Tag Archives: short fiction

July at Stories on Stage Sacramento: Mothers, Daughters, Earthquakes, Aftershocks

Maureen O'Leary wanket 4In October of 1989, Maureen O’Leary was a student at UC Santa Cruz, a “cranky nineteen-year-old with very few friends, very little passion for anything or anyone.”  At 5:03 on October 17, she was at her job at the Ace Hardware store in downtown Santa Cruz when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck and the building collapsed. She ducked under a desk and was spared: several other people in the same building were not. The event changed her instantly, and inspired the fictional narrative of her newly published novel The Ghost Daughter (Coffeetown Press,) in which the earthquake triggers an aftershock of discovery for two mothers and a long-ago abandoned daughter.   Advance praise for The Ghost Daughter  includes this from National Book Award finalist Karen Bender: “Maureen O’Leary excavates her characters’ hearts with precise honesty, exploring the ways connections between mothers and daughters, friends and lovers stretch, break, endure. A beautiful and moving book.”  Maureen is the Stories on Stage Sacramento featured writer for July, and you can read her harrowing account of survival in her blog https://maureenolearyauthor.com/2016/07/01/the-day-i-died/. She’s also the author of the novels How to be Manly and The Arrow, She won Heyday Books’ Sacramento Valley Writing Contest for Poetry, and her short stories and poetry appear in Esopus, Night Train Journal, Brackish Vol. 2, Revolution John, Prick of the Spindle, The Gold Man Review, and in Shade Mountain Press’ anthology The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women. She’s been featured in Sacramento Magazine, teaches at Christian Brothers High School, and lives in Sacramento with her husband and two daughters

Krista MinardAppearing with Maureen is editor and fiction writer Krista Minard. Krista’s short story “Resurgence” focuses on an earthquake of a more subtle kind: a memory that haunts a mother, who can’t separate it from fears for her pre-teen daughter. . Since 1994, Krista has been editor of Sacramento Magazine and of several bridal publications. As a fiction writer, her short stories and essays have been published in Susurrus, Paper Wings and Soul of the Narrator. She attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers fiction workshop in 2011. She lives in Folsom with her husband, two nearly-grown daughters and two black cats.

Elise Marie HodgeReading an excerpt from The Ghost Daughter will be Sacramento actress Elise Marie Hodge, a Stories on Stage favorite and owner of EMH Productions. a company dedicated to putting
time and energy into creative work as a producer, director, actor, and writer to
help facilitate opportunities for other artists in these same arenas. Elise has
produced, directed, acted and written over 20 shows for the stage in
Sacramento for the past six years, having last been seen in Goodbye Freddy by
Elizabeth Diggs at the Geery Theatre. She is currently in production for an
original work titled These Lonesome Roads by Dan Fagan for September of
2016. She has split her time equally between Los Angeles and Sacramento,
receiving awards along the way for her efforts in theatre, TV and film. She has
been a member of the 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company in LA for the last 10

Victoria GoldblattVictoria Goldblatt will read “Resurgence.”  She’s been a Sacramento performer for over 20 years in a variety of films, commercials, community theater and voice overs for TV and radio.. The former Casting Director for Stories on Stage in Sacramento, she was a member of the Steering Committee for the Sacramento’s Playwrights Collaborative for the past seven years.

Stories on Stage Sacramento at the Sacramento Poetry Center, Friday July 29. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. A $10 donation is suggested.

Now in its seventh season, Stories on Stage Sacramento continues to bring the best in literary fiction to a growing Sacramento audience. Featured writers for 2015 included Tobias Wolff, Elena Mauli Shapiro, Sharma Shields, Ann Packer, Karen Bender, Kathryn Ma, T. Geronimo Johnson, Bonnie ZoBell, Adam Johnson, and Naomi Williams. The lineup for 2016 includes Anthony Marra, Vendela Vida, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lori Ostlund, Mary Volmer, Maureen O’Leary, Jodi Angel, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and, in a new partnership with the Los Rios Community Colleges, an evening devoted to the best writing from their prize-winning literary magazines. As a completely volunteer organization, supported by donations, we’re proud of the fine writers we’ve brought to Sacramento, some of them for the first time, and we’re excited to continue to present more fine writing read by actors to Sacramento lovers of literature.

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Prizewinning twosome at Stories on Stage Sacramento, May 27

Lori Ostlund Anne Raeff 2We’re excited and so, so pleased to bring you not one but two featured authors this month. Lori Ostlund and Anne Raeff are both powerful and lyric writers, partners for more than 20 years and now, married. Other things you should know about them: they once owned an antique shop called “Two  Serious Ladies,” referencing the novel by Jane Bowles, they’re both teachers who work primarily with immigrants and each of them has won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, one of the most coveted short story prizes in America. And, most importantly for Sacramento lovers of great fiction, they’re making their first joint appearance at Stories on Stage Sacramento on May 27,2016.

Among examples of the universal praise for Lori Ostlund‘s 2009 Flannery O’Connor Lori OstlundAward-winning collection, The Bigness of the World (newly issued in paperback,) is this from Publisher’s Weekly. “…Ostlund’s artful prose is playfully complex and illuminating, evocative and unsentimental…each piece is sublime.” The collection also won the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and the 2009 California Book Award for First Fiction. After the publication of her debut novel After the Parade in September 2015, no less an authority than the New York Times praised it as “a powerful debut…provides considerable pleasure and emotional power.” The novel won starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, was on the “best books of 2015” list for both NPR and Buzzfeed, and was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.

Anne RaeffIn her praise for Anne Raeff‘s winning collection The Jungle Around Us, legendary Flannery O’Connor Award editor Nancy Zafris explains why she selected the work for the 2015 prize:  “A wonderfully mature vision informs the stories of The Jungle Around Us, stories that risk being termed old-fashioned—if old-fashioned means ditching self-consciousness and cleverness and bringing back hard-earned intelligence and historical weight and putting them all under a single multicultural roof. The miracle of these stories is their ultimate simplicity and intimacy even as they weave together numerous global threads.”  Anne’s stories and essays have appeared in the New England Review, ZYZZYVA, and Guernica, among other places. Her first novel, Clara Mondschein’s Melancholia, was published in 2002. She’s a child of immigrants and much of her writing draws on her family’s history as refugees from war and the Holocaust.

Reading an excerpt from After the Parade is Sacramento actor Ethan Ethan IrelandIreland,  a multidisciplinary veteran of the film, television and theater trade, with sixteen years as a working professional in both performance and technical roles. The son of noted ‘lit noir’ author Patrick Ireland, Ethan is a writer & director of several short films, and has worked as a voice actor and a performer for both stage and screen since 1995. Most recently he appeared in EMH’s productions of After Hours and An Almost Perfect Person. He has performed at Now Hear This: A Story and Music Performance Series produced by Atim Udoffia.

Kristine DavidThe short story “Chinese Opera” from Anne Raeff’s  The Jungle Around Us will be read by Kristine David, a local actor and musician in Northern California. She has been seen on many Sacramento stages including: B Street Theatre (Provenance, Bob,) Capital Stage (Mauritius, Much Ado About Nothing,) Sacramento Theater Company (Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet) & Big Idea Theatre (Inventing Van Gogh, Complete Female Stage Beauty.)

Now in its seventh season, Stories on Stage Sacramento continues to bring the best in literary fiction to a growing Sacramento audience. Featured writers for 2015 included Tobias Wolff, Elena Mauli Shapiro, Sharma Shields, Ann Packer, Karen Bender, Kathryn Ma, T. Geronimo Johnson, Bonnie ZoBell, Adam Johnson, and Naomi Williams. The lineup for 2016 includes Anthony Marra, Vendela Vida, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lori Ostlund, Mary Volmer, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and, in a new partnership with the Los Rios Community Colleges, an evening devoted to the best writing from their prize-winning literary magazines. As a completely volunteer organization, supported by donations, we’re proud of the fine writers we’ve brought to Sacramento, some of them for the first time, and we’re excited to continue to present more fine writing read by actors to Sacramento lovers of literature.

Stories on Stage, with Lori Ostlund and Anne Raeff, Friday, May 27, 2016 at The Sacramento Poetry Center, 25th and R Streets. Doors open at 7PM; readings begin at 7:30. $10 donation suggested. Contact: Sue Staats, Coordinator for Stories on Stage, at suestaats@comcast.net

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Coming in April for the first time at Stories on Stage – Science Fiction!

Kim Stanley RobinsonNEW 2- Credit Sean CurtinStories on Stage Sacramento is excited to present

a modern master of science fiction

Kim Stanley Robinson

Friday, April 29, 2016 at Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S Street. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. A $10 donation is suggested.

Called “one of the greatest living science fiction writers” by Tim Kreider of The New Yorker, Davis resident Kim Stanley Robinson has won just about every imaginable award given in his genre—the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the World Fantasy Award. In May, he’ll receive the prestigious Robert A. Heinlein Award, bestowed for “outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.” This award recognizes an author’s body of work, which in Robinson’s case totals 19 novels, including his groundbreaking Mars trilogy, and over 40 short stories. Many of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural and political themes and often feature scientists as heroes. This willingness to tackle controversial political issues has earned him praise, again from The New Yorker’s Tim Kreider, as “one of the most important political writers working in America today,” and his work was labeled by the Atlantic as “the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing.”

His recently published short story “Oral Argument” will be read by Sacramento actor and Stories on Stage Sacramento favorite Blair Leatherwood.

Also appearing is emerging writer Andy Stewart, whose science fiction stories have appeared in Big Bridge, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and ZYZZYVA. He is a contributing reviewer for RAIN TAXI and The Review of Contemporary Fiction.A native Texan,
he graduated with an MFA is Creative Writing from San Diego State University and now lives and writes in Davis, California.

His short story Typhoid Jack will be read by Sacramento voice actor and producer Paul Kinney

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Stories on Stage welcomes Vendela Vida, Friday March 25 at the Sacramento Poetry Center

How lost can you be? When the narrator of   The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty finds herself in Casablavendela vida 2nca without passport, money, or credit cards, she could choose refuge in the American Embassy – or she could accept as hers the identity of a stranger, given to her by a mysterious police official. Her choice at this moment, and the following choices she makes, drive the relentless narrative and exploration of both physical and emotional identity in this engrossing novel by our March featured writer,  author ,editor and
scriptwriter Vendela Vida.   The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty was praised in the New York Times Sunday Book Review as “…portraying with cool wit and suspense the explosive emancipation of a woman who, long accustomed to playing handmaiden to more vivid personalities, is finally empowered to grab some warmth, drama, and magic for herself.” The twisting tale of how the nameless narrator accomplishes this is part of the charm of this intriguing story of identity lost, gained, lost and gained over and over again. Vendela Vida is the author of four additional books, including Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, which as a fellow at the Sundance Labs she developed into a script which received the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award. She’s the founding editor of The Believer magazine, and the co-editor of Always Apprentices, a collection of interviews with writers. Two of Vida’s novels have been New York Times Notable Books of the year, and she is the winner of the Kate Chopin Award, given to a writer whose female protagonist chooses an unconventional path. She lives in Northern California with her husband, the writer Dave Eggers, and two children. Since 2002 She has served on the board of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring lab for youth.

An excerpt from The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty will be read by Lori Russo.Lori Rosso
With a BFA from USC, Ms. Russo has performed on Broadway and toured nationally and internationally.  Since moving to Sacramento she has performed at Capital Stage in their productions of Superior Donuts  and Good People and received an Elly award for best actress for her performance in Love, Isadora at California Stage.


Appearing with Ms. Vida is Sacramento author J.L. James Cooper3(1)Cooper , the recent winner of the Tupelo Quarterly Prose Open Prize, judged by Pulitzer winner Adam Johnson. Jame also received First Place in Short Short Fiction in New Millennium Writings, 2013, and Second Place in Essay in Literal Latte, 2014. His short stories and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in The Manhattan Review, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Gold Man Review, KY Story, Temenos,, Paper Swans Press, Folia Literary Magazine, and in other journals and anthologies. A full-length collection of poetry, titled An Ocean Large Enough, is forthcoming from WordTech. His current projeMatt Rives 2ct is a wild collection of short stories about fictionalized therapy. Cooper is a practicing psychologist, which profession, he says, has” shaped him to lean in unexpected winds, to hold fast or be swept away in wonder. There is always context, amplified or subdued, a language in the hands, in posture, in the pauses between words.”

His prize-winning story short story “Path of the Ground Birds,” will be read by Matt Rives. An actor, musician, and stand-up comedian, Matt has played lead roles in Noises Off and A Comedy of Errors. Most recently, he played the role of the role of Tom/Narrator in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Mr. Aarons in Bridge to Terabitihia, and Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Now in its seventh season, Stories on Stage Sacramento continues to bring the best in literary fiction to a growing Sacramento audience. Last year’s featured writers included Tobias Wolff, Elena Mauli Shapiro, Sharma Shields, Ann Packer, Karen Bender, Kathryn Ma, T. Geronimo Johnson, Bonnie ZoBell, Adam Johnson, and Naomi Williams. The lineup for 2016 includes Anthony Marra, Vendela Vida, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lori Ostlund, Mary Volmer and, in a new partnership with the Los Rios Community Colleges, an evening devoted to the best writing from their prize-winning literary magazines. As a completely volunteer organization, supported by donations, we’re proud of the fine writers we’ve brought to Sacramento, some of them for the first time, and in 2016 we look forward to presenting more fine writing read by actors Sacramento lovers of literature.

Vendela Vida with JL Cooper, with readings by Lori Russo and Matt Rives, at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 25th and R Streets, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. A $5 donation is suggested. 

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We’re back at the Sacramento Poetry Center for the Grand Finale to our Sixth Season featuring Davis writer Naomi Williams

Naomi 3

What better way to cap off the sixth season of Stories on Stage Sacramento than to welcome Davis writer Naomi Williams as our featured writer for October. If you’ve attended our event in past years, you may have heard some of the tales that eventually became Naomi’s stunning debut novel, Landfalls, published in August to much acclaim by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Based on the ill-fated 18th century LaPerouse naval expedition, the novel was termed a “seductive page-turner” by the Wall Street Journal “dazzling” and “a bona fide masterpiece” by The Seattle Times, among many rave reviews. To hear these stories, and to see this work grow over the years, has been a pleasure and a privilege. Lucky me – I got to read the novel the first time just for the sheer pleasure of it, and then a second time to select the segment to be read! Every section is unique and wonderful and smart and beautifully crafted. I had a tough time deciding, but in the end selected the chapter “In The Mangroves,” which occurs toward the end of the expedition and concerns the mysterious death of one of the expedition priests.

Naomi’s  fiction has also appeared in journals such as A Public Space, One Story, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Zoetrope All-Story. In 2009, she received a Pushcart Prize and a Best American Short Story Honorable Mention. Naomi has an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis, and lives with her family in Davis, California, where she’s started work on her second book, a novel about the early 20th-century Japanese poet Yosano Akiko. You can read more about Naomi at her author page, http://naomijwilliams.com/Elise Winn

Also appearing with Naomi is  Elise Winn. Her stories have been published in American Short Fiction, Hobart, Indiana Review, Granta Online, and elsewhere, and have won awards from magazines such as The Iowa Review, Zoetrope: All Story, and Fairy Tale Review.She was a finalist for the 2012 Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize and chosen as runner-up in Black Warrior Review and Third Coast’s 2014 fiction contests. In April 2014 she was a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook. Raised in Missouri, Elise now lives in Davis, California, where she’s at work on a collection of short stories, Cloud, Egg, Bird, Box, and a novel.

Reading “In The Mangroves” from Blair LeatherwoodLandfalls is Blair Leatherwood, a veteran Sacramento actor and Stories on Stage favorite. He has over forty years of experience in the theater, with numerous film and commercial credits. He recently worked on Spike Lee’s “Livin’ Da Dream”, a segment of the NBA 2K16 video game. He also has years of experience with the Standardized Patient program at UCD Medical Center and is one of the audio describers for blind and visually impaired patrons of California Musical Theatre



Reading “Cloud, Egg, Bird, Box” by Elise Winn is Jessica Laskey. Just returned to her hometown, Sacramento, after a year spent in Paris, Jessica is an Equity actress whose favorite roles include Sally Bowles in Cabaret (UC Berkeley), Mae in Reefer Madness (Artistic Differences), Jenny in Threepenny Opera (California Stage) and several productions with the Sacramento Theatre Company. Jessica is also a freelance writer for Inside Publications, The Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Magazine and is currently working on a new book, This is Sacramento, for Inside Publications.

Currently wrapping up its sixth season, Stories on Stage Sacramento continues to bring the best in literary fiction to a growing  audience. Beginning with the 200+ people who attended the January kickoff event featuring Tobias Wolff, with readings by Janis Stevens and James Wheatley, enthusiastic attendees have heard readings from the work of Elena Mauli Shapiro, Sharma Shields, Ann Packer, Karen Bender, Kathryn Ma, T. Geronimo Johnson, Bonnie ZoBell, Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson, and now, debut novelist and Davis writer Naomi Williams, who is moving from “emerging” writer to “featured” writer status with the publication of her brilliant novel. We’re proud of our 2015 season – and look forward to presenting more fine writing, well told, to Sacramento lovers of literature.

Stories on Stage, with Naomi Williams and Elise Winn, Friday, October 30, 2015 at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 25th and R Streets, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM; readings begin at 7:30. $5 donation suggested. Contact: Sue Staats, Coordinator for Stories on Stage, at suestaats@comcast.net

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Fireworks in July: T. Geronimo Johnson and a Staged Reading from his novel Welcome to Braggsville, in partnership with Celebration Arts and Verge Center for the Arts.


T. Geronimo Johnson

SOMETIMES a writer’s words leap off the page, grab you by the hair, throw you down, wake you up, challenge your assumptions, shock you into seeing the world differently, and you know that the usual Stories on Stage format will not be enough to contain the author’s crazy, wonderful prose.  Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson is that kind of novel – a smart, funny, insightful, many-layered coming-of-age story about four college students who descend from Berkeley into a small town in the heart of the deep South, thinking they’ll show these Southerners a thing or two.

SO, on July 31, Stories on Stage will present a staged reading from Welcome to Braggsvile, in cooperation with Celebration Arts. We’ll feature five actors, James Wheatley, Kristine David, Doug Pieper, Tarig Elsiddig, and Sam Sims reading excerpts from key parts of the book, in an evening of electrifying, crackling  theatre you will not want to miss.

At Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento, July 31, 2015. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. The performance is a benefit for Celebration Arts: a donation of $10 is suggested and more is appreciated!

About T. Geronimo Johnson

Born and raised in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from UC Berkeley. He has taught writing and held fellowships—including a Stegner Fellowship and an Iowa Arts Fellowship—at Arizona State University, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Western Michigan University and Stanford. His first novel, Hold it ‘Til it Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction Johnson is currently a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Berkeley, California.

About Welcome to Braggsville

A young, white, working-class Southerner named D’aron Davenport is smart enough to get a scholarship to Berkeley. Eventually, shell-shocked D’aron meets up with three other students hovering on the fringes: an earnest girl from Iowa named Candice who claims to be part Native American; an African-American guy named Charlie from inner-city Chicago; and Louis, a sassy Asian teen from San WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE coverFrancisco whose goal in life is to become, as he says, “the next Lenny Bruce Lee, kung fu comedian.”

In their sophomore year, this band of friends makes the fatal error of signing up together for a course called “American History X, Y, and Z: Alternative Perspectives.” One day in class, the topic of historical reenactments comes up and D’aron lets slip that his hometown of Braggsville stages a kind of glorious “Lost Cause” Civil War battle reenactment every year. Faster than you can say “performative intervention,” D’aron’s friends persuade him that it would be cool to visit Braggsville and stage a scene to helpfully remind its residents about the horrors of slavery. Louis, the Asian guy, will be in blackface, playing a slave; when he acts “uppity,” he’ll be whipped and then mock lynched by the other three students. What ensues, however, once D’aron and his idealistic friends reach Braggsville, is an out-of-control disaster.

About the actors:

james wheatley 2James Wheatley is Founder and Artistic Director of Celebration Arts. The mission of this all-volunteer organization is to provide training and performance opportunities for community residents in the areas of drama, dance and music.Among his many stage appearances the most recent have been in Driving Miss Daisy at Chautauqua Playhouse, The Sunset Limited for Actors’ Theatre of Sacramento as well as The Train Driver and Jitney at Celebration Arts. He has won six Elly awards and a Chesley Award for his acting, an Elly for his original script Petra as well as an Elly for Lifetime Achievement.

Kristine David. Kristine David 2Kristine has been featured as an actor and musician throughout Northern California. She has appeared with B Street Theatre (Provenance, Bob), Capital Stage (Mauritius, Much Ado About Nothing), Sacramento Theater Company (Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet) & Big Idea Theatre (Inventing Van Gogh, Complete Female Stage Beauty.)

Dougie PieperDoug Pieper. Highlights of Doug’s 22-year theatre career include an Elly nomination for his role in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, appearances in Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, Sam Shepherd’s Buried Child, The Boys Next Door, The Little Dog Laughed, and as Timmy Boggs in The Last Time I Saw Timmy Boggs.   He’s been heard on-air as the COOL101.9  movie review critic, and appeared in many regional commercials. He recently graduated school as a Surgical Technologist, and lives in Natomas with his husband and their 4 dogs. He’s grateful to be back at Stories On Stage for a second adventure.

Tarig Elsiddig

An actor and a singer, Tarig Elsiddig has appeared at Celebration Arts in In The Red And Brown Water, A New Song For Christmas, Jitney, and The Bluest Eye. Born in Hayward California, he has been in love with acting for as long as he can remember.He’s thrilled to be appearing at Stories on Stage.

Sam Sims 2

Sam Sims  made his theatrical debut in James Wheatley’s A New Song For Christmas. He’s also an aspiring photographer studying at Sacramento City College, focusing on high fashion photography. He’s an artist  open to any form of art and is excited to be a part of this event.

A sampling of what critics say about Welcome to Braggsville:

“The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year. T. Geronimo Johnson plays cultural criticism like it’s acid jazz. His shockingly funny story pricks every nerve of the American body politic. Welcome to Braggsville. It’s about time.” — The Washington Post

More about the Welcome to Braggsville, Geronimo Johnson, and critical acclaim at http://www.geronimo1.com/

More about Celebration Arts at http://www.celebrationarts.net/

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Stories on Stage Sacramento, Friday June 26, featuring Kathryn Ma: Bad Behavior

TKathryn Ma 3, credit Andria Loeenage rebellion is nothing new. But when the teen is abandoned as a baby on the steps of a department store in China and handed over to her adoptive Chinese-American mother with the words “like eating. Like the Bowns” pinned to her blanket,  the reasons for rebellion can be extraordinarily complicated and deep, and how that rebellion plays out can be devastating – and redeeming.  Abandonment is the beginning for Ari, the main character in Kathryn Ma’s brilliant novel of self-discovery, The Year She Left Us.  In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly called the novel “…a sweeping success–a standout from the many novels about Chinese assimilation and the families of Chinese immigrants–with a fascinating protagonist….Ma implies that not all losses can be recovered….This is a family saga of insight, regret, and pathos, and it is not to be missed.” Recently issued in paperback, the book was featured in The New York Times’ “paperback row,” and named a “Best Book of the Year” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Year She Left Us is Ma’s debut novel. Her previously published collection of short stories, All That Work and Still No Boys, won the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Award. The book was also named a San Francisco Chronicle “Notable” Book, and a Los Angeles Times “Discoveries” Book. She received the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction, and the honor of being named a San Francisco Public Library Laureate.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Kathryn is the daughter of parents who emigrated from China. Her stories have appeared in the Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Northwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Slice, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Kathryn was a Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and has taught in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. In 2011, she was a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Kathryn holds a bachelor’s degree with distinction and a master’s degree in history from Stanford University. She earned a JD from the University of California, Berkeley and practiced law for a number of years in San Francisco, where she lives with her family.  For a terrific interview with Kathryn, recently published in the San Jose Mercury News, click here

Maureen O'Leary Wanket 1Also appearing with Kathryn Ma will be emerging writer Maureen O’Leary Wanket, author of the Young Adult novel How To Be Manly and Urban Fantasy novel The Arrow. Her short stories can be found in literary magazines and anthologies such as Esopus, Shade Mountain Press, Fiction at Work, Xenith, Prick of the Spindle and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine.

Reading an excerpt from The Year She Left Us will be Sacramento actress Yuri Tajiri.Yuri Tajiri

Elizabeth_Holzman1Reading Maureen O’Leary Wanket’s short story  “The Flat Earth” will be Sacramento actress Elizabeth Holzman.

Kathryn Ma, with Maureen O’Leary Wanket

 readings by Yuri Tajiri and Elizabeth Holzman

At Stories on Stage Sacramento

The Avid Reader at Tower, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento

Friday, June 26, 2015

Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30

A $5 donation is suggested.

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Stories on Stage in May featuring Karen Bender: It’s All About Money


Karen E. Bender

This month’s featured writer, Karen Bender, is a much-honored novelist, and we’ll be presenting one of the stories from Refund, her first short story collection. But before I list all of her other accomplishments,  let me enthuse about her work a bit.

One of the best parts of being the coordinator for Stories on Stage is that I sometimes get to read books before they’re released. An advance copy of Karen Bender’s new short story collection, Refund, was sent to me six months ago. I devoured it, then read it again, and I still can’t get these stories out of my head. Not that I want to, because Bender’s tales grab you in the best possible way. She’s a master (mistress?) of understatement and the way she captures the most complex  of situations in just a few words is astounding. Her characters – men, women, and yes, even the children – are wonderful and awful at the same time. They teeter on the knife edge of survival in every imaginable circumstance. And in Refund, money drives everything, even in the stories that aren’t specifically about money. It’s a brilliant collection.

Okay, okay, so I’m a gushing fangirl. But I’m not alone. The New York Times Book Review says: “Money is ostensibly the fuel that powers Karen E. Bender’s new collection, “Refund…” but Bender’s subtler preoccupation is the eroding effect of emotional want…Bender understands worlds about marriage and emotional need.”  “…exquisitely composed portraits of modern life,” says the Chicago Tribune. Similar praise comes from the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and a host of others. Karen Bender’s short stories have twice been published in The New Yorker, she’s won two Pushcart prizes, been published in Best American Short Stories and two of her stories have been selected to be read on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Her novel Like Normal People,  was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Any wonder I’m so excited that she’s coming to Stories on Stage?

“The Third Child,” a story from the collection, will be read by Sacramento actress and teacher Deni Scofield.  Also appearing with Karen Bender will be Meera Klein, whose novel My Mother’s Kitchen is a finalist in the 2015 Beverly Hills International Book Awards in the Multi-Cultural Fiction category. Reading an excerpt from My Mother’s Kitchen will be Capital Public Radio’s Donna Apidone. 

This month’s reading will be held Friday, May 29 at The Avid Reader Bookstore, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM, readings begin at 7:30. A $5 donation is suggested.


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Stories on Stage in April: Ann Packer

WhAnn Packer 2at a year we’re having at Stories on Stage Sacramento!

In January, Tobias Wolff graced our season-opening event with his wisdom, humor, and masterful stories. And now, in April, we are thrilled and honored to bring you another leading American writer – Ann Packer.  She’s the award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, and now her new novel, The Children’s Crusade, is earning even higher accolades. In addition to starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, The Children’s Crusade was named “Book of the Week” by People Magazine, “Pick of the Week” by Publisher’s Weekly, and an Amazon “Best Book of April 2015.”  Enthused Dan Cryer of the San Francisco Chronicle: “I’ve rarely read a novel so astute about the jumble of love and respect, rivalry and envy, empathy and scorn that makes up family dynamics…Packer is also a superb storyteller. ”

In addition to The Children’s Crusade, Ann Packer is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and two bestselling novels, Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. She lives in San Carlos, CA.

Reading the first chapter from The Children’s Crusade (praised in the New York Times Sunday Book Review as “some of Packer’s best and most rapturous prose”) will be  Matthew Rives. Matt is well-known in Sacramento as an actor equally adept at comic and serious roles.  Most recently he appeared as “Henry Higgins” in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Also appearing with Ann Packer is Lois Ann Abraham, author of the short story collection Circus Girl, published by Ad Lumen Press. Lois is a professor of English at American River College, focusing on literature and creative writing, both fiction & non-fiction. Her stories have appeared in Sojourner, Chico News & Review, Writing on the Edge, Inside English, Burning the Little Candle (Ad Lumen), Convergences, and elsewhere. She was a featured author at the 2015 Sacramento Public Library’s “Authors on the Move.”

Kellie Yvonne Raines will be reading the title story from Circus Girl. Kellie  is an Associate Artist with KOLT Run Creations where she has appeared in My Own Stranger, Vinegar Tom, Antigone, and Escape From Happiness.

Stories on Stage, with Ann Packer and Lois Ann Abraham, Friday, April 24, 2015 at the Verge Center for The Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM; readings begin at 7:30. $5 donation suggested.

Please note that we’ll be at Verge Center for the Arts this month. 

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March at Stories on Stage Sacramento: Sharma Shields, Ana Cotham, and readers Blair Leatherwood and Michelle Champoux

Sharma ShieldsDoes Sasquatch exist? Most of us would be skeptical, but in Sharma Shields’ imaginative, lightning-struck debut novel, everything is possible. In The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, a young boy’s lifelong hunt for the creature who stole his mother affects every relationship he has in his long life—with his father, with both of his wives, his children, grandchildren, and colleagues. There’s magic, unicorns, hexes, curses—and the mysterious Mr. Krantz—all  seamlessly twined with the story of Eli Roebuck and his family. O Magazine named The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac “one of 13 incredible books to devour in February.” Entertainment Weekly named Shields one of 25 “writers to watch” in 2015, and called the novel “…a story that easily qualifies as one of the most wonderfully weird debuts of the new  year. At heart it’s a family saga and a cautionary tale about frailties—greed, mania, ego, anger—that make us much too human…”

In addition to The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, Sharma Shields is the author of a short story collection, Favorite Monster. Her writing has appeared in Electric Lit, The New York Times, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, Fugue, and elsewhere. She’s won numerous awards, including the Autumn House Fiction Prize. She received her B.A in English Literature from the University of Washington, and her MFA from the University of Montana. She lives in Spokane with her husband and two young children.

Reading an excerpt from The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac will be Blair Leatherwood. A Stories on Stage favorite, Blair is a Sacramento-based actor with over forty years of experience on the boards. He has been working most recently with Alma Theater in San Francisco, Livermore Shakespeare Festival and Sacramento Theater Company ( It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical, Pride and
Prejudice, A Little Princess). He has also worked with Capital Stage, Sacramento Music Circus, and many other theaters. He also works as an improvisational role player for UCD Medical Center and the Institute for Criminal Investigation and as an audio describer for the visually-impaired for California Musical Theater.

This month’s emerging writer, Ana Cotham, is a familiar face to Stories on Stage regulars. She’s happy to take your donations and sell you raffle tickets, and this month we’re showcasing her considerable talents as a writer. Ana earned her BA in English literature from UC Berkeley and spent the next several years working admin jobs and writing fiction—i.e., being poor. Her general love of words finally paid off in the form of an actual career; she currently works as a technical editor and occasional freelance writer. She is honored, overjoyed and slightly panicked about having her second story, “Ebb and Flow,” read at Stories on Stage . Her first, “A Love of Olives, A Fear of Squirrels,” was performed in September 2012.

Reading Ana’s story will be Stories on Stage newcomer Michelle Champoux. She describes herself as a person who “hungers for written words.” Her favorite wordsmiths/poets/playwrights include: W. Somerset Maugham , Bertolt Brecht, William Burroughs, Sylvia Plath + Anne Sexton, Shakespeare. She holds degrees in Theatre Arts and Dance and attended the American Conservatory Theatre. She’ll travel anywhere, including skid row. Her current frame of mind? “Sans peur.”

Stories on Stage, the popular, award-winning series where actors perform short stories, has been delighting audiences for six years. The event has been named a “Reader’s Choice literary event” for five consecutive years by the Sacramento News & Review. Stories on Stage takes place on the final Friday of each month at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th Street, Sacramento. Doors open at 7PM; the readings begin at 7:30. A $5 donation is suggested.


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