Author and publisher Brad King hosts The Downtown Writers Jam Podcast, this hour-long, one-on-one interview program where authors discuss the horrible choices they made in life that led them down the road to writing. Sometimes there is whiskey. Oftentimes there is cursing. But always entertaining. (My friends wouldn’t lie to me, right?)
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Season 4: The Pandemic Season
I was going to finish our Season 3 by continuing to talk with my friends who have gone on to write books, but then COVID-19 hit. For the next several months, I’ll be interviewing my friends + writers who have books coming out this year, but now don’t have the chance to book launches, parties, and tours.
But still, there is whiskey.
Episode 57: Dr. Hilary Green (May 14)
Episode 56: (May 11)
Episode 55: Michael Seese (May 7)
Episode 54: Louise Fein (May 4)
Episode 53: Trevor Wood (April 30)
Episode 52: Tommy Jenkins: (April 27)
Episode 51: Samantha Bailey (April 23)
Episode 50: Sara Sligar: (April 20)
Episode 49: Janelle Brown: (April 16)
Episode 48: Katie Orphan: (April 13)
Episode 47: Sarah Frier: Bloomberg reporter Sarah Frier stopped by the Jam to discuss her book, No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram. But, we also got into her illustrious college journalism career (and if you like sports, you’ve actually heard of her work) and the work it takes to cover technology these days. Thankfully, I only told a few stories from back in my day!
Episode 46: Mindy Meija: Crime novelist Mindy Mejia stopped by the Jam to talk about her fourth novel, Strike Me Down. Along the way we talked about growing up around science and engineers, life in Minnesota, her two bachelor’s degrees (including her C.P.A. certification!), and how she’s built her own cottage industry and fan base.
Episode 45: Hayley Doyle: Buckle up, introverts, because two extroverts who’ve been locked down are coming at you in this episode. Hayley Doyle is an actress, singer, teacher, and writer with a fully-developed sense of adventure. She stopped by the Jam to talk about her debut novel Never Saw You Coming and the long, creative journey that took her from Liverpool to Dubai and then to London.
Episode 44: Elisa Batista: My old Wired.com colleague stopped by the Jam to talk about her mom blog, her life as a political activist with MomsRising, and her new book, ¡Presente! Latinx Power Remaking U.S. Democracy. Oh, and we spent a good deal of time talking about hillbillies and neighborhoods, both Appalachian and Cuban!
Episode 43: Jen Sullivan Brych: JenSul was the Wired.com colleague who wasn’t actually my colleague and the person everyone assumed I knew even though we didn’t. We’ve corrected that error on this show. Jen Sullivan Brych visited the Jam to talk about the dotcom era, her winding road to a writing career, and her first novel, which she’s currently shopping. Definitely the best, nerdiest deep dive into the world of writing in forty-three episodes of the Jam.
Episode 42: Kristen Philipkoski: My old Wired.com colleague Kristen “KP” Philipkoski dropped by The Downtown Writers Jam to talk about her new venture, Mean Magazine, a feminist magazine for GenX women. Along the way, we also reminisced about the insanity of the dotcom era and the craziness of the media way back when.
Episode 41: Erik Deckers: I sat down with Erik Deckers, a humor column writer, and the co-author of several social media books. He’s a grinder, the kind of working writer whose schedule just exhausts me. (I did that for two years and couldn’t take the stress.) We talked about that lifestyle, his writer-in-residency at the Jack Kerouac House, and his first book, Mackinac Island Nation. Oh, and there’s cussing.
Episode 40: Lauren Gaskill: Last year I had the chance to talk with Lauren Gaskill, one of my former writing students. Since graduating, she’s had an amazing start to her career, which isn’t surprising because she’s one of the most ambitious young writers I’ve ever worked with. She’s not only the author of Into the Deep: Diving Into a Life of Courageous Faith, but also a national speaker and the founder of She Found Joy.
Episode 39: Remembering Elizabeth Wurtzel: Elizabeth Wurtzel passed away on January 7, 2020. She was one of the voices of GenerationX, a proud feminist, and a god damned force of nature. She was also the first author I met. She was—and will always be—our “rock god!”
Episode 38: Julia Scheeres: My friend and former Wired.com colleague Julia Scheeres has written two best sellers: Jesus Land,a memoir of her relationship with her adopted brother David as they grew up in a fundamental Christian household in Indiana, and A Thousand Lives, a heart-wrenching story about the people who were murdered in Jonestown. But her story will blow you away. It’s the story of bravery and perseverance.
Episode 37: Woody Lewis: My friend for nearly twenty years, author Woody Lewis and I sat down for the first time to talk about his book Three Lost Souls: Stories about race, class and loneliness and life. What came out of that: his membership in the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), meeting and playing drums with Jimi Hendrix, his family’s relationship to Sally Hemings, and the struggle with writing about being black in America.
Episode 36: Evan Ratliff:We were Wired lackeys during the dotcom boom, but those days are long gone. In the years since we left the magazine, Evan is a two-time National Magazine Award finalist, the co-founder of the Atavist publishing platform, the editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine, the co-founder of Pop-Up Magazine, and now the author of what is sure to be the next big bestseller, The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal.
Episode 35: Danielle Sepulveres: Author, actress, and Tweeter extraordinaire, Danielle Supulveres‘ memoir Losing It chronicles how how she lost her virginity in what she believed was a loving relationship. Instead, her journey delves into the medical, emotional, and physical toll that comes from falling in love with the wrong person—and not trusting you own instincts.
Episode 34: Keri Leigh Merritt: We live in a time when race and class have smashed together in ways that threaten to tear about the social fabric. Historian and author Keri Leigh Merritt has written one of the best books on how we got here. Her book Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South explains the how the social and economic fabric of the “white working class” came to be—and what it means for America. In our interview, she talks about what we need to do to get out of the mess we’re in today.
(Bonus) Episode 33: George Carlin (aka, the one that started it all): In 2001, I hosted a thirty-minute interview show as part of Wired.com’s strategy to expand into multimedia. Along with my producer Jeremey Barna, we were given free reign to experiment. Most of what we did was not great, but this interview show proved to be popular. In mid-February, I had the chance to sit down with comedian George Carlin. That show—and that interview—was the genesis of The Downtown Writers Jam Podcast.
Episode 32: Vikki Tobak:Writer, photographer, curator, and storyteller, Vikki Tobak left Detroit for New York City and found herself at the center of the nascent hip-hop scene in 1991. Her new book Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop will change the way you think and talk about the music that shook up America.
Episode 31: KT Peterson: After hours of conversations with Brad outside the podcast, Indianapolis playwright and writer KT Peterson came by to talk about how empathy, performance, curiosity, and writing come together in her work.
Episode 30: Too Black: Indianapolis spoken word artist Too Black stopped by the podcast to talk about how he developed his performance and writing voice, and how he’s gotten comfortable challenging the assumptions people hold.
Episode 29: Jen Blackmer: PEN Literary award-winning playwright Jen Blackmer came by the podcast to discuss the importance of the personal perspective in art, particularly in the time of a Trump presidency.
Episode 27: Trisha Borowicz: In this episode, we went full nerdy-artist-filmmaker smart with Trisha Borowicz, a scientist and documentary filmmaker who raised $20,000 to create her film Science, Sex, and the Ladies: The True Story of the Female Orgasm in 2011.
Episode 26: Matt Mullins: Back from a winter hiatus, the Podcast picks up with more post-election musings between Brad and his guest Matt Mullins, a writer and professor at Ball State. In this episode, the two middle-aged white guys discuss how the election of Donald Trump changed the way they approached writing and storytelling, a theme you’ll see resonating through the next several months.
Episode 25: Celestine Bloomfield: In this first post-election episode, Storyteller Celestine Bloomfield stopped by to talk about her career as a storyteller, and how she’s used those skills in the business world. But she’s not about to get hemmed in by the shifting political winds.
Episode 24: Ben Asaykwee: Ben Asaykwee left Indiana to pursue his music and returned home to form one of Indianapolis’ most interesting and innovative theater companies, Q Artistry. Along the way, he wrote Christian music in Nashville and performed original theater in Chicago. And his show Cabaret Poe has been running for eight years. But his story is really about the need to create.
Episode 23: Frankie Bolda: Frankie Bolda stopped by the Jam Podcast for a conversation about improv comedy and writing. Frankie is one of those theater dynamos who lives in Indianapolis. The twenty-five year old is the associate artistic director of EclecticPond Theater Company, the director of fan services at Comedy Sportz, and has built her entire life around creating and writing (even if I had to convince her that she was a writer).
Episode 22: Adam Petty: Brad and Adam spent a good deal of time talking about how hard science fiction shaped our early lives, and why it’s difficult for boys to find spaces to explore deep, meaningful questions. (And we talked about being a stay-at-home dad and a writer.)
Episode 21: Shannon McLeod: Shannon McLeod is a soft-spoken writer from Michigan who writers stories where characters almost, but not quite. Much like like. Currently, she’s a teacher and writer (although never the two shall meet, as you’ll soon find out). Her work has has appeared in Hobart, NEAT, Word Riot, Cheap Pop, TXTOBJX, Moonsick Magazine, The Billfold, and (R.I.P.)Gawker. Her chapbook Pathetic is available from Etchings Press, the student-run publisher of the University of Indianapolis Department of English, and Metonymy Media.
Episode 20: Kelli Allen: Brad caught up with author Kelli Allen before her Etchings Fest workshop in Indianapolis. She talked about her eclectic journey through the world, and how that has shaped her writing.
Episode 19: Loren Niemi: Brad is still trying to wrap his head around the fact that Storyteller is a career. To help him understand what that means, Loren Niemi stops by the Jam to discuss his life as a Storyteller, his work with businesses, and his background in Philosophy and Visual Arts that prepared him for it all.
Episode 18: Casey Ross: Writing is a terrible, terrible trade. But it’s also one that can help find the voice we always wanted, but could never muster. Indianapolis playwright Casey Ross stopped by the Jam to talk about how writing plays helped her find herself, and find some measure of closure with her childhood.
Episode 17: Les Kurkendaal: Welcome to the first iteration of the second generation of The Downtown Writers Jam Podcast with Brad King. In this episode, we sat down with Los Angeles-based storyteller Les Kurkendaal, who was in town performing “Terror on the High Seas” as the Indy Fringe Festival. But this conversation was really about how Les found his voice as a writer despite the pushback he’s gotten from the more traditional theater and acting world. And how his writing has evolved from comedy to theater to storytelling.
Episode 16: David Blomenberg: Well we’re back from our short hiatus. Which really wasn’t short. It’s been 18 months since we sat down with David Blomenberg, who was frankly one of our favorite authors at The Downtown Writers Jam, Vol. 3. He rocked my socks so much, I had to sit down with him. I’m just sorry it took me so damn long to get this episode up.
Episode 15: Kari McElroy: Well we’re back from our short hiatus. Which really wasn’t short. It’s been 18 months since we sat down with Kari McElroy, our favorite graphic novelist. While life has moved on, her story hasn’t. And she’s STILL the author of Regarding Dandelions, which is both a labor of love and incredibly cool. (And yeah, it’s been so long I accidentally pronounced her name wrong at the end. Don’t nitpick. Just listen. And download her work!)
Episode 14: Salvatore Pane: Salvatore Pane is at the center of the small and independent literary scene in Indianapolis. He’s a professor at the University of Indianapolis, he’s an author, and he’s part of Corgi Snorgel Press (along with his fiance Theresa, who is also a big driver of the scene.) Brad and Sal talked about writing, working class sensibilities, and the New York Knicks, three ideas that are more linked than you may think.
Episode 13: Halle Butler: Halle Butler’s novel Jillian is getting rave reviews. I had the chance to sit down with her last November — before the book came out — to talk about writing while drinking tea in the office of Curbside Splendor Publshing in Chicago. It was also her first official interview, which made for an even better time.
Episode 12: Dmitry Samarov: Dmitry Samarov‘s book Where To? A Hack Memoir chronicles his time as a cab driver by combining narrative stories, visual art, and a ‘zine sensibility. But that’s not even close to the whole story. His parents left the Soviet Union in 1978, and came to America. Raised in Boston, Dmitry fell into writing while pursuing his passion in painting and visual arts and avoiding the dreaded 9-to-5 job. Now, he’s working on a book that chronicles the story of his immigrant parents and their journey in the U.S…kind of.
Episode 11: Ben Tanzer: Brad visited Curbside Splendor Publishing author Ben Tanzer in Chicago where they had two discussions. The first part of the podcast explored Ben’s most recent book Lost in Space, writing, and fatherhood. The second half of the podcast focused on using literature and writing to carve our spaces for men to talk about what it means to be a man in a time when societal roles are evolving. Once you’ve listened to the podcast, you can check out Ben’s performance in The Downtown Writers Jam, Vol. 2.
Episode 10: Erika T. Wurth: Curbside Splendor Publishing author Erika T. Wurth stopped by the podcast before her appearance at The Downtown Writers Jam, Vol. 2. We talked about tension, particularly how the tensions from life shape and inform the stories you tell. You can purchase her debut novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, directly from Curbside Splendor Publishing or Amazon and other retailers.
Episode 9: Amanda Heckert: Amanda Heckert is the best kind of editor. She’s got an eclectic background, she’s curious, and she loves reading, which is good since she’s the editor-in-chief at Indianapolis Monthly. She stopped by the podcast to talk about the long, weird, and winding road that brought her into publishing, her love of reading, the amazing stories she’s worked on at the magazine, and the South.
Episode 8: Angela Jackson-Brown: Angela Jackson-Brown isn’t just appearing at The Downtown Writers Jam, Vol. 2. She also stopped by the Podcast to talk about how her life helped shape her writing. Her first book, Drinking from a Bitter Cup (WiDo Publishing), is a fictionalized memoir that explores what her life in a small Southern town and abuse she faced as a child. She and Brad touched on what it means to be a writer, why it’s okay to write negatively about books, and the importance of mentors.
Episode 7: Sarah Layden: When Sarah Layden stopped by the Downtown Writers Jam Podcast, she wasn’t expecting to explore how the themes from her childhood diaries played out in her fiction writing. But that happened. Before long, they were discussing how writers find their voice, and what it means to be authentic. The showed ended as they discussed the problem with “women’s literature” label, and the ways writers use empathy to tell universal stories. Oh, and don’t forget to buy Sarah’s debut novel, Trip Through You Wires (Engine Books, 2015). You can pre-order the novel today.
Episode 6: John P. Gibson: John P. Gibson is the writer/director of Revelation Trail, a feature film that follows the journey of a preacher and a lawman along the Old West frontier as they try to find meaning in a world that is falling to the mysterious undead. Brad visited him in his office at Northern Kentucky University, where they discussed the film’s seven year life cycle, the archetypes of Joss Whedon, and why The Empire Strikes Back is the template for all sequels.
Episode 5: Ben H. Winters:Ben H. Winters is the author of the best selling book Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as well as the The Last Policeman trilogy, and a relatively recent Indianapolis transplant. He sat down with Brad to talk about his utter lack of direction in his early writing career and his daily writing routine that involves no Internet and tons of structure. At the end, he talks about his newest counter-factual novel — currently under construction — that explores an America where the Civil War never happened, and slavery was never abolished.
Episode 4: Andrew Neylon: When Andrew Neylon joined The Invictus Writers project, Brad didn’t know what to expect. Much to his surprise, “The Long War” turned out to be one of the most popular stories ever published in the series. Andrew stopped by the Jam to talk about how his father’s depression and suicide influenced his writing, how his color blindness shapes his vision of the world, and what he’s working on now.
Episode 3: Travis DiNicola: Travis DiNicola has his hand on the pulse of arts, reading, and writing in Indianapolis. He’s the executive director of Indy Reads, a non-profit literacy organization, and the host of “The Art of the Matter” on WFYI. Brad met Travis at the Indy Reads Books store to talk about how you end up getting to be the heart of the city’s art community.
Episode 2: Michelle Freed: Writer Michelle Freed wrote a one-woman stage monologue for the Fringe Festival on a whim. That’s not exactly how you’re told to find a writing career. And yet, here she is. Michelle stopped by the Jam to discuss stumbling into a writing career, doing first and learning later, and the overwhelming world modern writers have to navigate to find success.
Episode 1: Barbara Shoup: Shoup, the author of Looking for Jack Kerouac and the executive director of the Indiana Writers Center, discussed why she waited 20 years between her first and second novel, the secret worlds writers create, and what writers really think about feedback.