Tag Archives: SSWA

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

$5 student
$10 general

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.

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.      

Call for submissions: Southeast Stories

Image credit: Southeast SD Map by Isauro Amigable Inocencio Jr.

– Submit here!

So Say We All is collaborating with the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation’s Placemakers program to tell the story of Southeast San Diego through the written and spoken perspectives of the people who live and work there! Whether poetry, essays, or non-fiction prose, we want stories that take place in the neighborhood or strive to define an aspect of it, however you choose to interpret that.

Here’s a handy map detailing the neighborhoods and communities that define Southeastern SD if you’re wondering about the geographic boundaries.

Works would ideally be under 5,000 words, however we will still happily consider them if they run longer. Want to see an example of what we’re received in the past? Here’s a performed story written by Michael Billingsly that debuted at our City College Showcase a few years back! Any subject matter or approach is welcome, as long as it features the neighborhood.

All accepted writers will receive edits and one-on-one coaching from our teaching artists, have their work published through the project, and be invited to perform their piece at an upcoming performance series in the fall of 2017 in addition to receiving fellowships to attend Masterclasses by visiting writers for free.

Thank you for helping us tell the story of one of San Diego’s most significant neighborhoods, and we look forward to reading your works!

PS: Photos and artworks that interpret or document the neighborhood are welcome as well, so send us your goods!

– Submit here!

Call for submissions: Incoming, “Sex Drugs and Copenhagen.”

So Say We All’s Veteran Writers Division is accepting submissions for its next Incoming anthology, tentatively titled: “Sex, Drugs, and Copenhagen.” We were originally going to call it “Sex Drugs, and Coping Mechanisms” but couldn’t help paying homage to the great and horrible chaw that has kept so many service members awake on watch through the night.

We’re looking for non-fiction stories related to coping mechanisms, affairs, violating protocol in the name of escapism, mental health vacations, shore leave / R&R adventures, emergency sex, adopting a base cat, or other extreme actions taken to alleviate boredom and preserve sanity during one’s service or the period that followed during reintegration to the civilian world. We’re interested in any interpretation you might take on the theme, so feel free to surprise us.

We hope in choosing this topic that we’re able to offer veteran writers a chance to consider their service through humor, absurdism, and surrealism if they find it appropriate (though all takes on the theme are welcome), and provide our readers insights into the lesser-talked about  inglorious aspects of service: the tricks and tales of what people have to do to endure boredom, loneliness, heartbreak, trauma, and other human traits that undermine the all-consuming need to remain “effective”. Active duty writers concerned about negatively affecting their careers are welcome to submit under a pen name. We get it.

Veterans of all branches and generations, active duty service members, military family members, and interpreters are welcome to submit non-fiction works up to 7,000 words in length or less. Previously published work is welcome as long as you indicate in your cover letter where the work received its first publication. Simultaneous submissions are encouraged. Contributors will receive a contributor copy by mail.

You can learn more about our previous volume, Returning Home, read reviews, and hear stories from previous contributors at www.incomingradio.org“.

We look forward to reading your work!

– So Say We All


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.

Open call for submissions: Collaboration with the Hausmann Quartet

So Say We All is honored to be collaborating with The Hausmann Quartet to produce a showcase of original stories and classical music at the The White Chapel at Liberty Station on Sunday, March 26th in the early afternoon. The Hausmann Quartet runs a concert series (Haydn Voyages) in which they explore all of the string quartets of Joseph Haydn, presented alongside works of many of his contemporaries, early influences, musical ancestors, as well as some of the most exciting composers writing today.

Haydn wrote an epic work for string quartet for a Good Friday/Easter commission, “The 7 Last Words of Christ”, made up of seven movements, one for each of the last words, and ends with a musical depiction of the earthquake as its finale. It is a beautiful work that is often performed with narration.

Towards that end, So Say We All is accepting submissions of original prose and poetry that respond, interpret, evoke, or otherwise touch on one or more of the 7 passages–no religious connection required or expected, any interpretation is welcome–to be performed as an introduction to each section of music. Each submission should be 500 words in-length or less. Multiple submissions are welcome, but please submit each separately. Deadline for submission is Midnight, Friday March 3rd. Please indicate in your submission bio which passage you are responding to.

Any direction your inspiration takes you is welcome, personal narrative or more open reflection on the times we live in; surprise us and sparkle.

The 7 Last Words that Haydn composed to are:

  • 1.1 1. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  • 1.2 2. Today you will be with me in paradise.
  • 1.3 3. Behold your son: behold your mother.
  • 1.4 4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
  • 1.5 5. I thirst.
  • 1.6 6. It is finished.
  • 1.7 7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

We look forward to reading your works!

– So Say We All

Veteran’s Day story: “The Mountain” by Andrew Szala

15045778_10210223317995021_1552594302_nIn honor of Veteran’s Day, So Say We All would like to present you with a story we had the privledge of publishing in Incoming: Veteran Writers on Returning Home, “The Mountain,” by Andrew Szala.

Andrew Szala witnessed the horrors of the war in Afghanistan while serving as a U.S. Army Combat Medic, upon returning home, he witnessed its lasting effects. Currently, he lives with his wife, son and bulldog outside Providence, R.I. where he is working on his latest stage play, The Pressure Cooker.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we did, that you take some time during the holiday to reflect on those few who have served for us all, and if you’d like to read more, pickup a copy of Incoming to read all the veteran voices we’ve had the privilege of publishing.

THE MOUNTAIN – by Andrew Szala

The mountain is tall. Late summer leaves. Initially, he pulls his car up. He does not notice anyone at the trailhead. He ventures deeper. He encounters cars, one, two at most. He’s unfazed and knows what he is doing. No moment of hesitation, no last glance at his car, the door closes and there is only forward now. He’s used to this. The mountain hides the exertion required to proceed.

On his exit from active duty there had been parties. Friends came out of the woodwork at his homecoming, patting him on the back and telling him how they would have joined also but… there was always a but, and a reason why they couldn’t put their lives on hold.

As the days passed and turned to weeks the friends came by less. While he’d been away they’d gotten on with their lives, and in his mind he had become like a scar, present but not thought of until looked directly at. He and his wife began to fight more. His temper would rage and quickly reach a crescendo before falling abruptly off with his exhaustion. Always exhaustion. Sleep came in sprints and his mind took him back to the desert while he dreamed.

The mountain at its base is wide and the path hot. The trees hold the mountain’s breath beneath their leaves. As he passes the descending hikers, only a quick nod is exchanged. His presence barely registered. How different they seem. His climb is not for sport, nor fitness. He drinks no water.

He’d felt trapped in his body. Isolated in his mind. His new sobriety added to his seclusion as he watched those around him in merriment while he sipped diet coke. Confirming what he already knew; he was different. It was not his presence, but lack thereof which burned her the most. He was a zombie.

“What’s wrong?’ became a daily question which he yearned to answer.

The last hikers pass on the way down. He’s alone. The mountain is indifferent. Each step draws him to the peak. He hears no birds or song.

The necessity of the military, in some capacity, was not up for debate. He knew this, and while we had made great strides towards peace, our kind will never exist without the presence of evil draped in the robes of good. He struggled for a long time. Unable to place into words why it was ok to do the things he had. What took him the longest to overcome was the fact there was evil on both sides of any war and like all things, the sum lived in the grey. His actions held him in high esteem among his peers, but knowledge muddied this fact.

He would try. He would resolve to be better, to immerse himself in the world and live. But, to fall. He would see around him the emptiness of a world without the hierarchy of the military. The outside world had no form and rules were seen as disposable. It made no sense; who won and lost. He began to build resentment to his own helplessness. He struggled to maintain the bearing the military had built into him. His footholds disappeared.

He entered college in an attempt to better this. He joined the military for the same reason. Here, he saw it: a tattered yellow ribbon informing all how much the troops would be supported. After a while all those ribbons began to feel like a lie, a placebo, made to make their owners feel better about their own helplessness in a burning world. In the end, no one had to actually support the troops as long as they said they did. Finding employment reinforced this conclusion. A veteran preference, as a concept, was not readily applied during the hiring process; his skills did not translate.

His time was passing. Sitting in the VA. No one from his war, his guilt at feeling this mattered somehow. Each one seemed somehow different and the same. Was he one of these? So many broken. He was like a child in a physician’s office waiting for his grandmother. Some tried, most did not. Their battle was apathy.

When she left he couldn’t blame her. When she took his children, what could he say? His mind was absent, his body a shade. He sat, sometimes for days in his world, scrolling through social media, angered by the nature of others’ daily problems. They would never know real stress; they would never know real.

When he saw pictures of his wife and her new…that…holding his child it confirmed what he already knew: he did not exist. He had been erased and his story retold without him. Their happiness was a new pain.

He is in the violet world: making his way through the trees, as the path grows hard to see and the journey more beat. His mouth dry, clothes drowned. It was here he saw it, his way out, a small break ahead to take in open air. The mountain’s last light.

He felt the forgotten. Used and tossed aside. Disposable for a purpose, a bargaining chip, an advertisement, a discount at a diner where no one wants to eat. One day a year for him and weekend in the spring for his friends past. His anger and guilt at these thoughts came in equal spades. His mind often turned to his brothers who’d passed. He thought of each individual soldier and how they lived. They were not sports stars. They were not beautiful creatures. They were men and women, their blood red. He remembered Abdul, “Aziz,” his interpreter, medevac’d after walking over an old mine. He never knew if he survived. Often with combat no closure could be found.

He emerges from the tree line into the sun. Up here he can see the basket of the earth in the valley below. He can see it is larger than him and knows it will exist without him. There before him is a warm expanse of grass and dirt, the soldiers’ throne. It only takes a finger.



Scott McClanahan reads at The Foundry #2

The Foundry is our new literary reading series, just launched this spring. Our second installment is this month, July 30th, at the delightful Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill. Our readers for Number 2 are Jim Ruland, Uzodinma Okehi, Juliet Escoria, Jean Guerrero, Aaron Burch, and today’s feature: Scott McClanahan.

scottScott McClanahan in a three piece suit

In a recent feature at The A/V Club, here’s how they introduced Scott:

Scott McClanahan might be today’s best-known indie press writer. He also makes short films and his readings are some of the most engaging pieces of performance art to ever hit your local bookstore. Perhaps best known for Crapalachia: A Biography Of Place (Two Dollar Radio) and the more recent Hill William (New York Tyrant), McClanahan’s short-story collections function as pseudo-memoirs with a crackling electricity rarely found in literary fiction.

The first time I met Scott, a few years ago, he was visiting San Diego with his wife (fellow Foundry reader Juliet Escoria), and he performed a reading organized by the great Matt E. Lewis. I had never read any of his work, but his writing’s legacy is significant and I knew enough about it to have some level of anticipation. However, during the reading, there was a football game on the bar’s TV screens, and let’s just assume it was a Chargers game, just to properly set the scene. Irritated yet?

I felt somewhat unsettled and without purpose at the event: I wasn’t working or reading, I came alone, and everyone else had already sat down with the people they arrived with. I just kind of stood nervously off to the side in the back, barely able to hear the readings over the low-grade noise at the bar.

When Scott took the stage, maybe a ref made a poor call and the Chargers fans at the bar booed. Maybe they were booing at us, trying to appreciate literature instead of their sports. But their noise was no longer low-grade.

And then Scott sang.

Partway through, he climbed down from the stage, mid-reading, still reading, and passed out homemade fudge (which connected to the story he’d been reading), and even took his offering back amongst the football fans. He chanted a refrain, no mic, in the back, by the bar, by the Chargers fans, and the entire place fell silent. We’d all stood up by now, passing the container of fudge around. Nobody sat with their pre-packaged friends. That no-purpose, adrift feeling vanished and I felt part of something: Not just inspired but responsible somehow. To this day, I wonder if I imagined this experience, or if memory has colored it in a more profound light than it was in the moment, but that day is Scott McClanahan to me.

Unfortunately for our tastebuds, there’s no tie-in with fudge in his latest book, a graphic novel freshly published this month by our darlings, Two Dollar Radio, one of the finest and gutsiest small presses of our day.

I read The Incantations of Daniel Johnston in a single day, carrying it around with me and reading it whenever I could sneak a minute. McClanahan’s writing is so propulsive that I flew through it faster than I probably should have, given how intricate and compelling each Ricardo Cavolo illustration is. It might be the kind of book we all read twice. At least.


Incantations is sometimes troubling, sometimes comforting. It seems to both tackle and encourage our collective curiosity, myth-like, of Daniel Johnston’s life. The illustrations are grotesque at times, but the story reminds us something both forgiving and unsettling: This could’ve easily been you.

Shortly before the book came out, Buzzfeed ran a sample of the first few pages. Take a look here.

scott excerpt

As for Scott’s non-illustrated fiction, here’s a short story we love, published online at Guernica: Psychiatrists and Mountain Dew. This story kicks off his brilliant short story collection Hill William.

We can’t promise fudge at this Saturday’s Foundry reading, but we can promise no football game on any TVs (sorry?). Come join us 7/30 at 7:00 PM at Tiger Eye Hair in Golden Hill to hear Scott read, along with Aaron Burch, Jean Guerrero, Uzodinma Okehi, Jim Ruland, and Juliet Escoria.


Scott McClanahan wrote The Incantations of Daniel Johnston and The Sarah Book. He lives in West Virginia. You can buy his books here: The Incantations of Daniel JohnstonCrapalachia, and Hill William.

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.

by Julia Dixon Evans
cover image by Juliet Escoria