Last week I covered five celebrated L.A. women writers in honor of Women's History Month. This week L.A. Letters spotlights five emerging women authors who are doing important work in our contemporary scene. The following writers both publish frequently and remain very active in the community. These writers all use their work in the public through a variety of mediums, whether it is teaching, social work, or leading a city tour. These writers are not only outstanding with the quality of their own work, they also give back.
E. Amato's new book, "Will Travel" is hot off the presses. The Santa Monica-based poet, producer, and screenwriter has spent considerable time over the last few years in London, New York, and southern Europe. While in London she helped produce Saria Idana's one-woman show, "Homeless in Homeland." The epigraph for Amato's book is taken from Idana, which reads, "I am home everywhere and never home." The poems in her new book were all written between 2008 and 2012 while she was nomading. She explains, "I gave up my place here in 2008 and headed to Edinburgh, then London. I've spent a lot of time in the UK since then, crossed the country a couple of times, and also was lucky enough to go to Morocco." The poems are not so much a travelogue, but they offer vivid observations, humorous encounters and a window into her explorations.
In addition to her own writing, Amato stays busy editing other writers, helping many scribes with their books, bios, and press packages. For many years she hosted a popular open mic in Ocean Park called "Down Home," and she was known for giving many young poets their first feature. Over the last few years she has written a series called "Women You Should Know," that spotlights fellow female movers and shakers like herself. She also has written what she calls a "practivist" series, which features profiles on proactive, pragmatic, and promotable activism. In April she is starting a new series of essays on Disability, Ableism, and Creativity. "Will Travel' is her third book of poems and she will be doing a series of readings to promote the book during April, National Poetry Month.
Kim Cooper's new book "The Kept Girl" was released in early 2014. Cooper is known for her work with the 1947 Project crime blog and Esotouric's popular bus tours. "The Kept Girl" is her first novel. Set in 1929, the work of fiction is inspired by actual events and very much has the feel of Roaring Twenties Los Angeles throughout the work. As a longtime Angeleno historian and tour guide, Cooper has special insight into the history of crime in our city. She explains more in her introduction: "The story you are about to read is fiction, but nearly every person, place and incident described is real. There actually was a cult of angel worshippers in 1920s Los Angeles, who squeezed a rich man's nephew dry while promising him access to wealth unimagined."
Cooper used period newspapers, court pleadings, period maps, old photographs, and even a rare self-published memoir she found of a 1920s Los Angeles detective. A close friend gave her the rare manuscript of Thomas H. James, who Cooper writes was, "a very likely model for Raymond Chandler's white knight detective Philip Marlowe." Cooper's new book is first book from Esotouric Ink, the new imprint she is starting with her husband Richard Schave. The book began with serial online installments and was debuted a few weeks ago at Skylight Books. For those curious about the city's mysterious criminal past, Cooper's novel is an excellent starting point.
Ashaki Jackson, a poet, applied psychologist, and youth advocate, stays busy with writing fellowships and working with a variety of programs mentoring young writers. Originally from the South, Jackson has been in Southern California two decades now. Over the years she has worked and volunteered for a number of nonprofit agencies like WriteGirl, a Los Angeles-based mentoring organization in which professional women writers are partnered with teen girls. Aside from WriteGirl, who Jackson was with for nearly a decade, she has also worked with Inside Out Writers and the nonprofit, "Girls and Gangs."
Jackson earned her Ph. D at Claremont Graduate University in 2009. During her time in graduate school she was also publishing her poetry and mentoring youth. Jackson's writing pedigree has earned her writing fellowship at Idyllwild as well as Cave Canem, the prestigious African American writing community famous for their rigorous summer workshop and other assorted events. Established in 1996, their "Fellows" are selected through a competitive application process. Once chosen they generate new poems every day that are work-shopped by the most esteemed poets in the Black Diaspora, like Yusef Komunyakaa, Natasha Trethewey, Patricia Smith, Chris Abani, Claudia Rankine, Terrance Hayes and Douglas Kearney among others. Cave Canem is the model for subsequent writing communities CantoMundo for the Latina and Chicana communities, and Kundiman serving the Asian communities. Jackson recently read with other Cave Canem poets, Douglas Kearney and Kima Jones, at a February event in Downtown L.A. She is also a longtime member of the VONA Voices community based in California's Bay Area and she is finishing her next manuscript of poems.
Iris de Anda is an emerging poet, activist and practitioner of the healing arts based on the Eastside. After attending UC Santa Cruz, de Anda returned home to Los Angele and dove headfirst into the poetry scene. She's collaborated most recently with Jessica Ceballos and Abel Salas for a number of events, including the Luis Rodriguez Poetry Locomotive. Her new book, "Codeswitch: Fires From Mi Corazon," will be premiering at the Vex in El Sereno on April 4. De Anda has been instrumental in building the Eastside poetry scene and she has emerged as a leader hosting her own frequent poetry event, "The Writers Underground Open Mic" at the Eastside Café on Huntington.
Poet and Professor Nicky Schildkraut published her first book of poems with Kaya Press in early 2013. After earning her Ph.D at USC a few years ago, she's taught at USC, University of Laverne and a few other local schools. She's currently teaching and editing a collection of autobiographical, critical essays from the perspectives of transracial adoptees, adoptive parents, and biological parents. As an adopted Korean-American that has not met her birth parents, she is personally connected to this issue. She says, "It is part of my larger interest to highlight the different perspectives that revolve around issues of racial difference, notions of belonging and evolving kinship that are often difficult subjects to talk about, but which are immensely important in those affected by adoption. There hasn't been a collection of the triad of voices yet, and I'm hoping that it will be a helpful resource to show the complications involved."
Schildkraut is also finishing her next collection of poems, "Until Qualified for Pearl," after a line by Emily Dickinson. Her first book focused on the Korean diaspora, whereas this next volume is more playful and experimental "with a series of poems that explore the subject of contrition and forgiveness -- what it means to try to forgive the unforgivable acts of violence as it happens around us." Merging the personal and political, the poems were also inspired by Asian films and documentaries. Schildkraut also played an instrumental part in the recent twitter hashtag campaign for better work conditions for Adjunct Professors, "Not your adjunct sidekick."
Last year I covered other similarly active women like Rachel Kann, Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Ruth Nolan, and Vickie Vertiz. There are countless others to document; if anyone reading this is inspired to celebrate other women writers, it is a more than a worthy cause. There can never be enough praise or attention to these scribes and community builders. Salute to E. Amato, Kim Cooper, Iris de Anda, Ashaki Jackson and Nicky Schilkraut, these writers are emerging queens of L.A. Letters.