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New KTCO: Sarah Hollowell

I have been a big fan of Sarah Hollowell both as a writer and as a person for many years now. She's one of my favorite presences on Twitter and with the publication of her debut novel, A Dark and Starless Forest, she's become one of my favorite YA writers as well.

There's a lot that I love about the book. Sarah excels at creating an atmosphere of magic that is full of wonder while also feeling eerie and dangerous. In terms of representation, this book also features a fat protagonist as well as queer characters, which I very much appreciate in a YA novel. Mostly, though, it's just a well-paced and extremely satisfying story.

In our conversation, Sarah and I talked about her writing process, about abuse dynamics, about fan fiction, and about how she engaged with anger and violence in A Dark and Starless Forest. In the second segment, we talked about the Alpha Young Writers Workshop, how it was such a formative experience for her and why she loves working with teens. I hope you enjoy the episode!

Here are some handy episode links:

And some purchase links for the book! As always, I recommend picking it up from your local independent bookstore, but if you don't have one of those available, here are some other options:

Some additional resources that you might enjoy in conjunction with today's episode:

New KTCO: Ayesha Raees

When I first started reading Ayesha Raees's debut book of poetry, Coining a Wishing Tower, I had a certain feeling of being unmoored. The form of the book (fragments that might be fable or might be prose poetry) and the tone (which varied between the fragments, some strange and Borgesian, others quite concrete) all contributed to that. But the further in I got, the more it began to cohere into an experience that, if I couldn't fully articulate what it was doing or how, was nevertheless potent and resonant. What was clear at that point was that this was a book that I'd need to return to more than once, and which would reward me if I did with new insights. That turned out to be entirely true, and I discovered threads about loss, about grief, about religion and ritual, about belonging and separation, and of a certain optimism in the face of devastation. Needless to say, I was pleased to get to talk with Ayesha for this week's episode.

Here are some handy episode links:

And some purchase links for the book! As always, I recommend picking it up from your local independent bookstore, but if you don't have one of those available, here are some other options:

Some additional resources that you might enjoy in conjunction with today's episode:

New KTCO: Anahid Nersessian

I tend not to read a whole lot of nonfiction books—for the most part, if I'm going to read criticism then I tend to read it as separate essays, and usually online. But Anahid Nersessian's Keats's Odes: A Lover's Discourse was such an edifying and resonant experience to read. Not only did she teach me a lot about a set of poems that I hadn't thought about in years—John Keats's Great Odes—but moving through the essays in this book is a personal narrative about a relationship that, although oblique, I found both emotionally moving and intellectually fascinating, particularly in how that personal narrative functions with the more straightforward critical portions. I really enjoyed having this conversation with Anahid, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

Here are some handy episode links:

And some purchase links for the book! As always, I recommend picking it up from your local independent bookstore, but if you don't have one of those available, here are some other options:

Some additional resources that you might find interesting in conjunction with this conversation:

Happy listening!

New KTCO: KTCO Book Club - Piranesi (with Maggie Tokuda-Hall)

For our first KTCO Book Club episode of the year I'm joined by writer and podcaster Maggie Tokuda-Hall to discuss Susanna Clarke's novel Piranesi! I was a huge fan of Clarke's first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and had been meaning to read Piranesi since it first came out, so I was delighted that Maggie picked it for our conversation.

Here are some handy episode links:

And some purchase links for the book! As always, I recommend picking it up from your local independent bookstore, but if you don't have one of those available, here are some other options:

Finally, a few other tidbits you might find interesting in association with this episode:

Happy listening!

New KTCO: Yanyi

We're back! For our first episode of 2022, I'm talking with poet Yanyi. There’s a way in which the end of a serious relationship can shake your entire concept of yourself, and through your grief you have to find yourself again. Yanyi’s latest book of poems, Dream of the Divided Field, braids poems about heartbreak and implied emotional violence with poems about transition and immigration. Each has a similar but distinct sense of a loss of self, a search for self, a yearning for connection and belonging, a sometimes violent disconnection—to a partner, to a place or culture, to oneself and one’s own body. In our conversation, Yanyi and I discussed his book, deconstruction and reconstruction, attachment to nuance, and the relationship between beauty and violence. Then for the second segment, we talked about grief.

Here are some links where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page on the KTCO website.

Toward the end of the first segment, Yanyi and I talked about the ways that Dream of the Divided Field is different from his first book, The Year of Blue Water. If you'd like to hear more about that book, check out our first conversation from back in 2019.

Dream of the Divided Field is available for purchase now and you can find it wherever books are sold. As always, I encourage you to purchase a copy from an independent bookstore, like The Book Catapult here in San Diego.

New KTCO: Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm talking with writer Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. Rowan’s second novel, Starling Days, is a beautiful story about the complex love between the book’s two protagonists, Mina and Oscar, and their respective challenges in the wake of Mina’s suicide attempt. Starling Days explores family and love in many forms, and how people both connect and separate. In our conversation, Rowan and I discussed the depiction of mental illness in her book, how she approached writing the multifaceted relationships between the book’s characters, and why it was important to her to include multiracial characters. Then in the second segment, we talked about faith and how we make and find meaning.

Here are some links where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page on the KTCO website.

Starling Days is now available in paperback, and you can purchase a copy wherever books are sold. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy from an independent bookseller like Pages of Hackney in London, Greenlight Bookstore in New York, The Book Catapult in San Diego, or your local bookstore.

A few pieces that I found helpful in putting both our conversation and the book in context:

  • The first piece of Rowan's writing that I'd ever encountered was her essay "The Woman Scared of Her Own Kimono." The idea of being a stranger to your own ancestral culture is one that we discussed in our conversation, and one that's very relevant to the character of Oscar in Starling Days
  • In addition to being a writer, Rowan is also an illustrator. Her comic "An Agnostic's Longing" has a quiet, elegiac beauty to it, and I think it provides a good companion for some of what we discussed around faith and language.
  • Right around the time of the US publication of Starling Days, Rowan published an essay with LitHub called "How To Write a Novel When Everyone You Love Might Be Losing It." In it, she writes about negotiating wellness and sickness, and how even though fiction draws from real-life experience, it's not the same as autobiography.

New KTCO: Farrah Karapetian

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm talking with artist Farrah Karapetian. Known for her large-scale photograms, Farrah’s wide-ranging practice incorporates sculpture, performance, and different forms of mark-making to stretch the photographic medium as she is driven by her intense and rigorous curiosity. In our conversation, Farrah and I talked about the appeal of the photographic medium, the tension between constructing an image and the happy accident, and the ethics of artistic beauty. Then in the second segment, we discussed the Nardal sisters and how we develop a language around issues like exoticization.

Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page at the KTCO website.

From the KTCO Archive: Ken Rosenthal

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm revisiting my 2016 conversation with photographer Ken Rosenthal. Ken's work has always stuck in my mind for both its striking visual style and the way that he uses images to represent and explore his internal emotional and psychological state. Whether he's looking at landscapes or family members or familiar objects, his photographs resonate because they represent the personal. We talked about several bodies of work, including his series The Forest and a series that was then a work-in-progress called Days On the Mountain. For the second segment, Ken and I talked about change, and how when it comes in our personal lives it can spur us to new heights in our work.

Since I first released our conversation, Ken has gone on to publish Days On the Mountain as a beautiful photobook via Dark Spring Press. You can order a copy directly from Ken via his website, either the book on its own, or a signed and numbered limited edition copy with a print.

Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page at the KTCO website.

New KTCO: KTCO Book Club - Song (with Gabrielle Bates)

This week for the KTCO Book Club, I'm talking with poet and podcaster Gabrielle Bates about Brigit Pegeen Kelly's 1994 poetry collection, Song. In our conversation, Gabrielle and I talked about how Kelly builds the worlds of her poems, how the poems layer metaphor, and how the poems manage to be simultaneously (and paradoxically) both surreal and grounded.

Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page at the KTCO website.

As always, I recommend purchasing copies of Song from your local independent bookstore, but if you don't have one available to you, Open Books in Seattle and The Book Catapult here in San Diego take online orders and can ship to you. (Those links will take you straight to the ordering pages for Song.) You can find links to Gabrielle Bates's work at her website, and you can listen to her podcast The Poet Salon (one of my favorite literary shows) in your favorite podcast app.

New KTCO: Kary Wayson

This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm talking with poet Kary Wayson. The poems Kary’s latest collection, The Slip, are wonderfully slippery in both form and feeling, in a way that demands attention and rewards deep engagement. In our conversation we discussed what a poem can do, how we approach “meaning” in poetry, and how life changes affect our art. Then in the second segment, we talked about time and our human perception of duration.

Here are some links where you can listen to the episode:

You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page on the KTCO website.

You can purchase a copy of The Slip directly from the publisher, or from an independent bookstore like Open Books in Seattle, The Book Catapult in San Diego, or your own local bookstore.

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