Our New Horizons

On Monday night we gathered to rehearse for tonight’s show and the air crackled with electricity. Each story, poem and piece is dynamite, and our seasoned cast is more than ready to light up the stage at Cafe Stritch. Play On Words has existed for five years, and in that time we’ve gotten to meet so many amazing artists, writers, performers and patrons of the arts. Every show is special and every show is different. Tonight we bring Play On Words: New Horizons to life.

29790535_1241367555997066_1930253660190529930_nJoin us at 7 pm to witness amazing performers read work by the following fabulous writers:

1) “Teacher of the Year” by Arcadia Conrad

performed by Melinda Marks

2) “The Boy in the Van” by Marilyn Horn-Fahey
performed by Arcadia Conrad
3) “Dear Espanol” by Anjela Villareal Ratliff
performed by Ivette Deltoro
4)  “Bearded Lady” by Allison Landa
performed by Laurel Brittan
5) “Pence” by Michelle Myers
performed by Michael Weiland
6) “Receiptless” by Dallas Woodburn
performed by Jeremy Ryan
7)” Bleeding Heart” by Christina Shon
performed by Laurel Brittan
8) “Rite of Passage” by Tania Martin
performed by Arcadia Conrad
10 MIN BREAK
9) “Your Superpower” by Ann Hillesland
performed by Ivette Deltoro
10) “Construction” by Jon Ford
performed by Adam Weinstein
11) “Sister Fowl” by Maria Judnick
performed by Ivette Deltoro
12) “Toilet Paper Glove” by Valerie Fioravanti
performed by Melinda Marks
13) “Birthday” by Valerie Castro Singer
performed by Laurel Brittan
14) “Fisherman and the Cloak” by Charlene Logan Burnett
performed by Ron Feichtmeir
15) “Journalissimo” by Griffin Lamachy
performed by Michael Weiland
New Horizons will also feature live drawing by Michelle Frey (Instagram/boule_miche and @michellange on Twitter) and Clifton Gold of Luna Park Arts. Michelle teaches weekly live drawing classes at the School of Visual PhilosophySpecial thanks to our photographer Branden Frederick and videographer Ryan Alpers.
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Christina Shon’s “Heart”

How do our bodies reflect our lives? Which happens first: our experiences or our anatomical response? We were delighted to find Christina K. Shon’s “Bleeding Heart” in our submission pile this spring. Her story, which describes the narrator grappling with major surgery while falling in love, combines the perfect mixture of vulnerability, honesty, humor and self-awareness. We worked with Christina in summer 2015 and can’t wait to bring her new work to light tonight at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Christina Shon

From a very young age, Christina has secretly dreamed of being a writer in the way that young children dream about becoming movie stars or professional baseball players. It always seemed like a profession destined for those who had been groomed for it. Then one day in graduate school, her “Teaching Writing” classmates were sharing sample stories that they had written. One of her classmates said, “You should give up teaching and become a writer.” That first seed of possibility has slowly grown to a sapling passion. Christina hopes to someday record all the stories that her grandmother used to tell her about their life in Korea.  

She doesn’t slow down, either: This year she is participating in the 100 Day Project. Participants commit to doing a creative project every day for 100 days. It started on April 3, 2018, but everyone is welcome to join at any time.

 

Christina answered some questions for us in advance of tonight’s show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I am a huge fan! I really love how Play on Words fosters a community of artists, writers and performers, to interpret, share stories, and support one another’s craft. It’s like art interpreting art and then bringing it to life.

Tell us about this piece.

This story started out as just a recounting of my experience of this particular surgery, which I had always wanted to document, but then it became a story about how people have a hard time letting go of things that hurt us, even when we know it’s hurting us.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri, David Sedaris, and of course, Julia Halprin Jackson.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

As an undergrad, I had an opportunity to hear Amy Tan give a talk about her novel, The Joy Luck Club. One of the stories in that novel is based on Amy Tan’s grandmother, who had been the third wife of a wealthy man. Tan decided, while writing the novel, to write the character as the fourth wife, because the number four in Chinese sounds similar to the word for death in Chinese and it sort of made for a richer story. Tan’s mother revealed later that her grandmother had, in fact, been the fourth wife, but she had been too ashamed to share that truth with her daughter.

When I heard this, I felt to me that Amy Tan had written the novel from her heart and that was more true than the details that she had been given as a child.

Fundamentally, as a writer, I want to write a truthful story. Even if the details are entirely fiction, the story should resonate as truthful. Writing is the most truthful thing anyone can do.

Join us tonight to hear Laurel Brittan perform Christina’s story, “Bleeding Heart,” at Play On Words: New Horizons! Show starts at Cafe Stritch at 7 pm.

Michelle Myers’ “Pence”

The most interesting and surprising work can arise when a writer responds to a prompt. When we read Michelle Suzanne Myers’ short piece, “Pence,” we were amazed by how many reactions we had in just a few paragraphs. Regardless of your politics, sometimes the juxtaposition of empathy and revulsion, curiosity and disgust, can make for the most thought-provoking work. We look forward to performing Michelle’s hilarious piece tomorrow at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Michelle Myer

Born in San Jose, whilst it was still the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, and once more a current proud resident, Michelle supports her meandering writing journey as a bilingual psychotherapist in private practice. She holds degrees from the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University. After graduating with a sociology degree from USF, Michelle headed to Dallas, Texas to do legal aide work with refugees as a Jesuit Volunteer. She then escaped the U.S. to Sao Paulo, Brazil for four years where volunteering in support of women and girls. Michelle was fortunate enough to learn about social justice, human rights, and mysticism in her early spiritual formation, and she still has hope for the loving transformation of this world. Like her paternal grandfather, she loves birds and walking the hills. Unlike her grandfather, she loves salsa and Afro-Brazilian music, movement, and dance. Michelle credits the wise, wild women of her Friday morning writing group with giving her the courage to reveal her writing to the public.

Her piece “Communion on the Road” will be published in summer 2018 in Sanctuary, an anthology published by Darkhouse Books of Niles, California.

Michelle shared some of her thoughts with us in advance of tomorrow’s show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wonderful writing professor, poet Lita Kurth encouraged me to submit this piece.  Also, I felt compelled to submit it as I believe we all must promote the idea that love indeed overcomes hatred.  

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Oliver, theologian Dr. Kristin Heyer, Ph.D, and sociologist Dr. Laura Nichols, Ph.D, Eduardo Galeano, Joyce Rupp, Rainer Maria Rilke, Natalie Goldberg, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teresa of Avila, Rumi, Hafiz, and Anne Lamott.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Women in Praise of the Sacred:  43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, edited by Jane Hirshfield.

Want to see us perform “Pence” live? Join us tomorrow at Cafe Stritch!

Under “Construction” with Jon Ford

The freedom of being in a new place can take a character in many directions. We were compelled by Jon Ford‘s”Construction,” a short story that depicts the liberating and at-times heartbreaking explorations of a young gay man visiting New York City for the first time. We’re looking forward to performing this piece on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

 

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Jon Ford

Jon is a writer from New York City, an area which informs much of his work. Formerly an actor in theaters across the country, he studied English and Creative Writing at Hunter College and received a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of California – Davis.  Jon received a number of scholarships and fellowships during his academic period and is currently working on two writing projects, The Tenth Ward, and a shorter detective novel, The Tinker’s Damn, which is set in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood.

His publications, honors and awards include:

  • “The Return” – The Olive Tree Review, Fall 2011, No. 46, Hunter College, New York, NY
  • “Moving Day” – The Olive Tree Review, Fall 2007, No. 40, Hunter College, New York, NY
  • Residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragsdale, and The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow.

Jon answered a few questions for us from his NYC home in advance of this week’s event.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?  

While I’ve often read my work aloud I was intrigued with the prospect of having someone else interpret my work and see the results a different point of view would bring to the piece.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

This sounds a bit corny, but my mother read aloud to me when I was growing up and she inspired my interest in reading, writing, and the arts in general.  Later, she began writing children’s stories and had a number of children’s books, poems, and memoir pieces published. She seemed to write simply because she loved doing it and I try to keep that mindset in my own work.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

It’s hard to pick only one. I live in New York City in the theater district so I am lucky enough to be constantly exposed to new (and old) plays which keep me hungry to write.  Also, my reading interests are spread all across periods and genres. However, I recently saw a new production of Angels in America and the play’s wide scope of social ideas combined with the tight, intense understanding of its characters really fired me up.

Want to hear his work performed aloud? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch

Happy “Birthday” Valerie

Childbirth is a personal and particular experience–one that every mother could describe in a thousand different ways. Valerie Singer’s poem “Birthday” describes the vulnerability, humor, exhaustion and love that one mother experiences giving birth to her third child. We can’t wait to perform this lovely piece on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Valerie Singer

Valerie is a San Jose native and was raised by literature-loving parents and educated by cool, hippie nuns. A graduate of UC Davis, she earned both a BA in history and a multiple subject teaching credential.  Valerie has performed in local theater since forever, where she has met many wonderful artists, including her husband of 22 years, Matt. She stays up far too late in bed writing on her iPad, but she loves writing too much to stop. She claims that she has no publications, honors or awards, but is quite proud of the “World’s Greatest Mom” coffee mug presented to her by her kids. She will be performing in “Shakespeare’s Most Wanted” with Silicon Valley Shakespeare April 27 – 29. 

Valerie answered a few questions for us in advance of our April 11 show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I know Melinda and some of the past performers through local theater.  I’d watched some performances and love the patchwork beauty of the evening. Each piece is always so distinct but juxtaposes so nicely. It’s exciting to see word-based art in San Jose. Life in Silicon Valley is so insanely fast-paced-go-go-go that it’s a blessing to have a venue where people can sit down, relax, enjoy the exchange of the spoken word and practice active listening.  I’d just written some poems when I saw the POW call for submissions on Facebook and I decided 2018 was the time to get one of my works out of my iPad and into the world. I’m thrilled to have one of my poems performed!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Oh, so, so many! Toni Morrison, Katherine Anne Porter, Thomas Wolfe, Michele Serros, John Nichols, Steinbeck…there’s a lot more.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Elizabeth Coatsworth’s The Cat Who Went To Heaven. It was the first book that made me cry. I was in the first grade and I burst into tears in my room after reading it. My mom came running upstairs because she thought one of my siblings had hit me. When she realized what had really happened, she turned it into a nice teachable moment about the power of storytelling. I was hooked.  I wrote my first story “A Stranger In The Field” shortly after.

Want more Valerie? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch

Griffin’s Question: To Journal or Not to Journal?

Just what does the writing process look like–and how our creative habits carry over into our personal lives? We were taken by John “Griffin” Lamachy’s hilarious piece, “Journalissimo,” which we will be performing on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

29790535_1241367555997066_1930253660190529930_nGriffin describes himself as a “former screenwriter, filmmaker, video producer, musician, slam poet, stand-up comedian, Mahjongg champion…. Okay, maybe not former … just on hiatus.” He is currently working on a full-length stage place that he plans to produce locally–so stay tuned. He shared a few thoughts about himself for us today.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wife, Arcadia Conrad, an excellent writer and performer, has been involved.  And I like what POW has to offer the downtown scene, as well as the local writing and performing community.  It’s always fun to see how one artist interprets another’s work, and unless one writes for theatre or film, one never gets to hear one’s work heard aloud.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Inspiration comes from everywhere for me.  I just look for truth without a lot of embellishment.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

This question haunts me, because you never hear the bullet that kills you.      

Want to see us perform Griffin’s work? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch.         

Maria Judnick’s Fowl Play

It’s not every day that you read a story written from the perspective of a chicken–and a dark, slightly absurd one at that. We were blown away by Maria Judnick’s “Sister Fowl,” a macabre, fascinating and funny piece that we plan to perform next Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Maria Judnick

Maria is a Bay Area freelance writer and educator whose work can be found at KQED Pop!, The Santa Clara Weekly, and various literary journals. She enjoys participating in local reading series. During the summers, Maria coordinates National Endowment for the Humanities institutes for teachers. 

Publications, Honors or Awards:

Book Chapters:

  • ‘The Name of Hitchcock!  The Fame of Steinbeck!’: The Legacy of Lifeboat. (Chapter 12). 2014.
  • Hitchcock and Adaptation: On the Page and Screen.  Ed. Mark Osteen. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014.

Essay:

  • “We Should All Be More Like Steve Martin.” The Critical Flame: A Journal of Literature and Culture. Issue 50: September / October 2017. “A New Monument.” Guest Editor Ricco Siasoco. Ed. Daniel Evans Pritchard.

Poem:

  •  “A Directed Path.” Cordoba Magazine. (pdf) 2017

Flash Fiction:

  • A Swim Lesson.” Gemini Magazine Flash Fiction Contest 2015. Honorary Mention and honorarium

Interview:

“Maria Judnick Interviews Linda Spalding.”  MARY: A Journal of New Writing.  2013

“Maria Judnick Interviews Rebecca Solnit.” 2012

 Ongoing projects:

She is also is one of the editors of Activate, the chapbook we produced in partnership with San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum earlier this year.

Follow SJSU’s Writing Center on Instagram at @sjsuwc and check out their blog 

Maria kindly answered some questions for us in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I love celebrating local artists and writers – San Jose is a vibrant community for the arts!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

How much time do you have?  There are so many writers that have influenced me over the years and mentored me.  

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I recently discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life and I found myself quite moved by some of the entries. I’m envious of the great things she did with that format too!

Want to see Maria’s work performed live? Join us at 7 pm next Wednesday, April 11, at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch.

Anjela Villarreal Ratliff’s Letter to Spanish

While reading submissions for our New Horizons show, we were delighted to come across the work of poet Anjela Villarreal Ratliff. Anjela’s poems explore a personal relationship with language and tell stories with every line. We’re looking forward to performing her poem “Dear español” April 11 at Cafe Stritch.

 

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Anjela Villareal Ratliff

Anjela is a graduate of San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Texas Poetry Calendar, Australian Latino Press, Chachalaca Review, Boundless, Pilgrimage Magazine, riverSedge: A Journal of Art and Literature; Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems; Latinas: Protests and Struggles in the 21st Century USA; and is forthcoming in Southwestern American LiteratureWomen in the Southwest: From the Frontier to the Frontline; and Poems for the Tricentennial – A Poetic Legacy. She is also a creative writing workshop presenter. A native Tejana, Anjela was six months old when her migrant family moved to southern California where she was raised. She has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1990.

Anjela has published several poetry chapbooks, including Jardín de Poesía and Entre Piedra y Sol. Some of her chapbooks have been archived at the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas in Austin, and at Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections. Her poem, “Merged Mundos,” was a winner in the San Antonio Tricentennial Poetry Contest. Her poem, “I Exist,” was animated by Francesca Talenti. Her short story, “In My Classroom,” was published in Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul. Several of her poems were winners of the Poetry With Wheels contest, for the Austin Metro area. Anjela was also editor for the Austin Poetry Society’s MuseLetter. Her artistic photos have been published in Pilgrimage and the San Pedro River Review. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself for us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I saw the recent call for submissions by Play on Words posted on Facebook; and since I am a former graduate of San Jose State University, it perked my interest right away. I was delighted by the idea that readers and performers from the San Jose area would be reading the selected works.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I have been very inspired by numerous well-known poets, including Carmen Tafolla, Naomi Shihab Nye, Benjamin Alire Saenz, David Hernandez, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz, to name just a few. I am continually inspired by the poetry of several talented Austin poets I am privileged to know personally: Gloria Amescua, Lydia Armendáriz, Liliana Valenzuela, and Celeste Guzman Mendoza.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I very much enjoy the performances by the gifted and multitalented, world-renowned poet/writer/performer, Dr. Carmen Tafolla, the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, and Poet Laureate of Texas for 2015-2016. One of her earlier collections of poetry and prose, Sonnets to Human Beings and Other Selected Works, is one of my all time favorites by the Latina poet. She also performs a one-woman storytelling act, with an array of great characters, including “Tia Maria.” Every time I see her perform her literary works, I come away inspired and deeply moved.

Intrigued? Join us at 7 pm next Wednesday, April 11 at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch to see her work performed aloud.

Charlene’s “Cloak”

Sometimes we are drawn to stories because of their premise or pacing; other times we are compelled by a singular and unique voice, one we hadn’t heard before. When we received “The Fisherman and the Cloak” by Charlene Logan Burnett, we were struck by the story’s tone, tenor and unusual, Aesop’s fable-turned-Nordic-fairy-tale rhythm. We look forward to performing this piece a week from today at our New Horizons show at Cafe Stritch.

 

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Charlene Logan Burnett

Charlene Logan Burnett writes fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Witness Magazine, Blackbird, Natural Bridge, RHINO, WomensArts Quarterly, and other magazines and journals. She was a writing fellow at the MacDowell Colony and a Pushcart Nominee. She earned an M.F.A. in Playwriting from the University of California, Davis.

She has been a finalist in a number of short fiction contests, including the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction, sponsored by Nimrod International Journal, the 2017 Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, sponsored by Colorado Review, and the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize, sponsored by Hunger Mountain.

“The Fisherman and The Cloak,” published in Menacing Hedge, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013. Charlene graciously shared some insight with us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I had an English professor who used to read from a women’s fiction anthology to our class. It was a magical hour. Often, stories that move me to tears are spoken. The pace is slower. The space feels more intimate than a page. The words seem to penetrate deeper inside me.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

For this particular piece, I would say Angela Carter. Flannery O’Connor remains one of my favorites.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I went back to college as an adult with a small child. I had to take a remedial English class to catch up. The teacher used to read aloud to us from the fiction anthology, Women and Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women. It was my first experience listening to the words of women writers like Grace Paley and Margaret Drabble. They wrote about people I knew. It was in that class I decided to write. The paperback book, although falling apart, is still on my shelf.

Want to see Charlene’s work performed aloud? Join us at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 11 at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch. Hope to see you there!