August in the Ivory Tower Boiler Room was all about celebrations. We began the month by letting our Big Think take a week’s hiatus,and instead we celebrated you, our listeners and readers, some of whom joined us the next day for our first birthday celebration, both online and in person at the ‘home’ of our sponsor, Words Matter Bookstore, in Pitman, NJ.
We continued our conversations with Lev Raphael this month. Lev helped Erika learn to write a sex scene (she’s still working on it, but at least the research is kind of interesting,) and talked with us about intersectional identities. Lev has become a sort of mentor to some of us here, and early in August, in conjunction with one of his Boiler Room visits, graciously allowed us to republish a blog post about his own mentor on our blog. Later in the month, he returned for a third visit to the Boiler Room, and we chatted about identities; he shared another post from his own blog about how he came to write queer crime fiction.
We introduced you to contributor Tyler Albertario this month who brought a beautiful, tragic, funny queer history piece to us by highlighting the story of Craig Schoonmaker, the man who put the “Pride” in Pride Month. Tyler’s piece served as a herald’s trumpet to signify that the creative writers are joining us in September and there are a bunch of them. We already followed him up with Judy Russ, and more are coming every Thursday.
As usual, we got some great True Crime in Academia pieces from Mary. First we brought you the story of Andrew Bagby and his son Zachary, and then Mary continued her world tour taking us to Africa where we learned about predatory professors at the University of Ghana and University of Lagos in Nigeria. Those two universities are by no means the only ones that put their young women at risk, but their story is particularly illustrative of the broader problem. We wrapped up the True Crime tour in England, at the University of Buckinghamshire, for our final piece of True Crime this month, where we learned about Libby Squire. Mary also shared a personal essay with us about the heartbreaking ways addiction touches lives beyond the addict and their immediate family.
We each used our Big Think space this month to reflect on our work within the Ivory Tower Boiler Room. The genesis for this whole project–the podcast–certainly came from Andrew, but we’ve all contributed our ideas and energies, and we’ve all been changed by the time we’ve spent working here. Adam has discovered a passion for editing and for mentoring new writers and we all benefit from the work he puts in. Erika wrote about emerging from trauma, dismantling decades of writer’s block, and beginning to take on her identity as a writer. She even shared a few lines from one of her own poems, and might share more in the future. Mary found confidence and joy in writing again and Andrew wrote about how, just like in Plato’s Symposium, our work here is inquiry fueled by love and passion.
In the spirit of reflection, we went and revisited episode one, and talked about what that episode meant to us and how things have changed since Adam and Andrew recorded it in August of 2020. And our Friday preview treated you to our answers to some of the questions on our famous interviewee questionnaire. (Fans of ITBR will know that we have a questionnaire that we distribute to all of our interview-guests, and this time around we put the questions to ourselves.) So you got to hear those answers as the introduction to a podcast episode featuring footage from our amazing open-mic poetry night. The reading took place in person at Words Matter Bookstore, hosted by Andrew, Mary and Adam. A second celebration took place simultaneously on Zoom, hosted by Erika and two Ivory Tower Boiler Room contributors, Tiffany Sowa and Cameron Martin.
With so much to celebrate in August, we enter September filled with joy, and settle down with our apples and honey (l’shanah tovah umetukah to all who are celebrating,) and ready to go back to what all of us here love–our books.
So join us in September as we head head “Back to the Books.” We’ll bring you a new featured writer each week and we’ll also be bringing you our first book club event, featuring A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Visit Words Matter Bookstore to purchase your copy and mention Ivory Tower Boiler Room for a special discount. We have a slate of incredible interviews planned, as well. Banned Books Week, at the end of September, is on our minds, too. We hope you’ll discover something new to read with us this September and that, as you settle, in you’ll share some of your favorite books with us, too. Our new head of marketing, Ceren Usta (who you’ll learn more about this month, too) has been working hard on our new Instagram to give you another way to connect with us!