Interview

Artists and Mental Illness Interview Series: Bassey Ikpi

Artists and Mental Illness Interview Series: Bassey Ikpi

Bassey Ikpi is a Nigerian-born poet, writer, spoken word artist, and mental health advocate. She has been a cast member of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam and is the founder of The Siwe Project, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote mental health awareness throughout the global black community. Both Ikpi's work and her advocacy reflect passion and social consciousness, woven together with raw and fervent honesty. In this interview, Ikpi shared with me her story.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Steven Peterman

Talking Paper Interview Series: Steven Peterman

Steven Peterman is the co-founder of The Sketchbook Project, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and founded in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2006. Since moving to its current space in 2009, the wall shelves of the organization’s Brooklyn Art Library have (as of September 2015) grown to hold some 34,000 5” x 7” sketchbooks containing the writings and drawings of artists of all ages and approaches from more than 135 countries. Like any library, those booklets are available for visitors to withdraw and enjoy in the pleasant confines of TSP’s cozy reading room space. Reflecting the Project’s egalitarian approach, its marketing informs prospective artists, “by getting a sketchbook, you are joining the movement, adding your voice and becoming part of something huge. Draw, write, collage, cut, print, photograph—it starts with an idea.” To help facilitate those ideas, and better engage with artists, TSP organizes an annual summer road tour with its own trailer full of sketchbooks. The 2015 edition began in Brooklyn in May, and made stops in Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, Washington, and Illinois, before wrapping up in Toronto, Canada, in late August. A printed showcase of hundreds of TSP artists from different countries was gathered into The Sketchbook Project World Tour, a 256-page 8” x 10” book curated by Steven and his wife, Sara Elands Peterman. I interviewed Steven at Brooklyn Art Library to discuss The Sketchbook Project, and the creative service it has provided to more than 70,000 participants over the past nine years.

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Artists and Mental Illness Interview Series: Timothy Hyunsoo Lee

Artists and Mental Illness Interview Series: Timothy Hyunsoo Lee

Timothy Hyunsoo Lee is a watercolor artist based in Brooklyn, New York, currently represented by Sabrina Amrani Gallery, and is the recipient of the VSA Emerging Young Artist Award (2014) as well as the International Emerging Artist Award in Dubai. Born in Seoul, South Korea, but raised in Queens, Lee grew up in the midst of many debilitating conflicts. Navigating the clash between his American and Korean heritages as well as his identity as someone who has suffered from a panic and anxiety disorder since childhood, Lee's art has become a means of exploring, reconciling, and ultimately coexisting with conflict. His primary artistic technique is both ethereal and obsessive, and reflects the duality between the chaos of his anxiety versus the airy, meditative beauty he produces. I spoke with Lee about his personal journey unearthing the psychological challenges he's faced, combating the stigma against them, and how they ultimately led to where he stands as a professional artist today.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Amy Saul-Zerby

Talking Paper Interview Series: Amy Saul-Zerby

Amy Saul-Zerby is a Philadelphia-based poet and managing editor of Voicemail Poems. Her writing has appeared in The YOLO PagesPainted Bride Quarterly, and other publications. Among her inspirations are digital image macros, and in 2013 she self-published a collection of Snapchat poetry titled 10 Seconds in Heaven. She joined Voicemail Poems in 2014, two years after its founding by Jamie J. Mortara during 2012’s National Poetry Month. A collection of Saul-Zerby’s poetry, Paper Flowers (Imaginary Birds), is being published through Punk Hostage Press. In July 2015, she journeyed to New York City to take part in a Nomadic Press-organized reading at Nunu Chocolates Café & Tap Room with fellow Punk Hostage authors A. RazorPuma Perl, and James Anthony Tropeano. I later followed up with Saul-Zerby and interviewed her about working with Punk Hostage Press, Voicemail Poems, the importance of readings, and the Philadelphia literary scene.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: A. Razor

Talking Paper Interview Series: A. Razor

A. Razor is a writer and poet based in Los Angeles, who co-founded Punk Hostage Press with fellow writer Iris Berry in 2012, and literary outreach non-profit Words as Works soon after. Born in Brooklyn, but raised in California, Razor has lived a turbulent life that has included periods of homelessness and prison incarceration. Yet a consistent dedication to his personal writing process has remained a therapeutic constant and has produced a prolific literary output. First published as a teen at the dawn of the 1980s in L.A.’s underground magazines and literary publications, Razor met poetry publisher Drew Bailey at a reading in 1982 and eventually published 11 titles through Bailey’s Drew Blood Press from 1984–95—beginning with the chapbook, Spare Blades, and concluding with Ash Graffiti After a Riot. 2012 saw the release of Better Than a Gun in a Knife Fight from Punk Hostage Press, edited by Berry, along with Beaten Up Beaten Down, with an introduction by S.A. Griffin. Razor brought copies of both titles with him for a July reading in Brooklyn at Nunu Chocolates Café & Tap Room organized by Nomadic Press. The event’s other writers included Puma PerlAmy Saul-Zerby, and James Anthony Tropeano. Before leaving town, I sat down with Razor to discuss the history of Punk Hostage Press, his literary influences, as well as the process that has sustained him, and a recent habit of posting poetry on Facebook during his wide-ranging travels.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Nathaniel Holt

Talking Paper Interview Series: Nathaniel Holt

Nathaniel Holt is a filmmaker, actor and longtime player of fantasy-genre card game Magic: The Gathering, which launched in 1993 and has over 10 million players worldwide. In 2011, Holt and friend Shawn Kornhauser began making documentary videos about the game’s Pro Tour. Their resulting popularity on YouTube attracted the attention of Magic manufacturer Wizards of the Coast, who hired the duo to continue their series, Walking The Planes (WTP), and produce other video content for the company’s website and YouTube channel. Among those who have appeared on Walking the Planes is Magic’s head designer Mark Rosewater, in the episode “Called Shot”—during a comedic fantasy sequence wherein he plays for the Magic World Championship against Holt’s recurring WTP wizard character, “The Planeswalker.”

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Jon Ingold

Talking Paper Interview Series: Jon Ingold

Jon Ingold is an England-based game designer and writer. Along with friend Joseph Humfrey, he co-founded digital gaming company, inkle, in 2011. Ingold had previously worked as a lead designer at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, meeting fellow console gaming industry vet Humfrey, who had worked on mobile gaming platform Nintendo DS, and interactive gaming tools Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect. The inkle games they went on to produce are aimed at mobile gaming platforms of smartphones and tablets, with a player experience rooted in the interactive fiction-writing approach of Ingold’s own decade’s-worth of award-winning published work. Their first foray was Frankenstein, an interactive novel game penned by author Dave Morris, and adapted from Mary Shelley’s book of the same name.  

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Molly Templeton

Talking Paper Interview Series: Molly Templeton

Molly Templeton is events director at WORD bookstore, with locations at 126 Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and 128 Newark Avenue in downtown Jersey City, New Jersey. Since taking the position in February 2015 (after nearly two years as the store’s outreach manager), Templeton has organized author readings at both locations, as well as numerous off-site events. She also finds time to review films as a freelance critic for the Eugene Weekly in her home state of Oregon—the same publication where she served for nearly five years as arts and music editor. I interviewed Templeton in Brooklyn WORD’s downstairs space about her approach to booking author readings, their benefit to writers, and other aspects of speaking written words for an audience.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Jim Ruland

Talking Paper Interview Series: Jim Ruland

Jim Ruland is a San Diego-based author and founder of the Vermin On The Mount [VOTM] reading series, which originated at the now-closed Mountain Bar in Los Angeles’s Chinatown section in 2004. Ruland previously told Nomadic Press that he started VOTM as a way to bring together, "novelists, bloggers, punk rockers, essayists, journalists, poets, people with a brown bag and something to say." VOTM’s irreverent approach has two homes at the moment—Book Show at 5503 North Figueroa in Highland Park, and 3rdspace at 4610 Park Boulevard in San Diego’s University Heights.  

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Lothar Müller

Talking Paper Interview Series: Lothar Müller

Lothar Müller is a journalist and author who serves as editor of the features section at German daily newspaper Süddeutsche ZeitungHe has also taught general and comparative literature at Berlin Free University, and is currently an honorary professor at Berlin's Humboldt University. In February of 2012, he published Weiße Magie: Die Epoche des Papiers, which in November of 2014 was re-published in English by Polity Press as White Magic: The Age of Paperwith translation from German by Jessica Spengler [read our review of his book here]. The book's 263 pages boil down the history of paper, and its importance as a continuing technology. From its origins in China as a bureaucratic tool, paper travelled west as a commodity through the Middle East and on to Europe, where it was the material inspiration for Johannes Gutenberg's creation of the printing press in the mid-15th century. As the publishing of words has moved from paper to the digital domain, the future profitability of printing daily newspapers has come into question. Yet Müller argues that paper as a technology of information storage will go on. He shared his thoughts on "The Paper Age," and its origins and future via a Skype interview from his home in Germany.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Paula Rabinowitz

Talking Paper Interview Series: Paula Rabinowitz

Paula Rabinowitz is an author and professor of English at the University of Minnesota. Her latest work is American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Mainstream, out now from Princeton University Press, about how inexpensive mass-produced soft-cover books with often-salacious covers helped democratize the reading of literature in America, and beyond. Rabinowitz explores the golden age of pulp paperbacks, spanning from the late-1930s to the early 1960s, with a focus on publisher New American Library (whose imprints include Signet and Mentor). For the price of a pack of cigarettes, readers could pick up pocket-sized tales of hard-boiled crime, sweaty romance, or bizarre science fiction from racks and shelves at bus stations, candy shops, bodegas, and a variety of other sales locations beyond the bookstore market. The covers of these books featured era-defining artistry promising tales of sex, murder, and other intrigue by artists like Robert Jonas and James Avati. The cover of American Pulp, however, is an elegant oil-on-canvas painting by Guy Pène du Bois, entitled "Portia in a Pink Blouse." Created in 1942, it features the fashionably dressed Portia Lebrun sitting at a small table, her hands set upon a self-authored paperback book. Meanwhile, overseas, American soldiers were reading pulp paperbacks by the millions during the quieter moments of the Second World War. In the post-war years, Americans continued to buy tons of literary pulp, which caught the attention of government committees unhappy with certain subject matter for sale starting at 25 cents. Women’s Barracks by Tereska Torrès became a bestseller in part thanks to its profile being raised by its1952 targeting by the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, over depictions of lesbian relationships. I spoke with Rabinowitz by phone from her home about the themes explored in pulp paperbacks, and the artists whose work adorned their covers. Many adorn her bookshelves, from which she pulled several to cite as examples during the course of our conversation.

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Kent Avenue Interview Series: René Sascha Johannsen

Kent Avenue Interview Series: René Sascha Johannsen

René Sascha Johannsen is a Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker and photographer. A youthful love of skateboarding and playing drums in bands in his native Denmark helped inspire his current pursuits of moving portraits of both gritty street skaters and emerging music stars. Later, post-school leisure trips to Australia and Austria led to his first professional destination-shot documentary—following young snowboarders tackling the slopes of Whistler in western Canada. That was followed by documentary work in locales such as Haiti, Tunisia, Russia, The Gaza Strip and North Korea, where he served as cameraman and editor for Mads Brügger’s 2009 film, The Red Chapel.

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Talking Paper Interview Series: Steve Jackson

Talking Paper Interview Series: Steve Jackson

Steve Jackson is a London, England-based author and game designer. Along with friend Ian Livingstone, he co-created the Fighting Fantasy series of interactive gamebooks, which were first published by Puffin Books in 1982. Prior to that, the two helped co-found Games Workshop (G. W.) in 1975 from their Shepherd’s Bush flat, dedicated to distributing and manufacturing board games within the UK. Their company newsletter, Owl and Weasel, caught the attention of Gary Gygax, American co-creator of paper and pencil role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Livingstone and Jackson soon negotiated a three-year deal with Gygax’s company, TSR, to be exclusive European distributors of D&D book manuals. The resulting income led to G. W. opening a popular London retail shop in 1978. At the end of their exclusive contract, Livingstone and Jackson turned down a merger offer from TSR, remaining D&D wholesalers, but prompting a search for new income streams. One of those would be Fighting Fantasy, a series whose origins trace to the 1980 incarnation of G. W.’s annual game convention known as Games Day—and a deal cut by Livingstone and Jackson with attending Penguin Books editor, Geraldine Cooke, to create a synopsis for a book about fantasy role-playing games. The project morphed into a pitch for a book-based solo role-playing adventure, incorporating multiple outcomes based on a reader’s choices, and a dice-based fighting system to resolve combat with creatures the readers encountered during their quest. The resulting gamebook, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, was published by Penguin’s youth imprint, Puffin, in 1982, and incorporated cover art by Peter Andrew Jones and illustrations by Russ Nicholson. 

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Kent Avenue Interview Series: Christo Holloway

Kent Avenue Interview Series: Christo Holloway

Christo Holloway is a designer, model maker, and photographer who has forged a long career crafting three-dimensional objects for all manner of clients through his Brooklyn-based company, Clockwork Apple. With top-notch work on photographed print advertising campaigns, television network “bumpers,” complicated cinematic shots, and commissioned projects of all shapes and sizes, Holloway has risen to the top of a rarified industry that specializes in creating tactile things. It’s also an expensive one, and the financial demands of keeping Holloway’s shop going have finally become too much. So with the approach of Clockwork Apple’s closure (and the owner joining forces with his biggest rival), I visited its amazingly versatile space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with photographer Randall Bellows III for a tour of the machinery, finished products, and a library full of reference books and issues of Popular MechanicsLife magazine and National Geographic.

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Kent Avenue Interview Series: Robert Clark

Kent Avenue Interview Series: Robert Clark

Robert Clark is a Brooklyn-based freelance photographer, who has lived and worked in and around the South Williamsburg lofts at 475 Kent Avenue for the past 20 years. Many world-class photographers have called the building home during its recent history. So for the first installment of our interview series with some of them, Nomadic Press spoke with Clark at his current studio in the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yards about his photographic work with National Geographic, as well as in newspapers and books.

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