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Sunday, March 3, 2024

For writers, by writers

Stories on Stage Davis to feature student fiction writers

It’s not easy being a writer: the hours are long, the work is solitary and grueling, and you don’t often get a lot of acknowledgment. But on this upcoming Saturday the literary community of Davis will gather at the Pence Gallery to acknowledge and celebrate the work of two exceptional writers from the UC Davis creative writing master’s program. Stories on Stage Davis will be presenting the winning short stories from its second annual UC Davis Fiction Contest. Becky Mandelbaum, a first-year student in the creative writing program, took first place with her story “Queen of England”, while Lissa Miller, a second-year creative writing student, was awarded second place for her story “The Armadillo.” The contest was open to any currently enrolled UC Davis student who has taken at least one creative writing class at UC Davis. Stories on Stage director, Jeri Howitt, noted that this year’s contest brought in more than twice the number of entries as the inaugural contest last year.

“I’ve never heard anyone read any of my fiction [aloud],” Mandelbaum said. “But I saw a Stories on Stage with Tobias Wolff and the actors were so good and it was fun to see the stories come to life.”

Mandelbaum’s story will be performed by Andy Jones, City of Davis poet laureate and UC Davis faculty member.

“As a practicing poet, I read works out loud on the radio at the poetry night reading series and at my own readings, so I have lots of practice performing before a crowd,” Jones said.

Jones said that one of the most difficult parts of preparing for his performance was figuring out how he wanted to portray the different voices in the story.

“There are two boys in the story that I’m reading, one man and a mom, and so [I’m] trying to figure out how to represent these with somewhat different inflections so that the reader can know who is who,” Jones said.

He also made sure to pay attention to pacing while preparing for his performance.

“It’s a good-sized story so paying attention to pacing is important, because you want to leave room for potent moments of impact on the character and audience,” Jones said.

Miller’s story will be performed by Joyful Simpson, an actress, writer and educator who is currently pursuing an MFA in dramatic art at UC Davis. Miller said she appreciated the opportunity to hear her work read aloud by an actor and was curious to see what the end result would be.

“It’s like a partnership between the performing arts and literature,” Miller said.

As a writer, she also appreciates the immediate feedback one receives from seeing her piece read in front of a live audience.

“I think the reason that I came here is because it gives you two years just to write and and be around other writers so you get immediate feedback on your writing which is something you don’t necessarily get [elsewhere],” Miller said.

Mandelbaum agreed that readings like this are important because they allow other writers to see what their fellow writers are up to.

“Writing is such an isolated thing so it’s nice that it’s a community event so everyone can come together and have a collective experience as opposed to reading [alone] which is such a solitary event,” Mandelbaum said.

Jones believes that fiction contests like this are important because community is an critical aspect of a writer’s life.

“It’s important to celebrate authors. Writing a book is solitary painstaking work and it’s a burden and I’d say that an opportunity to come together with a bunch of other writers, actors and readers gives us authors a chance to come out of our workrooms. It also gives the fiction writer a momentary rush of the playwright, in that she gets to hear her work performed and get to hear other people laugh, or cry,” Jones said.

“The event will be held at the Pence Gallery this Saturday, May 9. A minimum donation of $5 is requested. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the reading starts at 7:30 p.m.. For more information, visit storiesonstagedavis.com.

Courtesy photo by Stories on Stage Davis. 



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