I wanted to share pictures from the reading I organized for my MFA fiction students from Cal State San Bernardino this past week! We had the reading on the grounds of the awesome and somewhat eerie Kimberly Crest House & Gardens in Redlands on October 13.
The mansion, designed to resemble a French castle, was built in the late 19th century for a family wintering in Redlands to escape tuberculosis and winter on the East Coast. Eventually the house was purchased by a scion of the Kimberly Clark manufacturing empire in the early 20th century and the family hosted such luminaries as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard and even Amelia Earhart.
Because the past is so present in the mansion, which was donated to “the people of Redlands” by heiress and former Scripps College President Mary Kimberly Shirk, it made me think of Grey Gardens. And in the spirit of contemporary literary mash-ups, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we decided to create our own mash up. Who better than zombies, in their refusal to let go, to embody Little Edie’s statement, “It’s really hard to separate the past and the present”? Hence our theme for the day’s reading: “Grey Gardens and Zombies.”
I was really impressed by how the CSUSB MFA students in fiction chose to explore this theme: Michelle Bracken wrote about domestic violence, Maritza Ocampo described a woman who is being interrogated about an unthinkable crime, Ruben Rodriguez read about a man who imagines himself merging with a waterfall, and Tracey Dover spun a tale about a house haunted by ghosts and memories.
We also had an open mic featuring a dramatic reading by MFA poetry student Isaac Escalera, writing about the “zombie cityscape” of abandoned buildings in the wake of the foreclosure crisis in Southern California, and a short story by undergraduate Lynn Post about the desire of a young pregnant woman to prolong the last moments of her marriage before her baby’s birth transforms the couple into “parents.”
The indefatigable Chad Sweeney, who teaches poetry at CSUSB, will be posting videos of the reading soon. Many thanks to my fellow MFA teachers: poet Julie Paegle, who came for the reading, and novelist Felicia Luna Lemus, who came early to help set up!
It was a gorgeous day and a magical reading!