Since I began writing two years ago (and I mean really writing, not the basic essaying I used to do on occasion), I've met a lot of very interesting people. Writers, editors, agents...this is a microcosm of the intrigue of modern society.
None so much as a new friend, writing under the name Laramore Black.
I first met him on my favorite writerly-site, LitReactor.com (I know, I know, I talk about it all the time). We've both been participating in a multi-week short/flash fiction head-to-head competition called WAR, and through it I've met a bunch of really cool people.
A few of them write for and edit with Laramore Black and his ezine, the cheerfully named Slit Your Wrists Magazine. While poking around on the site the other day, I ran into this: The SYW Shock & Appall Charity Anthology.
Cleary, that got me interested in helping.
So without much more ado, let me introduce you to Laramore Black, the brain behind the operation, and let him tell you a little about himself, his projects, and why he's donating the proceeds to WorldVision to to help save the children of the world.
We're going to break the interview into two parts, so you can read and digest all of it. Welcome to Part One.
LR: So, first things first….tell me something about yourself that I can’t read on your Bio page. Funny, juicy, gory, happy – just tell me something different.
LB: Hm. I’d be surprised if you could find a good biography about me anywhere. It’s never been something I’ve ever liked writing and no one else has been possessed to do it for me yet. Anyways, there are probably a lot of things, but I don’t know if they are interview material. (haha)
It’s an interesting way to open an interview for sure. This is usually where writers get to babble about nonsense like their MFA’s and vanity press published manuscripts, so I guess if I had to say anything I’d be sure to set myself apart from those types.
Something people close to me and similar people I network with seem to enjoy is I live in the real world. I have no impressing badges to show, to say the least. Although to some people these are probably accomplishments all on their own…
I recently spent 4 months living as a homeless person. Not exactly the bearded drunk with cardboard that says will work for alcohol type, but rather the kind who still has a few friends left. It was a lot of 1-8 mile walks between couches I could stay on and a big inconvenience to other people.
Most people sitting in a decent home at this moment are either developing sympathy for that statement or shutting themselves down to not think about it. I understand, I’ve been there to. I was brought up in a lower income home along with a brother and three sisters, but there was also a small period of my life spend in a middle class suburban home with a set of people I will refer to as a foster family. At another point I was a happily married guy with a nice job, a nice car, one year finished of college, and could do practically anything I wanted. In a way I guess you can say I’ve lived many different lives and I’ve seen just how feeble everyone’s foundations truly are.
Everyone is really only a few choices or a death in the family away from poverty. It’s time people realize it instead of categorizing themselves among separate classes. I’ve survived poverty so far and even found a roof to have over my head, maybe even some people who could grow to be some of my greatest friends, along with others who would help if my world ever fell to pieces again. I’m thankful for that and hope I can someday pay it back.
This experience changed me as a person though, it really did. I don’t look at a lot of people in the innocent way I once did. When someone you looked up to like a mother would rather save $80 a month, keep your dog and all your stuff while you are walking the streets with nothing but two outfits and an almost broken netbook, it tends to change your perspective on everything quite a bit.
But it made me much stronger, so thanks to my foster mom for that, I guess.
LR: Slit Your Wrists Magazine was your brainchild, right? It’s a brilliant site publishing awesome fiction, poetry, and showcasing other amazing artists. Where’d the idea come from, why such a depressing name, and what pulled you and all the other editors together?
LB: Yes, I created the site all on my own. It came about from a lot of things, really. Originally I had a personal website that I posted first drafts of poetry and stories on. Then one day I had a friend who was having a photographer cover a couple shows he was having in one day, the same friend came to me asking if I could write about it and I did. That’s the first feature of the site, the article MIDWEST NOISE: Jordan Martyr. I soon started doing similar things, like interviewing one of my favorite bands, Harley Poe. It made me decide I couldn’t let the site be all about me anymore, so it was called Laurance Kitts & The Slit Your Wrists! eZine.
When the traffic of my site began to swell, it was also around the time I began to network with other writers. Around the same time, two of them I was getting to know approached me to see if I’d be interested in publishing their stories on my website. They were pretty good stories, one of which came from my co-editor of today. After that I decided I needed to do something different.
I separated the sites and bought a new url: slityourwristsmagazine.com. As far as the name goes, it seems to get many different reactions out of people. I’ve had more close-minded writers actually write me just to tell me how sick the name of the site is, which for people who claim creativity as their career support it must be fairly detrimental to give such power to a few words. Many times over now people have requested I change the name, funny though how they’ve always been the ones uninvolved in it.
The truth is the site name didn’t form from depressing or malicious ideas. All of my old essays, stories, and poetry revolved around the idea of committing suicide. Around the time I began to feel better, I wrote an article on the site titled How To kill Yourself and tagged it with many dumb things I had Googled over the last year. Examples: How to cut your wrists, how much aspirin does it take to acidify your blood, painless ways to die, etc. The article was an anti-suicide letter to any random person out there up late, plotting their way out of the world just like I had done for so long.
That article is no longer on the site, but the tags are still in the database and the site url obviously pulls similar things in. Everyday there is at least a few hits of people searching the internet for related information, except now instead of getting pleas from the close-minded branch of Christians telling them they will burn in hell for committing suicide or step by step instructions of how to do it right, they are beginning to get a site that supports the very thing they’ve probably never had and the one thing that saved my life, self-expression.
Needless to say, when that hate mail comes I just laugh because it’s always creative people giving the wrong kind of power to a few words, not even realizing they are in place for a secret cause. I guess maybe I should tell them hating the name is just another way of them saying they love teenage suicide, but I have better things to do most of the time.
On another note, something I’ve come to love about the name I never realized until after a year of running the site and watching other publications come and go, is when you give your website a very family friendly name and then publish a graphic story, it’s going to have mixed reviews. It boils down to people who seek the tame will be sickened by the graphic, meanwhile people who are open to messier stories are always fine with something tame. The prejudice is always one-sided and if there’s one thing I’d like to get across by the end of this interview, it is that good can come from very dark places.
LR: And now, what made you decide to do a charity anthology like Shock & Appall? What’s the backstory here?
LB: Shock & Appall was originally an idea I came up with on some forums I frequent called LitReactor. When that site first opened, there was a good 30-40 new and seasoned writers wanting to do a project together. I collected some really good stories there, but there were never quite enough people on board to make a finished project.
That was before SYW even existed.
I always told myself I would make this anthology ever since then. One of the ways I plan to fund SYW and help other writers at the same time in the future is through anthologies. The reason behind Shock & Appall is simply that I want to bring people together to change a person’s life. So many publications or literary sites make these things for charity, and then pick something that is a never-ending cause to support. They work hard for months on a design, the interior, editing, and reading submissions only to watch $500-$1k in profits disappear and nobody ever sees a significant change in the world.
Do you know what $500 is to a child in a 3rd world country? It’s an entire year of food, medicine, and education. I like to think change comes at an individual level and not at the hands of many, popular opinion in the United States constantly fluctuating seems to prove that. I also think it means more to the world to change a life than to help fund a random charity corporation because half the money donated is going into their staff’s salaries.
SYW has never made a cent so far and currently I don’t even have a dollar to my name, still. If this new website and my broke self can change something in the world for good, I’d really like for the more fortunate people to step back and ask themselves what the hell they are doing for anyone.
LR: Along those lines, why such a dark theme for such a lovely cause? Shouldn’t anthologies supporting children be all warm and fuzzy, about bunnies and rainbows and shit?
LB: I’m sure the children would have a laugh with us here at that idea. I guarantee there is no piece of fiction you will find in this anthology that is scarier than some 3rd world children’s lives. Here in America, most people fear a strange man picking their lock and hurting them or their family. Horrible still, but it’s just a single family…
In the 3rd world more people are dying of incurable diseases than any other population in the world. Imagine it, a killer you can’t see, but can slowly feel creeping up to take your life. Not to mention the killer is being helped by the rest of the world taking all the food and abilities to clean water. Meanwhile some power hungry machine gun toting men look to take everything in your village, recruit you or kill you, to turn your sisters, mother, and lovers into their playthings or servants. Nothing is scarier than that, I’m afraid. And it’s a very true story for real people in this world.
I dare to say you will find the same darkness in minds of most fiction writers that you will find in the men carrying the machine guns or picking the lock to your home. The difference is simply the choice of whether you want to build a world or destroy it. This anthology is an example of that darkness controlled and used for something good.
Stay tuned until Wednesday for more to come from Laramore Black!