A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Create Your Own Series: Your SAL, Your Way

Tickets go on sale today for our Create Your Own Series subscriptions, which allow you to curate your own SAL experience with four tickets to four events of your choice. The question then becomes, how and who to choose?

You might select speakers from different series—Literary Arts, Poetry, Journalism, Women You Need to Know (WYNK), or Ijeoma Oluo Presents: Our Existence Beyond Trauma—or perhaps you’ll follow themes within the worlds of poetry or prose, reportage or performance.

For inspiration, we turned to Alicia Craven, SAL’s Director of Education, and three WITS Writers-in-Residence for their thoughts on tailoring a series from the 2021/22 Season. Alicia opted for variety, selecting speakers from different series: Journalism, WYNK, Ijeoma Oluo Presents, and Literary Arts.

“The subject matter of Connie Walker‘s podcast, Stolen, is so urgent,” Alicia said. “I’m very curious to hear her speak about audio and serial podcasting and the future of long-form journalism. And I’m so excited for Ijeoma’s new series, Our Existence Beyond Trauma, and to hear her in conversation with Cathy Park Hong about her brilliant essay collection.”

Alicia noted that Natalie Baszile‘s new book, We Are Each Other’s Harvest, is cued up on her Summer Book Bingo board. “I’m really looking forward to hearing Natalie talk about the history and present-day experience of Black farmers in our country and their connections to food justice.”

Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory has won many hearts; Alicia selected this as her fourth event. “I want to hear about the process behind creating The Overstory, how it informs Powers’ relationship with and sense of story contained in trees, and hear more about his new book, Bewilderment, too!”

WITS Writer-in-Residence Corrine Manning followed a theme, selecting events from the Ijeoma Oluo Presents and WYNK Series. “This year I get to expand and luxuriate in the writers that feed my political spirit like Sonya Renee Taylor and Patrisse Cullors, and my poetic cultural analysis with Cathy Park Hong and Maggie Nelson,” Corinne said.

Jeanine Walker, a WITS Writer-in-Residence, selected events with Kaveh Akbar and Rita Dove from the Poetry Series and Cathy Park Hong from the Ijeoma Oluo Presents series. “I deeply admire their poetry and, having taught their poems in the past year to my adult students, I’d love to see each of them read,” Jeanine said. “I’d also pick Don Mee Choi (Poetry Series) because I’m absolutely in love with her use of text on the page and what she can make happen with history, memory, and invention.”

WITS Writer-in-Residence Sierra Nelson followed her heart to all-time favorite writers who span from WYNK and the Poetry Series to Ijeoma Presents. “Maggie Nelson‘s Bluets is a book I return to again and again. Really, anything Maggie Nelson puts her mind to will be interesting, philosophical, and as a poet always with an ear to lyrical and imagistic language,” Sierra said. “Louise Erdrich is a phenomenal novelist and poet—heartbreaking and human-ache compassionate.”

For Sierra, a past event at University of Washington with Louise Erdrich was especially memorable. “I remember hearing her read a fictional work with a teach-in about the real statistics that formed the basis of the story’s turning point: the devastating rate of assault against Indigenous women, and the additional vulnerability for those living on reservations, which technically fall outside of U.S. court jurisdiction,” Sierra said. “We learned that tribal courts have been unable to prosecute non-tribal members, even for violent acts. Not only did Erdrich expand our awareness, her beautiful craftsmanship of story and complexly nuanced characters broke our hearts open in the best way. Get ready to learn, feel, and act in response to Erdrich’s work.”

Sierra also selected Rita Dove and Cathy Park Hong. “Rita Dove is a legend. An incredible and innovative poet and writer, former U.S. poet laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner. Her books Mother Love, which reimagines the Demeter/Persephone myth, and American Smooth about ballroom dancing are two of my favorites.”

Already a fan of Cathy Park Hong’s poetry, Sierra said that she was lucky enough to snag a copy of her memoir, Minor Feelings, from Seattle Public Library’s Peak Picks program shortly after its debut. She found the book thought-provoking and deeply meaningful.

“It reflects on race, friendship, academia, family, what it means to be an artist, what it means to be a woman and an artist, and what it means to be a Korean American woman and artist navigating dominant American culture—all with a poet’s awareness of language, nuanced sensibilities, and careful observations. Plus, this event will be in conversation with Ijeoma Oluo, one of our great thinkers.”

If you need a little more help making up your mind, Sierra is there for you. After sharing her first Create Your Own Series, she dreamed up a second.

“I immediately I want to choose four more!” she said. “I’d pick Sherwin Bitsui and James Welch Poetry Prize winner Kenzie Allen (with special love and thanks to Poetry Northwest for celebrating the work of Indigenous poets); Don Mee Choi, an innovative, experimental, historical, personal, hybrid poet published through Seattle-based Wave Books; Ed Yong because I’m excited for science and microbes; and Sonya Renee Taylor in conversation with Ijeoma Oluo. The Body is Not an Apology as a book and as a movement has had such a powerful impact, plus the exponential joy and intellectual prowess of Taylor and Oluo together in conversation!”

Now, it’s your turn: what will you pick?