Thanks for checking in. So what's up?
Carol Gomez, Clinical Director of the Program for Torture Victims, made my latest project possible. It's been inspiring and also a lot of fun to offer workshops - writing, games, song - with survivors from Cameroon, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, and Ukraine. It's a chance for some extraordinary people to use their creativity and imagination, to laugh and play, improve focus and concentration, and focus on something other than the trauma of what they've endured and the challenges of rebuilding their lives here.
Throughout October 2015, Sayda Trujillo and I worked with young people in the POPS Club at Venice High School, all affected by incarceration and deportation policies. Thank you Dennis Danziger and Amy Friedman for creating a safe space for these kids and inviting us in.
Before I left for Africa in May (to collaborate with ImaginAction and Kaddu Yaraax, a Senegalese troupe committed to participatory theater and community empowerment - some quick blog posts about Senegal here, here, and here), I was very happy the first reviews came in for Confessions of a Carnivore.
Marc Estrin and Donna Bister of Fomite Press, an "anti-capitalist" publisher located in the free city of Burlington, Vermont, love cats and Marc was with Bread and Puppet Theater so we're obviously on the same wavelength. How perfect that they are the publishers of Confessions of a Carnivore. (Click on the title for ordering info)
January - March 2015 kept me busy working with Hector Aristizabal and his nonprofit, ImaginAction, as we created theater and elicit oral histories from some amazing torture survivors as well as the second generation now resident in Los Angeles. We're very lucky to have support for all this from CalHumanities, the LA Department of Cultural Affairs, and the assistance of the Program for Torture Victims. To repeat the invitation at the top of the page, please visit the Second Chances LA website to read the stories of some extraordinary people and their family members and see some photos from the performances of Second Chances. I hope to add two new histories each month. And thanks to the Pasadena Playhouse, we also worked with the Latino community of the San Gabriel Valley to create Estamos Aqui...Where Do We Go?, a play based on issues in people's lives. And news: we return to Pasadena in February 2015 to help the community in District 5 create another Forum Theater play - this time about encroaching gentrification.
Here's the most recent interview with me - probably the last of 2015 - in conversation with Liz Blood of Awst Press.
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My novel, The Fiery Alphabet (which was actually completed back in 1986), came out on September 5th, 2013 from Loose Leaves Publishing and received a very gratifying review in the Fall issue of ForeWord Reviews. The novel made the list of Top Reads of 2013 from TNBBC. And thank you, Beth Castrodale, for making it a Small Press Pick. Beth also prepared a terrific discussion guide which you can download here.
Read a excerpt from the novel here.
I came across this great plug for both the novel and my publisher online by author Claudia Long: I was attracted to Loose Leaves Publishing because of The Fiery Alphabet. I read about the book in the She Writes newsletter. I liked the sound of the book and bought it. As soon as started it, I was entranced. Who publishes such a book? I wondered. No major house would take a chance on such an esoteric topic, despite the fact that The Fiery Alphabet could be a best-seller. I checked and it was Loose Leaves. The choices, and the beauty of the publication, point to a fine, truly independent house.
And here's a free booklet available for download. In September 2014 I was in Salt Lake County facilitating writing workshops for refugee and immigrant youth at the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center. We published a little book of the kids' work and a PDF copy is available, too, for free download, here.
And another book that came out of workshops. Thanks to support from the LA Department of Cultural Affairs, I was able to facilitate a series of writing workshops with men on parole in The Francisco Homes transitional housing. We published Turning the Page, a book from the writing that came out of the group and distributed free copies at a book signing and discussion on September 21st at the Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library. You can check out the website for the project here, where you can also download a free PDF of Turning the Page. (One of the best things to come out of this project was the website led to the reunion of a father and daughter who'd lost touch for decades.)
My NYC-noir crime novel, Nobody Wakes Up Pretty was published in 2012 by Lyle Perez-Tinics of Rainstorm Press and you can click here for an excerpt and self-interview thanks to Gina Frangello and Leah Tallon of The Nervous Breakdown.
The Blessing Next to the Wound, co-authored with Hector Aristizabal, received Honorable Mention from the International Latino Book Awards and was a reading selection chosen in 2010 by the Amnesty International book club in Pasadena. In September 2011, Amnesty International US headquarters included it in a list of suggested readings for Banned Books Week. The Blessing Next to the Wound is Hector's true story of surviving civil war, torture, and more in Colombia and how he has worked to heal himself and others by engaging the imagination through activism and art. In 2012, Hector received the 2012 Rene Otto Castillo Award for political theatre.
Do check out the Books page for information on my past books (esp. fiction) and links to other stories of
mine that can be read on-line, the Coming Up page for events and recent publications. A quick link to my somewhat outdated blog is here. The Wordpress blog, started for what was then the upcoming publication of Nobody Wakes Up Pretty, now includes other material and has more up-to-date blog posts.
contact me: DianeLefer@gmail.com
He didn't know writing could be so much fun
(in my workshop with Educar es fiesta, Cochabamba, Bolivia)
(in my workshop with Educar es fiesta, Cochabamba, Bolivia)