The BookSwell Read & Relate vidchat salon is keeping connections alive between readers and writers during troubled times. Contributors to Made in L.A. Vol. 3: Art of Transformation, discuss the Los Angeles settings they miss visiting and how the city inspires their fiction.
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Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett discusses his novel Dark Corners with Running Wild Press publisher Lisa Kastner at a live recording of the BookSwell Intersections podcast. They talk about amplifying marginalized voices and centering queer people of color in fiction and publishing. Dan Lopez and Sarah LaBrie joined the discussion to recommend books they’ve enjoyed.
Note: this is a live taping of the BookSwell Intersections literary podcast.
“A gripping collection of yarns in which social disadvantages take on monstrous shapes.” — Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus’s starred review gives Dark Corners by Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett the boost that every author craves. In a publishing industry that continues to privilege white and male authors, how did Dark Corners come about and what comes next? BookSwell Intersections literary podcast host Cody Sisco will speak with “Tihi” and with Lisa Kastner, the publisher of Running Wild Press, which published Dark Corners and publishes stories that cross genres and writing that doesn’t fit neatly in a box.
About Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett Reuben “Tihi” Hayslett is a queer activist, writer, and storyteller. His non-fiction work first appeared in The Splinter Generation in 2007, while Tihi was still an undergraduate, and more recently in The Mary Sue blog in 2015. His first fiction short-story collection Dark Corners debuts in 2019 through Running Wild press. Dark Corners was recently included in the swag bag for George Lopez’s Celebrity Golf Tournament, frequently attended by Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Eva Longoria and many other celebrities. His fiction has elsewhere appeared in the Surreal South Anthology in 2011, transLit magazine, and Oregon Literary Review. He currently works at Demand Progress, leading online campaigns against the overreach of government surveillance. Prior to that, Tihi worked as an online campaigner for the Working Families Party, a progressive third party in the United States, where he combined his storytelling skills and political activism. Tihi has won consumer campaigns against Netflix, UPS, and worked with a coalition to remove David Koch from the Boards of the Smithsonian and PBS. While living in Brooklyn, Tihi produced Rustik Storytellers, a monthly oral storytelling live show in 2013. In 2016 he co-produced PRACTICE, a safe-space live storytelling show designed to encourage new-comers to take up the oral storytelling tradition. As a fluent speaker of Dothraki, one of the languages created for HBO’s Game of Thrones, Tihi recently worked on the upcoming Netflix series Daybreak as a Dothraki Language Consultant. Tihi has a MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University and currently lives in Long Beach, CA.
About Lisa Kastner Lisa Kastner is a former journalist and corporate communications consultant and journalist. Lisa is credited in over, 20 publications, including Now What? The Creative Writer’s Guide to Success After the MFA and The Resistors by Dwight L. Wilson (edited by Lisa Kastner), which was featured in a Kirkus Reviews story that says the book will “keep you up all night.” Lisa, the founder and executive director of Running Wild Press, has led Pennwriters, Running Wild Writers Community, and the Springfield Writers Group.
She earned an MFA from Fairfield University and her MBA from Pennsylvania State University. Lisa was on Dance Party USA, syndicated on the USA TV network, and appeared on Dancin’ on Air, a regional television program, as a teenager. Her step-mother, Violet Smith, was the director for the arts in Santa Ana, CA, where a concourse at the Santa Ana Airport is named after her. Lisa’s father, Frank Carter, is in the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame, for his service in radio for 50 years. She resides in Los Angeles, California.
About BookSwell Intersections literary podcast The BookSwell Intersections podcast features book recommendations, interviews with authors, and highlights of upcoming literary events in Los Angeles.
Much like LA itself, the literary scene here is often difficult to navigate. BookSwell Intersections will help you find your way to the authors, events, and new releases that you won’t want to miss.
Cody Sisco hosts the BookSwell Intersections literary podcast along with co-hosts Rachelle Yousuf, Sakae Manning, Dan Lopez, and Sarah LaBrie.
Because we’re all necessarily less promiscuous during weeks of staying at home, I thought this funny, fast-paced novel from Erin Judge might be a good way to harness our pent-up erotic energy.
From Rare Bird Books: “Natalie has made a promise: a vow of celibacy, signed and witnessed by her best friend. After a string of sexual conquests, she is determined to figure out why the intense romantic connections she’s spent her life chasing have left her emotionally high and dry. As Natalie sifts through her past and her present, she confronts her complicated feelings about her plus-sized figure, her bisexuality, and her thwarted career in fashion design.”
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I first encountered Tihi and his writing in a Portland coffee shop on a dreary, drippy afternoon the day before the start of the 2019 AWP Conference. Running Wild Press had organized an offsite open mic and my friend Sakae was going to read a poem so of course I was going to go.
At the reading, I heard BA Williams light it up as she always does. I heard Sakae read “Oakland,” a poem that paints a poignant portrait of an East Bay childhood (dear to my heart because I grew up not far from there) and that was published by Dryland Lit. And I heard Reuben read a short piece of fiction.
The story Reuben read from, “Hope It Felt Good,” begins thusly: “This is what happens when your man fucks Celia Washington.”
I was hooked from the beginning. An exploration of a jealous, seething mindscape. A queer male author inhabiting the persona of a vengeful woman. The physical, mental, and spiritual transformation caused by something as simple as adultery. These combined into a charged and hilarious fable that turned in interesting, unexpected ways.
When Sakae, Rachelle Yousuf (another BookSwellAdvisory Group member), and I began to plan an event for Lambda LitFest 2019, we asked both BA and Tihi to read and join the discussion. In September, at the Intentional Intersectionality: Amplifying Queer Voices of Color reading and discussion at Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, Tihi read from “I Want You,” a story that centers on an HIV+ man who goes on a rare night out.
Last week, in the midst of sweeping public health announcements and adaptations, I read and re-read all the stories in Dark Corners. They move in surprising ways. They contain telling details and entertaining mysteries of unfolding. They reward sustained attention.
To give you a bit more flavor of the collection, here are my quick takes on each story:
“Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” is a modern day feminist fable about the siren song of incipient sexuality.
“2016” documents a family unraveling amidst tragedy and social unrest.
“Localized Politics” is a dissociative portrait of a political campaign worker fractured by stress.
“I Want You” looks at the ways we we struggle against isolation.
“Money Men” is a disturbing take on sex work and the choice of political activism or apathy.
“Death and Taxes” charts a father-son relationship before and after a fatal illness.
“Hope It Felt Good” is all about what happens when your man fucks Celia Washington.
“Super Rush” is a speculative story that asks in literal terms if you love yourself, what then?
“Denial Twist” explores the tragic consequences of hate crimes and how we do and don’t recover.
“A Step Toward Evolution” is a twisted revenge reenactment of intimate biological warfare.
“Come Clean” is a horrifying tale of violence and its ramifications, told from a child’s perspective.
What I appreciate about Tihi’s stories could fill pages. In this limited context, I’ll say what I value most is the boldness of his stories to venture into taboo territory, the way extreme conditions beget extreme emotions, and how they move page by page into stranger, darker, speculative territory while keeping a realist grounding.
We did it! We made it through the beginning of 2020 and now we’re back with Season 2 of the BookSwell Intersections literary podcast.
This episode was recorded in the Rare Bird offices in DTLA in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic. Host Cody Sisco is joined by co-host Dan Lopez, special guests Viva Padilla from Dryland Lit, Julia Callahan from Rare Bird Lit, and interview guest Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo of Women Who Submit. We discussed #DignidadLiteraria and the fallout from American Dirt, barriers to inclusivity and equity in publishing, and how writers and publishers are navigating the changing literary landscape.