In celebration of the San Diego Writer’s Festival, Susan J. Farese of SJF Communications conducted interviews with participating authors. Here’s a link to the San Diego Writer’s Festival website where you can find the full schedule of events, all free and open to the public and held at the Central San Diego Public Library Saturday April 13, 2019. Programming includes over 60 presenters offering workshops, panels and more such as: Highlights from the Memoir Showcase, Black Stories Matter, Stories from the Veteran Writers Division of So Say We All, Roustabouts Theater, Paul-Klee inspired WordArt Project for children, Children’s Face Painting, Children’s Poetry Slam, Spirituality and The Writer, Poetry Karaoke, and more. Again, the program is free and open to the public.
SJF: In a nutshell—tell us about your book or written piece?
Published work: My first poetry book, November Butterfly, was published in 2014 by Saddle Road Press. Ophelia, Nefertiti, Joan of Arc, Amelia and other powerful women find voice in section one. Guinevere commands section two. Finally by section three, I stop hiding behind my sisters and the poems move into the intimate and personal orbit of family life. Questions regarding power, charisma, danger, and female agency weave through all three sections. I had a lot of fun putting together a companion PDF for writers and writing teachers to use titled Thirteen Writing Prompts Based on the Power and Creativity of Iconic Women Designed to Help You Write New Work From Multiple Points of View. It draws on the poems in November Butterfly as well as the poetry movies I made with my long time collaborator, photographer Robyn Beattie.
In the Works: The Fool in the Corn is a hybrid poetry/memoir manuscript based on an Illinois commune I lived on as a child and my experience of growing up with parents gradually coming to terms with mental illness in the family tree.
Berkeley Postcard, poems inspired by a mysterious postcard that appeared the night before I lost my mother to cancer, was a finalist for the Comstock Review Chapbook Award. It includes poems about a tarot reading that provided comfort during my mother’s final days and other poems focusing on inadvertent symbol projection and the slowed pace of time (signature aspects of that cocoon surrounding the beloved crossing over and their family members).
I’m also passionate about a new joy-based book I’ve writing this year, The Heart’s Compass Tarot and Writing Workbook (forthcoming from Saddle Road Press). Based on the tarot writing classes I’ve taught since 2012, the workbook guides readers through the process of discovering inner symbols in the service of creating their own personal tarot cards.
SJF: What has your experience been as a writer in San Diego?
When we relocated from Northern California in 2012, I felt instantly at home at San Diego Writers, Ink, especially in the Brown Bag writing sessions where we meet around the table, write to a prompt, and read work aloud without feedback (a great, gentle way to enter a community of writers).
I love that I get to be both a teacher and a student. I teach poetry (Second Saturdays Poetry Read and Critique) and as a student I participate in poetry, memoir, and women’s thought leader workshops. I love teaching in the Inspirations Art Gallery in Liberty Station and I thoroughly enjoy writing and playing with others so deeply in love with writing.
SJF: How has storytelling influenced your life?
Storytelling entered my life through the stories my father read to me (and my siblings) while I was growing up. Every morning my father would ask about our nighttime dreams. Because he always kept a typewriter on the table along with a bag of clay, jars of colored pencils and pots of paint, the stories and dreams moved out of our heads and into form on paper. Imagination, books, dreams, and art continue to provide a lens through which I seek to make sense of the world around me and connect with others.
SJF: If you had a magic wand, what kind of opportunities would be available to writers in San Diego?
Truly, magic abounds already—I’m thinking of two powerful performances that moved me this year in San Diego. I loved seeing the Memoir Showcase that was brought to fruition under the stewardship of Marni Freedman and Tracy Jones and produced by San Diego Writers, Ink and The San Diego Memoir Association. The other fantastic performance I saw this spring was The Fire in Me written by playwright Thelma De Castro. The play focuses on domestic violence in San Diego’s Filipino community and provides many beautiful takeaway messages such as the suggestion to “look for the helpers” around us. The play received grant support from the San Diego Foundation and California Humanities.
My magic wand would attract more of the same: an ongoing dynamic, diverse conversation within our community of writers, and grants funding even more community based writing projects of all kinds.
SJF: What are you excited about when it comes to participating in the inaugural San Diego Writers Festival?
I am excited that the festival is free and open to the public so writers and those curious about writing, including children, will have access to a beautiful range of diverse classes they might not otherwise try. I love that the festival will be held in the downtown public library with its gift store and fabulous used bookstore.
SJF: What advice would you give to a new writer in San Diego?
Check out open mics in the area or stop by San Diego Writers, Ink–come to a class, reading, or performance. And pitch a class to teach; jump on in—we can’t wait to meet you!