Events and Blog Tour
Workshops with refugee youth in Salt Lake City thanks to a mini-grant from the Jarvis & Constance Doctorow Family Foundation. But there’s a public event, too: Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 at 7:00 PM, I’ll be reading in the City Art series, along with Hilary Thomas, at the Salt Lake City Main Library, downtown at 210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 — 4th floor conference room.
Sunday, January 26, 2014 at noon I’ll be speaking about Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline at University City United Church, 2877 Governor Drive • San Diego, CA 92122
Wednesday, November 20, I’ll be on the talk show The Point (Young Turks Network). It will be available online after taping. Link to come. Here it is. The subject will be prisons, mostly California prisons I assume, but having just participated in workshops in two prisons in Northern Ireland during the month of October, who knows? Things might get to be international.
October: I was in Belfast, Derry, and Strabane, Northern Ireland with ImaginAction, the nonprofit of my frequent collaborator, Hector Aristizabal. We offered theater workshops to vulnerable communities, including prisoners. I was also able to spend time with the Ballymurphy Massacre Families, still seeking justice for the 1971 killings of their loved ones by British paratroopers in 1971. (My essay about them will be in the December issue of New Madrid.)
The Fiery Alphabet online and in the blogosphere. Check out the page.
July and August. It’s been inspiring to be able to facilitate writing workshops for men released on parole after decades in some of California’s roughest prisons thanks to a grant from the LA Department of Cultural Affairs. Everyone is invited to receive a free copy of Turning the Page, the book we will be publishing. Please join me and some of the writers on Saturday, September 21st at the Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library community room, 3900 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles 90062 from 3:30-5:00 PM for a reading, discussion, and book signing. You can also check out the website for the project and download a free PDF copy of Turning the Page by clicking here.
Loose Leaves Publishing will bring out my novel, The Fiery Alphabet, the first week in September 2013. This really brought me some joy as the manuscript had been turned down by the publisher Jessica Knauss used to work for. When she co-founded Loose Leaves, she immediately got in touch and asked for it. Isn’t that what authors often dream will happen? There will be more details as we move forward.
June: I was back at the Circle X Ranch to facilitate another theater workshop for the great kids of South Bay Youth 4 Peace, sponsored by San Pedro Neighbors for Peace and Justice. They took on homophobia, the prison-industrial complex, an unnamed store (Abercrombie & Fitch!) that wouldn’t carry clothes for large women and where employees were insulting, and also just had fun.
It was great fun to be a panelist at the 7th annual festival, Literary Orange, sponsored by Orange County Public Libraries, on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at the Irvine Marriott from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, 18000 Von Karman Ave, Irvine, California 92612. Andrew Tonkovich (the Bibliofella) moderating. There will be so many terrific authors there, especially on the panel with me: Gayle Brandeis, Aris Janigian, Hector Tobar. Triple Wow.
Here’s what Andrew wrote about Nobody Wakes Up Pretty in OC Weekly:
… author-teacher-activist Diane Lefer, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize from Sarabande Books for California Transit, has written a mystery novel. While I generally eschew this genre (mostly because I’m too busy reading other books), I had a jolly good time reading Nobody Wakes Up Pretty, a smart and sexy book, every page an attack on all that is decent, from the wry title on.
The smart, attractive heroine of this subversive little novel joins forces with her charismatic homeless (!) black (!) boyfriend, toward figuring out a murder in the Big Rotten Apple, circa 1992. The humor is vividly and subversively provocative, including a scene involving the screening of a porno snuff film featuring a monkey and President Bush G.W. Bush, just to be clear about the expectations Lefer has about her audience, and their willingness to embrace – or not – yes, the perfect metaphor for that particular political era. Of course, we’ll be talking mostly about So Cal on Saturday, to which Lefer is a transplant. She’s an amazing person, who worked at the LA Zoo with primates and as a translator for people stuck in INS detention. And wrote about both. At past events, she has arrived wearing the jumpsuit of Guantanamo prisoners. One of the smartest people, let alone writers, I know.
We Are Here: Theater of Witness with Survivors of Torture
Survivors from five countries tell their own stories and perform scenes about their escape to the US and how they rebuild their lives…two nights only. I served as playwright/dramaturg for this project directed by Hector Aristizabal and Alessia Cartoni with the support of LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs and in cooperation with the Program for Torture Victims, the first organization in the US to offer free medical and psychological treatment to survivors.
Please come and meet and applaud these courageous people from Cameroon, El Salvador, Guatemala, Russia, and Uganda. (Rossana Perez from El Salvador, as photographed by Brian Biery during the performance, is pictured here.)
PTV has offices above Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Avenue, LA 90007 and on Tuesday, February 26th, we will premiere the play in the community space. The next night, Wednesday, February 27th, survivors will take the stage in a more theatrical venue, Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams, LA 90016.
Both performances are free to the public.
January 28th, the blog tour continues. I’m Charlene Wilson’s Highlighted Author.
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December 15, I helped the fabulous Youth Ambassadors — high school students Elizabeth Ferreira, Olivia Finnegan, Marlee Goldshine, Heather Reitzfeld, and a new very welcome addition, Sybil (whose last name I unfortunately didn’t learn–got to add that!), and their adviser, Christine Ferreira — as they prepare to create theater focused on the environment of Ballona Creek with 4th graders at Stoner Elementary School.
And the 21st-century book tour turns out to be via blogs instead of in person, so here are links to my guest blogger posts:
September 7th, 2012 at Elizabeth Spann Craig’s site, Mystery Writing Is Murder
August 25th, an interview at Pat Bertram Introduces.
August 22nd at Creative Writing Addict, the site of historical fiction author Gretchen Elhassani.
and at Indie Book Spot. (And–what an honor–Gbanabom Hallowell, poet and journalist in Sierra Leone, has asked to reprint this piece in Sierra Arts. Do check out his online magazine to read new writing from Sierra Leone, Africa. Read. Think. Enjoy.)
August 15th at the Hunger Mountain site (with thanks to Cynthia Newberry Martin) I look at giving equal weight to characters with opposing views.
Ray Bradbury’s passing made me think about how genre fiction slips past barriers of censorship. Mary Ann Loesch posted this in All Things Writing.
Here’s’ what else I’ve been up to:
My short theatre piece Future Forward has been selected for this year’s Museum of Dysfunction presented by Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company. Really, how can I be anything other than thrilled to be an exhibit in such a museum! The show will run August 9-11 at Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios in Houston. How I would love to be planning a trip to Texas.
Back to Peace Camp in the Santa Monica Mountains on June 26. Once again, I led a political theatre workshop for the high school and college activists who attend this inspiring program offered each summer by San Pedro Neighbors for Peace and Justice.
On June 21, actor Victoria Hoffman will portray me in Henry Ong’s theatre piece for the Program for Torture Victims.
I’ll be on the panel organized by PEN Center USA to discuss Censorship and the Enduring Legacy of Fahrenheit 451 on April 30, 2012, from 7-9 PM in the City Council Chambers, West Hollywood.
Workshop coming up April 9-14, 2012 here in Los Angeles County with young people at Childrens Institute International.
March 22 at 8:00 – performing “Future-Forward” again at the Secret Rose Theatre along with other past winners of the Monolog Slam.
March 14, 2012 I’m invited back to CalState-Fullerton for a still more updated presentation to the Media Literacy class on how the media and popular culture treat the subject of torture.
February 11-23, 2012 In Bolivia with the wonderful nonprofit organization Educar es fiesta.
January 16, 2012 I’ll be at Valparaiso University (in Indiana, not Chile) to lead a focus session during the whole-day Martin Luther King, Jr. event which this year is devoted to education. I feel so honored to be invited. Later that week, Hector and I will be at the University of Chicago thanks to the incredible efforts made by talented writer Stephanie Friedman. These events are free and open to the public.
Actor and Author Bring their Unique Combination of Art, Activism, and Pedagogy to the University of Chicago
Hector Aristizábal is a psychologist, actor, and human rights activist whose work has taken him all over the world, including the United States, Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Israel and the Occupied Territories, and Northern Ireland. Diane Lefer, self-described “author, playwright, [and] troublemaker,” has been praised by Oscar Hijuelos as “one of the most witty and gifted writers around.” Together, they have created works about violence and healing which have reached audiences all over the world. They also give workshops which provide participants with the tools to bring change to their own communities through writing and theater arts.
From January 18th through the 21st, in a series of events titled The Blessing Next to the Wound: Imagination and Social Change, members of the University of Chicago and wider community will have the chance to see these artists perform, talk to them about their work and the issues which inform it, and learn from them in specially tailored workshops. They will also have the opportunity to sneak preview a new documentary featuring Mr. Aristizábal, Beneath the Blindfold, with a Q&A afterward with Mr. Aristizábal and the Chicago-based filmmakers. All events will be free and open to the public.
Lefer and Aristizábal have collaborated on a one-man performance piece, Nightwind, about hisexperiences surviving civil war, torture, and imprisonment in Colombia, and a book, The Blessing Next to the Wound, about how he has worked to heal himself and others by engaging the imagination through activism and art. In addition to his performances, Mr. Aristizábal enacts his philosophy of transformation through a blend of theater arts in workshops offered via his nonprofit organization, ImagiNaction (http://imaginaction.org/). He is the winner of the 2012 Otto René Castillo Award, an award established by the Castillo Theatre in New York City to support the ongoing development of political theatre internationally, and previously won by luminaries such as Laurie Anderson, El Teatro Campesino, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He is literally leaving straight from Chicago to perform and give workshops in Guatemala.
In addition to her collaborations with Hector Aristizábal, Ms. Lefer is also the author of the short story collections, California Transit (winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction), Very Much Like Desire, and The Circles I Move In, as well as the novel Radiant Hunger. Her many plays include God’s Flea, which was most recently produced by New Carpa Theatre Company at the Border Justice Conference at Arizona State University and on the lawn in front of the Arizona State Capitol. After twenty-three years teaching in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, she now teaches writing both English- and Spanish-language workshops “aimed at getting people to write who think they can’t, often because they’ve been told they can’t or have even been labeled illiterate” in her home town of Los Angeles as well as in communities throughout the Americas; this is what she’ll be doing in Bolivia after she leaves Chicago.
Schedule of Events:
Wednesday, January 18, 8 pm: Sneak Preview of Beneath the Blindfold, followed by a Q&A with Hector Aristizábal and filmmakers Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger (International House Assembly Hall, 1414 E. 59th Street)
Thursday, January 19, 8 pm: Performance by Hector Aristizábal: Nightwind, followed by a book signing for The Blessing Next to the Wound by Hector Aristizábal and Diane Lefer (Reynolds Club Third Floor Theater, 1135 E. 57th Street)
Friday, January 20, noon: Brown Bag Lunch and Discussion with Hector Aristizábal and Diane Lefer on their advocacy work in Latin America and the principles of the Theater of the Oppressed (Center for Latin American Studies, Kelly Hall room 114, 5848 S. University Avenue)
Friday, January 20, 3-4 pm: Reading/Performance by Diane Lefer (Office of Multicultural Student Affairs room 140, 5710 S. Woodlawn Avenue)
Friday, January 20, 4-5:30 pm: Workshop with Hector Aristizábal: Awakening the Imagination for Social Change (Office of Multicultural Student Affairs room 140, 5710 S. Woodlawn Avenue)
Saturday, January 21, 10 am-12:30 pm: Workshop with Diane Lefer: Teaching Writing as a Tool for Social Change (Cobb Hall room 409, 5811 S. Ellis Avenue)
Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, the Civic Knowledge Project, the Film Studies Center, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Writer’s Studio program at the Graham School of Continuing Professional and Liberal Studies, the Human Rights Program, International House, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Theater and Performance Studies Program, and the Urban Teacher Education Program.
Friday night I will also speak about human rights at the Or Chadash synagogue and on Saturday, after the Graham School workshop, it’s off to the suburbs to work with the Barrington Writers Workshop thanks to the terrific writer and milonguera (is that the right word?) Natalie Pepa.