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20th Anniversary Literary Arts Festival

2016 LAF banner

WACC logoThe events of the 20th Anniversary Literary Arts Festival are made possible by a grant from WACC, The World Arts and Cultures Committee of Grossmont College.  We thank WACC for its generosity and its ongoing commitment to enhancing a climate of appreciation and respect for the diversity of cultural values, ideas and expressions.


New Voices

Monday, April 25, 7 PM, Griffin Gate

A popular event  often well attended by students, faculty, family, friends, and community,the NEW VOICES 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.

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. 

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. New Voices readings feature a printed program containing the text of the works that audiences can use to read along. 

This semester's featured student writers are

  • Charlie Sale
  • Andriele Stodden
  • Stephen Jeppson
  • Lauren Muse
  • Peter Chiu
  • Nicole Lopez
  • Rebecca Yarbrough
  • John Wilson
  • Ana Zapata
  • Russell Ketell
  • Rachel Orey
  • Darlene Cleary
  • Kaitlen Beck
  • Lucy Palmer
  • Joshua Callaway

ASL interpreting services graciously arranged by the Grossmont College Disable Student Programs and Services (DSPS). 


Why Lit Matters

Tuesday, April 26, 2 PM, Griffin Gate

William Carlos Williams once wrote “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” WHY LITERATURE MATTERS offers a panel discussion advocating 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.

Past WLM panelists have included history professor Dr. Sue Gonda, author and Humanities professor Maria Rybakova, Dean of English/Social and Behavioral Sciences Agustin Albarran, English Department Chair Dr. Oralee Holder, Humanities professor Dr. Pete Schmidt, as well as writing students Cassady Lynch and Felicia Williams, both alumnae of the Grossmont College Creative Writing Program.

This year's "Why Literature Matters" is dedicated to the voices of five Grossmont College students, each of whom will share a powerful account of her personal journey and discuss the inspirational role literature played—and continues to play—in that journey. 

  • Jennifer Rouse
  • Yelena Gurin
  • Catherine Ninteman
  • Jasmine Huerta Lara
  • Rachel Orey


Raymond M. Wong

Tuesday, April 26, 7 PM, Griffin Gate

RAYMOND M. WONG is the author of I’m Not Chinese: The Journey from Resentment to Reverence (Apprentice House 2014), winner of a 2015 San Diego Book Award for "Best Published Memoir." Wong earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University (Los Angeles) on the Eloise Klein Healy Scholarship, where he served assistant editor on Antioch's on-line literary journal, Lunch Ticket. This event is additionally, and generously, funded by a grant from Poets & Writers.

Wong's publications include Chicken Soup for the Soul, Small Print Magazine, Segue, Marathon Literary Review, Asia: Journal of Culture and Commerce, City Works, and others.

His memoir, I'm Not Chinese, explores the importance of discovering identity in ancestral roots. In it, Wong chronicles his struggle to forget his past: a charming, conniving, and controlling Chinese mother; a father who hasn’t so much as written him a letter in twenty-eight years; a stepfather who never sees him as a son; a childhood rife with ridicule and bullying from American kids; and the pain of being an outcast in his own family. 

One of the centerpieces of Wong's memoir is in his chapter, "Reverence," a recollection of trip to Hong Kong with the mother he has always pushed away—a woman who represents everything he wants to disown.  In her Gloom Cupboard review, UC Berkeley Literature professor, Maggie Trapp, describes Wong's memoir as a blend of memory, travelogue and lyric essay: "Wong’s prose is at its most convincing and engaging when he’s recounting interactions he has with his mother." In Hong Kong, he encounters a father as detached from him as the country, itself, and even more incomprehensible to Wong because of his inability to speak Cantonese. I’m Not Chinese is about a man who has spent his life running from his culture, his family, himself—and what happens when he is forced to stop running. 

Interviewed in 2014 by San Diego Union Tribune's John Wilkens, Wong explained,

I had spent a lot of my life running away from who I was, being afraid of my own culture, being afraid of my family, being afraid, I guess, of a part of me. Going to Hong Kong and seeing the Chinese people, the Chinese culture, and seeing my family, I couldn’t run away from it anymore. It made me accept a part of myself. I think that’s probably the most important thing. I came in contact with my family. I came to know my mom. I came to know my father for the first time and I came to accept the fact that I am Chinese. Even though I may not speak the language, there is a part of me that is Chinese.

Wong currently works as a counselor at San Diego City College. 

ASL interpreting services graciously arranged by the Grossmont College Disable Student Programs and Services (DSPS).  


Tod Goldberg

Wednesday, April 27,2 PM , Griffin Gate 

TOD GOLDBERG is the author of the acclaimed genre novels, Gangsterland (Titan Books 2014), and Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His popular Burn Notice novels have been adapted into an equally popular USA Network television series. In addition to two collections of short stories, Simplify and Other Resort Cities, his essays, nonfiction, and journalism have appeared widely in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Best American Essays 2013.  Goldberg also co-hosts the Literary Disco, a books and writing podcast. This event is additionally, and generously, funded by a grant from Poets & Writers.

A journalist as well as a writer, Goldberg holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College and lives in Indio, CA where he directs the Low Residency MFA program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside.

Goldberg’s latest novel, Gangsterland (Titan Books, 2014), introduces his readers to Sal Cupertine, a legendary hit man for the Chicago Mafia, able to get in and out of a crime without a trace. His first-ever mistake forces Sal to botch an assassination, killing three undercover FBI agents in the process. This puts too much heat on Sal, and he knows this botched job will be his death sentence to the Mafia, so he agrees to their radical idea to save his own skin: hide out as a Rabbi in Las Vegas. Charlie Rubin raves in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, “For many of us, The Godfather, book or movie, ushered us into a second boyhood, teaching that the incorrigible vitality of a first-rate gangster story could temporarily inoculate us against adult sanity. For readers of a like mind, Tod Goldberg’s Gangsterland will arrive as a gloriously original Mafia novel: 100 percent unhinged about the professionally unhinged.”

Goldberg has twice earned Special Mention for the Pushcart Prize and received four Nevada Press Association Awards for journalism. His short stories and essays have appeared in Other Voices, The Sun, Santa Monica Review, The Los Angels Times, and numerous other periodicals.


Sunshine Noir II 

Wednesday, April 27, 7 PM , Griffin Gate

The 20th Anniversary LAF proudly offers a reading of selected works from San Diego City Works' newly released anthology, SUNSHINE NOIR II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana.  Like its predecessor released in 2005, Sunshine/Noir II represents a wide range of contemporary regional fiction writers, nonfiction authors, poets, artists, and photo-graphers, National Geographer Traveler recently named Sunshine / Noir II as the only book under "what to read." This event will also feature music and poetry by the San Diego/Tijuana project, FRONTERA DRUM FUSION (FDF).

Sunshine Noir II explores San Diego and Tijuana’s border culture; San Diego’s multiple identities and lost history; the city’s natural beauty and endangered ecologies; its role as a center of the culture of war; and San Diego writers’ attempts to explore the meaning of place. By using a multicultural, multidisciplinary, pan-artistic approach, this anthology offers the reader a fresh look at a city yet to be explored in such a fashion.   

Sunshine Noir II's editor, Jim Miller, is a San Diego native with an MFA in Fiction from San Diego State University, and a Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University.  Founding member of the San Diego Writers Collective and co-founder of San Diego City Works Press, Miller is an instructor at San Diego City College, where he teaches English as well as Labor Studies. Fiction writer Jim Miller is the author of Flash: a Novel (AK Press 2010) and Drift (University of Oklahoma Press 2007).  A labor activist, Miller serves on the executive board of AFT Local 1931 and has authored Democracy in Education; Education for Democracy: An Oral History of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1931(AFT Local 1931/San Diego City Works Press, 2006).  He is also a poet and essayist published in a variety of journals.

Frontera Drum Fusion (FDF) performs open mic verse and live poetry by Francisco J. Bustos in English, Spanish, and Spanglish alongside electric instruments and computer based electronic beats and melodies, as well as rhythms and music using acoustic percussions from various parts of the world. FDF has participated in various literary, musical, and cultural events and festivals on both sides of the border, including book and poetry festivals in Tijuana's Centro Cultural (CECUT), Tijuana's Feria del Libro, San Diego's Border Voices Poetry Fair and various art galleries. FDF has played Aztec percussions for "Misa Azteca" by Joseph Julian Gonzalez, alongside Southwestern College Choir, including performances in Escondido, New York (Carnegie Hall), and Syros, Greece (Apollo theater/Festival of the Aegean). The band members include Francisco J. Bustos (featured poet, Aztec and Afro-Caribbean percussion, electronic beats and melodies, and guitar); Rogelio Corcoles (Mediterranean percussion, doumbek and darbouka soloist); Javier Maldonado (Aztec percussion, drummer, and electronic beats); and John Rieder (writer/musician, acoustic and electric bass guitar).

ASL interpreting services graciously arranged by the Grossmont College Disable Student Programs and Services (DSPS).


poets Natalie Diaz / David Tomas Martinez, plus The Writing Project contest winners

Thursday, April 28, 7 PM, Griffin Gate

The Grossmont College Creative Writing Program presents the 20th Annual Literary Arts Festival WRITING PROJECT. Formerly the "English 98 Writing Contest," the Writing Project competition is open to all currently enrolled students of the Basic Skills Programin English at Grossmont College: English 090, 090R, 098, 098R, 110, 110R, and 298. The work of contest finalists will be collected in a publication, and a winner will be selected to read his/her essay as part of the Festival's keynote event:  a reading and book signing by poets Natalie Diaz and David Tomas Martinez.

Performing in a double-reading with poet Natalie Diaz, San Diego native DAVID TOMAS MARTINEZ will help to close the 20th Anniversary L.A.F. with a reading and book signing of his debut collection of poems, Hustle. Martinez earned a BA and MFA at San Diego State University, then completed doctoral studies at the University of Houston, where he was aCanto Mundo Fellow and served as an editor for Gulf Coast.  He has also contributed to the Voz Alta Project in Barrio Logan. 

Hustle explores themes of masculinity and machismo, as well as Martinez's own crooked path toward self-understanding as a Latino youth in San Diego, which includes his gang involvement, his discovery of pornography, and his failed suicide attempt.The speaker in his poems steals cars, sits in understudy at the bar, fathers a child before seventeen, and works welding frigates—all with no reverence for literature with clean streets: “If I ever met a kid like Holden Caulfield, I would punch him in his nose,” Martinez says, and it is with Dantean confidence that he constructs San Diego as an inferno of El Caminos and Fords, silent sex, and murdered high school valedictorians.

Martinez's story and his poems have been featured on NPR'sAll Things Considered, Poetry, NBC Latino, Buzzfeed, Houstonia Magazine, Houston Art & Culture, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Bull City Press, Border Voices,and many others.  In a 2013 interview with Erika L. Sanchez for NBC Latino, Martinez stated, “You know in any good piece of art when their truth is poking through. I know those moments when I write. I think, 'This is true, this hurts, and this is not ok.' I indict myself in so many poems. I think that, to a certain extent, you have to be unafraid to make a fool of yourself.”

Poet and writer NATALIE DIAZ, a Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize winner and a recipient of The Tobias Wolf Award for Fiction, will close the 20th Anniversary Literary Arts Festival with a reading and book signing from her award-winning collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press 2012). Selected for Best New Poets by former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Diaz's publications include Prairie Schooner, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, and others.

When My Brother Was an Aztec examines memory’s role in human identity. Each section filters memory through specific individuals and settings. The first concentrates on a diabetic grandmother without legs and the landscape, tangible and intangible, of a Native American reservation. The second engages a brother’s strife with drug-use and his unraveling of the family, the home. The third grapples with war as a character and its tattering of individuals, families, and communities. Bigotry against Native Americans is confronted throughout the collection, and the speaker’s wrestling with identity is carefully woven into each poem. Faithfulness to and departure from tradition and culture are ever-present.

An LGBTQ author and member of the Mojave and Pima Indian tribes, NatalieDiaz attended Old Dominion University on a full athletic scholarship. After playing professional basketball in Austria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey, she returned to ODU for an MFA in writing. She currently lives in Surprise, Arizona, where she works on preserving and restoring the Mojave language.   

ASL interpreting services graciously arranged by the Grossmont College Disable Student Programs and Services (DSPS).

Last Updated: 04/21/2019
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