Sacramento’s Stories on Stage Features Flash Fiction

Stories on Stage, which operates from mid-town Sacramento, continues to grow. Running every last Friday of the month, the series has featured writers from across the US and is preparing to feature African writers in June. The idea is brilliant: the stories are read by professional actors, and the events are well-attended.

On Friday, May 27th, Stories on Stage will present an evening of (very) short fiction, featuring the winners of Sacramento News & Review’s 2010 Flash Fiction Contest (these writers had a stingy 150 words to work with). Kent Gray will read Paul Mann’s”79 Miles,” Cynthia Mitchell Speakman will read Peg Alford Pursell’s “Guardian,” Ashley Lucas will read Jenni Wiltz’ “Letters,” Bonnie Antonini will read Peg Alford Pursell’s “This Guy,” and Pam Metzger will read William Doonan’s “Lady Anaconda.”

Sacramento Poetry Center
1719 25th Street (Between Q & R)
Donation: $5
Performance begins at 7:30PM. Doors open at 7PM

Peg Alford Pursell’s fiction has received The S.C. State Fiction Award and been a short-list finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award. She founded and curates Why There Are Words, a monthly literary reading series in Sausalito, and is fiction editor at Prick of the Spindle. She teaches fiction writing at the College of Marin, Book Passage, and in private workshops. She is currently at work on a novel. Please visit her website and blog to keep up with her news.

William Doonan is a writer and professor of anthropology and archaeology in Sacramento, CA, where he lives with his wife Carmen, and his sons Will and Huey. Doonan is the author of two mystery novels; Grave Passage and Mediterranean Grave, which recount the exploits of octogenarian cruise ship detective Henry Grave. For more information about Doonan and his writing, please visit William’s “Lady Anaconda” won first prize.

Jenni Wiltz’s short stories have appeared in The Portland Review and The Copperfield Review. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Davis with degrees in English and history; she’s currently studying for a Master’s in English at Sacramento State University. Jenni lives in Folsom, California and blogs about her writing experiences at Jenni’s “Letters” won second prize.

Paul Mann grew up around the beaches of the Gulf Coast in Sarasota, Florida. It is a region he often visits through his writing. His stories and photos have been published in Susurrus, Sacramento News & Review, The Farallon Review and Sunken Lines. When not hunched over his keyboard, he enjoys spending time at home in California with his attorney wife, his smart and beautiful daughter, and his loyal canine companion Bode. Visit Paul’s website here. Paul’s “79 Miles” won third prize.

Bonnie Antonini returned to acting six years ago after taking a long hiatus to raise her children. She hit the ground running and has been in 20 stage plays, numerous commercials, TV shows, and industrials. She also is a poet and has had three of her poems published in the Sacramento News and Review. Her most recent role was in The Mystery Spot, where she played poet Sylvia Plath. Bonnie will read Peg Alford Pursell’s “This Guy.”

Cynthia Mitchell Speakman has been performing on Sacramento stages since 1994 when she joined Ed Claudio’s Actor’s Workshop. She performs with Story Voices, four spoken word artists that perform for benefits across the country, inspiring people to take on their lives with passion. Her son keeps her thinking young and she thanks him for being an inspiration to her. Cynthia will read Peg Alford Pursell’s “Guardian.”

Kent Gray is a man of many interests. He returned to Sacramento after attending law school in Des Moines. Kent has been in the theatre for 20 years. He holds a master’s degree from Humboldt State University and has appeared in numerous productions including playing Bo Decker in Bus Stop and Horatio in Hamlet. His directing credits include An Act of the Imagination and No Exit. In addition, Kent spent 10 years as a radio announcer working in the Midwest and California. Kent will read Paul Mann’s “79 Miles.”

Ashley Lucas has been acting for over five years. She has performed with Runaway Stage, Thistledew, and is a regular at the Playwrights Collaborative Workshops. Her other acting ventures include volunteering with the West Sacramento CERT as their Fire Prevention Trailer Instructors. Ashley will read Jenni Wiltz’ “Letters.”

Pamela Metzger was a radio announcer in the Sacramento area for 20 years. She has always enjoyed a good read on road trips, with each passenger giving their interpretation as they read aloud. The second child of 9 brothers and sisters made storytelling a necessary element in her well rounded personality. She resides in Sacramento and is in the Television advertising business. Pam will read William Doonan’s “Lady Anaconda.”

Visit Stories on Stage’s blog for more information about interviews and other events.

Zimbabwean Writer on 2011 US Foreign Press Center Media Tour

Zimbabwean writer, journalist, blogger, and gender activist, Delta Milayo Ndou will be touring Washington DC and Minneapolis in June as one of 20 journalists who have been identified by the Washington Foreign Press Center as emerging Global New Media Leaders. She is one of 4 African journalists – and the other African countries represented are Morocco, Uganda & Kenya.

The participants, selected from all over the globe will represent countries such Iran, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Yemen, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan, among others.

Announcing the news of Delta Milayo Ndou’s acceptance to the programme, JB Leedy of the Washington Press Center commended the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Harare for the “great nomination”, adding that nominations for the FPC Blogging for Social and Political Change tour were impressive. “We received 45 nominations for 20 available slots and all were impressive, so you can expect your participant to get a lot out of not only the official program, but networking with fellow global new media leaders on the tour,” stated Leedy.

The bloggers will be expected to do significant blogging both during and after the program, and to provide the FPC with feedback on the nature of those blog posts.
They will also be expected to find creative ways to amplify the USG message on the role of new media in civil society and press freedom when bloggers return home.
Activities during the tour include engagement in the Blogosphere to explore how the U.S Government (USG) advances foreign policy positions on the web by discussing new media strategy with top-level policy advisors, meeting with those implementing the strategy through official USG blogs to find out more about how they choose what to blog about, assess the interests of their target audiences, and gauge their effectiveness in conveying the USG message.

Some of the key discussions and activities will revolve around maintaining and promoting Freedom of Expression on the Internet; attending and taking part in Netroots Nation 2011, one of USA’s most prominent blogger conferences,an annual forum for exchanging ideas and using technology “to influence the public debate, inspire action, and serve as an incubator for progressive ideas that challenge the status quo and ultimately affect change in the public sphere.”

You can read Delta Milayo Ndou’s work on her blog, itsdelta.

New Novel focuses on the Zimbabwe Land Issue

I have started reading Na’ima B. Robert’s Far from Home, which focuses on two types land reforms or seisures in Zimbabwe. From the moment I heard about this book, I liked its premise and have been looking forward to reading. I have begun, and so I far I am drawned to the background, cultural details the author is giving, a familiar, relatable story, heightening that that nostalgic feeling in me. I will talk some more about the novel itself once I am done reading, but for now, here is some product information straight from the press release.

Exploring the untold history of Zimbabwe’s land reforms, Far from Home tells the story of Katie and Tariro, two girls linked by a terrible secret, grappling with the complexities of adolescence, family and a painful colonial legacy as their lives play out against the tragic history of the land in Zimbabwe.

14-year-old Tariro is a daughter of the soil: she loves the land, the baobab tree she was born beneath, her family – and brave, handsome Nhamo. She couldn’t be happier. But then the white settlers arrive, and everything changes – suddenly, violently – robbing Tariro of all that she loves.

Forty years later, 14-year-old Katie adores her doting father, her exclusive boarding school, and her farm with its baobab tree in rural Zimbabwe. Life is great. Until the land acquisition programme forces the family off the land and to cold, rainy London.

Atmospheric and epic in scope, Far from Home brings the turbulent history of Zimbabwe to vivid, tangible life, challenging the reader to view it with new eyes.

Na’ima B Robert, born Thando Nomhle McLaren, is descended from Scottish Highlanders on her father’s side and the Zulu people on her mother’s side. She was brought up in Harare, Zimbabwe, and graduated from the University of London. Her books include the popular ‘From my sisters’ lips’, and teen novels, ‘From Somalia, with love’ and ‘Boy vs. Girl’. Na’ima has also been published in The Times, The Observer and The Muslim Weekly as well as several online publications, including She is married to a Ghanaian and has four children.

African Literature and the Internet

I participated in a discussion of African writing and the internet. Below is an excerpt, as well as a link to One Ghana One Voice (OGOV) for the rest of the discussion.

Prince Mensah: Considering the present shape of African writing, what visible steps are being taken to use the Internet as a medium of communication? Are those steps enough? What impact does all this have on indigenous readers who might or might not have access to the Internet?

Michelle Labossiere Brandt: The Internet is turning out to be a fantastic gift to the African writer, and an immediate way to publicize one’s creativity. It is the diving board, a place to launch and in doing so extends out to those readers who don’t have access to the Internet!

Let me use my own community as an example. Our goal as an organization (RIFE & RIFG) was twofold: bring poets from Africa and Canada together to publish an anthology to raise money for a project in Ghana, and educate the average Edmontonian poet and reader as to the incredible pool of African writers/poets. We have achieved those goals and it all started through the long arm of the Internet, one of our main sources being OGOV. Since that time a number of local non-African poets have now become interested in African literature/poetry. Some of these local poets don’t have access to the Internet but they are avid readers, and come out to poetry readings.

The long arm of the Internet is a bridge for global writers to share their talent and inspire one another and thereby perhaps impact the world at large in a positive and creative manner.

Emmanuel Sigauke: Most writers have websites, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, and they use these as tools to publicize their works, to create a platform. These are effective tools of communication, but as there is too much of a wide choice of information online, what’s needed is a more effective channeling of the information to make sure that it reaches as many people as possible. In other words, there should be networking, targeted linking of the media that the writers use.

While the Internet is helping develop the literature in urban Africa and in the Diaspora, there is still a wide gap in communication with the majority of African readers. Many people in African countries have no access to the Internet, so whatever programs are represented online should be replicated on the ground in different communities and especially at the grassroots level. Writers should also be involved in outreach programs that promote reading and writing in Africa.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes: The state of African writing is a big question. I’d say it’s abuzz with possibilities and disjointed (which is not necessarily a bad thing), meaning that the next few years will tell us what is really happening.

Steps being taken – as Michelle has shown, and Emmanuel has touched on – are as diverse as the forms and stages of writing themselves. I was recently contacted by a Ghanaian poet who sent me links to tracks from a forthcoming CD online to listen to. That triggered two thoughts – one, we use technology very quickly and effectively (I live in the UK and wouldn’t have thought of getting cross-continental feedback) and two, the Internet means that the distance between the practising writers and aspiring writers is very small – there is a lot of promise in that if we (the practising writers) stay accessible.

As for indigenous readers, this can only be better for them, because they barely had access to work when there was no Internet anyway so there is no way technology can impoverish them, it can only enrich their experience – even if it starts with something as simple as quotes in text messages.

Martin Egblewogbe: As a result of low Internet penetration in Africa, I strongly suspect that most users of literary websites dedicated to African writing tend to live in the diaspora, and may have a readership that is mainly non-African. In this regard, unless the target audience of a Ghanaian writer is global or non-African, there is a fundamental disconnect when the work is published online; this is the disconnect of speaking without the possibility of being heard. To most people on the continent, the publication simply doesn’t exist. Therefore, the impact in terms of widespread acknowledgement is naturally constricted (to an extent, this is also quite true of many hard publications).

It is quite clear that our social reflex has not yet quite adjusted to the Internet, especially when it comes to publishing literary works: we can see potential, we know it can be used for something, but we are not very sure what, or how it will be achieved. We may yet be surprised.

At this present time, the use of the Internet as a medium for publication has both detrimental and positive effects, both on the writer and the art, the extent of which depends on the fronts listed earlier. I will probably expand on this as the discussion progresses.

Ivor Hartmann: From my own interaction as, and with other African writers, I’d say we’re on the cusp of a never before seen explosion of African literature. This is not without its pitfalls: anyone can now self-publish, but this does not mean that what is self-published will be good. I say it often but it still holds true: writers have to have good editors. We still need gatekeepers, as not everyone who thinks they are a great writer (and we all think that of course), is necessarily so. But (and its a big “but”), there is plenty of room for mediocre writers too, and market forces.

In Africa (and Diaspora) we writers have the tendency to want to be the next Soyinka, Marechera, etc. In other words, to excel strictly in ‘literary’ writing. Who can blame us? They are Africa’s literary heroes whom we of course aspire to. This however leaves a wide open gap in all the other genres that needs to be filled, and is currently filled with imported writing. It is this gap that I’d like to see filled locally.

There is a desperate need for more (affordable) print books on the ground in Africa. We writers may have heartily embraced the online world, but not so much our potential local readers for many reasons (89.1% of Africa does not have online access). There is an ever growing technological divide, and the vast majority of Africa will not have access to the digital literature age that is fast upon us. This means that while African writers do indeed now have access to far more international markets, the same can not be said for local markets where affordable print still rules.

Read the full discussion at One Ghana One Voice.