September Authors and Actors at Stories on Stage

Michael Spurgeon

author of

Let The Water Hold Me Down


Anara Guard

author of

Remedies for Hunger

Stories on Stage at the Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th St.

Friday, September 26 at 7:30 PM

Doors open at 7PM. $5 Donation suggested

Michael Spurgeoon1Our featured writer, Michael Spurgeon, is the author of Let The Water Hold Me Down, a novel of friendship, love, and betrayal set in the Mexican state of Chiapas during the 1994 Zapatista rebellion. Michael was living  in San Cristobal de Las Casas at the time of the uprising. He is currently a tenured professor of English at American River College, and his writing has appeared in regional and national journals, including The North American ReviewSonora ReviewThe Packinghouse Review, and many others. He is the author of two short collections of poems–Valente’s Delicate Wrist (Talent House Press, 1998) and Prosthetic Breath & Other Poems (3300 Press, 1995)–and his poetry has been anthologized in Burning the Little Candle (Ad Lumen Press, 2013) and Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets (SPC Press, 2013). He is co-founder and Board President of 916 Ink, a Sacramento area non-profit dedicated to promoting children’s literacy through creative writing. Let The Water Hold Me Down (Ad Lumen Press 2013) is his first novel.

Tim GaffaneyAn excerpt from Michael’s novel will be read by Tim Gaffaney. Tim has performed on stage for nearly 40 years in musicals, comedies and dramas.   Local credits include Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing and the Waiter in She Loves Me (Davis Shakespeare Ensemble); La Fleche in Moliere’s The Miser and Wayne Wellacre in Inspecting Carole (Woodland Opera House); and Applegate in Damn Yankees (Davis Musical Theater Company). He formerly performed with the Foundry Players of Washington, DC, and helped launch the Capital City Players before returning to California.  He has volunteered as a news and fiction reader for the blind in Washington, DC and Sacramento. Tim also serves as casting director for our sister series, Stories on Stage Davis.


Our emerging writer, Anara Guard, grew up in Chicago where her first job was tending the corner newsstand for a penny a minute while Carl the Newspaper Man ate his lunch. She later worked in a thrift shop, pharmacy, check clearinghouse, food co-op, community radio station, small town library, as a maid in a resort on the shores of Lake Michigan, and a women’s self-defense teacher. She studied writing at the Urban Gateways Young Writers Workshop of Chicago with Kathleen Agena, St. Joseph’s College with Stu Dybek, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference with Robert Cohen and Alix Ohlin. She graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. Remedies for Hunger is her second collection of stories; in 2010, Back Pages Publishing issued The Sound of One Body. Her poetry has been published in Convergence and Late Peaches, an anthology of Sacramento poets.

Kristine DavidReading Anara’s story Zhee Zhou will be Kristine David.  An actor and musician, Kristine 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.)


Copies of both books will be for sale at the event, thanks to

The Avid Reader

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August at Stories on Stage: Featured writers and actors

Our featured writer this month is

Anthony Marra

author of the widely acclaimed and PEN-shortlisted novel

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

appearing with Anthony is Sacramento writer

Julie Woodside

An excerpt from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena 

will be read by Ruby Sketchley

Julie Woodside’s short story The Stone Wall will be read by Tory Scroggins



625 S Street, Sacramento

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

anthony-marra 2Anthony Marra’s debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, is a New York Times bestseller, on a dozen national “best ten” lists, the winner of the 2014 National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize,  on the shortlist for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize for debut novel, and was recently named Book of the Year by the Northern California Independent Booksellers. Anthony has also won a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Narrative Prize, the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction, and the inaugural 2014 Carla Furstenberg Cohen Fiction Award. He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where he now teaches as the Jones Lecturer in Fiction. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and currently lives in Oakland, California. There’s more about Anthony at


Julie Woodside is a member of the Urban Hive, Coffee and Ink, and KMWriters writing groups. Her fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in various on-line publications, and her poetry has been published in Tule Review and Poets INC.  She is currently working on a collection of short stories and her first novel. When not writing, she enjoys her semi-retirement job with a local manufacturer of outrigger canoes, as well as cooking, reading, and volunteering at local theatres.



Ruby Sketchley

Ruby Sketchley is currently a company member at Big Idea Theatre, She has also been seen in plays at KOLT, Resurrection Theatre, MSTW, Closet Door Theatre, and ASQP, and has served on the board of the Capital Film Arts Alliance.  She’s been seen on many television and radio commercials, as well as in feature and short films. With her husband, she runs a film production company, whose most recent project is a documentary on home death care. A veteran of several appearances at Stories on Stage, Ruby particularly values the experience of reading to an audience:  “Having a story read to me takes me back to my childhood, and that wonderful freedom to paint pictures in my mind. I hope the audience finds that same magic as they listen to the stories being presented at Stories on Stage.”


Tory Scroggins

Tory Scroggins began his career a make-up artist in Los Angeles, where he perfected the look of such famous faces as Beyoncé,  Janet Jackson and Usher. He transitioned to acting in 2000, and has since performed in nearly two dozen stage plays, in addition to appearances on television and in film. Tory moved to Sacramento two years ago, and is currently majoring in theatre arts at Sacramento City College. He recently appeared there in the play Scapino.  Tory can be seen in August Wilson’s Jitney, opening September 5th at The Celebration Arts Theatre. Follow him on twitter @ToryScroggins1

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August at Stories on Stage: Anthony Marra at Verge Center for the Arts

“She circled it with red ink and referred to it nightly. Life: a constellation of vital phenomena

–organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.”

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A brilliant and beautiful story of love and sacrifice

set in wartime Chechnya

Stories on Stage is honored to present our featured writer for August

Anthony Marra

Friday, August 29, 2014

 Verge Center for the Arts

625 S Street, Sacramento

Doors open at 7PM; readings begin at 7:30.

$5 donation suggested.

anthony marraAMarra-AConstellationVP

The New York Times Book Review called Anthony Marra’s debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, “a 21st-century War and Peace.” The Washington Post extolled it as “a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles.” Marra’s brilliant tale of love and forgiveness in war-torn Chechnya is a New York Times bestseller, on a dozen national “best ten” lists, the winner of the 2014 National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize,  on the shortlist for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize for debut novel, and was recently named Book of the Year by the Northern California Independent Booksellers.

In addition to the honors mentioned above, Marra is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize,  the Narrative Prize, the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction, and the inaugural 2014 Carla Furstenberg Cohen Fiction Award.  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was a National Book Award longlist selection as well as a shortlist selection for the Flaherty-Dunnan first novel prize. Marra’s work has also been anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Marra received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where he now teaches as the Jones Lecturer in Fiction. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and currently resides in Oakland, California. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is his first novel. Find more information about him at

Stories on Stage, the popular, award-winning series where actors perform short stories, is celebrating its fifth year. It takes place on the final Friday of each month, customarily at the Sacramento Poetry Center. But because of the anticipated size of the audience, the August event will be held at Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento.

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July at Stories on Stage: Kirstin Chen’s “Soy Sauce For Beginners”

Family. Love. Artisanal soy sauce.

More bound together than you might think. 

This month’s featured writer is

Kirstin Chen 

author of Oprah book pick Soy Sauce For Beginners

An excerpt from Kirstin’s novel will be read by Yuri Tajiri

Also appearing is emerging Sacramento writer Ginny Johnson

Chapter 1 of her novel Honeysuckle will be read by Denise Hoffner

Friday, July 25,

Doors open at 7. Readings begin at 7:30 PM

Sacramento Poetry Center, 1719 25th Street.

Kirsten Chen

Kirstin Chen is the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners, featured in USA Today’s “New Voices”, an O, The Oprah Magazine “book to pick up now,” and a Glamour book club pick. A former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, she holds an MFA from Emerson College and a BA from Stanford University. She has received awards from the Sewanee and Napa Valley writers’ conferences, and her short stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Hobart, Pank, and others. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently lives in San Francisco, where she’s at work on her second novel, set on a tiny island off the coast of southern China in 1958.

Yuri Tajiri

 Yuri Tajiri has appeared in String of Pearls by EMH Productions, as Linda in Evil Dead the Musical at Sutter Street Theatre, and Grumio in Taming of the Shrew at The Alternative Arts Collective. She recently graduated from CSU Sacramento with a BA in Theatre Arts and enjoys working as a portrait photographer when she’s not acting. She is excited to be making her debut at Stories on Stage !


Ginny Johnson‘s fiction has appeared in The Oxford American, a Southern literary magazine. A chapter of her novel Honeysuckle received an Honorable Mention in the National Fiction Writing Contest for Lawyers. Her play, “The Last of Everything,” was given a staged reading in Santa Monica in 2005. She lives in Davis and is currently working on a collection of short stories set in Alabama, her home state.


Denise Hoffner 2 Originally from Woody Allen’s Brooklyn, Denise Hoffner is a mother, writer, activist, actor, lawyer, and crossing guard.  She has performed at The Marsh Theatre and in The Vagina Monologues. Denise has told stories to children at the Davis International House and to grown-ups at The Porchlight Storytelling Series.  She’s performed stand-up comedy at drag king shows, LGBTQIA pride events, and her dentist’s birthday party.  Denise also writes essay-memoir creative non-fiction.

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June at Stories on Stage: Tom Barbash and Olga Zilberbourg

He’s a playwright who can’t stay awake.

She’s a Russian immigrant too easily fooled.

Two characters. Two stories you won’t be able to forget.

This month at Stories on Stage Sacramento

Tom Barbash

and a reading of the title story from his collection, Stay Up With Me, by actor Dougie Pieper

with emerging writer Olga Zilberbourg

whose story,  What Goes Around, will be read by Elise Marie Hodge


Friday, June 27, 2014

Doors open at 7, readings begin at 7:30


In addition to the short-story collection Stay Up With Me, TOM BARBASH is the author of the award-winning novel The Last Good Chance and the nonfiction book On Top of the World: Cantor FitzgeraldHoward Lutnick, and 9/11—A Story of Loss and Renewal, which was a New York Times bestseller. His stories and articles have been published in Tin HouseMcSweeney’sVQR and other publications, and have been performed on National Public Radio for their Selected Shorts series. Barbash currently teaches in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and currently lives in Marin County, California.


Dougie Pieper

Dougie Pieper is an actor, radio personality, and occasional superhero. In his 22-year theatre career, he’s been nominated for an ELLY for his work in The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and appeared to critical acclaim in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and The Boys Next Door. He’s bared it all on stage as Mitch in The Little Dog Laughed, and delighted audiences as the loveable Timmy Boggs in The Last Time I Saw Timmy Boggs. Doug was the COOL 101.9 on air movie review critic; and has swung between tall buildings as Spiderman for MARVEL Comics Appearance Company. Dougie lives in Natomas with his husband and their 3 dogs.


Olga Zilberbourg was b???????????????????????????????orn in St. Petersburg, Russia and moved to the United States at the age of seventeen. Her first two books of fiction were published in St. Petersburg, where her parents still reside. Where Does the Sea Flow, a short film based on one of Olga’s stories, recently was a finalist at the Manhattan Short Film Festival. Olga’s English-language writing has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Santa Monica Review, J Journal, Eleven Eleven, Prick of the Spindle, HTMLGiant, and other print and online publications. Olga is a consulting editor at Narrative Magazine and is currently working on her first novel.

Elise Marie Hodge is an actor, director and producer whose full-length play, After Hours, enjoyed a successful three-week run at the Geery Theatre Nov 22-Dece15, 2013.  Through her own production company, EMH Productions,  she has produced, directed, and acted in a wide variety of projects including Beggars in the House of Plenty (actor/stage manager)Catholic School Girls (actor), My Fellow Creatures (director/producer), Liar (producer/actor)Dog Sees God:  Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (director/producer), and Moving Mountains (producer/actor. For details on these and upcoming productions visit  She’s thrilled to be making her second appearance at Stories on Stage!


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by | June 9, 2014 · 1:19 pm

This month at Stories on Stage: Kate Milliken and Joey Garcia

Tantalizing tales from two fabulous women!

“Parts of a Boat”

from Kate Milliken’s prize-winning short story collection

If I’d Known You Were Coming

“Frank Sinatra Saved My Life”

by Sacramento writer Joey Garcia

“Parts of a Boat” will be read by Pam Metzger

“Frank Sinatra Saved My Life” will be read by Imani Mitchell


Friday, May 30, 2014

Doors open at 7, readings begin at 7:30

Kate Kate MillikenMilliken’s stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Fiction, New Orleans Review, and Santa Monica Review, among others. A graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, and several Pushcart Prize nominations, Kate has also written for television and commercial advertising. Kate’s debut collection of stories, If I’d Known You Were Coming, won the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award and was published by the University of Iowa Press.She lives in Northern California with her husband and their two children. She’s currently working on a screenplay based on her short story, “Mad River,” and completing her novel, the first chapter of which was named runner-up for the 2013 Dana Award

Pam MetzgerPam Metzger was a radio broadcaster for twenty years, and continues to work as a voiceover talent nationally and locally. One of nine children, she was deemed the family storyteller, and at an early age discovered the magic of verbal communication, of being able to change her voice depending on the character in the story. She loves the enchantment reading aloud creates for both reader and listener. She lives by the words of the author Roald Dahl – “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Joey GarciaJoey Garcia has dispensed wise, witty and practical advice to readers of the Sacramento News & Review since 1996. She is the author of the new book When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love: Healing and finding love after an affair, heartbreak or divorce, has a short story forthcoming in the Farallon Review and is at work on a novel. Her poetry has been published in Calyx, The Caribbean Writer, in four anthologies and is forthcoming in Presence International Journal and the Tule Review. She has also been awarded poetry fellowships to Spoleto, Italy and Paris, France. Joey was born in Belize, and you can discover more at

Imani MitchelImani Mitchell is a Sacramento native and local actress. She recently received her associate’s degree in Theatre Arts from Sacramento City College. Imani has performed at several theatres including Capital Stage, B Street Theatre and Celebration Arts. Next spring, she plans to attend Sacramento State and continue her education. This is her first time participating in this event and she is absolutely thrilled!

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Repost of Kate Asche’s 2011 Interview with Brenda Miller

BMillerAbbGr2Brenda Miller was the first creative nonfiction instructor featured in the Master Teacher Weekend Workshop series, and she’s returning to facilitate another workshop in Sacramento June 21st & 22nd. She’s the author of three essay collections: Listening Against the Stone (Skinner House Books, 2012), Blessing of the Animals (Eastern Washington University Press, 2009), and Season of the Body (Sarabande Books, 2002). She has also co-authored the craft texts Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction (McGraw Hill, 2012) and The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (Skinner House Books, 2012).index Her work has received six Pushcart Prizes. She is a Professor of English at Western Washington University and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Bellingham Review. Her website is

For more information about Brenda Miller’s upcoming workshop June 21-22, visit:

Brenda, we are so looking forward to welcoming you to Sacramento. I get the sense that you do a lot of teaching and writing in the community. I wonder if you might speak for a moment about how all that started for you, and what you love about talking and working with readers and writers outside a traditional academic setting?

I’m looking forward to visiting Sacramento, too! I love working with writers in the community, precisely because they are usually in a class or workshop for the love of the craft itself, rather than to fulfill a requirement. Passion, vulnerability, and genuine curiosity—these are the qualities that seem to emerge most strongly in community workshops, as well as a wide variety of life experience. It doesn’t take long to develop a sense of common purpose and respect, and so the work becomes energizing for everyone.

When you come together with a group of students in a workshop, what approaches do you use, and why?

I do some icebreakers that help us understand immediately why we are there, who we are, and what we bring to the table. If we’re workshopping previously written pieces, I like to have a conversation with the writer that explores craft issues the writing brings up for all of us, not necessarily to simply “fix” the writing at hand. We are acting as advocates for one another.

Turning to your own work now: this summer, you enjoyed the release of a collection of your selected essays, Listening Against the Stone. Congratulations! How does it feel to have a “selected” out?

It’s wonderful to have a collection out that so fully articulates the central concerns of my work over the years—how my spiritual life has shifted and evolved. When I was putting the collection together, I was surprised to see the new narratives that emerged by putting older essays with newer essays. I also was quite happy to have my six Pushcart-Prize winning essays all together under one roof!

I spent some time today rereading my notes on your work (I recently re-read and taught Season of the Body) and reading some of your past interviews. I love what you said last year, in conversation with the L.A. Times, about writing about things you notice in the world and in life: “I had to learn to find an external to focus on in order to allow my emotions to surface.” I am hoping you might unpack this concept a bit. What kinds of things count as “external” for you? What is it about things external that brings your deeper emotions forward?

I think this is a central concept for successful creative nonfiction, and I speak now as a writer, teacher, and editor. With personal nonfiction work, it can be tempting to write directly about the “big” things that have occurred in our lives and how we feel about them. But almost always these kinds of works become too “self-centered.” It can be difficult to fully include the reader. By starting instead with small, concrete details in the external world, we find our way to the truth of our lives in a more literary—and more universal–way.

For instance, one of the pieces in Listening Against the Stone is called “Dirty Windows.” In it, I start with the mundane observation about how a sunny day in Bellingham, WA (a rare occurrence!) lights up all the streaks and smudges on the windows, as well as revealing all the pet hair on the floor. This detail leads me to meditate on the way I’ve always longed for light that is more “forgiving,” which, of course, turns the essay into a small piece about what allows us to forgive ourselves. I started that piece with my students in a community workshop, and it was completely unexpected; I didn’t plan to write about that topic; I started merely with the external observation. That’s also what makes starting with the external more effective: we haven’t necessarily planned out what we want to say, and so the revelations come as a surprise for both writer and reader. Whenever I share that piece at a reading, I connect immediately with my audience, who nod their heads as they recall the dirty windows in their own lives, and who then are willing to go along for the ride as we head into deeper territory.

Brenda, you have said before that once a writer locates his/her material, “you have to be willing to get some distance from it and see it as just that: material. You have to work like an artist and sculpt it into shape.” I could see this being read by some as a license to secretly bend verifiable facts in service of a personal truth. How do you locate the harmonies between the constant “flux” of truth (as you’ve called it) and the demands of verifiable facts that integrity requires we acknowledge?

I don’t worry too much about shaping a piece for literary effect, as the truth I’m after is not necessarily a factual one. I wouldn’t make up whole events or significant details, but I have no problem re-creating a scene that I might remember as only a flash of memory. Often, I will cue the reader in to these lapses of memory and allow the reader to follow along as I play. For instance, the word “perhaps” is a workhorse in my lexicon, as is “maybe” and “I like to imagine…” The use of the present tense for childhood memories is also an excellent way to signal that you are not “reporting” events, but re-creating them.

I’ll sometimes tell my reader when I’m totally wrong; this happens in the essay “Blessing of the Animals,” when I remember incorrectly how my childhood dog Sheba died. I start with the phrase “For some reason, I remember….” Then re-create the scene. In the next paragraph, I tell the reader my memory was incorrect and give the factual version as reported by my mother. In this case, I leave in the incorrect version in order to make a point about memory and about how erroneous memories sometimes reveal more about ourselves than “real” memories.

Your writing has such a polished surface that, at first, it seems that it must be simple, straightforward. In fact, it is incredibly layered—elements play with and against and alongside each other in ways that are intricate yet also very inviting to the reader. How do you balance those energies—the impulse to layer and weave with the impulse to reach outward to the reader?

When I’m layering a piece, it’s happening very organically, in that I feel as though I’m simply following imagery and language where it will take me. As I am following language, a certain insistent theme will arise. Once I know that theme, I can go back and revise to highlight that theme and the connections throughout, as well as edit out sections that are no longer relevant. In this way, I allow the reader to follow a map, with certain phrases or images leading the way. The reader becomes involved in putting together the essay too, so it becomes a collaboration between reader and writer (or between the reader and the text).

I am interested in what you said in another previous interview—that when you’re drafting, “if it’s something that will lend itself to research, it’s nearly always going to end up in a braided form so that I can play cool images and facts against one another.” This comment made me wonder: When you sense that you’re writing something that doesn’t want research added in, what kinds of forms most often present themselves?

Short forms—pieces that are small glimpses or interludes. But sometimes research comes into those pieces as well. The braided essay also works without research; one of the central pieces in Listening is called “The Burden of Bearing Fruit,” and it follows a central narrative line of me having the Rainier Cherry tree in my backyard cut down. Once I knew I was writing about trees, I wrote a lot of sections about trees in my memory, especially falling trees. The narrative of the Rainier Cherry threads throughout the piece, creating a “plot” that holds all these different memories, which then become more about creating family as a single, childless woman. The phrase “the burden of bearing fruit” takes on a layered resonance in this context: the cherry needed to be cut down because the fruiting trees do not survive as long as those that are merely ornamental; and the narrator has not yet borne fruit in the traditional sense, but is finding her own form of abundance.

What are you working on at present that most excites you and/or most challenges you?

I’m putting together a fragmented memoir that is currently called “The Single Girl’s Guide to Remodeling: Dispatches from a Life in Progress.” (the title essay is a sequel to “The Burden of Bearing Fruit.”) The challenge is fitting all these small pieces together in a way that makes sense, as well as interspersing longer essays in different forms. I’m afraid it will feel like too much like a mish-mash of disparate pieces. But then again, life itself often feels like a mish-mash of disparate pieces, so maybe it’s really a brilliant strategy!

kateKate Asche, M.A., writes poetry, essays and short stories. She’s a creative writing teacher and literary community builder. A graduate of the UC Davis Creative Writing Program, she was a finalist for the 2011 Audio Contest at The Missouri Review. She has published poetry in Bellingham Review, RHINO, Confrontation, Late Peaches: Poems by Sacramento Poets (2012 Anthology) and elsewhere. Her creative nonfiction appears in Under the Gum Tree. She received two Elliot Gilbert Prizes in Poetry and an Academy of American Poets Award.

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