Chelsea Werner-Jatzke on Structuring a Story after a Song

by Anca Szilagyi

As we prepare for The Furnace Says Goodnight, Kyle Getz is interviewing Furnace contributors about their past performances. Next up is Chelsea Werner-Jatzke! Please join us at Hollow Earth Radio on Friday, December 2 at 8 pm for a special collaborative performance and party. Without further ado:


Photo: Daniel Carrillo

KG: How did you approach the selection and presentation of your work given the Furnace’s format of both a live and radio audience?

CWJ: I started examining intersections of audio and literature in 2013 while I was a Jack Straw writer. It was during my year there that I wrote “Sweet Nothing” as part of what was originally going to be a collection of stories using the form of a mix tape. Like key changes in a song, I am concerned with how emphasis and stress change meaning. The song “Oh, Sweet Nothing” is a great example of this for being lyrically repetitive. I knew I wanted to present “Sweet Nothing” in The Furnace’s format because it would embody the two strong interests I had—to distribute “Sweet Nothing” in a pamphlet-esque format (the piece is a manifesto, the first piece of literature from this fictional cult) and to incorporate the song that I wrote the story to. I’m not sure many people make the connection to The Velvet Underground just reading the story, even though I feel it is overt since the characters are the main actors in the song lyrics and the structure follows the verse, chorus, and bridge structure of the song very closely. I was really excited by the idea of emphasizing the connection to the song by including the audio in the reading. The hope I had for the live and radio audience was that they would feel sort of indoctrinated into this cult. Ideally I would love for this cult to exist outside of my fiction and gain followers.

KG:Looking back on your experience with the Furnace, what stands out most to you?

CWJ: The willingness of the Furnace and Hollow Earth Radio to go the distance stands out to me. I love the design of the chapbook, on one page Corinne took a single sentence, “So we say: Oh sweet Nothing. We have nothing, nothing at all,” and visually layered and faded it in a way that I feel really captures the way the song works and specifically the effect of the audio alongside the reading I gave. Something that the Furnace reading made me more aware of and that I’m still working on (and will likely always be working on) is the performative aspect of not just readings, but also the act of writing.