On New Year’s Eve of 1996 my band Kid Company played live in Manchester, New Hampshire at a place called Café Savoy. The venue was a run-down restaurant in a mini-mall, repurposed by the owners for punk and hardcore shows. There were a bunch of bands on the bill that night. Among them I remember 13 Tons of Napalm, along with two touring acts from Florida called Assück and Hot Water Music.
For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, the band names may sound peculiar, but Hot Water Music is an acclaimed group today, currently on their 25th anniversary tour. I distinctly remember my first exposure to them that evening, because throughout their set I was taunted by a local bully we all referred to as Double Hawk, so christened because of his twin mohawk hairstyle. Double Hawk was there for 13 Tons. But he’d also been convinced by a local DJ that our band spread rumors about her and should be physically punished for our sins. So during HWM’s performance, he stood directly behind me, shoving me and whispering sweet nothings like “You’re dead” or “I’ll teach you to talk shit” or “I’m gonna kill you.”
Not ideal circumstances for enjoying new music. I did my best to ignore Double Hawk and not give in to the goading. In front of me, four big bearded, sweaty, tattooed guys from Gainesville thrashed out anthems from their new record Fuel For the Hate Game. When they went into “Turnstile,” I was entranced, no longer even aware of the thug inches away trying to fight me. Their driving music and inspiring lyrics reminded me of my worth, in the face of my adversary.
No point in holding back on what you're holding No matter it be shit or it be golden Foundations shift And still they're a shifting We set up our falls
Hold on tight to your fears Cause that's your hatred And that's your love as well Learn to use all your fears As a fuel, as an engine To get you where you need
I must always remember There's no point to surrender
The last couple of years have felt a bit like that night twenty-three years ago. It’s like someone’s been standing behind me, constantly saying I’m weak or incompetent, then giving me the occasional shove, trying to knock me down. But like HWM taught me, there’s no point to surrender. I’m holding tight to my fears, hatred and love, using them as an engine to get where I need.
Watching my feeds in the weeks before and after the new year I saw a lot of people hoping 2020 is better than the last few years. Whether that’s related to politics, health or just personal achievements, there’s definitely a desire out there for change. I’m right there with the rest of you, making adjustments for the coming year. I hope they provide more stability and allow me to focus again on my personal creative goals.
To start this process I left my position as the Marketing Manager of Live Wire’s public radio show. I gave my notice just after Halloween so the organization had enough time to find a replacement while I finished out the fall season’s events.
Live Wire allowed me to hit the ground running when we arrived in Portland, introducing me to a new world of writers, artists and musicians, while supplying a steady paycheck. But if I’m going to treat my personal writing seriously I need a position with more stability that pays my commensurate value so I can be a patron to my own work.
Leaving Live Wire gives me the time and energy to do something I should have when we first got here. I’m scheduling coffee meetings with other Portlanders to learn about the many possibilities here. I read that only 20% of Portland’s jobs are posted publicly, while the remaining positions are filled through networking with who-you-know. Armed with what I’m learning, I hope to gain access to more opportunities.
I’m lucky that Kelly already has a stable job she loves, working for Mercy Corps in downtown Portland. Our household can survive for a few months while I take this time to find a new position I’m content in.
This is probably a good time to remind you who I am and what I do! I consider myself primarily a storyteller, both independently as a publisher and collaboratively as a specialist in communication and creative media.
I have over 16 years of experience telling stories in publishing, digital media and higher education. I enjoy it so much that I motivated myself to publish several graphic novels and a weekly podcast. With my skills in crowd funding and social media marketing I’ve raised over $18,000 for these projects. Every time I work on my resumé I’m reminded of these achievements and get a little morale boost from all I’ve done.
Related to those accomplishments, my co-host Charlie Bennett and I decided that after four full years we are retiring the Supercontext podcast in May of 2020. With the help of our patron community we’ve been able to take the show to some new, exciting places. I compare Supercontext to getting another graduate degree. It’s been a deep dive into learning more about the creative industry, one that’s given me a new language for understanding my own projects and the cultural ecosystem. While that expansion was rewarding, Supercontext’s production schedule just isn’t sustainable between our day jobs, families and other creative projects.
So our plan is to stop recording new “full” episodes in May. We hope that afterward our listeners will sustain a $1 per month pledge that will keep the RSS feed active so our catalog is still available for discovery. In return, we’ll continue publishing our less formal “mini-episode” conversations once a month as a reward, allowing us to keep connected to each other and the patron community. Anyone who pledges at least a dollar can ask us questions that we’ll answer in those conversations. They’ll also have complete access to all of our previous content, including mini-episodes and the special “SuperKingContext” episodes we’ve done about Stephen King adaptations.
All of this — finding a new job, retiring Supercontext, etc. — is so I can focus more on my creative projects. Since the last time I sent one of these newsletters, several projects derailed, ones I was really excited about sharing. I’m developing a business plan to support my goals now, so I have the resources to keep those wheels-in-the-sky turning.
I’m looking into doing more events, especially if they’ll get my work in front of people interested in what I’m making. I’ve got my eye on small press shows, zine symposiums, dark art markets and horror conventions. I’ll continue to do comics shows, just not the ones that require a big investment for little return. Expect to see me at Emerald City Comic Con in March and Rose City Comic Con in September. I’m also getting more of my short stories printed as illustrated booklets and may even invest in merchandise like shirts, stickers or enamel pins with my 3 skull logo (above).
I’m devoting more time to the stories I’ve been struggling to finish. A horror novelette I started in June of 2019 is in its third draft. I also spent the last two months researching and finding a collaborator for METTLE, a martial arts graphic novel inspired by Lone Wolf and Cub and Leon the Professional. Finally, I want to finish my fantasy murder mystery DEEP RED THREAD so my new artistic collaborator can begin work on it in the second half of 2020.
If anything, I’ve got plans! Among them I’ll try to be more consistent with this newsletter, keeping you all updated as I focus more on bringing my trove of creative ideas to light. Honestly, just putting these words to paper feels good. I can see the big picture again, ignore the petty rivals and take pride in doing the right thing for myself.
Foundations shift. And still they're shifting. But there’s still no point in surrender.