eatstuf Interviews Jenean McBrearty

–on the Defenestration of Prague, Rutger Hauer movies, and an insider finalist’s view of the two inaugural contests.



eatstuf: Hey, Jenean– eatstuf, here; So, tell me more about the first time you heard the word defenestration?

Jenean: I was a student at San Diego State University in the early 1980’s when I first learned the word defenestration in a German Civilization class.  No Poli Sci major graduates without knowing the date 1648 and its significance—it’s the date the Peace of Westphalia was signed that ended the Thirty Years War.

Although we take the ideas of religious freedom and independent countries in Europe for granted, it was not always so. Royal families intermarried and often ruled lands that were not contiguous so there were situations like the Hapsburgs, a Catholic Swiss family who came to rule Austria and Spain and whose emperors were often elected as Holy Roman Emperors over German and Central European lands.

Still, things were more or less politically stable until Christianity divided, and the struggle between historic Catholicism and Lutheranism and Calvinism came to a head in the city of Prague. That’s when seven of Austrian Emperor Ferdinand’s representatives were thrown out of the windows of the Prague Cathedral during a dispute over whether he would attempt to reclaim Catholic dominance.  Then the war began.

With the Peace of Westphalia, it was agreed that questions of religion would be decided by the rulers of the many individual kingdoms, duchies, city-states, etc.

eatstuf: So really, it is the Peace of Westphalia, and the preceding Defenestration of Prague which launched the Thirty Day War, that gave birth to Europe’s Nation-State system.  Cool beans.

Jenean: I like the whole concept of the word defenestration. To me it means the last self-regarding act a poor person can take after the powers-that-be get too powerful, whether it be the government, your boss or your family. When the camel’s back is broken by the last straw, there’s nothing left to do but defend yourself…throwing the baby out with the bath water, breaking a glass house not from the outside with a stone, but by ejecting the devils that live there. When you’re just fed up with the people or ideas that infringe on your freedom, you eject the irritant, not unlike sneezing or farting, and giving your enemy the finger as you watch him fall, all the while knowing war may ensue.

You remember that Rutger Hauer movie, Wanted: Dead or Alive? At the end, when the bad guy who has perpetrated murder and mayhem is tied up to a ticking time bomb, the authorities yell, “Let him go. There’s a bonus for you if we get him alive!” And Hauer utters that great defenestration line: “Fuck the bonus.” And the bad guy goes boom. There are times when  not even money or decency are worth foregoing the “I’ll deal with the consequences later” moment.

eatstuf: Mmmh, I like that, ejecting irritants, ideologies, idiots, and these dangified Oxford commas we support for the hipster-factor.

Now, explain your self-professed favorite subject, and why it should be the subject everyone knows best.

Jenean: The Greeks believed that self-knowledge was crucial in attaining wisdom—I believe it’s also crucial in attaining a writer’s voice. I learned a long time ago that I can never write like Hemingway or O’Conner. I can only write like me, so I strive to tell the best McBrearty stories I can by asking myself questions such as: What’s my take on the content of  issues, subjects, and themes (freedom, love duty, power); what are my preferences for the telling form of my stories (I despise long descriptive passages, obfuscation, navel-gazing, chick-lit, reality T.V. , and identity politics. I prefer lots of  references to history, films, and dialogue).  And have I written something I’d read?

For me, the answers are important. At the end of a story, if I’m asking “What the hell was that about?” I feel cheated. For example: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  For me, this (creative writing class required-reading) slog-fest was a trite disutopia tale that could have been told in half the space, and would have benefited from obeying the rules of grammar. For me, there are times when telling is better than showing—such as telling an audience the names of the characters As Soon As Possible. For me, omitting information for the sake of appearing “deep” isn’t “literary”, it’s confusing and ultimately annoying. I read for story, not to explore the inner “soul” of the author.

eatsutf: So Jenean, what has been your experience with our first two contests?

Jenean: I very much like that the winners are chosen by a combination of readers and editors. There’s no doubt that writers with a large social network have an advantage. One can get votes from people who don’t even read the other writers or the writer their voting for, for that matter. Though popularity is a real consideration in judging a work , it is just one consideration. I also enjoy the challenge of writing different forms. It’s brain exercise. The triptych form forces the author to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that tells a big story in a short time. The Occam’s Razor approach. And it allows for variations in the way poetry does; every third sentence of a paragraph must repeat a line of dialogue used in the first paragraph, for example, might be fun, interesting, difficult.

eatstuf: What could we have done better?

Jenean: I do think the criteria for excellence and the rules should be spelled out more clearly. The Duotrope listing for the contest said the word limit was 1,000 words, but some of the stories I read were clearly over the word count limit, most were over 2,000 words. That the writers were published editors as well as writers is no excuse for bending the rules–unless the rules weren’t really rules but suggestions.

eatstuf:  Yes, Jenean― glad you pointed that out; our syntax error in December now allows us to totally recreate our contest guidelines― forces us, really.  Our intention was for the individual flash pieces to have the limit of 1,000 words― next year we will clearly specify that the whole, sweet suite can be double, treble or quintuple as many words: space we got.  It’d be a cool idea to have one whole year’s contest be as minimalist as possible.

Rules are for dopes, and nine-year-olds.  But we do try to be honest in our contests at .  Our future contests will have exact adherence to CLMP contest ethical models.

Jenean: The presentation could be better made reader friendly. For example, a line space between paragraphs would help, as would specifying block or indented paragraphs. It would mean more time on the part of the site’s editors, but the material is short enough that it could be cut and pasted into a word document and standardized for the web page.

eatstuf: OoU!― (oh my jeezelbub, I actually know how to  one-handed-touch-type an exclamation point, what a disgrace to myself, hehhehhe.) We should include font-size increasers in all our posts and pages, perhaps somewhere in a pop-up.  Gots be fly toward the sight impaired, in the defenestationism reality.

Jenean: Entre nous— also, rather than just an up/down voting system, it might be nice to have a “voting page” that has a 1-5 ranking on measures such as plot, dialogue, content, character, etc. that would force the voter to consider his/her vote more carefully. What a nice, teachable moment for younger readers! Also, the pages could eventually be tallied and shared with the writer to provide reader feedback. Can you tell I did applied sociology in grad school? The question is: do you want to follow or lead your readerships’ tastes? A bit of both, more than likely.

eatstuf: SHHH.  Don’t mention the E word out-loud.  We all are teachers―writers, commenters, surfers― here, at ― we never claimed anyone was learning anything.  That’s a great idea, simply a matter of manipulating the YOP poll, accordingly.  Empower the fan voter with some critical thinking polls.  I’ll get to work on that right away.

Anyrate, I’m dying to know, did you like the work of the other contestants?  I liked all of them, it was hard to chose my judge vote.  Ach, responsibilities of a Wild, Wild, West gunslinger.

Jenean: No. See Question 2, 2nd paragraph. I haven’t a clue as to what the stories were about, why I should care about the people involved, or what the point was. They rambled on like novels when they were supposed to be flash pieces.

Entre nous– example from FLASH SUITE Contest 2nd Place Winner John Vicary’s Chasing Butterflies:
“I’m going to tell you a story,” he’d say. “One with a princess and a tiny gold dragon—”
“Butterflies,” you’d insist, every time. It was something of a game….

Not a fan of second person. Who are these people? Where are they? Nameless folks on Pluto. From the gate I have no connection with them. Read one paragraph and stopped.

Better for me: “I’m going to tell you a story,” Rhett B. would say. “One with a princess and a tiny gold dragon.” But, you, Scarlet, insisted on butterflies in your Atlanta-days, before the city burned. You liked your Rhetty wandering around in dreams until you got sick enough to need Jonas Salk instead of Peter Pan. As your mother, I knew he was a flake, and as I look out at the Wisconsin snow….

But, as I said, it’s all about preference.

eatstuf: OKay, that was fresh.  Remember, there’re no values or judgements of such in the defenestrationism reality– your voice, just then, is not insult or offense in our reality, just commentary.  Comments from all will be viewed, strictly edited, and approved.
English only– apologies.  Enschuldegung.  Pardoname.

Any favorites?

Jenean: No. See above.

eatstuf: Who did you vote for?

Jenean: I voted for myself. Like I said, I’m a poli-sci major, and politicians always vote for themselves. Every vote matters when you want to win, and this was a contest.

eatstuf:   Labels are always fairly useless to artists, themselves.  As we quote Pablo Picasso in our Defenestrationism Manifesto, “everyone wants to understand art.  Why not try to understand the song of a bird.”  That said, nine-out-of-twenty English teachers agree that the bookshelf must be organized― and those teachers can’t agree on anything.  So, do you consider yourself a modernist (in the sense all of this is all just reactions to Enlightenment thinking)? a post-modernist? perhaps a post-post-modernist?  Or is that meaningless mumbo-jumbo they crock up in their degree-seeking academies to make knowledge less accessible to the masses?

Jenean: I eschew labels too, but they do give prospective readers a quick & dirty idea of what’s ahead. Inside this sweet little grandma-looking breast beats the heart of a Germanic barbarian— think Mary Poppins in an SS uniform. One foot in Oz, the other in hell. Think “griterary”, my term for writing about lofty stuff with stark realism. Yes, that’s it. I’m a griteraryist!

My biggest complaint with creative writing teachers, in addition to spending time impressing their students with how well-read they are, is that they try to teach creativity when the real job is teaching ways to express the creativity that should already exist. I enrolled in a 2-semester novel writing seminar that only survived one semester because in 16 weeks only two students came up with a fully outlined plot! (Mine was called The Ninth Circle, and has been published by Barbarian Books.) All the artful words and phrases can’t substitute for plot. However, Creative Writing programs are cash cows for Universities cursed with lousy athletic teams, and serve the narcissists well—especially the elitist Boomers, who have lived most of their lives in La-la Land, anyway.

eatstuf:  So what else is on your mind, Jenean?  What is out your window?

Jenean: Having researched thousands of print and on-line submission guidelines and dutifully followed their advice to “see what kind of stuff” they publish, I laugh at the contradictions that seem to go unnoticed. Such as publications that advertise their desire for the experimental, new, different, controversial, transgressive, bold. etc. and then publish the same ‘ol thing. Or give a laundry list of things they won’t publish. My favorite example is the following taken from an actual “literary” publication’s guidelines, written, no doubt, by a frustrated lawyer:
“No fictional or nonfictional creation, communication, or depiction shall display any of the following:

Religious preference

“No fictional or nonfictional creation, communication, or depiction shall use any of the above directed toward, used to describe, or created in scenes, that contain, in any form, explicit or implicit negative and/or stereotypical representations of conflicts between     or among:

Disabled people
Lesbians, gays, bisexual, or transgendered people
Ethnic groups,
Organizations political parties or entities
Environmental protection”


So, what’s left? Nice people petting kittens and ruminating over injustice? With these restrictions, plays/movies like Hair could never be made today. No Hunchback of Notre Dame, no Of Mice and Men, no Lord of the Flies—the list is endless. We get it: life isn’t fair. Can we move on? Open a window and breathe in freedom!

I’m for tossing the politically correct crowd out that window!

eatstuf: Great, out the window with “just another crowd.  We need a gathering instead.” (Operation Ivy)

So, let’s dwell a moment on disability.  Are these contests merely empowering those who can type?  Where on are the prisoner narratives, the quadriplegic narratives?  I don’t know about you, but when I joined this project, I was promised wheelchairs and sledgehammers, where is the extreme binary-blasting potential of throwing people out windows?

Thanks, Jenean, for opening up our “eatstuf Interviews” segment– without a single abbreviation or acronym.  We hope all our readers have enjoyed learning more about the origins of the term defenestration, and the mind workings of one of our most outspoken Defenestrationists, Jenean McBrearty, with “the heart of Germanic barbarian.”

happy surfing, chickens,
–eatstuf, monitor, judge, wild-wild-west gunslinger




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