Santa Cruz Writes fosters a literary community in Santa Cruz County
heir tagline is “Enhancing literary opportunities for Santa Cruz County writers.” And in the past year since Santa Cruz Writes first started, that’s exactly what the group has done.
After attending a writing conference in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of 2011, local writing colleagues Jory Post, Julia Chiapella and Karen Ackland were inspired to start a literary journal that would feature the works of Santa Cruz County writers. Their idea for an online literary magazine soon ballooned into a collaborative literary hub—complete with live readings, literary outreach in local schools, a poetry contest and community-based projects. This multifaceted hub is sheltered under the umbrella organization Santa Cruz Writes—with the online literary journal “phren-Z” (phren-z.org), launched in February of this year, as its main outlet.
“Santa Cruz is so rich in our literary and arts culture, and there are so many different segments—but they’re not always connected together,” explains Post, director of Santa Cruz Writes. “We thought it would be great to work in collaboration with existing organizations and projects, but also on new projects.”
The list of collaborators is extensive, with more than a dozen community organizations including the UC Santa Cruz literature department, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Capitola Book Café, Felix Kulpa Gallery, Friends of Santa Cruz Public Libraries and Poetry Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz Writes even plans to work cooperatively with another Santa Cruz-based literary journal, the forthcoming “Catamaran Literary Reader,” and find ways to support one another’s projects.
“We don’t consider this our project,” says Post. “We consider this a community project that will grow.”
An important component of this growth is providing a venue for the literary works of Santa Cruz County writers. With its third issue released earlier this month, phren-Z is gaining steam within the local writing and reading community. Not only does the magazine feature a variety of fiction, poetry, plays, monologues and creative nonfiction from local talents, but each issue is launched with an event where contributors read their work in front of a live audience.
The Summer 2012 issue features contributions from Steve Woodhams, Patrice Vecchione, Thad Nodine, Alta Ifland, Shiloh Hellman, Peggy Heinrich, Eileen Eccles, Lauren Crux, John Chandler and Dane Cervine.
“This has really afforded an outlet for Santa Cruz writers,” says Chandler, who contributed an excerpt from his novel-in-progress to the recent issue of phren-Z.
For Chandler, one of the most valuable aspects of being published in the literary magazine is the opportunity to read his work out loud—literally giving voice to his words.
“It’s always exciting to hear people read their work live,” he says, “and it’s exciting for writers to get up there and read. The audience can cue you as to the tempo of a piece, whether the characters are resonating, that sort of thing. So it’s very good tuning for the writer to read to an audience.”
In addition to providing both online and live venues for Santa Cruz area writers, phren-Z also publishes “Floodlight Features,” special web editions that provide in-depth focus on specific writers and literary topics, as well as “Flashlights,” news flashes on the local literary scene. The magazine is currently hosting the first annual Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Contest, a national poetry contest dedicated to the memory of the well-known late Santa Cruz poet. Entries will be accepted through Sept. 1, with a winning prize of $1,000 and publication in phren-Z’s Winter 2012 issue (see website for more information).
Because a vital component of a thriving literary community is nurturing the voices of emerging writers, Santa Cruz Writes is gearing up to launch their Young Writers program this fall. Modeled after the Bay Area’s 826 Valencia program, Young Writers will match volunteers with local schools to work with students on writing projects that culminate in a printed book and a reading.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has granted seed money to help fund two pilot programs, which will take place this fall in a fifth grade classroom at Gault Elementary School and an eighth grade classroom at Mission Hill Middle School.
“Writing is essential to figuring out the world,” says Chiapella, director of the Young Writers Program. “This provides an opportunity for students to find their voices in writing, and become enchanted with the written word and all the possibilities it contains.”
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