GUEST POST // A Game of Look and Find for Poetry and the Blog that Hosts it [Q&A]

Dear Readers, we are lucky enough to have become acquainted with Franki Hanke, a student administrative assistant with the Hamline University English Department. She also writes for its in-house blog Hamline Lit Link, and we’re thrilled that she decided to conduct an interview with us recently. My, oh my! Isn’t that exciting? We’re going to be on the front page of the University wall newspaper! So lean in, Dear Students, and squint your eyes to catch all the fine print. Oh, and please, do be polite and don’t spoil our beautiful faces with scribbled moustaches and shiners, okay?

FRANKI: Describe your site unbolt in its entirety? What is it? What does it hope to accomplish or what do you hope to accomplish through it?

TONY: Hi, Franki. Thanks for interviewing us. This should be fun!

TATI: Yes, let’s play!

TONY: Unbolt Me is a literary blog. It’s an online repository of poems, prose, and anything else we decide to try.

TATI: We have made art and audio recordings too. And a video! But Unbolt Me will always be about the writings.

TONY: As for what we hope to achieve with it, we just want fame and fortune, man. Like Scrooge McDuck, we wanna dive into huge piles of money and see how far we’ll sink!

FRANKI: Your web design leaves links all over the place to new creative work. What is the reasoning behind this feature?

TATI: Unbolt Me is a live organism. Beating. Throbbing. Breathing. Links are its circulatory system. They bring the oxygen of readers to every nook and cranny so there’s no necrosis.

FRANKI: What feedback have you gotten from readers about this feature?

TONY: They seem to like it. It can be fun to follow the links around… like a trail of breadcrumbs really. Just don’t gobble ‘em up as you go. Don’t want all our other readers getting lost!

TATI: Well… I remember one person said it’s rather annoying. But hey, don’t like, don’t click!

FRANKI: Throughout the site, do the links lead only to poems by the two of you or also reader submitted work?

TONY: It’s mostly only to our own poems, isn’t it Tati?

TATI: Yep, but not always. We’re not greedy.

TONY: Folks will just have to click around and find out for themselves. Ha ha!

FRANKI: Tell me about your writing challenges. When did they start? What’s the reasoning? How do you design them?

TATI: Actually, my writings were started like challenges, but maybe that’s off topic…

When I joined WordPress, I started to receive many awards and writing challenges. At first, I diligently tried to fulfill every challenge I received, but I later realized that I no longer had the time to get them done. They were growing in my to do list like a snowball. When I started to pay more attention to my writings and books, and when I started to work with Tony, these writing challenges became secondary.

One beautiful day, I decided to release them, and gave our dear readers the opportunity to raise this fallen banner of challenges themselves. We created a special page. It was my idea, but Tony’s brilliant execution. I’m very grateful to Tony. His mastery helps me to fulfil many bold ideas, and to create a modern design for the blog.

FRANKI: You currently have eight challenges, correct? Do you typically add more or is this typical to expect to see these same ones?

TATI: It’s actually a good idea! We should create some new challenges, Tony. Shouldn’t we?

TONY: Oh my god! A resounding yes!

TATI: By the way, I have an idea. What about a special bonus for readers of this interview? The ‘Create Your Challenge’ challenge and the ‘I would never write about…’ Challenge? How does that sound?

TONY: Yeah, totally! And our readers can make up their own rules for those challenges too!

FRANKI: For the Ears Wide Open challenge, are readers invited to offer their own readings too? Where should those be submitted and in what format?

TONY: We encourage it. If there are any poems we’ve written that tickle the fancy of our readers then we’d certainly love to receive their audio renditions of them. We accept mp3s and mp4s. Failing that, delivery via carrier pigeon in ten foot high braille is also acceptable.

TATI: Usually we use SoundCloud, and combine the reading with a fitting picture.

FRANKI: Which challenge is your favorite?

TATI: If I needed to pick a challenge for myself now, I would grab the ‘In Ten Sentences’ one. I think it’s because of my tendency to be laconic. Tony can confirm this. I’m not a chatterbox. Not in life. Nor in my writings.

TONY: Which is a boon since I’m deaf and half blind. As for me, the ‘Read Our Poems Aloud’ challenge would be my pick. Why? Because I’m an insufferable narcissist.

TATI: Deaf and half blind? Are you sure you’re human, Tony? You sound like a mole. A mole-narcissist. Really cool! Yep!

TONY: Careful! You don’t want me digging a hole beneath you…

FRANKI: How do you hope readers will interact with the challenges posted? What do you hope they gain from it?

TONY: Sexual prowess? Untold levels of virility? I’ve no idea. I guess all I want is for them to have fun with it. Writing is a chance to be creative, and we should all be given that opportunity at least once in our lives.

TATI: Finally, Tony said something valid. Amen to that!

FRANKI: What have you thought yourself doing these challenges (as they come from other nominations)? Has good work come out of the inspiration they stir up?

TATI: Every challenge forced me to think outside the box. To extricate myself from it. And challenges with a strict time frame also helped me to realize one interesting thing… Once, I wrote a piece in Russian in 10 minutes because rummaging in a dictionary would have devoured time if I had started to write in English. But the translation back into English took much longer than I had anticipated. Actually, I then wrote this piece again from scratch. It was a valuable lesson for me. Now, I never use Russian or Ukrainian drafts. I always write in English. Every language has its own logic and structure, and if you want to get a nice result then you need to think on this language, not just translate your own thoughts.

TONY: I believe challenges come from everywhere. Life itself goads one into writing something, anything, just to make sense of it all, don’t you think? I’ve never needed to look very far for my inspiration. By the way, Tat, good essay there!

TATI: Exciting.

TONY: Hey you, stop yawning already!

FRANKI: If someone was only willing to check out one challenge, which would you recommend as best for spurring some writing?

TONY: They should pick the challenge they’d hate the most. Methinks that’d really stretch out the old writing muscles!

TATI: Tony, what happened? The second reasonable thought during one evening!

FRANKI: Running a blog is a lot of work, what makes it worthwhile for you?

TONY: Writing and spending time with Tati is reward enough, but I do also have ambitions for our words to reach a wider audience. I feel we both have a lot to offer the literary world, so I’m definitely interested to see how far we can push this.

TATI: Yes, blogging is a great springboard. The more you shake it, the higher you jump.

FRANKI: What do you think are the benefits of writing for your own blog space versus other “goals” for writing: like writing in attempt to publish to other spaces or writing only privately, etc?

TONY: If I only ever wrote privately, then nothing would get done. I wouldn’t achieve a damn thing. That’s why I like to blog it all. This forces me to keep to a schedule, and it keeps me accountable to our readers. I feel this is the key to successful and productive writing for me.

TATI: I think it depends on goals, actually. There is nothing bad in private writings. But, yes, blogging disciplines you. It helps you to assess your efforts adequately. And the fact that I’m sitting here, struggling with my answers, means that I have made some steps toward my dream to be a famous writer. God bless you, blogging.

 

Interview by FRANKI HANKE
Image by TONY SINGLE

© All rights reserved 2017

Tati Unbolted (An Interview)

TONY SINGLE: Tell us a little bit about yourself?

TETIANA ALEKSINA: Next question please. Can you ask something more important?

TS: Of course. Have you ever been tipped by a cow?

TA: No. But I have been licked by a ram.

TS: Really?

TA: Yep. I was very little. An infant. My parents carried me in a pram past a farm. And I… hmmm… well, I pooed. My mum laid me on the grass and started to fiddle with dirty diapers. And a ram walked to me and sniffed me. And then started to lick me. When my mother saw this, she was shocked and frightened. But I laughed. It’s pretty ticklish when a ram licks your bare ass, you know.

TS: Exciting! What do you want to be when you grow up?

TA: A child.

TS: Are you a group person or a loner?

TA: A loner, without doubts. Life often pushes me ahead and forces me to be a leader. I have to do this, but reluctantly.

TS: How would your friends describe you?

TA: ‘You’re on the way to becoming an alien being.’

TS: What made you decide to learn English?

TA: What made you ask such a silly question? About 55% sites on the internet in English. About 30% of the world population speak English. It’s a chance to reach and to be reached. To hear and to be heard. It’s a chance to connect with the world. Well… the main reason, honestly? English is much more easy than Chinese.

TS: You get to travel anywhere. Where and why?

TA: There’s nothing more marvelous, frightening and tantalising than your inner Universe. Are you brave enough to meet the real you?

TS: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

TA: Many of our traditional recipes can look weird or even shocking for foreigners. Kangaroo balls.

TS: Tish pshaw! Not a big deal. I eat those every day.

TA: Russian Blood Candy. I eat those often.

TS: What the fuck?!

TA: So, what do you call ‘strange’?

TS: Something that looks totally weird and not at all edible.

TA: I think every child ate such things. I loved to chew paper.

TS: Tell us the last joke you heard?

TA: ‘I know an ideal solution.’ I laughed so hard. Though, I suppose, I was the only one who found this statement funny… One of my colleagues said this.

TS: You’re God for a day. What do you do?

TA: I abolish the job description, ‘God’.

TS: Is it better to die or to live for eternity?

TA: Well.. death looks like an egotistical choice, an alibi for doing nothing. You can change nothing when you are dead. ‘Well, guys, I’m dead, what do you want from me, bastards? I’m busy. I feed worms…’

Honestly? I would prefer to live. I would prefer to live and do my fucking best. I would prefer to change this old rotten world instead of rot on my own.

TS: Why do you write?

TA: It’s my way to keep my sanity and not roll into the deep. Kinda my safety valve, yeah?

TS: Do you have a favourite book?

TA: Yes, I have. It’s the book you and I are writing now.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2016

GUEST POST // Cocktail Molly Interviews Tony Single

COCKTAIL MOLLY: How do you define yourself artistically?

TONY SINGLE: I’m definitely a cartoonist. I don’t think I could be anything else really. While I’m quite capable of drawing in a more realistic style, aesthetically speaking I much prefer to play with the pulp sensibility of comics. It’s what my heart has always responded to, and ever since I was a child I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. And besides, I like words too. You get the best of both worlds with comics.

CM: Tell the readers of cocktailmolly.com about Crumble Cult & how it came in to existence?

TS: Crumble Cult is an introspective, semi-autobiographical, magical realist tale about Ernest Crumb, a forty-something year old guy who so far has drifted through life with little to no purpose. He comes to a point where he must do something, anything, to kick-start himself into engaging with the world again, and so he sets off on a road trip of the heart. This comic has a dash of humour, some existential pondering, and unicorns.

As to how it came into existence, Crumble Cult grew out of a need to write and draw a comic that was… well, a true reflection of who I am. I felt that my previous works hadn’t done this to any meaningful degree, so I went into this project with the intention of making it my most personal yet. Hopefully I’ve achieved that to some extent as I feel it’s pleasingly idiosyncratic, something that only I and I alone could have dreamt up in the first place.

CM: Who has influenced you the most artistically?

TS: I have many influences actually, and they’re all cartoonists. Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books were a staple when I was growing up. I also enjoyed Peyo’s Smurf comics, Morris’s Lucky Luke, Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix, and Hergé’s Tintin. There was Murray Ball’s Footrot Flats as well as Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes as I grew older. Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku, Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, and Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind came later on. I also greatly admire the works of Michael Leunig, Adrian Tomine and Eddie Campbell, and am currently reading through the amazing Love and Rockets series by the Hernandez brothers.

Really, the list is kinda endless BUT I guess the biggest creative influence in my life so far has been Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strip. There was a deep level of humanness and, dare I say, a certain undercurrent of melancholy in his words and lines that I’d never encountered before. It was truly the definition of idiosyncratic and also quite simply a thing of minimalist beauty. No one but Schulz could have produced this comic, and I absolutely adore it to bits. I always will.

CM: I know that you have the comic strip and the podcast for it, are you interested in moving Crumble Cult into an animated project for wider viewership or are you content with providing the project for a coterie of loyal followers?  My aim in this question is what are your goals for the project Crumble Cult?

TS: Animation of any kind is typically a huge undertaking, even for a large production studio, so I have absolutely no intention of turning Crumble Cult into a cartoon film or TV project any time soon. It would be grand to see my characters walk and talk but I need to be realistic in that I probably don’t have the will or means to make it happen. Also, I kinda like the idea that Crumble Cult can only exist as a comic. I feel it’s a story that’s suited to being told in this way and no other. And this is hopefully another thing that will set it apart from everything else out there.

Regarding goals, I intend to release this strip in a series of print collections some time soon. While it has primarily always been a webcomic, there’s something about the tactile nature of turning a page that cannot be beat. I don’t tend to read other creators’ webcomics for this very reason. I much prefer to curl up with an actual paper volume and lose myself in their comics that way. I’m hoping that folks will feel similarly about Crumble Cult. I think what I do could be perfect for print.

CM: What other things are you involved in creatively?

TS: I run Unbolt with the obscenely gifted and patient Tetiana Aleksina (or Tati, or Teti, whichever name her friends are most comfortable with), so that’s a full time job in and of itself. I’m also prepping an illustrated poetry collection with her, and we have a number of other writing projects in the pipeline. We’re determined to see these all through to completion no matter what. Tati has even been scripting some Crumble Cult strips for me, so those have been quite fun to draw.

I also make art for Tony Single, my online portfolio, and I take black and white pictures for my photo blog, Once More, With Foreboding. Oh, and last but not least I contribute the odd illustration and text piece to a community blog called Hijacked Amygdala every fortnight. It’s a group of talented and crazy writers, artists and photographers who’ve decided to band together to create an online presence. There’s a lot of brilliant stuff going on over there so I would definitely encourage your readers to check them out. Creatively speaking, it’s all go!

CM: I know you are involved with assisting in the Unbolt project as well. Would you mind explaining to readers your involvement & how it came into fruition with your partner Teti Aleksina?

TS: I don’t remember how I even stumbled upon Unbolt in the first place but I’m glad I did. Unbolt is Tati’s brainchild. It wouldn’t exist if not for her, and quite frankly I was captivated from the moment I started reading. I think I spent the first few weeks poring through every post and leaving the occasional comment. It was at this point that she visited Crumble Cult and did the same, and so we soon began to communicate via email on an almost daily basis. I admired Tati’s work so much that I eventually decided to ask if she’d like to run a blog together, and that’s when she invited me to come aboard with Unbolt instead. So I did. And I haven’t looked back. Working with Tati is a dream!

CM: Also, you and Ms. Aleksina have collaborated on a book.  Would you mind sharing with readers your experience with that endeavor?

TS: Yes, that’s Mooreeffoc. It’s a project that grew out of a short prose trilogy that Tati and I collaborated on. Putting it together as an eBook and releasing it on Amazon was entirely her idea. In fact, an overwhelming number of ideas in the story itself were also hers. I won’t give away the plot but it should be noted that Mooreeffoc wouldn’t be half the cracking read it is were it not for Tati’s considerable input. She has an insatiable creative drive, and she doesn’t settle for dross. We’re similar that way. We also like to push our ideas as far as we think they can possibly go. It’s a privilege to be her writing partner, I can tell you, and it’s one I don’t intend to squander.

CM: How has your homeland influenced you artistically?

TS: Not overmuch, I would say. At least, that’s how I perceive it. Of course, there may be cultural things that poke through from time to time that I’m simply not seeing, but they’d need to be pointed out to me. When all’s said and done, I don’t consider myself to be particularly patriotic. I’m not so sure I’d even be willing to go to war for my country as I believe no nation is worth more than the individual lives that populate it. Nationalistic identity doesn’t trump personal identity for me, nor should it ever. Frankly, I feel I have more in common with Tati in Ukraine than I do with my own countrymen. Souls connect regardless of race or creed. That’s what I’ve always found.

CM: What is next for Tony Single?

TS: Ha ha. Watch this space. Even I don’t know, but it’ll be fun finding out.

 

by GAIYAIOBI XZANDIS-ZAEVAN
© All rights reserved 2016

GUEST POST // Writing To Heal Feature: Tony Single

Drem: How old are you, my friend?
Tony: I’m in my forties, a fact that still shocks me constantly. There are days when I feel so much older than that, and there are days when I feel like a boy pretending to be a man and nobody’s noticed yet. When will I grow up? And how is it I’m not dead yet?

D: Where do you live?
T: Put it this way… I wouldn’t mind living elsewhere. I live in a quiet neighbourhood close to the city. There’s a smattering of wild life here which is nice. It’s nice to hear the magpies warbling in the mornings. It’s not so nice to have big dogs barking at you from behind fences. Big dogs give me the willies, even when I know they can’t possibly get to me.

D: Do you have a profession besides blogging?
T: I’ve had a string of jobs in my life. When I was a Christian, I worked at a religious book store. I sold flowers door to door at one point. I was a glorified photocopier jockey at a university one year. The longest I’ve held down a job was as a cleaner at a milk processing factory. Thankfully, I wasn’t mopping up after cows. I was cleaning offices. Still, it wasn’t glamorous, and it was pretty thankless. The only time I heard from anyone was if they wanted to complain about the unseen speck of dust lurking behind a fridge or something. Presently, I help to run Unbolt and I concentrate on my webcomic too. I also do whatever I can to make my wife’s home life just that little bit nicer.

D: When did you start writing?
T: It would’ve been when I was in high school. I didn’t have many friends during those years so I’d hide in the school library every lunch time to read, draw and, of course, write. Looking back on it now, it strikes me how desperately lonely and disengaged I was. Everything I wrote was about life not being worth living and how I needed to not be here any more. I filled entire diaries with these thoughts and it astonishes me that I never acted on them. Perhaps writing it all down helped me in some small way to still feel anchored to people. To this planet. Hell, just to the fact of my breathing in and out.

D: How often do you write?
T: I write every day, even if just a few lines. My thoughts are scattered at the best of times so it’s always a good idea to corral them whenever I can. I have a note book and pen on me whenever I’m out and about, and there’s always stuff to write with and on within arm’s reach when I’m at home.

D: When do you write and how? Like, in a journal, on a computer, and what time of day?
T: I write in the aforementioned note books. I hardly ever try to compose something on the computer. For some reason that never feels right. I don’t know why. Perhaps there’s an immediacy to jotting your thoughts down as fast as they’ll come that typing lacks. I don’t know. However, when it comes time to work up a second, third or umpteenth draft of something that’s when you’ll find me perched at the computer. It’s a lot easier to make changes in a Word document than on a page with mostly everything scribbled out. And as for when I write, there’s no rhyme or reason to that I’m afraid. I write whenever stuff hits me, and that can be late at night when I should be in bed or in the middle of the day when I’m taking a piss (or having the piss taken out of me).

D: Why do you also Write To Heal?
T: I have to. That’s the simplest answer. I have depression, severe body image issues, and I can’t grow a manly beard to save my life. I’ve spent decades of my life pretending I have it all together. I clearly don’t. This is not something you can just talk about at the local pub with any passing stranger, or even your closest friends for that matter. People get scared when they see that you’re scared so I write it all down instead. It’s my outlet. It helps me to let the doubt and grief and self hatred flow into something productive, something creative and potentially beautiful. Does this process heal me? Sometimes. Do the results heal others when they read it? I can hope.

D: Why do you continue and has it changed?
T: I continue to write precisely because not much has changed. Certainly, I’ve lived longer than I expected to. I fully expected life to have broken my heart to the point of laying down and dying by the time I was twenty. Zip a few decades later and I’m still here. Yup. No one is more surprised than I am. What isn’t surprising is how difficult I still find it to connect with other people. And I still want to bash my face in whenever I see it. Oh, and the black dog? She continues to use my leg as a chew toy every other day. So, what do I do? I continue to write. It’s the only thing I know to do. It’s the only thing that makes sense of all the other things.

D: What dreams do you have for your writing?
T: I didn’t really have any until recently. Two women in my life have spurred me to believe that anything’s possible again. My wife got the ball rolling with her belief in me, and Tetiana has kept the ball rolling with the projects we’re currently working on together. Before all of that, I’d resigned myself to obscurity and disappointment, but now I find I’m actually confident that we will achieve something! I don’t know what exactly, but at least it doesn’t feel impossible!

D: Where do you find your most inspiration while healing?
T: I find inspiration mostly in music and stories. There are a handful of bands that I adore like My Silent Wake, Wovenhand, Amorphis, Dead Can Dance, and The Cure. Their lyrics never fail to transport me to some other place where emotions can be reconciled in some way and circumstances can play out differently. As long as I can hear another story then I can entertain hope for my own. I’m also hugely into comics and anime, and the idiosyncracies of those mediums are what drive me in my own creativity, to improve my craft in any way I can. And last but not least, there are the handful of people in my life who inspire me too. I wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for them. My wife. My parents. My sister. Tati. I hope I’ve sufficiently conveyed my love for them because, quite simply, without them I’m nothing.

Interview conducted by Drem.
(Check her out!)