The Western Colorado Writers Podcast: where writers talk about writing. Join co-hosts Dr. John Lanci and Christie Matherne as they chat with local, national, and international writers about their work and their creative processes. New episodes drop on the second Tuesday of every month.
Sponsored in part by The Grand Junction Commission on Arts & Culture.
Click here for episode transcripts.
Episode 13: Absolutely Delusional: 5 Years of Slamming Bricks
On September 9th, 2023, the fifth iteration of Slamming Bricks – the largest queer-focused invitational poetry slam competition in the Four Corners region – took place at the Avalon Theater in Grand Junction, Colorado. In this episode, Caleb Ferganchick, the founder and organizer of Slamming Bricks, looks back at 5 years of hard work to tell the colorful story of how the event came to exist, how intersectionality played a key role in helping it grow (from 100 attendees to over 500), and how being “absolutely delusional” is sometimes necessary when you’re chasing a big dream. Featuring slam poetry performances by Pepper Ruzin, Briana Hammerstrom, Adrienne Cascarella, and Caleb Ferganchick.
The third edition of Slamming Bricks: An Anthology is available for purchase online.
Note: This episode contains recordings of poetry performances that use curse words in the context of artistic expression. These remain uncensored.
Episode 12: Navigating Social Media for Writers with Melody Jones
Christie talks to award-winning poet and social media expert, Melody Jones, about all things social media as it pertains to writers. Melody’s knowledge spans the basics for beginners, as well as the deeper questions about the use of social media, how to measure success with it, and what on earth to do with it now that we are stuck with it. She also discusses picking which platform to use based on your audience and how e-newsletters can help you keep in touch with your readers.
Melody Jones is an award-winning poet, social media manager, writing and creativity coach, and the President of the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum. Learn more about her on her website, MelodyJonesAuthor.com.
Episode 11: Deep Wild: Backcountry Writing with Rick Kempa
John and Christie interview Rick Kempa about the new issue of the literary journal, Deep Wild: Writing From the Backcountry. Rick talks about the ins and outs of running a literary journal, how Deep Wild fills a need in the literary landscape, whether or not Deep Wild could be considered “regional literature,” and the importance of writing communities. John and Rick talk shop about their experiences teaching college students to write, and Rick also reads a selection from his own latest book of poetry, Too Vast for Sleep.
Rick Kempa is a poet, former instructor at Western Wyoming College, and avid backpacker, who founded Deep Wild: Writing From the Backcountry five years ago. The annual literary journal is headquartered in Grand Junction and gets submissions from all over the world. To submit work or subscribe to the journal, visit DeepWildJournal.com or find Deep Wild on Facebook. Learn more about Rick Kempa and find links to his work at RickKempa.com.
Episode 10: Public Speaking and Speech Writing with Mary Watson
Dr. John Lanci and Christie Matherne tackle something every writer likely has to do at some point: Public speaking. Award-winning Toastmaster Director and co-founder of TEDx Grand Junction, Mary Watson, joins us in the studio to talk about dealing with stage fright, avoiding (and counting!) filler words, President Obama’s public speaking style, the difference between writing for publication and writing a speech, and how anyone – anyone! – can become a great public speaker. Listen to the episode for a ton of great opportunities to practice public speaking, including local Toastmaster meetings, open mic standup comedy, and open mic storytelling events.
For more information about the Grand Junction Toastmasters Club, visit their website.
Episode 9: Digging Up Grand Valley History for Social Change with Jacob Richards
For the first episode of season two, Christie Matherne and Dr. John Lanci talk to Jacob Richards – a local activist, the President of the Mesa County Historical Society, and an avid history writer – about his latest project, People’s History of the Grand Valley. Jacob also discusses the ins and outs of activism and working with groups of people, the advent of ChatGPT and how writers can utilize it, getting back to nature to avoid burnout, and moments in his life that shaped his path. Listen through the end of the episode to hear some surprising history facts about Grand Junction and western Colorado.
See his work-in-progress history book at PeoplesHistoryOfTheGrandValley.com.
Episode 8: James Van Pelt Part 2: Imposter Syndrome, Books on Writing, and Why You Should Never Kill Grandma
For the holiday season, Avery and Christie offer the gift of more James Van Pelt. This is the rest of our chat with the award-winning Grand Valley science fiction author. In this half of the interview, James – Jim to his friends – shares his thoughts on the two types of books-about-writing, his early days of writing poetry to get girls, how to accept literary rejection, and that tingly feeling you get when your story is being workshopped. We also talk about the changing self-publishing industry, why it’s not okay to kill the dog (or grandma) in a story, and how science fiction itself has changed since he was young. Follow James Van Pelt on Facebook, or visit his website at JamesVanPelt.com.
Episode 7: Dressed in This Language: Reclaiming Native Culture with Dr. Laura Tohe
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Avery and Christie chat with Navajo Nation Poet Laureate, Dr. Laura Tohe, about her native language and recent work. Dr. Tohe shares her journey to poetry, her childhood experience in a Native American boarding school, how she explores culture-wide trauma in her poetry, and details about her interviews with Navajo code talkers for her book, Code Talker Stories. Find more of Dr. Laura Tohe’s work at LauraTohe.com.
Episode 6: Screenwriting with Filmmaker Hank Braxtan
In our sixth episode, Grand Junction native and filmmaker Hank Braxtan chats with Avery about the film industry and creating your own definition of success. With films under his belt such as Snake Outta Compton, Chemical Peel, and Jurassic Hunt, Braxtan is a successful director, producer, and screenwriter. In this episode, he shares his journey through the film industry, starting with humble beginnings at the bottom of the totem pole to his experience living in Los Angeles, his recent return to Grand Junction, and his new goal of establishing a film hub here in Western Colorado. For those interested in screenwriting, Hank shares tips and online resources to help you complete your screenplay, along with some possible opportunities for those wanting to get film industry experience locally.
Follow Hank on Twitter @braxtanfilm.
Episode 5: Aerik Francis and Nico Wilkinson: Poetry, Performance, and Perspective
Aerik Francis and Nico Wilkinson, two Colorado-based award-winning poets who performed at the Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in Grand Junction this month, chat with Avery about the power of poetry in their lives, what thrills them about Grand Junction’s Pride Week and the Slamming Bricks event, and slam poetry as an art form.
Aerik is a Queer Black and Latinx poet and a teaching artist based in Denver. He is also a Canto Mundo poetry fellow and a The Watering Hole fellow and coordinates events for Slam Nuba in Denver. His latest poetry EP, Syzygy, is available on Bandcamp and his forthcoming chapbook, Miseducation, won New Delta Review’s 2022 chapbook contest in May and will be published in 2023.
Nico Wilkinson is a poet, organizer, and artist based out of Colorado Springs whose book, Inauguration, won the Pikes Peak Arts Council 2017 award for Best Publication. They organize an LGBTQ+ monthly open mic event, Keep Colorado Springs Queer; and founded the Quaill Club, a homestead co-op of queer artists in Colorado Springs. They enjoy writing tender poems about the apocalypse for their Substack, Poems for the Apocalypse, and most recently, poems about chickens.
- Aerik Francis: website / instagram @phaentompoet / Slam Nuba / Syzygy
- Nico Wilkinson: website / instagram @nicothepoet / Quaill Club / Keep Colorado Springs Queer / Poems for the Apocalypse
Episode 4: Firsts, Failures, and Frustrations: Writing Comedy with Emilie Stickley
Emilie Stickley, local comedian and cofounder of Joke Junction, chats with Avery about writing and performing comedy. She discusses her process for turning life experiences into comedy material, how to craft a funny character in your writing, and the importance of having a goldfish memory. No matter what you may be writing, Emilie covers tips for bringing in your audience, making your work relatable, and building tension to keep them hooked.
- Follow Joke Junction on Facebook by searching for Joke Junction Standup.
- Catch Joke Junction’s monthly comedy nights:
- Open Mic: Every first Thursday at Cavalcade Theater (Fruita), 7:30 pm, free
- Pints & Punchlines: Every second Thursday at Base Camp Beer Works (formerly Monumental Beer Works), 7:30 pm, free
- Comedy on the Fly: Every second Saturday at Gemini Brewing, 7 pm, $5
- Open Mic: Every third Thursday at Charlie Dwellington’s, 7 pm, free
Episode 3: The Beauty of Poetry with Beth Paulson & Lisa Wence Connors
Avery and Christie talk poetry with two incredible published Western Colorado poets. The first half is our chat with award-winning poet and Ouray County’s Poet Laureate, Beth Paulson, who co-founded and co-directed the Open Bard Poetry Series in Ridgway, CO and leads the Ridgway workshop group, Poetica. The second half of the episode features Grand Valley poet and U.S. Army veteran, Lisa Wence Connors, who hosts a monthly Poetry Night at the downtown Grand Junction library, facilitates creative workshops for the VA in Grand Junction, and is a member of the Rock Canyon Poets group. Both poets talk about their creative processes and read their work for us.
- Find Beth Paulson’s work, events, and other information on her website, WordCatcher.org. Information about the Open Bard Poetry Series can be found on Facebook.
- To find more about Lisa Wence Connors, including her work, visit RockCanyonPoets.com. Poetry Night events, hosted by Lisa, meet in the Mesa Room at the Grand Junction Central Library at 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. Visit MesaCountyLibraries.org for more information, or click here for July’s event on Facebook.
Bonus Pride Episode: Publishing Tips for Newbies from Finnian Burnett & Kimberly Cooper Griffin
Two award-winning LGBTQ+ authors from our Pride episode – Finnian Burnett & Kimberly Cooper Griffin – give us their list of tips and tricks for new writers, especially LGBTQ+ writers. Also in this episode: Finn & Kim’s thoughts on the recent massive sales uptick in the LGBTQ+ romance novel market, and Avery discusses how even independent booksellers pass over smaller LGBTQ+ publishers in favor of bigger publishing houses.
Episode 2: Pride Month Episode featuring LGBTQ+ writers!
Avery and Christie interview local LGBTQ+ slam poet, Caleb Ferganchick, to discuss poetry and activism. Caleb is the founder and organizer of Slamming Bricks: A Riot on 1st Street, the largest LGBTQ+ slam event in the state of Colorado. The second part of the episode features award-winning LGBTQ+ authors Finnian Burnett and Kimberly Cooper Griffin. They talk about flash fiction, novel writing and publishing, and how their Denver-based Inkstacks platform helps writers get from idea to polished manuscript. Finn’s also working on a queer retelling of Shakespeare and Kim’s newest sapphic romance, Sol Cycle, releases today, June 14th! Happy Pride Month everyone!
- Find Caleb online at his website – calebferganchick.com.
- Finnian Burnett and Kimberly Cooper Griffin can be found at finnburnett.com, kimberlycoopergriffin.com, respectively, and at inkstacks.com.
Episode 1: Jim Van Pelt on Sci-Fi, Writing Streaks, and Killing Frogs
Avery and Christie interview Grand Valley science fiction author, James Van Pelt. He discusses his writing process across genres from sci-fi to horror, the odd places he finds inspiration, what he has taught his students about writing during his years teaching English at Fruita Monument High School, and how writing streaks have motivated him to reach some impressive publishing goals. Jim also reads a piece of short fiction called “Everything’s Unlikely.”
- Find Jim online at his website – JamesVanPelt.com – and on Facebook.