Ann Hillesland’s “Lost Hills”

“No one puts this part of California on postcards,” writes the narrator in Ann Hillesland’s “Lost Hills,” a 14-year-old girl moving cross country with her father. Anything can happen in a Motel 6—and in her case, anything will. Join us on January 12 when we perform this great piece at the Beyond Boundaries show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Ann Hillesland’s work has been published in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Sou’wester, Bayou, The Laurel Review, Corium, and SmokeLong Quarterly. It has been selected for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and presented onstage by Stories On Stage in Denver and Davis. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Queen’s University of Charlotte. 

annhillesland

Ann Hillesland

Honors and awards include:

  • “About My Mother” chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions
  • “Pique Assiette” nominated for a Pushcart Prize
  • “Lost Hills,” winner of the Prime Number flash fiction contest
  • “Pale Rider” won the grand prize for prose in Spark contest 8

Recent publications include:

What are you currently working on?

Recently I have been writing a blog, The Hat Project, in which I tell about my life through my large collection of hats, most of which are vintage, and many of which I’ve never worn. It’s an autobiography told through clothing. I’ve been at it almost a year, posting a hat or two a week. It will end when I run out of hats, so I’ll only be at it a few more months, unless I go crazy and buy a bunch more hats. If you’d like to check out the hats and the short essays that accompany them, visit my website.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Play on Words did a piece of mine a while back, and it was so much fun I thought I’d try again 😊.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Alice Munro, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Rick Bass, Lydia Davis.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I recently saw the Aretha Franklin movie Amazing Grace, and was so moved. The love she showed in her singing was astounding. To put so much of yourself into your work, to sing with such purpose. I was crying. We should all sing with such purpose, whatever our art, our aim, our song. 

 Tickets are now available for our Jan. 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art–but they will sell out! Reserve yours now.

 

E.D. Southard’s Precious Moments

What makes a moment “precious?” If a porcelain figurine holding a teddy bear doesn’t do it for you, what will? The protagonist in E.D. Southard’s “Precious Moments” gets stuck in a chapel full of cringe-worthy dolls with her grandparents, leaving her grandmother smoking haughtily outside. We’re pumped to read E.D.’s hilarious piece at our Beyond Boundaries show on Jan. 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art.

erinheadshotjan16.png E.D. Southard is a Bay Area native, active in both theatre and education. She started writing stories and poems about her friends when she was in middle school, and after attending Foothill Theatre Conservatory, continued her passion for writing at Biola University (B.A. English and Literature, emphasis in Writing). She primarily writes short stories and sketch comedies, and is currently working on her first full-length play. She received the Audience Choice Award for the Silicon Valley Shakespeare 48-hour Play Festival for her piece, “The Riddle of Love.” She will be a returning to write for this year’s  48-Hour Play Festival on January 5.

E.D. answered a few questions for us in advance of our January show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Play On Words and I have a close connection from when I was working on one of my passion projects a couple years ago, theMini Lights Emerging Artist Program. We had a close partnership, especially because of our wonderful director for boom! I’ve had many friends participate as actors over the years (and have participated before myself!).

 Which writers or performers inspire you?

Ivette Deltoro. I know she’s my best friend, but I think that just inspires me more. She is very detailed and dedicated to her work. I also really like Carrie Hope Fletcher, author and actress, because of her continued work for charity and body positivity.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Deaf West’s Spring Awakening was one of those shows that completely rocked me. I had seen the show before, and was rather unimpressed by the show’s writing. When the perspective changed by including the Deaf Culture, it made me leave the theatre bawling like I had never experienced before. It was one of those moments that ignites a passion for telling stories from those who are normally silenced.

Come see us perform E.D.’s work! Tickets are free but going fastreserve yours now for our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art. Entrance includes free admission to the museum. 

 

The Pandillero of Gerardo Pacheco Matus

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? The narrator in Gerardo Pacheco Matus’ “Pandillero Without a Gang” says that he resembles his “indio father and indio-mulatto mother,” the features of “millions of other Mayan men.” We were struck by Gerardo’s prose and look forward to performing his piece on January 12 at our Beyond Borders show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Head shot pic
Gerardo Pacheco Matus

Gerardo Pacheco Matus is a Mayan Native and recipient of fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, CantoMundo, The Frost Place, and Macondo. Pacheco was awarded the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. His poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared and are forthcoming from the Grantmakers in the Arts, Apricity Press, Amistad Howard-University, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The Packinghouse Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, West Branch Wired, Four Way Review, The Cortland Review, Nashville Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Memorious Magazine, Rivard Report, Tin House Magazine.

 

AWARDS: 

  • San Francisco Foundation Joseph Henry Jackson Award for his poetry project, The Child of the Grasses.
  • Miami Writers Institute.
  • Redwood City Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program.
  • “Faces of Our Community 2.0.”
  • Frost Place’s the Conference on Poetry Scholar.
  • Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Work-Study Scholarship in Poetry.
  • Pushcart Prize Nominee, “Everything is a Dream.”
  • “The Pintura:Palabra National Ekphrastic Workshops, in tandem with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Travelling Exhibit, “Our America: The Latino Presence in America Art.”

PUBLICATIONS

Gerardo answered a few questions for us in advance of the show.

What are you working on now?

I am working on my debut poetry collection, Child of the Grasses. An excerpt from Child of the Grasseswas awarded the distinguished Joseph Henry Jackson Award administered by The San Francisco Foundation. The award-winning poet and juror Lorna Dee Cervantes writes, “Child of the Grasses presents us with the Native’s view of The Americas: spare, rich, glistening with truths of the ‘natural world’ and bristling with insights into the human condition within that true world…Here is the meaty voice of the immigrant, the worker, the watcher, the Elder’s wisdom.” Child of the Grasses is my lifelong project and I hope to find a nice home for my collection of poetry soon. 

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

One of my great mentors and friends, Anniqua Rana, was featured in Play on Words. Anniqua told me about how great she felt about having her piece performed in Play on Words since then I have been intrigued by Play on Words. Thus, I decided to send a “Pandillero without a Gang.” In addition, I have been writing Pandillero without a Gang for a long time, and I hope that by participating in Play on Words, I will be able to see sparks of what is next in this collection of short stories. 

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I love Jimmy Santiago Baca. His poetry moves mountains. I found myself reading his poetry collection Martin and Meditations on the South Valley to get inspired to write new work. 

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Reading Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo changed the way I understand my role as a writer. As a Mayan Native, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo opened a new realm of possibility to understand where I come from and the traditions that have influenced me since I was a young man.

Come see us perform Gerardo’s work! Tickets are free but going fastreserve yours now for our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art. Entrance includes free admission to the museum.

Marching Through Jody Ulate’s “Morning Training”

How does a young girl’s life prepare her for becoming a solider? The narrator in Jody Ulate‘s “Morning Training” marches in the four a.m. cold at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, considering the motivational power of hunger and her family’s poverty. We look forward to performing this excerpt of Jody’s memoir on Sunday, January 12, when we return to the San Jose Museum of Art for Play On Words: Beyond Boundaries.

jody_ulate (1)
Jody Ulate. Photo by David Schmitz.

Originally from Upstate New York, Jody Ulate moved to California in 2000 by way of Washington, D.C. She writes and edits essays, profiles and feature articles as San Jose State University’s chief storyteller and editor of the award-winning alumni magazine, Washington Square. For more than 13 years, she has found inspiration in uncovering student, alumni and faculty stories of resilience at San Jose State, where she has also given lectures on profile writing and storytelling that drives philanthropy. A U.S. Army veteran, Jody has written a memoir about survival and reinvention—and how becoming a soldier helped reshape the narrative of her life. She is the recipient of The Writer’s Hotel 2019 Sara Patton Nonfiction Stipend.

She was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

Having someone else creatively interpret and perform live something I’ve written in quiet solitude feels like an adventure. 

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Arundhati Roy, Maya Angelou, Amy Hempel, Mary Karr, Cynthia Ozick, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, David Guterson, Denice Frohman. 

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

Book: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Short story: Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

Can’t wait to see Jody’s work performed aloud? Tickets are free but going fastreserve yours now for our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art. Entrance includes free admission to the museum.

 

 

Julia Halprin Jackson reads “Road Trip” by Becky Kling

What, exactly, does the open road bring? Becky Kling‘s hilarious “Road Trip” rounded out our evening of stories at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19. In case you missed it, watch Julia Halprin Jackson perform her story:

Big thanks to Becky for trusting us with your story, to Branden Frederick for taking photos and Cleveland Motley for filming.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be gearing up for our January 12 return to the San Jose Museum of Art. Stay tuned to learn all about our amazing writers and readers.

Ryan Alpers reads Gary Singh’s “Voodoo”

Can you find love in a crossword puzzle? Watch Ryan Alpers perform “Voodoo,” a flash piece by Gary Singh, at our Oct. 19 LitCrawl show at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre:

Since we performed this piece, Gary has published it on Digging Through the Fat. Big thanks to Branden Frederick for taking photos, Cleveland Motley for filming and the kind folks at Stage Werx for making this show happen.

Want more #POWSJ? RSVP now to our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Melinda Marks reads T.A. Edwards’ “Return of Saturn”

To what extent do the heavens influence our lives? Scientist and writer T.A. Edwards‘ moving essay, “Return of Saturn,” reflects on a time of great change in her own life, after the unexpected loss of her father. Melinda Marks performed her piece at our LitCrawl show on Oct. 19 at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre:

Many thanks to Cleveland Motley for filming, Branden Frederick for his amazing photos, and to the lovely folks at Stage Werx for helping us fill the theatre.

Want more #POWSJ? RSVP to join us on January 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art for our Beyond Boundaries show.

Anshu Johri reads Anniqua Rana’s “Birth Canal”

So much of the joy we get in producing Play On Words shows comes from pairing amazing writers with fabulous performers—often people who have never met, but discover they share artistic passions. Such was the case in October, when local writer and performer Anshu Johri made her POWSJ debut by reading “Birth Canal,” an excerpt of Anniqua Rana’s debut novel, Wild Boar in the Cane FieldHere she is giving a dynamite performance at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre on Oct. 19:

Big thanks to Anshu and Anniqua for contributing their talents to our LitCrawl show, as well as to Branden Frederick for taking photos and Cleveland Motley for capturing it all on film.

Can’t get enough POWSJ? Our next show is coming up on January 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art. Stay tuned to learn more!

Sage Curtis’ “Small Apocalypses” in San Francisco

What, exactly, constitutes a “small apocalypse?” Listen as Melinda Marks reads Sage Curtis‘ poem, “A Series of Small Apocalypses,” as performed at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19:

Sage’s chapbook, Trashcan Funeral, is available from dancing girl press. You can also gain exclusive access to her poems, book reviews and more by supporting her work on Patreon.

Big thanks to San Francisco’s amazing Stage Werx Theatre for providing the great LitCrawl space, to Branden Frederick for taking photos and to Cleveland Motley for shooting the video.