120 Seconds With…Cali Chesterman

Cali is the author of "Two-Millionths Sneeze".

  • Day job: High school senior.
  • 3 favorite authors: Cassandra Clare, Charles Bukowski, Augusten Burroughs.
  • 3 artists you most admire: Artemesia Gentileschi, Henry Asencio, Henri Matisse.
  • How do you get going with your work?: Either to pass time on the bus or procrastinating an assignment.
  • If we googled your name, what would we find?: An organization I volunteered for once, the online copy of my school’s cultural newsletter that I write articles for and profusely advertise, my name listed under “Honorable Mention” for pieces I had submitted to the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.
  • What’s your favorite way to waste time at work without getting caught? Daydreaming or conversing with friends… I don’t really waste a lot of time. I take my work very seriously. 
  • Name two words you always misspell: Definitely and conundrum.
  • What’s the last song to get stuck in your head? "You Know I’m No Good" Amy Winehouse Ft. Ghostface Killah.
  • What’s a movie you can rewatch or a book you can reread over and over again? Forrest Gump.
  • Describe your dream workspace/studio: Near Center City, where there is a lot of hustle and bustle, cultural crossovers, varying age groups, and history, all in one convenient location. I need culture and chaos in order to flourish in art and writing. Ideally, my inner studio/ workspace will have three rooms, all with wooden floors. One room will be my living space, complete with a cabinet full of candy. One room, the largest, will be my workspace, with my desk and computer set up on one side of the room and artworks in progress on the other side. A huge stereo system will be in the middle of the rooms. There will be a few windows for ventilation and lighting, but that’s it. The third room will be a storage space.

Vol. 13 MOMENTUM: Cali Chesterman - “Two-Millionths Sneeze”

“It is about two friends who are in some unspoken, petty argument. It relates to the theme of momentum because there is a need to move on: either the friend can apologize to mend the friendship or they both go on to see new, unplagued people.”—Cali

***

You sneezed and filled my head with a thousand pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, so a sneeze must be worth a million.

The point is, I don’t want your sickness anymore, your lack of self-control to PLEASE cover your nose or at the VERY least bring with you a goddamned box of tissues, it’s an issue when your runny nose drips onto that doorknob, the one I gripped just yesterday so it didn’t hit this sultry lady’s heels.

Those fine, red heels.

 Now she has it too, the flu. All thanks to, well, me. See I too am plagued by your friendship, it’s difficult to quarantine myself from a commitment built over ten whole years, a commitment you had “accidently” forgotten, so willingly threw away, just like that tissue you never seemed to get hold of.

And what am I to do? Perhaps I could be like you, abandon everything. I’d rather follow this sultry lady with red heels, I trust that when she gets sick her sneezes aren’t so carelessly lethal, that she keeps them calm and contained and somewhat friendly.

Or maybe you could swallow your pride like that glob of phlegm that just made its way down your throat and utter the two millionths of a sneeze we need to repair our friendship:

 I’m sorry.

__________________________________________________________________________

Cali Chesterman, a senior at Central High School in Philadelphia, spends her time people watching. These mundane observations develop into fictional characters that she uses in art, writing, and film projects. She plans to study digital animation in college.

Vol. 12 HOME: David Comfort - “The Kiss”

"This is a story about an elderly widow who loses her home during a home invasion, but gains something far greater."—David

She was taped to her high-backed chair at the dining room table. There, in front of the bay window, beside her husband’s military portrait over the mantelpiece. Scattered on the floor was the Sunday newspaper she had just walked up the lane. Lying next to the paper was her cane and her Audubon calendar. She put everything on her calendar. The little white boxes were filled with her meticulous print. She included the weather, when her boys drove home, when she visited the cemetery. 

She was beginning to lose sensation of her right hand now. They had wrapped the tape tighter on this. It had been the first one. She didn’t recall them taping it. When she had opened the back door, carrying the paper, they had been behind it, waiting. Then she heard the explosion. Later, she had opened her eyes, as if from sleep, to the sound of panting behind her.

Now, the tall one was already upstairs, in her bedroom. She could hear the sound of telephones being torn from the walls and smashed. Of lamps falling to the floor. Of her dresser drawers being thrown open. The other one, the shorter one, was standing beside her. He wore a stocking over his face, with three holes. He had kind, gentle eyes.

When his partner disappeared upstairs with the gun, he put his hand lightly on her shoulder. He wore thin white rubber gloves. The medical kind.

"You believe in Jesus?" he said. "You believe he is the Savior?"

She tried to look around again. Behind, her Labrador retriever was lying on the kitchen floor eyes open, legs quivering, blood pouring from his mouth.

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120 Seconds With…Dan Beatty

Dan is the author of "Roots".

  • Day job(s): Clinical Social Worker, Outpatient Therapist, Adjunct College Professor.
  • Three favorite authors: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, Mark Brazaitis; Honorable Mention: my 11-year daughter Kenzie Beatty.
  • Three artists you most admire: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Vincent Van Gogh.
  • How have you changed as an artist since you started writing: I now can hardly read a good novel for pleasure, I am becoming more interested in their writing style than the plot. Hopefully, that won’t last forever.
  • Describe your dream studio/workplace: Isolation and beautiful scenery. This can be anywhere as long as these two elements are present
  • Where do you feel the most “at home”: When I’m with my wife and daughters, no matter where. And I love driving around my hometown of Chariton, Iowa since I have lived so far away for so long
  • Something you never leave the house without: A diet Mountain Dew
  • How do you unwind and get in the mood to create/write: isolation, a Newcastle beer, and music with great lyrics
  • Tell us about a favorite holiday/wintertime tradition: Going to get our tree with my wife and daughters the Saturday after Thanksgiving (LEAST favorite: trying to get said tree in the door and standing upright, which has yet to go smoothly)
  • Name the last song that got stuck in your head: As I write this, “Under Pressure” by Queen is stuck in my head. And that is OK.

Vol. 12 Home: Dan Beatty - “Roots”

I never thought I’d go back.

Never.

Not to a Homecoming. Not to a class reunion. Not for any reason.

When my aging parents moved out of that god-forsaken town ten years ago —with its closed down businesses, its pot-holed roads, its homes with boarded windows, its yards with rusted out Buicks and Mercury’s and Chevy’s and Fords, its redneck inhabitants who never cracked a book, nor read a poem, nor seen a play; who thought a good salad consisted of two ingredients: iceberg lettuce and French dressing from a plastic bottle—I honestly never thought I would go back again. In fact, the mere thought of doing so—of driving that stretch of open fields to the outskirts of town, where the most hideous sign “welcomes” incomers like a prostitute welcomes a customer—practically nauseated me.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in my childhood and adolescent years dreaming of getting the hell out of the town of Laxton, Iowa—away from the blue collars and the red necks; the bingo and beer and bowling alley; the cigarette-stained ceilings and teeth; the hair curlers and bandanas and belt buckles and 4-H Fairs. I fantasized about literally being thousands of miles away, far enough so that its long tentacles could not pull me back to that cesspool like it had so many others. Far enough away so that I could treat it as if it didn’t exist; actually, as if it never existed.

I was doing chores in the flower bed of my yard in Austin when I got the message on my voice mail asking me to go back to that mind-numbing town.

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120 Seconds With…Jared Yates Sexton

Jared is the author of "In All Their Squalor".

  • Day job: This year I actually joined the creative writing faculty at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Besides that, I like to pretend I make a living playing golf and drinking beer.
  • 3 favorite authors: A tough one, but it’d probably end up like this, in no particular order: Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, and Larry Brown.
  • 3 artists you most admire: Bob Dylan, because he does whatever he wants; Kurt Vonnegut because he had it all figured out; and Charles Bukowski for his honesty.
  • How would you describe your artistic/writing style? It sounds terrible, but torturous. Writing fiction is one of the most rewarding and important things a person can do, but it’s hell on the soul.
  • “The Arts” can be a tough career path. Do you have a support network? I think anybody who succeeds in The Arts has to. You have to find people who share your philosophy and are willing to give you a nod every now and then.
  • What is your art world (or lit world) pet peeve? The absolute dysfunction artists create for no reason.
  • What is the must-have item for your workspace? I have to have yellow legal pads and Precise V5 pens. And quiet.
  • What’s the toughest criticism of your work you’ve ever received? How about the best compliment? Somebody once told me that they’d read a few stories of mine and said there was a real underlying theme of narcissism. That hurts, even if it’s possibly true. And one time, at a reading, a stranger came up and gave me a piece of paper with the phrase “There are those who God speaks through” written on it. The whole thing was a little hyperbolic, but you can’t deny that’s good to hear.
  • Tell us about an under-appreciated artist, gallery, writer, or bookstore do you think people should know about. I always try and get people to read Jon Morgan Davies’ story “The Heart is a Strong Instrument” because I think it’s one of the best short stories of the last ten years. Other than that, I have some friends like Peter Davis, Michael Meyerhofer, Andrew Scott, Chad Simpson, and Jensen Beach who deserve a whole hell of a lot of attention.
  • Favorite coping mechanism (or favorite way to fight back stress)? When stress gets bad for me I either go on a manic-OCD rearranging/cleaning binge or have to find a porch and some beer.
  • Print or eReader? You know, I was given a Nook as a present and I still haven’t used it. I like the physical book in my hands. I feel like the experience of reading on a screen takes away from the sensory experience and, despite seeing it as an inevitability, I wish it wasn’t the next step in writing’s evolution.