Personal Essay: Jon Padgett
In September of 2014, I wrote the following to a writer friend: “I am 99.99% sure that ‘20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism’ will not be accepted by Pseudopod.” Mind you, I had some confidence in that story. I had written the first draft of it almost twenty years before, and had since that time periodically resurrected and rewritten the thing until it satisfied me. And it had already been published the year before by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. in his Shirley Jackson Award-winning anthology, The Grimscribe’s Puppets.
Still, my story had its problems from a publishing perspective, particularly as produced in an audio format. There is, to begin with, a paucity of both characters and plot (i.e., there really are neither). Pseudopod, as I (inaccurately) understood at the time, was mostly interested in producing survival horror—not an unconventional piece of weirdness like mine. I was not hopeful.
Imagine my delight when I received the following message a few months later from then sole editor, Shawn Garrett: “I’d like to purchase this full length story for Pseudopod. I very much liked the Ligotti-esque tone while managing to invent your own particular form of slowly building dread. I’m looking forward to the audio production ideas this story sparked off in my brain . . . Yours truly is an excellent story!”
Expectations subverted in the best possible way!
Following that ecstatic moment, my correspondence and collaboration with Pseudopod and Shawn specifically was a dream. Once I proved my own voiceover chops to him, I was allowed to record the story myself (an unusual, perhaps unprecedented, move), and Shawn lived up to the promise of his aforementioned “audio production ideas” with layered record player scratching noises growing into a terrifying static by the end of the tale’s last step.
And the production of my story was heard and appreciated by its audience. There is a real Escape Artists community which responds (sometimes at length) to Pseudopod stories on their forum pages. It’s rare for a young writer (in experience if not age) to receive such attention and feedback, and I soaked it up.
Less than three weeks after “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” though, I received an even more unexpected surprise when I was contacted by Stephen Susco, screenwriter of The Grudge and a score of other films, regarding film rights for the story. Fast forward several months, and I had signed an optioning agreement with him. Turns out Susco is a dedicated Pseudopod listener who was particularly taken with my story, specifically in its produced, audio form. And since that time, there have been multiple bites by large and smaller studios alike, including sessions with filmmakers in which they sat down, listened to and discussed the Pseudopod story production of my story at length. Presently, Susco is “in conversations” about a possible film deal with one such studio—all because I submitted “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism” to the right place: Pseudopod.
This point cannot be overstated: for the past ten years, Pseudopod—under the guidance of co-editors Shawn Garrett and Alex Hofelich and the inimitable host of Pseudopod, Alasdair Stuart—has produced some of the best horror adaptations by some of the best authors in the business. They have an audience of thousands. They pay their writers professional rates. Most importantly, their love of the genre shines through in their passion, commitment, knowledge and attention to detail. You can literally hear it in the work they produce!
As a writer, you cannot go wrong by submitting to Pseudopod. If you are a seasoned vet, Pseudopod could be another wonderful feather in your cap. If you are a beginner, Pseudopod might offer your first significant break (as it did for me). And either way, you’ll have the thrill of hearing your stories read online by some of the best professional voice talent out there.
Finally, as a listener, you can always expect top quality work from Pseudopod. No, you will not fall in love with every story they produce. But if you stick around week to week, love will come.
Jon Padgett lives in New Orleans with his spouse, their daughter, and two cats. He has work out or forthcoming in Pseudopod, The Lovecraft eZine, Antenna::Signals, Xnoybis and The Junk Merchants: A Literary Salute to William S. Burroughs. Padgett’s debut short story collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, is forthcoming from Dunhams Manor Press, in a matter of days. Pre-order here (http://dynatox.storenvy.com). Listen to the stories he's published and narrated here on Pseudopod: http://pseudopod.org/?s=jon+padgett