Tag Archives: Joseph P. O’Brien

“Be Open to the Miracle of Human Limitation” – A Conversation with Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day was one of our weird little zine’s earliest contributors, as her short story “Faerie Medicine” appeared in our second issue back in the Summer of 2014. Other stories by Julie have appeared in  InterzoneSplit Lip Magazine, and Black Static, to name just a few. She’s also the author of Uncommon Miracles, released this fall by PS Publishing, and currently available in hardcover or Kindle editions. Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link called the book “a collection of stories to unsettle your dreams and make the world a stranger and more delightful place.”

Julie recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about Uncommon Miracles, as well as analog artifacts, virtual travel, and the value of surrealism…

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JO’B: There are various kinds of “Uncommon Miracles” in the stories in your new book: scientific, religious, magical– sometimes even a mixture of two or three. Do you believe in miracles, in the supernatural sense? Or do you think most “miracles” are potentially explicable by science? Or do you believe both are possible?

JCD: Let me start by saying I believe in the part selves, subpersonalities and the dissonance of beliefs these various parts can create. In other words, yes and no. Humans, as biological creatures, can only perceive what our bodies are capable of experiencing. If you consider reality an amalgam of all the sensory data biological creatures perceive, we already miss so much, whether it’s the infrared markings on flower petals or the navigational guides provided by the earth’s magnetic fields. If you consider how much more there must be to the universe beyond that, we miss the majority of reality.

Science is a methodology that allows us to both gain and organize knowledge about the universe. But no matter how often people correct and refine and illuminate, our scientific understanding will never present the objective universe. We humans will always be limited to viewing the universe through the lens of our biology.

JO’B: Have you ever witnessed anything you’d describe as a miracle?

JCD: This is a bit of a sideways answer, but it’s also the best answer I can think of. When I was thirteen my family moved into a house that was over two hundred years old. On the right-front side of the house was a separate front door leading to a small room, too big to be a hallway. We were told that before funeral homes, the dead and their caskets were given their own entrance into and exit from the house. That feeling you have that you see something, like a trailing bit of white fog, from the corner of your eye? I repeatedly, though not frequently, felt that when I lived in that house. I even felt the emotional presence of people like my grandfather, someone who had died thousands of miles away. Part of me says none of it was real, my imagination is a wild tangle inserting itself in much of my experiences. Another part of me says be open to the miracle of human limitation. There will always be the miraculous, aspects to life we may never fully experience or understand.

JO’B: As someone who was raised Catholic (and has since lapsed), I get the sense while reading your work that you also might’ve had a somewhat religious upbringing (or at least been surrounded by religion as a child). Is that true, and if so, how do you think that may have influenced your writing?

JCD: I was born in the North of England but my family moved to southern Indiana when I was six. In other words, my first real experience with religion was abrupt and painful and incredibly alienating. Like many in the U.K. I was raised in a very secular family. Columbus, Indiana was full of churchgoers who believed in a very restrictive Christian orthodoxy. They were completely oblivious at best and antagonistic at worst to the idea that there were people unlike them in their midst. Despite our common language, English, it was a funhouse-mirror of what I considered the real world.

My imagination was my refuge. But I’ve also always had a very analytical mind. Thinking things through and finding the pattern or the common thread is very much my thing, that and a love of the unexpected truth found in our physical world—truths that require scientific observation and experimentation. So when a teacher taught creationism and evolution, making it clear evolution made no sense; when a teacher quoted a bible verse about women being silent in the church; when some civic group came around our elementary school handing out the new testament; when all of those things occurred, I felt trapped between needing to be quiet to feel safe and needing to be true to how I saw the world. It was an intensely uncomfortable experience. And because it is tangled up with far more personal family events, there is a deeper darkness tied to it as well. In the end, on an emotional level, organized religion will always have an association with that Bible Belt childhood.

All this and yet my younger child and spouse both attend a lovely local church that does much for the community. While I appreciate that sense of connection they find there, it’s not for me.

JO’B: Did you, like me, also spend a lot of time wandering through the woods as a kid? (I kind of get that sense too.)

JCD: Yeah, absolutely. I still do. 🙂 My childhood was a different time. On the outskirts of the subdivision where we lived, just a block or two away, were woods, a stream, and corn fields. My friends and I were very much “free range.” It seemed like we were the only ones who went down there. We attempted to cross the stream on rotted-down trees, messed around with the “quick sand” along its banks, and fretted about the possibility of lockjaw from the rusty nails we came across—or at least I did.

JO’B: Your story “Raising Babies,” as well as “Faerie Medicine,” the piece you contributed to FLAPPERHOUSE, involve people undergoing plant-related metamorphoses. If you were to shape-shift into some kind of vegetative life-form, what would it be, and why?

JCD: Can I cheat a little and claim kinship with fungi? With the entire fungi kingdom? They are thrilling. Some fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually at different points in their lifecycle. Funguses can poison or heal or provide nutrition. They decompose organic matter so that the living world can continue. They are mysterious and numerous and not nearly as well understood as the other two eukaryotic kingdoms. Looking at pictures of bioluminescent fungi raises my mood every time. That green-yellow light is my type of magic. And they have chitin—yes the material used for insect exoskeletons and fish scales—in their cell walls! Continue reading “Be Open to the Miracle of Human Limitation” – A Conversation with Julie C. Day

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #25, In Pictures

A sky-full of thank-yous to everyone who helped make our 25th reading such a heavenly evening: Karisma, Carly, Monica, and Khaholi for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your scintillating singing and photography; Pacific Standard for the always-gracious hospitality; and all you lovers & dreamers who came to hear our voices.

Let’s do this again on All Hallows’ Eve…

[photos by Alibi Jones]


Karisma Price performs poetry about family, Greek mythology, and James Booker

Carly Joy Miller recites poems of desire from her new book Ceremonial

Joseph P. O’Brien reads a new children’s story, “The Dog Who Played Dead During the National Anthem”

Monica Lewis shares a new “Game of Thrones”-inspired poem

Khaholi Bailey reads “New Names,” a story about identity, religion, and Madonna

Alibi Jones leaves the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #24, In Pictures

An infinite cycle of thank-yous to everyone who helped make last night’s reading such a magical, memorable evening: George, Denise, Kwame, and Rax for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your scintillating singing and photography; Pacific Standard for the always-gracious hospitality; and all you fantastic folks who came to witness it all.
Let’s do this again on September 26…

[all photos by Alibi Jones except the last one by JO’B]

George Kovalenko reads passionate poems about donkey sanctuaries & black metal

Denise Jarrott reads some invocational poetry from her book NYMPH

Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #24, In Pictures

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #23 In Pictures

A tremendous tidal wave of thank-yous to everyone who helped make last night’s reading such a blast: Leland, Kailey, John, Olivia, and Ariel for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your scintillating singing and photography; Pacific Standard for the always-gracious hospitality; and all you gorgeous humans who came to join the party.
We hope to see y’all again later this summer…

[photos by Alibi Jones]

Leland Cheuk reads his sharp & satirical tale about “Social Media Selves”

Kailey Tedesco reads some of her ring-themed poems from She Used to Be on a Milk Carton

John J. Trause praises the variety of colors of women’s turtlenecks offered by L.L. Bean
Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #23 In Pictures

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #21, In Pictures

A billion bouquets of flowery gratitude to everyone who helped make last night’s reading such a glorious gathering: Katie, Laura, Abigail, Gregory, and Gabriela for performing your flappy lits; Alibi Jones for your scintillating singing & photography; Pacific Standard for the ever-gracious hospitality; and all you gorgeous people who came to witness it all…
we’ll see you again sometime in May, perhaps?…

[photos by Alibi Jones]

Katie Longofono shares some of her infectious “Virus” poems

Laura Podolnick Dukhon reads her hilariously hellish story “The Underworld is a Multiverse and All Your Lovers Are Invited”

Abigail Welhouse performs some of her Greatest Hits from Bad Baby

Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #21, In Pictures

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #20, In Pictures

A gazillion gallons of glittery gratitude to everyone who helped make last night’s reading such a groovy deee-lite: Kim, Armando, Sarah, Anthony, and Devin for performing your flappy lits; Alibi Jones for your scintillating singing & photography; Pacific Standard for the ever-gracious hospitality; and all you gorgeous people who came in from the unseasonable warmth to witness it all…we’ll see you again on March 21…

[photos by Alibi Jones]

Kim Coleman Foote reads stories inspired by playing with the letters in her friends’ names

Armando Jaramillo Garcia recites poetry about atomic towns & unrecognized philosophy

Sarah Bridgins shares some glamorous poems about rosé & paintings of Real Housewives

Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #20, In Pictures

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #19, In Pictures

A towering bonfire of gratitude to everyone who helped make our 19th reading such a toasty & crackling evening: Kwame, Valerie, William, Monica, and Gabriela for performing your flappy lits; Alibi Jones for your scintillating singing & photography; Pacific Standard for the ever-gracious hospitality; and all you lovely humans who came out on a Winter’s night to witness it all.  Let’s do this again on February 21 for our 20th (!) Reading / Year Four Flight Party…

photos by Alibi Jones

 Kwame Opoku-Duku reads some of his Ecclesiastes-inspired poetry

Valerie Hsiung shares some powerful excerpts from in her own words

William Lessard performs some of his brilliantly surreal “Facebook” poems
Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #19, In Pictures

“Make American Loitering Great Again” – A Conversation with Leland Cheuk

Leland Cheuk is a big part of the Flapperhouse family: he has performed at three of our readings, and contributed three excellent flash fictions to our Summer 2017 issue (including “Vote For Arnie,” which we posted last week). He has also contributed work to fine publications like Salon, Catapult, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner, and has written wonderful books like LETTERS FROM DINOSAURS and THE MISADVENTURES OF SULLIVER PONG. Leland recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about his writing, as well as generation gaps, the universal appeal of Haruki Murakami, and the potential economic necessity of polyamory.

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JO’B: You’ve said that the flash fictions you contributed to our latest issue are part of a “concept album” you’re working on…what can you tell us about the concept of this work-in-progress?

LC: I’m trying to write a novel in mostly flash fictions that features an ensemble of feral characters in a feral, near-future America. I’m becoming more interested in absurdity and surreality and I think shorter fiction is generally a better way to explore these aesthetics. It’s an effort on my part to shed some of the things that we writers learn in MFA programs—like the worship of naturalism, social realism, and character development/epiphanies. I just want to be doing something totally new with each book. 

JO’B: Your flash fiction “Vote for Arnie” suggests a world in which people can go back in time and correct history’s biggest mistakes. If you had one such opportunity, what would you want to fix? What positive results would you hope to achieve, and what negative repercussions would you fear might occur? 

LC: Great question! I’d come back to kill John Connor. No, I think I’d go back and advise the President to devise a more equanimous response to 9/11. That’s really been the biggest game-changing choice is my adult life. Think of all the lives saved, the military spending that could have been repurposed if we hadn’t gone into the Middle East. Maybe there’s no ISIS. Of course, we’d probably have found another war to get into. Fifteen years is a long time for America to be without war—we’re addicts.

JO’B: If you were to run for President in 2020 (in a world without time-travel, of course), what would be your platform? If you won, what would be your first executive order, and your first official tweet in office?

LC: I’d probably run on a similar platform as Jon Gnarr, that comic that became mayor of Reykjavik. I’d want to Make American Loitering Great Again #malga and make Dazed and Confused required grade-school viewing. I’d commission Oliver Stone to make a sequel to Wall Street named Main Street, in which I would make the Gordon Gekko speech, except the word “greed” would be replaced by “dumb.” Dumb is good, dumb is right, dumb works. Continue reading “Make American Loitering Great Again” – A Conversation with Leland Cheuk

“The Human Part is Now.” – A Conversation with Mila Jaroniec

Mila Jaroniec has been part of the Flapperhouse family since way way back: her poem “Window Glass” appeared in our very first issue, and she was the very first reader to perform at our very first reading.

Mila’s work has also been published at Hobart, Teen Vogue, and LENNY, among many others. She’s an editor for the wonderful team at drDOCTOR, and her excellent novel Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover was published last November by Split Lip Press. (Check out an excerpt over at Joyland.) She recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about her new book, as well as the afterlife, airport novels, hilarious Polish proverbs, and much more…

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JO’B: You’ve aptly described Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover as a “road novel with no road,” and it also struck me as a novel about living in limbo. It resonated especially strongly with me, and reminded me of whatever I can still remember from my own early/mid-twenties. There’s plenty of excitement in the sex & drinks & drugs & uncertainty, yet that same uncertainty also creates this restless, stuck-in-a-rut, waiting-at-the-airport sensation, constantly anxious for something to “HAPPEN.” And while that feeling of limbo has certainly ebbed for me as I’ve progressed through my late-twenties & into my thirties, I still find myself there on occasion. With this book, did you intend to create an atmosphere highly specific to that particular stage of late adolescence/early adulthood, or was it meant to be even more universal & accessible than that?  

MJ: It wasn’t planned that way at all. I mean, I didn’t think about stages or accessibility. I just wanted to do a portrait of a person. A young messed up person, in this case, but there are many, many older adults who are stuck in this eternal adolescence. Drug addicts especially.

JO’B: At one point in the book, your narrator (aka “La Maga”) and her friend discuss whether an after-life of non-existence is closer to heaven or hell. Do you side with one character more than the other in that debate? Do you have any unique theories on human existence post-death, or do you think we just cut to black?

MJ: I wanted to think we just cut to black for so long – it’s so easy – but I can’t make myself believe that. It’s just a comforting thought when I feel afraid of dying. Blackout is a comfort. But, you know, I don’t necessarily believe we retain our consciousness as it is now. It changes form. We are souls being carried around in bodies, for now, and then we are set free to do something else. There’s no human existence post-death. The human part is now.

JO’B: PVBS is kind of an “airport novel,” in that much of it takes place in an airport, even though [SPOILER] La Maga never really gets where she’s going. The book’s also overtly inspired by Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch, which La Maga refers to as “the perfect airport book.” Of course, when most people think of an “airport novel” they probably think of fast-paced, plot-heavy thrillers by Dan Brown or James Patterson. So if a publisher offered you a lifetime of financial security to write a more typical airport novel, what would the title & plot summary be? (And your pen name as well, if you prefer to keep your literary & genre work separate?)

MJ: A lifetime of financial security to write one fast-paced thriller? I’m not above that. So maybe it could be about this housewife with humble beginnings, maybe an immigrant, married to this very high-profile multi-millionaire, and she has everything she wants and an extremely lavish lifestyle, but then she starts to suspect he’s killing and dismembering women, something like that. Which he is. And hiding them in the house. There’s a whole torture chamber in the mansion. So what does she do with this information, and does she make it out alive? He treats her completely normally the whole time. Until he finds out she knows…

Is this convincing? I might actually write this. Get a how-to book, like Ottessa Moshfegh did to write Eileen, and go to town. And of course I would keep my name. I’m not precious about stuff like that. Continue reading “The Human Part is Now.” – A Conversation with Mila Jaroniec

FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #10, in Pictures

A thousand gabba-gabba-heys to everyone who helped make Reading #10 bop like a rock n’ roll high school: Cooper, Nancy, Adam, Ilana, Emily, Armando, Monica, and Stu for performing your flappy lits; Alibi for your stellar singing & striking photography;  Pacific Standard for being as cool a venue as CBGB (but much cleaner, of course); and all you punk rockers who came out to be part of our happy family; we’ll do this again on October 26 with our 1st-ever Halloween-time scary story celebration…  

(photos by Alibi Jones)

img_4077Cooper Wilhelm takes us into the dark with some brand-new poetry

img_4085Nancy Hightower reads “Charlotte,” her twisted take on Charlotte’s Web from FLAPPERHOUSE #11  Continue reading FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #10, in Pictures