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I was lucky enough to be sent Kim Dower’s debut publication, Air Kissing on Mars, which is a conglomeration of her early and seasoned works. Brought together, they have the effect of “growing up” with the writer for the reader. You can recognize her ability growing with each segment of the book: True Stories, People Give Me Titles, Cranky in Paradise, and How To, mini-chapbooks in one big collection (131 page in all.) At first it was difficult to see the “big” picture of the work; the four segments jump around and don’t stay still for anyone, ruminating on love, loss, and poetry (sometimes even dogs.) The book overall leans toward the domestic: family, relationships, the self, and the question of a legacy in accomplishments (offspring and otherwise.) In her verse, neuroses pop up like age spots.

Dower’s preoccupation with motherhood and its role is seen in quite a few poems like, “Different Mothers,” “Birth,” “Huge Rat in Laundry Room,” and “Cranky in Paradise.” She even prefaces the book with a dedication to her son, Max. Maternal attitudes that start to emerge in these works are more prevalent in her new book, Slice of Moon. In my opinion, by the time she wrote the content for People Give Me Titles is when she starts to become more preoccupied with the symbol of the feminine moon and matrisocial intricacies of daughter to mother that is fleshed out in Slice of Moon. “Different Mothers” ponders urban motherhood and the many forms motherhood poses in the face of a popular, ‘Earth Mother’ nurturing role. This is where she rejects the pastoral identity of mothers teaching idyllic, unnecessary skills in favor of supporting a child who “can look anyone in the eye, tell them/ what he’s thinking.” “Birth,” however, concerns itself with keeping the child close to the mother to the point of reversing the birth, to keep the infant indefinitely within the mother: “She tries to picture life/ after birth, after they take him/from her body.” Dower views the child as a possession, still a part of the female body. In “Huge Rat,” this is reversed when the speaker’s son has become almost a mature adult, yet the speaker equates her child to an invasive pest, something distant and foreign to her. Yet it is “Cranky in Paradise” that is the jewel of these mother-centric poems. Dower’s speaker goes back to the birthing event, interpreting it with a foggy bliss like that of drugs, who “closes her eyes deep breath scent of seaweed/ she’s fading now counts backwards like when/ they took her tonsils out or when they took her/ baby out … / paradise was nothing more than being alive.”

There is a “tender flavor” that smacks of Los Angeles in her poetry as well. The westside vibe infiltrates her poems like, “They took the mailbox away,” “Different Mothers,” and “The things I do in my car,” by geographical markers (“my traveling L.A. secret circus” to “on Cahuenga and Clinton.”) She uses her location like an identity, integrating it into the self that she curiously ponders over. These hints are peppered throughout True Stories and People Give Me Titles, and by the time she enters Cranky in Paradise, Los Angeles (and to a lesser extent, New York City) have faded into the background of the poems, no longer needed to be explicitly stated within the verse.

I personally think that the book should have been called “Cranky in Paradise” given the wealth of utopian-gone-wrong material she works with. Dower’s speaker is a modern Eve-figure in a paradisiacal world of glittering lights and organic smoothies. Despite this, she is grumbling, unsatisfied, but the why is never quite figured out. She is the type of madwoman who spits on her smartphone while dialing for delivery, daring for a social rupture to lead to some dangerous action. I found that this collection has much in it, more than what I can describe in a review. To truly experience the wealth of topics Dower touches on, her book is available for purchase either through Red Hen Press or Amazon. You can find out more about Kim Dower at her website: www.kimdowerpoet.com

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The quarter is almost over. To be able to say that is an achievement in itself.

I’m at a social for ALDPES, an honors society on campus. We were supposed to have a bonfire at Dockweiler, but at the mention of possible rain we opted for the comfort of the indoors. The lights are off in the Rieber Vista TV room and my friend’s laptop displays a crackling fireplace—our own makeshift bonfire.

Currently, I’m sandwiched between my friends on the couch, writing this while simultaneously smashing two more s’mores into my mouth. They’re watching a horror movie, Devil, which is about a bunch of sinners trapped in a broken elevator with the devil. I’m barely paying attention to it; it’s just a series of butt jokes and tight spaces.

And yet, my friends quiver in fear all around me, turning the couch into upholstered jelly with every gasp and jump. To be honest, I’m writing to distract myself: I’m afraid that if I give into the movie, I’ll actually end up scared, too.

Originally, I had thought the dark room, the s’mores, and the horror movie would be conducive to my creativity. It started off as a well-lit TV room with the scent of chocolate, sprinkled with the bodies of my exhausted friends. Now, it’s a tiny, dark, and claustrophobic pit; and someone has just jumped up from their seat, wailing and flailing. I sneak peeks of the screen. It’s a dangerous sort of curiosity—to watch a movie that is going to give me nightmares.

I’ve come to the conclusion that tonight’s not a night for being creative. It’s a night for winding down on a quivering sofa, next to my screaming friends and wailing acquaintances. There may not be a real crackling fire or storytelling circle, but there are Netflix and HDMI cables. Though this night is full of great material—such as that guy who just head-butted me in a fit of terror—the writing can wait.

If I’m going to write properly about fear, I should probably pay attention to what I’m scared of. Experience it now and sit down at a slightly less comfortable desk to write about it later. For me, writing is something that should be done in solitude, in the middle of the night, all the while keeping an ear to any suspicious screams in the distance. Writing is imagining a flying elevator or storm brewing somewhere over the ocean, while frowning over a cup of a forgotten cold cup of coffee at 1 am. It’s uncomfortable and invigorating. While I may not have enjoyed the movie, I love remembering it and writing about it, feeling the fabric of the quivering sofa underneath my fingers as I type away.

Fear isn’t the nicest emotion to spend time with. It isn’t comfortable or safe. It’s a series of probabilities turned real. Want another example? It’s a room where the lightbulbs never turn on. If you’re afraid of the dark.

Elevators exist, so why can’t the next elevator break? After all, I’ve been stuck in an elevator before. I was eight at the time and leaving a singing lesson. I waved goodbye at another kid, whose name I can’t remember, before I noticed the elevator’s lack of movement after the doors had closed. No paranormal activity was involved, but it still was terrifying. Now, though? Fear is the terrifying exception in normality. The next step could take me into a faulty elevator. It lurks in places I dare not clean out. Noticing a stray spider roaming from a distance is manageable. Trudging all the way over there and plunging into fear is not.

Living inside fear is a fragmented static screech. It’s fragmented because it strips away most other feelings. Hungry for some sushi before the elevator door close before you? Too bad. It’s pried away and cast into an endless pit of nausea. Though the bonfire is a faux bonfire and though the movie is a faux reality, they feel real enough. It’s all fake, but it’s all incredibly real. I need to be honest in my writing, but to get to that, I have to be honest with myself. The terror of putting thoughts down is enough to keep me solidified in my seat.

Yet, when I read something honest about fear, I don’t feel afraid. I feel calm that someone is just as terrified as me. They’ve felt their fear. Maybe they haven’t gotten past it, but they’ve allowed themselves to know that it was real. Making puns and jokes at M. Night Shyamalan’s expense is all well and good, but I need to focus. Otherwise, I’d be writing down pages of impermanent phases of what I felt. Fear because someone else screamed, not because I actually knew what was going on. Experience now, write later.

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When I read a piece of literature, I am almost always conscious of whether it has been designated fiction or non-fiction. I have already added the first shade of dye to a glass of water whose color will come to symbolize my perception of the work.

I differentiate these modes of literary production in much the same way a dictionary would: fiction encompasses those narratives which come chiefly from the imagination, while non-fiction encompasses writing which adheres to fact. Yet I find the real difference lies in each genre’s function. To me fiction and non-fiction are associated with the inward and the outward, with respective urges toward reflection and discovery.

Despite this fundamental difference, the two are interlinked. Imagined stories have no choice but to come out of the real stories which surround us, and real stories have no choice but to be influenced by our imaginations.

What motivates some writers to choose one category over the other? I see writing fiction as a sort of meditation on reality. Without true fascination and engagement with the actual happenings that surround us, fiction might lose its purpose. For me the relationship between non-fiction and fiction has begun to evolve into something like that between waking and sleeping: they are dependent on one another, yet there is dominance of the former: my being seems now to lean more toward what is dynamic, what is yet to be unveiled, what is out there.

Though I have done very little writing, having only recently become interested in it as a vocation, it is beginning to reflect this perceived dominance. My interest in pure fiction is still very much alive, but more and more I am writing essayistic passages in which I explore issues I see coming up in my day-to-day life. This practice is now extending into a desire to research and write of other people’s lives, to write journalism. Perhaps one day I will settle into an idiosyncratic oeuvre of sorts, but for now I am in the lab, testing proclivities.

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(From left to right): Chiwan Choi, Judeth Oden Choi, Jessica Cabellos, and Peter Wood Source: writlargepress.com

 

Just last week, Chiwan Choi and Jessica Ceballos of Writ Large Press swung by our Westwind staff meeting to discuss the realities of writing and getting published in Los Angeles. Founded in 2007, Writ Large Press is a small press that, like Westwind, publishes exclusively LA residents. They have a total of eight books under their belt, one of which is on pre-order right now.

Both Chiwan and his co-founding partner, Judith Oden Choi, went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Together, they first created the literary journal, Wednesday. They went into the project thinking, “Let’s aim to fail in two years.” This carefree mindset allowed the two editors to do whatever they wanted and take creative liberties.

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Source: writlargepress.com

Through their short-lived, 6-issue experience with Wednesday, they learned how to build a successful team. With this knowledge, Chiwan and Judith co-founded Writ Large Press, later adding Peter Woods and Jessica Ceballos. Though they have, by now, a wealth of experience, the literature and culture in the city is in itself ever-evolving, prompting the team every year to ask themselves, “Who are we, and what do we stand for?” As a result, they are constantly in the process of redefining their mission.

During their discussion with Westwind, both Chiwan and Jessica addressed the challenges of writing and publishing outside of New York. Although LA is a literary metropolis in its own right, it lacks many of the resources available on the east coast. Chiwan said that it is much more difficult to promote the press in such a large, sprawling city, especially one so far from the Big Apple, the U.S.’s capitol of publishing. Our visitors both agreed that their greatest challenges come down to money. “In L.A.,” Chiwan joked, “we’re all fighting for a piece of zero pie.”

As a group of aspiring writers ourselves, we asked Chiwan and Jessica about their own writing. In response, Chiwan and Jessica said that, as professional editors, they actually have very little time to read and write for pleasure. Chiwan said that by the time he gets home after work, he’s so tired of reading that he just doesn’t do much of it anymore. Jessica added, “It’s horrible… I’m trying to work on it.”

When asked about what they like to see in a manuscript, Jessica answered, “Something that’s unique.” It seems simple, but when put into practice, it’s much more difficult. Chiwan elaborated, explaining that he sees editors as “tastemakers”: editors suggest to the audience what to try, and that often means introducing them to new, “unique” tastes and textures.

To get acquainted with these unique tastes and textures, visit Writ Large Press at their website and view their selection of books.

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Source: parisphoto.com

 

The first Saturday of May always seems to be eventful. It is a day where people have bid adieu to their April Showers and are ready to bloom into their own May flowers (or something–probably not). In 2015, on a day when America’s focus was largely dominated by The Kentucky Derby, the new ‘Fight of the Century,’ and a thrilling Game 7, featuring Los Angeles’s own Clippers, the annual celebration of the year’s most celebrated works of photography quietly took place as well.

Every year, Los Angeles’s Paramount Studios hosts the U.S. Paris Photo, one of the world’s most distinguished photography fairs. I had the fortune of being invited by a friend (who had been invited by Janda Wetherington).

The galleries are actually set up and curated within the New York City backlot set, which virtually serves as a museum itself. As both New York native and film enthusiast, this was an eerie but utopic setting for me. The sets were surprisingly accurate simulations of urban New York. The detailed delis, bodegas, and brownstone apartment complexes did a solid job of capturing the hustle and bustle of the city in the summertime. This walk-through exhibition successfully enhanced the overall experience without taking anything away from the exceptional work within the galleries.

Over 80 leading galleries and dealers from 17 different countries world-wide showcased works at this year’s Paris Photo Los Angeles. Famous art dealers, artists, celebrities (including Judd Apatow, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Drew Barrymore), coexisted with relative foreigners to the art world and more pedestrian fans of photography like myself to appreciate one of the most powerful and ubiquitous mediums in the image-based culture of our shared present.

Among the works which stood out most to me were those of the Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Hassan Hajjaj of the Gusford Gallery, and the Taschen Gallery (which exhibited some crazy pictures of the Rolling Stones). All of the exhibitors can be found on the Paris Photo Los Angeles website right here.

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Source: parisphoto.com

 

I really don’t believe that the sports world and the art world need to be so opposed and so separated. On this fateful last first Saturday of May of 2015, I was able to fully enjoy both ends of this cultural spectrum. Perhaps that separation is due to the undeniably exclusive nature of the art world. Events like Paris Photo are for the “cultural elite.” Thanks to my Mom (who is the head of public programs at the Guggenheim–if you’re ever in NY hit me/her up for passes!), I have been to many art fairs, art walks, and art openings, and have always observed the shallowness and superficiality of many of the people who attend such events. They tend to be more about the networking opportunities than the art itself. maybe a bit of an offensive overstatement, I would reword (- Natalie) However, that actually wasn’t the case at Paris Photo. Regardless of whether that was because it was such a special event or because the photography was just that impressive or any number of other reasons, it was refreshing to see people actually observing and discussing the art instead of complimenting each other’s fedoras. The art world may feel exotic and intimidating but you should not let that scare you away. If you get invited to a photo fair, an opening, a premiere, or even if you don’t (which I’m not saying is more likely!), Los Angeles is home to a thriving, diverse art scene that you deserve to be a part of if you are reading this.

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Source: luisjrodriguez.com

 

On Monday, May 18th Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez joined Westwind, UCLA’s literary journal, at the Powell Rotunda for a reading of his work. Joining him on stage was his wife Trini, a poet, and his son Ruben, a fouth-year at UCLA and co-prose editor of Westwind.

Although Rodriguez began his writing career as a poet, he has written in many other genres, including journalism, memoir, fiction, and literary criticism to name a few. He is recognized as a major figure in contemporary Chicano literature. Rodriguez’s best-known work is Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., which received much literary recognition, including the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Rodriguez as the poet laureate of Los Angeles in October of 2014; Rodriguez will serve a two-year term as official ambassador of L.A.’s vibrant culture, promoting the city’s rich literary community and celebrating the written word.

Since his appointment, Rodriguez has been traversing the city to conduct readings at venues like the Hammer Museum, where he read a poem in Nahuatl (the Aztec language,), the Grand Park Book Fest, the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and The Big Read. He has also read poems in front of the Los Angeles City Council twice, conducted writing workshops with youth for Urban Word, read a poem by Henry Dumas in acknowledgement of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and in Leimert Park commemorated the legacy of the unofficial poet laureate Wanda Coleman, who recently passed away.

Right now, Rodriguez is calling out to Los Angeles poets to submit to an anthology that he is publishing through Tia Chucha Press next year. The deadline is July 2015. Ten poems are requested from each poet, from which Rodriguez will pick one or two for publication. The submission email is TCPress@tiachuha.org

To complement the reading hosted at UCLA, we at Westwind asked Rodriguez to answer some questions about his work as a poet, journalist, social activist, and publisher.

W: Thank you very much for joining Westwind for a reading of your work. It’s even more special because your wife Trini Rodriguez and your son Ruben will be reading their work as well. Have you read your work together as a family before?

 R: This is special. Of course, we’ve done similar things as a family—for example, I did a keynote talk at Ruben’s high school graduation where he also played guitar. My son Ramiro and I have read in Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. And Trini and I have read together before, in particular a couples’ Valentine’s Day reading at the Malibu Poetry Reading Series. But this is a first for us three—I’m moved by this opportunity to share with my wife and son. Everyone in my immediate family are powerful writers. This may seem odd, but they learn being around me how vital it is to have language, to know one’s story, to express powerfully with pen and heart.

W: Talk about your background. How did your experiences shape your outlook on the world? How did it shape your writing?

R: My best-selling memoir, Always Running, covers a period in my teen life when I was in gangs, on heavy drugs, including heroin, and in and out of jails. A circle was completed when Mayor Garcetti presented me as poet laureate in the Central Library. This was the very library I used as a refuge when I was briefly homeless in downtown LA at 15. I finally left the “Crazy Life” by age twenty, holding my first son in my arms, helped by mentors, teachers, and a cause.

All these experiences—including getting politically active; working in a steel mill, foundry, paper mill, chemical refinery, and in construction; having kids; becoming a journalist and poet; working with gang and other troubled youth in the U.S. and other countries; the healing work I do with Native American spiritual practices—informs all my writing.

W: Can you please talk about your work as a journalist?

R: I became a journalist at age 25, first as a writer/photographer for weekly newspapers in East LA, covering murders, mudslides, and car accidents (although I also had a boxing column). I then worked as a daily crime-and-disaster reporter for the San Bernardino Sun when that city had the second-highest murder rate in the country. As a freelancer, I covered uprisings in Mexico, the Contra War in Nicaragua and Honduras, labor battles, as well as the trials and tribulations of Mexican and other Latino immigrants. One piece I did on the plight of the undocumented for the LA Weekly won a Western State’s Journalism award in the early 1980s.

I’ve also written extensively about gang life and solutions, including from all over the U.S, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In Chicago, I also worked as editor of a weekly political newspaper—which took me around the country covering many fronts of struggle for social justice, against poverty, immigrant rights.

W: You’ve also done extensive activism around literacy awareness in prisons. Did you conduct writing classes, workshops? What were those experiences like?

R: I began doing prison workshops in Chino Prison in 1980, mentored by the leading Chicano poet doing this work at the time, Manuel “Manazar” Gamboa (who was also an ex-prisoner and ex-heroin addict). I’ve been doing these ever since, speaking and reading in San Quentin, Soledad, Folsom, Lancaster, as well as prisons, homeless shelters, migrant camps, Native American reservations, and juvenile facilities around the country. In addition, I’ve visited prisons in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, and England. I generally tell my story, read poetry, and talk about going from trauma to transformation. My workshops are healing circles mostly, but include writing as healing and renewal. Almost always, the prisoners and wards are attentive, respectful and full of poetry.

The only time things got rough was at an Arizona youth facility that rioted soon after my talk (although this had nothing to do with me—tensions had been shimmering for a long time among the Chicano and Native youth wards). I was pepper sprayed that time as guards tried to subdue the inmates and bring back order.

But again, my prison experiences have been the best, even in terrible inhumane prisons in places like El Salvador or Mexico.

W: Talk about Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, and the press you run under the same name. Why did you open this organization? What kind of work do you publish?

R: I began Tia Chucha Press in Chicago in 1989 to publish my first book, “Poems across the Pavement.” A mixed Native American/white artist named Jane Brunette designed the book when we both worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s publishing wing. The book did so well that others came to me to publish their works. Then I also solicited manuscripts of poets I loved—and I’ve been doing this ever since. For more than 25 years now—and Jane has been my only designer.

When Trini, my two youngest boys, and I moved back to LA in 2000 (my oldest son was in prison, and my daughter and her child eventually joined us later). We moved to the northeast San Fernando Valley, the mostly Mexican and Central American section of the Valley where Trini grew up. Unfortunately, the northeast Valley had become culturally barren. A year later, we took out mortgages, credit cards, and royalties from sales of Always Running to create Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center & Bookstore—the only bookstore, art gallery, and decent performance space for 500,000 people. We’ve now been in existence 15 years. For the past 10 years I’ve not had to put my own money in there, although both Trini—who is Interim Executive Director—and myself have never been paid for creating and sustaining this center. It’s our gift to community.

W: Based on your experience, what are some of the challenges in getting published today? Do writers of color face experience additional challenges when it comes to publishing their work? What are some of the challenges publishing as a Latino publisher? What do you look for as a publisher?

R: Writers of color have only recently been recognized, beginning in the 1960s. Yet, despite many wonderful Chicano, Puerto Rican, African American, Native American, and Asian writers, we are still highly marginalized in the publishing world. Tia Chucha Press is now known as one of the leading cross-cultural small presses. But it is hard to compete in a world with corporate publishing houses controlling the market and most distribution and also during the developing shift to digital books. But I still edit and publish books—I believe in the printed book. I believe in the new voices often not wanted by others. This is a business, of course; the bottom line’s important. But we do this for the love of literature, compelling writing, the unheard voices. Yes, many good literature and poetry gets published in the general trade, but for the most part it’s about the blockbusters and popular fare.

Personally, I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful publishers for my books such as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Seven Stories, Lee & Low, Curbstone, and Open Road Integrated Media. But this is not true for the vast majority of writers of color. It’s a struggle even though people of color have become a quarter of the U.S. population. By 2050 it’s estimated the majority of the population will be from communities of color. As everyone is saying now, we need more diversity in books as well as movies, TV, radio, the Internet, all media. That’s an area I plan to keep remedying as long as I can.

W: What has your experience been in getting published with large publishing houses? What are the advantages about getting a small press to publish your work?

R: The larger publishers have the distribution power. My books with major publishing houses can appear most everywhere. In Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, airports, Staples Stores, and more. Also whatever major media writers can get, it’s usually because of the big publishers and their marketing budgets. You generally need an agent to represent you with these publishers—one that knows the market but also the individual editors.

Although book tours in cities with media appointments are mostly not budgeted for anymore—except for blockbusters—I have made a living reading everywhere: universities, colleges, conference, libraries, schools, even bookstores, as much as I can. My books therefore are constantly being promoted. It’s a natural part of the “hustle” required to be an independent sole proprietor as a writer/lecturer/reader.

As for small presses, you don’t need an agent. You can send to various publishers, especially if you’ve done the homework. There are Literary Marketplace reference books (often in the various genres) you should consult. There are magazines and conferences you should turn to. Once a small publisher shows interest in your work, they also put their heart and soul behind each book. For example, Tia Chucha Press only does two books a year, but we design them beautifully and individually (although there is a Tia Chucha Press “look” that we’ve acquired over the years). We have a distributor among one of the most prestigious university presses, Northwestern University out of Chicago. Small presses don’t sell anywhere near as many books as the big publishers. But each sell is organized for, fought for, and valued.

There are other ways to go—self-publishing, print-on-demand, vanity presses, etc. All can be legitimate. But for me, even with less percentage of each book price for royalties, it’s best to get a long-standing and hardworking publisher behind my books.

W: What advice would you give young writers trying to find their voice and then getting their work out there?

R: The first and most important advice is: “don’t give up.” There is no surefire path to publishing, but you can pretty much make this a plausible fait accompli by getting the writing skills—compelling, powerful, unique (don’t write like anyone else) in the genre or genres you are passionate about. This requires adequate schooling but also ongoing self-study.

Next read many books, all the time, even books you don’t like (figure out why you don’t like them).

Third is write all the time. It’s an artistic practice. Any sportsperson, painter, musician, mechanic… what have you… get better the more they do their craft. Same with writing. Experiment perhaps. Try different forms. Discover new ones.

Writing like any art is an inexhaustible power once you’ve reached deep and draw from your own internal creative reservoir.

W: How important is it for writers to know how the publishing industry works?

R: It’s important to know the ins and outs of any professional field you’re interested in. Writing is a rigorous and demanding career. It’s highly competitive and hard to negotiate. Knowing the markets, the publishing houses, what they publish and don’t (so you don’t waste time sending manuscripts to people who don’t publish what you write), and aspects like agents, contracts, and copyright laws are all necessary. You can go to professional bodies like the Associated Writing and Writing Programs conferences every year (they also have a magazine with jobs listing, writing tips, interviews, and teaching positions in Masters in Fine Arts programs in writing).

I have a lecture agency, a literary agent, and a Hollywood lawyer to help me with all this. They are paid by the work I do, and so far I’ve made a decent living, although it’s a year-by-year proposition (some years are better than others).

The main thing again is your writing. Concentrate on that and then let the world revolve around this. Make time for your art.

Searching for a chance to break out of the campus bubble and find some cultural stimulation? Look no farther than UCLA’s own backyard. The Hammer Museum offers frequent public engagement programs, focusing on the arts and cultural issues, and often supplementing the museum’s current exhibits. Admission and public programs are all 100% free!

ART programs include weekly Lunchtime Art Talks and biweekly guided Exhibition Tours. Tours are led by Hammer student educators and include Art in Conversation tours, using conversation to compare two works of art.


LITERATURE & POETRY programs include Libros Schmibros Book Club meetings and a series of readings from prestigious authors around the country. Recent readings have featured JD McClatchy, Michael Waters, V. Penelope Pelizzon and a celebratory reading of Alice Munro. Coming up in June, the series will host a group of award winning UCLA student poets for a group reading, including Westwind’s very own Tina Lawson.

FILM programs include series of screenings related to current exhibit topics and, a personal favorite, the quarterly Open Projector Night. On Open Projector Night, short film submissions (of all genres) are accepted until the start of the event. Subsequently, each film is screened for two minutes, at which point the audience votes on whether or not to finish watching the film by cheering or booing. The event is emceed by a pair of brother comedians, and always holds the promise of a riotous evening.

Other frequent programs include concerts, performances, lectures, and family activities. Additionally, The Hammer Student Association puts on a series of mixers and parties to encourage student engagement with the arts, and the museum hosts a popular drop-in guided meditation every Thursday afternoon.

The programs are always memorable and definitely worth stopping by. Check out the full calendar of events here.

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Source: storycorps.org

 

I recently discovered an amazing app called StoryCorps, which is designed to assist you in interviewing others.  I’m not talking about your white-collar job interrogations;  rather, I’m talking about personal interviews between you and those closest to you. A personal interview differentiates itself from any other form of biography, such as the written word or even a movie, because of the simplicity of its nature. In a personal interview, you are holding a conversation with a friend–except you can ask questions that you wouldn’t usually ask. These interviews are unique because they are built off of and upon relationships, which is apparent when you listen to them.

StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization that built an easily functional app in order to help you with this whole interviewing process. Their goal is “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We [the organization] do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.”

While it may be terrifying to sit down and ask your mom what her hardest moments were while raising you, or asking your grandfather what one of his biggest regrets are, you may discover some fascinating stories about them that you have never known. If you don’t know where to start, try going on their website and listen to a few of the interviews that are posted. You’ll be amazed at hearing the raw emotions from every person, from the pure joy of people being accepted after coming out in the 1950s, to the shame and frustration of army veterans not being able to cope after returning from war. Whether you want to get to know your friend a little bit be tter, or whether you just want to listen to a good story, interview a friend and be a part of preserving the stories of our lives.

Since joining the Westwind staff, back in fall, I have paid little mind to the many volumes of this journal that came before my time. Thankfully, someone gave me an idea to go to the English Reading room to peruse through past Westwind content. I grabbed volumes from 1977, 1985-86, 2001, and 2013. The latest issue was the only one that I was familiar with, but I did not expect the treasure trove that awaited me in the older volumes.
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1977 held a long-forgotten part of creative writing called “Theatre Arts,” featuring a triple act of three plays spread throughout the collection. In 1986, a member of the Westwind staff interviewed the famous poet Allen Ginsberg, who gives the advice “notice your mind” to young artists (30). An issue from 2001 showcased academic essays that dove into topics like arguing the effects of postmodernism, something we still think about today.
Not just the content, but the covers themselves also catch your eye. Some of my favorites are the ’85-’86 ink smear in our Westwind title, and a clever personal ad spoof on the back of ’01’s journal.
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Each decade or so held something new, something exciting for me to uncover as I flipped through the pages. Yet, when I reach our 2013 issue, next to plays, interviews, and essays, all that I’m left with is “Poetry, Prose, and Art.” Though we still provide quality content to our readers, we should look back at what past staff members have put and see how we can use them right now. And I think we have already taken steps to review past concepts and are going to put them into practice. The next issue will hold musical scores like previous journals have done so, only this time we are going to provide QR codes that lead hearing this music and learning to play along. By taking a look into our past, Westwind can provide a brighter present to our readers.


A few weeks ago, I attended the Los Angeles Festival of Books, an event of pure bliss for all bibliophiles. I rummaged through many slanted shelves and boxes, finding literature from all over the world; most notably, I encountered several Scandinavian authors. Norway, Sweden, Norway again. I would repeatedly pull a random book from a pile, look at the author — Scandinavian. The abundance of Scandinavian books at the festival amused me, as all were tempting me to purchase them (unfortunately, I could not buy them all).

Lately, Northern European writers like Fredrik Backman, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Jostein Gaarder have intrigued me. A Man Called Ove, Backman’s debut novel, balances a somber mood with moments of optimism and comedy. Backman’s prose is clean, simple, and clear. Knausgård’s stream of consciousness draws me into his stories, as though I were reading thoughts of my own life. Gaarder presents the history of philosophy through narratives, avoiding an overly didactic tone.   

While perusing through the exorbitant amount of Norwegian and Swedish writers comprising Scandinavian literature, I noticed a lack of Danish authors (After all, Denmark is part of Scandinavia, too!) For this reason, I dedicate this post to Helle Helle, a popular and critically-acclaimed fiction writer and recipient of the Golden Laurel literary prize . Although Helle is relatively unknown internationally, she is beloved in her country for her quiet, minimalist style. This Should Be Written in the Present Tense, her eighth book, was the first of hers to be translated into English.  This novel reflects the melancholic cadence that Helle Helle has mastered. She explores emptiness — full of passivity and apathy — through a narrator who is devoid of emotion and aspires to be a writer. With staccato sentences, Helle’s style is strange yet interesting. Worth a read? Absolutely!
This Should Be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle
You can check out Helle Helle at her website.

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