Tag Archives: San Diego

An interview with The Foundry’s Amy Wallen

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring established and emerging writers from near and far, right here in San Diego. Our upcoming reading is this Saturday, February 24th, at 7 PM at The Rose wine bar in South Park, featuring Michael Konik, Bernard M. Cox, Kirin Khan, and today’s feature, Amy Wallen.

So Say We All’s Julia Dixon Evans, host of the Foundry, had a chance to ask Amy some questions about her brand new, hot off the presses memoir, When We Were Ghouls, officially releasing March 1st, 2018. It’s a fantastic book: beautiful, smart, devastating, and very funny. We hope you enjoy what Amy has to say, and come to see her read from her book this Saturday!

JULIA DIXON EVANS: Hi Amy! When We Were Ghouls is your first memoir. How long have you been working on this project?

AMY WALLEN: Well, the very first stories I wrote, even before I wrote my novel were personal stories, so I guess it was 25 years ago when I first started. But as far as writing it seriously as a memoir, it’s been since 2013 when I was getting my MFA and one of my professors kept telling me I was writing a memoir. I ignored her until I couldn’t any longer. I resisted writing a memoir. I wanted to just keep these family tales as anecdotes and maybe write some personal essays from the adventures my family had taken. I was struggling with my 2nd novel, so I thought I could piddle around with essay form for awhile until I became engrossed in the next novel. But any story has to have situation or it’s just an anecdote, and the discovery of the situations led me down one rabbit hole (or grave) after another. So, somewhere between 25 year and 3 years with a novel written for 7 years in between.

JDE: I love the timeline of this book. It’s so heavily anchored in age 7-10, and even though it escapes those ages periodically, this is the time that matters. To me, the older Amy mattered as a way of showing us your parents now and showing us the work of memory. How tempting was it to pull us to your present mind to show us what has or hasn’t changed in you?

AW: The adult narrator is always slippery and changing. I kept wanting to update those parts. In fact, when I read sections of it now, I can tell you where my perspective as the adult 3 years ago was not seeing the whole picture yet. Now I know things I didn’t know, but if I tried to keep up with that, the memoir would have never been finished. Maybe our stories are never finished.

JDE: How did you refine the timeline? What was it about those ages that made you dwell?

AW: Those were the specific years that we lived in third world countries. I wanted the memoir to focus on the time when my family was dispersed and when we were the most out of our comfort zone. We were very different people when we left the USA than the family who returned. We started off living in a three-bedroom one-bath house and ended up living on three different continents from each other. I’ve always imagined that if my family hadn’t moved overseas I would have grown up to work in my dad’s gas station. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a very different life than the one I ended up living. During those years when the memoir take place we saw things we never could have imagined if my dad had a gas station.

JDE: This is one of my favorite studies of memory and the reliability of our own nostalgia that I’ve read in a while. Did you set out to write a book about memory?

AW: Not at all. I wanted to write how we were such tacky rednecks living this Beverly Hillbillies life, but I kept realizing that what I remembered was so different than what anyone else remembered, or what could have been, or (and this was the hardest to take) what the reality had to be.

JDE: And the ghosts! I could ask the same thing: what came first, the ghosts or the disappearing family? Did you set out to write a book about ghosts?

AW: I’ve always been intrigued by ghosts, my whole life. My sister used to bring me books about ghosts home from places she’d travel to. I knew about the ghosts in the White House. I loved ghost stories that my friends would tell. My mom has a great story about a house we lived in that was haunted, and I swear a house I lived in a few years ago was haunted. I’ve never seen a ghost, but always wanted to. Still do. I even stay at hotels that claim they have ghosts, just with the hope that I’ll get to see one. But nope, that wasn’t my first intention at all with this book. But when I saw how the family members were coming and going and I also had a reader friend tell me that I need to use the grave scene as the metaphor for the whole book, ghost themes just started appearing on the page. Maybe I’m haunted!

JDE: I loved the scenes where we are inside your 8 year old head, knowing what you want to do or say, and then we watch you do the right thing, the thing that’d make your adults not see you as a nuisance. Most of these, despite being about you and your interior struggle, can’t help but be seen as… awful situations. The grown ups leaving you in the pub vestibule! The Helter Skelter movie blanket-ripping! How much of your memory and your recounting of this is wrapped up in feeling wronged? 

AW: This is probably why I resisted writing memoir, but also why I probably needed to write it—I was just telling an anecdote, but as I was writing it I realized how an adult would see it. In the vestibule scene the last line, I say, “I was ascared,” and my mom corrects me and says, “Afraid, you were afraid,” and I correct myself, “Yes, I was afraid.” That was something my mom always did—correct my bad language. I thought it was funny when I was writing it down, but when it was on the page was the first time I realized how she was ignoring my fear. I think that was the first time I felt the hurt. I was 50 years old. Sure, I was already aware how my mother wasn’t exactly attentive to my little girl needs or wants, but writing the details made me relive them and feel them as that little girl again. There’s some catharsis in that. And who doesn’t like catharsis? But I don’t know that I think I was wronged, rather than looking back and thinking, wow, we survived some tough shit and I was only 7.

JDE: As I read this, I related on so many levels. To the adult writer, scrambling for understanding of her past and unreliable memories, to the eight year old girl, but also, to the adults. Parenting an 8 year old girl myself while reading this was quite the undertaking. I would say the emotions I felt towards your adults, the parents, were mostly cringing, but some… empathy too. Did you experience this as well as you wrote? Relating to your own parents as you wrote them as characters in a way that was new? 

AW: Definitely! I became much more aware of how my mother was really a single mother thrown into Lagos, Nigeria with no background or experience or even a car at first. I never really realized how scared (ascared!) she was all the time, until I wrote this book and realized she was constantly fearful. I was just too young to know how afraid to be, and you definitely don’t think of your own mom as afraid of anything. To be a single mom is hard enough, to be a single mom in Lagos, Nigeria after the war is a whole other issue. I gained a whole new compassion for her. If our roles were reversed and she had been more protective of me, I can see how that would and wouldn’t have helped me be a different adult.

JDE: To know you is to know your obsession with death. Have you known all along that this blossomed from seeing so much death, literal dead bodies, as a kid?

AW: I’ve wondered if this is where it came from, but I think I had an interest in death when I was even younger. Before we went overseas and saw any death or remnants I used to love to watch scary movies with my big brother. I always preferred the ones with ghosts and with a more gothic theme like vampires than the ones with monsters like The Blob or Zombies. Mummies—those were my thing. Creature from the Black Lagoon, not so much. I used to use up several rolls of toilet paper trying to wrap myself up like a mummy.

JDE: As you know, much of the work So Say We All does is in memoir and personal narrative writing. What advice do you have for people trying to pinpoint a slice of their upbringing to focus on? 

AW: Maybe it’s obvious, but consider a personal story with a situation, something is different at the end than at the beginning. And first and foremost—tell the TRUTH. You don’t have to get all the facts right, but you have to be honest.  You have to be honest about who you were then, and especially who you are now because of then. If you haven’t changed, then it’s not a story. It’s an anecdote.

JDE: How was this experience different from writing and publishing your novel, MoonPies and Movie Stars? Has everything felt different with nonfiction?

AW: Oh, everything has been different. I was so confounded by the genre of creative nonfiction. I thought I would just write down all these stories that I had in my head from my life experiences. But it didn’t work that way at all. Fiction had come to me as a story that was being told to me and I was just the typist. It flowed. Muses were my friends. Sure I did umpteen drafts, but in memoir the adult and child narrator conflict I describe above had me so confounded. Then, I had all those difficulties with memory that I describe in the book that I ended up using as part of the theme, but that really stumped me at first since I’m a real stickler for the truth. I really craved to go back to fiction, but something kept tugging at me to write this memoir. When things clicked, when I studied the back and forth/give and take of the adult and the child and how to create that between-the-lines conversation with myself, I think something finally clicked and the story fell into places—ghosts became the theme. Maybe my story is haunted. And then on top of the writing process being different, the publishing process was also a completely different experience. To make a long story short, I learned that each book really does have its own home and it’s about finding where that is.

JDE: Thank you so much Amy!


AMY WALLEN’s next book When We Were Ghouls is forthcoming Spring 2018. Her essays have been published in The Gettysburg Review, The Normal School, Country Living and other national magazines and anthologies. Her first novel MoonPies & Movie Stars was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. Her book launch event at The Book Catapult is Saturday, March 3rd! Find her at amywallen.com

See Amy read alongside Kirin Khan, Michael Konik, and Bernard M. Cox at The Foundry reading series, this Saturday, 2/24, at 7 PM at The Rose (2219 30th St) (21+).


To support the work that So Say We All does, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month.

Bernard M. Cox reads at The Foundry on 2/24

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and we’re excited for our upcoming show on Saturday, February 24th at The Rose Wine Bar in South Park. As we get to know our readers, up next is Bernard M. Cox!

Bernard M. Cox is a graduate of 2015 Class of Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and received an MFA Creative Writing from Roosevelt University.

He has taught fiction writing, screenwriting, literature, and composition; curated an experimental music concert series called FeedBack; ran a staged reading series for screenwriters; served as Assistant Artistic Director for the Tamale Hut Café Reading Series in North Riverside, IL; and served on the Board of Directors of the University City Arts League in Philadelphia. He currently volunteers in the San Diego LGBT community.

His writing has appeared in A cappella ZooBlood and LullabiesCollective FalloutCrack the SpineRed Lightbulbs, and Up the Staircase Quarterly.

You can read some of Bernard’s work here, his short story, “La Chanson de l’Observation,” published in A cappella Zoo.

Read the rest here.

Bernard’s story from the issue was reviewed (glowingly!) at New Pages here:

In the final piece in the collection, Javier Flores and Theo Zedek have a loving relationship. But after fifteen years, Javier Flores must once again become node AR1x40: a part of an alien collective-consciousness known as the Commonality. Bernard M. Cox’s “La Chanson de l’Observation” is told as an analytical report studying human relationships. Opening with a Preface, then Method and Results, Cox writes two simultaneous voices: the first person plural of the Commonality, and the first person of Javier/node AR1x40 as he develops a singular consciousness. The shift in perspective allows Javier to say, “Theo smells of fresh bread, and his lips taste of chocolate,” and then the Commonality to say, “This experiment is a longitudinal study in fifteen year increments.” Both are honest, fleshed out voices, accepting of queer identities. Cox familiarizes us with Javier’s queer relationship and defamiliarizes us to human culture.

We’re big fans of Clarion alums here (and we’re sure you are too) (or you will be soon), and we are so excited to have Bernard join us on our Foundry stage and read some amazing work for you. He’ll read alongside Michael Konik, Brooke King, Amy Wallen, and Kirin Khan at The Rose on Saturday, February 24th at 7 PM. See you there.

And join Foundry reader Brooke King for her master class earlier that day: “Facing Violence on the Page.” More info here.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a member and sustaining our education, publishing, outreach, and performance programming year round.

Michael Konik reads at The Foundry on 2/24!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and we’re excited for our upcoming show on Saturday, February 24th at The Rose Wine Bar in South Park. Get to know your readers, starting right here with Michael Konik!

It’s hard to talk about Michael Konik and his brand new novel Year 14, without talking (with quite a twinkle in our eyes) about its publisher, Barrelhouse. The literary nonprofit, based on the east coast, consistently puts out innovative, disarming work, bridging the gap between serious literary business and pop culture. They also champion the work of fledgling nonprofits in the literary world with their amazing Amplifier program. We are so inspired by them, and respectful of their work. Also they have killer taste.

And that’s where Michael Konik comes in to this. A founder of the 80’s hardcore punk rock band the Clitboys, Michael Konik is the author of many books of fiction, poetry, journalism and essays, most recently Year 14, the first novel published by Barrelhouse Books. His poetic monologue collection, Report from the Street: Voices of the Homeless, inaugurates the Shockwave Series of social justice-minded books in April. MK serves as Poet Laureate of Vista Street Community Library in Los Angeles, where he tends an organic garden.

Year 14 is a comedy, a tragedy, and a cautionary tale. By turns frightening and absurdly funny, this timeless novel offers a hopeful, if hard-won, affirmation of humanity’s indomitable spirit.

The narrator of Year 14 was a young man when a revolution changed his homeland forever—a new regime, a new calendar, a new flag, a new anthem and new money. Thirteen years later he has a comfortable job as an editor for the state-sanctioned newspaper, a loving wife, and an unswerving belief in the benevolence of his country’s Caring Leaders. But when a new Information Gatherer is assigned to the newsroom—a peculiar man-child named Tup-Tup, the son of an important government minister—he’s forced to face the truth about his sacred homeland.

You can read an excerpt of Year 14, the first two harrowing, weird, delightful chapters, here:

I understand that writing this down on paper without first obtaining the proper license is not permitted.

 I will be dealt with appropriately. You could say this report will be my suicide note.

Read more here.

We’re excited to host Michael and share Barrelhouse’s books with you all. Hear Michael read at The Foundry on Saturday, February 24th at 7 PM at The Rose Wine Bar, alongside Kirin Khan, Brooke King, Amy Wallen, and Bernard M. Cox. Stay tuned for features on each of our readers!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please join us as a supporting member to sustain our programming year-round. Memberships start at as little as $5 per month. Details here.

Writers Workshop – Conflicted: Telling the Stories of Conflicts

We are so excited to be presenting four national powerhouses in literature, radio, and journalism all on one stage this February to discuss the process and lessons learned from writing about conflict in its many iterations. Please don’t miss out on this very special opportunity we’ve setup for you to meet some of the most important voices in the business!


Writer’s Symposium by the Sea: WRITING WORKSHOP
Conflicted: Telling the Stories of Conflicts at Home, Abroad, and In the Heart

What does it take to tell the stories of war, life inside an occupied territory, or political, cultural, and racial upheaval within our own borders? We’ve assembled a panel of writers who have gone to the heart of these conflicts in order to tell us what we need to hear and have paid a price for doing it.

We’ll be in conversation with four writers who have witnessed or lived through war or racial and cultural upheaval within our own borders and have brought their stories to the page, screen, radio, and the stage. We’ll hear excerpts of their work, ask them what it takes to do it, and how it changes them.

We’ll hear about the same war from the point of view of a civilian journalist Kelly McEvers, now co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, and veteran and author of the forthcoming memoir Full Battle Rattle, Brooke King. We’ll hear from poet, playwright and Reveal cohost Al Letson about his journey into an often-divided America and how this led once to tossing aside journalistic distance to shield a white nationalist protestor at Berkley. Jeanne Guerrero, investigative reporter for KPBS’ Fronteras and author of the forthcoming Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir, will share what it is like to cover the humans who live on both sides of the border as they try to build lives in a constantly shifting world.

Why does someone choose to write the most difficult stories? What about the inner conflicts these story-tellers confront and how do these shape the stories they tell us? These are just some of the questions we will explore with our panel members who have experienced and written about some of our world’s most challenging conflicts for the page, theater, film, or broadcast – sometimes more than one of these.

Full details for the program can be found here: https://www.pointloma.edu/events/writers-symposium-sea

Tickets:
$5 student
$10 general
https://commerce.cashnet.com/cashneti/selfserve/BrowseCatalog.aspx?CNAME=EVENT+6+++++

So Say We All is a literary and performing arts non-profit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals to tell their stories, and the force behind Incoming, a series dedicated to sharing stories written by our veterans, told in their own words. The Writers Symposium by the Sea is an annual event which for over 20 years has brought interviews with innovative creators, life stories, examples of great writing, and evocative conversation that inspire readers and writers alike.

The season of giving is here!

SSWA’s year-end membership drive is upon us!

Become a supporting member today!

People just like you have supported us year-round, making us who we are since we built our first community stage in 2009. Now it’s the season of giving, and we have a wish only you can fulfill: we need our artists, audience, and friends to join our community of members. For as little as $5, you can help So Say We All serve even more people, voices we might not otherwise find or our audience hear without your help. Memberships help us better plan our mission, and receive special invitations to parties, receive discounts on masterclasses, and one day we might even have tote bags. But the gift you’d be giving to us and our storytellers can’t compare, and that’s why we’re asking.

If you’re in San Diego this coming Thursday: become a member now, then come to our next VAMP storytelling showcase. Walk up to our Executive Director Justin Hudnall, Production Coordinator Julia Evans, or any of our wonderful Board Members, and introduce yourself as our newest member for your first reward: our deepest in-person thanks, and a chance to see everyone in the room your gift has helped bring together.

Thank you as always, forever, for helping us become what we are and what we can be, for making our city one we want to keep living in and bettering for all its inhabitants, and for taking action where so many just talk.

Join us here.

Attention Educators and students! Upcoming student storytelling showcases!

Are you currently teaching storytelling, personal narrative, or first person non-fiction to your students? Or are you interested in developing a writing and storytelling unit? Do you have a project that might benefit from a storytelling element? Here are a few upcoming opportunities from our current education projects to see some excellent model texts and performances in action. Bring your students, or your colleagues! These shows are all ages, FREE, and open to all. (Special note: as these are high school and college students, there may be adult language and potentially triggering situations)

In chronological order!

Southwestern College VAMP: Are You Gonna Eat That

Thursday, November 16th at 7 PM
Field House Auditorium at Southwestern College
900 Otay Lakes Rd, Chula Vista, CA 91910
(part in Lot J student spaces)

Southwestern students drafted narratives on the theme of “Are You Gonna Eat That?” and just seven were selected to undergo an intensive editorial, critique, and coaching process. Food is an incredible storytelling prompt, and we love the many directions these students took the theme. Come hear their incredible stories!

More details


City College VAMP: Holler if Ya Hear Me

Wednesday, November 29 at 7 PM
Saville Theatre at City College
14th St & C St., San Diego, CA 92101

Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth? Have you ever struggled to be understood? We all want to be heard. But to be really understood–to have someone feel where you’re coming from–is powerful. Come hear our latest showcase of powerful student stories from City College!

More details.


HIGH TECH HIGH CHULA VISTA
The Power Within Storytelling Project

Nov-Dec, Project Reo Collective
2335 Reo Dr No. 6, San Diego, CA 92139

Thursday Nov. 30
Friday Dec. 1
Tuesday Dec. 5
Wednesday Dec. 6
Thursday Dec. 7

Five nights of fantastic storytelling from two classes of brilliant and inspiring high school juniors. These classes have incorporated biology into their examination of their own narratives, working hard all semester with our teaching artists, model texts from previous students, and with their peers. Join us for our third year working on this project with High Tech High Chula Vista.

More details TBD.


If you’d like to talk to us about opportunities with So Say We All teaching artists in your schools or institutions, please contact us.


To help So Say We All develop and sustain future education projects and more, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month.

VAMP: Teeth is this Thursday night!

Our October VAMP showcase is this Thursday night! The theme is TEETH.

(Teeth?!)

We eat with them, which is a good thing, so doesn’t that mean teeth should be good things? But when our bones are on the outside of our bodies, they can be the stuff of nightmares. Biting, fangs, dentists, drills, pliers, root canals, fetishes, supernumeraries… it’s all real life body horror. And we’re not the only creatures who have teeth.

We’ll spare you all the bite/chew on/grind/digest/brush up on puns. J/K. Take a sharp and minty bite out of this toothsome line-up!

Featuring:
Elaine Gingery
Ellen Wright
Julia Dixon Evans
Kevin Manly
Louise Julig
Milo Schapiro
Ryan Hicks

Produced by Jen Stiff and Ryan Bradford


VAMP: Teeth!
Thursday, October 26th
8:30 PM
Whistle Stop Bar
2236 Fern St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 284-6784
$5 suggested donation
www.sosayweallonline.com


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here: http://www.sosayweallonline.com/membership/

Incoming at the Without Walls Festival

Friday, October 20 at 7 PM
Saturday, October 21th at 7 PM
Sunday, October 22nd at 7 PM

Border X Brewing
2181 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113

$10  ||   LEARN MORE  ||  BUY TICKETS

La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW) is four days of immersive and eclectic theatre for adventurous art lovers, thrill seekers and families. Now in its third outing, the festival lands in downtown San Diego this October!

Join So Say We All and the WOW Fest as we feature performers from Incoming: Sex, Drugs, and Copenhagen, our forthcoming collection of veteran nonfiction writing. Our veteran storytellers take the stage at Border X Brewing in Barrio Logan, October 20, 21, and 22.

True uncensored stories from the lives of America’s military, told in their own words, about the private and sometimes illicit escapes sought out by service members during their service and the time that follows as they readjust to the civilian world. Hilarious, surprising and honest to the core, and featuring a different cast every night, this newest offering by So Say We All will defy any notions you have about our service members.

THREE performances:

Friday, October 20 at 7 PM
featuring: Adam Stone, Allison Gill, Francisco Martinezcuello, Jim Ruland, Kurt Kalbfleisch, Michelle Kerouac, and Tenley Lozano

Saturday, October 21th at 7 PM
featuring: Adam Stone, Derrick Woodford, Francisco Martinezcuello, James Seddon, Kurt Kalbfleisch, Michelle Kerouac, and Tenley Lozano

Sunday, October 22nd at 7 PM
featuring: Adam Stone, Allison Gill, Derrick Woodford, Francisco Martinezcuello, Jim Ruland, Michelle Kerouac, and Tenley Lozano

Border X Brewing
2181 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113

$10  ||   LEARN MORE  ||  BUY TICKETS

All group sales can be booked by phone or by email at groupsales@ljp.org — 10% OFF, $3 per order fee

Strong language, adult content. General admission. Limited seating; first come, first served. Standing may be required. Wheelchair accessible. Recommended for ages 18+. Cash is not accepted for ticket payment onsite.

Please contact LJPH Patron Services if you require any special assistance.


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

Meet our Southeast Stories production team!

The Southeast Stories project team is looking forward to meeting you! If you have a story in any medium that relates to a location in Southeast San Diego, we invite you to be a part of our Storymapping San Diego program and send it our way! The submission link is here, and below you’ll discover the talented individuals making it happen along with people just like you. Skyler McCurine is redefining the look of leadership as a personal stylist, public speaker, wonder woman through her business Le Red Balloon.  Driven by the lackluster stereotypical portrayal of women in the media and the devastating landscape of leadership (male/pale/stale leadership)  she leads workshops for teenage girls and professional women around , leadership, parity, self­ acceptance, personal branding, and of course, style. Skyler’s passion for fostering leadership, audacity, and courage in young women led her to invitation to TEDx, SD Business Journal “Emerging Generation Award” and her recent invitation to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit as Swiss Luxury watch brand’ Baume & Mercier’s guest of distinction.  She was a finalist for the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the social entrepreneurship category. She is a native San Diegan and received her BA in Communication Studies from Loyola Marymount University and MA in Organizational Management from Ashford University.  Her fervent belief in inclusion, red balloons, and champagne are her personal North Stars. Kirin Amiling Macapugay is an assistant professor at San Diego City College. She serves on the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and was former Commissioner for the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as an appointee of Governor Brown. Kirin was past Chairwoman of the Cultural Arts Commission for the City of Chula Vista and has held several advisory and board roles for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum San Diego, the San Diego Leadership Alliance, and San Diego Gas and Electric. Her articles and writing about her indigenous Kaling and Bontoc roots as well as her growing up in southeast San Diego have been published in They, a magazine by Artists Creating Community, and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Kirin has been featured by the Filipino Press, the Asian Journal, the National Association of Social Workers, and the book, Impower You, by Leah Oviedo. She recently participated in Pillars of the Community’s Reclaiming our Stories project sharing her story of growing up in southeast San Diego, and the day she found herself at the end of a gun. Dustin Marquel is a native of Los Angeles, whose interests include tattoos, cooking, Batman, photography, pro wrestling, and the 1990’s in general. His writing has appeared in City Works Literary Journal, and has been featured by So Say We All’s VAMP reading series.  He currently works as an English instructor for Southwestern College and San Diego City College. Alejandra Lucero teaches English at Southwestern College. She’s been involved in promoting literacy and the love for reading and writing from a young age through organizations like Words Alive, 826LA and, now, So Say We All. Her own written work explores liminal spaces, real like the US/Mexico Border and imaginary, like the US/Mexico Border, and it’s effects on people, especially those who don’t fit in. Lyn Jerry was born and raised in Emerald Hills, received her BA  in Social Sciences from University of Washington, and her JD from Brooklyn Law School.” She’s passionate about social justice issues and promoting voices of color.      

Amelia Gray reads at The Foundry 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 Foundry reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Skyler McCurine, Nicholas Bredie, Jac Jemc, and today’s spotlight, Amelia Gray.

The first real literary reading I remember attending was the esteemed Vermin on the Mount, four or five years ago. Amelia Gray read, and I’d never heard of her before. To people in the literary world that’s sort of ridiculous. And to anyone who has experienced Amelia at a reading, she is a force of nature. Inspired and a little awestruck, I bucked up some new writer courage and approached her afterwards, telling her she did great. I asked her if she had any work I could find online, and she (with her three-going-on-four books at the time) smiled, so nicely, and said, “Sure, yes I do.”

Amelia’s writing is always transformative: her characters, their worlds, and their objects often turn your understanding on end. And Isadora, Amelia Gray’s brand new novel (just out this summer from FSG), while unlike anything I’ve read from her before, maintains this, gorgeously so. Isadora delves into the life of the American dancer Isadora Duncan. It’s tragic, and weird, and darkly funny. She unsettles her readers, charms and endears them, makes them laugh, and then sort of pulls the rug out a little bit.

From an NPR review of Isadora:

Gray is a gutsy, utterly original writer, and this is the finest work she’s done so far. Isadora is a masterful portrait of one of America’s greatest artists, and it’s also a beautiful reflection on what it means to be suffocated by grief, but not quite willing to give up: “In order to understand the greatest joys of life, you must do more than open yourself to its greatest sorrows. You must invite it to join you in your home and beguile it to stay.”

Read the rest of the review at NPR.

If you don’t have a copy of Isadora yet, you can read a brand new Amelia Gray short flash fiction story, “The Hostage,” published this summer at The New Yorker.

“You’re not putting a dye pack in there, are you?” he asked.

The woman turned to look at him, and he was surprised to see that his question seemed to have wounded her. “I would never,” she said. “What would make you say that?”

“I’m sorry.” He tried to think about what would make him say it; he had seen a dye pack in a movie once and knew that it could explode and make a terrible mess. There was a lot that he didn’t know about robbing banks, and every moment was another opportunity to reveal his ignorance.

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

AMELIA GRAY is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the NYPL Young Lion, of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles.


We can’t wait for you to meet Amelia Gray and hear her read at The Foundry, this Saturday September 9th at The Rose in South Park (2219 30th Street). Amelia reads alongside Jac Jemc, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine.

Doors at 7:00 PM
Readings start at 7:30 PM!

And join us for The Foundry’s associated master class, “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” taught by Jac Jemc that afternoon from 2-4 PM. There are just a few spots left!


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.


Julia Dixon Evans