reads from new work
As you may have noticed from yesterday's lack of a blog post, I was left speechless after Friday's Boca Lit Fest
events. This morning, I'm still feeling like I don't have the adequate words to describe it, but I'll try, at least, to give a taste of what happened. Daytime readings and discussions included Fawzia Kane, Fred D'Aguiar, Nicolette Bethel and one of my favorite novelists, Achy Obejas.
There was also a breath-takingly good emerging poet, Valdimir Lucien, who bravely stepped in for a writer who was delayed, saying that he's "three-quarters of a way through" his first collection of poems. I'll be eagerly awaiting the completion and release of that collection.
The legendary Earl Lovelace
After all that and more, plus a trip to visit my grandmother, I was almost too exhausted to make it out to the evening festivities. But wow, I'm sure glad that I decided to give it a try. It was a night of legends - steel pan music by Ray Holman, readings by Caribbean literary heroes including Merle Hodge, Mervyn Morris, and the awe-inspiring Earl Lovelace. I got to meet Mr. Lovelace, who promised to remember my name, to which I say, ha! It's amazing that such a promise was made, even though I doubt it'll happen. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to even stand in that room, among such icons. It was a truly unforgettable experience.
And I have to mention another highlight of the day, getting the chance to read at one of the open mics. I got to connect with some local poets, real poets, who may not be published or recognized, but who know how to take to the page and speak from the heart. It was an honor to read for a Trinidadian audience one of my "Trinidad poems." I consider it an old poem of mine, which shows me how young my writing career feels, as I wrote it about a year and a half ago. And it's a poem I wrote in tribute to my grandmother. The audience gave me a very warm reception, and after I read, an older Trinidadian woman gave me the best compliment I could ask for - silence, holding her hands out in thanks to me, with tears in her eyes.
Sometimes, speechlessness is the most powerful way to show your thanks. So I'll stop blabbing on now, and leave the events of yesterday where they'll remain, in my heart. For my Granny A, here's the poem I read yesterday, from a 2010 reading at Quiet Lighting during Litquake.
I owe this blog a recap! I've been keeping busy with a variety of events
, including some exciting new projects, so here's a quick recap of all that's been going on. Deeper reflections to follow.
Regie Cabico reads at
Lit Crawl for Matrices
- Matrices Press. Matrices Press debuted during Lit Crawl 2011, the final night of the literary festival Litquake, with a reading by the writers of Matrices: Origins. Writers included myself, Regie Cabico, Laura Wolfe, Willy Lizárraga, Antonio G. Fernandez, and the anthology's editor, Rajshree Chauhan. I mentioned that I needed to have fun that night, and it was indeed a fantastically fun evening. And even more than that, it was an event that made waves.
As co-host and collaborator of the next Matrices anthology, I felt unbelievably honored to be there as the event unfolded. The other readers' work was just breath-taking, and the sense of how vital this work is resonated throughout the audience. And the waves are continuing to flow. So far, we've received submissions
from Canada, France, Africa, and throughout the United States for inclusion in our next anthology. It's going to be amazing. Catch some video from the event here
, and visit the Matrices website at www.matricespress.net
to learn more about the project and how you can submit!
The cast of That's What She Said,
hosted by Wonder Dave
and Caitlin Gill
- The Hermana Sisters. The Hermana Sisters also made their debut in October, at the all-female variety show That's What She Said! Actress Elaine Gavin and I joined forces to take on cultural appropriation, women's roles in the art industry and more, all with a sense of humor.
The entire show was just magnificent, and it was so much fun to be a part of it. You can watch all of the second night performances here
. Folks have asked if the Hermana Sisters will perform more in the future, and the answer is yes! Check back soon for more information.
Wellness Wednesday participants helped
create this altar for a
Dia de los Muertos event with PODER
- Wellness Wednesdays. I've been part of the circle of CUAV members putting together Fall Wellness Wednesdays at the offices of CUAV (Community United Against Violence). And it's been absolutely wonderful to see what grows each week as LGBTQ survivors of violence come together for community fun, healing and food. Learn more about Wellness Wednesdays at CUAV's website.
I dressed as Gwendolyn Brooks
for Saturday Night Special
- Growing as a reader. I've been having so much fun at readings. At Hollie Hardy and Tomas Moniz's Saturday Night Special, I featured with the incredible Nathan A. Jones and readers in costume brought their best to the open mic. And at the Living Room Reading Series, I read among such great writers as Dan Langton. It was an unforgettable experience.
I feel that I've been growing in general in my writing, but especially in the realm of being able to read my work. It's a really good feeling, to be able to use such tools as humor, honesty and imagination to create work that can both draw a response from a room and feel true to my voice. I'm really looking forward to my next reading, at the Clattering Loom on November 20th. Find the details on my events page.
I need to have some fun.
I've been stressing out way too much recently - almost enough to forget that I actually love my life and everything that keeps me busy in it. So tonight, some of my hard work will pay off, and I'll get to remember to have some fun. Tonight is Lit Crawl, the final night of Litquake, so in a matter of hours San Francisco's Mission District will be filled with those who love words. We'll gather in bars, bookstores, laundromats and alleys, share stories and poems and laughter, and yes, dammit, we're going to have some fun. Here's where you can find a full map and schedule for Lit Crawl (you'll need one!).
Street art in the Mission
Photos by Maisha Z. Johnson
For me, a night like this feels necessary not only for the chance for a much-needed fun break, but also because of the necessity of voices. With about 450 readers sharing their words tonight, paths will cross, folks will hear one another, and there will be intersections of roads that may not meet on any other night but this one. There will be a variety of readings to choose from, and on my personal journey through the Crawl, I'll be looking for readings that push beyond that damn d-word to embrace a true diversity of voices.
"To all indigenous people made prisoners in their own land"
That was the idea behind Matrices
, the event that I'll be a part of tonight. Not merely diversity in its (often short-sighted) usual sense, but integrated diversity
, to include all intersections. I'm so excited for this launch, which will happen during Phase 1 of LitCrawl, at 6 pm at Public Works. Where else can you find an integration of unique voices? This is
just a sampling.For Phase 2, at 7:15 pm, check out Cipactli: Raza Studies Journal of Art and Literature
or Sunday Stories presents…Brown People Don’t Read?
Phase 3, at 8:30 pm, includes Lamda Literary Foundation Presents
and The World Cries Out for Revolution
. Check out this video on Laura Goode's "Sister Mischief,"
an interracial, gay hip-hop story. Laura Goode will be reading during Phase 3's The Rumpus Presents
. And there are many more events to choose from! Will you be at LitCrawl? How will you choose? Maybe our paths will cross.
It's October, which feels to me like a turning point, at least for Bay Area writers. This time last year, I was relatively new to this blogging business, and I shared my giddiness
in anticipation of my first event as a featured reader
, taking place during Litquake 2010. Now, it's almost time for Litquake 2011, and it feels only right to take a moment to pause. To reflect on the past year, and to look forward to the next chapter in my life as a working writer, or something like it. For a review of the last year, see the archives. It's funny to me that I now have many of my experiences from over a year of my life
chronicled in blog form. For the next chapter, read on. There are many exciting events coming up, to launch the New Writers' Year. I'm realizing how much I've missed blogging over the last few busy weeks
, so that's one thing for me to look forward to - blogging regularly again. Here are a few more:
- Introducing Matrices at LitCrawl Phase 1, October 15, 6 pm. That's right, it's time for Litquake, San Francisco's Literary Festival. LitCrawl takes place on the final night. Start your journey on this literary crawl through the bars, laundromats and alleys of the Mission at Public Works, to witness the launch of Matrices Press.
- What is Matrices Press? It's a new project and publication, based on a longing to hear from those dynamic voices that are silenced too often. I've been helping Rajshree Chauhan, editor of Matrices: Origins, a publication launching during Litquake. Matrices: Origins features the work of myself and others, and we're accepting submissions for another anthology, to be published in 2012. Check out the details here!
- That's What She Said! October 19 & 20, 8 pm.I've teamed up with my good friend, improv genius and actress Elaine Gavin, and our amazingly awkward comedy duo will be featured at this variety show of women doing comedy, poetry, music and more. Join us at The Garage, and look out for future performances!
- Saturday Night Special, an East Bay Open Mic, October 29, 7 pm. I'm the featured reader at this special Halloween edition of Saturday Night Special! You have the option of participating as well - not only by dressing up and competing in the costume contest, but also by reading in the open mic! Or, you can just come to hang out, of course. Join us at Nick's Lounge in Berkeley. Got any ideas for literary costumes for me? Send them my way!
You can always stay updated on what's coming up by visiting my events page
. As you can see, I'll have a lot to write about, so come back often for the next year of blogging. Happy Writers' New Year! What are your resolutions?
I really can’t believe 2011 has arrived already. But I guess I should get used to it. So, like everyone else I’m spending my day reflecting on the past year, thinking about the next one. For me, 2010 was full of highlights, and I hate to reduce it to a silly top-ten list, but if I didn’t I might ramble on forever about my year. So here they are, my Top 10 Highlights of 2010:
CUAV’S 2010 Safetyfest
was a spectacular highlight of the year. It was great to be a part of the planning process as a member of CUAV (Community United Against Violence
), to help launch, in April, a festival of events designed to build safety in queer and trans communities. Events included everything from self-defense workshops to opening and closing celebration parties, and it was all thanks to the combined energies of community members giving time and money and resources to help empower each other. I was so thankful for the chance to lead a writing workshop and an open mic, where folks astounded me with their presence and words. Planning for Safetyfest 2011 is now underway, which is very exciting. Watch this look back at Safetyfest 2010 here
Continuing my membership at CUAV has been a highlight of 2010 in general. Opportunities have ranged from being a part of transformative Safety Labs
to reading poetry at rallies
in support of social justice. Not to mention building community, and growing as a person in all that I’ve learned along the way.
Another great part of 2010 was volunteering with the inspirational people of POWER
(People Organized to Win Employment Rights) in various capacities. They do really great work
that helps a lot of folks, and empowers folks with the tools to help themselves, and the time I’ve spent with them has taught me a great deal about organizing in ways that can really enact change
· U.S. Social Forum
This was one of the great opportunities that came with being an active member of CUAV – the staff invited me to be a part of the delegation that attended the U.S. Social Forum
in Detroit. The USSF was a conference of activists and organizers who brought knowledge and open minds to share with each other tools for making change. For example, a workshop with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
(BAJI) featured a panel of folks speaking on immigration and shared BAJI’s findings
on black communities’ involvement in immigration rights movements. There were so many workshops at the USSF that it was hard to choose which to attend, but being me, I tried to pop into as many of the arts-related workshops as possible. Workshops like “Art is Change”
with Anasa Troutman were enlightening, and I was inspired not only in my own writing
, but also by the power of words
to move others, as I saw people like Anasa making a difference in folks who would carry her words across the country and to the rest of the world. I’m grateful still for that time spent in Detroit, especially because now we continue to share what we learned and what we shared with others while we were there.
In an exciting milestone for my writing, in 2010 I got a short story published for the first time. Transfer Magazine
published my short story “The Single Woman’s Guide to Surviving a Miscarriage” in Transfer 99, and gave it the Leo Litwak Award for Fiction. Whoo!
· Quiet Lightning/sPARKLE & bLINK
Some of my most thrilling moments this year were all thanks to Quiet Lightning
, a local reading series that’s given a great range of writers a place for their words. They gave me a place during Litquake
in October, and again in November
, and I’m so thankful for those unforgettable experiences. Hell, I’m thankful just for Quiet Lightning, whether it includes me or not, because Rajshree Chauhan
and Evan Karp
are doing something wonderful for the San Francisco literary community
. And with Quiet Lightning, of course, I’m also grateful for sPARKLE & bLINK
, the publication featuring each month’s readers (which they also generously offer for free on Scribd
· San Francisco Lit Community
I’m thankful that this year has introduced me to the thriving literary community
that’s such a lively part
of the Bay Area right now
. I’ve had such a great time at events like Quiet Lightning, Literary Death Match
, the Living Room Reading Series
, 14 Hills
events… I could go on, and there are plenty more I’ve yet to see as well. To say that it’s exciting to witness and participate in such a vibrant scene
hardly captures how thrilling it all is, and I can only hope for what the next year will bring as we walk through the doors that are opening for writers in and around San Francisco.
· HIV prevention
I feel like I can’t not mention my so-called “day job.” If my writing is the side of me that is the wild, unstable artist, then I guess my stable side is what has me walking the streets of the city at odd times of the night in an effort to prevent HIV. Working as a study recruiter for the AIDS Office
of the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been challenging in some ways, but it’s been a highlight of 2010 in that I’ve been a part of an extensive effort to reduce HIV infections, and for some, substance abuse, and along the way I’ve had the chance to learn about other people by connecting directly with them.
· Writing Ourselves Whole
Another that can’t go unsaid – I’ve participated in several of the incredibly transformative workshops of Writing Ourselves Whole
, and recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with the workshops’ facilitator, Jen Cross, with some of the duties that help her efforts to reach others move forward. This is another of 2010’s gifts for which I’m immensely thankful, and I look forward to connecting more with Writing Ourselves Whole in 2011.
· Graduation / Grad school
And I can’t leave out, of course, my graduation in May from the Creative Writing department of San Francisco State University
. I feel like I’ve taken a long journey
through school, so I had a whole lot to be thankful for upon reaching graduation. And now I’m looking forward to the next step, as I apply to MFA programs. Maybe I shouldn’t count this as a highlight until I actually get into grad school, but deciding to move forward with the process has been a highlight of the year for me.
Okay, so if you’re counting you’ll know that this is actually highlight #11. But I couldn’t resist adding it, because I wouldn’t have the platform to go on this rant of reflection and gratitude without this blog. I would definitely call Inkblot a highlight of 2010 because it’s been a part of my growth as a writer, it’s helped me connect with people I admire
, and it’s been one way I can share all that I’ve learned from the thrilling and critical moments of the year.
Thanks for being a part of it all with me. Have a safe night. Happy New Year!
CUAV members say no to S-Comm
Thinking more about places where our voices belong, even when they’re not always heard or recognized. Especially places where we find the intersection of our voices – where queer people, people of color, people with disabilities, youth and others who aren’t often heard are one and the same, fighting for one another and for their own rights.
These intersections came up last night, at the membership meeting I helped lead for Community United Against Violence (CUAV
). We practiced skills like active listening and speaking authentically, to speak and honor our truths and let one another be heard.
We also reported back from the “Secure” Communities
campaign, and last week’s rally for immigrant rights
. Performing at the rally was a rich experience, helping quench my thirst for pouring my words into spaces where they can be held as part of a movement. Another performer, Xago from headRush
, held it down with street performance that I was proud to follow. Also, being there as a member of CUAV, I was glad to speak up for queer and trans folks against violence.
While I know the connection may not be clear to everyone, I was a little disappointed when one of the rally’s participants approached one of CUAV’s staff people to ask, essentially, a question that would make anyone bristle: “What are you people doing here?”
Okay, so she didn’t say it in so many words, but she was asking what queer and trans folks have to do with immigrant rights. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since we’re so often dismissed and forgotten, in spite of the fact that queer people are everywhere. Queer people are immigrants too, and when poor immigration policies are hurting communities, you can imagine how much harm they cause to queer and trans people whose identities are devalued on many levels. We belong in this fight
, to speak up for ourselves and our brothers and sisters, and also to show solidarity, to show that we stand for human rights for all people, and we won’t stand for violence against any of us.
To anyone involved in any movement, I’d say don’t dismiss us or power we can bring to your fight. We’re here, and we won’t be forgotten. And I think we all know that uniting, not dividing, is the only way to reach our shared vision of justice.
In other news, I’m really wanting to put more creative work on here – poetry, fiction, videos of performances and other media. There’s only so much I can ramble on about creative arts – the work speaks for itself.
So you can look forward to that. Here’s a start, a video from Saturday’s Lit Crawl reading
. I highly recommend clicking here
for the other readings – I certainly wasn’t all there was to see.
Reading at Lit Crawl
was unbelievably inspiring. I was among some very talented people and the whole time, of course, I felt like an impostor who’d snuck her way in. While writing and storytelling belongs to everyone, the “literary world” is one that’s been dominated by straight white men. What the hell was my queer black ass
When the moment came for me to read I was anxious, began reading too soon, stumbled over the title a little and began to spit out the first line. At this point, I was sure, it was obvious that I was an impostor.
But then I looked up. And they were listening. Everyone in the room was listening. They were listening as if I belonged there, lil’ old me reading a poem about my grandma among eloquent writers with profound words. They were listening as if it didn’t make a difference whether it was my first time or my fifth time reading at Litquake, as if it didn’t matter whether this poem was from my third collection or only the second I’d ever had published. They were listening as if this was my only chance to show why I was there on that stage, and it was, and I did. I read, and they listened.
I’m extremely honored to have been included among the bunch of talented writers that read that night. Sam Sax, Tatyana Brown, Scott Lambridis, to name a few. They took my breath away, then expected me to find it again and read after they did?
Okay, so I managed, I grabbed the moment and rode it and enjoyed every minute of it, even with my legs shaking, and even feeling like I was an impostor infiltrating these accomplished writers’ space.
I’m immensely thankful that there was room for me in the space. I’m thankful for the chance to bring myself, to bring poetry about my grandmother and memories of Trinidad, pieces of my family’s history and of my identity. We belonged there, I knew. That is, me and my family, those connected by blood and by shared stories, belonged there telling our tales, and I love the chance to share my family with those who might not have heard our stories elsewhere. I feel like I brought something to the world.
This feeling is addictive. I already want more.
I'm having a busy week! I'll have to update the blog next week about everything that 's been going on. For now, today's news is this: LIT CRAWL! It's the day I've been waiting for, with absurd, over-the-top anticipation.
If you’ve never been to Lit Crawl before, let me set the stage: It’s the final night of Litquake, the 10-day festival of literary events throughout the Bay Area. That means that everyone who’s been getting their word junkie fill throughout the week comes out for a last hurrah, and everyone who’s been dragging their feet and missing it all shows up, so later they can say they didn’t miss a thing.
Because there’s so much to see here. The night crawls to life as the sun is setting in the Mission District of San Francisco. Over three phases in three hours, three hundred authors gather to share their words. And people come to hear them, filling up bars and bookstores and cafes and laundromats, and anywhere else they can fit to hear the poetry, the fiction, the memoirs, the spiritual tales and more. They come from up the street and across the Bay and across the country and from all over the world for a taste of what they’re serving in the Mission tonight. The energy shifts as the night goes on, as people get high from words and maybe a little drunk from beer, and the crowds get louder so the readers do too, and just when you think you might go dizzy if you dare to drink one more well-brewed poem, the night ends and you’re left to let it all sit in your belly until this time next year.
Okay. So I’m a little excited. I was excited this time last year too, but this is my first time reading
so that adds a whole new element. I’m trying to play it cool, though, so don’t tell anyone how giddy I am. See you out there…Your guide to Lit Crawl, brought to you by Evan Karp.
I've been working hard to earn the title of a "real" writer
. That is, I've been working to master the art of writing, and also the unavoidable art of rejection. I'd blogged before about how I've been learning to live with rejection. By now, I've learned to happily expect it. This is a good thing -- it means my hopes and dreams have been crushed so much that there's no longer anything to crush. When I start reading that letter that begins with "we're sorry your submission was not accepted..." I can't be too disappointed. I'm grateful for the experience, and I take a deep breath and move on to the next one. That's why I was surprised last week, when I opened my inbox to find that the expected rejection letter didn't seem to be a rejection letter at all. I read it over and over again, thinking maybe it was a typo,
and they accidentally spelled “rejected” like “accepted,” or if perhaps it was a joke, my submission being so bad that instead of sending me the typical rejection letter they teased me with a mock acceptance one. I looked for the part that said “just kidding!” and instead I found words like “congratulations.” I was confused.
But it turns out it wasn’t a typo, I think. It turns out they actually want me to read a poem at Quiet Lightning
, which is happening during Litcrawl
, the last night of Litquake
. And they’re publishing said poem in this zine
. It turns out not everything I submit will necessarily be rejected, which gives me a glimmer of hope I thought might never return.
This is an exciting time of year for San Franciscans. The sun’s coming out in some parts of the city, there are festivals every weekend, and book nerds everywhere can salivate over their favorite writers during Litquake. I’m incredibly thrilled to be reading, and incredibly honored, both because it takes place during Litquake and because I know Quiet Lightning features talented writers, after attending
their events before.
I’m not sure if they know what they’re getting themselves into, including me as a part of this event. But I’m really glad to be a part of it, to lend my voice where folks like me might not ordinarily be heard. That’s an important part of the process, if I want to write to make change – not just to write but to be heard.
The reading is next Saturday, October 9 (details here
, under “Litquake Lightning”). There will be a whole lot of other exciting events happening at the same time, but if you can, come see me read. I’ll be the one trembling on the stage. But then again, I suppose the whole city will be quaking.