Welcome to the World of Ben Black

When you visit a sculpture garden, what do you see? This week we were excited to perform two pieces by local writer Ben Black at our Words & Music show in St. James Park. Ben is a graduate of the creative writing MFA program at San Francisco State University. His work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, New American Writing, Harpur Palate, The Los Angeles Review, and other journals. His stories have been finalists for the Calvino Prize and the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest, and one of them won the FOGcon 2013 Student Writing Award. He sometimes lectures at SFSU.

Here’s the wonderful Adam Weinstein reading “Sculpture Garden” (apologies, as part of our video was truncated):

And here’s Brian Van Winkle reading Ben’s second piece, entitled “Timber”:

Haunted by Sarah Lyn Rogers’ Prose

Thank you to everyone who joined us this week in San Jose’s St. James Park! We really appreciated the opportunity to fill our downtown park with stories and friends. Today we are excited to feature our first video footage from one of our returning authors, Sarah Lyn Rogers. Here’s footage of Adam Magill reading “Haunted”:

Melinda Marks read Sarah’s second piece, entitled “Mountain State”:

Thank you to Michelle Anderson for filming these pieces.

Sarah is a writer, editor, and illustrator from the San Francisco Bay Area. When Sarah’s not writing or doodling, she selects short fiction for The Rumpus, gives editorial feedback to young novelists through Society of Young Inklings, and writes snarky humanities content for an education website. For more of her work, visit http://sarahlynrogers.com.

Publications, Honors or Awards:

James D. Phelan awards in metrical verse, free verse, and familiar essay. Academy of American Poets’ Virginia de Araujo Award.

Recent publications:

“‘Sleeping Lady Plate,’ 1976” in Cosumnes River Journal

“‘You can never quite forgive’ (148),” in Caesura.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Sarah Lyn Rogers
Sarah Lyn Rogers

I submitted work for the last two performances, “Take Flight” and “Spring Fling.” Nicole Hughes, who used to be one of the PoW organizers, goaded me into submitting the first time. Now I’m hooked!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I’m on a poetry kick again, rereading pieces I like by Matthew Zapruder and Erin Belieu. Leigh Stein is another writer I admire—she’s able to cram so many evocative objects and ideas into poetry that sounds both nostalgic and conversational. These poets in particular make me think, How did they do that? Can I?

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, is something I come back to again and again. Her shtick is that she’s a Zen practitioner and a writer who had an epiphany: What if she used writing as her meditation, her practice? This book is about “writing practice”—which isn’t so much about honing a craft it is about letting your thoughts flow freely without judgment. Use a fast-writing pen. Don’t look back. Don’t erase. If you reread later and any of your  recorded thoughts have special resonance, go ahead and harvest them—but that’s not the goal.

Marilyn Horn-Fahey Digs Deep

We love flash fiction–which is why we love the work of Marilyn Horn-Fahey. We hope you’ll join us next Tuesday at San Jose’s St. James Park, where we’ll be producing two of Marilyn’s short pieces, “April in Paris” and “Snake,” alongside a number of local writers.

Marilyn Horn-Fahey
Marilyn Horn-Fahey

Marilyn is an LA native and a graduate of Cal State Long Beach. She now lives in Silicon Valley, where she works as a tech editor and worries about smart machines taking over the world. Her short stories have appeared in Marathon Review, Blotterature and NonBinary Review, among others, and she also presents at San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum from time to time. When not tied to the computer, she is either sitting in traffic, cleaning up after her children, or looking for her keys.

Upcoming projects:
San Jose’s very own Thinking Ink Press will publish a collection of my short stories later in 2015.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I knew I wanted to be included in a POW performance as soon as I heard about POW from Lita Kurth. What a brilliant concept. POW is such a gift to writers. We offer you our words, and then you spin your magic and offer them back again — it’s a win-win all around!

Which writers or performers inspire you?
I’m most inspired by the writers I know. When I don’t feel like writing, or when I’m feeling scared about digging deeper into what I’m writing, I think about my writer friends, knowing that they’ve gone through the same thing and yet have kept on writing. So that spurs me on. They’ve also taught me that the writing process itself is important — offering the world your own brand of craziness and weirdness and self-doubt is extremely satisfying, and also it’s very important but I can’t say exactly why. Maybe just so others with the same craziness etc. will know they aren’t alone.

Name a performance that fundamentally affected you.
My daughter took ice skating lessons when she was 10 years old. At the end of the session she had to give a solo performance of all she’d learned. She skated out to the starting point and promptly fell on her butt. I could tell she was mortified but she kept her cool and performed her routine without a hitch. When she got off the ice she cried and was miserable but a few minutes later she found out she won first place. That day has always stayed with me, and sometimes when I’m feeling down I remember her perseverance and grace and willingness to just keep going.

This is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.