Monthly Archives: November 2015


Published on November 11, 2015 under Rick's Blog Articles

Poetrypalooza? A strange name for an even stranger event. But perhaps strange is the wrong term for this very special occasion. Maybe off-beat, exciting, enticing, captivating, or inspiring might be better adjectives. And now I’m getting ahead of myself. For more information about this event, I turned to Kimberly Cobian, the founder and creator of August’s celebration of the arts. I asked Kimberly a few questions regarding Poetrypalooza for purposes of clarification and our edification. Here are her responses:

 What exactly is Poetrypalooza?

 Poetrypalooza is the celebration of poetry in life. It celebrates the diverse voices & styles of poetry of Southern California and the muses that inspire us to create together such as: music, art, performance.  It is a month long tour the ZZyZx WriterZ take every weekend in August to connect & create with all these diverse artistic hubs & neighborhoods. For example- San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, Greater Los Angeles, Downtown Los Angeles, South Bay/Long Beach, Downey, Claremont, Venice, Santa Monica, & so much more, touring 15 hubs total every August.

What was the inspiration for creating such an event?

I observed that all my writing friends hailed from different neighborhoods, & that each of them wrote with a distinct flavor. I wanted to take a tour with my GuyZ to celebrate & network with those communities to soak in the local ink of each the Art that unifies all of us, poetry.

 Can you give us an idea of what goes on at one of these events?

Each night of Poetrypalooza is filled with a dynamic schedule of events. Each night features performances from one or a group of the local poets, musicians, performers, & a group featurette by the ZZyZx WriterZ representative of that particular neighborhood. The evening also boasts a poetry writing workshop conducted by a poet/educator for all to create & share. Each night also encourages community expression through various open Mic opportunities. A local artist or small group show is also on the agenda.

What are some of the features you have had on the tour?

We have featured poets from almost every Southern California artistic hub from the beaches to the valleys, from the cities to the suburbs. Every stop has a very talented group of poets who have been locally as well as nationally renowned. Luis J. Rodriguez, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Matt Sedillo, Two time National Grand Slam Poet Champion, Don Kingfisher Campbell, Santa Catalina Library Saturday Afternoon Poetry Workshop series & SGV POETRY Quarterly, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Founder of the LA Poets Society, Writers Row, Writer Wednesday, Venice Soapbox Poets, Teka Lark, Black Grrl Press,…to name a few.

What goes on during the poetry workshops?

We invite a local poet to conduct a poetry writing workshop each night.

Poetry Writing workshops are also given to encourage spontaneous creations & community building between the local features, ZZyZx WriterZ & guests. It is a wonderful way to link everyone at the event. It is my favorite part of the evening, because people who have never written a poem in their lives or had felt discouraged or blocked to write something new open up to others there & share what they have just created. In this practice or ritual we create together, we are all poets, we are all equal.

What do you see as the future of Poetrypalooza?

This year the ZZyZx WriterZ & all of the Southern California poetry world celebrated its lustrum year. Poetrypalooza has toured for five years. ZZyZx and I feel it has grown to a capacity that all neighborhoods have adopted a version of this event in their hubs & venues. The event has grown organically connecting city to city, poet to poet, style to style, it does not have an end in sight, ever. However, as Event Director, I will step down next year & steer my writing group’s focus to another creative endeavor. We have left a legacy of community collaboration & I am confident it will live on among the communities we visited.

 Who are some of the writing groups who have helped with Poetrypalooza?

The ZZyZx WriterZ have collaborated with dozens of writing groups throughout the years, namely the Coffee House Writers Group, Sunday Jump, Nuvein Foundation for Literature & the Arts, Los Angeles Poets Society, Street Poets, The Art Movement of El Monte, Beyond Baroque, Downey Arts Coalition/The Green Salon, Whittier Poetry Group, Moonday Poets, Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga, Tia Chuchas Cultural Center in Sylmar, NoHo Poets, Long Beach Cadence Collective.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

The ZZyZx WriterZ & I want to express our humblest gratitude to everyone who has collaborated with us on this five year long journey. We have inspired others & each other through poetry. We have made lasting friendships through poetry. We have created new forms of expression through poetry. Thank you. ¡Viva Poetrypalooza!

So how did the Coffee House Writers Group first get involved in Poetrypalooza? CHWG and ZZyZx WriterZ began their collaboration in Covina three years ago offering poetry, a poetry workshop and photography, then branched out to Claremont and Pomona in the following years. This year, the CHWG and Poetrypalooza again joined forces at the Buddhamouse in Claremont where Andrew Turner and Rick Stepp-Bolling were the featured poets, Andrew Turner gave a poetry workshop, and music by The Dead Letter Office and poetry by ZZyZx WriterZ entertained the audience.

Poetrypalooza and similar cultural events remind us that the arts are not dead in Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, poetry, art and music are very much alive and kicking in August. Thanks to Kimberly Cobian and poets like her, the spirit of Poetrypalooza will live on and flourish in Southern California.

POV or How I Stopped Worrying About Myself and Started Using an Effective Persona

Published on November 11, 2015 under Rick's Blog Articles

How often do beginning and even experienced writers get red penciled for a POV change in the middle of something they are writing? Okay, I can raise my hand along with the rest of you. POV or point of view lapses are not uncommon. Usually, those mistakes are minor, say changing from one character’s perspective to another on the same page when you are writing in third person limited (I’ll explain that later). The more grievous error would be switching from first person to third person, or utilizing second person when you meant to use third person objective. So does any of this make sense? Let’s take a deep breath and review some of the basics of creating an effective persona for your story.

Persona, as I am defining it here, is your storyteller. In other words, who tells your story to your reader, or, as that persona is more commonly called, your narrator. Here’s something to remember: the author and the narrator are not the same. The author distances himself from the story by creating the persona of a narrator. Think about this a moment because it’s an important concept. You, the author, create someone to tell your story. That someone is not you, the author (unless, perhaps, you’re writing an autobiography, and even then, the narrator is distanced from the character of the autobiography by time). Your choice of a narrator, or persona, will make a dramatic influence upon how you tell your story. If you’re following this so far, then you’re way ahead of the game, and way ahead of where I was when I first started writing. Next, let’s look at some of the more commonly used narrators or points of view along with some of their strengths and weaknesses.

First Person or the “I” Point of View

Probably the most popular and most commonly used persona for writers is the one that intimately links the narrator and the main character of the story. This is called first person. One important point to take into consideration if you’ve decided to tell your story in first person is verb tense. Are you going to tell your story in present or past tense? What difference does it make, you might ask. Well, if you’re using past tense, then you are re-creating the story through the character’s eyes and experiences. In other words, the story has already happened, and the “I” narrator is simply retelling it. That means the narrator and the main character (“I” of the story) are different. How so? The narrator has already experienced the series of events that has occurred, so he/she has prior knowledge. It means that persona can influence how the story is to be retold. This can make for some fascinating stories, especially if the narrator is not a reliable one (untrustworthy because the narrator may be a liar, perhaps naïve, or even insane). An example of this kind of story telling occurs in Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart. In the story, the narrator explains to the reader why he chose to kill a man and dismember him. If you take the events literally, then you see the motivations of a killer being revealed. However, if you interpret the story as one being told by a madman, then perhaps there was no beating heart underneath the floorboard and this character should be locked up in an asylum. An unreliable narrator can add spice to your story because the reader is never quite sure what to believe. However, if the story is told in present tense, then the action unfolds before the reader’s eyes; it is happening right now. Using present tense means there is a closer connection between the narrator and the “I” persona of the story. This doesn’t preclude the idea that the narrator is insane or unreliable. It just means the reader is viewing the action of the story as it is taking place.

Why is the first person point of view so popular? There are a number of reasons for this, including the most obvious: it’s easier to write using first person. The author creates a character that he/she can identify with closely and tells the story from that perspective. The reader understands the emotions, motivations, idiosyncrasies of that character because the “I” tells us those things. It brings the reader into a closer, more intimate, relationship with the character. This emotional bond between reader and character is what often sells stories. As humans, our brains connect more with emotion than with logic, so it is only natural for us to want to be connected emotionally with the character telling the story.

So what’s the problem with first person? If readers like it so much, why aren’t all stories told this way? Good question. What if you want a character that is more mysterious, more difficult to understand? Do you want to expose everything about the character to the reader? Maybe some stories are more interesting if there is mystery about the main character (think, The Great Gatsby). Here’s another problem with first person: the narrator must always be where the action is. There is no cutting away to another scene happening somewhere else or to another character unless that character is right there with the “I.” See the problem? The narrator has to continually be where the critical action occurs. This can limit the scope of the story. And what about what other characters are thinking? Nope. The narrator can guess what those other characters are thinking, but can’t know, and neither can the reader. In addition, descriptions of the “I” character have to come in sneaky ways (many of which are clichés): mirrors, reflections in the water, other characters describing that person through dialogue, well, you get the idea.