By David Anderson

Aaron Joshua Perra performed a reading of his new book of poetry Triggers and Love at Roxy's Cabaret on November 11, 2023. 

November 22, 2023

This was a simple, yet intimate event that included a dedication, his life story, a Q&A, and his poetry about his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

A photo of his book cover remained on screen throughout the reading. He wore a formal suit with light green sneakers. A photo of his book remained on the screen throughout the reading. The stage included a long table on the right side, his book, and the author. 

Perra entered the stage with Britney Spears' hit song "Stronger". Only 20 seconds of the song was played, but this was enough time for the intended message to be delivered. During which, he entered the stage from the audience with a casual walk that resembles one walking along a sidewalk.

He dedicated the show to his grandmother, who died a week before the show. He shared how she played a vital role in his life. 

He then proceeded with his life story, which begins with him at age 15 when he tried alcohol for the first time.  At age 21, he tried meth for the first time and immediately got addicted.  He was homeless for many years.  He went into treatment a few times before finding sobriety in 2022.

The reading was unrehearsed and full of imperfections.  The unrehearsed and imperfect approach worked better than rehearsed because they reminded the audience that he's human.  This approach made the event raw and real by speaking from the heart rather than words already in his head.  It felt conversational.  

Perra kept the reading simple.  He sat on a chair behind the table.  He sat casually like he was at home: relaxed, legs stretched out to the side, and slouched.  He read directly from the book while maintaining minimal eye contact with the audience.  The casualness makes his stage presence feel more genuine.

He shared the writing process of a few poems.  These few times were enough for audiences to receive a scope of the book writing process.  For instance, Perra shared when his drug use accelerated in "July 7, 2022", when he felt hopeless in "January 6, 2019", and when a relationship ended in "August 23, 2019".

Perra spoke tenderly.  He never raised his voice.  He never spoke aggressively.  The only harsh language he used was from his poetry.  His voice sounded heartfelt.  Speaking aggressively would have likely backfired.

These poems explored more than just addiction.  They also explored love, relationships, and nature.  The only organization of the poem is based on the date they were written, like in the book.  The order in which he read them ranged from earliest to latest.  This helps acknowledge that, despite the struggles with addiction, there is beauty in this world.

Aaron Joshua Perra gave the audience something that's missing in the book reading world.  That's heart.  The imperfections from Aaron Joshua Perra are largely to credit for making this reading inspiring, powerful, raw, and real.  Overall, this reading is a breath of fresh air.

You can order Triggers and Love on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The First Annual Highly Favored Media Festival

November 8, 2023

Highly Favored Magazine is a local magazine that that was founded in 2023 and shares stories from those who have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. They are now about to embark on their First Annual Highly Favored Media Festival. They are now accepting submissions. Creative Director Jesse Veils discusses how to submit a film to the festival.

This is Highly Favored Magazine's first film festival. Describe how you're feeling about this new venture with Highly Favored Magazine.

I’m very excited about putting on our first film festival as an organization. Anytime we can expand on our mission and showcase how creative the substance-familiar community is, I’m reminded that we are making an impact. It’s a bit like an out-of-body experience, at times, to realize that we get to help shape new possibilities for the way people view and relate to those of us who are most often dehumanized and ostracized for having a profound experience interacting with substances. We get to facilitate opportunities to bring humanity back to how they are seen, understood, and treated. And we do it by sharing what our contributors have shared with us in their art and writing. 

Tell me about the Highly Favored Magazine Film Festival and how the magazine ties in with the film festival.

Well, it has always been our long-term goal to have a space where any and all mediums that substance familiar artists create can be displayed and enjoyed. Having what we hope becomes an ongoing outlet for screenwriting, acting, directing, animation, and video editing is expanding the scope of the magazine’s ability to educate, inspire, and promote the talent of our community.

What film categories will you include in the film festival?

We will be sticking to the classics for our first attempt at a festival. Drama, comedy, documentary, animation, and avant garde.

How will you decide which films will be selected?

We will be selecting based on a similar process we have for choosing which submissions we include in an issue. Things like how well it relates to its intended category, quality of execution for performance, costume and set design, sound and storyboard editing for example. We are also looking for how thought provoking, inspiring, and innovative the content is. We are definitely going to want a lot of variety of films to feature. We probably care most about what we hope the audience will take from the experience and share with the people in their lives.

Where can a filmmaker go to submit a film?  When will you start accepting submissions?  What are the submission deadlines?

Link will be sent shortly to filmfreeway page. Just finishing making it now.

How much does it cost to submit a film?  How many films can a filmmaker submit?

Artists are required to pay an entry fee to submit their films. These fees help cover festival expenses. The fee applies to each entry, and there's up to 3 entries allowed per artist.

Early Bird Entry Fees apply to submissions entered on dates 11/1/2023 - 12/31/2023: Standard early bird entry fee is $5. 
Student early bird entry fee is $5. 
Gold Member early bird entry fee is $3. 

Regular Entry Fees apply to submissions entered on dates 1/1/2024 - 2/19/2024: 
Standard regular entry fee is $8. 
Student regular entry fee is $8. 
Gold Member regular entry fee is $5.

*Deadline is 3/10/2024*  
Late Submissions cut off is 3/10/2024: 
Standard late entry fee is $10. 
Student late entry fee is $10
Gold Member late entry fee is $8.  

Along with the film itself, what other items do you require in a submission?

Films must be original works that the artist has the copyright to, in addition to proper permissions being granted and royalties paid for content that is owned by other creators and used in the production. All entities must be properly credited for their contribution to the film. I also know that it takes considerable creativity to work within a budget in order to produce the work and make it look like the professional quality movie goers (or readers of a magazine) expect. I can’t wait for the magic I find when individual artists find ways to use what is accessible to realize their vision regardless of any hurdles. This is what substance familiar people excel in whether they are in a state of use, abuse, or recovery.  

What range is the required run time for selected films?

We require that submissions are a minimum of 8 minutes and no more than 15 minutes long. 

How old can the film be to qualify?

The most recent work is always going to have a better chance of being relevant and topical for where society is today, but with an artistic renaissance being a symptom of a pandemic we are willing to consider anything made the year 2021 to now. 

If the language in the film is anything other than English, will you require subtitles?

Although it is a requirement for films where 85% of dialogue or more is in a language other than English have subtitles in English for our festival audiences. It is important to note that language is capable of being used as a stylistic device and tool in the context of a film’s story telling, and in that respect, it is a decision that we leave to our individual artists. 

What video formats do you accept?

Universal video formatting, as well as, videos from artist Vimeo, YouTube, and FilmFreeway accounts are acceptable.

Do you accept rough cuts and films in progress?

We are willing to accept rough cuts and films in progress for those who are able to submit them to us during the early bird submission period, but they should be emailed to me at ATTN: Rough cut/Film in Progress Feedback. And include their name, contact information, and on what specifically they want feedback.  We will only have technical notes on those specifics and content that we see really helps or hinders the progression of the story or point they try to make.  

When will submitters find out whether they've been selected?

We will begin announcing the early bird submissions selected as soon as Jan. 1st, 2024, and likely continue up until the week the festival starts. 

If a filmmaker's project has been selected, what are the next steps?

The next steps will be revealed to the artist whose work has been selected, via direct communication with the Highly Favored Magazine organization. We want to keep some things a surprise for the festival audience.

Approximately how many films do you anticipate selecting?

It will really be based on the level of interest by artists and by how many audience members we can anticipate coming based on our pre-festival ticket sales that will determine final numbers, but ideally I'd love to show 100 films throughout the weekend. 

When is the 1st Annual Highly Favored Magazine Film Festival?  Where?

Tentatively we are working with one of our sponsors, The Aliveness Project, as the location for our festival. We are in talks with a couple of local theaters should we have a larger interest than anticipated (which will be indicated by pre-festival ticket sales). The festival takes place the third weekend in March, on the 15th-17th, 2024.

Interview & Review: Triggers and Love, Poetry by Aaron Joshua Perra

October 11, 2023

Aaron Joshua Perra uses poetry to share his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction in his book Triggers and Love. This book is written in the style of a journal, hence the dates being used as titles. These dates refer to when the poem was written. Triggers and Love is the best book of poetry I’ve read in many years!

Triggers and Love is a raw and personal account of his hardships related to addiction. A reader can connect this rawness to Frida Kahlo’s paintings and Charles Baudelaire’s book of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal. Like Kahlo and Baudelaire, the brutal honesty is largely what makes Perra’s poems magical because the poems feel like Perra is ripping out his chest for the world to see. Perra perfects this art.

Perra’s vulnerability is what gives Triggers and Love the potential to inspire others. Furthermore, this book can potentially save lives because it makes readers who may be struggling with addiction feel less alone. Therefore, a passion for poetry is never required upon reading Triggers and Love. His brutal words are enough to inspire readers. One of many lines that exemplify this finding is when he quotes on July 7, 2022, “I will die; And they will spit on my grave.” This example reminds readers how close he felt to dying.

Along with addiction, Perra expresses his romantic side with his love, intimate, loneliness, and heartbreak poems. Perra proves that beyond the struggles with addiction is a romantic man. His romantic side sways between the typical Jane Austen romance (Emma, Sense and Sensibility) to the typical Edgar Allan Poe haunting heartbreak (Annabel Lee). For example, he yearns for love by quoting, “You knew how much I loved; You walked and never stopped.”

Despite sadness throughout most of the poems, Perra finds space to prove that not everything is depressing. He manages to show his appreciation of the beauty in this world like the sun, nature, earth, and living beings (especially insects). The contrast between this beauty and his overall sadness blend well in Triggers and Love. One way he expresses such elegance is in the line, “I love you, sun –; How I adore you my little bumble bee. Look at your; beauty.” 

Overall, Triggers and Love possesses an aspect that’s missing in many modern works. That is heart. Anyone can tell a story. However, not everyone can pour their heart and soul into their words while telling their life story. Fewer artists can be brutally honest. Aaron Joshua Perra perfects all three: storytelling, pouring his heart and soul, and brutal honesty.

Aaron Joshua Perra released his debut book of poetry called Triggers and Love. Three of his poems have been adapted into film. Perra appeared on WCCO News, Highly Favored Magazine, LGBT Film Festival Poland, and several others. In Triggers and Love, he shares his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction by being brutally honest and vulnerable.

Tell me about Triggers and Love. 
Triggers And Love is a window into my soul. I bare all of myself within the pages of my book. It is a journal of poems that encapsulates and captures my life within the last three to four years. It opens up the door into my life of addiction and perseverance. 
I want people who are in the throes of their addiction to realize that their still is hope, there still is light at the end of the tunnel.

It took you almost four years to write Triggers and Love. Describe the journey of writing this book. 
Sublime! I was in and out of my addiction, so it was quite challenging, particularly because I am bipolar, and the level of emotions I experienced felt like a stick of dynamite continuously growing off.

What was the most challenging part of writing Triggers and Love? 
Revising every poem, to make everything perfect!

How's it feel to know that so many people have read your book? 
It’s so surreal. I’m still pinching myself.

Which reader's reaction is most memorable to you? 
I would have to say when I was in outpatient therapy, and each group member took a poem from my book and read them out loud. They went around in a circle, and I got to sit there and hear each person read one of my poems from their perspective. It was amazing!

You've been interviewed on WCCO news twice about your book. Your book has been advertised on a billboard in Times Square. Your book is selling well. More and more people know who you are. How has your life changed since releasing Triggers and Love? 
My life is still the same as it was, I’m just humbled to share my vulnerability with people. It’s fun exposing all sides of me, and there’s beauty in being able to be relatable to people.

You're performing a book reading at Roxy's Cabaret on November 11. What should we expect from your show? 
A little bit of this, and a little bit of that! I’ll be reading from my book, sharing my story, and doing a Q&A while we all have dinner and drinks together, and of course for me, I’ll be ordering the mock tails!

Describe the emotions you're feeling as you're preparing for your show at Roxy's Cabaret. 
I am absolutely terrified. I’ve never put on a show quite like this before, let alone me being the focus of the show, but I cannot let fear dictate my decisions. I cannot let fear control my life, so go big or go home!

Will there be book number two coming? If so, what will the book be about? 
I have decided that there will be a book number two, but that is a far ways down the road.

What do you anticipate in your future in writing and entertainment? 
It’s best for me to not look too far into the future. I really try to live life one day at a time, but I anticipate the hope of good things to come.

What's the biggest takeaway that you hope for upon reading Triggers and Love? 
The takeaway is strength and hope, and don’t ever give up, be kind to yourself, show yourself love and compassion, and grace. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Be bright and brilliant in all that you do.

You can order Triggers and Love online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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