Our July authors answer the tough questions about the writers life ... not really—they got to choose from a list, or write their own
First up, Jan Haag. Jan's story from the TWENTY TWENTY anthology, "Graduation," will be performed by actor Kellie Raines.
JAN HAAG taught writing as a journalism/creative writing professor in Sacramento, for more than three decades. Now retired, she hosts writing workshops using the Amherst Writers & Artists method, often at the Poetry Center (in the loft pictured above). She is the author of a poetry collection, “Companion Spirit,” and she has had stories and poems published in many anthologies and literary journals. The photo (top left) is Jan in 1980 as Editor of the State Hornet newspaper at Sacramento State.
Dorothy: Do you remember the first SOS even you attended:
Jan: I don't remember who was reading or what was read, but I recall attending an early SOS performance when Val (Valerie Fioravanti) was doing it.
Dorothy: What was the most memorable SOSS performance for you?
Jan: I always say that my most memorable anything was something fairly recent. So this season, the reading of Sands Hall's amazing essay was certainly a highlight for me. Sands is a longtime friend and colleague, and I'm honored to say that I knew her while she was working on "Fair Use," her play about Wallace Stegner and Mary Hallock Foote, and I was fortunate to see the play during its debut run, with Sands playing MHF!
Dorothy: How would you compare reading your own work aloud to having it performed by others?
Jan: I haven't had my work read aloud by anyone else that I can recall (maybe a line or two during an introduction before I read my own work). This SOSS reading will be the first time to hear a piece performed by an actor, and I'm thrilled!
Dorothy: What authors would you most like to see at SOSS?
Jan: You mean living ones?! I've got lots of famous dead ones I'd like to see, lol. Here's a dream team list: Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Lamott, Christopher Moore (he's in San Francisco!), Laurie R. King (she's in Santa Cruz), Jacqueline Winspear (in Marin County), Sy Montgomery, Mary Roach, Ann Patchett... you and Shelley!! (aw, editorial sigh)
Dorothy: Do you have a spirit animal?
Jan: My spirit animal: the green sea turtle, aka honu (Hawaiian for "turtle"), preferably snoozing on warm sand or flying saucer-like in warm water off a Hawaiian island.
Dorothy: Do you have a favorite writing spot>
Jan: I write everywhere, with any kind of notebook and pen, laptop or desktop. (Old journalist's habit!) But if I can be writing within hearing distance of the ocean, it's always a plus!
Krista Minard's story from the TWENTY TWENTY anthology, "Middlemarch," will be performed by Jessica Laskey.
KRISTA is a Sacramento-based writer and editor. Since 1994, she has been editor of Sacramento Magazine, a monthly glossy publication covering a broad variety of lifestyle topics, including dining, arts and entertainment, health, travel and more. She also handles the editorial content for several other regional publications, including Explore Sacramento and Sacramento Visitors’ Guide. Krista has regularly volunteered as an “Inspirator” and “Eagle Eye” with 916 Ink—a Sacramento-based non-profit organization that turns students into published authors through writing workshops—and as a copyeditor/proofreader with River Rock Books. She also writes fiction; she has attended the Community of Writers (in Olympic Valley) and Lit Camp. Her short stories and essays have been published in several publications, including Susurrus, Paper Wings, Dear Friend and Soul of the Narrator, and her story “On Display” was featured at Stories on Stage Sacramento. She lives in Folsom with her husband, one of her two daughters, and two cats.
Krista: Well, this isn’t quite what you asked for, I don’t think, but it’s what I was inspired to do.
Dorothy: It's perfect. I said you could answer however you wanted, and you did.
Krista: How brave must I be to share a photo of myself at 14 (see photo, below Jan, above right), awkward and skinny, barely recovered from mononucleosis, which kept me from starting high school until six weeks into my freshman year. But something amazing happened once I got there: I learned to type. Because I wasn’t allowed to take PE that semester (because of the mono), I spent my PE class period in the campus Career Learning Center, where several stiff typewriters sat against a back wall. Five days a week, I typed letters to my friends. Or wrote stories.
At home, I commandeered my mom’s old black typewriter—I think it was an Underwood and I sure wish we still had it somewhere! My passion to write had begun as soon as I could form letters with a pencil, but typing took it to a whole new level. My fingers learned to fly across the keys, clackity clack, throw the carriage, keep going. I could sit there for hours, fingers and wrists aching.
Nowadays I write on a big desktop Mac—27-inch screen—and a late-model MacBook Air, both beautiful machines with smooth-as-butter keyboards that make it so easy that I have no excuses not to write. Of course I find them anyway. Sometimes when I’m procrastinating on a project or frustrated by my own lack of motivation, I look at this old photo, of this girl with the late-’70s hair and decent posture, and wonder: What was she writing that day? Did she know that typewriter would lead her to a career, to a lifetime of creativity? What I remember is feeling most at home there, at that machine, creating whole new worlds from my suburban bedroom. (Editorial note—now that's sticking with your passion!)
What I remember is feeling most at home there, at that machine, creating whole new worlds from my suburban bedroom.
Anara Guard's story "Crossing the River" from the TWENTY TWENY anthology will be performed by Jessica Laskey.
ANARA grew up in Chicago. Her lifelong love of reading has led her to jobs as diverse as minding a Chicago news stand at the age of nine, working as a librarian in a small New England town, fact-checking manuscripts for Houghton Mifflin, and writing book reviews. An award-winning poet, her first novel, Like a Complete Unknown, was featured at Stories on Stage in June. She attended Bread Loaf Writers Workshop and the Community of Writers. She is currently working on her second novel from her home in Sacramento.
Dorothy: Do you remember the first SOS you attended?
Anara: I thought I saved all the programs and I was thinking I'd make a collage (what a great idea-editorial comment)), but I couldn't find them all. Here's one from July 2013 (see photo, bottom left) that may have been the first one I attended, with Jodi Angel, Deborah Meltvedt, and actors West Ramsey and Ruby Sketchley.
My first appearance on SOS was September 2014.
Dorothy: Do you have a favorite writing spot?
Anara: Right here in my "office," a repurposed kitchen that still contains the sink, fifties green tiled counters and several useful cabinets for storing things. The windows are covered in contact paper that gives the appearance of stained glass which helps me not be distracted by passing birds or squirrels. All the distractions therefore come from myself!
Sue Staats' "Sourdough" from the TWENTY TWENTY anthology will be performed by Kellie Raines.
SUE STAATS is the former director of Stories on Stage Sacramento (2013-2019). Her fiction and poetry have been published in Tulip Tree Review, The Los Angeles Review, Graze Magazine, Farallon Review, Tule Review, Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets, Sacramento Voices, and others. She earned an MFA from Pacific University, and was a finalist in the “Wild Women” contest in Tulip Tree Review, runner-up for the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction and a finalist for the Nisqually Prize in Fiction. Her stories have been performed at both the Sacramento and Davis reading series Stories on Stage, and she has read her work at the SF Bay-area reading series Why There Are Words, Babylon Salon, and Litcrawl. Her short story collection, Hardpan, was a recent finalist for the Acacia Fiction Prize. She’s currently working on a novel and continues to work on behalf of Stories on Stage Sacramento, focusing on special projects--interviews, podcasts, community partnerships and event night cookie baking.
Dorothy: Do you remember the first Stories on Stage event you attended?
Sue: Yes! It was in 2011 or so, a Stories on Stage author reading sponsored by the late, lamented literary journal Farallon Review, and I was invited to read one of my short stories. That's where I met Valerie, and Tim Foley, and it's how I learned that there was, indeed, a really thriving literary community in Sacramento
Dorothy: Your most memorable Stories on Stage event?
Sue: That's easy. The Tobias Wolff event (January 2015)—here's a photo of three two people we know, lounging on the couches...at that event.
Dorothy: Is it markedly different having someone else read your work than doing it yourself?
Sue: Yes. In a good way, because an actor breathes new life into a story. And in a bad way, because breathing that new life can point out all the things about the story that you'd like to fix. But you can't, because it's being read. Right in front of you. I hope that won't be happening at Friday's event!
Dorothy: What authors would you most like to see at Stories on Stage?
Sue: Aim high! Colson Whitehead (we tried). Jennifer Egan. Ann Patchett.
Dorothy: Do you have a spirit animal?
Sue: Nope. Although my cat thinks he's my muse.
Dorothy: Do you have a favorite place to write, a favorite notebook, pen, or color ink?
Sue: My cushy chair, my lap desk, my giant spiral notebook and either one of Jan Haag's purple pens OR the pen I scored at "Hamilton." Pick up a pen, start writing, it says. And I do. (See photo above of some of Sue's pens.)
Renee Thompson's, "Can I Get an Amen," from the TWENTY TWENTY anthology will be performed by Kellie Raines.
RENEE THOMPSON'S essays and short stories have appeared in, or placed in competitions sponsored by, Twenty Twenty—A Stories on Stage Sacramento Anthology, Manifest West #4, Narrative Magazine, Glimmer Train, Literal Latte, Writer’s Digest, Nevada Magazine, Sacramento Magazine, Arcadia, Cactus Heart, Crossborder, Chiron Review, 10,000Tons of Black Ink, and elsewhere. She has attended workshops at Lit Camp, in Anderson Valley, CA; Sirenland, in Positano, Italy; Writing by Writers, in Methow Valley, WA; and Community of Writers, in Olympic Valley, CA. Her stories have been performed at Stories on Stage, Sacramento; Stories on Stage, Davis; and Why There Are Words, San Francisco. She is the author of two novels, The Bridge at Valentine, which the city of Woodland, CA, named their community novel in 2014, and The Plume Hunter, which received outstanding endorsements from members of the national birding community.
Dorothy: Do you remember the first Stories on Stage event you attended?
Renee: I remember well the first SoS event I attended, although the year is somewhat fuzzy. Valerie Fioravanti hadn’t been in Sacramento too long when she established SOS and began serving as its director. She had put out a call for submissions, and I sent her “Old Will Road,” which Narrative Magazine had previously featured as a Story of the Week.
Renee: When I received news that she had accepted the story, I had just finished walking the beach in Elk, on the coast of Northern California. I remember closing her email—feeling just so thrilled—and then inviting everyone (and their brothers) to attend the reading by a local actor. Valerie gave me my Sacramento break, and I will always be grateful, just as I’m grateful to all the women who have followed in her footsteps. Thank you, Sacramento, for supporting SOS and your local writers. You are the best!
Dorothy: What author would you most like to see at Stories on Stage?
Renee: I would love to see Sofia Aguilar, a young Chicana writer based in Los Angeles, introduce her work to Sacramento’s readers. I met her at Lit Camp in May and was blown away by her talent. Sofia is only twenty-two, and yet she possesses the poise and ambition of a much older writer. I have every confidence that Sofia will accomplish everything she sets out to do, and that you will love her writing as much as I do. Check out her website at sofiaaguilar.com. (she sounds amazing!)
Maureen O'Leary's "Breathing the Same Air" from the TWENTY TWENTY anthology will be performed by Jessica Laskey
MAUREEN O'LEARY is a writer and teacher living in Sacramento. Her stories, poems, and essays appear in Coffin Bell Journal, Reckon Review, Passengers Journal, Punk Noir Magazine, Black Spot Books' anthology Under Her Skin, Brave Voices Magazine, Feral Journal of Poetry and Art, and The Esopus Reader. She serves as the managing editor of The Black Fork Review and is a graduate of Ashland MFA.
Dorothy: What are some memorable SOS moments for you?
Maureen: My first Stories on Stage event was in fall of 2009, I think. Valerie Fiorvanti chose my story "The Cameraman" that ran in Esopus Magazine that previous year. It was an exciting experience. Sue Staats chose my story "The Flat Earth" to be read a few years later and that was amazing as well.
Stories on Stage Sacramento has taken on a special meaning after the pandemic. It's wonderful to be able to gather with community again to hear stories together. I am so grateful to have such a fantastic literary community in Sacramento, and for the hard work of the Stories on Stage leadership in making these events happen every month.
We are really lucky.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR JULY 22 EVENT