#ArtLitPhx: Upcycling Art with Janel Garza

Does that particular denim jacket need an update? How about that old shirt or pair of jeans? Then come by to learn how to upcycle your clothing in this textile workshop with local artist Janel Garza. She will teach basic techniques on how to use paint and textiles to refresh your wardrobe. Bring your own clothing. Additional materials and clothing provided. Light refreshments are included.

Event Information

Location: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale

Date: August 31

Time: Noon

Tickets: $30 for individuals or $45 for couples

For more information, click here.

Contributor Update, Joannie Stangeland: Crosswinds Poetry Contest Winner

Join us in congratulating past poetry contributor Joannie Stangeland. Joannie recently won Crosswind Poetry’s grand prize for her poem, “Air on Air.” The Crosswinds Poetry Journal looks for well-crafted English language poetry on all subjects, supports poetry and outreach efforts, and completes charitable work each year.

More information about Joannie and her award can be found here. You can find her poetry from Issue 10 here.

Congratulations, Joannie!

#ArtLitPhx: Katrina Shawver Writing Workshop

Author Katrina Shawver (Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America) leads a workshop that covers tools and techniques that apply to all genres to help make your writing easier, polished, and tight.

Take home lists of key resources every writer should have and know. Practice new ideas for faster writing and using active versus passive tense and specificity to “show not tell.” Come prepared to write!

Bring pen/pencil and a notebook for Shawver’s “Expand Your Writer’s Toolbox” presentation.

WORKSHOP DETAILS

  • Cost: $25 per person.
  • Register below.

ABOUT THE HOST
KATRINA SHAWVER is an experienced writer, blogger, speaker, and author of the award-winning biography HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America. She holds a BA from the University of Arizona in English/Political Science and began her writing career by penning columns for the Arizona Republic for more than eleven years. She spent fifteen years researching WWII, Poland, Auschwitz, and the Holocaust to write the story of Henry Zguda, someone she met strictly by chance while writing for the newspaper. HENRY has earned high praise and won awards in the US, UK, and Italy, including the 2018 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award – Silver for Biography.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 

Date: Monday, June 24

Time: 6:30–8:30 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.

Guest Post, Kathryn Kulpa: More Than You Think You Know

“You are better than you think. A-one, a-two, a-three.” 

—Kurt Vonnegut

Remember that old chestnut of writing advice that gets lobbed at all of us—particularly young writers, particularly new writers—write what you know? I ran across it first in my teens. Rather a dispiriting command for those of us whose real lives, the lives we knew, consisted of going to boring school every day in our boring town, and maybe, if we were lucky, going to the mall. My own trips to the mall invariably ended at the bookstore, where I sought escape in reading about other lives, other worlds that were nothing like the world I knew. 

Not necessarily better worlds. I favored dystopias and disasters, perilous quests and amorphous monsters, the merest glimpse of which could blast your sanity and leave you a gibbering mindless hulk, not unlike how I felt at the end of double biology class. 

My heart is in Middle Earth
My heart is not here
My heart is in Middle Earth
Trembling with fear …

I wrote in first-period algebra, when I compared Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring to the search for the square root of a quadratic equation, and the search for the equation didn’t come off too well. (Nor did my math grades, but that’s another story.) 

I read, and re-read, Tolkien and Lovecraft and Poe and Stephen King. My high school library had volumes of the best science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories, going back to at least 1970. I studied them like scripture. But my own attempts to write in those genres always felt like flat imitation. At the same time, I obsessively chronicled the ordinary details of my own life in notebooks: who wore the yellow dress that made her look like “a squeezed-out lemon,” who wrote “I LOVE KENNY” on the desk I shared in third period English, prompting me to question: “Does he love you?”; which teacher made the whole class stay after school because a few kids were acting up, spurring me to add a new dictionary definition under the word “shit.” Impromptu songs and poems and comics, but I didn’t consider any of it “real” writing, just throwaway stuff. 

Only I didn’t throw it away. A quiet voice inside told me not to. I would learn to listen to that voice. 

What I remember from my first “real” writing workshop were the yellow sheets the instructor gave us with comments on our stories, comments so detailed it felt as if each story had already been published and was worthy of critical attention. I only remember one piece of general writing advice, but it stuck in my mind as a corollary to write what you know: “You know more than you think you know.” 

I can’t explain the sense of freedom and relief that advice gave me. How many times I’d discarded story ideas, telling myself I couldn’t write about X because I’d never been to Y and didn’t know enough about Z. 

If a story idea feels right, if it feels emotionally true, then write it. Researching the details can come later. In that workshop I wrote a first draft of my story “The Night Copernicus Died,” about a nuclear scientist haunted by regret. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a nuclear physicist. My only “research” for the story was a book I’d once read about the making of the atomic bomb and a manga written by a survivor of Hiroshima. 

But I’d been born into a world shadowed by the threat of nuclear annihilation. I’d never known a time when that shadow didn’t haunt my dreams. As a teen and young adult, I’d wake in the middle of the night with my heart pounding, sure the world was going to end that night. I’d lie awake, making lists of all the things that made the world worth saving, fireflies and forsythia and golden retriever puppies, even though the people in it were so stupid. 

Years later, I met someone who’d been in the army during the Reagan years. “You don’t know how close we got, a couple of times,” he told me. But on some level I did know. And that feeling—that inner knowledge—was what drove the story. 

It was published in a science fiction magazine. I worried that, because its readers probably included a higher-than-average proportion of MIT grads, someone would question the science. 

No one said a word about the science. But I was forwarded a letter by one reader who wanted me to know that, while I had described the 1950s as a time when “gas was five cents a gallon,” it was, in fact, closer to 25 cents per gallon for much of that decade. 

Duly noted. 

In a more recent story, “Skater Girl at Rest,” I wrote in the voice of a former teen-movie star now sentenced to home confinement: 

Anna had always imagined an ankle bracelet would look like an actual bracelet, like the cylindrical copper coil she’d bought one year at Burning Man.

But it didn’t. It was bulky and oddly medical, with a thick black attachment that reminded Anna of a garage door opener or an old-school drug dealer beeper. It chafed her ankle and banged against her other leg when she slept and made wardrobe choices so much harder than they had to be. 

That voice just came to me, like taking dictation from a friendly ghost, yet having written it I started to worry that I’d got ankle bracelets all wrong; maybe they were discreet and delicate little bands, and what did I know about ankle bracelets anyway? 

I consulted the Google (The Google is your friend! Just not in the first draft) and found that they were, in fact pretty much exactly as I’d described them. 

You know more than you think you know. 

But what could I know about being dead? I would never claim that I know what it’s like to be dead, unless I happened to be singing a song written by John Lennon, but a while ago I became possessed by the need to write a story from the point of view of a dead person. Not a ghost, or an angel, or a spirit trapped in some interdimensional bardo. Just a regular dead person, who was dead but in some way still there, still a part of the physical world. 

I had been doing some strange reading, as I’m apt to do, about body farms and unusual disposition of human remains, and some of it was fascinating and some of it was horrifying, and the question I kept asking myself was why? Why would someone choose to have their body thrown down an elevator shaft, strapped into a crashing car, torn to pieces by animals, or left to rot in an open field? 

The voice of my narrator, a calm and reasonable voice, started speaking to me. She started telling me her story. And so I had to listen. 

They say we’ll get our bodies back whole after the rapture, but I’m pretty much done with mine—like when you’ve got an old nightgown so worn and full of holes that you’re just as happy when it rips, so you can tear it up for rags. 

The story, “A Key Into the Language of the Dead,” was published in Superstition Review‘s Issue 23. The characters and what they talk about and think about are made up. What happens to the bodies is real. 

What happens to the pumpkin is also real. It grew in my front yard. 

So yes, write what you know. That can be good advice, but don’t let it limit you to a narrow definition of what you think you know. You’ve seen things you didn’t realize you saw. You’ve heard things you don’t remember you heard. You know more than you think you know. Trust what you know. Tell the stories that beckon you, the ones that trouble you, even if they seem difficult or strange. 

And always Google the gas prices.

#ArtLitPhx: Friends of Contemporary Art Film Series

This summer Phoenix Art Museum proudly presents Friends of Contemporary Art Film Series: “Who Are We? The Art of Memory—Fellini’s 8 1/2.” 

Marcello Mastroianni plays Guido Anselmi, a director whose new project is collapsing around him, along with his life. One of the greatest films about film ever made, Federico Fellini’s 8½ (Otto e mezzo) turns one man’s artistic crisis into a grand epic of the cinema. An early working title for was The Beautiful Confusion, and Fellini’s masterpiece is exactly that: a shimmering dream, a circus, and a magic act. 

(dir. Federico Fellini / Italy 1963 / 138 min / Not Rated / B&W / In Italian with English subtitles)  

Free for Circles and FOCA Members, $5 for Members, and $10 for the general public. Not a Member yet? Join today

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave. 

Date: Wednesday, June 26

Time: 6 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.

#ArtLitPhx: Heidi Ganahl of SheFactor

Join Changing Hands for a talk, Q&A and booksigning with the founder and CEO of the SheFactor.

SheFactor is a book and app that helps young women find their passion, focus on goals, and achieve balance in their personal and professional lives. The book outlines a letter to any woman’s younger self, showing that every path is unique and there is no “right” way to achieve your own form of success. Ganahl doesn’t tell us what to do—she gives a microphone to the inner voice that already knows what to do. The encouragement in the book corresponds to the more tactical accountability that is game-ified in the SheFactor companion app, which readers can use to track each factor in her own life, or locate a mentor or group of friends to help keep her accountable to her new, balanced life goals.

PARKING / LIGHT RAIL

  • Don’t want to drive? Take the Light Rail! It lets off at the Central Avenue/Camelback Park-and-Ride, which has hundreds of free parking spaces across the street from Changing Hands.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Heidi Ganahl founded Camp Bow Wow, a $100 million leader in the pet and franchise industry, which hit the Inc 500/5000 list five years in a row. Her many accolades include being named one of Fortune Magazine’s Top 10 Most Promising Entrepreneurs and winning the 2016 Brave Leader Award. Heidi was elected to the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado and is founder of the Fight Back Foundation. She enjoys spending time at home with her husband and fellow entrepreneur, Jason, her children, Tori, Hollie, Jack, and Jenna, and her White Labrador, Henry.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 

Date: Friday, June 21

Time: 7 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.

Contributor Update, Eugene Gloria: ‘Sightseer in this Killing City’

Join us in congratulating SR poetry contributor Eugene Gloria. Eugene’s fourth collection of poems, Sightseer in this Killing City, was recently published by Penguin-Random House.

Gun violence, displacement, cultural legacy, and the bitter divisions in America are just a few of the themes Eugene explores through the voice of his narrator, “who chooses mystery and inhabits landscapes fraught with beauty and brutality.”

“Gloria employs a fastidious agglomeration by, for example, drawing together postmodern Spanish architecture, nineteenth-century French poetry, 1970s English rock, and everlasting Portuguese longing, all in a single poem! . . . A seriously outstanding collection.”

 —Booklist

More information about Eugene and his latest book can be found here. You can also find his poetry from SR’s Issue 3 here.

Congratulations, Eugene!

#ArtLitPhx: Papay Solomon Artist Talk

Join a free in-gallery artist talk with Artist Grant winner Papay Solomon at 6 p.m. on June 19 at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave

Papay Solomon’s body of work aims to tell the stories of young refugees through a universal, visual medium. Solomon is active within Arizona’s refugee community, having moved to Phoenix with his family from Africa when he was a teenager. His paintings reject stereotypes and inaccurate depictions of immigrants and refugees in American culture, providing a more truthful, human experience instead. In order to effectively convey personality, emotion, and narrative, Solomon interviews each individual before painting them. His use of hyperrealism and the classical technique of non-finito (not finished) bring attention to the displacement that these individuals may feel and the hyper-sensitivity towards such sentiments. Solomon graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. In addition to painting, he is also currently working on a documentary series. 

For more information about this event, click here.

Guest Post, Penny Zang: Dress, Write, Mourn

How to Write About a Dead Woman

“As a rule, think plain, unadorned, gravitas. No cleavage, thigh-high boots, or microminis. No animal prints and certainly no cowboy fringe.”

— Nina Garcia’s Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion, “What to Wear to a Funeral”

Between January 1, 2016 and mid-February 2018, five people I loved died: my best friend, two aunts, my grandmother, and my father. I started writing “How to Keep a Dead Woman Alive” shortly after the last two deaths, when I was unable to stop myself from dreaming about dead women. It was always the women. Women watching me while I slept, women waiting for me to catch up.

I never questioned the dreams or what was happening on the page. Writing about dead women seemed to be the natural result of not taking off work, not talking about my grief, and not stopping the day-to-day “grind” of grading essays, folding laundry, and hosting birthday parties for a house full of five-year olds. 

“How to Keep a Dead Woman Alive” was/is part of a longer work-in-progress. The individual sections, though, were born from the blend of influences that seeped into my brain during each of those mind-numbing, grief-filled days.

In no particular order: Sylvia Plath, Selena, Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie, Lincoln in the Bardo, what to wear to a funeral, how long it takes to grieve, Ouija boards, Bloody Mary, Twin Peaks, Linkin Park, George Michael, Amy Winehouse, The Cranberries, cremation, novel after novel after TV show after movie with a dead woman in the middle of the plot. The question of what happens to your best stories and your worst secrets if you’re the only one left alive to remember?

In his essay, “On Becoming an American Writer,” Alexander Chee says, “Speak to your dead. Write for your dead. Tell them a story. What are you doing with this life? Let them hold you accountable.” 

Is that what I was trying to do as I wrote in the aftermath of my grief? Did I intend to speak to my dead? On some level, yes. Each time I dream about my friend, always her more than the others, I wake up wondering what she wants me to do now. What stories does she want me to write? What secrets am I allowed to share? 

I wrote “How to Keep a Dead Woman Alive” with her in mind, her at age 35 and age 28 and age 22 and age 12. I saw her passing me a note in 8thgrade English and escorting me to junior prom and holding back my hair when we lived together years later. I saw her holding my son. I saw us shopping and sharing and stealing each other’s clothes. How intimate it all seems now, in retrospect, that I don’t have anyone who wants to borrow my favorite dress. 

The dress, I think, was always part of the story, even before I started writing. As I packed my funeral dress for my friend’s memorial service, I might have thought about the perfect symbolism of a black dress and how I would one day write about my loss. I had a feeling more funerals were coming (though I didn’t know how many or how quickly), and if I had thought about writing through my grief, I would have also known how central a dress would be to that narrative.  

Otherwise, I don’t remember writing a single word. 

One of the benefits of writing at 5 a.m. is that no one cares what I’m wearing. Inside-out T-shirts tops and ratty robes are my uniform. It doesn’t matter if I’m blurry, stumbling, and unable to form complete thoughts yet. There’s coffee, and a cat to keep me company. There’s a (hopefully) charged laptop. The sky is just the right kind of dark. 

This is how I write, with my subconscious still buzzing from half-baked dreams, and a complete lack of censorship. The internal editor is still asleep and the lack of perfection, the full-on embrace of imperfection, becomes the fuel for my creative process. A quiet house at 5 a.m. is pure luxury. Better than Burberry trench coats and Missoni knits and Frye harness boots, and whatever else Nina Garcia says I am supposed to own and enjoy.

After I wrote “How to Keep a Dead Woman Alive,” my Twitter friend, Steve Bargdill, told me about keening. Keening is a death wail, a public lament that has now grown out of fashion, giving women a voice for their grief. Sometimes professional mourners were hired to grieve publically at funerals. I am simplifying, of course, but the blend of beauty and tragedy struck a nerve. Yes, I thought. That is what it feels like to ache and not have the words, or to not need the words, to express it. 

This is not to suggest that writing “How to Keep a Dead Woman Alive” was a healing experience. Not at all. I like how T Kira Madden addresses the issue of writing and healing in her essay “Against Catharsis: Writing is Not Therapy.” She writes, “But to render the art, to render the experience, does not, in my practice, involve ‘bleeding into the typewriter.’ It does not entail a writer spilling or spewing the memory onto a blank page, nailing it down, healing.” I don’t disagree.

Lately, my writing and my mourning are mashed together so brutally, I couldn’t ever call the creative process therapeutic. Instead, it feels like I am crafting a eulogy that no one has asked me to write. Over and over, it feels like standing in front of my family and friends, pretending like I have all the right words instead of one long, imperfect wail.  

#ArtLitPhx: Scene-Setting with Writer Betty Webb

Attend a workshop from current Library Writer-in-Residence mystery author Betty Webb to learn new skills in the craft of writing and publishing. All experience levels are welcome.

The Writers-in-Residence program promotes writing in communities by connecting local, professional authors to serve as Writers-in-Residence at local libraries. Writers-in-Residence spend time at the library during their residency composing new works and providing education for community members. 

2019 Writer-in-Residence: Betty Webb, May–July 2019

Betty Webb is the author of the nationally best-selling Lena Jones mystery series (Desert Vengeance, Desert Rage, Desert Wives, Desert Noir, Desert Wind, etc.) and the humorous Gunn Zoo mysteries (The Otter of Death, The Llama of Death, The Puffin of Death, etc.). Before beginning to write full time, Betty worked as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, Nobel Prize-winners, and polygamy runaways. She has taught creative writing classes and workshops at Arizona State University and Phoenix College, has been a nationally-syndicated literary critic for 30 years, and is currently reviewing for Mystery Scene Magazine. In addition to other organizations, Betty is a member of the National Federation of Press Women, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Tempe Public Library’s BRiC Training Room, 3500 S. Rural Rd.

Date: June 15

Time: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Ages: 18+

To read more about this event, click here.