Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Rob Davidson

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Our next author for Writer’s Voice is our very own Rob Davidson, professor of creative writing and American literature at Chico State. Rob will be reading from his newest publication Spectators: Flash Fictions (Five Oaks Press, 2017). Kirkus Reviews has praised Spectators as “A small but mighty collection of textual snapshots… Flash fiction at its best that’s definitely worth a look.” Indeed, the collection of micro wonders has been nominated for Pulitzer Prize.

Rob talks about his writing process for Spectators in The Story Prize. The collection was inspired by photography and visual art of Stephani Schaefer, Sara G. Umemoto, and Tom Patton. He started off with ekphrastic exercises, simply literary responses to artistic production before trimming each piece down. This process, as I recalled Rob saying at his first reading at Arabica Café downtown Chico, allowed him to realize what was essential. By compacting each piece to less than a page, truly, each word is important and every line shines.

This work moves from the lyrical to the narrative and to the meta, reminding us that, just like memories, we may not remember moments in their entirety. We remember only certain instances or details. Rob expertly draws out those kinds of details to ground us in familiarity, something different, and gifts us with something we had not quite noticed before. After all, “We are spectators…We exist both to observe and be observed.”

Davidson’s previous story collections are The Farther Shore (Bear Star, 2012) and Field Observations (Missouri, 2001). He is also the author of a monograph, The Master and the Dean: The Literary Criticism of Henry James and William Dean Howells (Missouri, 2005). His fiction, essays and interviews have appeared in Zyzzyva, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Indiana Review, New Delta Review, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. Davidson’s honors include a Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholar award to lecture in Taiwan (2015-2016), the Camber Press fiction award, judged by Ron Carlson, and an AWP Intro Journals Project Award in fiction.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Rob Davidson, this Thursday at 7:30 pm Colusa 100B. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

Written by Jer Xiong

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Wendy C. Ortiz

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CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present author, Wendy C. Ortiz, Thursday November 6th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A.

Recently, I picked up a copy of Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz and was unable to put it down until I reached the end. In Excavation, Ortiz narrates the years-long relationship that she had with a teacher, starting when she was 13 years old. Her memoir flips the script on how society dictates someone in her position should act. In an interview with Hector Tobar in the LA Times, Ortiz says, “I’m writing about something that people prefer to see as black and white, but I really want to expose the grays.” The grays emerge in the way that her story is told, unapologetic and never shying away from taboo. Her story is about much more than her relationship with her teacher. It is also a coming of age story about a girl who is trying to find her place in the world. The raw and at times uncomfortably honest story kept me turning each page.

Memoir often relies on a dual perspective–the voice of innocence and the voice of experience. In Ortiz’ book, she accomplished this through mining journals from those years the relationship was happening and by creating formal elements that contain the adult perspective. While reading you feel as if you are inside the mind of teenage Ortiz as she is experiencing these events and grappling with what it all means. The soundtrack to this time in her life can be heard in the background with her use of song titles and lyrics to describe her moods. The second voice comes from the present-day Ortiz as she performs an archaeological dig on her past. This is the voice of experience that questions and tries to make sense of what happened. Those moments are presented as “Notes on an Excavation.”

The upcoming issue of Watershed Review will also feature a short creative nonfiction piece from Ortiz titled “Mud Myths.” It is a unique piece that stood out from the other nonfiction pieces because it is written in the third person. Like Excavation: A Memoir, the language in this story is very lyrical. We are honored to have a piece of her work to include in our Fall issue.

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, 2014) and the forthcoming Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, spring 2015). She wrote the year-long, monthly column “On the Trail of Mary Jane” for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Rumpus, among many other places. Wendy is co-founder, curator, and host of the decade-old Rhapsodomancy Reading Series. She is a registered marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles.

Check out her website and her Tumblr to read more about her current projects.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Wendy C. Ortiz, Thursday, November 6th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100A. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

By Jill North

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Doug Rice

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CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present author, Doug Rice, Thursday, October 23rd at 7:30 pm in Langdon 300. Rice has authored more than a half dozen books including Between Appear and Disappear, Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist, A Good Cuntboy is Hard to Find, and his first novel, Blood of Mugwump that was selected by Kathy Acker as a runner-up for the FC2 First Novel Award. He has been published in numerous literary journals, anthologies, and magazines including Avant Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation, Biting the Error, Discourse, Zyzzyva, and Gargoyle.

Doug Rice earned his BA in English from Slippery Rock State College, a MA in creative writing at SUNY-Binghamton, a MA in English Literature at Duquesne University, and studied for his PhD in Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. He spent some earlier years teaching at La Roche College and Kent State University-Salem and is currently teaching Creative Writing, literary theory, and film history and theory at Sacramento State University. He is also an artist-in-residence at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany. His work has been translated into Polish, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and German.

Rice will be reading from his two recent publications, Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist and Between Appear and Disappear, as well as showing work from his book When Love Was. Though the genre distinction “memoir” is used in title and description of his more recent work, it is far from the traditional notion we are drawn to when we hear that word. These books share and explore the story through text and photograph, between narrative and poem. Threads of identity and relationship between individuals are layered upon the relationship between the author to the words on the page with consideration to the reader being an integral part of the pages, words, photos, and structure in the landscape of the physical book itself. Rice wants the reader to be aware of the importance of their interaction with what he is offering in the conjunction between story and art.

When asked about Rice’s more recent work, Professor Paul Eggers said, “He’s unlike any other writer we’ve brought to campus, in that he’s avant-garde. Though his two latest books are called “memoir,” they represent, to my mind, the farthest reaches of what you can do and still call something in the realm of memoir. His work combines narrative—I don’t think it’s possible with Doug to further classify it as fiction or nonfiction—photography and even, in the case of Dream Memoirs, incorporating a tactile element to the act of reading. I think it’s fair to say that he attempts to break down our habitual distinctions between self and other, between gendered identities, between memory and reality, and between language and the material world.”

For a peek into his handmade book, Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist, check out this video about his collaboration with Stephanie Sauer of Copilot Press.

Here he discusses his unique approach to storytelling

Please join us for an exciting evening with Doug Rice, Thursday, October 23rd at 7:30 pm in Langdon 300. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

 

By Charles Walker

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Patricia Ann McNair

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Patricia Ann McNair is the author of The Temple of Air, and will be reading from this debut collection of short stories at the upcoming Writer’s Voice reading this Thursday, March 28th at 7:30 p.m. in Colusa 110 of the California State University, Chico campus.

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Audrey Niffenegger describes The Temple of Air as “a beautiful book, intense and original.” McNair’s fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in various anthologies, literary journals, and magazines, including American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers and Superstition Review among many others. Patricia McNair’s honors include four Illinois Arts Council awards, Pushcart Prize nominations in both fiction and nonfiction, a Writer’s Grant and residency at the Vermont Studio Center, a residency at the Glen Arbor Arts Association, and a Writer-in-Residence position at Interlochen Arts Academy. She is an Associate Professor in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.

For those of you who haven’t yet read this marvelous collection, you will be quickly swept away by the unapologetic, blue-collar portraits of each character, compelling you to feel as if you live among them or as one of them. These stories remind us of the smells we wish to forget in her story “When is a Door not a Door”:

“I sat down on the couch next to Emily, scooted over as close as she would allow me to. Close enough that I could smell her, something like cooked carrots and baby powder and sweaty armpits” (52).

Or perhaps these stories remind us of the tastes we wish to never forget like biting into a big, red, shiny backyard tomato in her story “The Things That’ll Keep You Alive”:

“…he selected another from the case and wiped it against his sleeve like he was polishing an apple and bit from it in just the same way. Juice and seeds ran down his chin. He smiled through the scarlet and talked through the pulp” (125).

Patricia McNair’s writing is buoyant and beautiful. Reading and relishing it is like a gentle breeze. But don’t let the title fool you; these stories are about people, each of whom are at the heart of their own storm—a whirlwind of human weakness, tragedy, and rebirth.  Prepare to be windswept by this unforgettable collection. I hope you will join me in welcoming Patricia Ann McNair at the upcoming Writer’s Voice reading.