Issue 11 Interviews

Jason Smith is a graduate of the University of California, Davis. His work has been published extensively in both online and print media. Smith is heavily involved in the recovery community in Northern California, where he frequently shares his experience, strength, and hope in getting out of the hell that is addiction. He is a frequent speaker at the California Medical Board and California Board of Pharmacy. Smith is currently the Creative Director of The Real, an online community for people who’ve struggled with addiction, and their loved ones, to tell their stories and share their experiences. Smith lives in northern California, raising a family with his wife Megan and their two children, Isabella and Jaden.

Jason’s Smith’s powerful memoir of addiction and recovery, The Bitter Taste of Dying (Thought Catalog Books), could just as easily been titled, “The Bitter Taste of Living,” because, for a long time, life to Smith seemed about as appetizing as a sucking on a lemon peel. Except when he was high.

Smith witnesses his uncle’s death from an overdose and wonders if he could have saved him. Then, he delivers a crippling tackle to a kid during a football game. Repressed guilt over those incidents sets Smith up for the one thing that makes everything go away. Following a car accident he’s given a shot of Demerol. From that point on, Smith life, and his memoir, become a relentless quest for opiates that lead him around the world in a series of bad choices, near-death experiences, and increasing depravity.

Smith’s writing is unadorned, which contributes to our sense that we are witnessing, firsthand, someone lose their soul. Along the way, Smith lets us inside an addict’s head, which isn’t such a great place to be. Following a period of sobriety, here’s Smith in Nice—on an epic bender, stoked on Xanax, codeine, and OxyContin—which will end with him incoherent and broke, sleeping with the homeless at the train station: “I tried it their way. The world said I had to stop doing drugs, and I stopped. And I was miserable. I’d watch people in restaurants smiling, joking, laughing, and wonder how they were so fucking happy.”

Fortunately for Smith, his attitude regarding sobriety, and happiness, change over the course of his story. Given the events depicted in his memoir, the fact that Smith survived his addiction is remarkable. The fact that he came out on the other side, driven by a desire to write about his experiences, is miraculous. Miracles make for one hell of a story. So does The Bitter Taste of Dying.

Jason Smith was interviewed by Nicholas Garnett for Sliver of Stone.


Born in Miami, raised in England and West Virginia, and educated in Texas, Joy Castro is the award-winning author of two literary thrillers set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Hell or High Water andNearer Home and two memoirs, The Truth Book and Island of Bones. Her work has appeared in magazines including Fourth Genre, North American Review, Afro-Hispanic Review, and the New York Times Magazine. Winner of the Nebraska Book Award and an International Latino Book Award, Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award, and editor of the anthology Family Trouble, she teaches creative writing, literature, and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Her first collection of short fiction, How Winter Began, has just been published by the University of Nebraska press.

Joy was interviewed by Lynne Barrett for Sliver of Stone Magazine.
Castro headshot 2015

Campbell McGrath is the author of ten books of poetry, including Spring Comes to Chicago, Florida Poems, Seven Notebooks, and most recently In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys (Ecco Press, 2012.  He has received many of America’s major literary prizes for his work, including the Kingsley Tufts Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, a USA Knight Fellowship, and a Witter-Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress. His poetry has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic and on the op-ed page of the New York Times, as well as in scores of literary reviews and quarterlies. Born in Chicago, he lives with his family in Miami and teaches at Florida International University, where he is the Philip and Patricia Frost Professor of Creative Writing.

Campbell was interviewed by Yaddyra Peralta for Sliver of Stone Magazine.


For many, American journalist James Foley—slain by ISIS in August 2014—is  a news item: an unfortunate yet abstract victim of  the crossfire in the Middle East. But for poet Yago S. Cura, and others, he was a friend, a classmate and a mentor. During James Foley’s captivity, Cura often reminded his friends on Facebook  to ‘Remember Foley.’ Months after Foley’s public death, Cura started a KickStarter campaign to fund the publication of Ghazals for Foley on Hinchas Press.

Yaddyra Peralta interviewed Yago S. Cura about his circuitous journey as a poet, librarian, teacher, blogger, and publisher—one that led him to cross paths with James Foley.


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