Authors Interviewing Authors | Darlene & D.A.

BY: D.A. ALSTON

 
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DA: Your second novel is about to be released to the public - what does that mean to you?

DC: It feels surreal to have a second book! Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to have a book published. Having two out soon feels like my dream of being a published novelist is still going strong.

DA: As a creative sometimes we go through the highs and lows. How do you maneuver through the constant worldwinds of life and still create?

DC: That’s a great question. The thing about life is that it can be thwarted at any time. We have a daily routine, but sudden changes come up when we least expect it. It’s important to remain level headed during a whirlwind to make good decisions. However, it’s also okay to have a breakdown every once in a while. Writing is an awesome way to jot feelings down and just let it all out.  Being a novelist with a publishing house contract means projects still need to get done, so even when my life is extremely stressful, I have to keep on writing. A plus side about writing is that you can make your own world where everything goes your way – I think that is why I’ve always used writing as a coping mechanism.


I’ve always used writing as a coping mechanism.
— Darlene P. Campos
 

DA: What has been one of your highlights of your writing career thus far?

DC: A lot has happened in my career ever since my first novel, Behind Mount Rushmore, came out last year. I’ve had interviews, won an award, landed a spot on a literary radio show, etc. But out of all these cool accomplishments, the best moment was when a reader reached out to me on Twitter to tell me, “Behind Mount Rushmore is my new favorite book.” That moment overshadows everything else.  

DA: If you weren't writing, what do you think you would be doing?

DC: I’d be wishing I was a writer! I can’t imagine being anything else.

DA: With this second book, what do you help people gain from it?

DC: I really hope the perspective on those who are deaf changes for readers after they encounter this book. There’s this huge, skewed idea that those with different abilities can’t do anything and that’s completely NOT the case. My day job is in education and I’ve worked with students who deaf, blind, etc. and their work has always been equal to or better than students without these different abilities. My father has been deaf in one ear since childhood and he’s a doctor. That’s the most important lesson of the book - just because someone is differently abled, it doesn’t mean that person is lesser abled in any way.

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DA: What's a normal writing session like for you? How do you prepare? What usually happens?

DC: When I’m not distracted by the internet (hah!), my writing is pretty productive. For novels, I usually start by outlining the characters rather than the plot. It helps to know what a character is like, because I can figure out how the character would act in a certain situation. That makes the plot a bit easier to write. For example, readers familiar with Behind Mount Rushmore can guess very well how Jay Eagle Thunderclap would act if he locked his keys in his truck, because they already know his colorful personality.


My biggest goal is to quit my day job and write full time.
— Darlene P. Campos
 

DA: This book is geared towards young adults. What books were influential for you at that age?

DC: There were many, but the ones I can remember off the top of my head: Buried Onions by Gary Soto (an author who is very important in Summer Camp Is Cancelled by the way), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and pretty much everything in R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series.


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DA: What was the most difficult part about writing this book?

DC: The hardest part was the research on Catholicism. I’m not Catholic nor was I raised Catholic, so my knowledge of Catholicism was basically nothing when I started writing. However, I interviewed several practicing, lapsed, and former Catholics who provided me with tons and tons of knowledge. I visited Catholic churches, read lots of books and watched many videos starring priests sharing their knowledge. By the time I finished researching, I felt like I could probably be confirmed as a Catholic myself!

DA: What are some of your goals for your writing career?

DC: For now, my biggest goal is to quit my day job and write full time. I know it’s super hard to get to this point, but a lot of writers have gotten there and I’m sure I can as well if I work hard enough to expand my career. Another goal is to have a movie produced. I’ve already written one film script, so I have a story set for whoever wants to pick it up.

DA: As a woman of color, how important is it to tell stories from your point of view?

DC: To be honest, I feel that all stories are important and I don’t think that my point of view is any more or less important than another person’s point of view. It’s true that certain people have greater credibility for certain subjects, though, yet everyone has a right to their opinions and feelings, even if we don’t agree. I’m sure there are some screwed up people out there who think my perspective on certain subjects doesn’t count or doesn’t matter only because I’m a woman, a minority and/or both. And whoever those people are, I have just three words for them: go to hell.


Darlene P. Campos's second novel, Summer Camp Is Cancelled, is available now for pre-order and will release on August 3rd. Her first novel, Behind Mount Rushmore, can be purchased here. You can purchase D.A. Alston's first novel, The Unlikely Tale of the Royal Elite Squad, by clicking here.

 

Darlene Campos Reveals Why She Included Cypress Hill On Her Spotify Playlist

BY: DARLENE P. CAMPOS

Earlier this month, we shared the playlist for Darlene P. Campos' Summer Camp Is Cancelled, featuring 19 songs inspired by the book. Those songs were selected by Darlene herself, and below, we feature the reasons she selected those songs.

 
 

Pearl Jam – Even Flow

I was born in 1991, but I grew up with two older siblings who would constantly play top hits of the 90s. Hearing my siblings play Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. was a daily thing. Since Lyndon is a middle school kid in the middle of the 90s, I was pleased to make him a fan of the songs I grew up with and still listen to often. “Even Flow” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
 

Smashing Pumpkins – Today

I’ve been a fan of the Smashing Pumpkins for so long, I remember when Billy Corgan had hair! This song plays on a radio the day Lyndon introduces Melody to Fernando, her crush and his enemy. Lyndon loves this song, but definitely not on this specific day.
 

Cypress Hill – Insane in the Brain

My brother has loved Cypress Hill for a long time. He’s the one who introduced me to this band. I’m not a fan of rap, but there are a few rap artists I like and Cypress Hill is one of them. As I wrote SCIC, I went on YouTube to find 90s playlists to get me in the writing mood. This tune came on randomly and I started dancing in my chair! Additionally, I thought Lyndon and his friends would like this band because they are Latin artists, something that was just getting started in music at that time.
 

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

This song plays as Lyndon dances with Melody. They dance together and in a split second, Lyndon does something that makes him feel extremely embarrassed. Read the book to find out why!
 

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Soul to Squeeze

This song has an important role in SCIC. Like I said above, read the book for the full
details.
 

Pearl Jam – Black

Lyndon says this song is one of the saddest songs he’s ever heard. This song really stuck with me throughout high school when I felt lonely due to a couple of unrequited crushes. It’s such a deep and sad song that I always find it hard to listen to without a few tears flowing from my eyes.
 
 

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

This is probably THE most defining song of the 1990s. So, of course Lyndon and his friends would love it!
 

Smashing Pumpkins – Cherub Rock

This song is another Smashing Pumpkins classic. Since Lyndon is a fan, he adores this song as well.
 

R.E.M. – Drive

This is another important song in SCIC. I chose it as the background music because the beat of it begins quite ominously which perfectly fits the situation Lyndon finds himself in.
 

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge

While this tune is about the effects of drug addiction, I thought it was about loneliness when I first heard it as a middle schooler around Lyndon’s age. It does certainly highlight feelings of isolation though and Lyndon experiences this a lot throughout the novel.
 

Vicente Fernandez – Por Tu Maldito Amor (For Your Damn Love)

This is the ultimate breakup song sung in Spanish! Grandma Raquel, Lyndon’s grandmother, is known to blast Vicente Fernandez while she completes tasks around the house. I’m sure she has blasts this track at some point! It’s also the song Javier, one of Lyndon’s best friends, suggests as a serenade to Melody.
 

Vicente Fernandez – Hermoso Cariño (Beautiful Dear)

This is a cute song for a child. It basically talks about a child being a precious gift from Heaven and it’s one I can picture Grandma Raquel singing to Lyndon, her beloved grandson. She might be fierce and mighty, but she loves her grand baby.
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Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing

Another 90s hit!
 

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun

This song was HUGE in 1994 when it first came out. Since Lyndon’s story takes place from 1993 to 1994, this amazing hit would definitely be part of his life.
 

Ron Gutierrez – I Have Loved You with an Everlasting Love

Lyndon says this hymn is his favorite hymn to sing during Mass at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church. While this version is a jazz rendition, I’m sure he’d love it!
 

Mr. Mister – Kyrie

This is a song Edgar Perez, Lyndon’s father, plays when he attempts to “fix” his old grill. Though it’s a rock song from the 1980s, it has religious tones to it and could be counted as a worship song. Maybe if Mr. Perez plays it enough, he can skip Mass one Sunday, but Mrs. Perez probably wouldn’t let him.
 

U2 – Gloria

U2’s Bono is a devout Catholic, so it’s no surprise that he writes Catholic themes into several U2 songs. This specific song features a beautiful chorus sung by all the members in Latin. It sounds like a Catholic Mass with rock music! Since Father O’Brien is from Ireland, it seems appropriate that he would be listening to this song when Lyndon approaches him for advice.
 

The Cathedral Singers – Angels We Have Heard on High

Lyndon mentions singing this song during Christmas Mass 1993. There are many, many Christmas songs, but something about this one gets to me every time I hear it.
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Selena – Bidi Bidi Bom Bom

Though this song is never mentioned in SCIC, I can bet Lyndon hears it sometime in 1994. It’s about a woman describing the way her heart palpitates (the sound of her heart goes ‘bidi bidi bom bom’) when she sees her crush walking down the street. I can imagine Lyndon hopes Melody feels this way about him.

Summer Camp Is Cancelled will be available everywhere books are sold on August 3.

Official Soundtrack for "Summer Camp Is Cancelled"

BY: STAFF

We asked Darlene P. Campos to curate a Spotify playlist for her book, Summer Camp Is Cancelled and she selected 19 incredible songs featuring R.E.M., Cypress Hill, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

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You can listen to the entire soundtrack below or on Spotify.


Summer Camp Is Cancelled will be available everywhere books are sold on August 3.

Vital Narrative Announces First Annual Weekend Workshop & Retreat

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DATE: Friday, August 31, 2018 - Sunday, September 2, 2018

WHERE: A private location in Memphis, TN

PURPOSE: To unplug for three days, fellowship and read the work of other authors, as well as offer the opportunity for authors to receive a critique of their works in progress

COST: $350 ($275 if booked before August 15)

Spots are limited. Click here for tickets.

Fantasy Film Casting for 'Summer Camp Is Cancelled'

BY: DARLENE CAMPOS

 

Belita Moreno as Grandma Raquel

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As a kid, I grew up watching George Lopez. I loved Belita’s character, even though she was actually much meaner than Grandma Raquel. Belita was always a sassy, no-nonsense person in her portrayal of George’s mother. But, she was also very harsh at times, so if she were to play Grandma Raquel, she’d have to turn down her harshness just a smidge.


Javier Bardem as Father González

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Who else could play Father González BUT Javier Bardem? Javier usually plays a villain and why wouldn’t he? He can speak death using only his eyes and face. He scared the hell out of me when he played Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Javier is 100% perfect to play Lyndon’s strict priest and I know he’d do a marvelous job.


Ardal O’Hanlon as Father O’Brien

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In the 90s, Hat Trick Productions made the show Father Ted, a hilarious comedy based in a fictional part of Ireland. The show surrounds the daily life of a Catholic priest, Father Ted, and his co-father, Father Dougal, who was played by Ardal. Ardal’s character was goofy, kind, and gentle, just like Father O’Brien. Since Ardal has experience portraying a funny priest, he would adapt to Father O’Brien’s role very easily.


Horatio Sanz as Uncle Manny

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I remember seeing Horatio on Saturday Night Live back when I was in junior high and thinking he was the funniest cast member of the lineup. He’s extremely talented at doing impersonations and exaggerating his facial features to get a laugh from his audience. If anyone can do an awesome job playing the most annoying character in SCIC, it’s definitely him.


Eva Longoria as Mrs. Donna Pérez

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Not only is Eva Longoria an excellent actress, but she’s also a huge philanthropist for children’s causes. Because of her generous history, I know she’d play a great mom to Lyndon. Additionally, she is also a Texan and since Summer Camp is Cancelled is rich in both Mexican and Texan culture, she would know exactly what to do for her role.


Jaime Camil as Mr. Edgar Pérez

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Jaime Camil has been in both Mexican and American productions. He was the voice actor for Miguel’s father in Coco and he’s also been on Jane the Virgin as well as other comedy shows. His background in making people laugh is perfect for playing Edgar.


Last, but not least – who would play Lyndon Baines Juan Pérez?

This is a hard question because I really don’t know! Lyndon is such a sweet boy and he has strong beliefs in friendship and how others should be treated. Whoever plays his character should have similar personal beliefs.


You can pre-order Summer Camp Is Cancelled by clicking here.

 

Cover Reveal For 'Summer Camp Is Cancelled'

Darlene Campos' second novel, Summer Camp Is Cancelled, will be released on August 3rd, but today, we officially reveal the cover. Pre-orders will begin Friday, June 22nd.

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Summer Camp Is Cancelled is a young adult novel about Lyndon, a Mexican boy from Bat Springs, Texas who is enamored with his best friend Melody, a deaf girl who uses a whiteboard as her voice. Pre-orders will begin Friday, June 22nd.

Yellow

BY: Q. VERGARA


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There's something about an overcast windy rainy day that completes me. The whites blending with the grays and blues. The smudged sky made my heart smile. The whistling of the wind in the palm trees as the voluptuous clouds lollygag by, pulls my mind to wander. I can't help but listen to Coldplay's first album on repeat. The cold air kisses my cheek through the window trying to lure me out.

 "I miss you," she whispers before building up her might and billowing a hard gust of her breath through the trees and she leaves. My eyes try to follow her long flowing invisible silhouette but I only catch the train of her gown and the damage left in her wake. Before long, the trees and plants fall back to their resting positions and sway as if they had never been touched. I can't be certain if it's her lulling them as her breathing swells or Coldplay's melodies and lyrics serenading the leafs.

 

And on and on from the moment I wake

To the moment I sleep

I'll be there by your side

Just you try and stop me

I'll be waiting in line

Just to see if you can

 

Coldplay's words always held a special meaning to me. The melodies felt like a familiar embrace, like a familiar scent on familiar clothes. I could close my eyes and feel your breath on my ear. It's been 15 years since I've touched you. Why do days like today remind me of you? The song ended leaving me a moment with the cold realization that I may never go back home. Coldplay spoke to me as the Wind teased me to come outside for a hug. Her breath was intoxicating. The moisture in the air teased a light rain fall.

 

I awake to find no peace of mind

I said how do you live as a fugitive

Down here where I cannot see so clear

I said, what do I know

 

I felt like a fugitive unable to relax until I made my way back to you. I was born with your soil and roots beneath my feet. We came from the same dust. But here where loyalties lie and citizenships brand, I wait and long for you through the cold murmurings of the wind. Sparks was one of my favorite songs on this album. I couldn't help but sing along in a wispy low voice. The sun reflected light off the clouds in a way to almost make them look like they were satin and glimmering--winking at me. My face broke into a gentle smile.

 

Look at the stars

Look how they shine for you

And everything you do

Yeah they were all yellow

 

Yellow. This was the epitome of my love for Coldplay and cold days like this. I was fixated looking out the window at the branches dancing to Chris Martin sing. I knew they were dancing for me. The California Hills laid at my feet in comfort of this moment, blowing kisses back to Saudi. Cold days like this have always been my favorite. I used to miss home in a way that pained my soul but now, I miss it on my favorite days.

When I met Saudi, without the American Narrative, I was in 7th grade. He stood misunderstood with a sparkling smile.

 

Your skin

Oh yeah, your skin and bones

Turn into something beautiful

You know, you know I love you so

You know I love you so

 

I fell in love with his traditions and ideas--the way he spoke and how he laughed from the middle of himself. He was eager to learn how I lived and how I didn't judge him for his hard consonants. He loved me beyond the way people talked. He loved me the way a child loves with every ounce and fiber of his being. Saudi loved me in a way that I longed for on these cold days. Saudi's love gave me warm pillows and heated fluffy blankets filled with memories and smiles. His love grew my virtues, and when America tried to teach me how to think, He reminded me to lead with love.

Bildungsroman

BY: gsoell


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I am the fool that

lost my fiberglass insulation and

grew so sad that I

decidedneeded to seek my fortune,

find the answers to questions

I didn’t want to ask.

I found a woodsman

that knew jackshit about the woods

and an enchanted shield

that wasn’t really enchanted at all but

I’m no longer the fool.

 

The golden hours are dimming.

Magic no longer happens here.

I am at the end of my journey,

the curve of the mobius in sight when

 

I am the fool that

lost my golden apples and

I am sad again.


gsoell is currently working on her first book of poetry, Small Nights Gospel.

Problems and good sex

BY: gsoell


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Is sometimes all we have.

Sometimes that’s enough

I romanticize the “bohemian” lifestyle

(actually, we’re broke as a fucking joke),

the bad times,

the hot rages,

the breakdowns.

 

We were taught to

walk off the scrapes,

laugh away the bruises,

to get over it.

But we’re tired of that bullshit,

have been for years.

 

We are aqueous.


gsoell is currently working on her first book of poetry, Small Nights Gospel.

Why I Wanna Go To Cuba

BY: P. CURRY


Ah, Cuba. The forbidden fruit of the Caribbean (well, when you’re an American at least), only a few miles from the southernmost point of Florida. You know what they say about taboos. Tell a person they can’t and they wanna. Now, I’ve always been interested in Latin America and the Caribbean in general, but there’s just something about Cuba that I find especially alluring. Is it the music? The architecture? The history? The women? The cigars? The vintage cars? The fashion? The mystery? It’s probably a combination of all of those.

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Read the full piece on his website here.


P. Curry is currently working on his first book with Vital Narrative.

Bankrupt Childhood

BY: Q. VERGARA


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I got embarrassingly nostalgic and low-key emotional seeing a particular photo set on Facebook. We've been hearing the news for weeks now and it hasn't bothered me. The topic has always been a business debate, but it's never been about saying goodbye.

But tonight something happened. I sat down to smoke my bedtime bowl and perused my news feed so my thumbs could get their daily work out - phalange fitness is priority in my life. I see the regular everyday posts about politics and photos of babies and videos of cats and what the fuck ever. Then, I scroll down a little bit further and see the most adorable little girl. She has deep cherry brown hair and brown skin. She's standing in a store aisle surrounded by shelves that reach towards the sky filled with toys. The caption reads something to the effect of, she'll never get a chance to experience Toys 'R' Us like her older brothers, so here's a photo shoot of her inside the toy giant playing around for as long as she wants. +13 More. My finger was a curious.

Wow, Toys 'R' Us is actually closing, I thought.

The next picture was taken from behind as she looked up at a shelf. I could feel my throat get dry. But smoking weed does that to you, right? The third picture she's holding a toy twice the size of her. I felt small again. I could feel the little girls shoes around my feet. I felt a tinge of pain. The fourth picture she's running back to the camera with the gargantuan toy.

My son is nine months old. He's learning how to walk. He is my first child. He'll never experience the rush that was pulling up to Toys 'R' Us. He'll never know what it's like to see shelves filled up to the ceiling with every toy imaginable. He'll never know the critical thinking that went into toy selection. Finally choosing which toy to take home when your mom has a strict one-toy policy was difficult, but taught me to identify my wants and pick most accordingly with what fit my short-term and long-term goals (and Mom's budget). It always came down to Barbies, but which one was always the game changer. The only two places that even came close to Toys 'R' Us were Discovery Zone (Am I showing my age?) and book stores, specifically The Little Professor. Toys 'R' Us had that magic you could take home with you.

Becoming a parent for the first time was wild enough from conception to delivery and then gets even wilder after they're born. Being able to pass on a familiar experience from your childhood that filled you with so much excitement and happiness felt like a rite of passage. It was more than getting a toy. It was knowing a place exists that understands you and your wants.

But in all honesty, even if it stayed around, I doubt I'd take my son there as he grows up.

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Some years ago, I don't even remember how far back, I found myself in my local store in disbelief. It still feels like a lucid nightmare. Not because something terrible or traumatic happened but because of the feeling that stayed with me after I had left. It was like seeing your high school crush for the first time in 20 years and he's almost unrecognizable; not only because of the harsh whiskey stench that he marinates in, but then he farts and starts laughing at the rancid smell like he did all of those years ago and you remember why you stopped liking boys your age. It was like seeing an ex-boyfriend tripping balls off bug spray like you didn't even know that was a thing people were doing these days. You were humiliated for him.

But I digress, the last time I was there the air was thick. This big warehouse felt deserted and abandoned. No music playing. The aisles were ominous and watched you as you walked passed. I could hear squeaks on the linoleum floor an aisle or so over but I never saw another customer. The occasional employee would be spotted but I was to 'weirded' out to approach anyone. The inside of the store made me feel the same way a dead body would if it were propped up on display with its eyes open in a frigid oddly unnatural position. Uncomfortable was an understatement. The paint chipping on the cracked walls were just a small detail in the grand scheme of things.

That lasting image was traumatizing. I didn't want that to happen to my son. I couldn't discern if it was because I remembered how new and sparkling the store had looked in my childhood or if it looked as dilapidated to everyone. I refused to take that risk though. "It would have looked haunting to anyone," I said trying to convince myself. I felt like I would be introducing this beautiful boy to where toys came to die.

Is this what growing up felt like? It felt like time was betraying me. Like I woke up one day and I was old even though I thought I saw youth staring back in the mirror. Time was slipping through my fingers and burying me alive as I gasped for air. Has the world always been this disgusting and evil or are these new deadly trends a sign of the crumbling times? Was this the beginning of the end?

How did those pictures trigger such a powerful reaction? Or was I overthinking all of it? Was it just the weed? Did it even matter?

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Years after my last encounter with the toy giant, my mom got a seasonal job there. When she didn't get hired on, I was mad at God. My mom was perfect. I was mad that not hiring her, made her feel less than she was worth. Recently, learning how many workers lost their jobs and that some even lost their retirements with the company, broke my heart. I understood why God didn't let us depend on that income. The devastation of losing a second house would have been more than we could have handled right now. I guess Chance the Rapper was right: "my God doesn't make mistakes."

When I thought about the chain, I thought back to a better world. A world that didn't have mass shootings, and overwhelming hurt and pain sprinkled with anxiety and a splash of depression. I wished for a world that didn't betray me overtime with new deadly trends. I wished for time not to team up with gravity and make my skin droop - for time not to affect our youth and for moms and dads to stay with you forever.

It became less about Toys 'R' Us and more about how time was speeding up. Maybe the amount of time a year is got shorter because I've lived longer. One month when you've lived through 360 of them seems less significant, and the more time that goes by, perhaps the next month will become even less important. Time was betraying me. Being thirty in 2018 was drastically different then what it was when my parents were my age. The thought of reaching some level of stability and success was fleeting. Who knows if I would get there before my parents are taken from me. It was a constant fear of mine. My dad's health has been declining over the years and seeing him age so much has had an unspoken effect on me. My grandfather died unexpectedly. What would stop death from doing to my son what he did to me? I constantly felt threatened not to get to comfortable.

Aging has been a terrifying inevitability if you're lucky. I may not even get the chance to age. I felt like becoming a mother made me mortal. I remember coming home from the hospital while my son laid in the NICU when he was five days old. My invincibility cloak came off and I haven't been able to find it since. Now when I go out, my only mission is to get back to that smiling face by any means necessary.

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I thought Toys 'R' Us would be here forever. Why would I think any differently? And coming to the realization they're closing their doors for good has been far more difficult for me than I'd care to admit.

My mortality, seeing loved ones age around me, becoming a mother. I'm living life on the other side of the glass now. The side that is no longer experiencing life for the first time, but helping a tiny human experience his. I never thought at 30, I'd finally feel the shift of becoming an adult.

My parents are now grandparents, so I guess this is goodbye then.

Bye. Thanks for the smiles.


Q. Vergara is currently working on her first book with Vital Narrative.

Alfred Finally Makes His Way Out Of The Woods in a Stunning Episode of 'Atlanta'

BY: A.A. REDD


 (image:  Vulture )

(image: Vulture)

This post contains spoilers for the "Woods" episode of Atlanta.

"Woods" is another flawless episode of Atlanta. The line between the surreal and the mundane this season seems more blurred. Mostly it's seemed to push every situation from creepy to blatantly horrifying, and this works strongly in its favor considering the theme of this batch of episodes (Robbing Season).

Watching this episode made me realize that one of the aspects of the show that's hardest to watch is how few of its characters get to win. Even Darius - who normally sees at least a small victory when everyone else loses - was cheated out of his goal at the end of his episode because of an atrocity someone forced him to the center of.

This episode felt a little less appalling, but only marginally so. It still felt incredibly heavy, maybe because of how much we as viewers have invested in Alfred's journey so far and how far we've seen him come, and the show reminds us of this: he has a girlfriend who is not only also a famous rapper but who is comfortable with him and seems to (try) to support him in a way that he needs; he buys a pair of expensive shoes in a shop so ritzy that all the white people are too old and bourgeois to recognize the rapper couple; and he hears his song on a major radio station, when he used to have to literally bribe someone to accomplish that.

Al has changed a lot in some ways, but in some ways he's exactly the same, and the show finally shows him in no uncertain terms that this selective growth cannot continue. This episode is one of those that's felt especially like a horror film, and I found myself yelling at the TV when Alfred ignored his harbinger (Sierra) and went on to meet with his series of weapon-weilding villains. You see it coming a mile away, just like in the movies, and just like those characters our Al is still too flawed to meet with his antagonists and win. It's incredibly heartbreaking to see Alfred try and stay consistent & true to his values and watch the world do nothing but punish him for it, but I'm hoping from the way that Alfred handled that photo op at the end that change is coming for him sooner rather than later.


A.A. Redd is a poet and Vital Narrative author. You can support her work here.

How To Write A First Draft

BY: GH



When I was in the eighth grade, I fell hopelessly in love with a girl who sat two rows in front of me. She always spoke in a way that let me know she read books outside of school like I did. And because I knew how smart she was, I realized I couldn't approach her just any old way - I wanted to show my intelligence and poise as well. Or at the very least, I knew I needed to say hello without melting into my desk.

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So, I went over what I was going to say in my head for days. I knew I wanted to work in that I read a lot and had started writing my own stuff, but then I thought she might ask to read some of it and that terrified me. So I kicked that idea from my mental Rolodex and decided to start from scratch.

Days turned into weeks until I finally put my foot down. I told myself I was going to say hello and ask for her phone number. I arrived early for first period and to my surprise, she was sitting alone, digging for something inside her backpack. I didn't think it would leave a good first impression to startle her by appearing suddenly when she was sitting alone in a room (plus, I still needed another moment to gather my thoughts). I walked into the nearest bathroom to wash my hands and took a few deep breaths. I told myself I would just say hello and go from there. It had only been about two minutes, but I already felt a lot more relaxed going into the conversation the second time around. I left out of the bathroom and walked back in to see her surrounded by three of her friends, chatting happily about some television show I had never heard of. Feeling like I'd lost my chance, I decided not to interrupt and walked past towards my desk. There was plenty of time left in the day, so I still had time to ask.

Second period was gym, so after I dressed out, she walked into the gymnasium with a good friend of mine. They were laughing and having a great time, which wasn't a total surprise because my friend was just as witty and interesting as I was. But I didn't want to disturb their conversation, so I just settled in my mind that I'd just go up to her at lunch. It made the most sense - the gymnasium wasn't the best setting for an intimate conversation and people were more social during a meal anyway.

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But at lunch, she was nowhere to be found. I searched both exits and the courtyard to see if maybe she'd decided to eat outside, but still nothing. I didn't want to ask around and give off the suspicion that I was looking for her, but I wasn't sure what else to do. We had been near each other all morning and now that I was finally ready to ask for her number, she had disappeared. I decided to drown my sorrows in chocolate milk and a cardboard pepperoni pizza from the school cafeteria while I mulled over what to do next.

By the end of the day, every attempt at courting this young woman had been met with opposition and disappearances. Just 45 minutes remained in the day and I was determined to make them count. Time crawled by as the teacher lectured for the first twenty minutes, but then sped up as we were spread out into groups, inevitably setting me clear across the room from my muse. Before I knew it, there were just sixty seconds left in the day and it was now or never.

I told myself I could still catch her once the bell rang. At least if she said no, I could just run out of there and hop on the schoolbus.

The bell rang, I grabbed my bag and sprinted towards her desk, but an obstruction in a Yankees hat blocked the aisle and I couldn't fight my way though. Why did this keep happening?! By the time he moved out of the way, I checked her desk and she was already gone - I had lost her forever.

Or at least until tomorrow when I told myself I would arrive early again and make another attempt at attempting to ask.

But as you can probably guess, that didn't happen.

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And that's how most people write first drafts. They have all the best intentions and tell themselves that one day they're going to sit down and ask that girl for her phone number. Or ask that girl to the prom. Or ask that guy on a date, but they never muster up the courage to actually stand up and say what they have to say.

In order to write a first draft, you simply have to put the words on the page. Don't worry about making everything sound perfect - that's what editing is for. Don't obsess over trying to find two hours to write everyday. Or even writing everyday. Start with ten minutes every Friday during your last break at work. And then just go from there.

The conditions are never going to be perfect. You're never going to find the perfect notebook or the perfect pen. You don't need a brand new computer first. You don't have to wait until next year. Use what you have and do what you can.

If you want to write to a book, you have to write a first draft. And to write a first draft, all you have to do is write.


Gregory Hedgepeth II is the founder of Vital Narrative Press. Garvey Hemisphere is his literary-inclined alter-ego. At least one of them wrote this.

 

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'A Collection of Echoes' by Garvey Hemisphere
21.00

342 pp. A Collection of Echoes is the story of three strangers from Memphis as they begin group therapy for their various issues. Malone is still grieving the murder of his mentor while London is putting her life back together after a recent breakup. And Gavin is just trying to get by while dealing with the pressures of his career and his girlfriend who is adamant about getting engaged.

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