Below you will find a podcast that dives deep into an unsolved murder trial, explores how lawyers are creatives, and riffs on beer and Brian Williams. Let me explain. If you’ve been following this blog, then you’re probably aware that I recently moved to San Diego from Los Angeles. While I was living in Los Angeles, I started a great project called The Working Poet Radio Show, which explores the working lives of creative people. This project has been on hold over the last few months, but we’re having some rumblings about taking the project to Miami for a live show in April, and I’ve decided to revive the podcast…in a smaller capacity.
For this episode of WPRS, I interviewed Michael Semanchik of the California Innocence Project. He wrote a great blog post on Brian Williams, which looked at the complications of memory and how that applies to expert witnesses and his larger work with the Innocence Project, and I wanted to sit down and talk to him more about his work and how is role can be creative. We ended up discussing everything from DNA to a murder case that takes place in the rural parts of San Bernardino. Plus, in the third section of the podcast, we talked about beer and Brian Williams during the “True and False” portion of the show, and we were joined by special guest Robert Lee of Circa Interactive. Take a listen below or on WPRS.
It’s not often that I make life announcements on this blog that are difficult yet the absolute right decision. If you’ve been following my blog and my writing journey for the past couple years, then you know I’ve lived in Long Beach and quit my job to become a freelancer. I’ve written for some fantastic publications like the LA Times, Slate, Salon, LA Weekly, and more. But now, after a great couple years in Los Angeles County, I’ve been been required to make a decision on my professional career.
Over the last year, I’ve started working as the creative director of a digital marketing company called Circa Interactive. I was working a little bit more than part time with the company, directing our creative and communications strategies, and the work has been engaging, challenging, time consuming, and creative. I love the people I work with, and we have a fantastic team. While I was working at this company, I was also creating The Working Poet Radio Show at the Downtown Public Library, freelancing as a journalist and contributing to the LA Weekly, trying to create a blog/magazine called Rockwell’s Camera Phone, and attempting to write a draft of a novel as well as write short stories and poetry. But now that we have more and more business coming in with the digital marketing company, I had to make a choice: my professional career or the creative projects. I had to make a choice whether I would move to San Diego and work full time — or stay in LA and lose my role at the company.
I have made the tough but best decision for my family: We’re moving to San Diego, and I’m going to work full time as the creative director for Circa Interactive. So what does this mean? I can no longer put on the show at the library, and despite the tremendous amount of support from the library, I have to focus my energies. I want to be known for the stories, poems, profiles that I write and my work ethic professionally. I want to be known for the family that I’ve built and the lives that I change. So moving to San Diego is the best decision because I will have stability, routine, and a creative space to refocus my energy on my professional and creative career. I will also have family, brothers, and sisters, and as I grow older, I have to admit that living near my family really means a lot to me.
As for journalism, I’m still going to write pieces, and at my work, even though you might not actually see my byline, I’ll be creating stories and projects that will continue to build upon my skills and be published in major publications. It’s thrilling work. We work with professors at some of the best universities in the country, and we’re helping tell their stories. I was just too overcommitted, too spread out, too unfocused, and I was forced to make a decision. That’s the hardest part about growing up, I believe. You realize that you only have one life with only so many hours to work on all that you love and be with all of those whom you love. There just isn’t enough time in one life.
As for The Working Poet Radio Show at the Los Angeles Public Library, I can not describe how wonderful of an experience this was. The Los Angeles Public Library’s sponsorship meant the world to us. Jim Sherman of the Los Angeles Public Library Literature and Fiction Department was the first person to contact us about putting on the show, and he provided us with an opportunity and gave us creative freedom to start something special. I can not find the right words to describe what his support meant to WPRS.
With the help of the fantastic Russell Pyle (check out his wife’s new book here about his struggle with cancer) who ran the cameras, edited the live show, mixed the audio, brought in second cameramen to film our show, and provide encouragement, we were able to take the show’s production to the next level. With the help of J. David Gonzalez, the producer of WPRS and my good friend, we put on three fantastic live shows at the library and recorded several great podcasts. We interviewed Roxane Gay, Jay Martel, Cosmo Scharf, Pamela Ribon, Tyson Cornell, Michelle Meyering, Chiwan Choi, Luis J. Rodriguez, Flula Borg, Daniel Halpern, Richard Blanco, Denise Duhamel, Mark Haskell Smith, Michael Semanchik, and more. We had some fantastic musicians, including John Rossiter, Das Tapes, and, my good friend, Jake Bluenote. We had Madeline Pena helping us on social media at the library. We had an unbelievable list of fantastic people who showed support. We had Oscar Gutierrez, a brilliant developer and general entrepreneur at Stauffer, and the guidance of Hilary Guy. The list goes on and on.
To all of these people, I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude. Thanks so much for being a part of something short lived yet special. I’m still thinking about recording more podcasts or something else in San Diego, but whatever this project becomes, it will be at a much smaller scale.
Finally, I have to say thanks to J. David Gonzalez. Without him, this show would not have been possible. He’s a fantastic writer and a fixture at Skylight Books. Make sure you check out his story at Thuglit: Issue 11.
I’m not leaving LA until the end of October, and even though I’ll be in San Diego, I still plan on being involved with the literary community. I love the people here and all that’s being created. It’s just time to begin a new chapter. It’s time to focus my creative energies.
It’s Father’s Day, and I’m in San Diego at my brother in law’s house, drinking Gatorade to rehydrate after a night of celebration. Truthfully, I’ve been neglecting this blog for a bit, and I’ve recommitted to a weekly Sunday blog post. So from now on, every Sunday, I’ll be writing a new blog post about what’s going on with my writing or just providing commentary on issues I find important.
Over the last couple of months, there have been a lot of changes in my personal journey. I’ve become the creative director of Circa Interactive; I started an Internet/television show called The Working Poet Radio Show sponsored by the Los Angeles Public Library; and I’ve been trying to chronicle the New Americana at Rockwell’s Camera Phone. On top of that, I’ve been trying to write essays and profiles while keeping up three different social media accounts. It’s been extremely hard to manage, and I’m at a point where I need to think about what’s important in life to focus on. Well, they all are important. This has become quite a balancing act, and I would say that some project management tools like Evernote and Trello have saved me from certain mental exhaustion. What I find is that some people don’t understand how to harness the power of a program like Evernote. Clayton Dean, co-founder of Circa Interactive, introduced me to this: The Secret Weapon.
But that’s not the only thing that’s changing. I’ve been monitoring trends in digital and social media for some time now, and it’s clear to me that as an artist, as a writer, as a journalist, as an author, I need to change the way that I create and work because the ways that art and content are being consumed and communicated have changed drastically. Now, I don’t think creatives should change their approach based on trends, but I do think that the early part of the 21st century has provided an enormous amount of opportunities to expand creation in general.
For example, cutting video is easier than ever, and I’m actively trying to turn the profiles I write for print journalism into video. By using the same approach to print journalism, I believe that I can transfer over the skills I’ve learned as a journalist to video and audio story telling. There has been a learning curve, however, and I’ve had to learn to cut, transition, and film to seem like a professional. I have to think about lighting and sound and many other aspects of recording that I wasn’t entirely familiar with. I’ve been cutting on Adobe Premier, and I have the Adobe Creative Suite.
Now, I have just started learning Illustrator and After Effects, and this is a whole different territory that feels a bit overwhelming, but I see that there are limitless opportunities with text and, of course, special effects that can take my journalism, poetry, and art to a whole different level, but mastering this type of programming takes time and patience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been staring at one of these programs for hours and I can’t figure out how to do a basic function. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scoured through YouTube looking for a video to explain a certain function. Adobe certainly has made the suite easy to understand, but there is still a certain element of patience and understanding that it takes time to master these programs.
I’ve also started taking photography more seriously, and I’ve been going on photo shoots with my new Nikon D7100, which is also what I’ve been using to film. As a journalist and a creative director, it seems essential for me to learn photography. What has become expected of creatives in order to produce has changed dramatically, and the only way for a young creative like me to stay on the cutting edge is to adapt and learn everything in order to tell better stories and create better art and work for clients.
What I’m trying to say is that the 21st century is introducing a whole new type of artist/creative: the one who doesn’t accept the silly distinctions between the mediums; the one who fails to accept that he or she is only limited to one medium; the one who is incorporating every new piece of technology to create new forms and mediums. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and I feel that I’m on the verge of an explosion of new forms and projects. Some will probably be failures as I learn new technologies, but I can’t concern myself with failing. I can only concern myself with finding the best ways to create.
I’ve created a new project that poses the question: “How would Norman Rockwell see our world today?” Check it out here: http://www.rockwellscameraphone.com. Also, big news coming regarding The Working Poet Radio Show. Stay tuned.
Tom Pitts received his education firsthand on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, writing, working, and trying to survive. His shorts have been published in the usual spots by the usual suspects. His novella,Piggyback, is available from Snubnose Press. Tom is also co-editor at OOTG’s Flash Fiction Offensive. Read more of his work at http://tom-pitts.blogspot.com.