I met J.D. Smith, author of the children’s picture book The Best Mariachi in the World (Raven Tree Press), at the Poetry Conference at West Chester University. He’s currently circulating two collections of poetry, one each in formal and free verse, and another children’s manuscript. His essay collection, Dowsing and Science, is scheduled for publication by Texas Review Press in 2010. He agreed to answer a few probing questions here at Treated & Released, in spite of the fact that I never can tell whether he’s joking or being completely serious.
Treated & Released: J.D. Smith
Robin: Who is Rob Omura, and why are you and I friends with him on Facebook?
J.D.: I only know about Rob through Facebook, and it seems we have a lot of mutual writer friends. Like myself, he seems to have interests in several different genres. I think his range also includes crime fiction and poetry, and there may be more. Some people can only be described as champion Facebook networkers. The Greek poet Dimitri Kraniotis and Suzanne Vega have both filled up their maximum of 5,000 friends and are, I think, on to their “B” profiles for more friends.
Robin: OK. Tracked him down. It appears Rob Omura is a lawyer in Calgary (environmental law, we’re happy to discover) and an editor for Goldfish Press in Eustis, Florida. You and Rob have had stories published in Bad Things. It’s all starting to make sense to me now.
I presume you’ve never tried your hand at screenwriting, or have you?
J.D.: As a matter of fact, I have. In the 1990s I wrote the first draft of a screenplay, not really knowing what I was doing—and it shows. Right now I am using that text as the outline of a crime novel, my first novel of any kind. I should also note that the story of my one-act play “Dig” has been optioned for adaptation by Meydenbauer Entertainment, and director Joshua Caldwell and a collaborator have been at work on this. I should also note that “Dig” will be produced in London by the organization CurvingRoad in June of 2010. As of December 3, we are starting to work on revisions of the script.
I additionally have a very particular idea for a character-driven screenplay I would like to write, and I have ideas for two full-length plays as well.
Robin: I’ve read some of your poetry, your noir fiction, and the children’s picture book. What motivates you to write in such diverse styles?
J.D.: In large part I am driven by curiosity and an appetite for novelty. I try to answer the question of “Can I do this?” Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes it’s a much different “this” than I could have imagined. In addition, I seem to have creative wells that fill and go dry at different times, so working in several genres gives me the opportunity to feel that I am always working on something. By temperament I am also an eclectic “fox” rather than a specialized “hedgehog,” so I have a great many moods and interests. I have also learned the hard way that I cannot say everything I would like to say in only one genre, so branching out represents a necessity.
Robin: What other forms does your writing appear in, and where can I see excerpts?
J.D.: Other forms I’ve tried include literary fiction, humorous erotica (I’m not sure there’s really any other kind), essays, commentary, and humor. Some of these overlap. I’ve pasted below a variety of links, which range from high to low culture.
Los Angeles Times: “Pop a pill and save a rhino”
The Barcelona Review: “Reading as Vacation”
Clean Sheets Erotica Magazine: “Exceptions”
Exquisite Corpse: “From the Management”
Ducts.org, the webzine of personal stories: “Diary Excerpt”
McSweeney’s: “Food, Drink, and Condiment Names That May Also Serve As Names of Ecdysiasts and/or Adult Film Stars” and
“Plant-Animal Hybrids That May Result from Genetic Engineering”
The Big Jewel: “Proclamation and Manifesto of the ADLF”
Yankee Pot Roast: “A Field Guide to Selected Western Artists”
Salt: “Reasons for Not Wearing Black”
FLYMF: “My Fetishist Things,” “As a Matter of Fact, I Am the Person You Have to Blow to Get a Table Around Here,” and “The Great Tuvalu Liquidation Sale”
Big Muddy: “My Coronation”
Connecticut Review: “Icons and Idols”
The Laurel Review: “The News”
MiPOesias: “The Interview”
Robin: Gee, thanks, J.D. That only took me 45 minutes to link up. I kept the list in order, which reminds me—I always read things literally, so at first I thought you meant you’d arranged your credits in order from high to low. That would be riskier than a career in the financial sector. Speaking of which, can you tell the truth about your day job in the financial sector?
J.D.: I can indeed reveal the truth about my day job, as I am not any sort of Beltway player. I sometimes describe myself as a Washington outsider. By day I work as the assistant editor for the research department of the Inter-American Development Bank—one of those polysyllabic only-in-DC kind of jobs. What all that means is that I help to clarify the prose of economists who generally do not have English as their first language.
Robin: If you could choose anyone alive today, which famous person would you want to record the audiobook version of The Best Mariachi in the World?
J.D.: The name that comes to mind is Edward James Olmos. He could give the text a weight and depth that few others would provide.