For most of the creative writers coming out of Utah, with the exception of a few literary magazines and short material websites, there aren't many resources for them to hone their craft in public. Sure, you can publish your own work and take the chance that most everything you come up with at that point is gold, but for an absolute exposure to other writers and an audience at large for opinions on substance, let alone being given any kind of challenge by your peers, you're choices for outside thoughts are slim. Which is why a brand new website has been getting some attention as of late for those looking for a quick creative experiment.
--- The Otis Nebula Literary Syndicate started up earlier this year with a focus on challenging one's own creativity while breeding new inspiration onto the masses who read it. Taking up the charge of having writers use twelve "seed" words to create a body of work, all completely free to partake in and post, as well as read and comment on. The site has grabbed some of Utah's more extreme writers by the cuff and propositioned them to examine their own style, while penning new works they wouldn't have composed otherwise. Today we chat with two of the three minds behind the website. Richard Cronshey and Rae Perkins, about their respective careers and starting up Otis Nebula, plus some thoughts for local writers. Since there really isn't a picture element to the website, please enjoy random pics they loaded to be a part of it all.
Richard Cronshey & Rae Perkins
Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Richard: My name is Richard Cronshey. I grew up in the suburbs outside Los Angeles. I graduated with a BA in English from the U of Utah in 92. After that I lived off and on for about ten years in Asia and Eastern Europe. I live outside Salt Lake now with my two kids and several cats. I work for Hospice.
Rae: I’m also a graduate of the U of U, 1998. I nearly made the catastrophic mistake of attending a prestigious MFA in writing program to which I’d been accepted. In my gut, I knew sitting in a room with ten other poets for three years was not what I was needing just then as a writer, so instead I moved to Cairo, Egypt where I got a job teaching English in a private elementary school. While there, I started writing for magazines and newspapers which lead to me spending a couple of years working as a journalist in the Bay Area. Following that, I holed up in the hills of Tennessee and wrote a novel, formed a pop band, and owned a dance studio. At the moment, I live in Hawaii with my husband and four chickens.
Gavin: How did you each take an interest in writing and what were some early inspirations for you?
Rae: For some reason, I started writing when I was a kid. I don’t remember why. It was like an instinct.
Gavin: Did you specifically seek out any college or education in your respective fields, or simply jump right into writing?
Rae: BA in English which included plenty of “creative writing workshops.” Donald Revel taught me the most important thing: how to recognize and tell the truth. Still, I think that the best education for a writer is reading everything.
Gavin: Rae, what made you take up journalism as a career, and how was it for you moving around the world covering different events?
Rae: Growing up, I never thought I wanted to be a journalist, and while I was doing it I knew that it wasn’t really for me, mostly because I don’t like calling people on the phone, not even my friends. That said, working as a journalist taught me a great deal about writing clearly and concisely which was a skill I was sorely lacking at the time.
Gavin: Right now you're translating a book with your husband from contemporary Arabic writers. How is it coming along, and when can we expect to see it published?
Rae: It is coming along extremely slowly. it’s a very arduous process. I have no idea when or if it will be published. We are sort of looking at it as an exercise, since it’s the first time we’ve done anything like this.
Gavin: Richard, you've had a number of poetry pieces published over the years. What is it like for you submitting your works and appearing in so many different publications?
Richard: I’m always surprised and glad when people respond to my writing. Writing is a weird kind of intimate act for to me so I always imagine I’m talking to someone but I don’t always know who. More and more it’s the you that’s always vanishing in myself and out of which I’m always emerging.
Gavin: You've also had full collections of your work released over the years. How have audiences taken to those books, and what are you working on at the moment?
Richard: The fact that I’ve gotten books out and the way that’s come about is a big piece of the moticvation behind otis for me. One, the first Adagio Of The Body that came out in ninety was published by Carol Gunther through her California magazine, Protea. She died of MS a couple years ago. The second was put out by a grerat local magazine Paper Salad published for years by a guy who was the night manager at Kinkos and basically kiefed the whole thing from them including my book. The third came from the Marginalian book store where I lived for a while one winter as did several other local notables. These were all small DIY projects, acts of generosity on the part of the publishers but they had a huge positive effect on my life. And the books have had their own lives. I’ve never won any prizes or anything. I haven’t gotten paid for poetry since 1992. The process is intrinsically illluminating and satisfying for me and the poems sort of procure these vivid and transient worlds for me in unexplainable ways too. I have a pretty much completed manuscript that Otis might put out if Otis so deigns, at some time in the next future. It's called Follow Everyone Down Every Street. Lots of it's up on my bloggywog. I still don’t know if what I write is any good or not. Notably a number of local Otises got into Sugarhouse Review, whereas I was shunned. This could be objective proof that I suck. Nevertheless I'm likely to go on writing poems anyway.
Gavin: How did all of you meet each other and become friends?
Rae: When I was 16, I bought a weird little green book called Afternoon In The Museum Of Late Things from the Waking Owl bookstore on 13th East. It was by Richard Cronshey and it blew my mind. Later I heard him give a reading at City Art. All us kids really sort of looked up to the Cronsh. We used to sit on his rooftop patio on 2nd South listen to him hold forth. It was great. He used to wear a top hat from time to time and the rumor was that he’d once worshiped potatoes. He had this fabulous collection of polka records. He lent one to me and my friend andrea robison. It was a big deal because it was an antique, a 45, and he made us promise repeatedly to be super careful. Of course, we accidentally broke it. I can still remember the look on his face when we showed him the pieces. As for Andrew, I had the pleasure of making his virtual acquaintance more recently. His poetry also makes me feel like there is no need for me to write poetry ever again, which is a really good feeling. What a relief! Those guys have it covered!
Gavin: Where did the idea for the Otis Nebula Literary Syndicate come from, and how did you come across the name?
Rae: I think Richard channeled it.
Richard: About a year ago I started experimenting with how composition isn’t a private act how it emerges from relationship, more or less conscious zones of rapport. I noticed poems were falling into a twelve line pattern naturally. So I posted a request that people send me any tweleve words on my Facebook page and I’d write a poem for them. And to my surprise people gave me words and to my surprise poems grew very quickly and with an authority that was to me unquestionable and at the same time independent of my identity. It’s own sorting thing. So Rae and I put up the Facebook page and started making Otises very rapidly together. It was a kind of scary abandoned way to write for me. Very spontaneous and unselfconscious.I leanred a lot and continue to about the energy that becomes available when the self is deemphasized and instead you have just listening space full of possibility. Insights similar to Rimbaud’s where he says “I am another” and scary transpersonal stuff like Spicer alluded to when he talks about his poems being written by spooks and his personality and training just being the furniture the spooks move around. So the idea of a literary syndicate has to do with spreading that power and vitality that comes through collaboration. Writing is a means of invoking culture a mutual becoming. Conventional set up is hostile to that and fosters lonely competing authors struggling to patent styles instead of living connected healthy people mutually generating vital juicy human experiences which is what poems in a free joyful organic society are.
Gavin: How are the twelve words chosen for each body of work?
Rae: Whoever wrote the Otis chooses the twelve words from the Otis they just wrote. Each person probably has a different method for selecting the words, but it’s probably mostly just random.
Gavin: What has it been like for you reading these works, and in turn, what's the public reaction been like both in reading and participating?
Rae: I love looking back over the weird fat tree that is the accumulation of the slow but persistent growth of all these Otises. And what I love is that anything can and does happen in an Otis. Also, it is fun to see how they communicate with each other.
Gavin: The site also features areas for poetry, prose, visual and audio arts as well. What made you decide to include various works that don't fit the Otis format?
Rae: That’s the thing about Otis: it spawns. The format is a seed, a spring board.
Gavin: What does it feel like to have this site grow and become a new front for the writing community in Utah?
Rae: Otis really likes this question but doesn’t quite know how to answer it.
Gavin: What is the overall goal for the project and the site itself, and are there any plans to expand beyond what you're doing now or keep it the way it is?
Richard: The overall goal of Otis Nebula is to change life back into something more honestly life like. Honest orgasms, autonomic dominance, boundless intimacy. Bliss.
Rae: I think Otis should maybe have a blog, a place where Otis can review whatever it has stumbled over and also rant and rave. The plan is for it to grow very big and strong. The fact is that we’re all sort of lazy when it comes to promotion and marketing. That could change. Otis already has shown that it has a momentum and i for one believe that it’s only a matter of time before it goes viral.
Gavin: What advice would you have for up-and-coming writers on how to get their work noticed?
Richard: Become curious about yourself as a process ultimately beyond the domain of language and allow words to rise out of a naked encounter with that most intimate ineffability which you embody. Fuck getting noticed.
Rae: It takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to be any good at anything, be it computer programming or playing the violin. I would tell all up-and-comers to stay in their hovels and caves until they’ve done their time.
Gavin: What can we expect from you both and the website the rest of the year?
Richard: Our first book, Sundin Richard’s The Hurricaner Lamp will be out before the end of the year. With Richard’s I always think of what Artaud said, basically that nobody ever created anything real except to get out of hell. That’s what drives Richard’s work in his first book and it shows. It’s really about the work itself as a way of reckoning with horror. But it’s full of charm and intricate music and humor. I’ve learned a lot from Sundin’s work that’s opened up directions for my own writing. His book is about surviving and it will survive.
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