Growing Organically: An Interview with Scott Fynboe, Creator of SAFTAcast

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In honor of the one year anniversary of SAFTAcast, I had the pleasure of chatting with Scott Fynboe, creator of the series.

Jane Huffman: Can you tell me the creation story of SAFTAcast? What was your role in it?

Scott Fynboe: Okay, so, December 2013: Sundress VP and SAFTA Literary Arts director T.A. Noonan and I were discussing a then recent episode of The Nerdist podcast. At the time, Sundress was looking to expand into new, creative areas, and I was looking to get more involved with the organization, so T.A. tossed out the idea of doing a podcast of some sort.

We talked it over, drew up a proposal, pitched it to Erin Elizabeth Smith over the phone, and within minutes, Erin greenlit the project.

The show was pitched as something like “a podcast that goes back to the original ‘talk show’ style, like Jack Parr or Dick Cavett, with people just talking about things.” In other words, a writing & literature podcast that would feel like a getting-coffee-at-a-diner conversation.

Erin loved the idea and gave me complete creative control over the show – title, logo, theme song, guest choice, etc. I mention that because one thing I really enjoy about working with SAFTA is that they let creators do what they do, and act more as advisors than architects. That freedom, then, allows a project – a show like this – to grow organically. It’s an amazing level of trust that they put into creators and I don’t take that trust lightly; it means a lot.

JH: How have the goals and incentives of the program changed over the past year?

SF: Some things have changed, certainly. But most of them have been within the show – redoing the way I open each episode, the addition of “The Burning Question that is on Everyone’s Mind,” that sort of thing.

But as for overall goals and incentives, I can’t say that much has changed. When the show was greenlit, T.A. and I wrote up a four-point “mission statement” for it:

  1. To be unique in the creative writing podcast market by producing a show that is not only informative, but entertaining.
  2. To give authors, editors and artists an outlet to not simply read and/or discuss their work, but to explore the topics that fascinate them and which display their personality.
  3. To foster Sundress Publications’ relationships with other presses, authors and artists.
  4. To continue Sundress Publications’ tradition of exploring diverse creative outlets.

I still adhere to those aims by keeping them in mind each time I record something. (Though, now that I think about it, the fourth one feels a little “out of date.” I think that was written because the show was going to be Sundress’ first audio-only project. It might need a little rewording.)

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JH: What is your favorite part of interviewing authors about their lives outside of their writing.

SF: Everyone – author and not – has stories about their individual histories and experiences. Yet there are also common threads that connect people. There’s an amazing balance of the unique and the universal experience in a conversation, and I love hearing someone’s stories while uncovering those connections.

For example, when Leslie LaChance was on the show, we got to talking about E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. We both know the film and we both have a dislike of it – but for different reasons.

As I recall, Leslie said she was working in retail when it came out, and customers were obsessed with the merchandise. Meanwhile, at that same moment in time, just a couple hours drive away, I was a little kid, having the merchandise forced on me.

And neither of us knew the other person existed until decades later.

I don’t know about you, but that’s so cool to me. Consider just how many separate moves, maneuvers, interactions, networks, relationships, jobs, hobbies, technologies, etc. had to be in place – just for one episode of The SAFTAcast to take place; for two people to connect over a mutual disdain for a Spielberg film.

Okay, I risk going on a tangent into quantum physics type territory here. So I’ll say that, ultimately, what I really dig about doing the show is just that I get to chat with awesome people; learn about their stories. Then let audiences discover how awesome the guests are, independent of their art. It’s a pretty sweet gig.

JH: Maybe this is an impossible question, but do you have a favorite episode or episodes?

SF: I “plead the fifth” on this question. However, I will say that I have a couple of favorite promos.

For technical reasons, I love the “Sundress Academy 2015 Holiday Message.” That was recorded and cut in less than two hours, and came out amazing.

Overall, though, the one that still gets me is for Mary Stone’s episode, “SAFTAcast en SAP!” Intentionally bad Spanish, goofy, non-sequitur sound effects, inaccurate music cues – I still giggle every time I listen to it.


JH: What is a question you often ask writers that you’ve never had the chance to answer yourself?

SF: “What was it like growing up in ________________?”

I could have a field day with that question.

JH: Do you have any other current projects you’re working on? What’s next for you?

SF: After being out of the scene for a few years, this April I got the itch to start writing and publishing again. So I aim to do a bit of that over the summer.

I’m also developing a second, Sundress-related podcast. But I won’t say anything about that right now.

JH: What’s next for SAFTAcast?

SF: Keep going and get bigger.

Okay, that was a little pithy. We [Sundress and me] are gonna keep doing the show, obviously. But we’ve got a few special things in the works.

We’re toying with making some merchandise of the show available to the public this summer, and we’d really like to do one or two listener/fan “contests” before the year is out (once we figure out the logistics of them). Speaking of the end of the year, based on the response from last December, we’re looking to do more than one “Holiday music mini-sode” this winter.

And who knows what’ll happen beyond that. Best thing to do is keep a watch on The SAFTAcast website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

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Check out SAFTAcast here.

More information on Scott Fynboe here.

More information on the Sundress Academy for the Arts here.

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Jane Huffman writes from a variety of rooms in the Midwest. Recent poetry is featured or forthcoming in Radar Poetry, Word Riot, RHINO Poetry, The Boiler, Arroyo Literary Review, Moon City Review, and elsewhere in print and online. She is an Editorial Assistant for Sundress Publications. She was a recipient of a 2015 fellowship from the Stadler Center for Poetry. She has a BA from Kalamazoo College and is an MFA candidate at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Interview with Kristina Marie Darling, author of Fortress (Sundress Publications 2014)

I had the pleasure of communicating with Kristina Marie Darling, author of the recent collection Fortress, now available from Sundress Publications.

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Jane Huffman: Your book Fortress is quite unconventional in its presentation. It mixes the tools of poetry, prose, footnote and paratext, and the pieces function on the page in a very visually interesting way. Can you speak on the book’s aesthetic conception – both in literary content and experimental appearance?

Kristina Marie Darling: That’s a great question.  The book actually grew out of a huge disappointment in my life.  A man I had been in love with for several years called me to tell me he’d met his soul mate, some girl named Stacey.  Although they broke up the next week, it was really awful at the time.  My body ached when I heard that news.  Perhaps because of that, I felt drawn to Elaine Scarry’s classic work, The Body in Pain.  In what became a cathartic exercise, I started to erase pain from the book with giant black marker.  Then I took inventory of what was left:  the small arc, the fragile blue thread, and desire.

In the months that followed, I typed up and rewrote the erasures, which later became the “Preface” and the “Epilogue.”  I also began engaging the work of Romantic poets who depicted the experience of ingesting opium, trying to imagine how a female speaker would inhabit these psychic landscapes.  Eventually these “painkiller poems” and footnotes began to take shape as the books in the middle.  The writing itself felt like a process of discovery, and I wasn’t sure at first where it would take me.  I’m just so glad that a difficult experience gave way to something constructive, a beautiful book that bears a small (but still palpable) weight in the world.

JH: To me, the book establishes and maintains a consistent physical and emotional world, and the narrative within that world is both approachable and surreal. It has a feeling of tangible space and place, but also accomplishes a great deal of imaginative exploration. What was the process that went into assembling such a manuscript?

KMD: I had to sink very deep into myself, and I’m grateful to the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico for allowing me the time and space to do so.  The solitude and vast open spaces of the residency expanded my sense of what is possible in the imagination, and as a result, my own writing.

Because I had the leisure of a three month residency, I thought a lot about the relationships between mind and body, between the heart and one’s physical being, and between memory and imagination.  While most of my writing is very fragmented, I’m proud that I strived more for connections and continuity within this manuscript.   It represents something a bit different from my previous books, so I hope you’ll check it out!

JH: If you were a professional DJ, what would you spin?

KMD: Taylor Swift.  Every day of the week.

JH: Like its title suggests, Fortress offers a narrative which explores the notion that forces of entrapment, protection, and freedom often exist beyond or behind the same thresholds. Can you speak on the sense of place and space you have woven into the pieces and its significance in the collection?

KMD: The poems were actually written in the deserts of Taos, New Mexico.  I became very interested in the ways that a barren landscape can shape one’s sense of being in the world.  Does it foreclose possibilities?  Or does it give rise to renewal and regeneration?  Likewise, I thought a great deal about how one’s inner state, one’s emotional landscape, is often projected onto the world around us.  In Fortress, I have tried to dismantle the boundaries that many of us maintain between self and world, between interior thoughts and exterior landscape, since the relationship seems, to me at least, much more fluid.

JH: Do you have any advice for poets who are just beginning the process of getting their work out into the world? Or perhaps for poets who are at the beginning stages of assembling a book or chapbook?

KMD: I always tell emerging writers:  Don’t be afraid to start with small things.  Small things can often lead to much bigger things.  My first residency was actually in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  I had a great experience there, and when I applied to Yaddo and the Wurlitzer Foundation a few years later, I had something to put on my resume.  Likewise, my first publication was in a stapled zine that was actually stapled crooked.  Within a few years, I had two essays appear in The Gettysburg Review. All too often, I see writers try to start with the big things, not realizing that they should build up those accomplishments.  There is no shame in starting with something humble and striving for more.

JH: What was the last book of poetry you read and loved?

KMD: I would have to say James Wagner’s Trilce.  It’s a collection of homophonic translations of Cesar Vallejo’s work.  I truly appreciate the ways that Wagner uses sound to create meaning and forge connections within the work.  So much of the time, we focus on the semantic meaning of the words we use, and the music goes unheard.  I love the fact that Wagner teaches us to hear the musicality of everyday language anew.

JH: Gregory Orr writes about the four poetic temperaments—story, structure, music, and imagination—and claims that every writer naturally leans toward two. Where do you place yourself on his quad-diagram?

KMD: Imagination, and almost nothing else.  The other three (story, structure, music) are like horses that have been harnessed to pull imagination’s enormous white chariot.

JH: Now, the eternal question: What can you share about your personal process of revising poems?

KMD: For me, writing a poem is a process of discovery, and revision is about taking stock of what one has discovered.  These discoveries are rarely at the beginning of the poem or sequence.  It’s always a challenge to find a form and structure that renders these insights intelligible to the reader.

JH: How do you define experimental poetry?

KMD: For me, all poetry that takes risks is experimental.  Many poems that use traditional forms (like the sonnet, tercets, quatrains, etc.) are very innovative and exciting to me.  Karen Volkman’s Nomina, for example, reads as a collection of pristine Petrarchan sonnets, but they use sound to create meaning and forge connections within the work, rather than narrative.  Likewise, Lucie Brock Broido ornaments received forms in very subversive ways.  Experimental writing can definitely mean prose poems, hybrid texts, erasures, and found poems, but it’s by no means limited to those forms of writing.

JH: Any upcoming projects in your world?

KMD: I’m working on a collaboration with visual artist, photographer, and costumer Max Avi Kaplan.  The book is an experimental text/image project that recasts Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita from Lo’s perspective.  I hope you’ll keep your eye out for it!

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twenty books, which include Fortress (Sundress Publications, 2014), The Arctic Circle (BlazeVOX Books, 2014), and Scorched Altar:  Selected Poems and Stories (BlazeVOX Books, 2014).  Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation.  She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.

Jane Huffman is a poet and playwright who reads and writes from a variety of bedrooms in the Midwest. She is currently studying poetry with Diane Seuss at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI, which is a small town with a big literary scene. This week, her favorite poets are Salvador Plascencia, who is actually a novelist, John Darnielle, who is actually a songwriter, and Eduardo Corral, who sometimes answers her Facebook messages. Her work has been featured in a variety of journals in print and online, most recently RHINO Poetry, theNewerYork, Galavant, and A Bad Penny Review.

Meet our new editorial intern, Jane Huffman!

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I was born and raised from the suburbs of Detroit, and strayed a few hundred miles West to attend college. I am currently a junior at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI, (which despite its silly name, is a place that does in fact exist and has a pretty thriving literary community.) I am a theatre arts and creative writing double major, and find that my academic work is dominated by a profound and ever-growing love for language, be in on the stage or on the page.

Though I consider myself a poet, I have found joy and success in a variety of genres and styles of writing. Recently, I’ve had a play I wrote produced at a festival, seen my fiction in the pages of an international literary journal, and attended a national conference for theatre journalism and advocacy that allowed me to test my criticism chops. But whether I’m working in verse or in prose, in fiction, drama, or journalism, directing, acting, or dramaturgy, it seems what keeps me writing is my desire to be a storyteller. My plans for after undergrad are fuzzy, but I hope to pursue creative writing professionally. I love teaching, sharing my love for poetry with others, and combining my love for performance. I hope that in my career, as I continue to develop and hone my own creative voice, I can also continue to be an advocate for the written word and those who love it as much as I do.

I am so glad to have joined the team at Sundress Publications as the editorial intern. I hope I can continue to grow as well as give. I believe that the strongest communities are composed of people who celebrate one another. Although I am a newbie at Sundress Publications, I have already been inspired by the commitment to community. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Jane Huffman is a poet and playwright who reads and writes from a variety of bedrooms in the Midwest. She is currently studying poetry with Diane Seuss at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI, which is a small town with a big literary scene. This week, her favorite poets are Salvador Plascencia, who is actually a novelist, John Darnielle, who is actually a songwriter, and Eduardo Corral, who sometimes answers her Facebook messages. Her work has been featured in a variety of journals in print and online, most recently RHINO, theNewerYork, Galavant, and A Bad Penny Review.