This Labor Day weekend, my family took a road trip through North Cascades National Park. Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Winthrop, WA, to grab a snack and stretch our legs after a long drive. Things went downhill almost as soon as we got out of the car.
Winthrop, it turned out, was under siege by bees. Bees were everywhere, dive-bombing us when we tried to enjoy an iced chai at an outdoor cafe, popping up unexpectedly from under the boards of the wood-plank sidewalks, and swarming us when we dared to stop in a creekside park for lunch. In the end, we gave up, packed up, and drove an hour farther into the mountains to eat in peace.
Our experience wasn’t all that unusual, but it left me wondering what would happen if a town really did get taken over by bees. How would the residents react? How would tourists rate their visit if they were constantly under threat of being stung by oversized and increasingly organized honeybees?
I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So, I started writing. The end result was a weird, experimental little story in the form of a series of online reviews — to say anymore would be spoiling it.
I’m pleased that the editors of Creative Colloquy enjoyed it enough to publish it on their site. You can read “Reviews of Sanctuary Creek Honey Farm” now:
If you like the story, let me know by leaving a comment below. If you’re a writer in the South Sound with a story or poem that’s ready for publication, check out Creative Colloquy. They’re always looking for local scribes to feature. Thanks for reading!
In the fall of 2020, I was desperate for an escape. Between the bitter election and the threat of the pandemic, the future looked pretty bleak. So, in an effort to tune it all out, I wrote a script for a science fiction adventure set in the distant future. It was a lighthearted, retrofuturistic, utopian story in which a mustache-twirling villain bent on destruction faces off against a space-age knight in shining armor.
Against all odds, that script became a podcast. My collaborator William McDonald helped corral a stellar cast of voice actors, a composer to write music for the show, and a graphic designer to create our show art. It went from concept to reality in less than two years and now we’re up for an award.
The Audio Verse Awards recognize the finest audio dramas of the past year and “The Adventures of Captain Radio” is one of about 150 nominees, all of which are stellar. The competition is stiff — that’s where you come in. We need your help to make it through to the final round. Voting is open through October 30, 2022, and we could really use your vote.
You should know that the ballot isn’t very mobile-friendly, so it’s best to use a desktop or laptop (or you can switch to the desktop view on a mobile device by clicking the “Aa” symbol near the top of the page). On the New Productions category, simply find our show art in the lefthand column and drag it to the right column to rank us as one of your choices. The more shows you rank, the more weight your vote will carry.
Our whole team has poured so much heart into this story and these characters and it would mean a lot to see those efforts rewarded with a 2022 Audio Verse Award. Thank you for your support and for your vote!
Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. Creative projects fill my proverbial cup. But sometimes, I just don’t have the time to devote to the practice of writing, or when I do have the time, I can’t muster up the energy to actually put my fingers to the keyboard. Am I a bad writer because I can’t get the words to flow?
I’m not a machine. I can’t flip a switch and suddenly be in production mode. That isn’t how creativity works. When the baby hasn’t been sleeping well or when I’ve spent all of my creative energy at work or when the dishes are overflowing the sink, it’s hard to even want to write.
There is a voice in my head that says, “You’re not a real writer if you avoid writing. You’ll never publish your novel, finish your podcast script, send this short story out, etc.” Maybe you’ve heard this voice, too. It’s persistent, gnawing. It’s also dead wrong.
I don’t know anybody who can write like clockwork every single day without a break. We all feel exhausted or overwhelmed sometimes. I often take long hiatuses from my creative writing, which makes me feel guilty, but it shouldn’t. Because there are days when the news is bad and the chores can’t be ignored and after all that, I just need to shut my brain off for 30 minutes with some TV. Or simply go to bed early.
I would love to be one of those highly disciplined artists who stick to a rigid schedule, churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. Maybe I’ll be a full-time writer someday and have the privilege to spend my days like that. But right now, I have so many other things that need my attention.
I don’t think that makes me a bad writer or somehow not a “real” artist. I’m human—and most of us humans need to rest when we’re tired, so we can come back refreshed, inspired, and excited to put words on the page. After all, if you’re not enjoying the act of writing, then what’s the point?
How do you write when you don’t have the time or the energy to write? 1) Aim small. Instead of writing for an hour, write for 10 minutes, or write even one sentence. It feels good to make progress on a project, no matter how small it is. 2) Maybe you don’t worry about it today. Your Word doc with its incessantly blinking cursor will still be there tomorrow. It is good to give yourself a break. Rest when your mind and body need it. Give yourself permission to focus on your to-do list and don’t feel bad about dedicating time to other parts of your life. Stephen King has to fold and put away his laundry just like the rest of us.
It’s okay not to write. You’re still a writer, even if it’s been days, weeks, or months since you actually wrote a word. If the desire to tell a story is still in you, then you’re the real deal.
So here’s to the working parent writers. The full-time job writers. The juggling-multiple-jobs writers. The caregiver writers. The chronic health condition writers. The gotta-focus-on-my-mental-health writers. The burned-out writers. I’m with you. And when we’re ready to get back to our manuscripts, it’s going to be amazing. Until then, be kind to yourself.
For years, Twitter was hailed as a cure-all for the ills of 21st-century life. It eliminates gatekeepers, they said. Now everyone has a platform! Writers can easily connect with their readers! Journalists can discover and report on stories as they break! Politicians will be more accessible than ever! Proponents lauded the platform as a modern-day version of the village commons where the free flow of ideas and opinions would create healthier democracies. People pointed to the way Arab Spring protestors, Occupy Wall Street, and the #MeToo movement used Twitter to organize their efforts for social and political change. Even I bought into the hype, viewing the platform as an unfiltered news source and a promotional tool all rolled into one.
We were wrong.
Starting in the mid-2010s, Twitter’s flaws were laid bare as demagogues and trolls weaponized it. Misinformation skyrocketed and crowds of followers were whipped up into dangerous mobs. And it wasn’t just Twitter. Facebook was hijacked by conspiracy theorists to spread lies like wildfire and state-sponsored hackers leveraged its algorithm to shape the outcome of elections. But while Facebook was vilified for its inaction and ineptitude, Twitter’s reputation survived relatively untarnished, even as it allowed the likes of Donald Trump to threaten his opponents and for legions of anonymous users to hurl abuse, slurs, death threats, and harassment.
Somehow, the faithful convinced themselves that despite the hateful rhetoric and the real-world consequences of proxy wars being fought through its app, Twitter was fundamentally a good thing. Or at least, it was a neutral entity with a capacity for good if the right guardrails were in place.
We came to equate Twitter — and all social media by extension — as the second coming of the Athenian ideal of direct democracy, where everyone could contribute their voice to discussions on a global scale. Then, a billionaire who disagreed with the company’s moderation practices swooped in to buy it, and I was reminded that Twitter isn’t the public square. It never was. We aren’t recreating the Greek polis1. If anything, we are living through a resurgence of the Gilded Age, when rich aristocrats accountable to no one slandered their critics in the newspapers they owned.
Is there hope? Perhaps Twitter’s new owner, who claims to be a free speech “absolutist,” won’t dismantle moderation policies which reign in some of the platform’s darkest impulses. Maybe there will be a renewed commitment to protect vulnerable groups from online bullying and harassment. It’s possible there will be a slow exodus to some other social media provider, or that we’ll simply retreat to our individual corners of the Internet, cocooning ourselves in a decentralized network of blogs and mailing lists. I’m not sure what I’ll do. A lot of the traffic to my website comes from Twitter. No other platform provides as big a reach for writers and artists who depend on social media for their livelihood, so many of us stay, even as it comes as an increasingly steep ethical price.
Last week, I listened to an episode of the Rumble Strip podcast. The episode describes how, in many small towns in New England, the entire town meets once a year to debate and vote on the issues facing their community. It’s a remarkable reminder that true democracy happens face-to-face in coffee shops and high school gyms. It’s slow, hard work that relies on a common understanding of the rules of engagement, respect for those who disagree with us, and a shared goal of caring for our neighbors. As we choke on social media’s grip on our national conversation, we’ve largely lost the art of civil debate and shared governance. I don’t know if we can get back to that place, but I hope it isn’t too late.
Note:The Athenian system of democracy, while innovative, was far from ideal, with citizenship limited to a small group of free men allowed to participate in the political sphere, with women and slaves excluded.The ancient Greeksstruggled to keep their democratic experiment alive before ultimately abolishing it in favor of rule by a small oligarchy.
Way back in November 2021, while insanely sleep-deprived from caring for a one-month-old, I made a fateful—and you might say crazy—decision: I decided to take a crack at writing a novel.
This was far from my first attempt at writing a novel. My computer’s hard drive is littered with abandoned first drafts I had every intention of finishing. I can come up with ideas at the drop of a hat, but following through on those ideas has always been a struggle for me. This time, something was different.
Every day in the month of November, I wrote. And I don’t mean I sat down at my computer with a steaming mug of tea and no distractions while I worked on my masterpiece. I was working full-time, caring for my newborn daughter, and supporting my exhausted spouse as we survived the early days of parenthood. There was no extra time for this creative endeavor. So, I wrote in the middle of the night while rocking a baby to sleep, tapping a story out one-handed on my phone in the dark at 3 a.m., and praying to the autocorrect gods that my words would be intelligible in the morning.
November came and went. I kept writing. The Google Doc I was working in groaned under the stress as the novel grew. Soon, the app was crashing every third or fourth time I opened it. But I pressed on, determined to see the project through.
In February of 2022, my wife went back to work and I took leave to spend time with our daughter. So, nap time became writing time. In between juggling parenting and housework, while making sure the dog was getting her walks and putting out a fiction podcast, I soldiered on.
Last week, I typed the final line of the first draft of my novel, bringing my story to a close. I’m taking a break before diving into the next phase: editing. For now, I can at last say that I did what I set out to do. I wrote a novel. At just shy of 100,000 words long and chronicling the ups and downs of a family entangled with the Las Vegas Mob over the course of six decades, it’s no small feat.
Several years ago, I set myself a task of completing a manuscript by the time I turned 30 years old. I missed that deadline by a couple of years, but I proved to myself that it was possible. And having done it once, I’m pretty sure I could do it again. That’s a good feeling. I’m well aware that there’s so much more work to be done. This is only the beginning. But I’m choosing to bask in this pause between the first round of labor and all the editing that is still to come to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
If there’s a message to other artists in my experience of these past few months, it’s that it is never too late. If you’re contemplating a daunting creative project, go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come. Take the leap. Write it down. Pick up the paintbrush. See how far you can go.
I’m pleased to share that I have a new short story published this month on Creative Colloquy’s website. It’s a piece of flash fiction written in response to artist Steve LaBerge’s installation “Touching Down in Tacoma,” which was a part of the Tacoma Light Trail, an exhibition of light art in downtown Tacoma. For a few weeks this winter, LaBerge transformed the lobby of the historic Pantages Theatre into an alien landscape with a lone illuminated figure sitting beside a suit of some kind and a board of multicolored squares. Also included was an ethereal song provided by the Puget Sound Revels.
Looking at LaBerge’s piece, I was struck by the whimsy and the melancholy in the scene. With that in mind, I set out to write a short story incorporating the various elements of the installation and trying to imagine who the lone figure was and what they were doing there in this bizarre, otherworldly place. The resulting story is “Victorious,” about the last survivor of a devastating future war in the final moments of a world about to end. It appears in this month’s fiction and poetry published by Creative Colloquy, alongside a poem by Erik Carlsen.
Before reading the story, I invite you to look at “Touching Down in Tacoma” and listen to the music. Then, head over to Creative Colloquy to read the story. I hope you enjoy it!
Let me start out by saying that I didn’t intend to create a podcast. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed podcasts, having been a fervent Radiolab listener for more than 10 years, and I regularly recommend shows like 99 Percent Invisible, Levar Burton Reads, The Moth, and Imaginary Worlds to anyone who will listen. But I never thought I would make one. These shows were highly produced works of art. Coming from a film background, I knew how much time and energy that takes to pull off.
But then, the whole world changed.
A deadly pandemic upended my daily routine. I was out of work, alone at home, for days…and then weeks…and then months. I read a lot, but I also dove headlong into every podcast I could find, sampling from genres and formats I never knew existed. I listened all the time—in the shower, while weeding the garden, out walking the dog—trying to shut out terrifying reality with comforting voices in my ears.
All that listening dredged up an old idea. Back in college, I used to joke with my friend and frequent collaborator Will McDonald that someday we were going to make a black-and-white sci-fi B-movie called Captain Radio and the Mutant Mole People from the Eleventh Dimension. For years and years, it was nothing more than an inside joke. Then, in the fall of 2020, something clicked and I realized that Captain Radio wasn’t a movie at all, but a 1930s radio show.
I started writing. Soon, I had dashed off three scripts bursting with rocket ships, ray guns, robots, mad scientists, rapid-fire dialogue, melodrama, and (of course) a valiant hero. It was silly stuff, popcorn fare of the highest order, but it felt good to write something hopeful in the midst of a global catastrophe. I needed the escape, and I suspected others did, too. So, I pitched the show to Will and asked him to come along as the star and co-producer. For some crazy reason, he agreed. Together, we assembled a talented voice cast from across the country, many of whom we knew from Theatrikos Theatre Company in Flagstaff, AZ.
After a lot of work finalizing the six-episode story, organizing recordings, learning my way around Audacity, creating sound effects with random objects lying around my house (wine glasses, bags of rice, and a wet sponge among many others), the first episode dropped on December 31, 2021. Chapter 4 is out now and as we rocket toward the season finale in a couple of weeks, I’m proud of the work we’ve done and hope listeners have enjoyed coming along for the ride as much as we’ve had fun putting it together.
If you’re interested in checking out the show, you can find The Adventures of Captain Radio in all the usual places you consume podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to leave a rating and review telling others one thing you liked about it — that helps us immensely. You can also buy merchandise featuring artwork and quotes from the show, or you can skip all of that and make a monetary donation on Ko-Fi to help pay the bills. You can learn more on the Obscure Studios website if you’d like to dig deeper.
I didn’t set out to become a podcaster, but here I am. I’m so excited to be sharing this spacefaring journey with you. Thanks for listening.
What a year, am I right? After the dumpster fire that was 2020, 2021 offered new and unexpected challenges, along with a second helping of pandemic life just to keep things interesting. Personally, this past year was a time of incredible change, for which I’m grateful (ongoing global epidemic notwithstanding).
This year, I became a father, and it’s by far the best thing I’ve ever done. Sure, there are exploding diapers, plenty of screaming, and sleepless nights, but there’s also a little person who smiles when she sees me, grabs my fingers tightly, and calms down at the sound of my voice. This year was one of preparation, getting everything set up, and welcoming a new life into this messy world — and the world is a brighter place for her presence.
This was also a year that took my creative life in unforeseen directions. In November, while getting up every few hours at night with an infant, I decided to do NaNoWriMo, as a way to stay awake and much to my surprise, ended up writing 50,000 words of a novel manuscript in 30 days. I’ve kept the momentum up and now I’ve got a solid 80,000 words of a Las Vegas mobster novel and less than 20,000 words to go before I reach the end. It’s a major accomplishment for me, since I have a hard to time finishing any writing project, to be so close to typing “The End.”
My other major creative pursuit was something completely different: a full-cast audio drama. I started writing The Adventures of Captain Radio in 2020 when I was desperate for some escape from grim reality. In 2021, I got back into the project, and the first half of our six-episode season is now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other audio streaming platforms.
And to top it off, I baked some really, really delicious bread this year.
Amazingly, for the second year in a row, I accomplished all of my birthday resolutions. Let’s see if we can keep the winning streak going. Here are my personal and creative resolutions for this coming year:
Be the Best Parent I Can Be
This is a big one. I’m new to this whole parenting thing and want to be a good dad. This means taking the time to be present, leaving work at work, and devoting myself fully to the joy and hardships that come with raising a tiny human. It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding and I’m looking forward to helping my daughter explore the world. I’m thankful I live in one of the few states that offers paid family leave and I’m getting ready to take off two months to spend caring for my daughter when my wife goes back to work.
Finish What I Start
This is a big one. I get excited by new ideas, and I’ve always been more keen to kick off a shiny new thing than to invest the energy to complete an existing project. This year, I’m endeavoring to continue the projects I began last year. That means wrapping up the first draft of my novel and starting revisions, editing and releasing the rest of my podcast, and completing work on the short story collection I began editing in 2020. This year will be a year of getting things done, even if they take a while.
My life is vastly different than it was just a year ago. I’ve embarked on a new journey as a parent, changed jobs in the middle of a historic pandemic, and had most of my plans for the year upended in some way — but the results have been worth it. Change is inevitable. You can either fight it, getting lost in a cycle of anxiety about what might happen, or embrace it, making space to welcome the unknown. I can’t control what happens, but I can control my response to it. I hope to do this better as I begin this next trip around the sun.
I find the practice of setting birthday resolutions to be helpful. In a decade of doing them, I haven’t always accomplished everything I set out to do or be, but that isn’t the point. The point is to try, to strive for something, to set the mark and see how close I can get. I may stumble on the way, but that’s part of the fun. Here’s to 32.
— 30 —
Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His new fiction podcast, The Adventures of Captain Radio, is now available to stream on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere. His fiction has appeared in Creative Colloquy, Grit City Magazine, and All Worlds Wayfarer. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his newsletter for more thoughts and musings.
It’s 7:30 am on New Year’s Day. Morning dawns cold and clear and silver over the snow that still blankets the roads and rooftops in our neighborhood. I am in the nursery, trying to coax a three-month-old human to go back to sleep. My wife has been up half the night with an anxious dog while fireworks and clanging pots and pans tore through the night and I’m trying to give her a break so she can rest. The wriggling little girl in my arms finally stills, her breathing quiet as she drifts off.
The pace of life is different in the fresh hours of 2022. The previous year was a hard one. The world stood on what felt like the brink of collapse, with a virus raging and political strife surrounding us. I tried to keep myself safe and protect my family, holed up in our house, which sometimes times felt like a refuge and other times like a prison.
In the midst of uncertainty, I started a new job after months of not knowing if I would ever find one. We welcomed our daughter into this broken world on the last warm day of autumn — a glimmer of something beautiful in the gathering dark. Becoming a parent is not what I expected. I am not different; only my priorities have changed. I find more joy in simple things: an extra hour of sleep, a smile, a filling meal, and in all the changes wrought in the fires of the outgoing year.
There is nothing inherently special about this day. I choose to find meaning in the turning of the year, even though I know that there’s still going to be a pandemic, climate change, war and shadows of war, hunger and homelessness, division and suffering in 2022, just as there was in 2021. I choose to look ahead with hope despite all of that, because there’s also going to be beauty. My daughter will grow. She’ll learn to sit up on her own, express herself, and notice new things each day.
As morning light fills this tiny room, I am grateful for my family, for four walls and a comfortable rocking chair, for gray hairs, for pandemic projects, for good books and steaming cups of tea, for a small hand wrapped around my finger. And so I enter 2022 humble, weary, restless, grateful, hopeful, and ready to be surprised by the changes in store. Happy new year.
— 30 —
Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His new podcast, The Adventures of Captain Radio, is now available to stream wherever you listen to podcasts. His fiction has appeared in Creative Colloquy, Grit City Magazine, and All Worlds Wayfarer. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his newsletter for more thoughts and musings.
I wasn’t there, but I will always be there. I was eleven years old when four commercial airplanes were hijacked on the morning of September 11, 2001. Turned into weapons of mass murder, two hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, one was steered into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the final plane, who’s target may have been the U.S. Capitol building, was brought down by passengers in a field in rural Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people were killed and many thousands more were injured.
Living three time zones away, I didn’t see the destruction live, as many did, but I saw replays over and over again that day and for many weeks afterward. I can close my eyes and see smoke pouring out of a gaping wound in the South Tower, the North Tower crumbling under its own weight as a cloud of dust obscured its collapse, a man plunging headfirst from a burning skyscraper. September 11 was a day of tragedy on a scale I still struggle to comprehend — and a stark dividing line separating the world that existed up to that morning from the dark days that followed.
For those of us who were children on the day of the attack, but still old enough to remember it, the shadow cast by 9/11 is long. It is a part of our collective cultural memory, a moment when the innocence of childhood was pulled out from under us and the horrors of the world were laid bare. I once read that world events which occur in early adolescence have a profound effect on the development of our values, beliefs, and political opinions. I can’t find that article now, but I believe its central argument holds up. My worldview was strongly shaped by that day and by the events which followed: the War on Terror, the era of “See Something, Say Something” paranoia, the rise of the surveillance state, and the unraveling of our country’s civic fabric.
I was a different person after September 11, 2001. We are all different now, moulded by a shared national trauma. Consumed by grief and anger, we inflicted lasting harm on ourselves and the world. Not all of it was intentional and perhaps it could not have been avoided, but the impact of this single day of terror continues to reverberate not only across America, but also in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, caught in the crosshairs of our retribution. I don’t know where that leaves us, but I know it did not bring back those who were lost that day.
The September 11 attacks will probably always define our generation, much as the Kennedy assassination or the Moon landing are forever tied to our parents’ coming of age. I don’t know what that legacy will ultimately be. Twenty years later, the dust is still settling. But I do hope it can spur us to honor the memories of those who died, support those living with the physical and emotional scars of the attack and its aftermath, and work to create a more peaceful world where this cycle of violence is broken once and for all.