Jersey City Writers at Art House Productions

imgjcwsuperTonight I will be reading short fiction written by Sarah T. Jewell as part of the Jersey City Writers and Art House Productions genre event series. The event Zap! Pow! Bam! Superheroes & Supervillains: A night of dynamic dare-do-well & dastardly deeds features work by local writers read by actors.

The evening will feature author, Keith R.A. DeCandido, American science fiction and fantasy writer, and local writers: David Boyle, Rachel Poy, Jonathan Huang, Jim DeAngelis, Beth Bentley, Stephen Weber, Mike Purfield, Sarah T. Jewell, and E.M. Kobrin/Mercedes Perez Kobrin.

Readings begin at 7pm at the Art House Productions space on Magnolia in Jersey City.

Before and after the thunderstorm

IMG_25July16RainBlue walls, red curtains, and gold-framed mirrors that reflect who is up on stage behind the microphone. Clothes damp, shoes soaked, a number of us had gathered to hear the Bennington Writers fiction reading at Cornelia Street Cafe while a thunderstorm raged over New York City.


When the storm hit earlier in the day, I watched the sky cast charcoal gray from my perch on the eighth floor at the Center for Fiction. I headed out onto the Midtown streets joining the herd of commuters rushing to get underground before the clouds broke open again. I passed a man selling umbrella’s for five dollars and didn’t listen to the voice that said, “buy an umbrella, you may need it.”

At a West 4th street subway exit, slowed down by a line of people reluctant to go out into the torrential rain, I looked for another way out but this was it. As I made my way to the front of the line, a man played a lively guitar that matched the mood.

With ten minutes left to the reading, I surfaced risking a good soak but I found my way to scaffolding and eventually an umbrella as my partner showed up just in time.

During the event, I went first and read an excerpt from my short story, “Exposed.” At a transition in the story, as if on cue, thunder boomed, lightning crackled—I paused to let the storm have its space. Then I continued on reading a flashback about crossed wires and mixed messages.


After the reading, the sun broke through the clouds. Buildings lit up in a warm, orange glow. We walked a stretch along Bleeker street on to the next destination for the evening.

What did the storm signify? Was it meant to be foreboding and fearsome? In my experiences, rain has often been a blessing. Rain has arrived on days filled with happiness like the day I got married.

The storm last night provided a measure of contrast, a way to be present in the experience of the evening rather than getting caught up in the flow of traffic, pre-event tensions, or tangential thinking. It was a much needed cooling down. It took nervous energy and turned it into awe and a bit of glee.


May all sentient beings…

IMGYogaHandsOffer1May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.

May we be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.

May we dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.

—The Four Limitless Ones from Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chödrön—

In honoring the 49 lives lost this past Sunday during the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, as well as the survivors, family members, friends, and the community-at-large, I offer the Four Limitless Ones chant and carry it with me throughout these days in my heart, my words, and my actions.

“To move from aggression to unconditional loving-kindness can seem like a daunting task. But we start with what’s familiar,” says Chödrön in Comfortable with Uncertainty. She offers a formal seven-step practice to awaken loving-kindness.

The first step in the practice involves starting with awakening loving kindness for yourself by reciting the first line from the Four Limitless Ones chant. From there, each step involves awakening loving-kindness for others starting with those who spontaneously come to mind, to friends or neighbors, to those individuals you feel neutral about, to those you dislike, and so on and so forth.

In practicing awakening loving-kindness you allow your heart to open to acceptance and understanding. Understanding can go a long way in bridging differences among people, in bringing communities together, and in promoting peace.




Dream like an octopus

IMGneptuneVirginiaBeachInky the octopus may have dreamed about escaping his tank before he slipped through a six-inch-wide drain about four months ago at the New Zealand National Aquarium. He not only had the ability to squish his football-sized-body through the drain but could also likely open jars, solve puzzles, and apparently got bored.

When I first read about Inky’s escape, I realized how little I know about the Earth’s sea creatures and invertebrates like the octopus. I wondered if Inky had planned his escape. How did he know the ocean was at the end of that drainage pipe? Could he make a distinction between the experience of being in an enclosed secure tank versus the vast, open and dangerous ocean?

I read several articles that stated octopuses have memory and can recall humans as well as respond to their name being called like a dog or cat. A feature written for Discover magazine describes octopuses as mollusks with complex brains that have tactile memory centers. They are also said to sleep.

In the article, a biologist observed, “that octopuses, ordinarily hypervigilant, may sleep deeply. Their eyes glaze over, their breathing turns slow and shallow, they don’t respond to light taps…”

Known for deception and being savvy hunters, an octopus like Inky could have very well been devising strategy in his dreams.

We should all be more like Inky; flexible and ready to jump at the opportunity to go beyond our constraints and explore the unknown.

Enter stillness to practice listening

IMGtreesBerkshires2On a stretch of highway near Great Barrington, MA, I was called to stop at a dirt road framed by trees (pictured above). On one side a cemetery hid in the shade and on the other a green, grassy lawn stretched into the sunlight. The road felt majestic like the trees were tall knights guarding a secret passage. And the road’s existence itself felt hidden, especially to me as someone who wasn’t from the area but rather enjoying an extended stay one hot July.

Very few people traveled the road. It was quiet. Surrounded by these tall, beautiful trees I felt an invitation to be still, to listen.

When I look at images from my time on this small stretch of road, I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems by David Wagoner, Lost, from Collected Poems 1956-1976, Indiana University Press.

It begins,

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

Reading the poem alone brings a sense of stillness and calm but above that it captures the knowingness of the trees and what exists in the space of the present moment. 

Read the entire poem on the Writer’s Almanac site.


Where dreams flourish

FullSizeRender 9I lost myself to a dream two weeks ago when I watched acrobats perform in Compagnia Finzi Pasca’s “La Verità” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I rediscovered unencumbered childhood delight and wonder, and laughter that rises up just because without any strings attached–no sarcasm, no wry humor–just pure laughter. All of it derived from watching comical dances, contortionists, musicians, dancers, and aerialists fly, embrace, swing, and spin.

In addition to the performers, a Salvador Dali painting, which takes up the entire stage on a huge canvas, divides the acts. There are the performances that happen in front of the curtain where the actors engage with the audience to make sense of what is happening and why the painting exists. And then there are the magical scenes that happen once the large painting disappears where Dali-esque like images parade around on the stage. And some elements of the painting come to life such as a red cane and dandelion heads.

The painting was originally created for Léonide Massine’s 1944 ballet “Mad Tristan.” In it one figure clutches its bony ribs while the other extends skeletal hands. One figure has a dandelion head while the other has branches growing out of its’ crown. To me the painting represents life and death and its presence raises the question of what’s real–the show in front or behind the curtain? What’s real, the bamraku puppet or the contortionist who twists his body just like it?

The performance inspired me to think about what grows at the edge of imagination. How as artists and writers, we can draw on fantastic elements only witnessed in dreams and somehow make them a reality in our creative productions–what we put on the page or the stage.