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Interview with PJ Jackelman

by Graham Cooke 6 months ago in Creators · updated 6 months ago
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Getting to know my online stalker

PJ Jackelman (Facebook profile photo)

Hi PJ.

Call me Paula, Graham.

Thank you, PJ; excuse me, Paula. I know we’ve known each other since I first started on Vocal. But for the benefit of our readers, could you answer a “few” questions for me, please?

Where would you like to start, Graham.

Well, tell me – us – about yourself? Ya know; elaborate beyond what I already know.

Oh, my God. Well, first thing is, how much I hate talking about myself; particularly, when asked an open question. How can you really answer a question like that? Seriously, what do you wanna know? Shoe size? Favorite vegetable? Political bent? Or the really gritty stuff like whether I’m a dominatrix, submissive or switch?

Can we start with the latter you just mentioned. Just kidding! Please, continue.

I’m older than I look. I’m 58, opinionated, willful and deeply, deeply spiritual. I start the day with a 2-½ hour meditation - every day. I began this over 30 years ago after spending a month in an ashram in northern India. Yes, I have a guru.

I’m a liberal – with socialist ideals.

I prefer spending time with my dog, Gabby, over most people. On the strange side, I knew who my husband was long before we met and talked. It was through an online dating site where we made contact. He liked what I wrote and as I’m sapio-sexual, it was love at first conversation when I realized his looks were just icing – the guy was smart!

I’d love to meet your current husband at some point, because from what I’ve come to surmise, he’s a special kind of guy, especially to have you in his life. But I digress. What are your values?

Over everything, I value kindness: kindness to animals, the elderly, Veterans and children; and, kindness to the homeless and disenfranchised. I once got into a dust up on a street in Vancouver after a homeless man tried to sell me his bicycle. He told me he was hungry and my compassion shattered to a million pieces. I bought him a sandwich. He was outraged that I bought him a sandwich and told me he wanted a drink. When I bought him a Snapple, he was even more outraged. It turned into a screaming match with me telling him to sit his ass down and eat the fucking sandwich. I assured him once he did as he was told, I would give him $10 for the drink. I knew he needed the drink. I sat down and ate with him, because I hate the thought of anyone eating alone (have no idea what that’s about) and we had a nice conversation. The woman at the café where I bought the sandwich watched the whole thing and said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” He decided I was nice, albeit weird as hell, but he left with food in his belly and $10 that would ease the shake in his hands.

(interviewer subduing their own laughter at this recollection)

I sympathize, PJ; I do. Had something similar occur myself one of my first weeks on the job in the Vancouver city core years ago. But, please, continue.

I value accountability. It marked my work life and the view people had of me. Accountability and integrity go hand in hand. Where I may be outspoken, use foul language much of the time and have a lightning quick temper, I own my shit. If I make a mistake, I’ll be the first to own it. If you make one, I’ll let you know in private, because our mistakes are precious opportunities to learn – but are often embarrassing. This leads me to my next – dignity. If you disgrace, wound or shame someone who was completely undeserving, you have shamed yourself. To make an assault on someone’s dignity is the worst injury you can do to yourself. It all circles around to my spirituality and belief that before anything we need more kindness.

What shapes your writing?

Pain. Pure and simple. I have an epic, bloated and voracious need for justice in a world that feels increasingly unjust. Most people that have read my writing understand some things from my past. It was a dark time for me, my family and friends who were forced to sit back and watch it all unfold. I rewrite that period and mete out justice time and again, and each time I do, I find a small measure of renewal with the lost parts of myself.

Hemmingway said: “There’s nothing to writing. Just sit at a typewriter and bleed.” The barometer for a satisfying story, how deeply I’m triggered, is when it’s done.

Where do you like to write?

I have a room with a door. So I write in the front room in my favourite green chair. ;)

Who are your biggest influences?

Rosamund Pilcher, Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

What other writing experiences have you had?

I once wrote a complete 65,000 (word) romance novel. Have no belief in romance, so eventually packed it up and over years, moves and divorces, it was lost.

I’ve written for myself since I was able to spell. My biggest source of frustration was not being able to give voice to the emotions roiling within. It’s more of a compulsion than a pleasant past time; a need rather than a desire. I won writing contests and placements throughout school.

Then, for a few years, I was encouraged to abandon writing when I voiced my desire to go into journalism.

What other hobbies do you have outside of writing?

I had been quite active outdoors with kayaking, climbing, caving, running and the inherent weight training. Having listed those, last year I was diagnosed with MS. This has left us scrambling for me to get my feet back under me. I’ve returned to studying nutrition and following the Wahls Paleo protocol to maintain reasonable health and fitness in the face of the diagnosis. I’m doing very well, all things considered. My first passion is writing and my second is reading, and I read just about anything.

What is a typical day-to-day life for you?

Meditation, stretching and some weights; writing, editing and posting; reading, reading; engaging with others and commenting. Household chores scattered in amongst the reading and getting inspiration; then, writing some more – probably a walk in there somewhere too.

I try to squeeze in a movie of some variety followed by bed; and, then (rinse & ) repeat.

Oh, and worrying endlessly about Covid, atmospheric rivers, heat domes, wind bombs, climate change, homelessness, woke matters, my former boss’s heart issues, my son’s health, my daughter, the fact my dog is getting older, Caitlin’s dog (Penny), the guy who trolled Lisa, why my fingers are numb today, why the floating sensation was bad yesterday, my husband’s commute . . .. Yeah, I have an anxiety disorder. Did I mention Covid … and atmospheric rivers or heat domes or wind …?

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  • Time for a short break and we'll come back in a couple of minutes.
  • Our Vocal readers may appreciate the chance for a "stretch."

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Let's Focus on Your Favourite Things

I want to try a Jimmy Fallon type of Quick Buzz game with you? Are you up for it?

Sure, go ahead. Shoot!

Favourite bands and (or) singers?

Lewis Capaldi and Ed Sheeran. Oh; Capaldi! That voice; oh my; and, Sheeran’s too, plus he’s a ginger. So adorable.

Favourite books and (or) authors?

A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens. Rebecca, Dauphne du Maurier. Path of the Masters, Dr. Johnson. Anything by King or Koontz.

Favourite shows?

  • Lost - epic beefcake; not sure to this day if there was actual dialogue;
  • Dr. Death;
  • It;
  • Stranger Things; and,
  • Justified – actually has great dialogue.

Favourite Actors?

  • Dwayne - “The Rock” - Johnson
  • Henry Cavil
  • Matt Bomer
  • Tom Hanks
  • Peter Sellers
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Paul Rudd
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Sam Rockwell
  • John Malkovich
  • Bruce Willis

Favourite Actresses?

  • Amy Adams
  • Emma Stone
  • Margot Robbie
  • Amanda Seyfried
  • Emily Blunt
  • Melissa McCarthy
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Leslie Mann *** (laughed until I cried at The Other Woman)
  • Helen Mirren

Wow; you know your actors and actresses! How about favourite foods?

  • Coffee – black.
  • Blueberries.
  • Cheese – but very rarely

Your drinks of choice?

  • Well, I don’t drink alcohol because of the MS medications.
  • So, coffee – black – is my one and only vice.

What's your favourite thing to do on a night off?

  • Torment my husband with recent stories I want him to read;
  • Team up with the dog to drive my husband over the deep end;
  • Exercise my right to be annoying and a general pest;
  • Realize my best self while I sob uncontrollably watching old episodes of Breaking Bad;
  • Devise poorly thought out plans for world domination and debate the points with my emotionally exhausted husband; and,
  • Continually refer to myself in the third person throughout the debates.

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  • Time for another short break, folks; we'll back in a couple minutes.
  • So, don't go away.

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PJ - Paula - Let's Talk About Your Vocal Life

Why do you write on Vocal?

I began with simply trying to work up the courage to put my writing out there. My goals quickly morphed to trying to find my voice and determine if I had the raw, working materials to make writing a novel a reality. The jury’s still out.

(Interviewer Note: I fully believe you will write a best seller.)

Have you ever written a top story?

Two actually:

  1. The Captain’s Book; and,
  2. An Introduction to Beni Teeter – the entire story came to me, including her name during a meditation. Super weird because it’s unlike anything else I’ve written to date.

Do you enter the challenges? I did; yes.

How long have you been on Vocal for? Since January 2021

What's your favourite things about Vocal? The Facebook Groups. Oops; my bad! That’s not really about Vocal, is it? Oh well.

Your least favourite things about Vocal? Two peeves are equal:

  1. Their obvious lack of understanding regarding what constitutes fiction and the role it plays in society.
  2. The lack of comprehension that words matter, and their obvious disrespect paid on Remembrance Day to select as Top Stories one on lice transmission and another on sex toys. Seriously? Not fucking cool!

What would you change about Vocal?

  • Have people on the staff who write fiction, and understand the basics of the different genres – out of respect for readers and writers, alike.
  • Greater care and respect when choosing Top Stories for Fiction and Horror so the writers in those communities are not at odds with the platform in regard to getting their stories read.
  • Clearly defined guidelines they actually adhere to. One set of criteria for all writers regardless of age.
  • Setting a threshold for Top Stories that contain lists, opinions stated as fact, advice that if carried out could cause emotional or physical harm, and stories submitted that are functionally illiterate but are being accepted and pumped as a Top Story because the author is barely 13. Seriously, you’re not doing anybody any fucking favors. You’ve just stated unequivocally, ‘that’s the best you got so we’ll let the complete lack of punctuation slide, because we know you’ve just reached your pinnacle. Yeah. Nice work. Holy shit, where’s the Tylenol.

Are you a Vocal+ member? If you are, what makes you stay as a Vocal+, and if not, why not? I was until a week ago. The answers above are the reason I am backing out. I found Vocal to be a soul-sucking whore of a company that destroys careers in moves like the one just above, doing a disservice to fiction writers and especially those writing for the horror genre, and unpatriotic, entitled millennial shit bags who disrespected the Veterans world-wide and flaunted their epic ignorance for the world to see. Way to rock the epic douche-baggery, Vocal. Nice job!

What is your favourite story that you have published, and why? Three carry equal weight for me. At the risk of revealing too much, I’ll explain why.

  1. The Glass Menagerie is my first favorite. It was very honest. In the story I keep saying ‘that’s real.’ It is a fiction story whereby the state of being was my reality at one time after 6 years of brutal gaslighting, each moment weighted and measured by what I knew was real.
  2. The second is a poem I dug deep for - Voiceless. I am no poet and I make no claims that I am. I dedicated the poem to Casey Promise Thompson, and felt each line acutely.
  3. The third is The Haircut simply because it was fun to write. The protagonist is more than a little nuts.

What is your most read story and why do you think it is your most popular work? Injuries Consistent with a Fall, I believe, was the most read, likely because it placed 3rd in the Glass of Merlot (Dream Date) Challenge. I make no claims this story is well written. I think it was the research I did on the company and actual wine that earned me placement in the challenge. I will say this; it was another story that flirted with real life events, and I’ll leave it at that.

What is your least read story, why do you think this is the case? That’d be Pendulum, because it’s complete shyte. Hells, we all have them. Don’t judge. LOL

What has gone well on the Vocal platform?

Well, … er, I guess the Facebook groups. The Top Stories that revealed there even was such a thing. It’s through the groups I’ve fallen in love time and time again with the amazing creators of Vocal. I’ll be honest, I really have nothing good to say about a company that disrespects Veterans. But that does not reflect on the many wonderful writers who store their work on the platform.

What do you think could have improved your experiences on Vocal?

  1. The presence of successful fiction writers in the Vocal staff;
  2. Diversity of age on the Vocal staff;
  3. Ability to avoid dangling off the epic set proudly displayed by the “woke-a-nati” (I so get it if that just got censored); and,
  4. One set of rules for all writers.

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  • We don't have much time left, but let's take another break.
  • Don't go away. We'll be back with PJ Jackelman right after this.

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(Now) Let's Talk about The Vocal Community

Have you ever been tipped? Yes.

Have you ever tipped an author? Yes.

How many subscribers do you currently have? 64. I’ll point out that is half of what I have on Medium with very little promotion and in a fraction of the time. So….just say’n.

How many authors have you subscribed to? Hang on … 60. I read on FB groups, so that limits the reading I do on the actual platform to well…none.

What was the last story on Vocal that you read?Calling All Creepy Pasta Fans: 'Knock at the Door' Is Here for Your Horror Listening Pleasure by Matt Loftus.

What was the last Vocal story you “hearted?” Matt Loftus' above.

Are you a member of any Facebook groups? I was a member of all the Vocal groups at one time or another. I’ve since cut down as I’m on Medium more and follow those groups more closely now.

Are you a member of Vocal groups on other social media platforms? Yes; Twitter.

What has been your best experience on Vocal? Winning 3rd place.

What has been your worst experience on Vocal? Winning 3rd place because I didn’t believe it was because of my writing or story telling. Then I came to feel invisible as a fiction writer, and even more so because my chosen genre was horror.

What keeps you coming back to Vocal? Some of the amazing stories I read on Vocal, which conversely, is what had me leave Vocal. Three specific stories: Lisa Gerard Braun’s which she seems to have moved to Medium; and a story by Jason Basaraba, The Legend of Foggy Waters; and, Caroline Jane’s, Graffiti. All three marked some of the best writing I’ve seen on Vocal.

It was coming across these sparks of genius that inspired me to keep writing, growing and trying while letting me know doing so on Vocal was a useless endeavor. Not one of these pieces made Top Story – not to my knowledge, although the authors may be able to confirm or deny that. Having said that, I did check but that’s not say I didn’t miss one.

To overlook these works of fiction in lieu of an advertisement or a list provided by a 25-year-old telling me all they’ve learned in 25 years, well it’s a little off-putting. Combine the aforementioned Top Stories with the Top Story that began missing the first 3 words and most of the punctuation, and I was well … out!

To be insulted as a writer was bad enough – I’m still learning. But I’m not a newbie when it comes to reading so give me a fucking break.

Have you made any friends on Vocal? Yes; I have made so many friends through Vocal. Although I’ve met none of them face to face, I have come to truly love so many of them. I started my love affair with Lisa Gerard Braun and as I will be writing her interview my stomach clenches with trepidation. I question if I can do her talent or her character adequate justice. (Interviewer assures PJ she certainly will do Lisa’s interview justice.)

Mike Singleton is another sweet, sweet person I met in the groups and have thoroughly enjoyed his poems - inspired by his mysterious muse.

Jason Basaraba is a huge character and amazing talent. Casey Promise Thompson in her writing and art is an inspiration. Caitlin McColl is an absolute sweet-heart and a wonderfully bright light of inspiration.

Pam Reeder is another lovely woman, kind friend whose story The Invisible Life of Poor Alice Wells brought me to tears.

It should come as no big surprise another I consider a friend is you (Graham Cooke). Of course, I'm being nice to you; since you're writing my interview. (interviewer blushes) Then again you've being nice to me because I’m your virtual stalker. Kidding. Or, am I. (LOL) Seriously, you're a strong enough character that can handle my opinions, foul mouth and general weirdness. 😉

Having said all that, I recently left a group rather quickly - I might add - after they held what seemed a virtual popularity contest. I was horrified, and here’s why; take from it what you will. There are a number of people I feel honored to talk to on a regular basis. I love hearing from each and every single one. But I could never forgive myself if days, weeks, months later I returned to the list of friends and realized I forgot one. There is a story that explains this wild and wonderful phobia. It’s called, Still Small Voice. The fear I have of hurting someone through carelessly eliminating their name is real. Weird, or not, I left the group and didn’t look back.

Lastly, Before We Go, Let's Get Silly

What useless trivia do you find completely interesting?

  • The many uses for hydrogen peroxide;
  • The limitless pool of creativity as spoken about by David Lynch; and,
  • Any trivia written about by Lindsay Rae Brown. The delightful darling has no idea who I am. I think that’s best, don’t you? (interviewer chuckles)

What stuff are you bringing with you on holiday?

Duct tape, balaclava and a dark, waterproof windbreaker, a sizeable length of rope, binoculars, night-vision goggles, a sturdy carving knife, my Beretta 1301, and a couple rolls of sheer poly sheeting. (interviewer laughs uncontrollably – then realizes PJ is serious) No; wait! Sunglasses; yeah, sunglasses.

If you were stuck on a tropical island, what five music albums are you taking with you?

  • Adele, 21
  • Green Day, American Idiot
  • Any Ed Sheeran
  • Any Lewis Capaldi
  • Any Flogging Molly (interviewer heartily concurs on this last)

Would you rather go skinny dipping in a lake or go on a zip wire down the coast? So doing the zip wire!

Would you rather have no hands or no legs? B’bye legs; can still write!

Tea or coffee? COFFEE! SHHHHH….I meant, coffee.

Cats or dogs? Awwww, really? How about I give you my first born and you let me keep both? Awesome! I consider that matter settled. If a short, dark haired, fire-breathing dragon shows up at your door, don’t anger it. It answers to Sarah and can be pacified with copious amounts of tea and carbohydrates. (interviewer laughs again)

You are stuck in a survival horror movie. What are your tips and strategy for getting out alive? Convince those you’re with to separate into groups. Avoid going anywhere with the slutty girl or the stoner. Wear skirts and shorts that are longer than your vagina. And for the love of God don’t arm yourself and then promptly put it down to take a pee. (interviewer chuckles)

Thank you so much, PJ Jackelman, for taking the time to answer my - all our - questions.

I’ll be frank, since you said call you Paula, but it’s been a delight getting to know you and reading all your wonderful contributions on the Vocal platform. I look forward to our future further interactions.

For those reading, PJ Jackelman’s published works can be found at:

  • About the Interviewer

    Graham Cooke

  • Vocal Library
  • on Medium "@graham.cooke.cts"
  • Facebook Author Page
  • Interview by Lisa Gerard Braun (forthcoming)
  • Creators

    About the author

    Graham Cooke

    Semi-retired contract technical writer, editor and content developer now writing creatively in the genres of adventure, post-apocalyptic and science fiction, and technical gear reviews.

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