“Meet the editor!” pt.1, with Luis Acosta Jr.

By: Abby Duncan

This year, Luis Acosta is co-editor of The Catalyst. We sat down to talk about his perspectives on art, his creative process, inspirations, and his plans for the Catalyst. 

We began our conversation with his perspective on art in general– how he defines it, expresses it, and it’s impacted on his life. Luis, a first generation Mexican American, defined art as “pure expression.” His take on art is a free-form style, based on the intention behind creating rather than a pre-defined constrict. As far as his production of art, he says, “anything I do can be art. It’s what I feel needs to be done in the moment in order for me to feel accomplished.” Luis expressed an urge to produce in order to feel accomplished. However, this isn’t to say he doesn’t appreciate the process of getting there– he says, “I like the idea of seeing something that I had in my head presented in front of me in a way that was either expected, or not at all; it’s exciting to see a piece turn into something totally different.”

Luis has been featured in the Catalyst in the past, contributing mostly fiction pieces. Creative writing has been the focus of his contributions to the journal, but he practices a number of other creative modes as well, from music to comedy to sculpting. When it comes to his writing, he aims to practice his craft regularly by writing daily and gaining inspiration from a wide array of authors. Luis cites many authors such as Pablo Neruda, George Saunders, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, Arthur Miller, and Mary Karr as sources of inspiration. For Saunders, he says, “his writing is so natural. He is such a good communicator. His short stories have so many styles playing off of each other in one paragraph, but somehow it’s still easy to understand.”  In his own writing, Luis aims to find the simplest way to say something while still capturing the idea’s beauty. “It’s important for me to be communicative while being as creative as possible; no one likes to read a story written in a way that only for the author is able to understand.” 

Musically, Luis has been heavily impacted by his father, who introduced him to the drums when he was just six years old. As a drummer, Luis’s musical viewpoint is intriguing– he sees things a bit more structurally than other musicians might. He says, “drummers kind of structure out everything you need in a song. If I’m playing a song, I need to know what time signature all the instruments are in while playing the correct rhythm for the rest of the band to play along accordingly.” He connects his structuring ability to how he organizes his writing: “I need to make sure that my paragraphs are organized and that there’s some kind of pace, similar to how effective playing rhythms in certain sections in a song give it it’s ‘pop.” Luis has been inspired by musicians like Manu Katché (who is a favorite of his dad’s), the simplistic chaos of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, Jazz drummers Buddy Rich and Art Blakley, and contemporary drummers like Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys.

Luis’s artistic perspective is sure to make him an asset in creating the Catalyst. He says, “I’ve always been interested in creating beautiful things,” which is certainly a goal many aspiring artists. He values a product that has a sense of ease, one that “readers can enjoy the beauty of without seeing all of the trouble that went in to make it beautiful.” He expects to enjoy this process of creation, and anticipates that this experience will help give him a better idea of what UWL’s creative body looks like. He says, “I just like to see what people have to say. When I read people’s work that I know from around campus, I’m surprised. A lot of times people think differently than I thought they did before.” He enjoys being able to put an idea to a face that he recognizes, and points out the uniqueness of this way of interacting with people around campus. “It’s just completely different,” he says. “It’s like they’re giving me their brain and saying ‘this is for you.”

Luis’s perspective as a writer, drummer, editor, and artist in general is unique and interesting. It’s always so valuable to be able to gain some insight into how others perceive their own process of creation, especially in relation to others, so it was fascinating to learn about how Luis has developed his own process and how he plans to apply that to his work on the Catalyst. He has a clear passion for what he does, and he sums it up best, simply stating “I just really love art.”

“Meet the Editor!” pt.2, with Abby Duncan.

By: Luis Acosta Jr.

During a brain numbing scrolling session through Instagram, you may somehow find yourself stalking an account named “@_blu3m,” where one eclectic creative named Abby Duncan resides her thoughts and aesthetics. Originally from the Green Bay area, Abby now calls La Crosse, WI her home, where she lives with her oversized cats in a small apartment, adjacent from her favorite co-op supermarket. She’s a book-worm and proud of her “bossiness,” which she believes gives her an edge for her teaching aspirations. Pictures of striking bookcases, selfies from all angles, and vibrant colors with clever captions, accompanied by activistic takes on issues she deems her voice valid enough to express, riddle her Instagram. She is never afraid to convey her attraction to the weird, as Abby will always do and say whatever she wants.

Out of all the expressions Abby tinkers with, writing is what keeps her creativity at its hungriest. “I’ve always leaned towards poetry, right now it’s my main mode. I just feel this need to write” she says, impressing me with how she does so even on days where he heart doesn’t feel the call to write; “That’s when I try and push myself the most.” Duncan’s brain swirls with phrases and words that she says she “just has to get out,” which comes out through poetic spurts and limericks often inspired by music or a certain mood she finds herself to be indulging in.

Having Abby this year as a co-editor for The Catalyst means working with a past collaborator, as I operated fiction and nonfiction editing next to Abby’s poetry section for The Steam ticket, Vol.22. “Poetry is something that’s always been with me. It’s been a gate way that’s helped me enter other artistic spaces” she said, using music as a specific example. With the help of an Akai Midi keyboard and confident vocals, music became one of her new experiments. On Abby’s Instagram you can see her cover a Your Smith’s song called “Bad Habit.” As an avenue to help her express her role as a creative, being hindered by a lack of musical training hasn’t stopped her from outgrowing the so called “learning curve”: “I used to think, ‘oh I didn’t start a musical instrument when I was a kid so I can’t anymore’; but, I’m 21, I’m so young. I have so much ahead of me” Duncan said.

Abby Duncan views art as, well, everything. “As long as the person who produced it views it as art, then it’s art” she said. She references Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture Fountain, as its depiction of a porcelain urinal with the signature “R.Mutt, 1917” on it proves to be art even if it was hidden away from the public due to its improper themes. Abby views committees like the ones who voted against Duchamp’s urinal sculpture from being presented in the Independents Exhibition in New York City as dishonorable. “What makes that art versus somebody posting a boredom doodle onto Instagram” Duncan says, continuing with the strong nature she always wears on her sleeve by unfolding what she thinks her art should represent: “My art has personal meaning to me, and whether somebody appreciates it or not, I’m happy to say the personal value I find in it is enough to keep me motivated keep making more.”

The freedom to explore whatever expression she feels like practicing comes from the ease in labeling herself as a “creative.” Transcending the ordinary as an artist is difficult as it is, but before Abby was ready to fully identify as an “artist,” her confidence needed to be secured, in order to be “all in,” as she says. With the help of some inclined friends, the pieces that Abby needs to surpass her layman, “learn-as you-go” style that she is constantly looking to evolve, finally had a blueprint thanks to her influences. One in particular: Talking Heads front man and walking-abstraction David Bern, who’s non sequitur lyrics represent for Abby what true musicianship is. Her upper-left elbow is where Bern’s chorus from his song This must be the place resides, keeping his words close as they remind her that she is always where she is meant to be.

She describes her views on behaving in society and the parameters put around creative people as a “cage,” having been inspired by the enclosures she’d see animals live out their ritualistic lives during her short time as an employee for the Milwaukee zoo. “I consider myself a staunch, post-humanist” she says, believing a life separated from nature and instinct is a poor way of knowing what your possible contributions to the world could be. “We have natural tendencies, and we act as though everything is intellectual and cerebral; these are the things that inspire me to be as creative as possible” Duncan said.

It’ll be a true honor to work with Abby this year, as her love for art and design adds a strong element to The Catalyst’s current evolution. She is an organizational queen; her planners are a work of art and her brain ticks with delight whenever she brings up enlightening topics, which occur often during our weekly meetings. As a person who benefits off of judging a story by narrative, structure, and growth of character, poetry may be too explosive and impatient for my eyes to be able to deduce a proper definition for what it may mean to include it in The Catalyst; but to have Abby’s incredibly versatile mind, I can confidently say that her opinions will stand the test of time, as the poetry she elects to be worthy enough to represent the artistic minds of UWL will exceed what this journal has set out to accomplish.


One More for the Road…

Here’s just one more prompt to get you all going for a summer (hopefully) filled with lots of writing, drawing, and photo taking!

You are wandering around at night trying to find your way back home and stumble upon your local musty graveyard. No one has been buried there in years because of the incidents. That was in the year 84′. It has not happened since so it won’t happen again, right? You feel a shadow looming over your every step, is it happening again? You fall to the ground, petrified after a heavy hand pushes you off your path. The shadow scurries over to graves, digging up what was left behind. Grotesque body parts are soaring over your motionless body… it’s happening. Are you next?

Come up with a scary story to tell around all those summer bonfires!

-The Catalyst Team

Volume 18 is Up!

Hello all!

Volume 18 is officially published for this semester! What better way to start off your summer than by checking out all the amazing stories, poetry, and artwork in this new issue? Go check it out under the “Current Issue” tab now!

Have a wonderful summer, and start getting those submissions ready for fall!

-The Catalyst Team

Interview with Rylee Hedberg

Please enjoy this interview with UWL student, Rylee Hedberg!

rylee headshot

PC: Received from Rylee Hedberg

To read some of Rylee’s works check Volume 17 of The Catalyst!

What is your major?

Where is your hometown?
Waseca, MN

What do you do for fun, besides writing?
I enjoy running, yoga, nature, reading, music, hanging out with friends, Netflix, and drinking beer!

What inspires your writing?
Usually, things that are happening presently in my life, whenever I have a lot going on in my head I write it down and most of the time the writing manifests into itself.

You wrote a piece for The Catalyst called ‘News’. Can you describe what inspired that piece specifically and what kind of role the news has in your inspiration?
I was researching a book for one of my classes called Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. I had read a few excerpts from it and was overwhelmed with what Postman had to say about the way technology is shaping our lives as well as the way we communicate with one another. I suppose I just channeled all of my thoughts into writing which usually helps me gain a clearer image about things in my life.

Do your career goals include any aspect of writing?
Hopefully! I’d like to be a journalist, maybe specializing in music or travel…or try my hand at a book or short story!