PORTUGUESE ARTISTS COLONY: the peak of storytelling

(Nicole McFeely)

What is it about humans that compels us to climb? Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are continuously searching for higher ground, even if that just means higher knowledge. Many of us, perplexed with the thought of climbing further into ourselves in order to do so.

We climb, despite the catalysts that can cause the earth to shift, fall away beneath our feet: pain, disillusionment, grief. It’s easy to get a bit dizzy, sometimes. It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts of falling.

This is why many of us write—to quell that vertigo by letting go of our attachment to the every day to day and falling into a page. Though, normally, we probably don’t do so with a prompt, and we definitely don’t do so while being timed in front of a live audience. In fact, the live writing competition held every month at Fivepoints Arthouse (most recently on Sun May 22 11)  by the colonists of the Portuguese Artists Colony, is probably the only place in town making this possible. And what a service it is! The quality of work which comes out of this ten minutes of spontaneous creation is as impressive as its variety of themes and genres.

That’s the thing about PAC—there’s really something for everybody. Whether it’s one of the live writers such as James Warner reading his refreshingly odd piece about chess and floating tables, or returning live writing winner Maisha Johnson catching you totally off-guard with her story about one girl’s mission to find out more about her mother-turned-striptease for a rowdy group of nuns, it would be difficult to leave the event unsatisfied.

After they announce the winner to live writing, PAC invites the month’s guest readers—which includes members of the colony—to the mic. This month’s were Leslie Ingham, Sherril Jaffe, Cary Tennis, and Anna Pulley, all of whom brought something remarkably different to the table, which is characteristic of the writers the colony puts on the bill. Don’t believe me? Come next month. This series is packed with good stories, and lots of them.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to fall into something good, jump into these videos!

Returning Live Writing Champs

Daniel Heath

“‘She took her clothes off too,’ Mark said, “she was naked in the snow, and the field was white, and her skin, and me, and it was like we were all one thing, and I got right up against the fence, and she did too, and it was her body and mine and that crazy cold diamond grid of freezing x’s,” Pete got down off the chair, “I put my fingers through the fence,” Mark said, “she bit me so hard I bled.'”-“Commando Style”


Maisha Johnson

“The nuns turned back and the smallest one stepped forward with a sly grin. Now, she looked like a penguin with a secret to reveal. Rosie and the nun’s daughter jumped when the nuns began whooping like teenagers. ‘You ladies caught us on our casual Friday night,’ she said, ‘we want to see a show!'”-“The Nun’s Daugther”


Live Writers

Lady Monster

“crying out like a choir seeing Cod and a whole host of angels, feeling their light, feeling another quake, and this one stronger, moving the bed, walls cracking, ceiling plaster falling”


Lauren Eggert-Crowe

“The last six men you’ve kissed have been named after saints, but not this one, ironically. You aren’t sure how religious he is. Maybe he’s one of those Bay-area hippie christians. He thinks God could be an alien after all”


Matthew James DeCoster

“Sexuality was still theoretical, but he liked the idea of riding on Eric Estrada’s motorcycle and experienced strange tingles whenever the Hardy Boys were tied up which happened in nearly every book.”


James Warner

“Ten minutes later, she forced me to see defeat. The table was still vibrating, but had risen a few inches off the floor and was glowing slightly. ‘We needed a new table, anyway,’ I said, ‘the finish is slightly cracked, help me take it out onto the street, maybe somebody in the neighborhood wants a vibrating table for their boudoir.'”


accompanied by music from Quinn Deveaux

“They got you girl watching daytime TV, anything to one up your memories. You’re heavy headed with the weight of waiting, on your shoulder even while you’re sleeping…”


Guest Readers

Leslie Ingham

“The bed creaked which woke him, but he woke and moved and that’s what creaked the bed. It was always like that. Jacob woke when he always woke, it creaked as it always creaked, and the moment of each was the same.” -“Green County, New York 1970”


Sherril Jaffe

“He took a picture of each party with their own cameras, so when they got home, they could put a picture in their album showing them floating in a peaceful boat down the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In the picture, there was no deafening helicopter noise. In the picture, they would be alone in the boat, in the river, in the canyon, forever.”


Cary Tennis

“The operative question is not how do we believe in ourselves but how do we go forward? If you create this condition that you must believe in yourself to go forward, you might not go forward. You must find a way to go forward without that condition. You do not need to believe in yourself. You just need to find a way to move forward and embrace the activity you are engaged in.” –“The Slush Pile Gave Me Writers Block”


Anna Pulley

“I no longer felt like a failure for not having a job in San Francisco or even an interview, and the life I was struggling to maintain in a new city became inconsequential because I was supposed to be here, participating in this ritual of nothingness with my dad and brother and girlfriend watching Seinfeld and eating worthlessly.”