This past Monday was Superstition Review’s first reading of the semester and, I have to say, it was pretty amazing, particularly with the small and intimate setting of our favorite local bookstore, Changing Hands, literally setting the stage for the event!
Not only did we get to hear from American Book Award winner Stella Pope Duarte, who was previously featured as an interviewed writer for her award-winning book, If I Die in Juarez, but she also asked two of her writing students to join her. Accomplished writers Rita Ackerman and Annie Lopez accompanied our main guest reader that night as they too shared highlights from their varied portfolios. After a brief introduction to the readers for the evening via our Editor-in-Chief, I grabbed a seat off to the side and settled in for the reading–notebook, camera, and BlackBerry (for live-tweeting!) in hand.
Reading Series Editor, Samantha Novak, took the Changing Hands stage first, quickly introducing Trish Murphy, our Editor-in-Chief, inviting her to speak a little about SR. As Trish gave the rundown of how we work, take submissions, and run the magazine all through semester-long undergraduate internships, she also gave an update on submissions and solicitations that have already drifted into the magazine. Among the poets and authors submitting work, we learned that award-winning author and former ASU professor Ron Carlson will be interviewed for this upcoming issue–how exciting is that? With the logistical side of the reading out of the way, we were ready to hear from our esteemed readers.
First to read was Rita Ackerman, a scholar of the history of the American Wild West. She read an illuminating narrative on the shootout at the O.K. Corral from the perspective of Ike Clanton, an under-celebrated outlaw of Arizona’s history.
The story came from her recently published O.K. Corral Postscript: The Death of Ike Clanton and provided a street view of the shootout. It was particularly interesting because it viewed the famous Earp brothers from a fairly neutral position. Ackerman continued with a short dip into the death scene she has reconstructed from the obituaries and accounts of Ike Clanton’s death. Introducing ‘Pigleg Wilson,’ her writing explained that Ike, though a pivotal member of the Clanton gang, is not buried in a dignified grave in Tombstone like the rest of his family, but he instead resides in a unmarked grave somewhere in Springerville, Arizona.
It was particularly interesting to hear a detailed and engaging account of one of Arizona’s famous outlaws. Ackerman really brought to light the benefits of well-written nonfiction narratives, highlighting one of the under-sung genres of many literary journals, and one that SR is proud to feature.
Next up was Annie Lopez. Not only is Lopez a great storyteller, but she’s also an artist–one featured at the Phoenix Art Museum (and giving a lecture on her work on October 21st at 4 and 7 p.m.).
Lopez’s work collectively focused on the naivety of youth, especially as a young woman growing up in Phoenix. In her partly auto-biographical stories, the fourth-generation Phoenician read about her young adult mishaps. In, The Dress, a middle school-aged Lopez shows us a glimpse into a home-economics class. She and a friend made complete fools of themselves by knowing a little too much about sewing and trying to flaunt their skills, resulting in becoming the laughing stock of the Phoenix Suns basketball team. Her other story not only brought about laughs from the audience as she explained the awkward situation she was put in when her high school guidance counselor exposed herself to Lopez, but also reinforced the need to feel comfortable in your surroundings as a young adult.
Enterprising on the hilarious hi-jinx of youth, Lopez really connected with her audience as she shared her humorous tales and reminded everyone in the audience the importance of staying on the good side of friends-who-happen-to-be-writers–whatever you do, she warned via her shared anecdote, don’t forget that whatever you say and do can, and often will, be written down and used against you in the future if it has high humor value. In all fairness, you should know better!
Finally, it was Stella Pope Duarte’s turn to take the small stage. The audience seemed particularly excited to hear from her as she was introduced.
The ABA award-winner greeted everyone with a quick, unabashed admission: she loves rumors and secrets. As she talked about the upcoming acceptance of her award, she revealed that, though she loves Phoenix more than she could ever like NYC, she enjoyed the City for its eavesdropping goldmine that it is; she claimed she loves nothing more than walking the streets there to gather as many rumors as she could. It wasn’t just a random comment, though–she said none of her stories would really be possible without them, especially from the collection she was reading from.
Duarte is a passionate activist and writer defending human rights issues, particularly bringing child prostitution wrongs to light. On Monday she shared one of her newer stories, “One of These Days I’m Gonna Go Home,” a selection to be published in her upcoming collection of short stories, with the working title of Women Who Live in Coffee Shops, that focus on rumors and the lives of individuals whose worlds are affected by the rumors. The story dealt with the adoption and rehabilitation of a former child prostitute being raised in the Phoenix desert.
Our featured reader was really engaging with her audience and she had complete command of local Phoenician dialogue, slang, and speech. Her reading, as well the other women’s, really featured the outstanding talent of local writers. It was refreshing to hear these home-grown southwestern stories of our state’s history, growing up in Arizona, and dealing with the complexities of such a culturally rich state.
Overall, I’d say that the reading was a complete success and a wholly enjoyable event. I’m extremely excited about the next one, October 26!
Did you attend the event? What did you think? What was your favorite work you heard?