Spring Author Spotlight on Renée Schell

Renee Schell
Renee Schell

And now for the fun part: we get to introduce the writers for our spring show! First up is Renée Schell, who submitted the fabulous “Suburban Fantasy” for our June 3 show at Cafe Stritch. This show marks our Stritch debut–and is also made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.

Renée grew up in Vermont but has called California home for more than twenty years. She writes primarily poetry but also delves into short fiction. She plays classical piano and her experiences with music have provided the catalyst for many of her poems. Favorite places on earth (explored with her husband and three children) include Alaska and Scotland. Renée earned a Magister Degree from the University of Bonn and a Ph.D. in German Studies from Stanford University. For two years she was part of the editorial board for Red Wheelbarrow, the literary journal published by De Anza College. For many years Renée taught German and worked as a translator. She currently enjoys being a private tutor and teaching Art in Action to her son’s second grade class.

Publications, Honors or Awards:

Publications include poems in On the Dark Path: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry, Catamaran Literary Reader, Perfume River Poetry Review, Caesura, and other journals. Her work also appears online at literarymama.com, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and MonkeyBicycle. Most recently, a speculative poem appears in the current edition of Eye to the Telescope and two sonnets are forthcoming in Mezzo Cammin. She has been a regular contributor to Flash Fiction Forum in downtown San Jose.
Renée’s poem “Beyond Vienna” won Third Prize in the 2014 String Poet competition. Her chapbook manuscript Overtones won Second Place in the 2014 Palettes & Quills Chapbook Contest. Recently, her poem “Accidental Bird-Watcher” won First Place in the 2015 Los Gatos Poet Laureate Poetry Contest.

Ongoing projects:

Renée is the lead editor on the anthology (After)life: Poems and Stories of the Dead, published this month by Purple Passion Press, founded by Victoria M. Johnson. Our local launch is Wednesday April 22 at 6 pm at the Village Bookstore in Los Gatos. Wider release of the book will be at a later date.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

It’s always inspiring to me to see live performance, whether it be music, drama, dance, or a poetry reading. Play on Words seems unique to me in its pairing of actors with short works of fiction. And since I’ve rarely heard anyone else besides myself read my work in public, I’m curious to hear what a trained actor might do differently, what that person might bring out in the work that I might not have known was there myself.
Which writers or performers inspire you?
The writers who inspire me the most are my fellow poets who read regularly at the open mic on Third Thursdays at the Willow Glen branch library. The quality of the poetry is high and the atmosphere is enthusiastic and engaged. I always come away with a creative boost, with one or two favorite poems from the evening persisting in my mind. This month I recited a poem by John Keats, memorized, which only a few months ago would have struck fear in my heart (no paper in my hand!) but these poets have become like family to me and I knew that, even if I messed up, it would be OK. Now that’s inspiring.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
A performer who has affected me more than once is a woman who performs lyrical dance on the sidewalks of San Jose. Her expressive dance lifts my spirits and reminds me of an important aspect of art— to bring joy. I have seen her dancing for passersby in front of the MLK library downtown and the midtown Safeway. Her name is Kilelah and last month I saw her setting up to dance in front of the Buddhist Temple in Japantown and had a great talk with her. Her gift of dance to anyone watching is both creative and inspiring—public art at its best.

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