In the second installment of our Q&A, we asked Jaime Green, creator of new and noteworthy (we agree, but you don’t have to take our word for it, that’s according to I-Tunes!) podcast logical problem solving questions, to answer our signature questions. The Hypothetical Interview is a series profiling writers or creators whose ethos we seek to emulate in our creed; the series focuses on those who are launching new projects. It’s a pleasure to feature Jaime, who embodies each of these criteria – and who reminds us that it’s the small things that accomplish the large.
She invokes three writing ‘patron saints’ worth spending time with, conquers the quintessential challenge of describing one’s nonfiction writing by taking the subject matter approach, and shares a revelation that came to her through the act of writing. Jaime also provides a bevy of listening suggestions, and reflects on how giving others an audience on Catapult relates to seeking audiences for her writing.
Hypothetical: How do you describe your work as a writer?
JG: I say I write essays, but that’s only because I haven’t written anything longer yet. I tend to describe my work by subject matter, which is a silly way to do that because I write about several pretty unrelated things – food, science, museums, theatre. And new stuff is always cropping up. I am very bad at describing my work as a whole, as opposed to individual projects.
Hypothetical: Tell us about your recent projects. What was the impetus for this podcast?
JG: I used to work in theatre, as a literary manager and producer. All of that came out of the desire to find awesome stuff – plays, in that case – and get it in front of more people. As a literary associate that meant championing scripts I loved to my boss and our artistic directors. As a producer it meant getting people together and raising money to mount a (usually very small) production. When I started writing, I think I missed both the joy of finding awesome stuff and showing it to people as well as the satisfaction of making a thing. I was the managing editor of the Columbia Journal for a year in grad school, which definitely scratched this itch! When I write, I submit my work to publications, for them to decide if they want to produce it. The Catapult is a thing that I am capable of getting out into the world myself.
Hypothetical: How are the readers selected? What other podcast or reading series are you inspired by?
JG: The readers on The Catapult are people whose work I love. Some are writers I’ve admired for a while, some are writers whose work I’ve been introduced to by friends. I’ve been asking friends and writers I trust to recommend writers whose work I might not know. I found Ryan Britt, who reads an amazing short story on the first episode, through Colleen Kinder, who reads an excerpt from her brilliant essay on episode two. Nicole Steinberg, the poet from the first episode, is someone whose work I actually encountered through tumblr. (I tell that story on the podcast.)
And then there are readers I’ve seen at readings – at Columbia, or at the Franklin Park Reading Series – and then tracked down, because I loved their work and loved their reading style. Now, when I go to readings, I’m always keeping my ears open for something great and new to me. I met a poet at a reading last week – by “met” I mean “went up to him after he read and introduced myself and exchanged email addresses so I can have him read on the podcast.”
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and bits of their styles have crept into my hosting, and my general aesthetic for what feels good in your ears. Too Beautiful to Live (TBTL) was an early favorite. I’m also a big fan of the Maximum Fun podcasts – My Brother, My Brother, and Me; Stop Podcasting Yourself; Song Exploder; and especially Jordan, Jesse, Go!, which is so comforting to me that I listen to it when I get carsick. I grew up listening to talk radio, and still spend a lot of time with WNYC in my ears. Radiolab is a work of literary and aural genius.
Since moving to Crown Heights, I’ve become a huge fan of the Franklin Park Reading Series, which is big and boisterous and feels like such an event, as well as the cozy, friendly Shelf Life series at Hullaballoo, run by my friend Becca. Both are within ten minutes of my apartment, which is a huge treat.
Hypothetical: Ryan Chang’s story is one of your podcast pieces. Tell us about hearing the piece for the first time and your reaction to it. How did you first encounter Ryan’s work?
JG: Ryan and I both live in Crown Heights, and I knew him through a mutual friend, but I think we first really met when he read at Franklin Park. He’s got such a calm, lovely presence when he reads, and his work sounds so cool out loud.
I heard this story for the first time when Ryan recorded it. I can’t really listen to absorb a story when I’m recording – I’m making sure things sound good, listening for outside noise, trying to make sure my cat doesn’t get in the way. So the first time I got to really absorb and appreciate this story was after I edited the audio. I listened through to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, and then I got to really listen. It was a treat, to hear the story sort of bloom into all its nuances.
Hypothetical: Is there an issue that you feel is of global concern that moves you to create in your writing or other artistic work? What and why?
JG: I was recently in a training session for my job in a writing center, and we were asked to write down, among the answers to other questions, why we write. And I wrote – having never articulated this before – that I write to describe and honor what I think is interesting in the world. To wax hyperbolic, I think that it’s connected to compassion and mindfulness. Seeing the world, seeing other people, finding the worthy and interesting story in the small things.
Hypothetical: Who are your literary icons? What about broadcasting? How did you become interested in podcasts? How does the podcast feed your own writing, or vice versa?
JG: If icons are images of saints, my patron saint of interwoven themes is Eula Biss, my patron saint of lush formal collage is Michael Ondaatje, my patron saint of nerdery and sneaky sentiment is Sarah Vowell.
The first podcasts I listened to were Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and This American Life. Maybe seven or eight years ago? This American Life led me to Too Beautiful to Live, TBTL led to Jordan, Jesse, Go!, and by then podcasts had become zeitgeisty and I didn’t need a breadcrumb trail. My sister got me into Radiolab. She deserves credit for that.
The podcast feeds my writing in a couple of ways. First, it keeps me reading new work, seeking it out in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have to. The drive to find new readers motivates me to keep seeking. It also gives me a broader, more diverse web of writers I know. I am otherwise really heavy on essayists in my life. And lastly, it gives me an outlet for my itchy urge to produce work in the world. Both to make things and to get things to an audience. So I think – I hope – that it allows me to be more patient with my own writing, that there will be less of a panic to publish.
Hypothetical: What are you reading and listening to right now?
JG: I’m about to – finally – start reading The Book Thief, after a friend’s been on me to do so for literally years. In the meanwhile, she’s moved to Portland; I’m returning her copy of the book when I visit in April. It’s do or die. I know I’ll love it, I just have to jump in.
I’ve been really loving the Song Exploder podcast lately. It’s a real aural treat.
Hypothetical: What languages do you read in? Do you read translations into English? If so, what’s the best one you’ve read recently?
JG: I only read in English, but every so often a translator friend will ask for synonyms or nuances via Facebook, and I find that sort of brainstorming work really satisfying.
Hypothetical: Give an example of a person, place, thing or experience that has challenged your perception of the world.
JG: This feels trite, but – I do not believe in ghosts, but am insanely easily spooked by ghost stories. There’s some disconnect there between knowledge and emotional reactions that I don’t think is indicating that ghosts are real, but it’s something amiss in my perceptions and logic.
Hypothetical: If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
JG: Here: http://www.kakslauttanen.fi/en/accommodation/
Hypothetical: What is your mission, your passion – your own personal “that which has yet to be achieved” in the parlance of our creed?
JG: Oh man. This is huge. I think the only way I keep myself sane is by not ever thinking in such big terms. The big things are there, under the surface, keeping me going every day, but if I were to look at them dead-on and name them, I’m not sure I could ever move.
Hypothetical: What’s next for the podcast?
JG: More episodes! I’ve got a bunch of readings in the bank – I’ve got to match them into good episodes, and keep recording new writers. Episode #3 will feature Leslie Jamison, who’s amazing new book of essays comes out April 1. I also need to find some more synonyms for “amazing.”
Jaime Green‘s writing has appeared in The Awl, The Rumpus, The Cossack, Everyday Genius, and other places. She also writes about news in astronomy and astrophysics for Astrobites. She is an MFA candidate in nonfiction at Columbia University, where she also teaches writing.