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High-tech & Low-life at The CA in P'burgh, PA
By Starling Root
Author Elwin Cotman, a fantasy writer who was recently nominated for the 2010 Carl Brandon Society Awards, lived here. The founders of both Steampunk and Quail Bell magazines were visiting writers here. It's where "high-tech" and "low-life" tumble into an amorous union and make bizarre little writing babies who never shy away from sharing their "unique perspective." It's the Cyberpunk Apocalypse in Pittsburgh, PA--a writers' cooperative and residency program.
Intrigued by this madhouse of quirky writers, readings and comic-workshops, I sent an email to CA founder Dan McCloskey to find out more. Here's how he replied:
Who are you and why do you do what you do? Please tell me you're the real Dan and not a troll.
I'm Danny Mac, and I do a lot of little things. I help run the Cyberpunk Apocalypse writers' project. I write. I draw comics. I staple zines together and repair our binding machine. I work at a parking lot, or do other embarrassing things for money--mostly in the name of the Cyberpunk Apocalypse, but sometimes just for beer and coffee.
So what exactly is the CA? How do you define it and what's its history?
The Cyberpunk Apocalypse is a writer's project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It's two little houses back to back that hold between 4 and 6 writers at any given time. The long term residents charge themselves more rent when they're not writing enough, and use that money in part to fund rent free mini residencies in a walk in closet. The closet is super haunted. There's a secret amongst the high end residency programs of the world--a lot of people freeze up. Writer's block is more common in little cabins in New England than anywhere else on Earth. That doesn't happen here. It's the ghost. They died in 1904 while writing the last chapters of an epic novel. The ghost whispers, "Don't stop. No time." The ghost is right. Oh and we have a publication.
How does the CA pay tribute to QB's tagline--"the imaginary, the nostalgic, and the otherworldly"?
Cyberpunk Apocalypse pays no tribute except to those ancient gods who have forgotten their own names.
Describe a typical day at the CA.
The days are all different. Personally I'm a binger. For a while last winter I would wake up and start drawing comics, draw comics as the roommates fell asleep, and draw comics as my roommates woke up. Recently I've been painting a lot. The other day I woke up, wrote for two hours while Artnoose was letter press printing her new zine in the basement, and spent the rest of the day working on the house and reading Jonathan Franzen essays. That was a pretty good day.
The days also change with each new writer who lives at the Cyberpunk Apocalypse, so every month there's a change up. Mostly we're all doing our own thing, and come together for events and projects.
Tell QB readers about some of the events you have. What should they expect?
The events are getting more bizarre, which is scaring away the stiffs. We're all honing our performances, not through practicing and editing and rewriting. Mostly through experimentation. Sometimes we fuck up, but it's only because we're experimenting too hard. We do a thing every month called the "Cool-Off." Basically it's a show and tell of cool things people have done in the last month. There's a pot for small donations, and people vote for who did the coolest thing this time around. The winner gets half the pot and a piece of trash spray painted gold.
The Cool-Off has recently spread to Brooklyn thanks to our old resident Andy Folk. Sometimes people pay us to read places. We like that.
Do you folks have 501c3 status? If not, do you plan to apply soon?
We do not, and we're not much interested.
How can QB readers get involved with the CA? Do you have a wish list?
You can apply to be a future visiting writer if you want to be involved directly. You'll spend your nights in a closet and your days exposed and uncannily reticent. You'll imagine and flesh out a writerly event by the end of your stay. Then you'll be a graduate of our program. The ghost is pretty nice honestly, so don't let that scare you away. We're booked until March 2012, but after that we are wide open.
We're also working on starting a writing school in nearby Braddock. Look for info on that soon.
If you want to donate and get something in return, thus negating the term 'donation' and turning it to 'buying,' then please consider our zine of the month club.
We do have a wish list, I don't know where we put it. Off the top of my head: We need a new roof, and a new window. We need a new furnace in the back house. A computer projector would be great. Or coffee, we always like that. Money is good, or drawings of robots. Letters. Book deals. Paid lectures. A working minivan. Someone to fix the visiting writer bike (that thing is not safe (we have enough ghosts in there as is)).
That's all for now.