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.
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.