Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Christopher Jug George - Photographer-Writer-Filmmaker

Christopher Jug George

Name: Christopher Jug George
City/State: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Facebook page: Christopher Jug George
Twitter: @shorty_george

Christopher Jug George is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker who lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is originally from The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant, also known as Le Sueur, Minnesota. George writes flash fiction, short stories and is currently working on a novel set in his hometown called King Corn. George was recently published in the winter print edition of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.

Tell me about your work?

I write micro fiction, flash fiction, visual flash fiction, short stories, and am currently writing a novel. I do most of my writing at a cabin on the Saint Croix River that is generously donated to me for brief writing trips that I spread out over the course of Spring, Summer, and Fall. I am a writer entrenched in the past and nature. At the cabin I wake up before the sunrise. I move through the dark with coffee in hand and sit on a bench halfway down the stairs built into the river bank. Then I wait for the sun, birds, water, and trees to be visible. As the sun starts to shed light on my surroundings I use my camera to turn nature into my own alternate universe. I twist the island before me with my camera lens and turn it into a feather, an ink pen, a woman’s arm in a fur coat,  a rocket ship, whatever I see. I use that camera as a portal to my fiction. I head up to the screened in patio shortly after and find myself walking around in the places I will be writing about. I pretend its the 1970s outside, or whatever decade I chose, and those characters and settings are alive somewhere near me.

Visual flash fiction is what you will find on Old photographs or my own photographs accompanying flash fiction. Sometimes the picture is found after the words and sometimes the picture inspires the words.  

I’m addicted to old photographs. Furthering what I was talking about above, they are time traveling units. Especially family photos. The look on someones face could send me somewhere I’ve never been or help me recall something from long ago or start a sentimental 70s song in my head that takes me to a scene. They could be vacation photos as well where the vastness of land behind a family looks like a tidal wave of beauty ready to envelop them where they stand. Or the simplicity of a random street scene can spark an idea. Certain faces take me beyond the stillness of the photograph. I see tragedy there or hope. Sometimes I end up back at their house, sometimes I get distracted and end up at the neighbors or the park across the way, or the photo will trigger a sentence that drops from the sky and has nothing to do with the pictures. Pictures of nature in any form are extremely poignant to me and can leave me transfixed. And, of course, nature itself.  Objects in the distance fascinate me or views of endless land or the closeness of living things in the woods. Or just a plain green yard. We are in outer space ourselves after all.

What are you currently working on?
The main project I’m working on is a novel about Terry Regal, in-house creative for the crumbling vegetable company King Corn (working title), a fictitious and bumbling rival to Green Giant Corporation 10 twisting Minnesota River miles away.  I grew up in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant and my father worked for Green Giant Corporation in Le Sueur, Minnesota so the subject matter is woven into my life. King Corn is about executives infiltrating the Green Giant headquarters to uncover their latest ad campaign which is the introducing of the Little Green Sprout. The novel is set in 1972 and it's more about the dreamlike encounters Terry Regal has with the giant that possibly exists within the Valley's green corridors and how that relates to his wife leaving him. It's also about  intrigue, espionage, disguises, drunken stumbling from all different sorts, olympic trained Green Giant employes, and a woman who once made Terry's surreal world possible as if painting it as they went along. Ultimately it's about a man's love affair with nature and the majestic ravine bordering Terry Regal’s house.

I’m also compiling as many Visual Flash Fiction pieces as I can in hopes of putting out a book. My flash fiction stockroom is expanding weekly and I’d like to accumulate 200-300 pieces.

How is this different from past projects?

These projects differ because of my evolution as a writer. The way I see the world and my place in it is so much more secure; in my folly, in my views on love, in my comedy, in my simply walking down a sidewalk, country path or any place on Earth. It is creatively more clear but still cloudy enough that it is still unfolding before me and always will.

How did you decide to become an artist?

I was told. My high school teacher, Patty Prince, whispered it to me while handing me back a creative writing assignment, she pointed at my chest and said “You are a writer.” From that moment I considered myself one. Writing came easy to me but in that, it became very hard. I learned my craft, intentionally, from academic writing because I didn’t respond well in the only creative writing class I took at the University of Minnesota. In fact, the teacher told me writing would be a good hobby, quite the opposite statement of Patty. That is no knock on creative writing classes, it's different for everybody, it wasn't for me though. It probably would have done me some good as I can sometimes be awful at grammar and spelling. I became an American Studies major and thrived at writing academic papers, I knew that fiction was all I wanted to write but the American Studies discipline provided me with structure and repetition because there were seemingly two papers a week for a couple of years. Coming up with ideas and creative side was never an issue, I liked the places my mind took me early on and I just kept going back there.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Virginia Woolf, in a book of her diaries (A Writer’s Diary), wrote -“I have been in such a haze and dream and intoxication, declaiming phrases, seeing scenes as I walk.”  Nothing needs to be said about this.

My friend and fellow writer Daniel Elkin told me that brevity was always better. That’s why I’m writing a novel! Long form is something that I’m working hard at.  I'm taking the fast fiction approach to it, each paragraph can act as a flash fiction type piece in a sense. I want every sentence to pack a punch. That is daunting.

One of my personal heroes Raymond Carver wrote in his essay On Writing,“Get in, get out. Don’t linger.” This advice focused me in on the idea of getting the most out of each sentence and sent me on the path of writing flash fiction. I’ve always written flash fiction but at the time I was outputting all of these short stories that I was overwriting. I was seemingly going for length. I think my short story binge was just the act of being happy to be writing again after a long hiatus. Carver snapped me back to flash. Writing flash grounded me, made me build it from the ground up. What I love about flash fiction is you can make so many leaps in a few sentences. You can live, die, live again. Oops. I died again. Wait. Nope. Alive still but in a different way and there's the sun being clipped by a purple and orange cloud just as I walk into a Red Owl and see the vibrant colors of the aisles and I’m reminded of my childhood.

A lot can happen in very little space. I just have to make it interesting and get the reader to take giant leaps forwards or backwards with me.

Other good advice came from a Paris Review interview I read featuring Martin Amis. “Writing is waiting,” he said. He was talking about wandering around all day in his studio and getting two hours of actual writing done when everybody assumed he entered his studio and wrote all day. It was helpful to read this. Many days I spent on the Saint Croix not writing in the late morning and early afternoon. I'd be out chasing the elusive Ivory Billed Woodpecker with my camera or just sitting on the bench near the water waiting to wave at the next Great Blue Heron flying by. I always have an initial morning rush but then I lose myself in the day. Clarity is easy in the morning, at 2 in the afternoon it is not easy. It is a challenge because all of the backlog of “real life” thoughts have piled up in my brain again. That doesn’t mean I’m done though. There is always something more to come in a day. Patience is key. You have to let it happen.

Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work?  How do you market yourself?

By selling, at this point, it’s a matter of getting my work out in the world. I do this via my website for the most part and also by being a part of Riot Act Reading Series, a local touring reading brigade. Public readings are a great way to get yourself out there. I was silent for so long or I will tell myself I was honing my craft, the fact was I was lazy and wasn’t out there advancing myself. Friends knew I was a writer but not until I started reading in public did I actually materialize in the public sense. My website gave people a glimpse of that too. I post a lot of flash fiction on there.

From the start I had the idea that it would happen by being published and not otherwise. I’ve been very stubborn about that approach probably to a fault. I've always felt that getting published would kickstart the process and now that’s happening we’ll see if i’m right. So, really, putting myself out there evolved over time. Being in print will further the process. From the beginning I knew I was in this for the long haul and that means the rest of my life.

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you
Paul D. (Dickinson) is an artist I very much enjoy. The man IS a poet, in every sense. If you've never heard his poem Bullshit and Bluster, do yourself a favor and watch him perform it. And on instagram he posts a lot of pictures of cans. Beer or food or whatever. Maybe just metal in general. Lots of metal coming from him. Paul D. doesn’t have a website, he really might be a time traveler.

Michael Gaughan is another local favorite of mine although he's off city at the moment. He does everything, but the thing about his everything is that it’s nothing anyone has ever done. His everything is his very own.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?

The sunrise on the Saint Croix River, then we’d wait to see light dancing on leaves. We would see long distance views of land in any form. Or looking at buildings or places from another time that exist in the city. We'd be watching a band in a bar or at a reading. We'd always end up at The Moon Bar, an evolving piece of art amongst my friends. It started as a bar in a garage but now it’s a circus, a beautifully crafted, ever-evolving circus. A true piece of living art.

In addition to, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise? - Time Traveling Opportunities

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?

From my Visual Flash Fiction and photography will be on display at Eat My Words bookstore in NE Minneapolis as a part of Altered Esthetics exhibition: Ae Presents: Photography.  I will be a featured artist along with photographer Marnie Erpestad. I will have visual flash fiction on display along with photographs highlighting my writing process. There will be a reception from 1-5 with a reading at 3.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I want to start making short movies again. I also have a screenplay called Coachlight that i'm anxious to get back to. I wrote it as a screenplay but I also have been thinking about turning it into a novel. I also have a novella that is mostly written called Terry in the Blue World that has a lot of possibilities in different types of media. I've subtly been thinking about that too.

Image List:
1. As Long as You Are With Me Will You Remind Me of This Moment When I'm Lost?
2. Between Two Worlds
3. Decade?!
4. Let Them Look Through You
5. River Ghost
6. The Future of Wallpaper
7. Christopher Jug George