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18th Annual Literary Arts Festival


Why Literature Matters

APRIL 28 • 11 AM • Griffin Gate


"Why Literature Matters" argues the relevance of literature and its potential to inspire change, cultivate humanity, and serve us in, both, personal and global ways.  This popular panel discussion is designed for anyone who reads, studies or teaches literature—the perfect primer for our week of literary arts, and ideal for entire classes!  Panelists include English Professor Micah Jendian; History Professor and Academic Senate President, Dr. Sue Gonda; Russian novelist, Maria Rybakova; and Grossmont College English/Creative Writing major, Felicia Williams.  (See below for more info.)

History professor SUE GONDA specializes in the role of women in early and modern American history.  Gonda is the recipient of the Grossmont College "President's Leadership Award" and is currently serving as Academic Senate President.

MICAH JENDIAN is Professor of English at Grossmont College and Co-Coordinator of Professional Development. He has also served on the English Council of California Two-Year Colleges.  Jendian has published and presented extensively at conferences on the life and writing of American Armenian author William Saroyan.

San Diego State University Humanities Professor MARIA RYBAKOVA was born in Russia and lived in Germany and the US.  Granddaughter of Russian writer Anatoly Rybakov, Rybakova is the author of three novels, one novel-in-verse, and a collection of short stories. She has received literary awards in both prose and poetry categories in her native Russia, and has been nominated for the international Jan Michalski award. Her books are translated into German, Spanish and French.

La Mesa poet and student FELICIA WILLIAMS is completing a degree in English and Creative Writing at Grossmont College.  She is published in The Far East: Everything Just as It Is, Acorn Review, and others.


Callaway Presents "Comic Books: Evolution & Appreciation"

APRIL 28 • 2 PM • Griffin Gate

Comic book reviewer, crime fiction author, and co-editor of the crime fiction anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift, Jimmy Callaway presents a Literary Arts Festival "first":  a history and appreciation lesson on the literature of comic books.

Callaway is a Grossmont College Creative Writing Program alumnus currently lives in San Diego, where he writes for the on-line comedy magazine Serial Optimist.  Callaway co-hosts the comedy podcast, If I'm Louder, I'm Right, with Jeffrey Berner,  and he regularly performs stand-up in San Diego comedy clubs. 


Poet Jennifer L. Knox

APRIL 28 • 7 PM • Griffin Gate

Born in Lancaster, California, "sciencepoet" Jennifer L. Knox received her B.A. from the University of Iowa, and her M.F.A. in poetry writing from New York University. She has also been a poetry instructor for New York University and for Hunter College of the City University of New York.  Her poems have appeared in four separate volumes of David Lehman's Best American Poetry series (1997, 2003, 2006, and 2011) as well as the anthologies Great American Prose Poems, From Poet to Present and Best American Erotic Poems.

Her work has also appeared in a variety of notable journals such as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Fence, McSweeney's, and dozens of others. Jennifer L. Knox has authored four books of poetry and a chapbook, and is presently writing her first novel.


La Literatura de Lucha

APRIL 29 • 11 AM • Griffin Gate


La Literatura de Lucha, "Literature of Struggle," is the theme of this insightful, informative, and spirited event preparing us for the arrival of keynote author Luis J. Rodriguez on May 1.

The program will begin with "La Literatura de Lucha in Rodriguez's Memoir," Joe Medina's examination of Rodriguez's tragic, brutal, and inspiring memoir, Always Running, in which the dynamic realism of struggle is accurately depicted through his use of vivid language.  

San Diego author Vera Sanchez will read selections of her new nonfiction novel, Prison Letters: Walking To Honor.  Frank Scoblete, author of The Virgin Kiss and Other Adventures, describes Sanchez's book as "an excellent first effort by a new and gifted novelist."   -

JOE MEDINA is a member of the English faculty, a writer, and an avid sports fan. Medina was one of co-founders of the Grossmont College Puente Project in 1990 and continues to host the annual Celebration of Banned Books Reading every fall.  He is acknowledged in Daniel Revelles's Tequila, Lemon and Salt.  He is currently completing a collection of poems.

Logan Heights native VERACRUZ SANCHEZ is the author of the new nonfiction epistolary novel, Prison Letters: Walking To Honor.  Set to launch on April 29, Sanchez’s Prison Letters is currently one of Amazon’s top rated books in West U.S. Biographies and Memoirs, and recently ranked #28 in the Kindle Store’s Journal Writing category. A Grossmont College alumnus, Sanchez received her Bachelor's Degree in English from San Diego State University and later obtained a Master's Degree in Education. Having taught folk ballet and basketball, Sanchez now teaches English and Literature to middle school and high school students.  She is also a contributor to the Chicano Park Restoration Project's Chicana artist mural “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.”  She currently lives and works in San Diego.


Novelist Nayomi Munaweera

APRIL 29 • 2 PM • Griffin Gate


Born in Columbo, Sri Lanka, in 1973, author and artist Nayomi Munaweera and her family immigrated in 1984 to Los Angeles, where she pursued her secondary and higher education.  She continued, however, to visit Sri Lanka and witnessed the country’s civil war destruction, which inspired her first novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors.  Originally titled Blood At the Root, Munaweera’s novel chronicles the lives of two families divided by the Sri Lankan Tamil-Sinhala conflict.  Upon its publication in 2012 by Perera Hussein Publishing House, the novel attained overnight success and critical acclaim:  heralded as one of the fifteen best Asian books of 2012, Island Of a Thousand Mirrors was long-listed for the MAN Asian Literary Prize 2012 and received the Commonwealth Book Prize 2013.

In her praise of Munaweera's debut novel, Janet Finch, author of the highly acclaimed White Oleander, says,  "In Island of a Thousand Mirrors, Nayomi Munaweera writes with ferocity, fire and poetry of the incomprehensible madness of civil war and its effects upon those caught within it, whether in the villages and cities of Sri Lanka, or half a world away. A masterful, incendiary debut."

Munaweera, who now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, Kearny Street Workshop's Interdisciplinary Writers Lab, and the Intersection for the Arts Interdisciplinary Writer’s Workshop.  In 2013, she was selected to be co-facilitator of Colombo and Jaffna Residential Workshops for “Write To Reconcile,” a grass roots initiative developed by Sri Lankan author Shyam Selvadurai.


Choose Your Own Adventure, with High Tech HIgh's Tim Briggs & Students

APRIL 29 • 7 PM • Griffin Gate

Remember those books you read as a kid where you were the main character and you made decisions to determine the ending of the story? This semester, the 11th grade students in Tim Briggs' Humanities class at High Tech High Chula Vista are writing and self-publishing their own Choose Your Own Adventure story.  However, instead of journeying under the sea or into space, readers are taken into the history of the United States in the 20th century and have the opportunity to choose a character and follow them through different paths in history and gain a new perspective on how history was lived. 

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Briggs was educated in Baltimore, Maryland, then moved to San Diego in 2005 to pursue his professional aspirations.  He earned his degree in Education from San Diego State University and joined the faculty of High Tech High in February, 2013, where, in teaching Humanities, he imparts a love of reading to 11th graders.  Building on the successes of his earlier "Incarceration Project"—a "common theme" arts and literary project drawing from students' personal experiences with prison incarceration—Briggs recently developed a new literary project, a do-it-yourself creative nonfiction anthology in which his students write, edit, and publish their own written works based upon their personal experiences.

Presenting their latest anthology, Briggs will be joined by his students, who will read selected works and discuss the project.


Cormac McCarthy Scholar Stephen Frye

APRIL 30 • 12:30 PM • Hyde Gallery

Professor of English at California State University, Bakersfield, Dr. Steven Frye is one of the foremost authorities on the works of American author Cormac McCarthy, as well as a respected scholar of Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville and other American Romantic novelists and the literature of the American West.  A Ph.D. graduate of Purdue University and President of the Cormac McCarthy Society, Frye is the author of the acclaimed Understanding Cormac McCarthy and editor of the 2011 Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy, a collection of critical essays on the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author that is considered one of the most comprehensive treatments of McCarthy's fiction to date.

Dr. Frye has also published several creative works of his own in journals like The New Orphic Review and South Carolina Review.

Interest in Rhode Island native Cormac McCarthy has grown in recent years after several of his novels, The Road, Children Of God, and No Country For Old Men, were adapted to motion pictures; No Country For Old Men won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.   McCarthy has authored more than ten novels, plays, and screenplays, and received a U.S. National Book Award as well as a National Book Critics Circle Award for his 1992 novel, All the Pretty Horses.  In 2010, McCarthy's 2006 novel, The Road, was listed by Time Magazine, as one of the 100 best fiction and non-fiction books of the last decade.  Foremost literary critic Harold Bloom has named Cormac McCarthy one of the four preeminent American novelists of his time, and McCarthy is now being considered as a candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature.  His next novel, The Passenger, is expected to be released shortly. 


New Voices: A Student Reading

APRIL 30 • 7 PM • Room 220

The biannual tradition continues:  New Voices: A Student Reading features this semester's standout Creative Writing student writers reading their original short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, novel excerpts, drama, and mixed media literary works.  This popular event is often well attended by students, faculty, family, friends, and the public of the greater Grossmont-Cuyamaca community.   Students are personally invited by their Creative Writing instructors to be included in the program, where they receive a well-earned opportunity to read their own work aloud, sometimes with remarkable performance ability.  Past New Voices readings have featured musical accompaniment, spoken word and hip hop performances, song, and video projects.

The Creative Writing Program continues to inspire students, and the recognition that comes with being selected for the Student Reading each semester is often their first initiation into the arena of public literary performance that helps them to discover their writer's voice.  Each reading features a printed program containing the text of the works presented that evening, but there is also an on-line version of the latest program posted immediately after the each reading, which you can visit right now to see the original works of last semester's talented writers, as well as find further info about the authors in their own words.  You can even contact them to praise them about their writing.


Cramps and Agues: Literature and Malady 

MAY 01 • 12:30 PM • Griffin Gate

"Cramps and agues" is a literary term used for centuries to describe the daily strife of malady and affliction.  Join local writers Cali Linfor, Karl Sherlock, and Nancy Cary, along with students Mark Reilly and Jay Mower, for this transformative reading of original poetry and story, as they share their experience, humor, and insights about life with malady and disability.   “Cramps and Agues” is part of the multi-disciplinary, countywide "One Book, One Campus" Project featuring The Emperor Of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee Just the tonic!

Breast cancer survivor NANCY CARY is a founding board member of San Diego City Works Press.  Her feature stories and guest columns have appeared in San Diego CityBeat, San Diego Magazine, The San Diego Reader, Let’s Talk Plants, and other local magazines and independent newspapers.  Her work has been included in the CWP anthologies Hunger and Thirst, Food Literature (2012), and Lavandería. A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word (2009). Cary, currently at work on a novel set in Ocean Beach and rural East County, teaches creative writing and literature from a Peace Studies perspective.

CALI LINFOR's first published collection of poems, A Book of Ugly Things, (Lantern Tree: Four Books of Poems, San Diego City Works Press, 2012), addresses her congenital condition of being born without opposable thumbs as well as her struggle with dyslexia, both of which adversely affected her ability to read and write.  Linfor spent her formative years in Riverside, California, then relocated to Los Angeles to complete her Bachelor of Arts in English.  She obtained her M.F.A. in poetry from SDSU, where she now lectures in rhetoric, composition and writing.  A former poetry editor for Epicenter Literary Magazine, Cali has published poems, articles, and short stories in The Beloit Poetry Review, Ekphrasis, Manzanita Review, and others.  

JAY MOWER, a retired advertising professor, has authored a poetry chapbook about mental illness, Different Voices, sales of which benefit the local non-profit group Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), for which Mower serves as chief facilitator for a Family and Friends Support Group.  Mower's involvement in mental illness support groups began while aiding in the recovery of his son, whose suicide attempts during the early 90s were influenced by a bipolar condition.  Now retired, Jay continues to be a spokesperson and advocate to those living with mental disorder.  In addition to his three chapbooks, Mower's publications include San Diego Poetry Annual, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Acorn Review.

MARK REILLY, a Grossmont College Math Tutor and a student in the Creative Writing Program, suffers from scleroderma, a systemic autoimmune disease that causes a hardening of the skin and connective tissues.  Mark is also a caregiver to an autistic sibling, a subject referenced in many of his poems.  In addition to being a featured reader in local San Diego and east county poetry readings, Mark is soon to published in the next issue of Acorn Review.

KARL SHERLOCK, who suffers from a debilitating cluster headache condition and from a neurological malady limiting the use of his legs, has also been a caregiver for over 23 years to his chronically ill husband, Max:  a victim of involuntary reparative therapy when he was 16, Max was imprisoned by his family in Battle Creek Sanitarium and repeatedly tortured by medical staff; the subsequent physical damage and post-traumatic stress made him permanently disabled. Karl's writing about these topics appears in Toyon, Dickinson Review, The Alsop Review, The Far East: Everything Just As It Is, and many others  Together with Sydney Brown, he co-coordinates the GC Creative Writing Program.


Author Luis J. Rodriguez

MAY 01 • 7 PM • Griffin Gate


The son of Mexican immigrants, Luis J. Rodriguez began writing in his early teens and has won national recognition as a poet, journalist, fiction writer, children’s book writer, and critic.

His vivid gang memoir, Always Running (Touchstone, 2005), a Carl Sandburg Literary Award-winner, has been named by the American Library Association as one of the 100 most censored books in the U.S. The sequel, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster 2012) was long-listed for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the Autobiography category. Rodriguez has also authored several poetry collections, including My Nature is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004 (Curbstone Press, 2005).  His bilingual books for children and young adults include America Is Her Name and It Doesn't Have To Be This Way: A Barrio Story, published in both English and Spanish. 

Rodriguez's prestigious list of awards include a Poetry Center Book Award, a PEN/Josephine Miles Literary Award, the Patterson Young Adult Book Award, and the Parent’s Choice Book Award.  Other honors include a Lannan Fellowship for Poetry, an Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, a California Arts Council Fellowship, and several Illinois Art Council fellowships.  Rodriguez is also known for his philanthropic enterprises: he has helped to launch several prominent non-profit groups such as Chicago’s Guild Complex and "Youth Struggling for Survival," a Chicago-based community group that works with gang and non-gang youth; additionally, he is one of the founders of indie poetry publishing house Tia Chucha Press. In 2013, Luis J. Rodriguez announced his candidacy to become Governor of California. 


Last Updated: 04/21/2019
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