically motivate our homies to write them. Or publish them. Feels cliché or whatever, but we genuinely love the books we publish. You read something so good that it’s GOT to be made.

ZS: I think there are so many presses around with print on demand and digital printing and everyone seems it as a get rich quick scheme. At Back Patio, we don’t like that churn-em-out mindset or plotting to make money. So, yeah, it’s basically making stuff by and for friends.

I think indie lit can learn a lot from indie music.”

– Zac Smith (Back Patio Press Managing Editor)

JS: So that’s the only motivation?

CBG: Absolutely. Nobody likes working. Back Patio isn’t work, it’s a genuine passion project. I see editors and publishers complaining about shit and it blows my mind. I don’t know why anyone would do this if it wasn’t incredibly fun for you.

ZS: I think my ideals about indie lit is that there’s such a huge discrepancy between the larger industry and indie publishing that there’s some sense of freedom in just saying yes to something weird and new. For so long, a printed book was just so expensive and hard to make, it required teams of people and huge investments. So there’s something really fun about being able to say, ‘Yeah, we can make nearly professional looking books, but when you open it, it’s about liver mush instead of sad New Englanders.’

JS: From the outside, Back Patio kind of looks like a really specific record label.

ZS: I can’t speak for Cavin, but I come from the indie rock world where my favorite labels are small cassette-only or limited edition vinyl-only doing weird, experimental music. I think indie lit can learn a lot from indie music.

CBG: We tend to skew toward real shit. There are so many fucking books already in existence, the same stories and tropes and the same poems getting rewritten. But when you can make a weird book, something totally different, that’s empowering. Zac has been teaching me about modeling Back Patio after indie music labels.

ZS: I think art that speaks to just a few people but really resonates with them has so much more value than broadly appealing art. Like, I really vibe with people who aren’t delusional about their art’s appeal to the mass audience.

CBG: The fewer people who will appreciate an artistic creation is directly related to how vastly they can appreciate it. When you just write for five people, those five people are going to absolutely love it.

I Could Be Your Neighbor, Isn’t That Horrifying? by Cavin Bryce Gonzalez courtesy of Back Patio Press

ZS: Yeah, and I know I rely on small labels and presses to curate art that I know I’ll like. If a band has a tape on such-and-such label, I’ll definitely check it out and four out of five times I end up liking it. I want Back Patio to be that for people because there’s so much out there and it’s hard to find what you like.

JS: That is what Back Patio is becoming for me.

CBG: We’re just lucky to work with writers who have a realistic perception of what INDIE literature is. You see a lot of writers on the indie scene and their dream is to get like…agents and to be on Oprah’s fucking book list. There’s nothing punk about being on Oprah’s book list.

ZS: And I think that we can all acknowledge almost all of us have had that delusional mindset, but I wouldn’t send my stupid shoegazey, demo-quality music to Epic Records or whatever.

CBG: Back Patio Press: send us your shoegaze demo tape. I hope that the transparency and human connection Back Patio oozes continues to establish trust with people. I really want to be just homies having fun. The closer in proximity I get to “the scene” the more I realize it’s just people. No brand, just people. And some people are fucked.

ZS: I know it comes from a place of privilege to say this, but I don’t trust art that’s used as a source of income. I think it’d be impossible to truly write what you feel you need to write or express while knowing that it needs to end up being palatable to some big editor to pay your rent.

CBG: The desire to make money from writing is absolutely insane to me. I like being able to pay authors – that’s the best part – but it circles back to “work.” I fucking hate working. I don’t want to hate writing.

ZS: I like art that comes from people writing in their free time because it’s fun for them and it’s exactly what they want to write. And they’d be just as happy self-publishing or throwing it in a garbage fire at the end of the day.

JS: Isn’t that the loop? I don’t want writing to be work, but I want my job to be writing. Don’t we all want that?

ZS: Yeah? I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t want to monetize my hobbies.

JS: Sure. Me either. But I don’t want my job.

CBG: That’s why independent art is so good. It ISN’T inherently palatable or made to generate income. I’d rather read a book written in the notes app than a book written at a mahogany desk.

ZS: Basically, I think it just comes back to what people have been doing forever; just creating a space or community as an alternative to whatever happens in the boardrooms for the masses. We’re not really pioneering anything. We’re just having fun.


Featured image courtesy of Back Patio Press.

Still not sure where to get your ultimate reading fix??? It’s Back Patio Press—do yourself a favor and click the link!

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#StopAsianHate: Support the AAPI Community

Support

  • #StopAsianHate GoFundMe – a central GoFundMe page with fundraisers to support the AAPI community.
  • Stop AAPI Hate – a site dedicated to tracking hate crimes against the AAPI community.
  • Asian American Legal Defense Fund – a NY-based organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the civil rights of Asian Americans.
  • 61 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian Communities – an archive of organizations to donate to
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice – a nonprofit working to strengthen the Asian American community by providing the tools and resources for building the capacity of local and state-based counterparts and Asian American youth leadership, educating the public and media about Asian Americans, and strengthening the voice of Asian Americans in national politics.
  • CAAAV – a pan-Asian, community-based organization that works to build the power of low-income Asian immigrants and refugees in New York City.
  • Asian Law Caucus – an organization that works to promote, advance, and represent the legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Islander communities.
  • APIENC – a Bay Area-based grassroots organization dedicated to empowering the queer and transgender Asian and Pacific Islander community.
  • National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum – an organization focused on building power with AAPI women and girls using a reproductive justice framework.
  • Asian American Federation – an organization dedicated to raising the influence and well-being of the pan-Asian American community through research, policy, advocacy, public awareness, and nonprofit support.
  • Asian Americans for Equality – a nonprofit organization that works to advance racial, social, and economic justice for Asian Americans and other systematically disadvantaged communities.
  • Coalition for Asian American Children+Families – the nation’s only pan-Asian children and families’ advocacy organization.
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates – a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Hate Is A Virus – a nonprofit community of mobilizers and amplifiers that exists to dismantle racism and hate.
  • Gold House Co. – a nonprofit collective that works to connect and create bonds across professional, familial, and community life throughout the pan-Asian community.
  • Butterfly – a Toronto-based organization that works to provide support and advocacy for the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers.
  • Swan Vancouver – a Vancouver-based organization that works to promote the rights, health, and safety of im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work through front-line service and systemic advocacy.
  • Red Canary Song – a grassroots collective of Asian and sex migrant workers organizing transnationally with a labor rights framework.
  • WPN Power, Co. – a sex rights advocacy organization working to advance sexual rights and freedoms, address rape and violence against women culture, promote harm reduction, self-care and empowerment for individuals in the sex trade industry in the Atlanta area.
  • Asian American Resource Center – a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing programs (e.g., EL/Civics Class and Rapid Re-Housing Program) for the disadvantaged in the AAPI community.
  • Center for Pan Asian Community Services – an Atlanta-based, private nonprofit dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency and equity for immigrants, refugees, and the underprivileged through comprehensive health and social services, capacity building, and advocacy.
  • Raksha, Inc – a Georgia-based nonprofit with a mission to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy.
  • Asian Mental Health Collective – a collective dedicated to making mental health easily available, approachable, and accessible to Asian communities worldwide.
  • Asian Immigrant Women Advocates – a community-based organization dedicated to developing the collective leadership of low-income immigrant women and youth to organize for positive changes in their living and working conditions.
  • Asian American Advocacy Fund – a grassroots, social welfare organization dedicated to building a politically-conscious, engaged, and progressive Asian American base in Georgia.
  • Asian American Feminist Collective – a collective dedicated to engaging in intersectional feminist politics through public events and resources to provide spaces for identity exploration, political education, community building, and advocacy.
  • AAPI Women Lead – an organization dedicated to strengthening the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. through the leadership of self-identified AAPI women and girls.
  • National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence – a program under the Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity with a mission to support local and international community-based programs and governmental organizations in enhancing their services to victims of sexual violence from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S., U.S. Territories in the Pacific, and Asia.

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Of What Could Be, Of What Can Be: The Reimagining Tale of Black Spirituals

Embark on a one-of-a-kind expedition through time to Slawstrips Kalb–“a hyper-satiric alternate reality” where the audience is subject to the “Black American life” by way of four teenagers working through the challenges brought on by “the choices they make and temptations they follow.” Written, composed, and directed by the Newport News Contemporary Arts Network’s (CAN) Tunny Crew, Black Spirituals is a “retelling” of the black individual’s story “from a place of empowerment.” The art installation will debut this Saturday, January 23rd at the Newport News CAN HQ, and will run on each consecutive Saturday for the entirety of Black History Month (visitors may also purchase tickets to tour the exhibit on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the month of February). Purchase your tickets here and read up on Popscure member Jasmine’s pre-debut thoughts on Black Spirituals below!

There was a general route I would take during my daily commute from the James River Bridge to the far ends of Newport News. Every day I would pass through this monochromatic route of grays and browns—heightened especially on gloomy days. And each day, I would scan the surrounding buildings…my mind always on autopilot mode. That is…until I saw a building I’d seen a million times, but this time things were different. This time the building had character…presence. Funnily enough, the building’s side was painted in a pattern of black and white—yet, it was as if it was saying, “Look at me!” As time passed, more murals were added to the lone building, ultimately creating a beacon of life amidst the lifeless stretch of road—signifying the possibility of what could be, of what can be.

Little did I know that I would be in that same building (many) months later taking in before me a vast set-up for an art installation—Black Spirituals. But just limiting it to the description of “art installation” almost doesn’t seem to do Black Spirituals, or its vision, justice. Deemed “an emancipated Negro Spiritual,” the experience is a stimulating amalgamation of mixed media creating an alternate reality as expansive as its goals to produce dialogue and education through topics ranging from mental health surrounding grief and loss, police brutality, racism in America, the drug epidemic, familial dysfunction, and exploitation within industries. With works from the CAN Foundation’s First Patron artists (Mahari Chabwera, Nastassja Swift, Asa Jackson, Hampton Boyer, and Adewale Alli) and CAN artists (Dathan Kane and Alex Michael), the collaborative venture bypasses traditional limitations in favor for delivering its message through a play and exhibition, original motion picture, and album. And really, I think that is the underlying beauty of Black Spirituals.

The topics in and of itself are undoubtedly important and way past overdue for discussion, but the true gem of Black Spirituals lies in the possibility…the possibilities. To me, the reclamation that is Black Spirituals transcends past its initial purpose to educate and furthermore invites you to imagine…to manifest…to change…to reclaim. The black narrative has been tainted throughout all aspects of life in history with black people being consistently portrayed as lesser than…lazy…sexual deviants or violent criminals—all damning qualities consciously and subconsciously taken without any further thought. You see it in the way the media portrays black individuals after the umpteenth fatal death by a police officer’s hand, or the way young black girls are seen and treated as sexual beings before they’re even able to comprehend what that even means. No one ever seems to ask about the “how’s” or “why’s” of social disparities as it relates to poverty and welfare, lack of education, drug abuse, or the most favored red herring of debate—“black-on-black” crime. How do you think a young child would feel if they were constantly inundated with such toxic preconceptions before knowing what that word even meant? Black Spirituals reclaims the black narrative, reimagines the story, and reveals the possibilities. Black Spirituals is the reclamation of identity…sense of self-worth…sense of purpose…sense of belonging. Black Spirituals is the possibility of what could be, of what can be.


All featured images courtesy of Nathan Croslin, Nalan Smartt, and Chip Jackson

Black Spirituals will debut tomorrow and run from 7:00-10:00 PM. Can’t make it? Don’t worry—the installation will run throughout Black History Month every consecutive Saturday and be open for Wednesday and Thursday tours throughout February. Get your tickets and find out more information here, and be sure to stay tuned for more from Black Spirituals.

Black Experience Collective – September

This month’s submissions include a poignant poem (“This Ain’t Even A Poem”) and beautiful art piece (“Love is Thicker Than Blood”) by Chesapeake artist, A-Rae.

To submit your experience for next month click here.


A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“This Ain’t Even A Poem”


A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“Love is Thicker Than Blood”

BLACK LIVES MATTER: DONATE • EDUCATE • LIBERATE

Support the resistance, Black lives matter! We’ve made a handy list of good places to donate to during this time. If you have any you’d like to suggest, please email us at popscuremedia@gmail.com

Support the resistance, educate yourself! We’ve made a handy list of good books, podcasts, movies, and other resources to check out. If you have any you’d like to suggest, please email us at popscuremedia@gmail.com

Support the resistance, show up for POC! Here’s some petitions to sign, articles to read, and more resources. If you have any you’d like to suggest, please email us at popscuremedia@gmail.com

Remembering Katherine Johnson and Others In Shetterly’s Hidden Figures

This week we lost Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who was an integral part of the United States race to space. Her calculations were so spot-on that astronaut John Glenn requested she double-check behind the NASA computers to make sure all the math was correct. In her 35-year career, she broke down racial and social barriers as she was one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist. After receiving both a Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, Johnson lived a long hardy life to the age of 101.

With her contributions so carefully immortalized in the book Hidden Figures, we figured (no pun intended) that it would only make sense if we shared a piece that our editor-in-chief Shannon Jay wrote back in 2016 when the book’s author Margot Lee Shetterly came to speak at Old Dominion University in conjunction with the release of the Oscar-nominated film based on her book. For anyone who has not read the book or seen the film, we can’t recommend it enough and urge you to seek it out.


“We are the breath of our ancestors” rang the harmonized voices of Old Dominion’s choir, an appropriate sentiment for the events unfolding the night of January 11th.

The song “We Are”, by acclaimed all female, all African-American acapella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, encompassed the themes explored in the university’s 33rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance.

The main event was speaker Margot Lee Shetterly — if you don’t recognize the Hampton, VA native by name, the title of her first novel, Hidden Figures might ring a bell. The best-seller was turned into a feature-length film and hit theaters in a big way, beating out Star Wars for the #1 spot at the box office in its first week.

The story follows four women, two of which received honorary degrees from ODU. During the years of 1943 through 1968, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Christine Darden worked with other black female mathematicians at NASA Langley in a segregated room. With only pen and paper, these women computed through World War II and went on to calculate the trajectories that would orbit John Glenn around Earth and send Neil Armstrong to the moon.

Coming from no farther than West Virginia, these four extraordinary women are woven in the fabric of our state’s history. “This is a celebration of this place and its people,” Shetterly said. “We have always known this region is a place of fascinating and often complicated history, but now the world knows it, too.”

During a time when segregation was still heavily prevalent and women couldn’t even get a credit card in their own name, “the women of Hidden Figures upend [what it means to] be female, to be black, to be a scientist, and to be American,” Shetterly said.

Mary Jackson had to apply for special permission at Hampton High School to take advanced math classes, and went on to become presumably the country’s first black female aerospace engineer. Katherine Johnson was born in 1918, a birth year where black baby girls faced just a 2% chance of graduating high school. She calculated the orbital space flight that allowed John Glenn to achieve “American domination of the heavens” during the Space Race. Christine Darden, from a segregated grade school with second hand textbooks and no science lab, wrote the computer program that set the industry standard for sonic boom minimization, and became NASA’s leading expert on the topic.

While the night focused on King’s ideals to improve the lives of African-Americans, and how those same values are applied to women, Shetterly wanted to make clear these women “wanted to be what John Glenn says in the movie — the ‘smart one,’ [just] the right person for the job.” She emphasized that the women of the Hidden Figures story needs to be told “not just because they are black or because they are women, but because they too are part of our great American epic.”

Image courtesy of NASA

In the shadows instead of out on the streets, Shetterly said, these women were “marching not with their feet, but with their mathematical talent” for racial and gender equality. There’s an added layer of nobility with this particular group’s civil rights work, having faced dehumanizing segregation at work daily. However, Shetterly said, “they wore their professional clothes like armor, [and] they wielded their mathematical talent like a weapon, warding off the presumption of inferiority because they were black or female.”

Shetterly’s father worked alongside these women at NASA, and the author only heard their story when her husband, Aran Shetterly, inquired about her father’s time there. That was 6 years ago, and ever since Margot Lee Shetterly has interviewed the women and spent time with their families to uncover the untold story. Their amazing achievements inspired her to found The Human Computer Project, which works to archive all the stories of African-American women who worked as computer scientists and mathematicians at the height of NASA that history has skimmed past.

The Human Computer Project aims to collect and highlight the contributions of women to NASA and NACA throughout the years.

The women of “Hidden Figures” felt the weight of the responsibilities the ODU choir hummed and Sweet Honey in the Rock chanted. “They knew,” Shetterly said, “that every action they took over the course of their long careers would have implications for the next generation of people who looked like them.” Along with being great at their job, Shetterly said, these women and their colleagues were out to prove “that excellence has neither color nor gender.”

When an audience member asked if the film would have a sequel, Shetterly responded that it won’t be a direct second act, but she’s working on another book, and hopes for a long career in telling stories untold.


From Shannon Jay: “Johnson was there that day, and even then I realized how special it was to share a room with history – a woman whose achievements were monumental and so important not only to black women, but to all of America. Now, with her passing, it’s a moment I’ll hold even more dear.

Katherine Johnson 8/26/1918 – 2/24/2020

Popscure X No Preserves

Hi friends, it’s been a minute.

As this decade closes and new one begins, much reflection has taken place. A whole 10 years – that’s truly how long I’ve been doing this shit.

Flash back to 2010, my junior year of high school, when my concert buddies Trey and Ryan invited me to contribute to their music blog, Let This Colony Know. While my Blogspots and Xangas before had been scattered with musings on music here and there, this step was my first transition into more actualized music writing and blogging. 

Later on, artists I gushed over on LTCK such as James Mercer of the Shins or Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards would become my interview subjects. Eventually, I would get paid to write, and when that wasn’t paying enough, freelancing would become the side gig to a full-time job.

Somewhere in between, I started Popscure. Despite the concept of music blogs being shoved to more obscure corners of the internet, I persisted. With the ability to stream all the music you’d ever want, including algorithmic pushes into new directions, who needs an independent music authority anyway?

I wanted to make it something different, bigger, and more impressive than LTCK, with video, podcasting, and events spanning all realms of media. Tyler and Jerome saw the big picture before I did and offered to help transfer my vision over to popscuremedia.com. 

Popscure is a platform showcasing independent artists and diving deep into their creative process, acute analysis of pop culture’s past and present to dictate its future, and serves as a guide through the thick jungle of content straight to the cool stuff.

What started as a lowly Tumblr to practice journalism became a full-fledged media site after I graduated college. With no prospects in sight, I decided to build the blog up and create something to show potential employers. 

Interviewers feared their offerings weren’t “creative enough” and passed on hiring me until my current bosses at Array Digital were excited instead of intimidated by my creation – they got it and they hired me. Thus, the blog I had put all my spare energy, time, and creativity into took a back seat.

In August, friends from No Preserves reached out to reinvigorate the project. Their team of eager writers, producers, marketers, and designers offered to take a load off my shoulders, and somehow marry our brands in a way we can work together instead of against each other. 

It’s a win-win situation: writers like Darryan and Jasmine can build up a portfolio while also learning how to run and operate a blog; producers like Cam can feature artists they’re working with and expand their audience; designers like Tavis can have a media outlet to showcase his work with animation, video, digital art and logo making; videographers like Alex can create new content to hone their skills.  

I feel like the biggest winner, though. Thankfully, folks have seen what I’ve manifested collectively over a decade and want to keep the train chugging along. I get to share all the doors Popscure has opened for me, the skills it has taught me, and all the joy it has ignited in others. 

So with that, I announce a new partnership between No Preserves x Popscure; to expand our networks, work smarter not harder, and usher in the next generation of artists for the next decade.

– Shannon

Homeless Takes Readers on A Not-So Magical Journey with Hank Williams

by jerome spencer

 

After all the tremors amassed their destruction, she somehow stood. And this, more than her excitable laugh or sophisticated shape, was what Hank Williams realized he loved so much about her.

 

I’m not going to pretend that This Hasn’t Been A Magical Journey So Far isn’t an odd read; it’s specific and weird and kind of obscene. It’s also brilliant and insightful and hilarious and heartbreaking. Homeless uses a storytelling technique so compelling, so masterfully crafted and so unique that it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in his bizarre adventure through what I can only assume is a subconscious gray dreamland that fades in and out of an even more gray reality. The narrative takes its reader through every possible emotion at an almost dizzying pace and is painfully visceral at times. But it is definitely odd.

This Hasn’t Been is about Hank Williams – not the famous country singer, but a guy that “could be effortlessly interchanged with the final note of a really sad, heartbreaking, old-fashioned country song” – and his road trip through his own mind with a giant talking cat named Sid in van they call Nancy. Not just any road trip, but a very harrowing, vulgar road trip on a gray highway through an endlessly gray desert while being lethargically chased by the abyss, eating everything in its path. This Hasn’t Been is also (and actually) the love story between Hank Williams and Patsy Cline – also not the country singer – in a psychiatric facility. It’s a fast and impossible love; the story of two human beings intertwined and doomed from the beginning slowly awaiting their demise. It’s about both of these things because these are the same thing.

The juxtaposition works mostly because Homeless is adept at weaving them together with purposefully obvious hints and indications, none that I’m going to give away here. The cast of characters is small and unsympathetic, lending itself to some uncomfortable moments that I don’t want my mom to ever find out I read and a very fluid moral compass. Homeless also pushes the story with the most brilliant and original similes, defying cliche almost instinctively, and the most obtuse and genius metaphors and symbolism since Lewis Carroll. It’s a fearless kind of writing and, while I’m reluctant to bring up Hunter S. Thompson, it’s reminiscent of the best parts of Fear and Loathing. The parts that actually withstand the test of time.

This Hasn’t Been had me laughing and reeling in discomfort while simultaneously enthralled and fully invested in it’s stakes. It pushes fiction to it’s most audacious limits while avoiding being weird for weirdness’ sake. It’s packed with raw emotion and unadulterated insight. I can honestly say that some of the most profound things I’ve pondered are in this overtly strange novel. It’s a hard sell – genre-bending and obtuse – but absolutely worth exploring and seeking out. If you get nothing else out of it, you’ll be wildly entertained.

Buy the book here.

Big Bruiser Dope Boy Brings Emotional Beatdown in “Foghorn Leghorn”

by Jerome Spencer

 

Baby I’ve got filing cabinets full of dreams you wrote, my office is dripping with dream-juice, my hands are holding fresh dollar bills, ready to spend on you.

 

Describing poetry collections can get exhausting; it’s such a prolific and personal style of expression and it’s feckless to continue to create language and genres for it. I’m not stating this to imply that Big Bruiser’s style is indescribable, but rather that it’s just easier to avoid any attempt to put it in a box. It isn’t going to fit.

Foghorn Leghorn is a mystifying collection of weird little poems, running the full gamut of emotions and their complexities. BBDB writes in a conversational tone, his lack of pretense creating a sense of comfort and kinship as he casually spills his guts. While many of these poems are straightforward in their admission (Walking Through is particularly unfeigned), BBDB really shines when he utilizes humor – oftentimes borderline absurdity – to really get to the heart of the matter.

Gay Rodney Dangerfield, for example, is a satirical collection of homophobic dad-jokes and playground cliches that slowly and guilefully reveal the underlying pain of not feeling accepted or understood by those closest to you. And it hurts when you get there; it’s as if BBDB has duped his reader into empathizing with his inner struggle and there’s no way to back out. Similarly, 69 Remakes (all three parts) just start off as little quips – funny reinterpretations of popular movies that read like quirky tweets – that are reflections of the writer’s own reality, but also stunning observations about things we cant unsee. It’s not heartbreaking, it’s soul crushing.

Foghorn Leghorn is staggering in its power and sentiment, but mostly because the writing is so perfectly understated and nonchalantly devastating. The strength of the poems is in the restraint and the subtle delivery of what turns out to be brutal honesty. In the book’s forward, Sam Pink says this is “hurt shit” and it really is. It’s the way BBDB gets to that hurt shit that makes Foghorn Leghorn worth reading, though. So there’s no need to create language or genre for it, it’s something we can all understand.

Foghorn Leghorn is available now through Clash Books and the alternate title, Your First Real Boyfriend & Other Poems (complete with a suitable-for-work cover), is available through more conservative booksellers. But, you know, buy the rebellious version. Or just get both.

Buy the book here

Wrong Guy, Wrong Place, Wrong Time: New Stories from Elizabeth and Mary and Elle

by Jerome Spencer

 

This is how I fell in love; sober with a walking drunk. Neither of us had a parent to call and tell. I guess that was what we had in common.

-Elizabeth Ellen, “Ted the Golfer”

 

While the title itself insists on fiction, all three of these short stories feel very real, very personal and very authentic. Featuring three of the most exciting names in contemporary fiction, “Elizabeth and Mary and Elle” promises three compelling shorts and adequately delivers. All three of these writers contribute riveting stories about love and the unenviable situations it puts them in. Each story is an honest portrayal of the most primal human instincts and are woven together by the common thread of wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time; although, that is completely up for interpretation. Maybe everyone is exactly where they’re supposed to be.

Elizabeth Ellen’s contribution, “Ted the Golfer,” is a classic boy meets girl tale except said girl is currently living with an older Republican titular character and said boy is a classic bad boy if that bad boy is a genuine trainwreck. It’s a romance that unfolds quickly and intertwines with the narrator’s obsession with Kurt Cobain and his recent suicide. The romance escalates quickly, fueled by a sudden and unexplainable desire, a manipulative acid trip and culminating in attempting to cross the country in a used Dodge van. Now, I’ve obsessed over Elizabeth Ellen enough to know that “Ted the Golfer” is at least mostly based on reality, but that doesn’t make the story any less relatable or universal. Whether you’re the trainwreck or the romantic, anyone who’s ever been doomed in love can find themselves in these words. “Ted the Golfer” is accessible for all of the wrong reasons and painfully empathetic, but that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Ellen and precisely what makes her such an imperative writer. And that’s just the first story.

Mary Miller’s “A Thing of the Past” maintains the book’s momentum with a gripping, downright stressful story of a young woman who drives to a small town a dilipatated, downtrodden house to stay with a dilipatated, downtrodden man. This story is all-too-familiar; the story of a girl falling for the run-of-the-mill guy in a band only to find that, outside of the bar and in the daylight, he’s just a troubled man that pays for things with his laundry quarters and doesn’t clean his bathroom. While “A Thing of the Past” takes a (sort of) dark turn, it’s also insightful, funny and all too relevant. Like the first story, the reader is either one or the other characters in this tale and it almost hurts to realize it. Miller says a lot in these 26 pages, though, exploring a darker side of modern dating and the dangers of wanting love so badly that you give people credit where it’s clearly not due. Miller’s prose is masterful and her sentences are rapid-fire, producing a kind of dark-humor and unnerving astuteness that will keep you glued to the page and ready for the next.

The next being a new masterpiece from Elle Nash, “A Deep Well.” Since reading last year’s incredible “Animals Eat Each Other” I’ve been salivating for anything new from Nash and this short does not disappoint. An incredible powderkeg of emotion and suspense about a little apartment complex and the kind of neighbors that come and go, Nash’s narrator is like a character from an edgy YA novel; all grown-up and pregnant with the lovechild of some misguided father figure. This one makes me the most uneasy and fearful, eliciting genuine concern for it’s narrator and her fucked up little kitten. At only 18-pages, it all happens too fast and leaves the reader feeling helpless, unable to stop the events as they unfold and gritting one’s teeth as the foreshadowing captures that gut-feeling all to well. I’m already waiting for the next work from Nash with baited breath.

“Elizabeth and Mary and Elle” is a quick read, yet it showcases the full gamut of emotion and the need for love in all of us without sugarcoating all of the bad decisions along the way. All three of these writers say so much with so little and create genuine and intense connections that are hard to shake once you’ve reached the last page.

buy the book from witch craft here