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19th Annual Literary Arts Festival

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Batman: The Literary Diversity of the Caped Crusader, featuring Branden Boynton

12:30 – 1:45 PM, Griffin Gate 

Born on the pages of Detective Comics over 75 years ago, Batman has since expanded into movies, television, video games, and even musical theatre.  But, just what allows one character such longevity and success across genres and media? Join local poet and amateur Batmanologist, Branden Boynton, as he explores the literary core of the caped crusader's persona and legend.

A native San Diegan, Branden Boynton earned his Bachelor’s in English at San Diego State University and is also an alumnus of the Grossmont College English and Creative Writing Program.  He believes in writing as both catharsis and as a means to create truths.  An avid fan of both music and literature, he views poetry as the link between the two. 


Blogger/Writer Roxane Gay

Reading and Book Signing

author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State

7 PM, Griffin Gate

Made possible in part by a generous grant from WACC, the World Arts and Cultures Committee of Grossmont College

In addition to being a contributing editor for Bluestem Magazine, Salon magazine, and Girl Crush: Women's Erotic Fantasies, Writer, blogger, and Purdue University English professor, Roxane Gay, is founder of Tiny Hardcore Press.   has been essays editor for The Rumpus, as well as co-editor of PANK, a nonprofit literary arts collective.  Individual stories and non-fiction works have appeared in numerous other anthologies and journals, including Best American Mystery Stories (2014), Best American Short Stories (2012), Best Sex Writing (2012), McSweeney’s, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and The Nation

Grove Atlantic calls Roxane Gay “a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have earned her an enthusiastic audience.” An Untamed State, the “living fairy tale” of a Haitian American woman kidnapped for ransom in Port-au-Prince, has been listed by San Francisco’s on-line media culture ‘zine, Flavorwire, as one of its 15 Most Anticipated Books of 2014, and Gay as one of 25 Women Poised to Lead the Culture. 

In its review of Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay’s controversial collection of essays on feminism, Slate reviewer Katy Waldman says, “the professor cum novelist cum voice-on-the-Internet isn’t proclaiming herself a chiller, smarter, funnier feminist than anyone else. She is exploring imperfection: the power we (we people, and especially we women) wield in spite and because of it….In essay after essay, Gay ably diagnoses our desire for female role models to symbolize all things to all people.” Diriye Osman of The Huffington Post calls Bad Feminist “one of the liveliest, most joy-inducing books of the year. Whether she is breaking down everything that is wrong with Quentin Tarantino's slavery porn-fest/ spaghetti western, Django Unchained, or…examining the pleasures and complexities of female friendship, Gay writes in a manner that's inviting and incredibly generous. There is no ‘bad feminism’ at play here—just plain ole badassery with lashings of common sense and humanity.”

Her new book, Hunger, is due to be released by Harper in 2016.  Her other books include Bad Feminist, an essay collection (Harper Perennial, 2014); An Untamed State, a novel (Grove Atlantic, 2014); “North Country,” a short story (Best American Short Stories 2012); and, Ayiti, a short story collection (Artistically Declined Press, 2011).




Photo Gets Lit: Mixed Media Reading

featuring Photographer Aaron Serafino and Contest Winners

12:30 - 1:45 PM, Griffin Gate 

In this fresh twist on ekphrasis, a work of creative writing written responsively about a work of art, student poets and writers will compete for glory and adulation with original works written in response to photography by Aaron Serafino.   The unique "Photo Gets Lit" reading is the culmination of that competition:  winning student writers participate in a mixed media presentation and perform their prize-winning works.    

Photographer, teacher, and graphic designer About Aaron Serafino is a graduate of Brooks Institute, with an emphasis in color technology and pre-modern processes.  A graphic artist and photographer for the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts for over seven years, Serafino now works as a photographer for California Photoworks and teaches digital and darkroom photography and studio photography at San Diego County colleges and universities, including UCSD Extension and Grossmont College.    

In our current image-crazy and text-obsessed times, a picture is worth five-hundred words (or even fewer). Using your powers of linguistic creativity and economy, we challenge you to compose original texts that give words to the following provocative photographs by artist and Grossmont instructor Aaron Serafino.  In five-hundred words or fewer, your goal is to surprise, startle, and delight by revealing the poems, fictions, or creative nonfictions, and dramatic monologue, hidden within these photographs.  


New Voices

A Student Reading of Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction

7 PM, Griffin Gate

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. 



Alumni Book Launch: Reading and Book Signing

feat. Poets Marianne Johnson and Lee Ben-Yehuda

2:00-3:15 PM, Griffin Gate

MARIANNE JOHNSON's new poetry chapbook, Tender Collisions, was a 2013 finalist for the San Diego Book Awards.  Johnson composed while she was enrolled in Grossmont College's Creative Writing Program.  Tender Collisions is Johnson's first published collections, but individual poems within it have been published in a variety of journals, including Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, Slant, Sport Literate, and The Kerf.  Her work has also been anthologized in Cradle Songs: An Anthology of Poems on Motherhood (2012), New Millennium Writings (2013) and San Diego Writers, Ink: A Year in Ink (2010, 2012).  Other poems have appeared in Lavanderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word; Mamas and Papas: On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting, and in the controversial anthology about San Diego east county, The Far East: Just As It Is. Marianne Johnson, poet, is also Marianne S. Johnson, Esq., a personal injury lawyer here in San Diego. Johnson  law received her law degree from Hastings College of the Law, and her Bachelor's Degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.   Marianne continues to participate in Grossmont College's writing workshops and is actively involved in San Diego's writing community.

Lee Ben-Yehuda will read from, The Dreaming (2013), her most recent book of poetry.  She graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1948, then subsequently received her advanced degrees from University of California Los Angeles, University of California Berkeley at United States International University. In addition to being a published poet, Lee and her husband, Amnon Ben-Yehuda, are presently active members of the San Diego Jewish community and, as long-time patrons of the San Diego arts community, are founding supporters of "Silver Pathways to Music, Inc.," local musician Jacqui Silver's non-profit organization providing musical education to San Diegans.  Lee has been a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor since 1976 and a Certified Sandplay Therapist since 1985.  


Screenwriter/Director Ken White

Discussion and Film Screening of Winter In the Blood

7 PM, Bldg. 26, Rm. 220 (film runtime:  105 min.)

Actor and screenwriter Ken White will screen and discuss the film Winter in the Blood (2013, dir. by Alex and Andrew Smith), White's screen adaption of the acclaimed novel by Native American author James Welch, about modern American Indian life. Michael Peck of the Los Angeles Review of Books (27 October 2012) praises the film:  “I am reminded again of the fact that this film adaptation of Winter in the Blood is not Hollywood. It is a collection of communities making a film in tandem, an impromptu collective of poets, Broadway actors, Welch enthusiasts, a layering of ideas and eccentric towns, more an applied theory of psycho-geography than simply on-location filmmaking….A story, the story of its telling, and the act of telling a story.”Ken White is a poet, screenwriter, and member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, who received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. His poetry has appeared in The Boston Review, The Tusculum Review, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, Versal, and Manor House Quarterly, among others. He is the author of one book of poems, Eidolon (Peel Press 2013).  White is currently working on a new poetry manuscript, The Getty Fiend.

White's current projects include a screen adaptation of Debra Earling’s novel Perma Red, which he will direct, and Stolen, co-adapted with the book’s author Lucy R. Christopher, slated for production in 2015.  In addition to co-writing/co-producing Winter in the Blood, Ken White has written or co-written eight feature scripts, including The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the medieval Gaelic epic Tain Bo Cuailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), Blight, and The Wereman.  Ken White is among the faculty at IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts), along with colleague and fellow writer Sherman Alexie. 



Local Author Tamara Johnson

Reading and Book Signing of her new book from City Works Press, Not Far From Normal

12:30-1:45 PM, Griffin Gate 

Local author Tamara Johnson joins the 19th Annual Literary Arts Festival for a reading and book signing for her debut book from City Works Press.  As stated in her book,  Johnson has been "a hostess, waitress, cocktail server, college d.j., book seller, music seller, candy clerk, sales associate, merch girl, envelope stuffer, sandwich maker, temp worker, Sunday school teacher, adjunct instructor, instructional aide, pedicab driver, paralegal, ballet dancer, child-care provider, fast-food employee, grocery cashier, events coordinator, fashion insider, recording artist, artist-in-residence, performance artist, poet, writer, zine maker, homemaker, editor, roadie, story-teller, and incorrigible eavesdropper." Her eclectic skill sets have made her the writer she is today, and her first book, Not Far From Normal (City Works Press, 2014) is also an eclectic combination of story, poetry, and images by photographer Rachael Wenban.

Local author, San Diego historian, and labor leader, Jim Miller, describes Not Far From Normal as "a book that takes a unique look at our city. Just steps away from sponsored fun runs, endurance challenges, and ultra-marathons, in Johnson’s book San Diego’s hidden residents play games of survival side-by-side with official city events....Part poetry, part photo essay by Rachael Wenban, part field guide, Not Far From Normal relates the secret history of San Diego’s parks and missions as told by their current inhabitants. From the crash of PSA Flight#182 to the “I don’t like Mondays” school shooting and other dark episodes that don’t make it into San Diego’s official story, this book is a compelling history of everyday life on the wild side of Southern California."


Poet/Memoirist Brian Turner

Reading and Book Signing by the author of Here, Bullet and My Life As a Foreign Country

plus English 98 Writing Contest Winners

7 PM, Griffin Gate

Join us for an evening with poet and writer Brian Turner, keynote author of  the 19th Annual Literary Arts Festival. The event begins with a presentation of prize-winning works by winners of the 2015 ENGLISH 98 WRITING CONTEST, an annual competition in which students draw inspiration from selected writings by Festival keynote authors to compose original works of nonfiction.  Past English 98 Writing Contests have honored noted writers Sandra Cisneros, poet Luis Rodriguez, and fiction writer Tobias Wolff.   This year's contest theme honors poet and memoirist Brian Turner, who will be presented with a specially bound collection of contest entries.

Then, enjoy a reading, discussion, and book signing by the award-winning author, BRIAN TURNER.  A California native and an Iraq War veteran, Turner is Director of the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and the author of Here, Bullet (Allice James Books, 2005), his debut poetry collection about his experiences as a U.S. soldier in Iraq.  Turner is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Beatrice Hawley Award (2005), the Lannan Literary Fellowship (2006), PEN Center USA "Best in the West" Literary Award in Poetry (2006), the NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry (2007), the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship (2009), and a Fellow Award from United States Artists (2009). 

As an essayist, Turner is featured in a variety of journals, including National Geographic and The New York Times blog, “Home Fires.” His poems have been included in The Best American Poetry 2007, and others. 

Here, Bullet garnered Turner widespread media attention, including interviews with National Public Radio, The New Yorker, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  He was also featured in the Academy Award nominated documentary Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007). Aaron Turner of Contemporary Poetry Review describes Here, Bullet as a work that challenges “Wordsworth's concept of poetry as powerful emotion recollected in tranquility. With the exception of two poems, Here, Bullet was written entirely in Iraq, often by red lens flashlight after dark to avoid disturbing the soldiers sleeping around him. Regarded this way, the book comes off as a kind of performance art…the voice and testament of someone in the middle of the action.”  In its review of Here, Bullet, The Guardian heralds Turner as a poet who “proves himself an ideal chronicler, eloquent and detached.…Above all, he affords dignity to the participants through acknowledgment of their individuality, giving names, recognising relationships, delineating histories. The power of this collection extends far beyond its harrowing subject-matter.” Phantam Noise (Alice James Books, 2010), Turner’s next collection of poetry, was shortlisted in 2010 for the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize.

In his recently released war memoir, My Life As a Foreign Country (WW Norton, 2014), Turner uses a lyrical style, blending recollections of his war experience with musings and imagination to create a self-portrait equal parts soldier and human being.  Tim O’Brien writes,My Life As a Foreign Country is brilliant and beautiful.  It surely ranks with the best war memoirs I’ve ever encountered—a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature.”  Jen Percy of The New York Times writes of My Life as a Foreign Country, “History can only be served by this kind of attention. Man must look at what he has done. And Turner looks, brilliantly.” Tonight will prove to be an unforgettable evening for those in attendance, so mark your calendar today! 



Last Updated: 04/21/2019
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