Tag Archives: reading series

Facing Violence on the Page: A So Say We All Master Class with Brooke King

Announcing a new Foundry reading series Master Class! On February 24th, Brooke King will teach “Facing Violence on the Page” a three hour workshop and master class. Register now here: https://squareup.com/store/so-say-we-all/item/m-master-class-with-brooke-king

FACING VIOLENCE ON THE PAGE
A So Say We All Master Class with Brooke King

Writing about violence doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be one-sided, and you certainly don’t need to be a victim of violence in order to write about it or what it does to the human condition.

This class will look at writing about violence (and sometimes not in the traditional sense of the word), explore the world of writing through guided exercises, and learn how to get past the imaginary blockade that we’ve placed in our minds about violence. It’s time to lean in to the page in front of you, instead of leaning away.

Saturday, February 24th
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Mission Hills United Methodist Church
4044 Lark St, San Diego, CA 92103

REGISTER NOW
$35 members
$40 general

scholarships available, application deadline 2/15:
General scholarship application
The Gary Armstrong Memorial Veteran Writers Scholarship application

Brooke King is a writer and veteran based in Tampa, Florida, and author of the forthcoming memoir Full Battle Rattle. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Prairie Schooner and War, Literature, and the Arts. Her piece, “Redeployment Packing Checklist” was featured on our PBS program “Incoming.” You can listen here.

Brooke will also read at The Foundry Reading Series, that evening, Saturday 2/24  at 7:00 PM at The Rose Wine Bar in South Park, alongside Lily Hoang, Amy Wallen, Michael Konik, and more to be announced. Stay tuned for details!


Please consider becoming a sustaining member of So Say We All to support our programming. You’ll receive special discounts on classes, and more! Go to www.sosayweallonline.com/membership for more details.

Jac Jemc reads (and teaches!) in San Diego on 9/9

The Foundry is our literary reading and education series, bringing a host of new voices, both emerging and well acclaimed, to our fair city. Our upcoming reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and today’s spotlight, Jac Jemc.

Jac, in addition to reading, will also teach a master class for us while she is in town. To register for “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” 9/9 from 2-4 PM, click here. Don’t miss it.

So Say We All was lucky enough to publish Jac Jemc in Black Candies: See Through in 2013, So Say We All’s journal of literary horror. You can read her story, “Angles,” here, which is actually an excerpt of her newest novel, The Grip of ItHer writing is gorgeous and terrifying, gets under your skin quickly, and stays there.

Maybe I find a body and it’s hard as diamonds or maybe I find the body and it’s just a pile of soft bones and teeth or maybe it’s a body whose nails have screamed themselves free of absent fingers. What will a rat eat first?

Or maybe there’s no body and I just dream that there’s an answer to the low moaning we hear, and the stains that grow and shrink on our walls and bodies, and the secrets we uncover behind secrets.

Read more of “Angles,” an excerpt from The Grip of It, here.

Her book was just released to an impressive critical response earlier this August. You can read this fantastic review of The Grip of It at Electric Literature:

Jemc is telling us the story of the putrefaction of a relationship. This relationship is not clean-cut and bookended by dramatic flares — it festers, untended, a thriving hotbed for the things that break us down, cell by cell. It doesn’t choke, but lines the airway slowly, turning a once-healthy breath into the ragged pull from a plastic straw. “Bad behavior heralds ruin,” says Julie, when she is utterly convinced that the haunting must be her fault: she is unwilling to accept that malevolence exists for its own sake, but convinced it must be part of a puritanical order of punishment.

Read the full review here.

One of the things we love about Jac is how supportive she is in the literary world. Jac publishes a fascinating list of her literary rejections, which you can read (and obsess over) here.  Lifting the veil on the dark side of publishing makes us all feel a little less alone.

Here she is in conversation with Amber Sparks for The Fanzine.

I don’t usually know my characters before I write a book. I do the old “put-them-in-situations-and-see-how-they-react” test of their mettle. I might even venture to say I know them even less at the end of the book because of what you mention about how I’m sort of always living in that gap of what we think we know about another person but don’t. But that’s probably what makes a character seem more real and human, right? To have them do surprising, unexpected things that surprise both the other characters and the reader.

Read the full conversation here.

We hope you’ll come meet Jac, and take her class, when she’s in town! Jac Jemc reads alongside Amelia Gray, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine at The Foundry Reading Series on Saturday, September 9th at 7 PM at The Rose in South Park.

Jac Jemc is the author of The Grip of It (FSG Originals). Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon’s best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart.

If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit and small press dedicated to helping people tell their stories, please consider becoming a sustaining member.

Nicholas Bredie reads at The Foundry on 9/9!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring writers near and far, both established and emerging, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anything. Our next reading is Saturday, September 9th at The Rose in South Park. Join us for readings by Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Skyler McCurine, and today’s feature, Nicholas Bredie.

Nicholas Bredie is the author of the novel Not Constantinople, from Dzanc Books, Summer 2017. With Joanna Howard, he is the translator of Frédéric Boyer’s novella Cows, published by Noemi Press. His writing has appeared in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Fairy Tale Review, LitHub, Puerto del Sol, Electric Literature and elsewhere. After living and working in Istanbul, Turkey, he is now in Los Angeles with his wife, Nora Lange.

You can read this excerpt from his novel, Not Constantinople, up at Literary Hub.

Not Constantinople is a rich, witty book that is equally as character-driven as it is place-driven as it is plot-driven.

Virginia’s hand found the neck of the Jack Daniel’s protruding from one of the sacks. Wielding the square bottle like a mace, she demanded that the strangers remove themselves. She was like the one animatron in a wax museum, sloshing the liquor in small but sincere strokes while everyone else froze.

“Isn’t that, like, an eighty-dollar bottle?” the man said, unperturbed. “Are you sure you want to waste it on me?”

Read the rest of the excerpt here.

Here is a delightful Electric Literature interview with Nick by Maureen Moore, a friend who had briefly lived with Nick and his wife, Nora, while they lived in Turkey. The idea of an “ex-pat novel” is rife with preconceived ideas and expectations, and perhaps even derision from a reader, and Nick manages to throw these expectations out of the window. While reading Not Constantinople, this excerpt often came to mind:

MM: Something that contributed to that unsettling feeling was seeing everything about the city written in its American English equivalent. I think I found that to be rare, finding these foreign names of places and things in English. Even one of Turkey’s most famous writers is referred to as Mr. Cotton. I’d love to hear it a little bit about this choice.

NB: I think it is connected to the idea of undermining or disenchanting. Having the names in plain English takes some of the exoticism out of them. There are some linguistic jokes in there too. For example Mr. Cotton’s neighborhood, Orhan Pamuk’s neighborhood, is Nişantaşı. He takes some care explaining the origin of that name in Istanbul, his memoir. It translates as “target stone,” because that was where the Ottomans set up their targets to practice archery and shooting. But Nişantaşı is also the Turkish word for “starch,” and it’s a kind of tony neighborhood, so I translated it as ‘The Starch.’

MM: For the reader, I also felt it further marked Fred and Virginia’s foreignness, as if they didn’t want to call those places by their Turkish names. It further separated them from the expected experience of the place.

NB: When we moved abroad, my uncle who was a foreign correspondent for a number of years said that the most important thing you can do is abandon analogy. To not try and compare, and make your experience fit some preconceived notions. How the characters behave and how they diverge ultimately in the book has to do with how they deal with their expectations of life abroad. In real life it is a situation of extremes: there is no family and no old friends and little language and a host of received notions about the place.

Read the full interview here.

We hope you’ll come join Nick at The Rose wine bar in South Park on Saturday, September 9th for The Foundry reading series. Nick will read alongside Jac Jemc, Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, and Emma Smith-Stevens. Stay tuned to learn more about the other readers as we approach the show!


We will also host a master class that afternoon, taught by Jac Jemc, called “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing).” Work with a fantastic writer for a super bargain price! Scholarships available! For details, or to register, visit here. Spend the entire afternoon with your Foundry readers!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.

Kali Wallace reads at The Foundry this Saturday!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and this Saturday’s show features readings from Kali Wallace, Hari Alluri, Elizabeth Marro, Steph Cha, and Matt Young. We jam pack these readings (just for you!) with our favorite established and emerging writers from near and far, with a nice spread of genre and form.

Kali Wallace is the author of the YA novel Shallow Graves and the forthcoming book The Memory Tree. Her writing is stunningly gorgeous, weird, cool, and exciting. She flips the idea of genre or age-level on end. Sometimes Shallow Grave felt like reading a powerful, scientific lyrical essay on grief, cults, and the stars… plus undead teens and exciting mystery and gore!

Kali has a PhD in geophysics, and that wonder and fascination with the natural world is as strong in her writing as her ability to weave the unnatural world, too.

I didn’t know I was waking up until it had already happened.

The birds started dying after midnight. The first people to notice were the early morning birders out before dawn, armed with their notebooks and binoculars, wrapped in scarves and puffy down coats against the surprise cold. They saw their blue jays and orioles and herons all struck dead on their migration north.

[…] The frost melted away before noon, and the birds kept dying. On the news a scientist insisted the freak cold snap had nothing to do with it, never mind that it was the middle of June and Illinois was ready for summer.

The last birds died just before midnight, and I came back.

–from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Kali’s work is powerful and gorgeous, but that’s not to say her writing isn’t also cutting and funny. Is this a San Diego subtweet? Possible.

I was expecting somebody like Mr. Willow, with his have-you-accepted-Jesus-as-your-savior hair and warm smile, but the man in the doorway looked like he had reached the age of thirty without realizing he wasn’t a frat boy anymore. No Steelers jersey, but he had blond hair in gelled spikes, a T-shirt advertising a craft beer, baggy cargo shorts, and a tattoo of a sunburst on his right calf.

–from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Join Kali on Saturday at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House, who’ll read from her forthcoming book, The Memory Trees, “about a mysterious family legacy, the bonds of sisterhood, and the strange and powerful ways we are shaped by the places we call home.” It’s an evocative story of the inheritance of women, place, and grief.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a supporting member!

Elizabeth Marro reads at The Foundry on June 10th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring established and emerging writers, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, anything, from near and far. Our next event is Saturday, June 10th at 7:00 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa, featuring readings from Hari Alluri, Matt Young, Steph Cha, Kali Wallace, and Elizabeth Marro.

San Diego novelist Elizabeth Marro is a tremendous force of literary citizenship. Betsy, as we know her, is a tireless advocate for the arts in San Diego, for veteran literature, and for women writers in particular. Her debut novel, Casualties was honored as a finalist (before it was even published!) for a San Diego Book Association Unpublished Novel prize, and again this year, is nominated in the regular category as a finalist in its published state. Betsy’s writing is evocative, often lovely, sometimes witty, and sometimes devastatingly harsh.

At some point in may no longer be possible to start over. Ruth has worried about this before, but on the morning after her son’s nineteenth birthday, she feels cold with the certainty of it. There will be a time when Robbie is too old to recover lost ground, when all his mistakes have calcified into a mass so large and impenetrable that neither one of them can break through.

Not for the first time, her assistant reminds her that she may be making too much of things.

(from Casualties, by Elizabeth Marro)

Casualities was reviewed last year by San Diego Citybeat, calling it a “tremendous debut.”

Ruth’s son, Robbie, returns from Iraq a changed man. Haunted by the things he witnessed “over there,” namely the deaths of his comrades in arms, Robbie struggles to adjust to being back in the United States. He only has a few months left before his enlistment is up and he doesn’t know what to do. He enlisted in the Marines to turn his life around, but also to avoid being sucked into the trajectory that his mother was planning for him: school, work, a normal life. Now he no longer knows what any of that even means. How can he go back to “normal” when he feels anything but?

“He didn’t know who or what he was when he enlisted. He just knew what he wasn’t.”

– See more at: http://sdcitybeat.com/culture/the-floating-library/battle-waged-home-front/#sthash.JNIVvchc.dpuf

You can read the first chapter of Casualties on the Amazon “Look Inside” feature here: https://www.amazon.com/Casualties-Elizabeth-Marro/dp/0425283461

And come listen to her read at this weekend’s Foundry reading series, Saturday June 10th at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee in La Mesa, alongside Hari Alluri, Steph Cha, Kali Wallace, and Matt Young.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Marro is the author of Casualties, a novel about a single mother and defense executive who loses her son just when she thought he was home safe from his final deployment. Now she must face some difficult truths about her past, her choices, the war, and her son. A former journalist and recovering pharmaceutical executive, Betsy Marro’s work has appeared in such online and print publications as LiteraryMama.com, The San Diego Reader, and on her blog at elizabethmarro.com. Originally from the “North Country” region of New Hampshire, she now lives in San Diego where she is working on her next novel, short fiction, and essays.  Casualties, published in February 2016 by the Berkley imprint of Penguin Random House, is her first novel.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month. Thank you!

Hari Alluri reads at The Foundry on June 10th: Two Poems

The Foundry is our literary reading series, bringing you the work of established and emerging writers, from near and far. Our next reading, on Saturday, June 10th at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa, features Matt Young, Kali Wallace, Steph Cha, Elizabeth Marro, and San Diego poet Hari Alluri. Today we are super proud to introduce you to Hari and publish two of his poems here, below.

Hari Alluri, author of the brand new book of poetry, The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017), is a dynamic and genuine writer whose work defines a world so specific in its detail, but somehow almost viscerally relatable. His performances are stunning: fun, heartfelt, and powerful. We love Hari: he’s an incredible mentor, supporter, and visionary in the arts, literary, and poetry scenes in San Diego.

Hari Alluri is the author of The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017) and the chapbook The Promise of Rust(Mouthfeel Press, 2016). An award-winning poet, educator, and teaching artist, his work appears widely in anthologies, journals and online venues, including poemeleon, Split This Rock, Sundog Lit, and The Margins. He is a founding editor at Locked Horn Press, where he has co-edited two anthologies, Gendered & Written: Forums on Poetics and Read America(s): An Anthology. He holds an MFA from San Diego State University and has received VONA/Voices and Las Dos Brujas fellowships and a National Film Board of Canada grant. Hari immigrated to Vancouver, Coast Salish territories at age twelve and currently serves as editor of pacific Review in San Diego, Kumeyaay land.

To get to know Hari a little better, here’s an interview from KPBS’s Midday Edition earlier this year: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2017/mar/28/san-diego-poet-explores-immigration-flayed-city/

And, finally, we are honored to print two of Hari’s poems here, both of which appear in The Flayed City: “A Declaration, Love,” and “[At the edge of drought…]”


A Declaration, Love

It is nothing
to be surrounded by fallen prayers—this is city.
I ash on shimmers. They no more implicate my day than dogs
who sniff for the piss of other dogs.

Perhaps that’s what prayers do. Regardless
of the city, their barks at muted streets
halfway up a fence, shifting
like migrants. Is the lie, “Here’s a person?”

Is the part to believe, “We love?” Like a cut
jungle burns to city, we ash
on shimmers. Prayers
swallow the revelation of you. You, a refugee, pray

to stay. Mumble toward your final words
in a detainment center slash library. I and thousands
check out books, exit casual
past your wall. You noose your sheets rather than be sent. Sniffing

at me for the dog piss of this city, as if it sniffs
your final words, a dog. I describe
to make things easier. My prayer is the dog I shoo
on broom-filled nights. It feels good,

old shoe, it feels: these nights under
the safety of a visa, a good that never held
your name. I do not sing: singing changes out my eyes.
You’re dead, so it’s nothing

if I slit your throat—prayer.
Cowl my face
in your blood. My silence halfway
up the nose of a sniffing dog. That jealous dog,
it bares its teeth in every passing prayer.


[At the edge of drought…]

At the edge of drought, a turtle learns silence from the hands who built this city, the ones whose names weren’t given to streets.

What comes after this will be gentle, with churning, with trolleys. It’s easy to overlook the seaside debris as you dismantle a crab.

We cannot shut out the dust moving across our shared vision. If you notice constant there are fossils in every breath.


Acknowledgments:

The poems are excerpted from The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017). Reprinted by permission.

An earlier version of “A Declaration, Love” first appears in TAYO.


Don’t miss Hari Alluri, alongside Matt Young, Steph Cha, Elizabeth Marro, and Kali Wallace, on Saturday, June 10th at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa (8278 La Mesa Blvd).


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month.

Alex Zaragoza reads at The Foundry this Saturday!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and we celebrate our 4th event this Saturday night, March 18th, at 7 PM, at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. We feature both emerging and established writers, novelists, short story writers, poets, memoirists, and journalists, like today’s feature, Alex Zaragoza.

Alex Zaragoza is a freelance writer covering arts, culture, food, the border, feminism and music in San Diego and Tijuana. She is a columnist at San Diego CityBeat, and Host+Writer/Producer of music/pop culture show ‘Unherd.’ She was raised on both sides of the border and works to share stories from the other side of the fence. 

As a columnist, journalist, and television host, we love Alex’s writing about feminism, race, the border, art and music, and relationships. She writes with a delicious mix of wisdom and irreverence, and can slip between in-depth, impressive journalistic coverage and hangover barf jokes from one piece to the next.

In a column for San Diego CityBeat, Alex examines her adolescent views of immigration, refuge, and humanity.

Fear of death has always been a major driver in my life. It’s like in one of my all-time favorite movies, Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage. Olympia Dukakis, who plays Cher’s mom in the movie and is a goddamn queen, asks, “Why do men chase women?” and when met with some bullshit answer from an older, skirt-chasing professor (played by John Mahoney, the dad from Frasier ), she answers, “I think it’s because they fear death.”

Death, as the movie explains, is the reason people (the movie pinpoints men, but I think this goes for all people regardless of gender) relentlessly pursue love and sex. But really, doesn’t that reasoning apply to anything? Why jump out of a plane? Why eat this whole pizza? Why go on a years-long cross-country trip? Why slip your number to that cutie at the grocery store? Why quit your corporate job to follow your dream of being a performance artist that smears shit on your face? Because I’m going to die someday so I must push myself to the limits of extreme experience so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything when the bell tolls for me.

Alex’s coverage of the US-Mexico border has also been featured by NPR, including this piece on food merchants at the border crossing:

Just about any time of day, there’s no going hungry in the border line. In the morning, warm burritos and tortas beckon. Afternoons bring street foods like bacon-wrapped hot dogs and tacos, tostilocos (Tostitos Salsa Verde corn chips covered with toppings including lime juice, hot sauce, Japanese peanuts and pickled pork rinds), and fruit salads smothered in lime, the Mexican spice mix Tajin, and a savory, fruit-based chamoy sauce. For the sweet tooth, there are desserts like the handmade, sorbet-like nieve de garrafa.

Feeding people is a deeply ingrained part of Mexican culture, and many of these vendors will tell stories of how they learned to cook (usually at home with their mother) and why they love making food (because food is love).

Her writing is evocative, enriching, and notably not here to make you comfortable. At The Foundry, Alex will read a little bit from some non-fiction that will be featured in O Magazine. (OMG OPRAH). Don’t miss it! Saturday, March 18th, at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair. She’ll read alongside Jami Attenberg, Kiik A.K., Wendy C. Ortiz, and Karolina Waclawiak.

The Foundry #4
Saturday, March 18th, 7 PM
Tiger Eye Hair
811 25th St, San Diego, CA 92102
all ages // $5 suggested donation

Here’s Drake enjoying Alex’s company


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary non-profit, please consider becoming a sustaining member.

Karolina Waclawiak reads at The Foundry on March 18th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, bringing you the finest, the weirdest, and the best writers from across the country and across the street. The next event is Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM at Tiger Eye Hair, and features readings by Jami Attenberg, Alex Zaragoza, Kiik A.K., Wendy C. Ortiz, and today’s feature, Karolina Waclawiak.

Karolina Waclawiak’s critically acclaimed first novel, How To Get Into The Twin Palms, was published by Two Dollar Radio in 2012. Her second novel, THE INVADERS, which was published in July 2015, was recently optioned by ABC Television. AWOL, a feature she co-wrote with Deb Shoval, will premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Formerly an editor at the Believer, she is now the Deputy Culture Editor at BuzzFeed. Waclawiak received her BFA in Screenwriting from USC School of Cinematic Arts and her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. Her last name is pronounced Vahts-Slav-iak.

Karolina’s latest novel, The Invaders, is a dark look at suburban elitism. From a review in The Guardian:

David Lynch’s cinema of suburban horror would pair well with Waclawiak’s work both [in The Invaders] and in her first, LA-based novel, How to Get Into the Twin Palms. Both writer and film-maker blend traditional social criticism and with a sort of rhapsodising of the quotidian and grotesque within suburbia. Along with DJ Waldie, Bret Easton Ellis, Jeffrey Eugenides and AM Homes, Waclawiak’s The Invaders belongs to this expanding genre of “new suburban” literature.

[…]

Despite its patent cynicism, The Invaders contains hints of the same fantastical realism found in Ellis’s Lunar Park or Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. All these books romanticise the lonely topographies, both emotional and natural, that its characters inhabit. Waclawiak’s unadorned prose puts in stark relief dark houses, vacant gardens, even the ominous churning of the sea without resorting to belaboured Freudian cant.

Here’s a brief excerpt from The Invaders, up at Lit Hub.

When our father left, our old rotary phone would ring and my sisters and I would fight like rabid dogs over who would answer it, hoping it was him, but it never was. My sisters spent less and less time at home, wanting to be away from all the sadness, the outline of missing people too grim. Boys would take them away, my mother would yell, warning them they’d end up like her, alone with a brood of ungrateful girls of their own, but they didn’t listen. Neither did I.

[read the full excerpt here]

Waclawiak’s first book, How To Get Into The Twin Palms, published by our friends at Two Dollar Radio, is a dreary, fiery (literal fire) portrayal of outsiderness and otherness in Los Angeles, devastatingly crafted. Her writing is rich, sometimes dismal, and unsettling.

And Waclawiak was announced yesterday as a National Book Awards fiction judge, alongside Dave Eggers and Alexander Chee, among others.

We are looking forward to bringing Karolina to town to read to you. Join us at The Foundry #4 on March 18th at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill! Karolina Waclawiak reads with Jami Attenberg, Kiik A.K., Alex Zaragoza, and Wendy C. Ortiz. Stay tuned as we introduce you to all of the readers!

RSVP and invite your friends: https://www.facebook.com/events/274611539626150/


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary non-profit, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Details here.

Wendy C. Ortiz reads at The Foundry on March 18th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series! We want to introduce you to your next favorite writer. Each reading features established authors and emerging writers, both from San Diego and across the country. We’re going to do a little web series so you can get to know each of the readers for The Foundry #4, coming up on Saturday, March 18th at 7 PM  at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill.

The Foundry #4 will feature readings from Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Kiik A.K., Alex Zaragoza, and today’s feature: Wendy C. Ortiz.

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir, Hollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been profiled or featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Hazlitt, The Lifted Brow, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, StoryQuarterly, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy lives in Los Angeles. Visit her public notebook: wendycortiz.tumblr.com.

Wendy’s writing is powerful, thick with imagery, and beautifully sparse. The things left out from her work carry nearly as much weight as the words included. From a recent interview at The Rumpus, here’s Wendy on how perfecting the art of omission works with her self-coined genre “dreamoir” used in her new book, Bruja, published in 2016 by Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Rumpus: You’ve said in the past about your writing, “What can I omit to make it a sharper piece?”

I’m fascinated by the way Bruja forces the reader to piece together the story through symbols and narrative threads as opposed to a linear story arc. As a reader the dream format compelled me to think more deeply about the journey of the narrator—to engage in the process of discovery in a much more visceral way than I might with a traditional memoir. In a way, the omission, made the narrative more engaging. Was this something you had to think through?

Ortiz: In the original writing of it online, I never thought this through—the website was a receptacle for dreams. In editing it, I had to think through which dreams had the most to “tell,” which forced me into omitting dreams that didn’t have much of a thread (or threads that might be too obscure to follow). I also omitted dreams that felt like they told too much. It felt like a very careful removal of organs from a body, to see if the body might still function without one dream thread or another.

And her work, both in Bruja and in her earlier memoir texts, Hollywood Notebook and Excavation, is intensely personal, revelatory, and groundbreaking. She plays with genre in the same way that she plays with language and structure, pushing the boundaries of what is non-fiction, what is memoir, what is truth, and the boundaries of what a page or a story might look like: prose, poetry, truth, dream, magic.

Here’s Wendy on magical realism and magic in writing:

Rumpus: […]I felt keenly that Bruja, had an intentional spell-like—almost a magical realism—quality. Certainly, the gorgeous cover art by the artist Wendy Ortiz, and the title itself is evocative of a female archetype—a woman with magical powers. Were you thinking about this when you composed Bruja?

Ortiz: I was thinking of it the same way I think of brujería everyday without calling it that, necessarily. To me, magic is everywhere. Synchronicities fall under the “magic” heading to me. I pay attention as much as I can. I try to surround myself with other women with magical powers and a lot falls under the heading “magical powers.” To me, a bruja is able to live on and in different planes at different times and sometimes simultaneously—this is what I thought of most as I edited the text of the book—that this was my life on another plane while living on the one most people call “reality.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

I love this stunning, boundary-squashing and structure-squashing piece of her writing you can read online at the literary magazine Poor Claudia, “Celestial Body Language.” Here’s a brief clip:

Pluto Conjunct Midheaven

“personal power is mobilized”

Pluto at the top of the chart, Mars at the bottom.
“You’re here to destroy,” she said.
I stepped out of the salon clutching the cassette tape. In the attic I reset its spools.
She gave no definition for “destroy.”
Months wandered by like clouds. I counted. After five had passed I forgot I was counting.
The sixth cloud hung heavy.
Midway I sprung out of the cloud, soaking wet, then engorged with flames. Destroying came naturally, as it turned out.
I hit the ground. When the ground opened, kept running.

We are honored to have Wendy come read to you at the Foundry, and teach her (SOLD OUT!) masterclass, “Public Notebook to Book,” earlier that afternoon. Come join Wendy, Jami Attenberg, Karolina Waclawiak, Kiik A.K., and Alex Zaragoza on Saturday, March 18th at Tiger Eye Hair!


If you appreciate what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Details here: http://www.sosayweallonline.com/membership/

 

Henry Hoke reads at The Foundry on January 14th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series! It’s this Saturday 1/14 (tomorrow!), at 8 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa.

Tomorrow’s reading features wild, weird, beautiful, funny, intense, and unexpected work from amazing authors we are truly honored to host here in San Diego: Meredith Alling, Cali Linfor, Justin Maurer, Leah Thomas, and today’s feature: Henry Hoke.

Henry Hoke is southern expat gothic. He wrote The Book of Endless Sleepovers (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) and Genevieves (winner of the Subito Press prose contest, forthcoming 2017). Some of his stories appear in The Collagist, PANK, Winter Tangerine and Carve. He co-created and directs Enter>text, a living literary journal.

I first heard about Henry by way of seeing his book cover (revealed online by the designer, a writer/friend Ryan W. Bradley), which is an excellent “judge a book by its cover” meeting story. His debut, The Book of Endless Sleepovers (2016, Civil Coping Mechanisms) is a powerful book that slithers through boyhood, love, agony, predators, fear, family in an almost mystical way. It’s a quick and feverish read, but masterful in its completeness. And yes, it has a killer cover.

An excerpt:

Parents: if you teach your children to pray, they will only pray for endless sleepovers.

“It’s a little bit night and a little bit morning.” 4am, not dawn, but when day teases the edges of the world. If they walked outside they’d be drifting silhouettes, a terrifying time. But warm inside, Huck’s mumbled response is comforting. Tom wakes up at 4am when he sleeps over, wakes loudly or moves just enough to rouse Huck, and Tom always asks the same question: “What time is it?” And Huck always has the same answer: “it’s a little bit night and a little bit morning.” Tom wakes at this time for the rest of his life.

*

“We have to work out a system,” Huck says and lays out a map of tunnels and turrets on the rug. Tom stares at a spot of dried blood on Huck’s ear. It’s all Tom can see. It’s going to be the best snow fort ever.

*

Imagine yourself on a raft in a slow-moving river at night. Every soft animal makes sounds from the bank. You are in the center of the raft, and surrounding you are all your friends, asleep. This is heaven. He wakes you up by singing “I just stuck a top in my crotch.” You wonder if he’s sure what crotch means and if he’s hurt and if you are in love with him. The water is stupid with stars.

*

When the girls twist the stems of apples and the pop-tops of canned Coke they always end up on H for Huck. Never, in the history of twisting girls, have they reached the letter T.

Tom and Huck are on their backs in the grass again.
Huck says he can’t wait to have kids, so he can beat them.
Tom tries to imagine what their children would look like.

How many times can you write the word “pussy” in a book of Mad Libs? Tonight we’re going to find out. By god.

–from The Book of Endless Sleepovers by Henry Hoke

Henry’s next book, Genevieves, is forthcoming this year. We can’t wait to read it, and we can’t wait to introduce San Diego to Henry. Join him, along with Meredith Alling, Leah Thomas, Cali Linfor, and Justin Maurer, at The Foundry reading series, this Saturday, January 14th, at 8 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa.

THE FOUNDRY #3
Saturday, January 14th at 8 PM
Public Square Coffee House
8275 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa CA 91942
$5 suggested donation.

–Julia Dixon Evans


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