Hampton Sides

Hampton Sides is a visionary author who writes primarily narrative non-fiction. His most recent book, On Desperate Groundabout the Battle of Chosin Reservoir–the most infamous battle in the Korean War–is out now. I currently reading it and this book rocks my socks. And it makes for a great last minute xmas gift!

Mr. Sides was so gracious. An amazing writer, and an amazing guy. He’s got plenty of other books as well–some war-related, some not!

Tiffany Jana & Ashley Diaz Mejias

How do we erase institutional bias? Great question! Read Erasing Institutional Bias to find out. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, geez…

…All right, all right, fine. I’ll cover the basics for ya, but you’d better still go out and buy this friggin book!

This friggin book offers inspired clarity on a topic that makes many of us uncomfortable just to think about, let alone try to solve. Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day! (That doesn’t have anything to do with institutional bias but I just thought I’d pepper in 1-2 historical fun facts.) Enacting real change in the world of systemic prejudice takes a constant intentional effort. That may be why so many lame-o CEOs are too reticent to try! Or maybe it’s because they’re reaping the rewards from a corporate structure that’s been actively designed to benefit them? Who knows!

Despite their different fields, it’s clear that both authors are well versed in the realm of tackling biases. After earning her MA in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and her Masters of Divinity at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Ashley has devoted her academic work to researching and writing on racial bias. She has written for blogs and led institutional conversations on race, systemic bias, and mass incarceration. Tiffany is the founder and CEO of TMI Portfolio, a collection of socially responsible and interconnected companies working to advance more culturally inclusive and equitable workforces. TMI Portfolio’s consulting arm, TMI Consulting, Inc. Previously, they co-wrote Overcoming Biasa book focusing on addressing personal biases within ourselves.

Dom and I had a great time with Tiffany and Ashley. I did a great job interview-wise, while Dom tried his best. Bless his heart!

I hope you consider the fact that I’m writing a particularly long post for this one, and take it to mean that this episode is worth it! All jokes aside, we applaud these determined movers and shakers for writing what is sure to be required reading for employers (and employees) everywhere.


Dean King

Dean has written extensively on everything from shipwrecks to blood feuds. He’s traveled around the world researching stories. He gave a sweet Ted Talk.

Dom and I had been looking forward to this interview for a long time, and Mr. King did not disappoint! You’ll learn about the enigmatic wildman John Muir, father of our national parks. You’ll hear tell of 30 women, crazy enough and strong enough to follow Mao’s army thousands of miles across the nightmarish terrain Northwest China. What’s not to love? This guy’s an adventurer and a damn good writer.

Of course, countless hours go into the less glamorous side of research. Dean told us he always has an entire draft of the book he’s writing before he travels to the location in person to put himself in his subjects’ shoes, and to soak up as much of the living history there as he can. You can see those extra details in his books. You can taste the authenticity. King works tirelessly to tell the untold truth.

Kris Spisak’s Grammartopia

Are you one of 99.4% of Americans who believe that grammar is a dusty old subject best left for Elizabethan geezers and Second-Grade teachers? Do you cringe at the letters M-L-A? Do you think words are boring? Well, then listen up, you friggin’ troglodyte!

Dom and I were honored and thrilled to welcome esteemed guest Kris Spisak back to the show, this time with her groundbreaking grammar-based game show, Grammartopia. Author of Get a Grip on Your Grammar: 250 Writing and Editing Reminders for the Curious or Confused and a popular blog, Kris is out to change the world. The world of words.

Dominique James, universally dubbed the less-interesting co-host, invited two self-professed non-grammar-experts, Ro and Cassidy, to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I might’ve joined them, but between show-producing, score-keeping, and scheme-scheming ways to shove as many hyphenated-words into this para-graph, I was rather busy. Plus, I would’ve won by a landslide anyway (and, depending on who you ask, technically did win by a landslide).

This is the most fun we’ve had in a while. You don’t have to love grammar to love this episode, you just have to love fun! And who doesn’t love fun? Plus, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be changing your tune after listening to this episode… but in the immortal words of Levar Burton: “don’t take my word for it!”

Do yourself a favor and follow Kris on social media. Her web presence is as delightful as it is educational. If you just love the dynamic–the ol’ back-and-forth–of this episode, you can always sojourn to the archives of our lil’ show and listen to the last time Kris was on. You’re welcome.

If I have made any grammar mistakes in this post please don’t call me out as it will hurt my feelings. Similarly, please do not fact check any of my wild claims because between you and me many of them are exaggerated if not outright false. Also, please don’t tell Dom any of the things that I’ve said about him here. He is bigger than me and might beat me up. Again.


Paula G

Paula Gillison is an author, poet, artist, and all-around inspiration! She’s got a refreshingly open-minded approach to all creative outlets and is here to share her wisdom and part of a short story!

Paula is an active blogger. You can find all kinds of goodies at her website, https://lackofbetter.wordpress.com. You can also usually find her at the monthly Writer’s Den poetry slams!

Richard Rose and Bill Sizemore

Two local, experienced writers each wrote a book about the lasting effect on slavery from the same local publisher. You’d think they’d be pretty similar, right? You’d think they’d be pals, right? Wrong! These two fine books are in fact very different, and these two fine gentlemen had never met before coming on our show (you’re welcome, guys).
Bill Sizemore is a retired investigative journalist who spent most of his professional career at the Virginian-Pilot and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. With this background, when Bill discovered that at least one of his ancestors was a slave-owner, he dove deep into researching the Sizemore family tree, and the family tree of the other Sizemores. The stolen Sizemores. By fateful coincidence, he even discovered that both clans were going to be having family reunions at the same time, mere miles apart. Bill was able to get in touch with the patriarch of the family, Uncle George. Despite the fact that George and his family were direct descendants of the slaves owned by Bill’s ancestors, Uncle George was gregarious and generous. He agreed to a meeting between the clans.
Uncle George and Me will be available September 5 and is published through Brandylane Publishers, Inc. The official release party will be held at Chop Suey Books, Sep. 5, at 6:00pm.
Richard Rose is a retired educator and scientist. He is also a social and environmental activist. He is a poet, songwriter, and playwright. He is also a wonderful person and talented performer! Really, you are not going to want to miss his recitation of an excerpt from his book featured in this episode… it’s a wild ride! While Richard was researching his family history for his semi-biographical opera Monte and Pinky, Richard, like Bill, discovered that his ancestors, too, had been part of the slave trade. Richard’s poetry takes you on a journey through time and place, through culture and history. He believes strongly in being a positive force for change, and that is evident in his writing.
Coming Around will be available September 1, and you can even physically go in person to the book launch party on that same day at Book People, on Granite Ave., at 1 pm. Your faithful prosers will be there armed with bookmarks and possibly other new branded merch(?!).

David Aldridge

The Vietnam War is a fundamental piece of our country’s history. It’s a war we see often in movies, but rarely do we get an honest, accurate portrayal.

Dave Aldridge is a force. Looming at well over 6 feet, his age does not diminish his stature or his presence. He brought three stories to this interview, all three will plunge you into his world and surprise you with their somber spirit and colorful cameos.

We met Dave at a weekly meeting of The Mighty Pen Project, a writing group comprised entirely of veterans. The group is led and taught by the prolific David L. Robbins, former P&C guest, and Richmond writing giant. If you served in the armed forces and would like to be involved, you can register here.

Harry Kollatz

Harry is the man. Staff writer for Richmond Magazine for goin’ on 27 years, longtime fixture of local theatre, author of TWO books of Richmond history and ONE upcoming novel, Carlisle MontgomeryHe fit right in with us two weirdos and came with more than one funny voice!

From the author: “Carlisle Montgomery is, in her own words, ‘A six-foot-five, redheaded, pigtailed, gap-and-buck-toothed, nine-fingered, guitar-playing freak.’ Out of Richmond, Va., she fronts the Live Wires, a bluegrass band with a honky-tonk problem that they’re not trying to fix. She writes and performs what music promoter Page Wilson dubbed, ‘purebred American mongrel music.’ The Live Wires are acoustic and unplugged. It’s the 1990s, and the radio airplay world is divided between grunge and Garth Brooks.”

Harry would also like to cordially invite you–yes, you!–to the upcoming production of Hand of God put on by the 5th Wall Theater. Mr. Kollatz has been working behind-the-scenes for the 5th Wall for a long time and would appreciate your support. I would like to add personally that Richmond has a great local theater scene and you should check it out ASAP!!

Listen to us jabber about old-timey Richmond, blather on about bluegrass, hem and haw about this and that. It’s a whole lotta fun!

Follow Harry and Carlisle on social med for more updates on the book, expect it to hit shelves soon!

If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet… just… why? Also, please like us on Facebook, we’re desperate for friendship. We’ll pay you. Well, Dom’ll pay you. Ask him.




Henry Haggard and Valley Haggard

It’s not often that you meet a 13-year-old who has already accomplished more than a studio full of radio hosts in their mid-20s combined… but Henry Haggard is no ordinary lad! He’s organized rallies, written columns, and been involved with some of the heaviest-hitting non-profits around. Henry Haggard is my hero.

Aaaaand in the chair next to Henry is his amazing mother, Valley! Valley Haggard founded Life in 10 Minutes, an online literary magazine, back in 2010. Since then, it has grown into so much more! Valley offers classes, workshops, and all kinds of writing-tastic events at the Life in 10 Minutes./Richmond Young Writers space in Carytown. Instead of the soul-crushing pressure to get published (ubiquitous in most workshops) Valley’s classes focus on the therapeutic power of writing. I myself got a chance to participate in a one-on-one Life in 10 Minutes session and it was even more lovely than I had imagined. (I’m currently signed up for a “Meditation and Musing: Focus Your Mind While Honing Your Craft” workshop with Sadeqa Johnson and a six-week class. I’m friggin’ hooked!

So many goodies in this episode. Lots of gems. Wisdom. Words! Laughter. More words.

If you enjoy anthologies and/or great writing, you can find Nine Lives online, or at Chop Suey. This mondo-collection includes 148 pieces of creative non-fiction from 121 local authors, including Patty Smith, author of The Year of Needy Girls former P&C guest.

Henry wants to spread the good word about Love 146, an international organization dedicated to stopping child trafficking and exploitation. He also wants you–yes, you–to vote!

This young man gives me hope for the future.

There are so many great things in the works for Life in 10 Minutes. You can sign up for classes, workshops, even in your very own living room! (“It’s like a Tupperware party, but for writing.”) Valley is even developing a hybrid press, with her next book as the first publication!

And since you have dutifully read all the way to the end of this long-winded blog post, I’m going to let you in on a little secret….

[I’m working with Valley to create a brand-spanking new weekly Life in 10 Minutes podcast.] Don’t tell anyone. Wait, actually–do, we want people to listen.



Bertram Ashe

“I killed dreadlocks. It was a crime of passion.”

Bert Ashe is an English professor at the University of Richmond, and author of Twisted: My Dreadlock ChroniclesWe sat down with Dr. Ashe in the WRIR studio to talk about his influences, his book, and his dreads.

Origins. Growth. Twisted. Golden Age. Locked. Confession. Twisted is structured according to Bert’s own journey of cultivating his dreadlocks, interspersed with Black history and the context of the modern dread, voiced in Ashe’s characteristic pithy wit.

The book starts with a confession–which Dr. Ashe reads during the second segment of the episode–he goes on to explain that he missed the Golden Age of dreads. That Bert, a down-to-earth husband, dad, and dude, has contributed to the normalization of the hairstyle that once, not so long ago, was a clear sign of righteous rebellion.

“from Uppercase Dreads to common-denominator lowercase locks…”

Dr. Ashe is not only unquestionably intelligent and well-educated, he’s also funny as hell! We had a ball chatting with our new friend Bert, and we, your ever-humble hosts, hope you’ll enjoy listening to this episode.

Bert also wants to promote his RVA reading group, Black Men Read?! If you’re a readerly black man in Richmond, you can contact Dr. Ashe for details!


Kris Spisak

Kris Spisak does it all: fiction, non-fiction, blog writing, editing, web design, even hosting of (probably) the first ever grammar gameshow! Kris sat down with us humble P&C hosts in the WRIR studio for a delightful chat about grammar, writing, and the surprising similarities between emojis and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Spisak has been garnering her online following since creating her writing tips blog in 2012 (she recently posted her 337th tip: “‘Nick of Time’ vs. ‘Knick of Time'”). Last year, she gave in to the constant chorus of “When’s the book?” and published Get a Grip on Your Grammar: 250 Writing and Editing Reminders for the Curious or Confused

Though a passionate editor and grammarian, Kris didn’t set out to join the grammar police. Since deciding to become a writer at sixteen, she has written several novels, many drawing on her background as a Ukrainian American. Although Get a Grip is Spisak’s first published book, she currently has a manuscript out which she hopes will earn her a publishing deal soon.

You know that nightmare where you show up in school in your underwear and have to take a test you didn’t know about and didn’t study for? That is how I felt when Kris started an impromptu grammar quiz (though for the record I was wearing most of my clothes). Despite me making an utter fool of myself by using the non-word “funner” (and being called out on it by our lovely co-host Dom), we really had a great time chatting with Kris. She even got us pretty excited about grammar tips!