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Rising Women Writers, from Grand Park to Writers at Work

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Terry Wolverton | Photo: wikipedia/Creative Commons

Continuing the theme of Women's History Month, this week L.A. Letters salutes rising women writers and two events around the city featuring significant women. Considering April is National Poetry Month, the following events are the perfect segue as spring unfolds.

Terry Wolverton is one of the most active Angeleno women scribes of the last four decades. She is the author of ten books of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, most recently, "Wounded World: lyric essays about our spiritual disquiet." Wolverton is an Affiliate Faculty in the MFA Writing Program at Antioch University, Los Angeles and especially known for the creative writing studio she started, Writers at Work. Writers at Work not only holds poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction workshops, but also teaches meditation for writers and a number of practical workshops, regarding everything from survival skills to practical business practices for freelancers.

For National Poetry Month, Writers at Work will be teaming up with Skylight Books. Wolverton will be joined by four other widely published poets: Brendan Constantine, Yvonne M. Estrada, Peter J. Harris, and Lynne Thompson to produce a one-time-only event, "A Poem for You." On Sunday, April 6, 2014 between 2 to 4 p.m., recipients will be matched with one of the poets and have a chance to get a customized original poem written spontaneously just for them. The poets will compose the poem over 20 to 30 minutes while customers browse the store.

"Poem-seekers will be assigned to poets on a first-come, first-served basis," notes Wolverton, "Poem-seekers will give input, but poets will maintain their poetic license to interpret as the muse guides them." Wolverton's own career dates back to the Women's Building in the late 1970s, where she commiserated with Wanda Coleman, Eloise Klein Healy, and other esteemed Angeleno women scribes. She is currently collaborating with composer David Ornette Cherry to adapt her book "Embers" as an opera. Wolverton has mentored hundreds of writers and been an anchor in the city's literary community.

The second annual Grand Park Bookfest is happening March 29 noon to 5 p.m. This year's lineup features an all-star cast of local women scribes, as well as many of the local small presses and the city's most important literary organizations. Writer, publisher, and educator Judeth Oden Choi is one of the central organizers. After earning her MFA at NYU, she moved to Los Angeles in 2005 with her husband, poet Chiwan Choi. Together they founded Writ Large Press. Though he has been known as the more public figure, he says, "Judeth is the creative force behind Writ Large Press, the one who conceives of all our experimental and creative projects, in addition to creating the design philosophy of our books."

Beyond her own writing and editing, she is also revered for her book designing ability. Over the years she created and designed a number of zines and small literary magazines before starting her own press. Her intention with the book fair is for "a place where the people of the city, writers, and readers can experiment together to see what writing can be and what literature can continue to contribute to all of our lives."

Grand Park Bookfest last year | Waltarrrrr/Flickr/Creative Commons
Grand Park Bookfest last year | Waltarrrrr/Flickr/Creative Commons

One of the central women working with Judeth at the book fair is the young adult novelist, director, and indie rocker Cecil Castellucci. Castellucci is the author of several novels and comic books, as well as a number of musical recordings. She is curating a lineup of YA Authors and Young Adult Writers for the book fair that will include Lissa Price, Sherri L. Smith, and Sonya Sone. These writers will also vw joined by young adults from 826LA, Shakespeare Center L.A., and Get Lit. Castellucci, originally from New York, landed in L.A. about a decade ago after successful runs in Paris and Montreal. Her several books, like her latest novel "Tin Star," will be on hand as well.

Another special event at the book fair is curated by Naomi Hirahara, featuring mystery/crime/pulp writers of color from L.A. Titled, "Lament in the Night," the event is inspired by the book published by Kaya Press. Hirahara is an award-winning writer and has been active for close to 30 years as a scribe and educator. Hirahara will be joined by the great writers Desiree Zamarano, Rachel Howzell Hall, and Steph Cha. Two outstanding men crime writers will also be there, Garp Phillips and Ruben Rodriguez.

One more prominent woman writer in the city that will be participating in the book fair is Wendy Ortiz. Ortiz will be releasing two books in 2014, one with Future Tense Books and one with Writ Large Press. Her publisher Chiwan Choi says, "as a writer she is hard to pigeonhole, always writing about seemingly ordinary things in a completely unique and slightly off-angle way that others aren't doing." Ortiz writes a column for McSweeney's and is also known for hosting the celebrated reading series, Rhapsodomancy. It was a finalist for L.A. Weekly's Best Reading Series last year and has been ongoing for close to a decade. Ortiz will be working with Poesia Para La Gente to create customized poems with Jessica Ceballos and a whole slew of other excellent local writers.

Gia Scott-Heron will also be bringing her dynamic poetry to the festival. She will be participating in the "Read Beats" potion of the program. This session will include poets reading with a DJ. Gia's charismatic delivery matches her genetic pedigree. As the daughter of the late great Gil Scott-Heron, she continues her father's poetic legacy and can perform with the best of them. Currently working on both her manuscript of poems and a science fiction work, she continues to push the envelope. Her electric live readings emphasize the verisimilitude of her work.

Grand Park continues to emerge as a central meeting place for the city. The conveniently located Metro station on the eastside of the park in the shadow of City Hall makes commuting easier. Organizers of the book fair intend to honor "how the writers have helped shape the city and give it the soul that keeps it so unique."

Grand Park will be partnering with organizations like Metro, 826LA, Story Pirates, Ryman Arts, Shakespeare Center L.A., Get Lit, L.A. Zine Fest, L.A. Public Library, CAAM, Seite Books, Gatsby Books, ACE Hotel. Publishers on hand include Red Hen Press, Kaya Press, Writ Large Press, Gorsky Press, Les Figues Press, Tia Chucha Press, Zero + Publishing, DUM DUM ZINE, Bank Heavy Press, What Books, Antenna, Bombshelter Press, Rare Bird Lit, Rattling Wall, Boxcar Poetry, and many other groups. Though this is only the second annual book fair in the park, the event continues to grow.

All in all, there are many other events to note. These events at Grand Park and Skylight Books reflect the city's vibrant writing community. Next week many more events and books will be mentioned. Salute to Terry Wolverton, Writers at Work, the Grand Park Book Fair, and these outstanding women writers, they are rising queens in the topography of L.A. Letters.

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