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Interview with David Rocklin: Drafting LA’s Literary Counterculture
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Interview with David Rocklin: Drafting LA’s Literary Counterculture

Picture of Samantha Evans
Updated: 2 August 2016
HALiterary counterculture is alive and thriving in Los Angeles. Embodying this movement is Roar Shack, a collective of writers and artists launched in 2012 that brings new voices and gives them a place to share their work. Simply put, it glorifies ‘anything that leaves its own blood on the page.’ Contributing writer Samantha Evans recently caught up with Rocklin to get the scoop on Roar Shack.

How did the Roar Shack Reading series begin?

Roar Shack started as a result of the book tour for my debut novel, The Luminist. At one stop, I read at The Portuguese Artists Colony, a reading series in the San Francisco area run by a wonderful writer named Caitlin Myer. We’d talked during the set, hung out all night and by morning I had learned quite a bit about the reading series. In an off-handed way she said, ‘If we ever open up a sister series in LA, would you ever be interested in hosting it?’ I kind of laughed and said, ‘Oh, with my abundance of spare time I will totally take that on’, because along with writing I also work and have a family, including a very active now seven year old, so my hands are almost always full.


Honestly, the reading series began almost in a selfish way. I really wanted to be in touch with other writers in the LA area, get to know their writing and listen to them read. I wanted to have a venue where we could get together, and keep each other company while trying to write something. So I got back in touch with the reading series in the Bay Area and said, ‘If you were serious, I would love to create a sister series.’ Now the series is no longer a sister series, it has taken on its own identity.


Have you started going to other reading series in LA?

I have, as an invited writer and also to be supportive of writers I’ve become friends with. There are a number of amazing reading series in LA, for instance: Dirty Laundry Lit hosted by Natashia Deon, Tongue and Groove by Conrad Romo, The Rhapsodomancy by Wendy C. Ortiz, Vermin on the Mount by Jim Ruland. There is a really vibrant reading scene in LA; it’s not all about screenwriting. There is a huge artistic literary community.


Book Jacket Photo © David Rocklin
Book Jacket Photo © David Rocklin

How do you feel Roar Shack is different than the other reading series?

I think reading series take their identity from whoever is hosting. There are some really wonderful, vibrant, intelligent and very moving series in LA. I think if anything separates us from the others, it is the tone. Although we feature some very heavy and extraordinarily high-quality material, we have fun. The tone of our series is a little bit lighter. I think everyone has a certain amount of fun, but I think we try to strike a tone that is light, funny and entertaining. Although we take our work extremely seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.




Do you need to be a writer to go to the show and appreciate it?

I don’t think that you need to be a writer to appreciate it. I think if you are a writer, you will appreciate it, and if you are a reader, you will definitely appreciate it, but I also think people just come and have fun. They get turned on to things they haven’t been exposed to before. Not just the form of the writing – like memoirs and poetry – but also topics. But, I mean, we’ve had everybody. Our audiences are very diverse, in terms of age and background. I think we’ve had a very nice cross-section of LA.


Do you have any crazy stories from the series?

A lot of our truly fun moments come out of the ‘live write,’ a writing improvisation contest that sometimes creates the best stories. Everyone gets a little card and a pencil when they walk in. They write down a prompt. It can be anything – a random thought, a snippet of a song, a memory. After they write the prompt down, I collect them and take a look at them. We’ve had some super crazy stories come out of it, that are just so far around the bend – either because they are hysterically funny, super dark, or incredibly graphic to the point of being over-the-top insane.



 Roar Shack © David Rocklin
Roar Shack © David Rocklin

What’s up next for Roar Shack?

We meet on the second Sunday of every month. The next show is going to be particularly fun, our very first themed show. All of the writers are LA-based horror writers. The whole show is going to be horror. Kate Maruyama, herself an amazing horror writer (her ghost story is called Harrowgate), and I cooked it up.

Coming up later in the year, we have another themed show fully devoted to poetry. It will feature the White Space Poetry project, a collective of poets who also happen to be hearing impaired. It’s going to be poetry with sign language and a viewing of a short documentary on White Space Poetry.


Roar Shack takes place every second Sunday at 826LA Echo Park from 4-5:30 p.m.


By Samantha Evans