Category Archives: south jersey

Random Tater Pic of the Day #117

The South Jersey Writers at the Collingswood Book Festival

Tomorrow, October 5th, is the 11th Annual Collingswood Book Festival, one of the biggest events for writers and readers in the South Jersey area. You can check the website for the schedule and guests, but I’m here to talk about some specific local guests – the South Jersey Writers’ Group.

The South Jersey Writers will be at Space #52 on Haddon Avenue, from 10 AM to 4 PM, so please stop by, say hi, find out about the group, and maybe buy a book or two. Last year, the group published the anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, which is available in paperback on Amazon, select local coffee shops, other vendors, and at the Collingswood Book Festival tomorrow.

Members of the South Jersey Writers who will be hosting at our table tomorrow include Amy Hollinger, Krista Magrowski, Mieke Zamora-Mackay, Dawn Byrne, Sarah Miduski, Ava Easterby, James Knipp, Krista McKay, John Faquhar, Shelley Szajner, Christine Hardy, Laurie Strucke, Jessica Walsh, and some guy named Glenn Walker. Click on any of the above names to find out more about these great writers and their work.

The South Jersey Writers’ Group, founded in 2006, provides networking and development opportunities for local writers in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. The group meets regularly several times during the month for topic-based discussion about the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

The group has just opened its doors to new members, and welcomes writers of all ages, backgrounds, genres, and experience levels. Among the events offered by the group are Write-Ins, Topic Discussions, Critique Sessions, Book Signings, Author Appearances, and Blogfests. For more information on the group, visit the website, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.

We hope to see you tomorrow!

The Robin Renee Blog Tour, Odds and Ends

Hi folks, it’s been a long journey the past week and a half on the Robin Renee Blog Tour. Tonight, I wanted to share a few odds and ends that had to be edited for space in yesterday’s interview with Robin at Biff Bam Pop!. Here you go, enjoy!

Robin on Covers

We both have a deep love of covers, and I wanted to say that your quiet subtle version of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind” is beautiful. What made you decide to do this song?

Robin Renee: Well, there’s a funny story. When I was in junior high school, I had a Ouija board. When my parents found out, they got all mad and took it away, thinking something evil would come through it or something. After that, I was pissed off and determined to have a Ouija board. I decided to make one by writing out all the letters on a chalkboard I had (in heavy pencil or some kind of ink). Next, I needed an indicator. I had the 45 record of “Cruel to be Kind.” I loved that song, but wasn’t crazy about whatever song was on the B-side, so I wound up using the record as the Ouija indicator with the B-side scratching against the board.

Devo Dan

Wacky story, right? But unforgettable. So first, “Cruel to be Kind” is just a quintessentially great pop song. I was also a rather precocious person and was a bit interested in BDSM, so I liked the song title for that possible construed meaning. And finally, the song will forever be linked to that funny Ouija board memory for me. I guess when I made the All Six Senses album, it was just time to record a new take on this classic tune.

Robin on Devo Dan

Now you have done other covers of another type. Do you want to talk about Devo Dan?

Robin Renee: Devo Dan… Strange you should ask me about Devo Dan. From time to time, some people have told me I kind of look like him and some think I sound like him. I don’t really get it. But I finally looked him up and I like it a lot! It’s kind of synth pop meets the smooth sounds of the 70’s, or something like that. I found his story here and my favorite Devo Dan song is here.

Robin on the Mutant Mountain Boys

How about the Mutant Mountain Boys?

Robin Renee: I absolutely love being part of the Mutant Mountain Boys! We come from all over the country, so we get together when we can. The band is the brainchild of Samantha, whose musical favorites are Devo and Charlie Poole. She put the two together, added some Church of the Subgenius, and Presto! You’ve got a Devo-gone-bluegrass, SubG gospel band! We have so much fun, and I really hope we can figure out a way to get together and play more often. We need some nerds and geeks to invite us to play their favorite venues and conventions (hint, hint).

Check out “Look Away from the Pinks” and a few other Mutant Mountain Boys tunes.

Robin on the Holidays

You have also released a couple terrific and unique holiday songs over the years, “(Almost Had A) Holiday,” “The Yule Song,” and “Hare Krishna Christmas.” What can you tell us about these great tunes, and especially the video for that last one?

Robin Renee: I know, I didn’t set out to have a tradition of releasing holiday songs, but it seems a trend has started! Who knows – maybe there’ll be a holiday album one of these days that includes the tunes already recorded plus some more from various traditions. “The Yule Song” is to the tune of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song,” and it kind of serves the same humorous and serious function for those of us who celebrate Yule, or Winter Solstice in the Pagan traditions. “(Almost Had A) Holiday” is actually an original song I first recorded with a band I used to be in called The Loved Ones. It is upbeat, but about planning a perfect holiday with a partner only to have a breakup and wind up somewhere far away. It’s a fairly true-to-life song, and the cool thing about it is it’s come full circle – After many years apart, I have started spending Christmas Eves with that ex and his family. It’s a nice shift.

I wrote “Hare Krishna Christmas” (“Holly Jolly Christmas” parody) around the time I was first getting deeply into kirtan and bhakti. It was Christmastime and I was just in this really intense place of diving into something new while trying to uphold all the traditional stuff and holiday obligations. So, I was kind of laughing at myself and that song just came out while I was doing my holiday decorating. For the video, I asked friends to send me all kinds of holiday pictures, I had a few, and we used some royalty-free images, too, to come up with something kind of funny and also clearly embracing all winter holiday traditions.

Robin on Her Background

If I’m not intruding, could you tell us about your upbringing?

Robin Renee: I was born a poor, black child (Somehow that line was funnier when Steve Martin said it.)

But seriously, folks… you aren’t intruding at all. It is a ginormous question, though. I grew up in Southern New Jersey and I was lucky in that my interest in music showed up pretty early and my parents were very supportive of that. They also encouraged my interest in science and I got to travel since I was fairly young, which I really appreciate. My parents are (were, actually – they are both deceased) my maternal grandmother and her second husband, who raised me from the beginning and adopted me when I was about five. She was black and he was white, so I had a completely biracial upbringing, though it took me a long time to recognize that as a big part of my identity. I’m really happy I understand that now. They had an interracial marriage several years before Loving v. Virginia, and while it was not illegal in New Jersey, I think it was courageous of them and probably wasn’t always easy early on.

There was always a lot of music in the house, and my parents were pretty metaphysical in their outlook. They were Christian, and also into Edgar Cayce, so I learned about meditation and other broad and alternative spiritual perspectives early on. My brother was there, then off at college & other travels, but we grew to have certain things in common like some musical tastes and love of cartoons. My grandmother (i.e. biological great-grandmother) lived with us, too, and she really was the overriding mother figure. I have often reflected that I think my relationship to Grandmom has been the purest of my life – there was just so much love without complication. My mom was pretty political, so I probably inherited the activist gene from her. Of course there is so much more, but I’m not sure what else I could say without writing a book here.

Robin on Wigheads

Tell us about Wigheads.

Robin Renee: I kinda have no idea. I love them. I find mannequins in general to be strangely compelling and beautiful – maybe that’s the New Wave/Gary Wilson aesthetic. Somewhere along the line, something moved me and I discovered that wig display heads are my canvas for now. I love making 3-D collages with them, and as I work it’s as if they start to tell me their story. Songs and other writings do that, too – they change and grow in the process. I’d like to make more wigheads, and to make photographs from them. I have a lot of other practical and artistic projects that seem to be ahead in line, but I haven’t forgotten them. One day, I’d love to do commissioned wighead works, like create them for clubs and other interesting spaces.

More to come!

The Robin Renee Blog Tour, Stop Eight and Beyond

Just a reminder, today’s stop on the Robin Renee Blog Tour is at the South Jersey Writers blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories, you can check out regular site blogger Marie Gilbert‘s interview with Robin there.

Probably as you read this tonight, my partner Ray Cornwall and I will be interviewing Robin on The GAR! Podcast, and that will be posted tomorrow morning as Stop Nine on the Tour.

On Friday, be sure to check out the Robin Renee interview at Biff Bam Pop!, then come back here on Saturday for the close of the tour.

Robin can be found at her website, on her blog, at CD Baby, and at iTunes. Follow her on Twitter here, and Like her Facebook page here.

Fran Metzman Interviews Robin Renee

Today on the Robin Renee Blog Tour, guest blogger Fran Metzman interviews our guest of honor Robin Renee on her inspirations, influences, and creative process. Take it away, Fran.

Fran Metzman: What inspires you?

Robin Renee: I am inspired by so many things – Every time I am asked this question, it feels entirely new. The strange rituals and pitfalls and triumphs of human interaction fascinate me, and make for good things to learn from and write about. Artists who show us the deep and sometimes bizarre bits of their minds inspire me (Salvador Dalí and Gary Wilson come to mind). People like that show me how it’s always possible to dig deeper and to talk about what’s real, what’s primal. I am inspired by dancing, costumes, laughter, and people who allow fun and joy to move through them without reservation. I am completely in love with the ocean. I strive to be my best self, so anyone I see who is pushing their own boundaries through what may be scary in order to get to something stronger and more powerful on the other side –they are inspirations to me all the time.

Fran Metzman: What instruments do you play, what are your favorites, and why?

Robin Renee: I play guitar, harmonium, piano and keyboards, and I kind of fake it on percussion at times. It is hard to say what a favorite instrument is, because in a sense, the best instrument is the one you need to make the sound for a song in that particular moment. Nothing has that amazing drone quite like a harmonium. So many sounds can come from a guitar – harmonic, percussive… All that said, I seem to have a very deep resonance with the piano. It is my first instrument, which may be why playing piano is so close to my heart. I am also a huge fan of electronic music, and I love the sounds that synths can make. I most often play guitar when I am performing out and about these days. The guitar is a more portable instrument, which is why I think I began to favor it, but lately I’ve had to wonder why I don’t spend more time playing and developing songs on keys. See response #1 re: pushing through boundaries and fears, perhaps. I predict more keyboard sounds in my future.

Fran Metzman: How do the various instruments enhance your music?

Robin Renee: I am not sure what you mean here, actually. There are some general things I could talk about. Harmonium gives a sense of Om – of well-being, acoustic guitar might invite tunefulness or singability – but I think you’d have to ask me about a specific song you’re curious about and I could talk about the roles of each instrument in it. What musical instruments do in any given moment isn’t really a static thing.

Fran Metzman: How many ways do you arrange a song before deciding on a final draft?

Robin Renee: There are no rules. I think sometimes it’s more about an incubation period where I can tell a song just doesn’t have the right melody or lyrics yet. When that happens, sometimes the thing to do is to sit down and work on it, but often enough it is more productive to let it float around in the back of my mind and when the missing pieces show up, I’ll know. During that time, the song needs to exist in the “I’m letting you percolate” zone rather than the “I’m avoiding you” zone. I’m getting better at keeping them in the former and not the latter.

Fran Metzman: Take us through your songwriting process, from start to finish, how do you do it?

Robin Renee: Again, there’s never really one way that this happens. Sometimes I am walking or driving and I’ll hear a trail of a piece of music that just sparks me to want to write. I might have a conversation with someone and a phrase will come out that screams “lyric.” Sometimes it doesn’t come from any prompt I can discern. When that spark happens, however it happens, it usually is like a few words, often with a melody, that show up very suddenly. I scribble it down or record a voice memo on my phone, or whatever, as soon as I can.

It might just go into a virtual pile of ideas for another time, but if there’s something pressing about it, I will take what I have and do some purposeful work on it. I like to write lyrics with an actual pen and paper- There is something about the tactile nature of it that seems to connect more readily to the creation of solid lines and meter. I may sit with pen and paper and guitar and just work freeform until the basics are there. Once the basic idea for verses and the structure of the song is there, it is less about the initial inspiration and more about the craft of writing. I’ll think logically about things like the progression of a story or where certain sounds will have the most impact.

A lot of the real formation of my songs happens in the recording. I will sometimes have some pretty strong ideas of what the full production should sound like, but it isn’t until I start adding sounds that what is really needed starts to reveal itself. At that point, when we’re adding voices, samples, and other sounds, it feels like sculpting.

Fran Metzman: How does kirtan influence your pop music and vice versa?

Robin Renee: Kirtan, has influenced me overall because of its effect on the mind and mental/emotional health. Like silent meditation, I think, it changes the brain and consciousness in positive ways. In regard to how my pop music has influenced the kirtan – pop, rock, and folk rock form the basis of how I play. So, I think it is natural that the kirtans that show up for me have those influences. I like that about the way kirtan is developing. The backgrounds and influences of kirtan artists can be very evident, so if you groove on rock, jazz, raga, simple melodies, or complex orchestrations, there are probably some kirtan sounds somewhere that will be a way into the experience for you.

How kirtan has influenced my pop music: It basically “insisted” on being part of it! There are a couple of songs like “I’m Coming Down” and “Holy River” that really seemed to cry out for mantra. I like the sound that has emerged from the integration.

In another sense, kirtan has held back some of my pop music interest. There were several years when I was so consumed with mantra that I really wasn’t writing, per se. It feels to me that this was a natural response to a practice that can make the stories of life seem insignificant in relation to the whole, the drive toward Oneness. It has taken some time for me to discover where I am now and relearn how to present what I do. I think the media loves a simplistic story, and for a while it felt like adding this overtly spiritual piece to what I do made it more difficult to make a clear presentation about who I am. I’m glad to be figuring that out now. Writing has reemerged for me and I have discovered that my message was hidden within the challenge all along – It is to insist upon being all that I am. That is the singular intention and image, and my work stands for those who are taking on a similar journey.

Fran Metzman: Where do you see yourself in the future musically?

Robin Renee: I don’t want to predict too far into the future, but right now I am interested in electronica and ambient music. As I mentioned, I have always been big into synth sounds and sometimes haven’t reflected that in my own music as much as I would like. I hope to retain the kind of singer/songwriter craft that feels natural to me while bringing in more electronic sounds and see where that takes it. I’m very open to collaboration these days, so I am looking forward to finding out what’s next, too.

Thank you Fran, and Robin.

You can check out Fran’s website here, and the Blog Tour continues tomorrow at the South Jersey Writers blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.

Robin website can be found here, and you can purchase her music at CD Baby, ReverbNation, and iTunes.

Her new single “All I Am” is available at CD Baby, with proceeds going to the You Will Rise Project.

The Robin Renee Blog Tour

Today marks the start of the Robin Renee Blog Tour. For the next week or so, we’ll be guiding you through a journey of the work singer/songwriter/poet/activist/journalist, Robin Renee.

Who is Robin Renee? Besides, my talented and creative friend of several decades of course, Robin Renee is Mantra-Pop! – accessible, lyric-driven alt-folk rock with a spiritual twist. Conscious and melodic with an edge, think of blending the voices of Chrissie Hynde and Joan Armatrading with the wordsmith intelligence of Elvis Costello and the mystical passion of kirtan chanting.

Her CDs include In Progress, All Six Senses (produced by the world renowned Scott Mathews who has worked with George Harrison, Elvis Costello, Barbra Streisand, and many more), Live Devotion (East-meets-West chanting), and spirit.rocks.sexy – mantra-pop headlines from the clairaudient dreams of the evocative Robin Renée.

She has shared the stage with some of the West’s best-loved kirtan singers including Krishna Das, Dave Stringer, and Girish. Also a poet, artist, and writer, Robin’s work has appeared in PanGaia, Big Hammer #12, Curve Magazine, Songwriter’s Market, Blessed Bi Spirit – Bisexual People of Faith (Continuum Press), That Takes Ovaries – Bold Females and their Brazen Acts (Random House), and many other publications.

Her newest recording, This. (chant and sacred song), will be followed by ..and Everything Else (songs and spoken word) in 2014.

Here’s the schedule for the Blog Tour:

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 18th, Shelley Szajner will be interviewing Robin at her blog.

Friday, July 19th, Marie Gilbert will be hosting at her blog, Gilbert Curiosities.

Saturday, July 20th, Becca Butcher will be hosting at her blog.

Sunday, July 21st, we return here to Welcome to Hell, where I’ll be reviewing Robin’s “This.” Album.

Monday, July 22nd Patti O’Brien will be hosting at her blog, A Broad Abroad.

Tuesday, July 23rd, Fran Metzman will be guest blogging an interview with Robin here at my blog, Welcome to Hell.

Wednesday, July 24th Marie Gilbert will be hosting an interview with Robin at the South Jersey Writers Blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories.

Thursday, July 25th Robin Renee will be a guest on The GAR! Podcast, with Ray Cornwall and myself.

Friday, July 26th I will be conducting an interview with Robin Renee at Biff Bam Pop!.

Saturday, July 27th I will be closing out the blog tour here at Welcome to Hell.

And don’t forget to check out Robin Renee’s new single “All I Am” at CD Baby, with proceeds going to the anti-bullying organization, the You Will Rise Project.

See you tomorrow, at Shelley Szajner’s blog!

The South Jersey Writers’ Group 2014 Anthology

Welcome to the South Jersey Writers’ Group!

About the Group

The South Jersey Writers’ Group, founded in 2006, provides networking and development opportunities for local writers in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. The group meets regularly several times during the month for topic-based discussion about the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

The group welcomes writers of all ages, backgrounds, genres, and experience levels. Among the events offered by the group are Write-Ins, Topic Discussions, Critique Sessions, Book Signings, Author Appearances, and Blogfests. For more information on the group, visit the website, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.

The Next Big Adventure

In December 2012, the group published their first short story anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, which is available in paperback on Amazon, select local coffee shops, and other vendors. The book was a labor of love, but it’s highly entertaining and showcases the diversity of our writers. It turned out to be a neat little book, and for being such a hyper-local focus, sales are still going really well, and it has generated a lot of interest in the literary community of South Jersey.

Now we’re planning the next one, taking the lessons learned and building on success. The 2014 Anthology will feature longer, more intricate stories, aligned along a theme or within a genre. With the support of our backers, we’ll be able to pay the authors and designers for their talents and skills.

We are doing this through Kickstarter, a terrific way to raise money for creative projects and also offer great incentives to those who donate. We are trying to raise $3000 by June 23. The details are here, along with the many incentives available depending on the amount of your donation.

Upcoming Book Signings

  • July 13 at Book Asylum in Blackwood NJ, 12-3 PM
  • September 14 at Authors on the Greene in Smithville NJ 11 AM – 5 PM
  • October 5 at the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, look for our table.
  • November 2 at Bogart’s Books & Cafe in Millville NJ 10:30 AM – 2 PM
  • Please see our schedule for added events and details.

    Now Accepting New Members

    The South Jersey Writers’ Group is accepting new members through the end of June. The special discounted fee for half-year membership is $15, and then will be closed until October. Act now!

    Contact Info

  • Amy Hollinger
  • Marie Gilbert
  • southjerseywriters@gmail.com
  • www.southjerseywriters.com
  • The South Jersey Writers Present Nicole Wolverton

    The South Jersey Writers’ Group brings debut novelist, Nicole Wolverton, to the William G. Rohrer memorial Library in Haddon Township, NJ.

    On June 4, 2013, Tuesday, at 7:00 pm, the South Jersey Writers’ Group will present Nicole Wolverton, for a special discussion about her acclaimed debut novel, The Trajectory of Dreams, and her journey to publication. Learn more about her writing process and a secret or two about managing on-going projects and the writing life. Ms. Wolverton and the South Jersey Writers Group will be at the William G. Rohrer Memorial Library, 15 MacArthur Boulevard, Haddon Township, NJ for this special event.

    The Trajectory of Dreams, a psychological thriller about the downward spiral of Lela White, a sleep lab technician who believes she is on a secret mission to save the revitalized U. S. space program from fatal accidents. The Trajectory of Dreams addresses the themes of family dysfunction and mental illness, sparks serious questions about how much anyone can know about the interior life of coworkers, friends, and significant others. Told from the point of view of Lela, who suffers from insomnia and delusions, it is impossible to tell what is real and what is not.

    Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a skillful mainstream examination of a psychotic woman’s final descent into insanity.”

    The Trajectory of Dreams is available in paperback and e-book versions on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, and local independent bookstores. Published by Bitingduck Press, LLC in March 2013.

    Nicole’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in Black Heart Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and Penduline, among others. In addition to writing fiction, she is founder and managing editor of Farm to Philly, a website devoted to locally grown foods and sustainable living. She resides in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area with her husband and small cadre of pets. For more information on The Trajectory of Dreams and Ms. Wolverton, visit her website.

    The South Jersey Writers’ Group, founded in 2007 provides networking and development opportunities for local writers. The group meets regularly during the month for topic-based discussion about the craft of writing and the publishing industry. The group welcomes writers of all ages, background, genre, and experience level. For more information on the group and when the next membership enrollment will be, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

    In December 2012, the group published their first short story anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, which is available in paperback on Amazon, select local coffee shops, and other vendors.

    Press release written by Mieke Zamora-Mackay, please check out her blog here.

    And be sure to check out the Kickstart for the next South Jersey Writers’ anthology here.

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