Augie’s Quick Post
Today we welcome back John Brantingham who is a Poet, Short Story Writer, Mystery Writer, full-time Professor of English and Creative Writing at Mt San Antonio College, a member of the Long Beach, Calif. Poetry Festival, And Scott Crely who is a Poet as well as a Professor of English at Whittier College. Both men are involved with the Mt SACWriters’ Weekend Venue and now I understand that there is a new endeavor.
Augie: Welcome John, oh hey Scott
John: Thank you so much for interviewing us.
Scott: Hey Augie
Augie: First of all John, you carry a lot on your plate, besides staying on top of more than one hundred students in a semester. How are you able to juggle so much and still have a personal life?
John: It isn’t easy. The truth is that there are very few days when I’m not working on one thing or another, but the great thing is that so much of what I do I love. If I had all the free time in the world, I would write and read and do nothing else, but much of what I am doing is related to the literary community. It also doesn’t hurt that my personal life is tangled up in my work. My friends are generally students and colleagues, and what we like to talk about is writing.
Augie: I understood at our last interview September 2011, you spoke of an exciting project that you, Scott Creley, Elder Zamora and your gorgeous wife Ann will be bringing to the San Gabriel Valley in West Covina, The San Gabriel Valley International Literary Festival.
John: Yes, we’re going to have a literary festival in West Covina in February of 2013. It’s going to bring in people from all around Los Angeles, the country, and the world, and it’s going to highlight the work of people living in the San Gabriel Valley. We have a lot of talent here, but often there is no place to showcase our work, so people feel that they need to travel someplace else. However, there is as much artistic genius and beauty in the San Gabriel Valley as anywhere else. It simply hasn’t been fostered in the way that it could be. So the idea is to bring the kind of literary festival here that we’ve seen in the big cities around the world. I am so excited about the festival right now. We’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes kind of work so far, but we’re going to start recruiting and advertising soon.
Augie: John that is fantastic, I hope to be a part of this history making event, you are so right there is much talent just outside our doors. I understand that there have been donations from different venues who have aided you in this venture. I do not want to call it an event, for this is not a one time, is this correct?
John: There has been some, but we’re going to need much more. That’s our greatest need. After all, the more money we have, the more people we can bring in.
Scott: Unfortunately, it's expensive to get people to the festival, make sure they have somewhere to stay, and pay their speaking fee. This is to say nothing of all the practical costs of running a large event. It's worth the big cost, but we will need every cent we can get.
In regards to your other question, it’s absolutely not a one-time event. We are hoping to do this yearly and we have readings and events throughout the year. You can check these out by going to the Facebook page for the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival and to sgvlitfest.com
Augie: Tell us about the City involvement, how were you able to raise the funds for the building.
Scott: West Covina has been extremely supportive of the event. They're providing a venue and making inroads to getting human involvement. We won't go into the boring details, but we're helping West Covina with program advertisement and promotions, and they're helping us to put on the event in City Hall and its surrounding environs.
Augie: Scott, since the City of West Covina is involved this implies that the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival holds a non-profit status?
Scott: Yes. Non-profit status is important for any group pursuing these kinds of goals. Our group is providing a true service to the community, so we've pursued a non-profit status.
Augie: Tell us about your website.
Scott: Our website is following to more “modern” model of web advertising – it's one cog in a larger mechanical cluster. It's designed to provide an informational foundation alongside the content of our more fluid facebook and twitter accounts. Our web presence provides information about the festival, but also provides a huge amount of related content – online journals, interesting videos and articles, and publications from our staff and volunteers.
We don't want to just provide a place for people to go about information about the festival, we also promote our monthly reading and collect writing from all sort of sources. On 9/11, for example, we put together an online memorial chapbook with work from everywhere. We do the occasional interviews, profiles, and promote writing visitors will find interesting.
Our web presence is one of the things that will differentiate us from other writing festivals. Unfortunately, the literary establishment has been somewhat slow to adapt a dynamic web presence, we want to provide a content source literary and artistic people can visit.
Finally, our site is going to be one of our more important fundraising facets, it links to all the ways a person can donate to us (by using our Amazon.com click-through, donating via paypal, supporting our kickstarter).
Augie: Scott is there any other plans for fund raising before the February date?
Scott: Yes, we'll have our ongoing monthly readings, releases of a special printed and audio chapbooks featuring work from writers like Christopher Buckley, Gary Young, Derrick McKown, Gerald Locklin, Murray Thomas, Eric Morago, Luke
Salazar, Christine Kitano, and many others. We're also trying to host concerts around Pomona and West Covina, fundraising dinners, and other related events. We're going to be a very busy group.
Augie: Sounds like you know where you’re going. Will there be a need for professional artists as well as amateurs’ artist to become involved. If so, what are those needs and will there be taxable write-offs for donated hours?
Scott: We need them very badly – the web is very visual, and we want to focus on emerging artists as much as established writers. Fortunately, a lot of professional artists and gifted amateurs have stepped up and donated their time. Our logos were designed by Alex Torrez, our banners by David Falkinburg, and some of our painted banners by painter Carly McKean. These people are all showing gallery work and we're very excited to have their cache with us.
We still need more banners for our website, and wouldn't mind a redesign of our website by a professional designer. It's a great chance for any artists, new or established to have their work showcased alongside the likes
Augie: What types of donations are needed (professional volunteers, monetary donations, equipment donations, art supplies, paper, etc)? On the side-bar a Literary Philanthropist would be great.
Scott: I'm assuming this is referring to the West Covina Arts building? We'll need to fund every aspect of the program space, supplies, staffing, and taxes. It's going to be a challenging endeavor. It has all the burdens of a small business, but without the regular revenue of selling a product. We'll need to furnish the building, make a competitive graphic design suite, and build an art studio as well. We want the center to work for artists of every stripe and to provide as much free education and workspace as possible. So, yes, we'll need donations of all types – man hours, monetary, and donated equipment -- from across the board.
Augie: Will there be a showcasing of published printed work as well as art on the walls of the building?
Scott: (During the Festival) Yes, we want to hang broadsides and art around the festival, cost allowing and yes, we also want to publish the work of participation writers if possible.
Augie: Will this be a safe environment for all artist? And, is there an age factor?
John: One of the goals is to provide a place for all artists of all ages and all experience levels. We truly want art without attitude. Of course, there will be a place for our professionals, but that will never happen to the exclusion of the people we really want to serve and that’s the community members.
Augie: If it is within the barriers of cost will there be on-going classes offered by professionals?
John: Yes, absolutely! There will be readings and workshops.
Augie: Will there be tickets sold for the event in February, 2013.
John: No, this will be absolutely free.
Augie: My goodness, you guys have really put yourselves out there. What collaborations do you need?
John: We want people to be as hands on as possible. We’d truly love for this to be a community event with people joining us as much as possible. We’re going to run readings and other events until then, but we’d love people to come to us with ideas. We can provide backing in terms of experience and connections.
Augie: Will there be a brochure featuring artist work from like T. Anders Carson, John Buckley, John Brantingham, Ann Brantingham’s art, Poets Michael Torres, Michaelsun Knapp, Charlotte San Juan, Jo Scott-Cole, and work from fellow authors and friends of the SGVLit Festival Sunny Frazier and Bonnie Hearn Hill and others?
Scott: As I mentioned, we're definitely doing publications based around participants. It won't just be local artists – we're going to invite the likes of B.H. Fairchild, Gary Young, Christopher Buckley, and we’re hoping they'll want to showcase some of their work in the program we'll provide.
Augie: Wow, nice headliners. Will you offer free advertisement to those companies and/or participants who donate to the festival?
Scott: Yes. But we're actually going deeper than that. We want to showcase other non-profits in an exchange of advertising, and we also want to allow companies the opportunity to sponsor specific artists or events. We have a lot of different venues for advertising – we have our website, our twitter, physical advertising during the festival, booth space during the festival, and advertising in the publications promoting the festival. We're hoping we can make use of all that space to raise funds.
Augie: This brochure or program sounds expensive, how will you meet the cost at such a pivotal time of organization as well as presentation of your first festival?
Scott: There will be a program. We'll probably mostly provide it as a digital download for smartphones. Hopefully, we'll be able to get very interactive and have an on-site digital map and schedule people can download straight to their mobile devices. We'll definitely have a program people can download and print if they want it. We might offer a sort of “deluxe” program to donors – something that has all the event information as well as a sampling of art and writing related to the festival.
Augie: Why this idea of the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival? John, I recalled you mentioned through an earlier conversation that you visited Wales and Dylan Thomas’ Gravesite and that you wanted to create a permanent center for art, writing and music.
John: People don’t see the San Gabriel Valley as a place for art. There are great programs in the Inland Empire and in Los Angeles, and residents tend to feel that they have to leave our area if they are going to pursue their artistic vision. However, there is as much artistic genius and passion in our area as any other. What we want to create is a place that fosters that genius, and we want to do it here. What I saw in Wales was good, and it seemed right that Swansea would have festivals, but in terms of population, Swansea is tiny compared to the San Gabriel Valley. We deserve that kind of artistic experience here.
Augie: Thank you John and Scott, I believe this festival and its future claims will be recognized as a catalyst to bring new breath into the community. You will open new doors that many of us never knew that existed, an opened door home for the art which brings hope back into communities. Where else can a venue of this magnitude be found? I’m sure you the audience are just as excited for the Inland Empire as I am.
On a personal note, I am proud of what you and the other volunteers are doing to acknowledge talent in our own back yard. I hope this will be the building blocks for future writers as King, Adler, de Angeli, Cornwell, Danney & Lepofsky and others.
Thank you once again John and Scott for stopping by, I hope to hear from you closer to the event, until then, “Keep your backs off the walls and allow the harvest to grow.”
John: Thanks for having us Augie
Scott: Thanks Augie
Augie: It was a pleasure speaking to you both. Folks make a date for February, 2013 in West Covina, the first of many events at the San Gabriel Valley Festival, more details will follow. But in the meantime you can reach John, Scott, Elder or Ann at the sgvlitfest.com website, twitter http://twitter.com/#!/sgvlitfestival
Keep reading and writing. Augie