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  • Elemental Conversations: Ron Riekki

    Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, a 2014 Michigan Notable Book). He’s at work on a novel.

    3ER: Was there a specific element that sparked your story idea?

    RR: Yes, the prompts you gave for the stories. That, and adjunct faculty poverty. I realized the level of adjunct faculty poverty when I looked at a Waffle House janitor’s pay stub and said to him, “Wow, you’re like a millionaire.”  If community college students only knew that they were learning from the homeless.

    3ER: What do you want to tell readers about your piece?

    Ron Riekki

    RR: It’s in English, so if you’re trying to read it like it’s in French it’s not going to make a lot of sense. Although there are some cognates in there.  But seriously though, if you can’t read English, it’s just about pointless.  Don’t even get me started if you start reading it thinking it’s in Chinese.

    3ER: If you could choose any three elements, what would they be?

    RR: Choose, elements, three. But not in that order.

    3ER: Describe your writing process.

    RR: I usually conjure up a vision that I’m accepting a Nobel Prize for Literature or an Emmy for Literature or an Oscar for Literature or a Tony for Choreography and that there are a stream of Ivy League universities offering me $100,000 a semester courses to teach Creative Writing 301 and then I start sweating bullets as I realize the sentences are not adding up to the high bar needed for an Academy Award for Literature, but I keep typing and think maybe a cute girl will read it if it gets published and she’ll email me and then we’ll get married and she’ll know someone on the board for the Oscars and I’ll get in the back way.  Like Angelina Jolie did it.

    3ER: Do you write in a certain place? Listen to music? What are your rituals?

    RR: I usually write in bed. Typically because I cannot afford the big fancy-schmancy desk that Joyce Carol Oates likes to show off in every photo I’ve seen of her.  Sure, Joyce Carol, you have a desk.  You don’t have to rub it in everyone else’s faces. Geez! As far as music, I listen to a lot of stuff, but I keep thinking about how uppity Joyce Carol is with that desk.  It’s like she features the desk more than her in every photo.  “Oh, make sure you get my desk in the background.  Does my desk look good?  It’s really expensive.”  As far as rituals, I really like to . . . you know what, I can’t get over the whole desk thing.  It’s really pissing me off.  I’m going to fire off a tweet to her right now.

    3ER: Who are your favorite writers?

    RR: Kathy Acker, Nelson Algren, Richard Brautigan, Poppy Z Brite, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooper (although I’ve never read him, but I heard he’s good), Douglas Coupland, Harry Crews, . . . and that’s just the first three letters of the alphabet.  I’ll stop there.  If I got all the way to Z, you’d be sick of the list.  Especially because there are several letter Z writers on my list.  About two hundred.  I’m not joking.

    3ER: What book, story, or poem do you wish you had written? Why?

    RR: The Bible.  I know I could get a full-time faculty job if I wrote the Bible. Especially at a Christian college.

    3ER: Why do you think writing matters?

    RR: The Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. Support the Dalai Lama.  Ten words and I just got your web site banned in China.  Writing matters.  Of course, 1.351 billion people in China won’t be able to read that writing matters, but the 4.38 million people in Kentucky will be able to.  And my audience, to be honest, is pretty limited to the state of Kentucky.

    3ER: What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had? 

    RR: My cousin is making out with Goliath–not from David and Goliath, but the Lutheran stop motion cartoon dog–and I’m trying to break it up so that I can see the drive-in movie theater screen and a barbershop quartet breaks into our car to announce that they just discovered a cure for hemorrhoids and I say, “What about cancer?” and the lead singer says, “What’s that?”  Truly makes you think, doesn’t it?

    3ER: Where can we read more of your work? 

    RR: Google Ron Riekki and enjoy the wealth of material available for free online. Or Duckduckgo Ron Riekki and avoid the NSA watching you enjoy the wealth of material available for free online.


    Ron has three stories out now in Issue 3! Here is an excerpt from Ah, to Burn:

    But the Dean wanted more.  He realized there were incarcerated PhDs, prisoners with terminal degree MFAs.  Not sex offenders and murderers, but marijuana dealers and chronic reckless driving aficionados.  Harmless, useful, sitting there in jail when they could truck them in, have them earn their keep.  The local prison was surprisingly receptive.  They’d had a recent riot, something that made national news, and they needed a publicity stunt to save their image. 

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    Finding a Creative Community Near You

    Finding others who share the same interests as you can be difficult, especially those who have specific interests in creative writing, literature, and/or photography. It can also be uncomfortable to put yourself in a new environment, but the benefits of meeting new people and sharing your interests allows you to strengthen your passion and increase your productivity and creativity!

    In my previous blog post, “5 Tips for Balancing Your Day Job and Your Creative Passions,” I suggested finding a community in your area to share your work. I understand finding one of these communities can be difficult, so I have researched how to make finding the right community in your area a little easier! The internet is full of social networking sites but I found Meetup.com the most user friendly and the largest following (which is important for social networking!). This site will help you locate ‘meetups’ in your area. Meetup.com will match you with suggested meetups based on you interests, including an assortment of writing, literature, and photography groups! Once you join a group, you will receive invites to their meetups! Joining a group does not bind you to showing up to all, or even any, of the events they put on.  You can also leave a group if you find it just was not for you. There are hundreds of groups in each area but you might find there are no groups pertaining to your particular interests. No need to worry, you can start your own group! Starting your own group can require more time and effort than simply joining a group; however, you could be providing a much-needed community to your area!

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    Elemental Conversations: James Rodgers

    James Rodgers has been writing poetry for over two decades. He has a daily blog of silly haiku on his website. He has published poems in multiple publications, and took first prize in the Washington Poetry Association’s Charles Proctor Award for Humor.

    James Rodgers

    3ER: Was there a specific element that sparked your story idea?

    JR: All of them. I know, that’s a bit of a cheat, but I’m always looking for prompts and challenges, as it pushes your writing in directions it might not ordinarily go. For this issue, I challenged myself to write a haiku using the three elements, raising the ante a bit.

    3ER: What do you want to tell readers about your piece?

    JR: While it is written in the haiku form of 5-7-5, it is not a haiku, per se. I know this.  Some true practitioners of haiku remind me regularly that what I write is not true to the rules, but that’s okay by me.

    3ER: If you could choose any three elements, what would they be?

    JR: Clandestine-crackerjack-chaotic. Ask me an hour from now, and it would be something else, I’m sure.

    3ER: Describe your writing process.

    JR:  I don’t particularly have a process. Writing poetry, I just tend to always have a pen and paper with me, and I write when the inspiration hits. I’ve written poems on napkins, tickets, anything in a pinch. I’ve pulled over in rush hour traffic to write a poem. I’ve written haiku, one-handed while at a red light. Wherever the muse takes hold. I’m also part of a writer’s group, Striped Water Poets in Auburn, WA, and we have writing prompts as part of our weekly meetings. 

    3ER: Do you write in a certain place? Listen to music? What are your rituals?

    JR:  I write everywhere, whenever the mood strikes. In the car, at concerts, at work. You never know when a poem will visit. I listen to music a lot, but it’s not part of my writing process. That being said, many times, lyrics will inspire a poem for me, so you take inspiration wherever you can. As you can guess by all of this, I don’t have any specific rituals, though at work, during lunch, I tend to keep a writing pad open, hoping a poem will fly by and stick to the pages.    

    3ER: Who are your favorite writers?

    JR: Billy Collins, Shel Silverstein, Carl Prelutsky are all poets I admire their work. I tend towards the humorous and storytelling side of poetry, and these tend to get slighted by some, but they breathe the biggest life into their words.

    3ER: What book, story, or poem do you wish you had written? Why?

    JR: Much of Shel Silverstein’s work, especially from “Different Dance.” His lightness and slyness make me giggle like a kid, which we all need to do more often.

    3ER: Why do you think writing matters?

    JR: Writing is first, and foremost, communication between the write and the reader, and communication is the most important part of human interaction. One wrong word, one miscommunication can have devastating results.

    3ER: What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had? 

    JR: Dreams tend to disappear from my head the moment I awake, just mists and faint feelings of being somewhere else.

    3ER: Where can we read more of your work? 

    JR: I have a blog on my website. This is a daily “haiku,” trying to find the humor in life. While it may sometimes be a bit bawdy, and may offend, it will hopefully usually make you smile, laugh, or best of all, snort. James has a poem forthcoming in issue 3 (out April 1), as well as a poem in issue one. Read it at 3elements Literary Review.

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