Michelle Myers’ “Pence”

The most interesting and surprising work can arise when a writer responds to a prompt. When we read Michelle Suzanne Myers’ short piece, “Pence,” we were amazed by how many reactions we had in just a few paragraphs. Regardless of your politics, sometimes the juxtaposition of empathy and revulsion, curiosity and disgust, can make for the most thought-provoking work. We look forward to performing Michelle’s hilarious piece tomorrow at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Michelle Myer

Born in San Jose, whilst it was still the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, and once more a current proud resident, Michelle supports her meandering writing journey as a bilingual psychotherapist in private practice. She holds degrees from the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University. After graduating with a sociology degree from USF, Michelle headed to Dallas, Texas to do legal aide work with refugees as a Jesuit Volunteer. She then escaped the U.S. to Sao Paulo, Brazil for four years where volunteering in support of women and girls. Michelle was fortunate enough to learn about social justice, human rights, and mysticism in her early spiritual formation, and she still has hope for the loving transformation of this world. Like her paternal grandfather, she loves birds and walking the hills. Unlike her grandfather, she loves salsa and Afro-Brazilian music, movement, and dance. Michelle credits the wise, wild women of her Friday morning writing group with giving her the courage to reveal her writing to the public.

Her piece “Communion on the Road” will be published in summer 2018 in Sanctuary, an anthology published by Darkhouse Books of Niles, California.

Michelle shared some of her thoughts with us in advance of tomorrow’s show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wonderful writing professor, poet Lita Kurth encouraged me to submit this piece.  Also, I felt compelled to submit it as I believe we all must promote the idea that love indeed overcomes hatred.  

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Oliver, theologian Dr. Kristin Heyer, Ph.D, and sociologist Dr. Laura Nichols, Ph.D, Eduardo Galeano, Joyce Rupp, Rainer Maria Rilke, Natalie Goldberg, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teresa of Avila, Rumi, Hafiz, and Anne Lamott.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Women in Praise of the Sacred:  43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, edited by Jane Hirshfield.

Want to see us perform “Pence” live? Join us tomorrow at Cafe Stritch!

Melinda Marks reads “Roque Dalton, Salvador”

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Melinda Marks. Photo credit: Leo Alvarez

 

What happens when you mix revolution with poetry? An ekphrastic story by Lita Kurth, perhaps? Today we are excited to feature Melinda Marks’ January 17 performance of Lita’s “Roque Dalton, Salvador”:

This piece is one of 28 included in Activate, our chapbook produced in conjunction with San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum, Maria Judnick, and designer Peter Caravalho. Want to learn more about this great project? Join us next Wednesday, February 28, at DeAnza’s Euphrat Museum of Art at 5 pm.

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.

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.

 

Lita Kurth’s Compassionate Comedy

Lita Kurth

San Jose writers likely already know the lovely Lita Kurth, local writer, teacher and co-creator of the fabulous Flash Fiction Forum. We were delighted to produce her work last summer at Cafe Stritch (if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to watch Melinda Marks’ reading of “Bride”), and are excited to perform her comic piece, “Compassion: The Essence of Nursing,” January 6 at New Year Nouveau.

Lita Kurth
Lita Kurth

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

Her CNF, “Pivot,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her CNF “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” presented at the Working Class Studies conference, 2012, won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award (summer-fall 2014) and appeared in Lunchticket 2014. She contributes to Tikkun.org/tikkundaily, TheReviewReview.net, and classism.org.

In 2013, she co-founded the Flash Fiction Forum, a reading series in San Jose. Learn more about her in this recent profile in the San Jose Metro.

Upcoming projects:

Upcoming on January 13th  is another Flash Fiction Forum, 7 PM Works Gallery in wonderful downtown San Jose!

I also teach private multi-genre workshops and online four-week flash fiction courses–learn more at Lita Kurth Writing Workshops.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I loved the idea as soon as I heard about it. Such fun to see another creative person bring a piece to life that I’ve written.

 Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce. Just kidding, sort of. My inspirations are too numerous to list but a sampling includes the Rachel Field poetry of childhood, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tolstory, Flaubert, Irish writer Jamie O’Neill, E. Annie Proulx, and Zadie Smith.

Flash Fiction Forum’s Literary Pub Crawl

Join us this Sunday for San Jose’s first ever Literary Pub Crawl, organized by Tania Martin and Lita Kurth, the masterminds behind SJ’s Flash Fiction Forum, as well as past participants in POW shows.

There are four main stages of the event, all located in San Jose’s SOFA district:

We hope to see you there.

Drumroll Please…Tomorrow’s Lineup!

It’s nearly time to take flight. We had our rehearsal on Saturday night and we are pumped to perform tomorrow at Cafe Stritch. Our playbills will be printed tomorrow–and in one last effort to spread the word, we’re sharing the full lineup for Play On Words: Take Flight here:

ACT ONE

  1. “Pink Suitcase,” by Tania Martin, read by Gray Performs
  2. “Van Tribe: The River” and “Dudley and Lisa,” by Rick Alpers, read by Michael Weiland
  3. “Bees,” by Betsy Miller, read by Adam Magill
  4. “Van Tribe: Pumpkin,” by Rick Alpers, read by Tiffany Edwards
  5. “Bride,” by Lita Kurth, read by Melinda Marks
  6. “Van Tribe: Miracle Ticket,” by Rick Alpers, read by Michael Weiland
  7. “Sirs Parchment” and “I Ride on the Bus Out to the Suburbs in the Searing Heat,” by Gary Singh, read by Ryan Alpers
  8. “Stage Kiss,” by Mara Sherman, read by Laurel Brittan, Gray Performs, and Ryan Alpers

    ACT TWO

  9. “Suburban Fantasy,” by Renée Schell, read by Adam Magill
  10. “Hot Turkish Man For You,” by Valerie Fioravanti, read by Melinda Marks
  11. “Red,” by Melinda Marks, read by Arcadia Conrad
  12. “Swimming Lessons,” by Pratibha Kelapure, read by Laurel Brittan
  13. “Scars,” by Andrew Christian, read by Ryan Alpers
  14. “Cardio Tai Chi,” by Sarah Lyn Rogers, read by Tiffany Edwards
  15. “Audition,” by Brian Van Winkle, read by Michael Weiland, Melinda Marks, Brian Van Winkle, Adam Magill, and Julia Halprin Jackson

As we gear up for the big show, we’d also like to extend our gratitude, once again, to The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the San Jose Downtown Association, as well as Steve and Max Borkenhagen of Cafe Stritch, whose support and guidance helped make this show possible.

San Jose Downtown Association
San Jose Downtown Association

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 Tikkun.org/tikkundaily, TheReviewReview.net, and classism.org.

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)