Tag: Arts

An Interview With Writer Catherine MacDonald

Romancing the Vines



Catherine MacDonald is the author of Romancing the Vines; here is a link to her website:






Q: What is Romancing the Vines about?

A: Francesca Bernard is a vintner in the Sonoma Valley who just can’t seem to perfect her wine, her finances, and her love life. She finds herself torn between the man she lives with and the man she loves. A letter arrives from a long-lost cousin encouraging her to travel to Italy to uncover the secret to her wine and her heart. Tension is tight around the vineyard, so she leaps at the chance. Once in Italy, her cousin notices Francesca’s torment and convinces her to visit the local seer, who is known to help lost souls. The old woman propels her back through time on a heart-pounding quest where she visits three lives where her survival was in jeopardy. Armed with the secrets and truths, she finally understands how the love, lust, and revenge they have endured for centuries holds the answers to their present survival.


Q: What personal experiences inspired you to write it?


A: At one time I thought I wanted to run a vineyard, so I researched and visited vineyards and I found that running an RV dealership is easier. I’ve traveled to Italy, France, and of course, the Sonoma Valley many times. The story grew out of my travels and my love for wine. I’ve also experienced visions from past lives, which prompted me to include them in this story.


Q: What makes Francesca Bernard a unique character?


A: Francesca is stubborn and not a very good business woman. She refuses to listen to her heart. She refuses to acknowledge her own wine-making abilities, and she has a door open to the occult. But on the other hand she is a naughty girl and resorts to things she shouldn’t do in order to raise some money for the vineyard.


Q: Who are some of your literary influences?


A: Literary: Hmm. I’ve read everything May Sarton ever wrote, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Ayn Rand, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and F.Scott Fitzgerald. I enjoyed these authors because of the complexities of their work. I’ve tromped around through Key West and Hemingway’s old haunts and been to his place in Idaho. A current writer I’ve enjoyed is Deborah Harkness who wrote the All Souls Trilogy because I love historical fiction complemented with the occult.


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


A: I own and operate an RV dealership with my husband. We have thirty-two employees and so far we’ve sold 487 units this year. Daily, I meet amazing people with fascinating stories. (I also was a teacher for 25 years.) I was given a plaque on my desk that reads: Careful…or you’ll be in my novel.


Q: What kind of research did you do for The Divorce Ranch?


A: I read extensively about the time period and visited what are the remains of several ranches in the area. This was how Nevada struggled through The Great Depression. We legalized gambling and made divorce a six week process; hence, people traveled from all over the country and Europe to receive “the cure” and throw their rings off the Bridge of Sighs and into the Truckee River. One of my characters was designed after my great-aunt who was a secretary on a Hollywood studio lot in the 1930s. She used to tell me some stories!


Q: What do you think the main difference is between what men and women want to read about?


A: I’ve found men are more action driven. My husband reads a great deal, but he likes books where things are blown up or someone is shot on the first page. I am interested in the human experience and like character-driven plots. I’m not a huge romance reader, but I used to be vice president of the romance writers in my area and I discovered many women who liked to escape read those fantasy books.


Q: Do you think people find physically attractive characters more sympathetic than those who are not?


A: I think people find unattractive characters more sympathetic because they have a harder time than the “beautiful” people in life. Doors open slower. You have to depend on your strengths and talents, and not your image in the mirror. Beauty fades like a blooming rose.


Q: What is the most unusual thing you have done to promote your book?


A: Nothing unusual. The typical book signings, radio talks, and TV appearances. In my youth I was wild and crazy, but now that I’m matured I am a mellow girl.


Q: If you were to write fan fiction about any character in literary history, who would you pick and why?


A: I’ve always been a fan of Scarlett O”Hara from Gone with the Wind. Given the time period and the shackles placed on women, she was strong and determined and did what was necessary. Of course, she was in love with the weak Ashley and doesn’t realize who she truly loves until it’s too late. I can’t image wearing those corsets and all those clothes in the hot, sticky south.




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 Comedian And Actor Brett Klein




Brett Klein is a comedian and actor who was a member of the Second City Teen Troupe; here is a link to his website:








Q: What made you want to be a comedian?


A: I was in a school play when I was 8 and got the biggest laugh of the show. The crowd’s roar felt better than anything I had experienced. I was okay at sports, but never a star… So, this was the first place I got real praise. I began making kids laugh in class, and then eventually my teacher recommended I take improv camps at The Second City in Detroit. As soon as I turned 12, I made my parents sign me up for the teen camp and knew from that moment on I wanted to make people laugh for a living. I was eventually selected for The Second City’s Teen Troupe, but then it disbanded when the theater closed down. I was 16 and hungry to get on stage, so I started doing stand up.


Q: How were you selected to be in Second City’s teen troupe?


A: I probably took more summer programs than anyone else in The Second City’s youth training center. I remember they let me take an extra camp for free once, because they needed more people. I placed into their advanced summer class and then was invited to audition for the teen troupe. The troupe had a short run, with practices every week and a show once a month.


Q: To what method of acting do you ascribe?


A: I received my BFA in Acting from Michigan State University, which teaches a number of methods. I’ve been trained in classical, contemporary, musical theatre, film and commercial. We learned various tools and exercises in vulnerability, listening, scoring, voice, movement, etc… Just the workload from that degree and performing in shows makes you a more disciplined actor. We learn about Stanislavski and “method acting”, but I (as well as my professors) have mixed feelings about the concept. It is useful to live offstage as your character for exercises and to learn more about how your character would respond in different situations. However, it is also important to be able to turn it off and not lose yourself. Don’t be a jerk to your cast and crew. Also, the most interesting part of acting to watch is an honest reaction between two scene partners. If you are so obsessed with just your own character, you will lose the objective and connection with your scene partner – this will create a very two-dimensional performance.



Q: What makes your stand up routine unique?


A: I incorporate music and spoken bits, which are inspired from my life and other random thoughts. My act has been described as “comedy with ADD”. I often will bring up a guitar and play original songs and raps, with jokes scattered in between. Just out of college, a fair amount of material has been inspired from college life. I try to bring a lot of energy to the stage and make it a performance with some physical comedy rather than just a guy reciting jokes. This is particularly the case in my rap song, “Kosher Sausage”.


Q: Who are some of your comedic influences?


A: Stand Up:

Stephen Lynch, Flight of the Conchords, Steve Martin, Mitch Hedberg, Patton Oswalt, Eddie Murphy, Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, Robin Williams, Jim Jefferies and Bill Cosby.



Chris Farley, John Belushi, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell and Dan Aykroyd.


Also, a number of national headliners who aren’t as famous, but I’ve worked with and/or seen a lot:

J Chris Newberg, Dave Landau, Bill Bushart, Chris D’Elia, Buddy Bolton.


Q: How do you deal with a heckler?


A: I’ve only had a malicious heckler a few times. People usually just think they’re helping the show or are just drunk and talking a lot. There are stock lines, like, “I don’t slap the dick out of your mouth while you’re trying to make a living,” or, “How about we switch places, where you come on stage and I’ll go in the parking lot and blow four dudes!” …While lines like these can be helpful if you’re stuck, sometimes it’s better to ask the heckler questions and figure out why they’re being such a dingus. It’s not a normal thing to heckle and usually they will make themselves vulnerable and sound like an idiot on their own. Also, the crowd typically hates hecklers unless the comic is ignorant and racist. So they are usually on your side no matter what you say. Even if a comic is bombing, crowds typically feel bad for him/her as a human being and don’t want to see a heckler win. Sometimes though, people just suck and you might have a bad night. Just get up and do it again.


Q: What is The King about?


A: The King is a comedy/thriller shot in Detroit and written by Dave Landau (Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central), Sebastian Oberst (Bones, Weeds) and director Ken Kuykendall. It’s a coming of age tale about a kid who gets his first car. Him and his three other friends go on an adventure in the projects of Detroit and all hell breaks loose. You can read about it and watch the trailer at the link below:




Q: What role do you play?


A: I play the nerdy Matt Kegler, who is the best friend of Jesse (the protagonist). Matt is one of the four leads and is essentially the embodiment of high school insecurity. Friends and popularity are a battle for him, which is why he is so loyal to Jesse. Him and Klaw (Jesse’s other friend) hate each other and there is constant tension. While in many ways Matt is a weak character with bad luck, he also has a sense of bravery and strength in that he will stand up for what he believes is right. Much of the comedic relief comes at his expense. When I read the script, I knew this was exactly the type of movie I wanted to work on. Matt really reminded me of myself in high school. I was very excited when Dave gave me the role.



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


A: My day job is working as a freelance comedy writer for United Stations Radio Networks. I write parody songs and audio sketches for radio stations around the country. The company has a phenomenal writing team with award winning comics from around the city. I interned there last summer and began submitting scripts. They started accepting some and helped me workshop sketches. Once I left, they kept taking my material and I began making decent money. I moved back to NYC after graduation, so I could pursue stand up, acting and come into the studio to write. I’m the rookie on the team and it’s given me sort of a home base in the city. It’s really beneficial, because I get paid to work on my craft for a different format. Also, it’s a great place for me to network with other comics and performers in NYC.



Q: What’s funny about NYC?


A: NYC is ridiculous. The amount of insanity you witness every day is entertaining and often disturbing. Just a few days ago, I saw a guy masturbating in public right outside of the office. In addition to the crazies of NYC, the comedy scene there is probably the best in the world. You can get on stage multiple times in a night and there are tons of clubs and venues. Someone who’d be a headliner in the Midwest will pop in for an open mic. I’ve had to follow established comics from Comedy Central, The Tonight Show, MTV, HBO etc. It really makes you step up your game to keep up. Crowds are also tougher in NY than in Michigan. You need much harder hitting and tight material to get booked in NYC. The best of the best are there, and clubs can book them easily. I was getting booked to feature and MC regularly in the Midwest. Now, I feel like I’m starting back at square one. There is a lot of bad comedy in NYC, but also a hell of a lot more great comedy. It’s everything x1000, which makes it more difficult to stand out. It’s making me realize how far I’ve come, but also how far I still have to go.






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/Model Daniel Sobieray



Daniel Sobieray is an actor and model who appears in A Tale of Two Sillies; here is a link to his website:





Q:  What is A Tale of Two Sillies about?


A: A group of community college students in Southern California in the 90’s and they quest to find their identity.


Q:  What role do you play?


A: Yendis Nortrac


Q:  What did you do to prepare for the role?


A: Watched a lot of party of 5 and everything Lou Diamond Phillips did. LOL.


Q:  What do you think was the funniest thing about the ninties?


A: Only cause we can look back now but pagers and Hairstyles.


Q:  What kind of training have you had?


A: School of life…. and Theater school… lol


Q:  To what method of acting do you ascribe?


A: Once I make up my mind of who what what and where of the Character. Then I get the proper information on that character. Then I use a from of method to try it out and get comfortable with the new skin I am trying to fit into.


Q:  What’s your strangest backstage story?


A: Once I was doing a play of Balm of Gilead and when I went to my dressing room after the show a female from the audience was in my room waiting for me with champagne and chocolates. It was a nice but very uncomfortable she was like 80 yrs old. Still not sure how she got in there and past the security??? Lol


Q:  What does your average workout consist of?


A: I try to workout everyday and its a combo of weights and cardio.


Q:  What has been your greatest triumph?


A: I have been told as I have made my way thought this industry that I would be a real actor due to being a model and athlete ect. So every time I book a project its that reminder that I am only one in control of what I am and do.


Q:  What would you change about Hollywood?

A: I wouldn’t change anything Hollywood has been around much longer than I have and my short time and experience in Hollywood. I feel I don’t have enough experience to have opinion…… yet! hehe


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 Art Therapist Jamie Rogers



Jamie Rogers is an art therapist who owns Emergent Pathways Through Art in Portland, OR; here is a link to the website:





Q:  What made you interested in art therapy?


A: I wish I had a simple answer to this question. And yet, I personally enjoy that the answer is not so simple because it comes from an intertwining of situations and learnings within my life that have spanned the last decade and have brought a greater richness to what I am offering as an art therapist. So, I will offer some of the highlights that led me in the direction of art therapy.


To begin with, I had hit a point in my life where I recognized that I didn’t have any passion for the work that I was doing as a systems analyst. At the same time, I had become interested in tile mosaics and was thinking about becoming an artist. But, my future plans were delayed as I began having neurological difficulties that would set the stage for a whole new set of experiences during the next few years.


Dealing with neurological dysfunction was challenging and yet it was here that I chose to work with alternative care practitioners. These practitioners did not specifically include a mental health therapist, but they all really held a healing space for me and actually took the time to listen to what I was going through while also offering advice and direction. Within this, I found the qualities of holding space and listening to be equally healing as the specific healing modalities being offered by each of the practitioners I encountered.


During this healing period, I also pursued my desires to become an artist by taking classes in drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. In doing so, I became especially interested in what would happen when I worked without any particular intention on the final product. This was an experience that I had previously described as something coming through me, rather than of me, giving me the sense that some kind of spiritual connection was guiding me to the existence of something deeper within myself. Then, in looking back on the finished product, I was able to discover and acknowledge something that was in fact occurring within my life.


Thus, my experiences with art during my own healing process created my initial interest in art therapy. But, actually making the decision to become an art therapist took more healing and deeper investigation on my part. A turning point came, however, after engaging in a consistent meditation practice and deciding to attend a “Life Vows” meditation retreat, where I found my life vows to include:

  • Creating art with the intention of making people feel their heart
  • Helping people create value in their life
  • Listening to the spiritual stories of others with compassion and respect
  • Encouraging others to grow in their own way
  • Holding a calm and positive space for others
  • Speaking and writing from the heart
  • Being respectful of the earth and the resources it offers

After discovering these vows, I felt that I wanted to do energy work and became interested in a form called bioenergetics. But, I found that the training for this type of work required a masters degree in mental health and thus my attention was redirected to art therapy.


Today I feel that art therapy is in fact energy work, but I also currently see myself incorporating other energetic modalities in the future that are likely to include bioenergetics, reiki, and medical intuition.


Q:  You have a Masters of Art Therapy Counseling from Southwestern College of Santa Fe, New Mexico and a Bachelors of Science in Computer and Information Science from the University of Oregon. How do you use your computer science degree in your work?


A: Both areas of study have their own complexities to them and require a particular kind of analytical thinking. That is, when an problem arises, you need to look beyond the symptom being displayed at the surface. Because, just addressing the surface symptom may not in fact “fix” the undesired effect. Instead, this might also cause additional issues to arise, in people as well as computer systems. Thus, looking further inside the computer program or at the underlying cause of a behavior is more pertinent to finding a desired resolution. Within my work as an art therapist, I address looking underneath a behavior by defaulting to a person’s body, heart, and spirit and encouraging the development of their own personal guidance system for healing.


Q: . You are currently not registered with the ATCB, is there a reason you have chosen not to register yourself?


A: The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) has a number of requirements for registration. For the designation of “Registered Art Therapist” (ATR), these requirements include graduation from an approved master’s art therapy program and 1000 hours of supervised, post-graduation, direct client work. After these requirements are met, a “Registered Art Therapist” may take an exam to become a “Board Certified Art Therapist” (ATR-BC). Since only a couple of states license art therapists, Oregon not being one of them, these are generally the only available credentials beyond a master’s degree for art therapists. Many art therapy programs however, Southwestern College included, offer a dual degree of art therapy and counseling, allowing for further credentialing and job opportunities as licensed counselors, which generally have yet another set of requirements.


Thus, since I just graduated in October of 2013, I am not eligible for registration with the ATCB. I am, however, listed with the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) as a new professional. But, as to obtaining further credentials from the ATCB, I have not made plans to take this further step, since I am uncertain of the value in doing so with regard to the services that I am providing and the associated costs. If I were to proceed more in the direction of counseling and mental health diagnoses and treatment, then this might make more sense. But, my current focus has more to do with holistic health improvement that includes: developing connections to the body, heart, and spirit, clearing energy blockages, working with chronic physical conditions, discovering life purpose and passions, and moving through the stages of life. Within this realm, I see myself as more of a healing guide who utilizes processes that are largely based on extrapolations from my own life and educational experiences.


Q:  What is the difference between drawing a picture for therapeutic reasons at home and doing it in a therapist’s office?


A: You can certainly gain therapeutic value while engaging in artistic creation at home and I highly encourage all of us to do so, because I believe that it is vital to our well-being as it introduces a metaphorical language that can be interpreted by the body for healing. But, our culture has greatly devalued the artistic process and has elevated it to a level that can only be achieved by the finest of artists which are designated as an elite group. Because of this, many people say they are not artists and cannot draw anything, but in fact almost everyone can make marks on paper or otherwise engage and experiment with art materials.


So, to begin with, the therapist’s office provides a space that gives permission to engage in the artistic process. But, to even do this, means that the space needs to be cultivated to provide safety, confidentiality, and support. And, for me, it also means inviting in spiritual guides that will support me, the space, and all who seek help within it. Beyond this, creating art in a therapeutic setting will allow greater insights to be gained as the therapist bares witness, invites reflection, and offers additional perspectives into a client’s art-making process and resulting artwork.


Therapeutic insights can be offered in different ways, however, depending on a therapist’s philosophy or purpose. Some therapists do interpret client art and, in fact, specific art directives do exist in the art therapy field that are used for diagnostic assessment of a client’s state of mind. But, this is not the direction of my practice, although I do keep these ideas in mind to alert me of potential issues that may need to be addressed. My therapeutic style is to allow the client to interpret their art, to question their process, to question what they see and feel, and to give additional insights, which may or may not be valid through the client’s eyes.


Q: What are some of the methods you use in your work?


A: The methods used during a session depend largely on the level or depth that a client is prepared for. At the very top or surface level, a client may just need to express and talk about their emotions. So, asking them to draw their anger, fear, or frustration might be the most therapeutic action to take, because it can provide some relief to their current situation.


At a deeper level, I am most often trying to help a client see something just below the surface of their consciousness. To do this, I first ask them to energetically hold whatever they have come into my office to work with, which I call an intention. Then, to ground them and to deepen their intention, I lead them through a short guided meditation. And Finally, I ask them to come out of the meditation as they are ready, to continue holding the energy of their intention within their body, and to draw or make marks on the paper by drawing from their body. This last piece, “drawing from the body”, is really important because I want them to get out of their mind, out of thinking about an art product, and out of thinking about a solution to their problem. Instead, I want them to be in their body, because I believe it holds some important information that is currently unavailable to their conscious mind.


At a similar but more extended level, I use a body map, which would be more applicable to chronic conditions or deeper traumas. Within this method, I will place a body outline before the client and guide them to hold their intention. As they hold their intention, I will ask them to scan their body for sensations. Once a sensation is identified, I will ask them to choose a representative color, to draw what it feels like on the corresponding area of the body map, and to label that sensation. This process will continue until all sensations around the intention have been identified. I call this resulting map a “treatment plan” and I will then start to work with the least threatening sensations on this map as I form appropriate art directives for the client.


Within any of these levels I am also likely to encourage journaling or dialoging. Journaling encourages reflection and helps to capture the information from the experience and to bring out further information that the experience has invoked. Dialoging, on the other hand, is a technique that is used primarily for attempting to access information from the right side of the brain, which is more sensory in nature. With this technique questions can be asked of the image using the dominant hand and responded to by using the non-dominant hand. Both practices bring a greater depth of understanding about the information that is being brought through an individual’s image about a specific life situation.


Of further significance to note here is the manner in which these methods are applied. Although, all methods will include an initial conversation about a client’s current situation, the resolution or opening of a pathway is found through the art and the discussion, journalling, and dialoging that follow the art creation. Thus, my role in applying these methods is simply to help with the client’s own discovery process.


Q:  What is the difference between individual art therapy and group art therapy?


A: The main difference between individual and group art therapy is the comfort level for the client or clients. That is, some topics are not comfortable for an individual to share within a group and likewise some topics would be more traumatizing than helpful to other group members. Beyond this, individual art therapy is generally for deeper, more personal work, while group art therapy or classes are restricted to more general topics that are common to all members of the group.


Q:  What can a person get out of art therapy that they could not get out of traditional psychotherapy?


A: Traditional psychotherapy actually encompasses many types of theories and techniques, but for purposes of simplification I’m going to assume that you are asking about “talk” therapies. With that regard, I believe the greatest strength of art therapy is that it allows for an externalization of unconscious information in a metaphorical format. On the one hand, this means that unknown information can be extracted from within, given a tangible existence, and then discussed and reflected upon over time. On the other hand, the information provided is more sensory in nature and provides for a type of language that can be more easily interpreted by the implicit, sensory functions of the right brain. Thus, the mere process of art creation and reflection can cause an alteration to the interpretation of sensory inputs, which are the driving force behind behaviors.


To define this more specifically, here are four levels of potential interaction within the art therapy process and their associated effects:

  • Art creation is therapeutic in and of itself, providing relaxation or stimulation based on media selection and usage
  • Exploring personal art allows insights to surface that were not previously present, by investigating both the art and the process of creating the art
  • Creating personal artwork allows the encapsulation of information about a particular moment within a person’s life, making it available for greater examination, reflection, and integration over time
  • Working on a sequence of art pieces allows a person to integrate change more completely and at their own pace, as their awareness increases, as their sensory and mental information finds congruent expression, and as their artwork and life experiences come to bare witness to the changes that are occurring

Q:  What are some if the problems you have seen art therapy help with?


A: The problems that art therapy can help with are actually very wide and diverse, from the therapeutic value of play to having an effect on severe mental illness and everything in between. My own area of interest, however, includes working with unresolved trauma that inhibits the experience of joy, clouds the pathways toward a satisfying and fulfilling life, or manifests as an energy blockage or chronic physical condition. Within this, my main goal for resolution is to utilize art therapy to enable reconnection to the body, heart, and spirit, which I believe will allow the client’s natural guidance system to bring them back into health and happiness.


Saying all of this, however, means that I am pushing the use of art therapy into new territory. While I’m sure you can find that art therapy is being used for life improvement, you are not likely to find instances of it being used to resolve physical conditions. The term “medical art therapy” is out there, but this generally refers to the palliative care of a patient and relates only to their emotional well-being within their current circumstances. But, I have used the “body map” method discussed above to work with an energy blockage that seemed to be related to an unresolved remnant of PTSD. I have also resolved my own chronic shoulder pain by creating art, dialoging with the art, dialoging with the body, and applying other energetic healing techniques. So, I hope to be able to serve clients in a similar fashion.


Q:  What is the most unusual case you have seen in your work?


A: At this point in time, I don’t feel that I have observed a particularly unusual case. And, to speak of a particular case would likely be a breach of confidentiality, so it would not be appropriate to discuss here. However, I have observed different levels of trauma and their associated levels of resiliency. Surprisingly, some people with a great deal of trauma also have a great deal of resiliency. Additionally, I have observed that our current culture brings about a huge amount of trauma within most of us that often gets passed over as being “normal”, which is the area that I hope to help address within my therapeutic sessions with clients.


Q: What famous artist do you think needs some professional help?


A: As stated above, I do not make interpretations of a client’s or an artist’s work. Their interpretations rule in my book. What I think and feel about another’s art work may not have anything to do with what is going on within them, but may in fact have everything to do with what is going on within me. But, as an art therapist, I do endeavor to discern whether the observations I am making are associate with me or with my client. I do this by listening to their story and by questioning whether my insights are pertinent before I offer them to the client. 


On the other hand, I will note that all artwork carries the energies and intentions of those who create it. Rather than being concerned with whether an artist needs professional help or not, I would suggest that you be more aware of how these energies and intentions are affecting you when you see it or are around it. Art is very powerful! So, be careful about the artwork you choose to keep within your life, for it can actually affect your own state of being.



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 Comedian Matt Nagin



Matt Nagin is a comedian, writer and actor; here is a link to his website:



Q:  When did you know you were funny?


A: I recently watched an old home video from when I was seven years and pretended to be Mahatma K. Gandhi. The fact that I was doing an impression at this young age shows that on some level the need to entertain has always been integral to my identity.


I also remember being a real showboat at my Bar Mitzvah. It was a shared Bar Mitzvah. To save money and increase efficiency two other children were Bar Mitzvahed with me. But I remember outshining them and really singing my Haftorah portion like I was auditioning for American Idol.


Hence, while I didn’t perform standup until seven years ago, humor has always played a preeminent role in shaping my existence. I’ve used it to fend off bullies, pick up women, improve my relations with my family, deal with a devastating chronic illness. I even used humor during my grandpa’s eulogy!


That being said, I’m not sure I ever KNEW I was funny. There was an overall sense I had potential, but I never KNEW for CERTAIN. To this day I still wonder, at times, if it’s an illusion. Just because I say I’m a comic doesn’t mean it’s accurate. People can call themselves whatever they want. Then, too, you question your priorities. Why am I even going out on stage every night? I could be doing something important…like joining The Peace Corps.


I think this self-doubt and self-questioning is critical to the development of many artists. If I KNEW I was funny I wouldn’t have the same drive to perform. For it would already be PROVEN.


It doesn’t matter that I’ve gotten up on stage more than a thousand times over the past seven years and quite often have terrific sets. It doesn’t matter that I had a very successful one man show that obtained four star reviews. Even after a set where I kill, and go home feeling great, the next day I’ll wake up, go back to a club or open mic, and have to prove myself over again. Comics spend their lives CONVINCING THEMSELVES that they are funny. And, in the end, you’re only as good as your last show.



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


A: I work as an Adjunct Professor of English Composition. This job has helped my comedy in a number of ways: it has helped me be more expressive; it has taught me the importance of conveying matters in a way that is simple and lucid; it has given me confidence talking to a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds; and it has inspired me to devise a myriad of strategies to relate to an audience.


A critical challenge with being a teacher and a comedian is these are two vastly different worlds. I often go over feminist theories in one of my classes yet I discuss raw sexual encounters with a series of women I explicitly portray as doltish in my standup. One persona does not neatly overlap with the other.


A College Professor is a very strong persona; you are expected to convey a certain level of professional distance and objectivity while in that role that is almost directly oppositional to what is expected from a comic. Most comics unveil what is deepest and most personal—they try to eliminate anything like a professional distance. Plus, they often act like fools; another polar opposite to the prototypical highly intelligent lecturer in a tweed jacket.


Q:   How do you deal with a heckler?


A: Many standups fear and/or despise hecklers. I consider a heckler a gift. The reason for this is that in most cases the audience gives you carte blanche to make this rude intruder look foolish. I have always been able to think quickly on my feet, and am willing to be honest in the moment about my own flaws, as well as being perceptive about the flaws of others, so I do great with hecklers. Some of my best sets have involved making hecklers look foolish. This could also be partly the result of my teaching background—as an instructor you learn how to keep troublemakers in line.


Incidentally, I’m also not a big believer in having prepared heckler material—it seems better to respond in the moment. Stock lines seem too forced. It is like a guy using a pickup line at a bar. Few women take such a wannabe Lothario seriously. I think you are better off being authentic and responding honestly and authoritatively. There are different opinions on this, of course, as with everything, but the critical element is that the comic must win the battle with the heckler. If not it is the kiss of death.


I remember one of the few tough sets I had when it was pretty much a tie. The reason is I was being heckled by a grandma. Female hecklers, in general, are trickier for a male comic. The reason is if a comic eviscerates a female heckler he can easily come across as a total jerk. These feelings are only compounded when the heckler is a grandma. No one wants to see someone rip apart a nice old lady. Well, this old lady screamed out “not funny” during an edgy joke and mocking her in a way that didn’t come across as too cruel yet enabled me to continue the show was challenging. That was probably my toughest heckler in recent memory—not because of what she said so much as because of what she represented to a lot of audience members.


Q:  What is your strangest teaching story?


A: My first year teaching, at a local community college, I had a student with Tourette’s Syndrome in a racially-diverse remedial class. Her condition was such that she could not control the urge to yell out racial epithets. Needless to say the other students hated her. Every day the class was on the verge of a race riot. Because she had a medical note specifying she couldn’t control what she blurted out I had to be sensitive to her condition. At the same time, I had to keep in mind that she was pissing off the entire class in a highly disruptive fashion.


I tried to suggest she do her best to control her condition which only seemed to make matters worse. The class was a nightmare. Every day was jarring. I’d routinely kick students out. I had them all sign behavioral contracts stipulating that certain poor behaviors would get them an F. I gave surprise quizzes and complex homework assignments in a futile attempt to gain control of the classroom dynamic.


Then, one day, during another heated exchange, where I threatened to fail one student who was being rude to the girl with Tourette’s, he stood up and said that if I didn’t pass him he’d come into school and shoot me. He went on to describe how he’d do it graphically. Given all the school shootings at the time that was a very endearing threat. Then he stormed out and slammed the door.


Remarkably, he ended up passing the class. Not because his intimidation worked. I would rather die than lose integrity. But because, in spite of his behavioral problems, his writing was at a level that was ready to move onto the next class. It was terribly inappropriate behavior and, in retrospect, I should have reported him to the Dean’s office. But he probably moved on from it, and, hopefully, never threatened to kill any of his other instructors.


Q:  What are some key ingredients for strong comedic writing?


A: One key ingredient for strong comedic writing is it has to fit the persona of the performer. What is funny in one person’s voice is not funny at all in another’s. Anyone can write a joke. So the critical element that separate’s comedians, in my opinion, is the stage persona, the way they convey a joke, the delivery, the particular charm of the individual.


Another key element with comedic writing is timing. The punchlines need to come in unexpected places. The set needs to play against expectations, to create disruption, to build contrast, and to develop in such a way that the audience cannot see where precisely the performer is taking them. This can all be established in the writing.


A: Yet another key element of comedic writing is depth. When a performer has depth in his set, when he really conveys something of substance, it stands out from the endless performers who merely try to be amusing.


Q:  Of all the people you have opened for, who was the funniest in person?

A:I am reluctant to answer this question directly—because I hate to pick favorites. But some of the funniest individuals in person are not who you would expect. I think being funny off-stage is almost a separate art and some are better at that then they are on stage with prepared material. I know performers who can riff brilliantly off stage an entire hour and have it be better than what most comics take fifteen years to come up with.


Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?


A: I try to be influenced from all areas—film, painting, writing etc. My favorite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick, and I was hugely influenced as an artist and human being by Kubrick’s dark sense of humor, his psychoanalytic streak, and his cynical perspective on mankind’s foibles. Films like Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange, all mix the humorous and the disturbing in ways that have always intrigued me. Woody Allen was another huge influence as I feel I am in the tradition of neurotic Jewish self-loathing intellectuals—only I would say my sensibility is much filthier. Obviously, I am not in his league—he is a brilliant filmmaker and was a terrific comic—but I like to learn from what I consider the best. Other standups I really enjoy are Sarah Silverman, Bill Burr, Don Rickles, and Gilbert Gottfried.


Q:  What about human nature is fundamentally comical?


A: I think humor is a natural defense against the tragic. I am sure Jews during the Holocaust were telling each other one-liners. My 94 year old grandma told me that what helped her family get through the Great Depression was a sense of humor. Not savings. Not stories. Not love. Not family. Humor.


Wherever there is the most sorrow and anguish there is the greatest need for humor. We are currently in a very troubling era; global warming, a country ruled by a military-industrial complex, corrupt politicians subservient to corporate interests, bailouts for corporate criminals who have destroyed the national economy, unheard of infringements of civil liberties—the list goes on. In such an era, humor is essential as a means of coping, synthesizing and responding to the collective madness.


But, really, in any era, there is a need for humor. For human life is so fragile. It all goes by before you know it. We are at the mercy of bowel movements, urination, snot, body odor, sexual emissions, and come into the world helpless and then go out of it the same way. We pretend to have great importance when we are on a rock hurtling through space at more than 67,000 miles per hour. Meanwhile, our incomprehensibly vast galaxy that is but one of hundreds of billions of similarly massive galaxies. Given all these realities, how could you not see our reality as inherently comic?


Q: Are there any subjects you consider off limits?


A: I once had the opportunity to talk with Robert Klein and ended up discussing the same question. He essentially said that you can joke about anything. No topic is taboo. But he felt that if you are going to do jokes about very sensitive topics like 9/11 or child prostitution, say, the material had to be that much more hilarious.


So, to answer your question, no, I don’t feel any topic is off limits. That said, some topics will be easier to develop material from than others. But any topic, to me, is fair game. It all comes down to execution.


Q:  Will you tell me a blogger joke?


A: Many people are very upset the NSA is spying on us. All communication is potentially being monitored by this agency. Nothing is completely personal. But this doesn’t bother me at all. My one hope is that the NSA will start reading my blog. No one else is.


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


An Interview with Author S.C. Rhyne


S.C. Rhyne is the author of The Reporter and the Girl and she runs a blog by the same name; here is a link to the website:


Q:  What is The Reporter and the Girl about?


A: The Reporter and The Girl is based on my award winning blog of the same name. Sabrien Collins is the main character and the readers follow her relationship with a reporter name Jon. There will be times where you get inside the character’s head and heart. Emotionally — it’s up and down, and asks a lot of hard questions.

Q:  What inspired you to write it?

A: I was partly inspired by my past relationships and different stories of “incidences” I’d exchange with my friends.  But I also did not want the storyline to be so cliché, where boy meets girl and they fall in love and live happily ever after.

Q:  What makes your blog book-worthy?

A: My blog started out as a story blog, where I was posting chapters weekly of the storyline (those draft chapters are still there), and earlier this year I decided to finish and re-work the posts as a manuscript. I still post on the blog of course and have guest contributions.

Q:  What are some of the blogs you enjoy?

A: I enjoy The Sexy Single Mommy it was one of the first relationship blogs I subscribed to and I enjoy Ty’s posts, they are very honest and diverse (not only appealing to single parents). I wish I had discovered her blog earlier in my dating life.

I also follow various personal blogs like Hugh PaxtonAfter Ecstasy, The Laundry, and Looking for Reasoning, Some news blogs like Dear Kitty and lots of book and writing blogs.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and ho w does it influence your creative writing?

A: My day job is not really related to creative writing, although I do a lot of business writing. I do handle the social media sites and blog for the company though. Sometimes on my lunch break I’ll write something related to what I’m working on or a blog post.

Q:  What is the Versatile Blogger award? 


A: According to the main website, bloggers nominated for the award are considered for the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page. Or, of course, the quality of the photographs and the level of love displayed in the taking of them.

I feel honored to be recognized by other talented bloggers and I hope my writing continues to make an impact.

Q:  What is the secret to creating an interesting heroine?


A: Well, I guess you can’t strive for perfection. No heroine/hero is perfect, I think readers relate better to a character who is honestly trying to overcome certain boundaries. Because we are all trying to overcome boundaries every day.


Q:  Who are some of your literary influences?

A: I read a lot of books: Ernest Hemingway, Suzanne Collins, Steig Larsson, Larissa Ione, Sandra Brown….to name a few.

Q:  What is the oddest story you have ever covered as a journalist?

A: As a contributor, to health news at Atlanta Black Star, one of the oddest, or I should say most upsetting is the recent controversial verdict from North Texas in which a 16 year old teen killed 4 people and injured others in a drunk driving collision. His psychologist made a defense based on a made up disease called “Affluenza”.

Q:  What is the most unique thing you have done to promote yourself as a writer?


A: Well, I’m always writing and contributing to other sites as well as pitching writers for reviews. I’m trying to get my name out there, I have pitched other websites and have been turned down, but I’m still trying, especially to get more reviews of my debut novel.

Currently, I have teamed up with other author to give away a Kindle Fire HDX, and that has worked well in terms of promoting my website, here is the link!

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 Janell Islas




Janell Islas is an aspiring actress who appears in the film Scout; here is a link to her IMDB page:




Q: What made you interested in being a performer?


A:  As a child I was always singing, dancing, and citing around the house and in front of family. I used to videotape myself and then show it to my family. Of course then it was funny. Because I loved acting so much I took theater all throughout my school years all the way till high school. I really loved doing theater in high school. I ended up getting a scholarship in theater arts for community c college. So I have been doing and loving acting for a while.


Q: What is Scout about?

A:  Scout is a movie about a rebellious girl who is gothy trying to find her sister. She travels across Texas with a guy and goes through many life experiences.

Q: What role do you play?

A:  In the movie I originally had a different role but they deleted my role, so I ended up getting featured as one of the psych patients that the boy is in the psych ward with.

Q: What is your dream role?

A:  My dream role would be to get a supporting role in Fast & Furious or any major film that is fun and has aloof action. The reason this would be my dream role is because I love action movies. They are so exciting, thrilling, and just capture the audience in the moment.

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your pursuit of an acting career?
A:  My day job is creating websites and social networking. I have a small website and social media development company called KAZZAM Media. This keeps me busy when I am not filming, but I think filming is taking over right now. My business actually helps me in my pursuit of acting, as I help people in media build their websites and market them, and that gives me a lot of connections in the entertainment business.

Q: To what method of acting do you ascribe?

A:  I studied the Meisner technique throughout school. It was a great way to introduce me into the world of acting, but now I think no matter what method any actor studies, they must know their craft in order to be good. If you do not know your craft, then any technique no matter what will not mean anything if you cannot perform well.

Q: What do you like about Hollywood?
A:  Everything. I am a Texas southern girl, and California and Hollywood is a breath of fresh air. It is huge eclectic, crazy, fun, glitzy, glamorous, and everything else you can think of. It’s exactly what you see on TV when you are young. The only difference is when you are trying to build your acting career Hollywood can be very competitive and harsh on you if you do not do well. But other than that, I LOVE IT!!!

Q: What would you change about it if you could?

A:  I love Hollywood just the way it is. That is what makes it Hollywood. If I could change anything about Hollywood I would only, and everyone would love this, get rid of traffic!. I would also love to make everything Eco friendly around there.

Q: What is your oddest LA story?

9. As far as any odd LA stories, I have one really crazy one but I cannot tell. It’s a secret!

Q: What makes you fameworthy?

A:  I think the thing that makes me fame worthy is the fact that I know my craft. I am a very dedicated hard worker and love acting. I am also very easy to get along with on set, so people like that. I want people to know when they see me on the big screen, that’s Janell Islas, she is such a great actress.


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