Lita Kurth’s Salvador

Lita Kurth is a writer-professor-activist who one could easily spot at any number of Bay Area literary or political events. The co-founder of San Jose’s amazing Flash Fiction Forum came to us at Play On Words with the idea of publishing a chapbook, igniting a conversation that continues today. We’re delighted to perform Lita’s piece, “Roque Dalton, Salvador,” at Activists Unite, our January 17 show at Cafe Stritch.

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Lita Kurth (left) with Flash Fiction Forum co-founder Tania Martin

What inspired your piece?

 

A long time ago when Anne and Mark’s Art Party was still held at their house, I was moved and captivated by an installation, “Dialogue With a Dead Poet,” by Tessie Barrera-Scharaga, which was set up in their front yard as an homage to Roque Dalton, a revolutionary I hadn’t heard of. I decided to do an ekphrastic piece in response. It went through many renditions, and I just couldn’t seem to move it beyond my internal experience into something others might connect with. I wrote it as a too-cryptic dialogue poem, a third-person piece, a first-person piece.

When I researched Dalton, I was blown away by the improbable events of his life! I’d heard of the Dalton Gang, but had no idea that one of them fled to El Salvador and that his son, Roque, became not only a notable poet, but perhaps the most significant revolutionary in El Salvador. I’m fascinated by people who give their lives for a cause and interested in how people combine art and politics, and how often revolutionaries get killed by their own side. So this piece was an exploration of those phenomena;  the “Salvador” in the title refers not only to the country but to the literal meaning, Savior, and ironically, a savior who could not save himself.

Recent publications, honors and awards:

Most recently, I received a fellowship to the upcoming Writers in Paradise workshop with Stewart O’Nan, and was invited to participate in the 2018 Cinequest Poets in Performance event. In the fall, In the fall, I was honored to be a featured reader for the Peninsula Literary Society

My creative nonfiction piece, “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award. A flash fiction, “Gardener’s Delight” (Dragonfly Press DNA) was nominated for a Pushcart (2016). My 2017 creative nonfiction piece, “Are We Not Ladies?” was nominated for Best of the Net by Watershed Review

Upcoming projects:

January 10 will be our first Flash Fiction Forum of the new year! Also, for the De Anza community, there will be our joint FFF-Play on Words Activate! reading, February 28th from 5-8 pm. I’ll be teaching a small, non-credit, online class for those working on book-length projects, meant to help people, including myself, keep going! See Lita Kurth Writing Workshops on Facebook for details.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
When I first heard about it, I thought an actors-reading-writers effort was a magnificent addition to the wonderful community of writers and artists that has emerged as one of San Jose’s increasingly visible assets.

Which writers or performers inspire you?
I am so amazed and humbled by writers such as Jamie O’Neill who wrote At Swim, Two Boys and Stewart O’Nan who wrote The Good Wife. I admire their fearlessness in addressing high-voltage topics and the way they bring to life the personal human suffering behind cruel political decisions.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
Once, in a depressed, dissociated, alienated mood in the middle of a grim Wisconsin winter, I went to a performance of Death of a Salesman because I had a free ticket. It was so profoundly acted and so wrenching that I left feeling both wrung out and connected, reminded that, at all times, there are precious and important and meaningful things in the world and, I would say now, art can help us remember those deeper layers and get us through times of suffering and dullness.

Want to hear Lita’s work performed live? Join us on Wednesday, January 17, at Cafe Stritch. RSVP on Facebook to learn more.

Christine Stoddard

Part of our goal in creating Activate, our new chapbook, was to share the sometimes-underrepresented stories of fellow writers and activists. We were moved by Christine Stoddard’s “Thirty Pounds in Three Months,” which details one character’s physical reaction to the 2016 election. We look forward to performing her work at Activists Uniteour January 17 show at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch.

Stoddard is a former Annmarie Sculpture Garden artist-in-residence and an M.F.A. DIAP candidate at the City College of New York (CUNY). Her work has appeared in special programs at the New York Transit Museum, the Queens Museum, the Poe Museum, and beyond. She is the author of Water for the Cactus Woman (Spuyten Duyvil Publishing) and the founder of Quail Bell Magazine. Born in Virginia to a Salvadoran mother and American father, Stoddard lives in Brooklyn. 

Christine Stoddard Headshot CroppedHer publications, honors and awards include:

  • Folio Magazine’s top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine.
  • Laberinto Projects Summer 2017 Visiting Artist, Coatepeque, El Salvador
  • 2012 Puffin Foundation National Emerging Artist Grant

Her upcoming projects include:

On February 2, her film & video show “Lady Pandora” will be at the FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I’ve really been eager to have my work performed again. This seemed like the place!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

bell hooks, David Sedaris, Ada Limón, Joan Didion

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Want to hear Christine’s work read aloud? Join us January 17 at Cafe Stritch!

Activists Unite on January 17

It’s January 2018, which means that after a year of catastrophic fires, hurricanes, fake news and even scarier real news, we are still here. No matter who you are or where you live, you must have felt 2017’s ripple effects. Remember the travel ban? The attempt to exclude transgender soldiers from the military? What about the 800,000 Dreamers whose American likelihoods still hang in balance?

After the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election, we at Play On Words resolved to use what we have to amplify the voices of our community. We wanted to find a way to give people space to express what they were feeling, to share their experiences, to offer perspectives on what it means to be an activist. That’s why, when the kind folks of San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum communicated a similar desire, we decided to partner with them to create a chapbook. Together with FFF co-creators Lita Kurth and Tania Martin, writer and professor Maria Judnick, and graphic designer, artist and writer Peter Caravalho, we agreed that this is our way of channeling all this–feeling–into something productive. And that is how the Activate, our activist chapbook, began.

We spent a few months reviewing submissions and brainstorming the best ways to make our vision come to life. POW and FFF fans will soon have the opportunity to purchase Activate at upcoming shows–more on that to come. But first, know this: This book is a labor of love, a volunteer effort to create something that we feel represents a cross-section of the stories that haven’t yet made the headlines–stories we believe portray the complexity of our time.

As part of this project, Play On Words is producing its first truly themed show on Wednesday, January 17, at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch. Join us at 7 pm to hear selections chosen from the chapbook. We will be rolling out more information about our first show of the year, including bios of featured writers, over the next few weeks.

If you need a POW fix before then, don’t forget to check out the POWer Half Hour on Soundcloud and iTunes! Ryan has produced seven great episodes so far, with a few more to come.

 

Deadline Extended to October 15

Call for Submissions Alternate DE

Good news, Playonwordsians: We are extending the deadline for the chapbook that we are producing in conjunction with the fabulous Flash Fiction Forum. You’ve got until October 15 to send 500 words of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or theatre to activistchapbook@gmail.com.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a brief recap of recent headlines that might trigger a response:

  • Last week, Trump announced that he plans to rescind the DACA program, which will affect approximately 800,000 students and their families who are working and studying legally in the United States.
  • Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma displace thousands of families, many of whom may have been previously displaced by Katrina in 2005.
  • Charlottesville–August 12, 2017, and the rise of neo-Nazism.
  • Trump’s July announcement to ban transgender citizens from serving in the military.

There are lots of ways to resist and show solidarity with communities whose livelihoods and basic civil rights are at risk. We’re hoping to provide a platform for writers to speak up and speak out.

We look forward to reading your work.

Call for Submissions: Activist Chapbook

Attention poets, playwrights, and other creative writers!

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Community activists from Play on Words and Flash Fiction Forum are producing a chapbook and want your fiction, poetry, works of theater and creative nonfiction work about activism.

Specifically, we’re interested in the complexities of activism (humorous, tragic, inspiring, or all three), situations that call for activism, pitfalls and rewards of activism, and above all, the personal, unexpected, and inexplicable. We’re interested in stories that move but don’t preach, and shed light on communities or causes that may not make it to the news every day. Help us prove that our words matter–perhaps now more than ever.

In addition to publishing a chapbook in collaboration with Flash Fiction Forum, Play On Words will select a number of the accepted pieces for a corresponding performance in early 2018.

GUIDELINES FOR SUBMISSION:

  • Deadline for submission is August 31, 2017.
  • Please limit submissions to 500 words.
  • Email submissions to activistchapbook@gmail.com

ATTENTION ARTISTS:

  • We are also seeking black and white artwork that speaks to these themes. Submissions can be emailed to activistchapbook@gmail.com.