A Recap: Under the Influence in North Beach, SF

North Beach at night

Last Thursday, 19 February, yours truly had the honor and pleasure to share inspiration and inspired work at The Emerald Tablet’s “Under the Influence” co-founded and hosted by writer Evan Karp. Tucked away in North Beach central, the venue is both a cozy and spacious spot featuring some beautifully impressive artwork by Tibor Simon-Mazula. During introductions, Karp asked the audience how many had been to The Emerald Tablet before, and out of a packed house, only one person raised their hand, so the event brought in a roomful of newbies, including myself.

co-founder and host Evan Karp

Tapped to read first, I dutifully followed “Under the Influence’s” ekphrastic guidelines and read completely new work, written for the evening and inspired by Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, Robert MacFarlane’s Wild Places (and though I didn’t mention it that evening, but also Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost).

Yours truly

Since yours truly was coming down from all those butterflies after reading first, I hope I can be forgiven for failing to snap a pic of second reader Patrick Newson, who shared an excerpt from his fellow Oregonian Ken Kesey, and then dived right into some fiction with New Zealand as both background and character:  “always in the shadow of that big brother to the West…where language is only a barrier for the weak. ”

Thaisa Frank


Thaisa Frank had stories nestled inside stories, which was part of the spirit she channeled that evening, an 19th century writing desk. She described the writing desk as an instrument for “gentlemen of means” and explained how the desk had recently been stolen otherwise it would have been sitting on stage before us. Years ago though, her mother convinced her to buy the antique during a family trip to Brontë country. Frank spoke of how influence can cause anxiety, calling on Harold Bloom, but she found that losing the writing desk was also freeing in a sense. In the chest was her mother’s journals, which reading later after her mother had passed, she realized, despite the difficulties of their relationship, many of the entries could have been written by Frank herself.

Abbie Amadio

Abbie Amadio, also a fiction writer had one of the most memorable bios, admitting she was worried about technological detachment and conspiracy theories. Reading from a novel-in-progress, she channelled Bret Easton Ellis, knowing full well the kind of reaction he typically draws from readers. Amadio explained how she came to read Ellis for the night, by closing her eyes and randomly pulling a book from her shelf. Her piece was about a telephone survey collecting data for memory enhancement: “I hear my robotic voice and type Jerry P’s memory to databank and already forget it soon as its typed.”

Joe Stillwater and his daughter

Filmmaker Joe Stillwater and his daughter shared one of their favorite children’s author who wrote the story Moonman, Frank Ungerer. They showed pictures of Moonman looking down on Earth and getting jealous of all the people having fun. So Moonman crashes onto Earth and gets arrested but because he’s a moon he can slim himself down during his phase to escape.

The father-daughter reading gave yours truly an idea, and now I’m hoping to host lit events where writers with kids bring their kids to read a story or share a piece of art that influences both parent and child, and then a parent reads his or her work. We’ll see if we can get this in the mix.

Driving back to East Bay

Always a treat to be out and about inspired by local artists and by local environs. Thanks “Under the Influence” for this artistic drunken affair! To see how it all went down, check out the video here:


Upcoming Reading at Orinda Books

Orinda Books Reading November 2014

Organized by the amazing Dr. Raina León, yours truly will be reading alongside Raina León, Judy Halebsky, Elizabeth Rosner, and Annelyse Gelman. Please join us for an evening of literary pleasure on Friday 14 November, 7pm at Orinda Books (276 Village Square, Orinda, CA 94563).

Please consider sharing the love, and forward through your social media of choice to students and all lovers of lit.

Hope to see you and yours there!

Re-capping The Hazel Reading Series as a Newly Initiated Hazeler

yours truly reading a short story forthcoming in print
yours truly reading a short story hopefully forthcoming this year in print

2014 has already begun with some sweet honors. The second weekend of January not only included a visit from my cousin Evan Napala of the DC-based band Cigarette, who’s music you should give a listen to here. That Saturday, yours truly gave a quick and dirty Composition presentation at a faculty development workshop for Saint Mary’s College, and the weekend was wrapped up with a reading on Market Street in San Francisco at the Hazel Reading Series.

Set in a gallery where artists paint, run a printing press, and fashion clothes, a uniquely SF space that invites the city to joins in full force, The Hazel readers included the below, each invited by last reading’s previous writers, also listed.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses invited by Allison Landa
Sarah Frisch invited by Miriam Bird Greenberg
Mei Li Ooi
Carolyn Cooke invited by Ahmunet Jessica Jordan
Monique Wentzel invited by Lydia Fitzpatrick David

Hazelers are asked to introduce themselves and talk a bit about the piece they’ve chosen to read, which may be something they consider experimental.

Sarah Frisch
Sarah Frisch, fiction

Fiction writer and former Stegner fellow, Sarah Frisch posed a speculative piece also about giving birth but played with the idea that men do the deed while their women partners can only stand by and watch.

Mei Li Ooi
Mei Li Ooi, fiction

Mei Li Ooi was most inspiring with a performative piece utilizing the whole space at the front, assuming the role of each of her characters to capture both the audience by emphasizing tone, mood, and the urgency of her story.

Carolyn Cooke
Carolyn Cooke, fiction

Professor and Department Chair of Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry in the MFA Programs at California Institute of Integral Studies, Carolyn Cooke grabbed our attention immediately with a story about San Franciscan insomniacs.

Monique Wentzel
Monique Wentzel, fiction

And last but certainly not least, current Stegner Fellow Monique Wentzel read a most intriguing short story about a hole that opened up in the south of U.S. endangering a whole town and all the living.

Each of the writers were phenomenal, and as the organizers had introduced at the beginning, organic themes and threads surfaced with each work. The audience was treated to surprising commonalities such as male protagonists and the theme of birth. The next Hazel Reading Series is 5-7pm, Sunday, February 9, 1154 Market. Its a true literary gem in the Bay Area. Many thanks to Erica Eller, Sara Marinelli, Shruti Swamy, and Mei Le Ooi.

The organizers of Hazel Reading Series
The organizers of Hazel Reading Series
letter printing and fashion making at the reading space
letter printing and fashion making at the reading space
the hosting gallery space
the hosting gallery space

All photos courtesy of PJS.

Please spread the word and mark your calendars: 19 October, 3-4pm “Writing Our Way Home: Shaping Tradition, History and Culture”

Excited to be a part of this upcoming October weekend event. Yours truly will be moderating the panel “Writing Our Way Home: Shaping Tradition, History and Culture” with Luisa Igloria, Jon Pineda, Lysley Tenorio. Hope to see you there! For more info, click here.

Filipino American International Book Festival (Filbookfest 2)

Likhâ ng Lahi. Writing Our Way Home: Shaping Tradition, History and Culture

October 18–20, 2013 • San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch • 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102


Save the Date: “Life After the MFA Panel” @ SMC 11/20/13

Interested in writing fellowships and residencies? Yours truly has been booked in advance to talk about recent fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and the International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland UK for Saint Mary’s College of California’s MFA Creative Writing Program Panel: “Life After the MFA” Wednesday, 20 November, 2:35pm, location on campus TBA.

Hope to see you there!

1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga, CA 94556 (925) 631-4000