Matt DeBenedictis (Left) and John Carroll (Right). Image via Lit & Bruised.
Need something to distract you while driving back to your depressing hometown to hang out with your family for the holidays? Why not connect with Atlanta’s vibrant and thriving literary scene with two of its titans?
John Carroll and Matt DeBenedictis first bonded over a shared love of literature nearly a decade ago. Since then, they’ve become mainstays in the Atlanta literary community. Last year, they combined their creative energies to launch an Atlanta literary podcast called Lit & Bruised.
Even before the podcast, the two were de-facto creative partners. “Matt credits me with encouraging him to share his work online, but some years later Matt encouraged me to do my first reading,” Carroll told Atlanta Loop. “It’s been this really cool, mutually beneficial, encouraging relationship.”
And this constant drive to push each other out of their respective comfort zones, to work on new projects and try out new things, Carroll says, that ultimately led to the creation of the podcast.
DeBenedictis says the impetus came during a hiatus he’d taken from the Atlanta arts scene. He was working with Deer Bear Wolf and running his own publishing house – Safety Third Enterprises – but he’d become burned out. He needed a new project to become passionate about again.
In the spring of 2017, Carroll approached DeBenedictis with the original idea. Carroll recalls it was at a party where he approached DeBenedictis, knowing he wasn’t necessarily working on anything new and told him about his idea for a literary podcast focused on the Atlanta scene.
“I said, “Hey, you should start this podcast,” because I didn’t want to do it,” Carroll laughed.
DeBenedictis said the idea stuck with him though, and he came back with a counteroffer – “You need to do this with me,” he said. “Being an introvert, I ride conversations more than I start them. John can talk to a brick wall.”
Lit & Bruised’s guests all read from the yellow-painted couch.
Six weeks later, DeBenedictis and Carroll were behind the mics, recording the first episode of Lit & Bruised. Since then, they’ve learned to play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The introvert and extrovert, the yin and the yang, invite well-known names in the literary community as well as those who have yet to gain notoriety to share their stories and experiences and to talk about the art and craft of writing in a laid-back, conversational atmosphere.
To DeBenedictis, the informal nature of Lit & Bruised is one of the most interesting elements of the podcast and something that sets it apart. “Yes, we can talk about influences and how people work on their craft,” he said, “but we can also talk about that in ways without actually talking about it. You hear a lot of literary podcasts, and it’s the same ten questions over and over – I wanted to get to know writers, to talk about writing without actually talking about writing.”
DeBenedictis goes on to say they’ve had guests open up about the fear and anxiety that comes with performing their work, their family histories, their hobbies and their passions. “We’ve had conversations about Malls,” he said. “And then the next thing you know that turns into a deep thing about a writer talking about how that’s influenced their work. They have realizations while they’re talking – that would not come simply from asking “what are your influences.””
Carroll echoes this sentiment. “You can’t come to Lit & Bruised with canned answers, because we don’t even know what we’re going to ask you,” he laughed.
Guests are selected in a variety of ways. Sometimes the hosts will see someone read an interesting piece and invite them on, sometimes they’ll seek out an artist they particularly admire and sometimes artists will reach out to them. “There’s no formal process,” says DeBenedictis, and no limit to who is welcome.
“There’s a whole range of writers we’re interested in,” Carroll said. “If you put out five novels or this is your first reading, we don’t really discriminate on how long you’ve been writing. It’s more about being active and producing work.”
That being said, representation of minority groups and the amplification of diverse voices is extremely important on Lit & Bruised. “Outside the goal of putting out a quality podcast, I’d say that’s our top priority when we’re scheduling and talking about who we’re going to have,” Carroll says. “Making sure our season isn’t lopsided is important to us – not only with different races and genders and orientations but even different mediums.”
Carroll explains they’ve invited novelists, short story writers, slam poets and performance artists all to come sit on the now emblematic yellow-painted couch. “What we’re trying to do is pull the community together,” he said. “You can check out the podcast and learn about all kinds of different writers in Atlanta. The thing we all have in common is Atlanta and words.”
DeBenedictis agrees. “There’s so much going on in the Atlanta Literary community that it’s hard to keep up with,” he said. “A lot of times you can listen to a podcast and you’re literally listening to me and John meeting someone for the first time and finding out everything we can about them. It’s a chance for us – along with the listeners – to find out about all these avenues of art and creativity that are happening throughout the city.”
Lit & Bruised recently concluded its third season and has 38 episodes available for your listening pleasure. While active during a season, episodes are released weekly through iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, and YouTube. The fourth season will launch sometime early next year. Want to connect with the hosts? Reach out to them here.