P&W-sponsored writer Chiwan Choi is the author of Abductions and The Flood, among other works, and the founder of Writ Large Press. In October, he performed at Riverside Community College in Riverside, California. We asked him to blog about his visit.
I've been fortunate to read my work at great venues in numerous places over the years, from Los Angeles to New York. I was able to meet wonderful and inspiring people like Caitlin Myer and her Portuguese Artists Colony in San Francisco, the amazing and selfless Mike Geffner and his Inspired Word events all over New York, and everybody whom I've ever met in Seattle.
But I have to say, the two places that have been my favorites so far have been two city colleges that are overshadowed by their more famous UC counterparts. One was the writing class at Berkeley City College that used to be taught by a fantastic young writer and teacher named Alexandra Kostoulas. The other, my absolute favorite, is Riverside City College and a group that calls itself The Stay Classy Creative Writing Club, a student club at RCC, with Jo Scott-Coe, one of the best essayists writing today, as advisor. The group has invited me out three times now, most recently on October 2 of this year.
It was a great crowd. Around fifty to sixty people, I think. They were completely engaged. They were completely generous.
"I won't be reading tonight," I announced. "Let's talk." They didn't mind. Which was great because it gave us more time to talk and get to know each other.
It was a beautiful experience. The asked me questions about writing, about publishing, about my love life, about race, about The Walking Dead. About everything. I tried to answer every question as honestly as possible.
The event was emceed by Michael H. Winn. I was greeted in the parking lot by Tina Holden Burroughs. All wonderful people who were kind to me just because they liked what I do. I first got to know The Stay Classy Creative Writing Club through Jazzy Bird and Brennan Gonering. A young writer named Samuel James Finch gave me two of his fantastic chapbooks, The Pepper Tree Conspectus, which featured a little opening story called "Monkey Brains," about a guy who liked to whip out his testicles, and The Pain Body. A student named Amanda Graves blew me away with her writing. I even launched my next book project.
The fact is that for a writer like me, a community like The Stay Classy Creative Writing Club is imperative for my creative survival. They take care of me with love and financial support--much more than famous and established bookstores. Without support from the ground level, it is difficult for any writer to continue.
I came home happy, humbled, and wanting to contact each person there that night through Facebook (or something) and go out for drinks. I wanted to thank them for reminding me that art is about personal connections, and that art is about engaging in a long-term relationships that work both ways.
Photos: Top: Chiwan Choi (credit: Chiwan Choi). Bottom: Visiting Riverside Community College (credit: Jo Scott-Coe).
Major support for Readings/Workshops in California is provided by The James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.