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

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!



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.


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


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


5 Reasons You Should Art Party It Up

Have you heard of the Santa Clara County gem that is Anne & Mark’s Art Party? We here at Play On Words had the chance to check it out in 2014 and were blown away by what we found. Want to get inspired? Here are five reasons you should go to the Art Party this year:

  1. Amazing visual art. The Art Party fills the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds with gallery after gallery of visual art–paintings, sculpture, performance art and more.
  2. Badass live music. We’re talking jazz, blues, opera, folk, rock, classical, and world music. Can’t go wrong.
  3. Fire. The Art Party creates its own Playa, a la Burning Man, featuring fire spinners, master welders, and all kinds of bright and vibrant pieces.
  4. Food. Bounce from food truck to truck! You won’t go hungry. Did we mention that there’s a great bar too?
  5. Spoken word. Check out the Spoken Word Lounge to see Silicon Valley writers read works of flash fiction during the fabulous Flash Fiction Forum–then stick around for Play On Words’ Best Of Mashup at 8pm!
Art Party, 2014. (Ryan Alpers / for POW)

Other things you should know about the Art Party:

  • The week-long arts fest lasts from September 24 – October 1.
  • Tickets to the opening night gala, when Play On Words performs, are $39.
  • To gain entrance for the full week of awesomeness, purchase an all-inclusive pass for $150.
  • Night owl? Buy the 10 at 10 pass for only $10–and gain entry starting at 10 pm.

Click here to buy your tickets now.

We’ll be rolling out our POW lineup over the next week, so stay tuned to see which fan favorites will be making their return. This event is a great introduction to Play On Words, as we’ll be trotting out some hilarious, absurd, and thoughtful work by local writers. Hope to see you there!

Tania Martin and the Little “Pink Suitcase”

Tania Martin
Tania Martin

There is something magical about Tania Martin’s “Pink Suitcase,” which we are excited to present June 3 at Cafe Stritch as part of Play On Words: Take Flight.

Tania is originally from New Zealand and has lived most of her life in California. She earned a B.S. in geology from UC Davis, and has worked as a lab technician, geophysicist, and technical writer. She stumbled into a writer’s workshop in Alta, Utah a few years ago and has been hooked on creative writing ever since. Her focus has been on the short story and flash fiction. She co-founded The Flash Fiction Forum reading series with Lita Kurth, and she is an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. She also helped curate the Spoken Word Lounge reading series at The San Jose Art Party festival held at the Santa Clara Fair Grounds in 2014.

Publications, Honors or Awards:

Tania’s flash fiction has been published in Sugar Mule Literary Magazine and Flash Flood’s online anthology. She recently had her poem “Smoke and Fire” published in (After) Life, Poems and Stories of the Dead, Purple Passion Press, 2015.

 What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I was delighted to hear there was another venue for story-based art in San José. My co-founder of Flash Fiction Forum and I reached out to the folks at Play On Words. Julia Halprin Jackson, one of the founders, read her wonderful flash fiction for our reading series. I jumped at the chance when she mentioned that there was a call for submissions for Play On Words. I am very excited to see my story “Pink Suitcase” performed by actors. Because it’s a character driven story, I think it will be well suited for the stage. I’m also really excited to be part of the strong writer’s community emerging in San José.

 Which writers or performers inspire you?

Tolstoy and Austen are favorites, but lately Denis Johnson has had a big influence on me, and I just read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey for the first time and thought it brilliant.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I very much admired Poet Laureate (Santa Clara County) David Perez’s poetry booth, aka “The Poetry Site,” in which he organized local poets to write poems for festival patrons on typewriters. The poetry booth is both a performance piece and the individual works of the poets. The process of the poets at work on their old fashioned typewriters, thinking and punching away at the keys, then handing over poems to curious hands was inspiring, and I thought this is a great way to expose people to poetry by making it personal.  It’s the kind of collaboration I hope to see more of in San José.

Flash Fiction Meets Play On Words!

If you live in San Jose and you like to write, you need to meet Lita Kurth. Lita and her colleague Tania Martin run the fabulous Flash Fiction Forum, a monthly reading series that highlights short, fantastic writing. We’re really excited to produce her short piece, “Bride,” on June 3 at Cafe Stritch.

Lita (MFA Pacific Lutheran University) has had work published in Fjords Review, Brain,Child, Main Street Rag, Tikkun, NewVerseNews, Blast Furnace, eliipsis…literature and art, Compose, Redux, Lunchticket, Raven Chronicles, Tattoo Highway, Composite Arts, Verbatim Poetry, the Santa Clara Review, Vermont Literary Review, DNA, and others. She contributes to,, and

Lita Kurth
Lita Kurth

Publications and Awards:

My creative nonfiction (CNF) piece, “Pivot,” in the anthology, Becoming: What Makes a Woman, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My CNF “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” 2012, won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award (summer-fall 2014) and appeared in Lunchticket 2014. When I was eleven, I won fourth place (and $15!) in an essay contest sponsored by the Rex Rod and Gun Club of Milwaukee.

Upcoming Events:

Lita and Tania are hosting the next Flash Fiction Forum TONIGHT (May 13), 7 PM, at San Jose’s Works Gallery. Lita also teaches the Lita Kurth Writing Workshops in her home. She also offers a four-week, online, flash fiction class in July/August, and will be teaching Intro to Creative Writing at De Anza College this fall.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I heard about it from Gary Singh and thought it was fantastic.

 Which writers or performers inspire you?
The timeless Broooooooce, i.e., Springsteen, Marguerite Duras, Jim Ray Daniels (especially his latest collection, Eight Mile High)