July 15: The Interview
Carla Sameth’s memoir, One Day on the Gold Line, debuts July 18, 2019. Her work on blended/unblended, LGBTQ, and single parenting appears in a variety of literary journals and anthologies including MUTHA Magazine, Narratively, The Nervous Breakdown and Brain, Child. Selected as a 2016 PEN Teaching Artist, Sameth teaches creative writing at the LA Writing Project at Cal State University LA, Southern New Hampshire University, and to incarcerated youth. Carla is a member of the Pasadena Rose Poets.
Carla was kind enough to answer some of our questions…
LitFest Pasadena: We remember reading “One Day on the Gold Line” as an essay in the Pasadena Weekly in 2012. You experienced a brutal assault at the hands of the LA Sheriff’s Department, all as a result of being unable to find your Metro ticket because it had slipped behind your wallet in your oversized purse. Your language in the essay paints a terrifying picture; it was difficult to experience even as a reader. Was this essay the beginning of what lead to your memoir or how did your book develop?
Carla: Thank you so much! I had originally started conceiving of the book-length memoir in essays prior to that assault and the essay which came from that. I continued to develop the memoir as I lived my life and it turns out that that horrific experience with the LA Sheriff’s Department was not my “bottom.” When my son started high school he began to experiment with drugs and spiraled downwards rapidly. I had teased him that when he left home for college, I’d join him and get my MFA, live in the dorms and go to parties with him, which he didn’t find humorous at all. When he left (not for college but for a young man’s recovery house), I started my MFA. I was then able to focus more fully on the memoir which eventually took shape as One Day on the Gold Line: A Memoir in Essays.
The book begins with me on a lifeboat boat in the middle of the Mediterranean where I realized that if I were to died then, my biggest regret would be never having had a child. I suffered multiple miscarriages before my son was born. I was looking to create a family that was a safe sanctuary, a sort of “happy chaos.” I thought that my son having a queer mom, being African American and Jewish, and part of a blended family or even with a single mom, would just make life richer for him, but the reality was much harder. The memoir is about my experience navigating life’s challenges including race, identity, police violence, and facing my teenage son’s struggle with addiction. It’s a bit of a “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” It’s contemporary parenthood.
LF: We remember your poem “I Do Exist” where you write “It seems so fast—from craziness of raising a child alone/To carrying a diaper bag for my mom.” Where some writers delve into a world of their own making, the cozy blanket of fiction, your writing seems to be ‘here’s my world, here’s my life, in all it’s rawness and realness.’ Would you agree with that?
Carla: I wanted to write the book I would have liked to read when I struggled to have a son through multiple miscarriages and then when I was in the single mom trenches. I found some books tremendously helpful, when I was dealing with his addiction struggles, books by addicts and families of addicts such as Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by his son, Nic Sheff.
Carla: I wanted to offer this same lifeline to other people dealing with the issues I experienced. Having that connection can help a person feel some hope, empathy and resilience, even when the narrative is difficult and often not pretty.
I don’t know how I would have written One Day on the Gold Line without my family’s tremendous support. My son repeatedly encouraged me to write the book and I think we felt that it could help other families dealing with similar issues. I showed him some essays before they were published and asked him to read the manuscript before it was published. He has read parts, but I don’t think he ever read the whole thing. He continues to support me, including going to readings even when he may feel some discomfort if a part of the story focuses (as it often is) on him or our relationship. Once my maternal aunt objected to me reading a poem about my mom and her dementia at Shiva after her funeral, so I didn’t read it.
I usually do read what I want to publish to my wife first if I am writing about her (which I have just barely started doing). She has never censored my work and told me recently that she finds my writing cathartic for her.
I am now working on linked short stories and with fiction, prefer to write in any voice other than a mom’s at this moment. Guess I’m a bit sick of my own story by now. I’m proud of my book, but editing and publishing this book was a tremendous effort and I’m ready to move on to someone else’s story.
I love fiction and poetry because of the freedom you have to go beyond your own story and “real life” even if you draw some inspiration from it.
LF: Reviewer Michael Sedano at La Bloga writes that One Day on the Gold Line is “literature as equipment for living.” Is this your goal?
Carla: Yes, this is absolutely my goal. I cherish the connection I feel as reader to the writer and as writer to the reader. It’s a large part of why I write, to offer that connection. To share how I survived and perhaps offer some hope or source of strength to a reader. And of course, there’s humor. You got to have that to make it through this world. I hope that I can help readers find laughter even in the darkness.
LF: This is from “Mother’s Day Triptych” in Mutha magazine:
I long for something that will somehow bind the three of us together, me, my wife, and my son. They seem to be less attached to the idea, this desperate need of mine to find a container for the three of us that is safe, strong, undivided. They appear to accept the occasional bumpiness of their relationship in a way I struggle to, since I still cling to safe harbor, a place like The Point where ocean waves give the sense of calm, with their consistent return.
My son has told me that he is glad that my wife and I have found each other, knowing that I am taken care of. And my wife knows that the love between my son and me burns fierce and constant. Perhaps the thread that holds us together is their unyielding love for me. And mine for them. That is the place we will live in.
Does writing help you clarify or lead you to an understanding of yourself or lead to any resolutions?
Carla: Yes, that piece actually did help me better understand my feelings around their relationship and my obsession with “everyone getting along and loving each other.” As many writers will tell you, sometimes writing a piece does help us come to some clarity as we reflect back in the writing process. This is a big part of memoir.
LF: Not only are you a dedicated writer, you appear to be dedicated to helping others to write and express themselves. You co-founded the Pasadena Writing Project, you’ve been a mentor for incarcerated young people via WriteGirl, and teach at the Los Angeles Writing Project. Many writers are loners to a certain extent, but you appear to not be one of them.
Carla: I am definitely more of an extrovert; which is not to say that I don’t have moments of extreme anxiety and social awkwardness. I need some outside contact though, especially when I’m spending a lot of time writing about dark themes. I love teaching and encouraging and enabling others to tell their stories. Writing probably saved my life and I think it can do the same for others. It’s a beautiful experience watching someone develop their voice and speak their truth.
LF: Personal questions! What is your favorite time of day and, if you don’t have prior commitments, what do you like to do with it?
Carla: I love sunset, dusk, and dawn. My yard is pretty wild and I really like the way it smells and looks first thing in the morning. Lay out in the hammock and read? Writing in a beautiful place where I can write, gaze, graze, and maybe doze. Spending time with my son, close friends, and family. A good meal together.
LitFest: Your favorite vice?
Carla: Watching episodic television series like Handmaid’s Tale, Pose, Orange Is the New Black (and “back in the day” The Wire, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under) and so many others. OMG, I could have written five more books at least during the time my wife and I have binge watched TV. We like to eat ice cream like rocky road while we watch shows. It’s a big stress reliever. Similar to reading really good fiction (or memoir), I enjoy escaping into someone else’s life.
LF: Least favorite chore?
Carla: Hands down, cleaning kitty litter and cleaning (adult) toilets. My wife does more than her share.
LF: Best way to spend a day in Pasadena would be…?
Carla: LitFest, of course!
Carla: It’s in Arcadia, but when I first moved to SoCal I liked eating carnitas at the Santa Anita Race Track. Also, hiking around Eaton Canyon and some of the great places in the San Gabriel Mountains, especially when it’s a wet season and the wildflowers come out en masse. Eating some of the delicious Asian food in the area. You can see that a lot of my favorite things involve food. I also love going to movies at the Laemmle and browsing at Vroman’s.
One Day on the Gold Line book launch: Wednesday, July 17, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., LA 90013. For all details, click Eventbrite.
Find Carla at CarlaSameth.com and @carlasameth.
June 8 update: New News!
All are welcome to a free table read of the theatrical adaptation of the Los Angeles Times best-selling novel Dead Above Ground by local author and LitFest Pasadena co-founder Jervey Tervalon.
Dead Above Ground
Directed by Paul McDade
With Amber Dixon Brenner as the tragic Adelle and Natasha Estrada as Lita
Time & Location
Thursday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m.
DRW Auditorium, Pasadena Public Library
285 E. Walnut St., Pasadena 91101
Welcome to the LitFest Pasadena
Here you’ll find the details and information mentioned in our monthly newsletter, covering LitFest writers, authors, poets, and publishers’ book releases, author events, readings, and even interviews and book excerpts or poems.
What about news and updates on
LitFest Pasadena 2020?
Watch this space. Enjoy!
Jean Guerrero – LitFest participant in “Race & the Literary Life” – has been chosen as the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2019 Journalist of the Year. Jean is the author of Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir (Penguin Random House) and is a KPBS investigative reporter covering the border and immigration.
Thank you, Susannah Rodríguez Drissi, for sharing this…
Short & Sweet Hollywood is seeking submissions for 10-minute plays and films for their Latino festival, which is scheduled for the fall in Los Angeles. All English and Spanish submissions from Latinx writers welcome. Submission deadline extended to July 12. Find details at ShortAndSweet.org.
Linda Ravenswood participates in The Slam with Annie Paradis at The Ruby, Friday, July 5 at 9:30 p.m. Find details on event Facebook page.
LitFest participant and poet Arminé Iknadossian hosts the first Native American U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo at “Writing from the Spirit of Service” at Abril Books in Glendale, July 6, 4-7 p.m. Cost: $30. Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more details on the Facebook event page.
July 6: Mary Mallory speaks at the Sherman Oaks Library at 2 p.m. on “Lost LA.”
“Take a trip back in time with historian Mary Mallory to visit famous landmarks and hidden gems revealing the rich architectural diversity of the City of the Angels.”
Find details at LAPL.org.
If you can’t attend on the 6th, Mary’s giving 2 more presentations this month: July 18 at 6 p.m. at Studio City Library and July 25 at 7 p.m. at the San Fernando Historical Society.
Noir at the Bar has been a big hit at LitFest Pasadena thanks to S.W. Lauden and Eric Beetner. Now, they celebrate Noir at the Bar’s 8th anniversary – 7 p.m. at Mandrake, 2692 S. La Cienega Blvd., LA – with a line up that includes The Devil’s Half Mile author and LitFest participant Paddy Hirsch!
Vroman’s Bookstore: JPL veterans Michael Werner and Peter Eisenhardt discuss and sign More Things in the Heavens (Princeton University Press), a book which, according to Nick Smith of E&T, “is an unashamed celebration of one of the greatest scientific projects of the 21st century.”
For all of July’s author events at Vroman’s Bookstore, visit its event page here.
Red Hen Press presents LitFest Pasadena participants Kim Dower and Ron Koertge at one of the “Bookstores We Love” Skylight Books on July 10 at 7:30 p.m., 1814 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz 90027.
Issue #9 of Viva Padilla‘s Dryland literary magazine released. Come join the party! July 12 at Patria Coffee, 6-9 p.m. Sonido Del Valle (Sounds of the Valley) record store provides the tunes for the evening, Pocho Pops serves up pallets, and great (reasonably priced) offered by 213 Ramen. Also on the evenings “menu,” readings by “a solid mix of first-timers and veterans.” Details on event Facebook page.
One of the fun, fun summer events of the year – Poetry Circus, thanks to poet Nicelle Davis. This 6th year of the event is titled “Circus Noir” and can be enjoyed on July 13 beginning at 5 p.m. at the historic and beautifully restored Griffith Park Carousel. Included in this year’s line up are LitFest participants Cindy Rinne, Arminé Iknadossian, and Douglas Manuel. Come enjoy a free merry-go-round ride, the Bob Baker marionettes, face painting, and Anne Yale of Yak Press has just received the “Circus Noir” chapbooks! Find complete details at NicelleDavis.net or on the Poetry Circus “Circus Noir” Facebook event page.
Middle Grade & LitFest Pasadena authors Dana Middleton and Henry Lien join E. E. Charlton-Trujillo for a conversation, Q&A, and book signing at Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, July 16 at 7 p.m., Del Almo Center, 21400 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503.
Prospect Park Books author Jim Kempton visits Redondo Beach Library, July 16, 6-7:30 p.m. Jim “shares his recipe collection, along with stories of the best waves, restaurants, adventures, and misadventures.” Find details at SouthBayByJackie.com.
Janet Fitch reads from Chimes of a Lost Cathedral, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., LA 90027. Event details here.
Book launch: One Day on the Gold Line by Carla Sameth. From 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., LA 90013. For all details, click Eventbrite.
Autobiography, particularly one this honest, is kin to fiction’s Identification. Through Edification and Instruction, Sameth allows a reader to find parallels in their own love life, parenting, cooking, problem-solving, choices of ice cream. In short, it’s what Kenneth Burke termed “Literature as equipment for living.”
Carla Rachel Sameth doesn’t have a kid named Rafael. This is creative non-fiction of the highest caliber. Writers should flock to these pages to observe how Sameth plants ideas, spins them around, pulls them out thirty pages and two stories later. I particularly enjoy the writer’s use of humor.
—Michael Sedano, “Defining Moment on the LA Metro, and a Life,” La Bloga
Bruce Craven, author of Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from the Game of Thrones (Thomas Dunne Books, Macmillan) appears at Flintridge Bookstore, July 19 at 6-7:30 p.m. Click here for details.
If you’ll be in San Francisco, Susannah Rodríguez Drissi discusses, reads, and signs The Latin Poet’s Guide to the Cosmos at Ally Cat Books & Gallery July 19, 7-9 p.m.
“The Elements of Poetry” workshop with Thelma T. Reyna at Vroman’s Bookstore, July 20, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Explore the various elements that make poetry “poetic,” word choice, different forms of rhyme, and voice. Published poems read and discussed, and then writing will ensue! Find complete details here.
KPCC’s Unheard LA has Mike Sonksen hosting his brand-new show “Letters to Our City.” He’ll be joined by past Unheard LA storytellers including Rocío Carlos and Daniel Hernandez on July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Crawford Center, 474 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. Find details on event Facebook page. Purchase tickets here. General admission: $12.
Flintridge Bookstore presents Deb Spera, a La Cañada Flintridge resident, in conversation with Flintridge Prep’s headmaster Peter Bachmann about her new release Call Your Daughter Home (Park Row Book, Harlequin), July 27 at 5 p.m.
Luke Tarzian, assistant manager of Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse – one of the Bookstores We Love! – makes his debut with his dark fantasy book Vultures.
Bio, according to Luke: Fantasy Author. Long Doggo Enthusiast. Snoot Booper. Shouter of Profanities. Drinker of Whiskey. These are all titles. I’m the Khaleesi nobody wanted and the one they certainly didn’t deserve.
Luke was kind enough to answer a few of our questions…
LitFest: Vultures are predators, and human vultures prey on others, exploit others, exploit a situation to turn it in his/her favor. Why is Vulturesthe title of your fantasy debut? Is your main character Theailys a vulture? Or would that be the “spindly white-eyed silhouette,” the voice in Theailys’s head, which calls himself Faro? Or both? Neither?
Tarzian: So. The title came from an “Asking Alexandria” song of the same name. There’s a line in it that says “these vultures burn the life right out of me” and it was something that stuck with me when I was revising what was previously a standalone novel. It gave me a really solid theme to work with. The vultures in the novel are more psychological than anything—Faro, certainly, but also horrible dreams, memories of personal tragedies, and the like. Each viewpoint character has a lot of personal baggage and I really wanted to highlight that.
LF: Creating a new world – a world of “faithbringers” and “lokyns,” the “Heart of Mirkúr” and “The Keeper’s Wrath.” It seems hard enough to write a story that’s situated in a world that already exists; how do you balance all of the elements needed for a good tale when it’s a world you’ve created from scratch?
Tarzian: I have a rough outline for every book, which is definitely subject to change. It’s more of a guide rather than something I strictly adhere to. I also have a project journal I’m making entries in during the writing process. I’m a very organized person, but keeping track of so many new elements can definitely be challenging at times, especially in a secondary world. The actual act of balancing all of that within the context of the story–for me, at least–isn’t actually as difficult, though. It comes down to the characters and figuring out what needs to be present in each of their scenes, if that makes sense. Basically, certain things relate to certain characters; certain things evoke different emotional responses for different characters.
LF: What about Vultures makes this the story with which you wanted to make your debut? What’s special about it to you that made you decide, yes, this is the story with which I want to launch my debut?
Tarzian: Vultures is the culmination of more than a decade of writing. It’s a Frankenstein of my past attempts at novels, finally amalgamated into something fluid. It’s a very personal project for me for a variety of reasons, most notably the facts it deals with mental illness and that I finished it a few months after my mother passed away. The idea to self-publish it really came from her becoming ill last year and me wanting her to be able to hold a physical copy of my first book before she went, which she was able to do. I did pretty much everything design-wise, from the cover art to the interior. It was a huge creative undertaking, but I’m extremely proud of it and I’m sure my mom would be to.
LF: Have you always written fantasy? Read fantasy as a young child or teen? What draws you to fantasy, and what makes something “dark” fantasy?
Tarzian: For the most part, yes, I’ve always written fantasy, though the first stories I had published were horror. I read fantasy as a teen, though mostly Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I didn’t actually get into fantasy seriously until the year I graduated college and started working on what would be the very first iteration of Vultures. As for what draws me to it, I would say the escapism factor. It’s nice to be able to leave reality for a couple of hours at a time and visit other worlds. What makes fantasy “dark”? Dealing with more themes that are a bit heavier, more frightening or horrific. Fantasy that evokes a sense of dread.
LF: What’s your favorite aspect of writing, within the action of writing?
Tarzian: Creating characters. I love worldbuilding, but getting to know my characters is definitely my favorite part since I’m getting to learn more about myself in the process. It’s a very vulnerable process for me, it’s cathartic, and it allows me to really address some of the things going on in my thoughts.
LF: What’s the most difficult aspect of writing for you?
Tarzian: Plot development, dialogue, editing, “seeing” the whole story and knowing whether or not it “works,” etc. I think it would probably be just hammering out the first draft of the story. I’m OCD which definitely makes it tough since I’m constantly having to tell myself “It’s just the first draft. Let it be ugly. Just get the story on page.” Either that or curtailing the amount of profanity some of my characters use (I think I’ve DEFINITELY improved here).
LF: Now for some personal questions, what is your favorite time of day, and if you don’t have prior commitments, what do you do with it?
Tarzian: It definitely depends. For writing, definitely the morning since that’s when I’ve got the most energy. As for relaxing, the evening. I’ll usually just watch a bit of television or read a book. Or, go for a walk around the Rose Bowl.
LF: Your most favorite vice?
Tarzian: A nice glass of scotch.
LF: Your most abhorrent chore?
Tarzian: Not sure I actually have one. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys cleaning. My wife can tell you how excited I was when we got a new mop and had to immediately put it to use. But if I HAD to pick one… probably laundry.
LF: You have a free day in Flintridge, Pasadena, or anywhere in San Gabriel Valley. What’s your dream day?
Tarzian: Oh no. I have to actually think about this. Makes me snort to say this, but it’s probably sitting in the cafe at work (a bit masochistic, really) and getting something book-related taken care of, whether it’s writing or promotional art. I could easily do both of these at home, but I’ve gotten into the habit of not being home in the mornings that doing so actually makes me feel odd.
For a complete look at the photos and comments about LitFest Pasadena 2019, please visit the Home page – it’s fun!
Flintridge Bookstore joined LitFest for the “Bookstores We Love” panel. Following is one of Flintridge’s upcoming events…
Luke Tarzian of Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse & Nicole Mainardi debut their fantasy books on June 22 at 5 p.m., Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, 1010 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge 91011.
Sisters in Crime LA new books:
LAst Resort, an anthology by SinCLA writers with an introduction by Michael Connelly. Available now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Crime-Angeles-Presents-Resort/dp/1943402620
Fatally Haunted, sixteen stories by Sisters and Misters who belong to the LA Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Edited by Rachel Howzell Hall, Sheila Lowe, and Laurie Stevens. Introduction by Cara Black. Available at Vroman’s Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Mysterious Galaxy.
Karol Ruth Silverstein, participated in the panel “Be True to You: Own Voices and Empathy in YA”
Book launch for Cursed:
Children’s Book World, Sat. June 29, 2:30 p.m.
10580 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Also, find Karol at Vroman’s Bookstore for a joint event with author Chris Baron, July 3 at 7 p.m.
Georgia Jeffries, moderator for “Book to TV” panel:
“What Would Nora Do?” by Georgia Jeffries, Odd Partners, an Anthology
Other stories by Anne Perry, Charles Todd, and Jacqueline Winspear, among others.
LitFest Organizing Committee member and publisher of Prospect Park Books, Colleen Dunn Bates organized and participated in four different LitFest 2019 panels! Prospect Park has just released author Jill Orr’s 3rd installment of her Riley Ellison mystery series titled The Ugly Truth. If you like cozy mysteries with a bit of romance and a good dose of humor, this series could be for you. And, we always like to plug the works of LA Times writer Chris Erskine. Read his hilarious take on fatherhood in Daditude.
See photos of LitFest Pasadena 2019 on the Home Page.