Month: March 2015

An Interview With Writer Decater Collins


Decater Orlando Collins is the author of Quitting the Grave and the owner of the blog The Chaos Factory , here is a link to his website:


Q:  What is Quitting the Grave about?

A: Quitting The Grave is a mixture of contemporary suspense and historical fiction set on the Oregon Trail. A local reporter in Eugene, Oregon is investigating a series of grave robberies–in each case the corpse was that of a John Doe–and in the course of her inquiries, she discovers a link to when the town of Eugene was first founded. It then tells the story of the first explorers, trappers, and missionaries to settle in Oregon and the early pioneers who traveled over the Oregon Trail.

Q:  What inspired you to write the book?

A: I lived in Oregon for several years, and I love the American Northwest. When I first came up with the idea for this book, it was an easy decision to set it in Oregon. As I learned more and more about the fascinating figures and events that shaped the region’s early history, the book really began to write itself. Because of the structure of the narrative, switching back and forth between modern day and historical periods, I really wanted to blend together the actual and fictional aspects of the story seamlessly, so you’re never quite sure what to trust. This matches the feelings of the characters within the story.

Q:  What kind of research did you do for the book?

A: I spent more than ten years doing research, everything from the early explorers and settlers in the area to the kinds of wagons they used, the kinds of guns they would carry, and the clothes they would wear. I spent a lot of time focused on the Hudson Bay Company and the early Methodist missionaries. I studied the Native Americans in the region, and even researched the parts of Europe, especially Scotland, where these explorers would have originated from. I knew that I wanted to have the leeway to make up new characters and events to fit my narrative, and the only way I thought I’d get away with that was to get all the details as exact as possible.

Once the book was done, I then ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce a serious of documentaries on the Oregon Trail. I drove from Indiana to Oregon, interviewing historians, researchers, and National Park personnel all along the Trail, and compiled the footage into short videos that explain the actual history.

Q:  What do you think is the key to writing entertaining and plausible historical fiction?

A: I think there are two main factors that go into successful historical fiction. First, you have to research. You need to make the reader feel like she is in that time period. And second, you have to bring the characters to life. Historical fiction is no different from any other genre in the sense that you have to make the readers feel invested. We can assume that their is at least a framework of a narrative based on the actual history that is compelling, because otherwise why would the author have chosen that subject matter. But if you don’t create interesting characters, whether they are based on historical figures or not, then readers won’t care.
Q:  Who are some of your literary influences and how is it evidenced in your writing?

A: The most direct influence on Quitting The Grave is the novel Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I tried to give QTG the same gothic feel, with big, melodramatic themes and a narrative that keeps jumping from one time to another.

Other major influences, that get alluded to repeatedly in the text, include Don Quixote, Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, and the Iliad and the Odyssey.

More generally speaking, some of the authors I most aspire to emulate are Kundera, Kazantzakis, and Dostoevsky.

Q:  What is The Chaos Factory?

A: The Chaos Factory ( is the name of my blog. It’s an attempt to capture all of my varied interests. I’ve always had a hard time concentrating on one thing, and am always bouncing from one idea to another. If I had started a blog on, say, film criticism, I would have quickly gotten bored. Chaos Factory allows me to write about whatever I’m interested in at that moment.
Q:  You’ve dedicated several blog post to the subject of your hatred for Peter Jackson; why do you hate him?

A: Peter Jackson is the worst. I went into great detail how bad the Lord of the Rings trilogy was, from filmmaking and storytelling perspectives ( I will be the first to agree that the movies look amazing, but they deviate far too much from the source material in completely unnecessary ways. Yes, the movies look good, and yes, the movies made a lot of money, but I contend that they could have also been great movies. Instead they are most suitable for 13-year-olds, and most of the best parts of the novel are changed, deleted, or directly contradicted.

Faramir becomes a jerk. Need I say more?

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your creative projects?

A: I am a freelance editor and videographer in Beijing. I edit press releases and newsletters for foreign companies doing business in China. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been doing more and more video work, which I find much more satisfying. The best part of the editing work is it’s very easy and very mindless, and leaves me a lot of freedom to work on my own projects.

Q:  You live in China, why did you want to live there?

A: I’ve lived in China for 14 years. I love China (and Asia) because of the food, the culture, the exposure to different ways of thinking about the world, etc. But most of all, I’ve stayed here for so long because it has afforded me plenty of free time, both to travel and to write. If I lived in America, I would have needed to work full time and I never would have gotten as much writing accomplished.

That being said, now that QTG is finished, I’m moving back to Portland, Oregon next month so that I can promote it and start working on my next novel.

Q:  What is your cutest beagle story?

A: I adopted a beagle two years ago. His name is Bacon, and because his previous owner had abused him, he has a number of behavioral issues, but he’s really the sweetest dog.

One day I was out walking him near my neighborhood in this area where I could let him off leash. It was near the edge of a construction site, which was mostly abandoned. Bacon caught the scent of something, probably a cat, and went running under the barrier. Usually, Bacon won’t let me out of his sight for very long, so I waited from him to come back. But after a few minutes, he still hadn’t returned, and I went to look for him. However, I couldn’t get over the barrier. I could hear him barking about 100 meters down the way, so I followed the barrier to where the barking was coming from. I climbed up on a boulder and looked over the fence, and I could see Bacon was down in this shallow pit they had dug. He was barking up at me like crazy, but no matter how much I yelled for him to come, he wouldn’t leave the pit (which was just deep enough for me to only see his head, but not so deep that he should have had any trouble getting out).

Since he wouldn’t come to me, I had no choice but to walk about 500 meters down to the entrance to this construction site and then 500 meters back. When I got to the pit, I realized it was filled with mud, and Bacon had gotten stuck. He was buried in mud about halfway up his torso. I had to drag up out of the mud and then he was so happy to be free, he wanted to jump all over me. I had to walk him all the way back to the entrance and then back to my apartment and while he was half covered in solid mud. All the people that we passed looked at us like we were both crazy, and I guess they were right.

To this day, Bacon is too frightened to walk over any area that is even slightly muddy.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


An Interview With Clinical Counselor Charlene Pyskoty

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Charlene Pyskoty is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Albuquerque, New Mexico; here is a link to her website:


Q: What made you interested in becoming a therapist?

A: My dad was a Chicago cop. He was a bad-ass dude, and also one of the most spiritual people I’ve ever known. He taught me how to meditate when I was 5 years old. He was very interested in psychology, and we would talk about psychology, spirituality, and philosophy. I became interested in the human condition at an early age. I think my father wanted to teach me as much as he could, as fast as he could. He died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 14 years old.

My life took a few twists and turns – I earned a Master’s degree in Sociology and then one in Public Health before I got my Counseling degree – but I always knew that I would become a therapist.

Along the way, I had careers in research (both academic and market research); writing and editing; and working in marketing and advertising. With a passion (and skill set) for exploration, data gathering, hypothesis testing, a love for the English language, and a passion for helping people succeed in ways that make them more of who they are meant to be, becoming a therapist was the perfect career choice.

There is a saying that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I feel that way about my life and my career – truly blessed. I love the time I spend with my clients (it’s the paperwork and dealing with insurance companies that is the “work” part of my job).

Q: What are some of the requirements of obtaining an LPCC?

A: To become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, I first earned a Bachelor’s degree (Psychology) and then a Master’s degree in Counseling from an accredited Counselor Education program. This is basically a two-year, full-time program which includes one year of an (unpaid) internship. I did my internship at a community mental health agency in Chicago, which was a great experience! I then had to pass the first national exam to receive my first level of licensure.

To obtain my second (and final) level of licensure – which allows me to practice independently – I had to work under supervision for two more years and then pass the National Mental Health Counselor Examination which is administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors.

I keep my license current by taking 40 credit hours of continuing education every two years. Of course, each step in the licensing process requires paying fees.

In addition to the Master’s in Counseling program, I went on to earn a certification in Jungian Psychotherapy (through a two-year clinical training program) at the C.G. Jung Institute in Chicago.

Q: What is your therapeutic process?

A: Let me start out by saying that it seems like the most important things I’ve learned about doing therapy, I learned from working with my horses.

My therapeutic process is to get to know my client and then develop a “treatment plan,” in which the client and I work together to articulate the problems, goals, and the strengths and resources of the client to help reach those goals. Then we use whatever comes up as material to work toward the goals.

While I am good at deeply listening to what a person is trying to communicate, I am also a talker. I don’t just nod my head and say, “Uh-huh,” and “Time’s up.” Because of my research background, I am always exploring with the client and asking questions. I also use humor in my sessions, which one of my clients pointed out as “knowing laughter” – finding the lightness in our shared human condition.

My overall philosophy of working with people is also how I work with horses. I had fostered a little mare from the local horse rescue. Because of some past trauma she had suffered, which left her with an injured ankle, she was a tough case; no one could get near her. My intention was to socialize her and make her people-friendly enough to be a good adoption prospect.

I worked with her very slowly and gently, and she responded by becoming trusting of people. One day I asked a cowboy friend of mine what he thought really made the difference for her. He summed it up in a way that just brought tears to my eyes. He said, “You never saw her as a problem to be fixed. You only cared about her and loved her, and that’s what made the difference.”

I think that is the essence of my therapeutic process. I don’t see people as problems to be fixed. I just care deeply about them and use whatever resources I have, in terms of my knowledge, skills, and compassionate understanding of how hard we humans struggle sometimes, to help them get to where they want to go in their lives.

Q: You have a WordPress site that contains some of your poetry. How does writing poetry help you in your work?

A: I once asked a very wise mentor (and therapist whom I respect deeply) for the single-most important thing to do to become a really great therapist. He said: “Work your process.” Writing poetry – or anything of a self-reflective nature – helps me dig deep and work my own process. Writing helps me get down below the surface details and petty annoyances of my life to, what I call, “the thing under the thing.” The thing under the thing is the deep wound or insecurity that has been triggered by some external event. By digging deep and working my process in this way, I not only develop a greater capacity for compassion and forgiveness of myself, but also for everyone around me.

Life can be hard, and we all deal with so much pain and struggle sometimes. Writing it out helps me get down to the place where all of humanity is connected, not only in the pain and struggle, but even more so in the strength and resilience we have to grow, learn, and move on, albeit with layers of scar tissue around our hearts and souls.

Q: What are some of the more challenging issues you have faced as a therapist?

A: I work with approximately ages 12 and up. My most challenging cases are perhaps teens who are in a dysfunctional family system, who are not getting their emotional needs met, and they are struggling – with school, with peers, and, of course, their own emotions. These kids are so powerless in their family system that they do whatever they can to feel some sense of control in their own lives. Often, this takes the form of some sort of self-destructive behavior (eg., cutting themselves, eating disorders, drugs, or engaging in any number of risky behaviors).

My job is to help these kids develop healthy and effective coping strategies. It is also to help them see their families more realistically and to grieve the emotional support they are unable to get. In many of these families, the parents are incapable of providing for the kids’ emotional needs and making them feel loved and valued. It is my job to help the kids learn to do that for themselves, and to pick healthy people who will support and cherish them in their future relationships.

It sounds like a lot of work, but fortunately, these kids tend to be really smart, sensitive, and insightful. They are hard workers who can see that their parents have problems but can also see that the way out is to take care of themselves and improve their own lives.

As an aside, I really like working with kids who cut themselves. They are a bright bunch and respond well to therapy. One “intervention” that I’ve come up with is to give cutters a golf ball. So many of the suggestions for cutters are soft – take a bubble bath, drink a cup of herbal tea. These are some pretty hard-core kids who use pain to ground themselves. Squeezing or stepping on a golf ball provides a good kind of pain. They can control it, it doesn’t hurt them, and there may even be some acupressure benefits. (By the way, I don’t golf, so I rely on the generosity of my friends to supply me with their used golf balls!)

Q: To what theories in therapy do you ascribe?

A: I take a real mind-body approach. While I am well-grounded in psychological theory and therapeutic best practices, I also draw heavily from the fields of meditation, body-centered therapies and practices (eg., yoga, tai chi), and neuroendocrinology. Lately I have been loving the work of Peter Levine, who talks about processing trauma through the body.

While my standard therapy toolkit consists of a lot of CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) and solution-focused, strength-based techniques, I leave the door wide open to pull in anything that works. Sometimes that might be creative therapies (using art, music, dance, etc.). Sometimes I recommend an evaluation for medications – sometimes a person is just dealt a bad set of brain chemicals, and since the brain is an organ in the body (which sometimes doesn’t function optimally), a medical assessment may be in order.

At the risk of being called a therapy heretic, I don’t think all problems are psychological problems. We are physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual beings. We have to make sure that all aspects are balanced and in line with who we truly are.

Finally, although I love Jungian psychology, I don’t use it with every client.  I am not dogmatic about it. In fact, I am more along the lines of Carl Jung himself, who said, “I am glad that I am Jung, and not a Jungian.”

Q: What is your opinion of reality shows that focus on psychological disorders?

A: I must admit, I don’t watch a lot of television, and I especially eschew shows with a lot of “drama.” Because I am a therapist, I listen to people’s stories all day, not for the drama but with a compassionate, listening heart. I don’t find reality shows about psychological disorders entertaining.

That said, General Hospital and The Bachelor are my brain candy; I’m addicted to them. I would love to be the therapist for The Bachelor!

While I have limited familiarity with reality shows, I can say that therapy is a process of “experimentation.” I give a lot of homework to my clients so that they can experiment with change between sessions. We then review – using a strengths-based, solution-focused orientation – what worked, what didn’t, and why. By working with a client’s natural strengths, we effect lasting change. I don’t believe that is typically possible in a one-hour television show.

Q: Have you noticed a difference in the types of things people in a big city are treated for versus the types of things that bring them to therapy in a rural area?

A: Hmmmm, interesting question. There are definitely more similarities than differences between people. The majority of people seek help for depression, anxiety, and relationship issues.

One major difference that I have noticed is that I see more death-related cases in New Mexico than I did in Chicago. Whether accidental or intentional (by suicide or murder), I see more people dealing with grief and loss of a loved one. I also work with men and women who have spent time in the military and who have been exposed to death and suffering that most of us can’t even imagine.

Here in NM, I see a lot more young people than in Chicago. Most of my clients are in their early 30s or younger. One rather curious difference I’ve noticed: In Chicago, it was usually the woman who called to set up marital therapy; here it is usually the man!

One aspect of rural therapy that I’d like to highlight is that the therapies are more varied and are able to incorporate more of the environment. Equine therapy (working with horses) is a ready option out here. There are wilderness adventures and vision quests. Therapists use aspects of the native culture to facilitate healing. I think it’s wonderful to be able to draw upon the land and the rich history as a part of the treatment plan.

Finally, due to the necessity of great distance and few health providers, telemedicine is being seriously researched and utilized here. “Distance counseling,” using internet-based technology, is a direction in which therapy going. It needs rigorous research to determine its effectiveness and ethical/legal implications.

Q: What are some theories in therapy that you do not agree with?

A: I don’t agree with any theory that thinks it’s the only, right, or best approach! I think therapy is like the story of the three blind men and the elephant. Each man has his hand on a piece of the elephant – and each man is right. Depending upon which part you have your hand on, the elephant feels like a big hose, a tree trunk, or a whip. Everyone is partially right, but without the larger perspective, everyone is also wrong. I would not adhere to any one theory to the exclusion of others.

Q: If you could be treated by Freud or Jung, who would you pick and why?

A: Hmmmmm….perhaps the more interesting question would be which one would I rather treat!

While I think it would be fascinating to lie on the couch and be analyzed by Freud, the father of my profession, I would have to pick Carl Jung. First off, he was one jazzy guy! He was multi-faceted in his thinking and doing – totally open to new experiences. I would love to be able to play thought games with him – exploring my dreams and projections for hidden symbolic meanings, archetypes, and hints toward the healing of my deepest wounds.

Jung didn’t pathologize a person or see them as a diagnosis, but rather, he looked at what was calling out in the person to be expressed and integrated into their personality. He talked about the Shadow, which is not something to be driven deeper into hiding, but brought out into the light and worked with as a strength. He was all about balance and becoming more of who we are meant to be.

Finally, I think there is no better way of understanding the therapist-client relationship than by being a client oneself. I would love to be in therapy with this master, to know how it feels and to learn what I can do to be a really great therapist myself.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview with Writer Joshua Cintron


Joshua Cintron is a blogger and the author of the book What to Expect When You Enroll in an Online Classes; here is a link to his website:


Q:  What inspired you to start your blog?

A: The blog you see on is born out of a desire to work from home as a freelance writer. I stumbled on writing after I became an instructor. I realized my talent stringing together words and thought, “Hey, why not offer my writing services to others?” After dabbling in content mills, I decided to start my own blog.

Q:  What is the overall theme of your blog?

A: No one particular theme exists. I tackle a myriad of subjects that peak my interest. Whether money, society, relationships or education, I construct blog posts to stimulate readers into thinking for themselves.

Q:  Your biography says that you are an online professor. On what subject are you a professor?

A: I teach college courses in the business and public administration or public policy subject area.

Q:  What is the biggest mistake people make when enrolling for online classes?

A: The biggest mistake I see students make enrolling in online classes is they view the classroom as a traditional course, where learning takes place in a classroom-centered environment. Online learning is student-centered, where discipline, time management and the ability to weather challenges of life are essential to survival. Online learning requires a revamping of the way many of us understand college.  I talk about this in my book, What to Expect When You Enroll in an Online Class available on

Q:  What blog post of yours got the most hits and why do you think it was the most popular?

5 Life Changing Tips for Minorities. It strikes a chord with many minorities in that why do minorities continue to lag behind many others in terms of social-economic status? Is it what many fail to learn growing up? Is it a result of employing traditional mindsets of work versus education?

Q:  Who are some of your favorite bloggers?

A: Blog Tyrant and Make a Living Writing. As a freelance writer, competition is fierce and pay is low. Therefore, reading the two sites listed provide valuable information to continue my passion of writing.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your writing?

A: I work for local enforcement in a budget capacity. I complete my writing at home, on the road, in the car or waiting in line. I am always creating content in my mind wherever I am at.

Q:  What do you like about living in California?

A: I like the perfect weather, ability to do a multitude of things, entertainment, the hustle and bustle of 10-million people in 30-40 square miles and visiting the mountains or beach in a minute’s notice.

Q:  What about it would you change?

A: Traffic, high cost of living, high real estate and grocery prices.

Q:  What trends in blogging annoy you?

A: I am annoyed at individuals who hide behind the cloak of obscurity of the Internet and degrade others for making a comment, opinion or observation on a topic. Be a man or woman and show your face. If one firmly believes his or her disposition, why not engage in healthy conversation?

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Tap And Spoken Word Soloist Dustin Loehr


Dustin Loehr is a tap and spoken word soloist who created the one man shows UNCONDITIONAL and Footnotes of the Untellable Tale. He is currently raising funds for his project It’s Something About the Shoes; here is a link to his Facebook page:



Q: When did you know you wanted to dance professionally?

A: That’s an interesting question because I only sometimes consider myself a dancer. Most often I refer to myself as a Performing Artist or a Soloist. When I am tap dancing, I give more attention to the sounds or music I make with my feet. This is how the idea of calling myself a soloist came about, like a lone musician I dance my music. Dancers are typically more concerned with physical form – I am more concerned with sound, my physicality is a result of the sound.

I don’t remember a time where I was NOT dancing. I do remember the first time I watched another tap dancer perform and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to do that too. I was fortunate enough to see the late great Gregory Hines in one of his last touring solo performances. Mr. Hines was so generous with his audience. He told story after story with his feet and his words. After I saw Gregory Hines perform, I knew I was a tap dancer. I had at that point been tap dancing the majority of my life – I began studying when I was three years old – it wasn’t until after Gregory Hines that I became a tap dancer. Gregory introduced me to the orality of tap dancing; the history of the art form. It was this discovery that took my artistry to a new level. Before Gregory, I was busy trying to dance other people’s steps. I slowly began finding my own dance and style.

Q: What inspired you to create Footnotes of the Untellable Tale?

A: Necessity. After successfully touring and promoting my first full-length one-man-show, “UNCONDITIONAL” I was asked to return to one of the venues and present a new product. Well, I didn’t have a new product. So I began working with my wife, Caila Rochelle Loehr, to create a new piece. While I call myself a Soloist it’s not entirely true. Caila produces and acts as my Artistic Manager for all of my performances. I love working with her! With “Footnotes” we decided to tell the before and the after of “UNCONDITIONAL.” “UNCONDITIONAL” is the untellable tale and Footnotes is exactly that, the explanation of the previous show and my current existence as a Musical Theatre actor turned solo performance artist.

Q: What was the most challenging this about getting the show produced?

A: I have been very fortunate with my solo career. That’s not to say that I didn’t have to work hard! You never know who you are going to meet and where. That person might transition from one position into another. The art and theatre community in Arizona is quite small. It’s important to remember that as you conduct yourself as a professional artist. With “Footnotes” the opportunity to have the show produced was offered to me, the most difficult part was actually creating and choreographing the show. “Footnotes” uses much more tap than any of my previous work, and tap dancing to music, that was something new for my independent work! Most of my work as a solo artist is done with just me and my shoes. “Footnotes” was different, featuring popular music which I then accompany with my tap sounds.

UNCONDITIONAL” was first produced by a small local non-profit theatre company. At the time, I had served as a stage manager for this company, stage managing several of their productions. Then an opportunity occurred where the theatre company was in need of a show. I pitched them “UNCONDITIONAL”. Next thing I know, a community college and another small theater had booked the show.

UNCONDITIONAL” and “Footnotes” are intended to go together. They feature different aspects of my life as a tap dancer and artist, as well as personal stories from past relationships and becoming a young father. I juxtapose myth, fairytale, poetry and of course tap dancing as metaphorical motifs that allow me to discuss issues of social justice and illuminate the universality of my experiences, the mythologies, and the lives of my audience. There will be one more installment in this series that’s intended to premier in 2016 in which case I will have a full evening length production, and/or three smaller pieces that I can tour separately.

Q: How does your teaching job affect your pursuit of your independent work?

A: As a Teaching Artist, I mostly work on a contract basis. While these can be immensely rewarding, it can be challenging as well. I provide the bulk of the income for a family of five. Some months are great! When I land a big contract we’ll be able to live a bit more comfortably, but at a cost. Big contracts means dad is spending a lot of time at the theatre. During the leaner months, I supplement by waiting tables but can spend more time with my family. My life is not particularly glamorous. I am working seven days a week in one aspect or another, and when I am not working, I’m not making money; it is a beautiful life!

At times teaching does adversely affect my independent art-making. I have to be careful which contracts I take, balancing longer contracts with shorter ones. Some places are difficult to find substitutes should I need an evening off for one of my own shows, while still most contracts offer little if any paid planning time. If I take several smaller jobs I have to be careful how much time I take preparing lessons, writing scripts ext.

Mostly, teaching allows me to invest artistically into my community and the future of the arts! I consider the shows I direct or facilitate with my students as important as any work I do on my own and I give myself fully to each project. Often times the work done with students shows up in my own work as an artist! Teaching allows me to test out new ideas, approaches, workshops and theories.

Q: Why Phoenix and not New York?

A: I get asked that a lot. The romantic answer is actually a scene straight from “Footnotes.” I went to an audition for a tap show in New York City. I was greeted by a Choreographer/Director who couldn’t tap! His assistant was over worked and sloppy, and the people he began casting were intermediate tappers at best. I survived the first two cuts, and by the third I was so discouraged! This was New York! I had flown from Arizona for this single audition and the Choreographer couldn’t even dance! I was asked to perform the routine alone for this man. I executed the steps perfectly. He asked me to do it again, but “smile”. I was so pissed off at this point. My idealist dream of New York and Broadway was being ruined and I couldn’t bring myself to smile! I did the routine again, smile-less and was promptly sent home…

The unromantic story is, (well maybe this is romantic too?) my first wife and I went through a divorce in 2011. Arizona is our son’s home, and in order for custody agreements to stay in affect, it is my home too. For now, Arizona is where I stay which is probably a good thing. There is SO much work that needs to occur in the artistic, educational, and social climate of the state. Perhaps I’m here to make those changes… Arizona’s political leaders have voted to cut art funding by 1 million dollars in 2016, and funding for community colleges will be reduced to 0. I think I’m here for a reason. I want to help change the arts and education landscape of this state and someday retire to the East Coast. I’m thinking Main… and by retire, I mean start a theatre company there too…

Speaking of companies, my wife and I are in the process of co-founding a non-profit dedicated to creative place-making for Arizona communities. Our partner Cirien Saadeh is a political organizer and policy maker, and together we hope to launch our company, Transformative Arts Productions or T.A.P. in 2016. Our dream is to create a state of the art interdisciplinary arts laboratory where all communities of Arizona can experience and explore all the artistic genres. We hope to be able to actively use artistic ways of knowing to solve community problems and engage in independent and group growth.

Q: What kind of themes do you like to explore in your choreography?

A: I like to communicate tap in non-traditional ways. I am constantly pushing my own understanding of the art form and looking to show audiences how something old (tap dancing) can be used in new ways! Often times, tap will be used to communicate emotional undertones of my characters, or it provides a rhythmic signature for different characters that occurs each time that person emerges. One example of pushing myself in new artistic directions is also from “Footnotes”. There is a scene where I am discussing issues of marital stress, new-parent stress, just STRESS in general, and I am interrupted by sounds of tap dancing. As I continue the scene, the “tapping” continues to interrupt my dialogue and concentration until I can’t ignore it any longer and I have a full on competition or duel with these sounds. The tap sounds I am battling are pre-recorded sounds of myself dancing. In essence, I am battling myself!

I try to tell a story with my feet. When I tap and talk, I am interested in the rhythm and sounds of my words as much as the rhythm and sounds of my feet. Tap dancing should be like talking, the sounds must be articulated clearly and fully or the audience will lose what it is you are trying to say. Tap dancing should also be like walking, it should appear easy and natural.

Q: What is It’s Something About the Shoes about?

A: Oh gosh, well it is my Creative Master’s Thesis for Prescott College where I am studying Humanities with an emphasis on Expressive Arts and Education. A tap dancer in graduate school! I am interested in how art-making, and artistic expression/knowing can be used to cultivate growth and transformation for individuals within their educational systems or community environment. “It’s Something About the Shoes” began eight years ago when I saw a traditional group of dancers evangelizing down the streets of Phoenix celebrating the Catholic St. the Lady of Guadeloupe (a Hispanic version of Mary Jesus’ mother). What struck me about these dancers, and there were hundreds of different dancers doing this same thing, but this one troupe had special shoes with metal plates. They tapped in ways and rhythms that I recognized as a tap dancer. I thought that maybe tap dancing and this new, possibly indigenous dance form, might be related in a way. You see, tap dancing is a blend of different cultures and traditions, most of which are generally known by tap historians. What if this culture was a missing link in the developmental history of tap dancing?

Finding this group of dancers became my first major challenge. In December, 2014, I located Martha Morales, the Director of this group. I learned that they are called the Danza CAAS and that their dance form is called Sonajera or “rattle/sacred noise dance”. Martha agreed to work with me, and explore, through the creation of a co-created performance and space, any relationships that might exist between our different cultures and art forms.

“It’s Something About the Shoes” utilizes multimedia, storytelling, live installation, theatre, documentary, and of course dance to explore how artistic practice can be used to contribute to a greater body of knowledge: going beyond cultural and aesthetic differences, together the Danza CAAS and myself will perform side-by-side and have a rhythmic dialogue expressing truths that words cannot. We will preserve their story, elevate the art of percussive dance, and add evidence to show how the dance styles might be related.

Pushing the boundaries of what tap dancing can do.

Readers can find more information about this show and our fundraising efforts on our Indiegogo page:

Q: What is your strangest backstage story?

A: The first thing that came to mind was when I was working in Musical Theatre. I was a dancer in the show “Footloose” and had come down with the stomach flu, literally right before the show started! I would dance my scenes and run off stage to be sick, only to run back on and smile and dance some more. This lasted for the entire performance! The show must go on right?

Q: Do you think hard work or natural athletic ability are more important in the world of dance?

A: I don’t consider myself very athletic, although my way of learning is very Kinesthetically motivated which could be compared to athleticism. There is certainly a level of endurance that is present in dance, and amazing feats of strength. Hard work can build both of these things. I believe dancers carry with them an elevated dedication and sense of perfectionism. Since I often cross between theatre and dance worlds, I have noticed a difference between dancers and actors. Dancers tend to have a “no-nonsense” attitude about them, especially while they are learning a new routine. A dancer is more likely to play when the routine is learned and they can execute it correctly. Whereas an actor plays much more throughout the entirety of the creation process. It has been useful for me as an artist to do both of these things, but I tend to rehearse and run my rehearsals more closely to how a dancer would. I think the hard work dancers put into their craft translates to athletic ability.

Q: If you could dance a routine with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly who would you pick and why?

A: Gene Kelly. “Singing in the Rain” is probably one of my favorite movie musicals. Kelly ALWAYS tells a story with his dancing and he is ALWAYS pushing himself and the boundaries of the entire dance genre. His ballet in “An American in Paris” was the longest dance sequence EVER filmed up to that point! I am continuously experimenting with non-verbal forms of communication, Gene Kelly is a master of this! Besides, he’s simply amazing! Constantly amazes me. Gene is a strong dancer, much stronger than myself, but he knows how to tell a story. For me, art must communicate. If it doesn’t communicate it’s not art. It might entertain, or fill some other purpose, but unless there is a story, no matter how episodic or avant-garde, there is no art. Art is story- and Gene Kelly tells his stories masterfully.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Rapper Jay Hollin


Jay Hollin is a rapper who just released the single One Day from his mixed tape Architect: Vol I; here is a link to his Soundcloud page:

Q:  How did you first become interested in rap music?

A: I used to watch music videos and listen to the radio a lot as a kid.

Q:  Who are some of your influences?

A: Some of my music influences are 50 Cent, Eminem, Drake, Banks, Tupac, Wayne, Jay Z, Diddy, and MJ.

Q:  What sets you apart from other rappers?

A: I think my consistency puts me apart from other rappers. I can compose whole project in a weeks time, without rushing myself. I record so much material its like in a way I have conditioned myself to work at faster speeds than the average artist. Not only that but I manage myself, I do my booking, my own marketing, videos , pictures, and everything. No Label or nothing just me.

Q:  What is the overall theme of Architect: Vol 1?

A: The theme behind it is growth and change. Its the process of planning out what you want to do and how your going to do it.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?

A: I work for a cruise company right now, It doesn’t really affect my music to much or at all. It’s just a job I have for now until I finish school.

Q:  What are some things you have done to promote your music?

A: utilized social media, passed out flyers, Cd’s ,blogs, and music videos. Anything to get my name out there.

Q:  What inspired you to write the song One Day?

A: I had the beat for two years now, I was going though my computer and found it. I wrote a verse and the hook to it. I ended leaving it alone then came back to it rewrote the first verse and wrote the second verse. The song was done I thought it was dope but it was missing something. I linked up with Palina about a week after. I let her hear the song, she sung the hook I had wrote for it and brought whole new style to it. The rest was history.

Q:  What do you like about the music industry?

A: I like the fact that theirs so many different styles out now. Before it was one kind of rapper. Now theirs so many new kinds of hiphop artist out. You have to set your self apart. Go for the brass ring and take it.

Q:  What about it would you change?

A: I would change the way the labels pick artist. Labels want artist who already have a large fan base. Why? because they don’t have to develop the artist anymore. They want someone who can sell already and carry their brand. Which is dope but it takes away from the artist with talent who has to work twice as hard to get that fan base to even get the attention from the labels.

Q:  What has been your most awkward celebrity encounter?

A: Meeting Obama, I was in Florida with some friends. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood hotel. I was going downstair to the lobby for something. I don’t remember what. but out of nowhere we started seeing so many cop cars outside. So we’re looking around like whats going on? then we decide to head back up to our room. So as we get back to the elevator and we see none other than Barack Obama! He waved hi to us. He had so much security with him it was kind of cool. This was like right before he became president when he was doing his campaigning for presidency.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Actor Ricky Dew


Ricky Dew is a former boxer and an aspiring actor here is a link to his website:

Q: Why did you quit boxing?

A:  Well, I stopped boxing because I seen 1st hand how messed up the business can be. My 2nd pro fight was in NYC on a cable network I won’t mention by name, but it airs a popular show with dragons on it. But I was offered a large amount of money to lose the fight. I knew at that point I wouldn’t be able to be apart of that business after this, because I didn’t want to pay that game. But I did take the money, and told my manager I was retiring right after. Also this is the 1st time I’ve ever stated on the record the real reason why I retied.

Q: What made you interested in acting?
A: Well, I went to New York in High School to film this reality show and the P.A. who was in charge of babysitting me told me I had star quality and needed to be on TV. Now nothing ever happened with her after I went home, but it stayed with me that I was a star and need to be seen. Entertaining people is something that brings me the most joy in life. Also I’m pretty damn good at it.

Q: What is Stewart and Paul about?

A:  Stewart and Paul is about 2 hands who get in all kinds of crazy shit. Think Ken &
Kel but the 2015 version. It was going to be released January 30th but got pushed back because of reasons not really detailed to be with the crew. But I have some really great project coming up soon Dead Weight is a crime drama that is really good, great cast. I’m really excited for people to see it, really bad ass.

Q:  What role do you play?

A:  Well in Stewart and Paul I played just a thug in the 1st episode. But I was going to come back in episode 3 and get a name and some insight into my life, it was a big twist. But like i said idk when or if that will be happening. But in Dead Weight which will be out soon I play Victor, I thug who is loyal to his brother but all about that cash. Think Dough Boy from Boyz in The Hood.

Q: What makes the series worth watching?

A: Whenever Stewart and Paul goes out it will be worth it because I’m in it, but Dead Weight is worth checking out because it is my really time being not kinda funny in a role, you don’t get to see any of the real me show in the character. Plus you get to see me early in my career and you will look back like I seen him when he first got started.
Q: What makes you fame-worthy?
A: I think I’m fame worthy because I have one of those reality show personalities that make you want to watch, but I also have a shit ton of talent that I think people will enjoy seeing on screen. I didn’t move here to be anything less than A list in Hollywood and I’m going to get there or die trying.

Q: What kind of day job or income source do you have and how does it help or hinder your acting?
A: Right now I work as a server to pay the bills. Having a job has made me miss out on lots of auditions. Which really bites but I’m trying to save up enough to the point I can quit my day job for a few months and do nothing but audition and film projects. Like I didn’t come here to give people food.

Q:  Who are some of your acting influences and why?
A: My favorite actor is Ryan Reynolds he is just so good to me. People give him lots of shit because he hasn’t had a hit in a while, but he is great in everything he is in even if the movie sucks. I’m really looking forward to him playing Deadpool which is my favorite comic book character. I have the Deadpool symbol tattooed on my bicep. I alway really like Jake Johnson from New Girl he plays Nick. I was kinda disappointed when I seen the show because I was like “thats how I would play an awkward character” but he is great. I really liked that movie he did Lets be Cops.
Q: What is the most realistic film about boxing you have ever seen?
A: Happy thing the only boxing movies I’ve ever enjoyed was Rocky. I’m way more of a MMA fan, like I never even would watch boxing for fun. But just fighting movies in general, the most real was Warrior starring Tom Hardy. That movie was perfect to be from the fights to the drama outside of the cage the acting, man that movie was great. Check it out idk if its still on Netflix but it is a great film, 4 stars!

Q: What is your strangest on set story?

A: The strangest story on set hmmmm thats a good question. I’ve seen a camera man lose his shit because an extra walked in the shot, when there was like minutes of sun light left that was some fun shit. But my strangest story would be I was being drove back to my car by a P.A. from set and she started coming on to me. Needless to say shit was really awkward when i seen her the next day on set. But it was a fun time in that car.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Actress/Model Mariela I’V


Mariela I’V is an actress who appears in the film Under the Hollywood Sign and has modeled for American Apparel; here is a link to her website:

Q:  How did you get into modeling?

A: I started modelling as most models at age 14 because of my mother. My mother is a glam queen, the type to be all dressed up at a grocery store even, I was tomboy then so wasnt as into modelling, was fascinated with the acting world but my mother didnt support acting so much then but my first project she put me in was a very big Latin Runway show for one of the top Artists of south America Pipi…I dont recall his full name. That was his artist name he went by. This was a show in California at the time we lived in Denver CO.

Q:  What was the experience of working for American Apparel like?


A: I love American Apparel they are awesome. Simple is the way to go. It was a fun and relaxed photo shoot with yummy desserts and fruits. The new handsome owner of American Apparel from Uruguay was there the entire shoot so was fun modelling for him! I would most definitely model for American Apparel again!

Q:  What made you interested in transitioning into acting?

A: Acting was my passion but modelling is what really launched my career. So pursued both and now i love both. I was always fascinated by acting as a child, the Hollywood glam, creation, imagination, art and magic. I was always a creative one a bit eccentric in a unique way.

Q:  What kind of training have you had?

A:  I have great mentors, acting teachers that I have learned from. I have studied drama and acting through out  high school, to my university-Metro State University of Denver. In LA I have studied at Aida Institute-cold readings, monolgues, on camera workshops, camera reactions, improv. Mi West Playhouse- improv and comedy sketch. These are few of my experiences of training.

Q:  You appeared on Millionaire Matchmaker; how real is reality television?

A: Well Reality dating shows, I dont like reality shows other then dating ones.  I am ok with dating shows, its fun and enjoyable. Some are staged some are just as is improv. Milionaire Matchmaker is organized of how the process of reaching different levels but on our part its our choice to stand out and be natural and improv.

Q:  Who are some of your acting influences?

A: Oh I have so many…My favorite actresses Angelina Jolie for being a sexy bad ass and always is a true artist, Male actors I still do love Johnny Depp for being a awesome eccentric actor, he always plays the very characterized character well as for some other actors would be difficult for.

Q:  What is Under the Hollywood Sign about?

A:  This film is about a stuggling male actor who is down on his luck and dreams are fading trying to make it in life and lives in his trailer van. So we see him struggle and the different experiences he goes through and discovers his purpose in life.

Q:  What role do you play?


A:  I play Summer, who is a hipster bad girl at a party up in the hills near his van. Drinking, smoking, drugs and having fun at the party, and making out is what the party is about.

Q:  Why do you think people are so fascinated by aspiring actors?

A: Producers are always watching always seeking for new talent. Casting directors and other talent watch as well. Sometimes its a video game, kick ass, make it to the next level, repeat. As athletes they like to see progression.

Q:  What do you think is more important in Hollywood, good looks or talent?

A: Talent is the main thing that is important. But being Hollywood vanity is seen as well. The heartthrob, stud, team captain or goddess, sweetheart always stand out. Audience always love talent, looks, comedy and kids. Number one sellers.  I grew up in a conservative family vanity is a sin, everyone is a beautiful person in there own way if its outside or inside or both. But those that have horrible attitudes and personalities even if they are handsome/gorgeous I see them ulgy. Thats how my heart and mind works.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)