Michelle Qiao’s “City Across the River”

The best part about receiving submissions is that we have no idea what to anticipate–where the stories come from, which characters will pique our interest, what new voices we might discover or–perhaps the most intriguing–what inspires fellow writers and artists. We were delighted to read “The City Across the River,” a moving and eloquent tale set in 20th century China–and were surprised and amazed to discover that its author is none other than eighth-grader Michelle Qiao, whose English teacher suggested she submit to us. (Shout-out to English teachers everywhere!) We are thrilled to perform her story on Sunday, February 24 at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Michelle Qiao

Michelle loves birds, volleyball, and writing. She is the vice president of her student council and will be attending Leland High School next semester. She is the winner of the Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Key. She was kind enough to tell us a little bit about herself.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I asked my language arts teacher to help me edit my writing, and she recommended that I submit!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind. She starts writing out of boredom but the novel eventually won her a Pulitzer Prize.

Name a book or performance that has fundamentally affected you.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It’s the only book that has made me cry!

Want to see Michelle’s work performed live? So do we! Reserve your ticket now to gain free admission to the San Jose Museum of Art on February 24 and RSVP on Facebook to let us know you’re coming.

Ksenia Lakovic and the Power of Language

How do different generations grapple with social change? For the narrator in Ksenia Lakovic’s “The New Disease,” it means clearing trash on her middle school courtyard in 1986 Belgrade while her stalwart teacher lectured her on the perils of fascism. We were taken by the language and style of Lakovic’s prose, which expresses its own exploration of “new terrains,” and are thrilled to perform it on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Ksenia Lakovic

Ksenia lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with her husband and son, and revisits her native Serbia every summer. She holds a PhD from UCLA and a BS from University of Belgrade, and is an alumna of Squaw Valley Community of Writers and Napa Valley Writers Conference. Her work won the UCLA Kurnitz Creative Writing Award and was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award and Tillie Olsen Short Story Award. She has written for The Globe and Mail, The Millions, and several other publications.

Ksenia is currently finalizing her first novel, both in English and Serbian language. The novel, set between 1992 and 2012, is based on her memories of the Yugoslav wars and their aftermath. Read an excerpt and more of her work at www.klakovic.com. She agreed to answer a few questions for us in preparation for our show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I like the idea of bringing together writers and performers, and contributing to our creative local community. Play on Words has also been recommended by Valerie Fioravanti, whose writing I admire.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Dubravka Ugrešić has been a huge inspiration to me for over two decades, because of her distinct writing style and her sharp perspective on my home region and the world.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro and Black Lamb and Gray Falcon by Rebecca West.

Intrigued? Join us on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art for Play On Words: New Terrains to see Ksenia’s work performed aloud.

Tony Press and the Power of Postcards

Sometimes what is unsaid is as powerful as what we say aloud. How do you communicate loneliness, hope or love on the back of a postcard? We were taken by Tony Press’ “Postcards from the Underground,” which tells the story of a military spouse and her pacifist son, and look forward to performing it on February 24 at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Tony Press

Tony Press writes fiction when he has questions and poetry when he thinks he has answers; thus, mostly fiction. His story collection Crossing the Lines was published by Big Table in 2016. Equinox and Solstice, an e-chapbook of his poems is online, available via Right Hand Pointing. He claims two Pushcart nominations, 25 criminal trials, 12 years in the same high school classroom, and not one website. He loves Oaxaca, Mexico; Bristol, England; and especially Brisbane, California. He answered a few questions for us in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
Other writers have told me how wonderful it is to hear talented performers read their words–I wanted a taste for myself.

Which writers or performers inspire you?
Marilynne Robinson and Luis Alberto Urrea.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. A few days after I finished it, I hitched from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The next summer (when I was 17) I hitched across the country.

Want to learn more about Tony? Join us at Play On Words: New Terrains on Sunday, February 24, from 2 – 4 pm at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Anniqua Rana and the Imagination of the Young

What is the relationship between place and character, time and tradition? We were taken by the unique voice in Anniqua Rana’s “The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala,” an excerpt of her forthcoming novel, Wild Boar in the Cane Field, and are excited to perform it on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art. This same story will be published in the Noyo River Review in May 2019 and was described by novelist Shanthi Sekaran in this way:

“In ‘The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala,’ we are gifted a world that is vibrant and richly imagined. The narrative voice is tender and patient in its portrayal of how tradition touches modernity, how the ancients sway the imaginations of the young.”

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Anniqua Rana

Anniqua lives in California with her husband and two sons. When she’s not working as an educator in the community college system, she visits her family in Pakistan and England. The rest of the time, she reads, cooks, travels, and enjoys mystical music and poetry and does whatever it takes to keep her grounded and happy.

Her story “A Frog Underfoot” earned an honorable mention in the Desi Writers Lounge Short Story Competition. Also an excerpt of her novel, it tells the story of a woman in a village community who finds herself conflicted over whether to accept the fate decided for her or break away, as complex characters act in remarkably unpredictable ways around her.

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Wild Boar in the Cane Field

Anniqua also hosts the WittyBantr podcast, described as “an unstructured weekly podcast about what’s on our minds.” She will be reading “The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala” on Sunday, May 19, at the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

The connection between the written word and the many interpretations through visual and dramatic interpretations fascinates me. Reading to an audience also takes us back to the origin of storytelling.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

  • Elena Ferrante
  • Mohsin Hamid

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

  • The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferante
  • The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Harari

We look forward to performing Anniqua’s work at our New Terrains show on February 24, presented in partnership with the San Jose Museum of Art. RSVP on Facebook to get the details.

Call for Submissions: New Terrains

This week marks five years since our first Play On Words show at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. With every season, we’ve tried something new–performed at festivals, partnered with Flash Fiction Forum on a chapbook, staged live readings of television shows. This fall, we’re delighted to partner with the San Jose Museum of Art on its upcoming “New Terrains: Migration and Mobility” cross-disciplinary exhibit. We’ve got our first 2019 date on the calendar–Sunday, February 24, from 3-5 pm–which means that we need you, faithful writers and artists, to share your work with us!

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What Does New Terrains Mean to You?

For our February show, we are seeking work that responds to the theme of New Terrains: Migration and Mobility. What does that mean to you? Does new terrain denote geography, movement, space? Could it be a crossing of emotional territory? Or a literal reflection on what it means to move your body, your family, your city?

Send Us Your:

  • fiction (short stories, flash fiction, stand-alone novel excerpts
  • nonfiction (memoir, short essays, meditations and reflections)
  • poetry
  • theatre (one-act plays, sketches, comedy, satire, drama)

For prose pieces, we ask you to cap submissions at 1500 words. Depending on the work of theatre, you can submit something longer if it reads quickly.

Email us your submissions to playonwordssj@gmail.com by December 15 to be considered for our February show.

Join Us for the Exhibition Kick-off: November 15

We’ve been invited to present at the museum’s November 15 partner kickoff, which will feature many of the organizations contributing to the New Terrains exhibit. Mosaic Silicon Valley will offer a number of special performances during the evening. The international creative collective known as RadioEE will roll up to the party with Autopiloto, a marathon radio transmission that will be broadcast while on-the-move in a semi-autonomous vehicle traversing the Bay Area, examining how emerging autopilot/AI technologies are transforming the world. RadioEE will be live streaming their interactions with partner organizations and visitors while at SJMA, as part of their project commissioned by the Lucas Artist Residency Program at Montalvo Art Center.

Play On Words will be reading a few show selections at the event. We’ll be there to promote our call for submissions and enjoy an evening of performance, artistry and excitement. We hope to see you there!

Tickets are available on the San Jose Museum of Art website: $5 after 5 pm, free for museum members.

 

 

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

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.