Artist Spotlight: Jon Aaron Sandler

Jon Aaron Sandler is a writer, musician, comedian, cartoonist, and literary influencer based out of Toronto, Ontario.

What projects are you currently working on and what would you like people to know about them?

“I guess my main project is my website “jonaaronsandler.com” and the stories I release there. They are stories about injury, mental health, isolation and trying to reconnect with the world – but funnier than that sounds! Readers can support my work through my patron site at Buy Me A Coffee.”

What brought you to writing and blogging?

“I wrote a lot as a kid. I remember my principal in grade 5 noticed I wasn’t very happy in class, and let me use the mornings to write in the hall on an old Tandy computer. I think she was surprised when I brought her a two-hundred page fantasy epic a few months later! More recently, I was badly injured and the recovery took three years. Maybe out of a need to be social again, or possibly some mild desperation, I began searching for writer groups in Toronto (where I live). I found a storytelling community and just decided to start telling stories in front of an audience. A friend suggested i get a website and put them up there, and the project sort of grew from there.”

What writers are your biggest influences?

“I know who I THINK my influences are: Camus, Tolstoy, Sylvia Plath, Flaubert, etc etc. All the greats of literature! It’s a nice thought. My actual influences are probably different and someone might have to tell me who they are. It’s kind of like how my Spotify “on repeat” playlist is VERY different than what I say when asked about my favourite songs. I will say one writer who was very helpful to me (even though we had a very brief interaction) was the late Canadian-American writer David Rakoff. He read and commented on some of my early work, and met with me once in Hamilton. I would say his approach to reading his work in front of an audience, and his humanistic pessimism (“you have to be a mensch” is one of his lines I remember) had a big impact on my approach.”

Like so many who work in contemporary publishing, you wear multiple hats. How do you see your various endeavors coming together as a single, unified life’s work? Or do you?

“I think I see my work as a rejection of the idea that alienation is inherently interesting. I grew up with a lot of that in music and literature in the 90s, and it didn’t do me any good. It doesn’t mean there are not good reasons for being alienated, but I want my work to resist that. So, in my writing, even if things are bleak, there is always a sense of trying to connect with people, to break isolation, to get in the world somehow (even if that isn’t successful, I think the attempt is important). And the same is true for my social media presence, my Zoom events, and the collaborative projects I work on with my girlfriend (who is an artist). We both love Miyazaki and I try to focus on making stuff that has the same quality of “delight” in his movies, i.e. spending time and effort on creating moments that serve no other purpose than to amuse or move the audience. And whether it’s the poems, short stop motion videos, comics, stories etc – I think this quality is what lets other artists and writers who follow me respond with their own creations.”

When you get out of bed on a work day, what drives you to do something creative? What gives you the motivation to contribute in your unique way?

“When I have a good idea I can barely sleep. It just has to come out and I can’t settle until it does. When I don’t (which is more often) it’s a slog. I don’t really know how I manage those days. Coffee helps. A supportive partner and family REALLY helps. Twitter helps. But I think I also have a chip on my shoulder. I do feel I have to prove that my decision to fully commit to being a writer was a good one, even if only to myself.”

What are some of the trends you notice in fiction? How do you feel about those trends?

“I don’t know if I’m up on the most cutting-edge trends right now, but as I said earlier, I do want to resist the trend of alienation in literature (if that’s still a thing). The other trends have more to do with publishing and marketing, that make some people want to be writers and not readers, as if the choice was one or the other: the passive reader or the famous writer. I think the value is in the community that can be brought together around books.”

When you look at the world around you and the publishing industry in particular, how do you envision the future of creative writing, publishing, and/or fiction?

“I’m still very much a novice in the publishing world. It’s clearly changing very fast. Money-wise I’ve probably made more on my patron site than I would have self-publishing pre-internet, but I don’t know if I can build a career purely doing a “direct-to-reader” approach. So, for me traditional publishing still has a lot to offer. I’ll have more to say in a few years I’m sure!”

Is there a creative project farther out on your horizon about which you feel most excited?

“I’m opening a store with my partner called Jon&H which will include her illustrations and a children’s book we are working on together, and I think it has real potential. So, I’m excited for that for sure.”

A big thank you to Jon Aaron Sandler for taking part in my Artist Spotlight. I look forward to interviewing a different author or artist each month. Check back soon to discover a new exciting independent artist.

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