I’ve been a fan of Artists’ Tea since moving to Joshua Tree, California, 3 years ago, and I am thrilled to be the guest artist on Sunday, Feb 16, 2020. Join me in this exquisite setting for a free talk about how I seek metaphorical connections to find a “way in” to writing creative nonfiction, particularly the personal narrative. Participants will have an opportunity to produce a short written piece that they may, if they wish, share with the group. If you’re in or anywhere near Joshua Tree, I hope you’ll meet us at Cap Rock.
In 2019, my writing did not make any “Best Of” or “Favorite” year-end lists. I wasn’t expecting it to. I did write a fair amount—less than I should’ve. But my writing brought me to some singular experiences this year, opportunities to read intensely personal work in front of larger audiences than I’d encountered until now. I started the Desert Split Open Mic in an effort to continue the conversation started by 2018’s Feckless Cunt Anthology. Every month I wrote something for it, and a few pieces were published. I planned literary events for Joshua Tree Pride, participated in a staged reading of a friend’s novella-in-verse, helped plan two events celebrating composer and poet Lou Harrison, and more. A few times each month, it seems, I found myself standing before a microphone as myself. Did I forget to mention that I’m an introvert?
As 2019 limps to its overdue end (just me?), I feel overwhelmed by exhaustion. It was a tough year, personally, and that’s part of it. But the truth is, I was busy. So busy that I forgot some stuff by the time those year-end lists cropped up. Gathering these photos, I realized that almost everything here required me to step beyond my comfort zone. No wonder I’m tired!
Most writers labor on without much if any external appreciation. We open our veins for the page and—maybe—get an acceptance or a “Like” or word of praise. Sometimes that’s enough, that small acknowledgment from a reader: “Yes. For me, too.” But, in the quiet between acknowledgements, it’s important to remind yourself that you are amazing. You are doing the work and, sometimes, it’s good! Thank you for indulging me as I reminded myself. Wishing you health, happiness, and—most importantly—hope in 2020.
Joshua Tree-based literary journal Cholla Needles devoted their September issue to the theme of survival, taking a cue from Station Eleven. I’m thrilled to have three CNF pieces included: “Pathological,” “Listen for What I Don’t Say,” and “Desert, Mother, Home.” I read them at a number of community open readings held throughout the Morongo Basin, including the one I hosted at Joshua Tree’s Space Cowboy Books.
I was especially honored to participate in this Author Panel on literary genres. I found our conversation interesting and useful—hope you will too. Click below to listen:
My latest sci-fi story, We Have Your Connie Moody, can be heard on Episode #18 of the sci-fi and speculative podcast Simultaneous Times. It’s my second story for them and features multiple voice actors, sound effects, and original music by Phog Masheen. I wasn’t sure how this unconventional story would translate to an audio drama, but I think it’s perfect. What a THRILL.
The story is constructed of online posts to private social networks and is a pointed look at suburban life through alien eyes. Many thanks to Jean-Paul L. Garnier and everyone who helped bring this to life. Click below, or find it streaming on all your favorite podcast players.
If you like what you hear, have a listen to my first story to appear on this podcast (Episode #14), From The Angels to Snakes, a feminist dystopia set in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree:
I am still new to writing in this genre and I’m excited by the possibilities, especially in terms of how it might frame smart and subtle social commentary. In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about my former misunderstandings about genre fiction and in fact what genre means for both writer and reader. On September 21, as part of the NEA BIG READ Morongo Basin, I will participate in an author panel discussion of science fiction and what defines literary genres. Local friends, I hope you’ll join us! Let’s expand our minds like the universe.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, I made my first zine! A FLY ON THE STONEWALL recounts the revolutionary events of June 28, 1969, from the perspective of a (literal) fly on the wall. It premiered on Sunday, June 16, Joshua Tree Pride’s “Lit Day.” Now, locals can pick up a copy from Joshua Tree, CA’s Space Cowboy Books, or contact me at susan [at] susanrukeyser [dot] com and I’ll mail you a copy for $5 + $1 shipping. $1 from each sale will be donated to the Transgender Community Coalition. This zine is dedicated to Sylvia Rivera and was written with boundless love and respect.
At the end of 2018, as the Feckless Cunt Anthology promotional tour wound down, I thought about how much I wanted to continue that conversation—about politics, feminism, the patriarchy, race, class, gender, binaries, queerness, oppression, everyday abuses, and the moments that change everything, forever. I hoped that others in my local community of Joshua Tree, California, wanted to talk about the things we can’t ignore. The Desert Split Open Mic was born. One evening a month, we meet in a cozy, funky lounge and share words and work in progress. We keep it simple: read your own poetry or prose–or the work of a favorite writer–8 minutes max. Our first meeting was in January 2019, and we met again in February, March, April, and May. We took off June, as we helped plan Joshua Tree Pride. We love seeing some of the same faces return each month, and there are always a few new faces, too, which is thrilling. The evening is shaped by the truths each reader brings, and there always seems to be a balance.
The Desert Split Open Mic allows me to continue in the role of facilitator of other writers’ words, which I have come to realize is a role I love. It also gives me motivation to keep writing my own new work in this vein. I am grateful to those who have or soon will publish work written for this open mic:
My satirical, imagined conversation, “What’s Your Problem with Joe Biden?” recently ran at The Weeklings, just days after Joe announced his 2020 candidacy.
My furious, feminist, flash rant, “Ingrown Rage,” is set to appear in Cliterature‘s forthcoming HAIR-themed issue.
On Saturday, June 29, I will perform “ID, please,” a piece about fluidity, contradiction, and queerness, at the Art Theatre of Long Beach, for OUT LOUD: A Cultural Evolution.
These pieces exist because The Desert Split Open Mic exists.
Joshua Tree goes quiet in the summer, thank goodness–or quieter, at least. We slow down, conserve energy in the staggering heat. Should we resume The Desert Split Open Mic in July? Or wait until September? We’re still considering. But, soon or very soon, we will meet again. Please join us, if you can. Everyone is welcome. We’re listening.
In 2017, I moved home to the Mojave, although I grew up in Connecticut. I’ve been in a writing frenzy ever since, trying new things, playing with form, opening up to everything I might want (need) to write. Lately, it seems my words are landing with enthusiastic publishers, and that is so good I almost don’t want to say it out loud lest I jinx it.
Today, Pine Hills Review published my little story-as-answering-machine-message Neighborhood Watch, circa 2009. Just last week, The Weeklings posted my short, satirical and all-too-timely piece What’s Your Problem with Joe Biden? Last month, my contemplative, desert-y flash I Was a Pink Bath Bomb went up at Mojave He[art] Review.
I even tried my hand at sci-fi and wrote From The Angels to Snakes, which was performed with a full cast and original music on the Simultaneous Times podcast.
As always, a full list of my publications can be found HERE.
I am (forever) grateful to all those who publish, produce, read, and share my words.
Okay, I admit it: I was a snob, when it came to sci-fi. Isn’t that for boys? Isn’t that lighter, pulpier stuff, nerd fantasy, spaceships, oversexed aliens? It doesn’t tackle the Big Questions like Lit’ry Fiction. Okay, I was ignorant. But I smartened up!
Jean-Paul Garnier, publisher of Space Cowboy Books, which last year released my chapbook of tiny stories Swap / Meet, suggested I try my hand at science fiction. He produces a monthly science fiction and speculative podcast called Simultaneous Times (available on itunes, spotify, googleplay etc.), which is beautifully produced with full-cast recordings, custom music, sound effects. Each episode is like an old radio play, but the stories are of this moment and far beyond. Writing “From The Angels to Snakes,” the story that appears in Episode 14, I learned so much about what sci-fi can do, in terms of storytelling. Researching as much female-driven sci-fi as I could, and thinking deeply about what might be possible in a story unconstrained by the factual reality of present or past, I found myself quite inspired. “From The Angels to Snakes” is a dystopian, feminist story that I’m proud of and can’t wait to share. I’m grateful to everyone who worked on it: Music by loopool & RedBlueBlackSilver; Read by Susan Rukeyser, Zara Kand, Danu Heatherly & Jean-Paul Garnier. This was truly a community effort. If you’re so moved, please give it a listen. And subscribe to this terrific podcast.
Huge thanks to Read Her Like an Open Book for allowing me to explain how Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology came to be. As Editor Bill Wolfe said on Twitter: “When enough is enough, it’s time to take out the bullhorn.”
From Not Feckless: How a Writer Becomes a Publisher in a Moment of Rage: “I became a publisher impulsively, in this moment of rage. My own words failed. But I knew there were writers who still had theirs, who could articulate their fury, indignation, sorrow. That’s how it works, in this resistance marathon: we take turns. We share, and our collective words carry us. … I had no idea how to publish a book. I figured I would learn.”