Tag Archives: Phoenix New Times

The smell of childhood?

Orange blossom soap from Athens Locally Grown

When I connected recently with Tempe mother and journalist Amy Silverman, she shared a bit with me about her Arizona childhood.

Seems she’d recently purchased a bar of soap with an orange blossom scent. “It literally made me sick,” Silverman told me. “It smelled like my childhood.”

In a sentence, sometimes less, Silverman conjures detailed images that transport readers to other places and perspectives.

Orange blossom cheesecake from Atlanta Cheesecake Company

Hence her many accolades and awards. She’s been twice honored by the Arizona Press Club with the Virg Hill Journalist of the Year award.

For 18 years she’s worked for Phoenix New Times — serving the last six as managing editor.

Still, Silverman finds time to share her talents with others. She’s co-founder, along with Deborah Sussman Susser, of a “Mothers Who Write” class that helps women find and share their voices.

A public reading by “Mothers Who Write” participants (past and present) takes place Sat, May 7 from 2-4pm at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It’s free and open to the public, though some material may not be suitable for children.

Orange blossom gift basket from LadyBug Great Gifts

I’d like to see Silverman pen a children’s book. Perhaps something about Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain — a Valley landmark Silverman says she’s always thought of as “the camel’s eyelash.”

Silverman and her husband have two daughters, so she’s got plenty of pearls about both parenting and poising the pen. Registration for the next 10-week “Mothers Who Write” workshop will begin July 1 through the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Orange blossom cocktail from Science of Drink

The workshop offers “support and advice for writing mothers (of all ages) who want to develop their craft and receive feedback on their work.” Though all genres are welcome, the main focus is creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction.

Visit the “Mothers Who Write” website to learn more about classes, readings and the many adventures of “Mothers Who Write” alumni — including Deborah Rich Gettleman of Theatre Artists Studio and Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

And keep an eye out for the June 2011 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine — because the ever-fascinating Silverman and her family are profiled in the “AZ Generations” column.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for a list of journalists who’ve won 2010 Arizona Press Club awards — which includes two mothers who write for Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Winners will be recognized May 21 at the Arizona Press Club Awards Party in Phoenix.

Coming: More mothers who write


Books & beyond

This new book will appeal to fans of musical theater

Mall it if you must, but I’m hitting the bookstores instead. Places like Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe feel more like community gathering places than retail shopping spaces.

Bring your holiday shopping list along, but be prepared to enjoy much more than their extensive collection of books and gift items.

Author visits and book signings are a frequent occurence at Changing Hands — and feature local as well as nationally-renowned authors. Some write for adults, others for children and teens.

A lovey selection for young music and cat lovers

My own personal favorite is fellow Arizona parent Amy Silverman — mom of two daughters, managing editor of Phoenix New Times and half of a dynamic “Mothers Who Write” duo offering writing workshops.

Silverman presents “Holidaze: How to Write About the Happiest Time of the Year,” at Changing Hands Bookstore on Tues, Dec 2.

For poetry lovers, Changing Hands offers “First Friday Poetry,” “Poetry Roundtable” and other events. There’s plenty for photographers too.

One of several Twyla Tharp titles for creative types

My fellow magazine readers will find an eclectic selection of titles for folks of all ages and interests — including many you won’t find at more traditional book stores or magazine stands.

“Workshop for Toddlers” with Ramie Manch on Mon, Dec 6, mixes toddler/parent together time with strategies for using puzzles to enhance academic and social skills.

Changing Hands has a charming children’s area full of colorful books, toys, puzzles, craft kits, stuffed animals, puppets and more.

Teen events include writing workshops, author visits and much more. Teens love the Changing Hands vibe, and will have a great time exploring Hoodlums Music & Movies right next door.

Gift idea for art managers and leaders

If music is your thing, check out the “East Valley Music School Concert” Sat, Dec 4. If stories rock your world, you’ll find plenty of storytimes at Changing Hands. They’ve even got opportunities to learn a bit of Spanish.

Changing Hands has diverse holiday offerings — commemorating Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and more. They also host local artisans on a regular basis so you can enjoy even more holiday gift ideas.

While reviewing their December calendar (I’m on their e-mail list to receive info on author series, workshops and community events), I stumbled on sign language, physics, wildlife, volunteerism and more.

One of many titles on my holiday reading list

Books are just a bit of the bounty you’ll find at Changing Hands Bookstore. Go. Listen. Read. Create. Meet. Explore.

— Lynn

Note: Changing Hands Bookstore, like Raising Arizona Kids Magazine, is a member of Local First Arizona. Click here to learn about local businesses that appreciate your support during the holiday season and beyond.

Coming up: Art adventures–Arizona Science Center

My “Eat Pray Love” obsession

I’ve never actually read the book. Still,  I’m obsessed with “Eat Pray Love” wordplay. Recently I awoke to a barrage of brainstorms about similar titles that might appeal to different audiences. See what you think…

For erring spouses: Cheat Pray Love

For texting teens: Tweet Pray Love

For fashionistas: Eat Chambray Love

For toddlers: Eat Play Eat

For writers on deadline: Complete Pray Love

For chocoholics: Sweets Pray Love

For big box employees: Greet Pray Love

For editors: Delete Pray Love

For reality show contestants: Compete Pray Love

For animal lovers: Eat Stray Love

For marriage equality advocates: Eat Gay Love

For gardeners: Peat Pray Love

For hookers: Street Pray Love

For bachelors: Reheat Pray Love

For pacifists: Eat Pray Dove

For vampire fans: Eat Pout Love

For seniors: Eat Gray Love

For dieters: Eat Weigh Love

For air travelers: Eat Delay Love

For dog owners: Eat Stay Love

For mobsters: Concrete Pray Love

For chefs: Eat Flay Love

For musicians: Beat Pray Love

For ob/gyns: Eat Pray Glove

For tidy types: Neat Pray Love

For comedy buffs: Eat Fey Love

For serious shoppers: Eat Pray Shove

For babies: Eat Play Poop

Thanks for reading — I feel much better now.

— Lynn

Photos: Christopher Trimble

Note: Phoenix New Times editor Amy Silverman offers tips to “get those true stories out of your head and onto paper” tonight during a writing workshop titled “From Memory to Memoir.” Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Aug 26, from 6:30pm-8:30pm. Click here to learn more/register.

Pop goes the easel!

Sometimes pop art isn't pretty

Lest you think my fascination with pop culture extends only as far as the green room, I thought I’d treat you to a taste of Valley venues featuring pop art of the visual variety.

The Heard Museum in Phoenix (there’s another location in Scottsdale) currently features four “changing exhibits,” including one titled “Pop! Popular Culture in American Indian Art.”

It’s described by the Heard as a collison of pop culture and innovation with traditional art forms and cultures.

Works include fashion, graffiti art, comics, pottery and beadwork–reflecting “contemporary issues and imagery in an often comedic, tongue-in-cheek way.”

Let your kids believe you're reading it because they like it

The wonderful thing about most museums is that they feature multiple exhibits, so there’s often a little something (or a lot of somethings) for everyone in the family.

Other kid-friendly changing exhibitions currently at the Heard Museum include “Hopi Katsina Dolls: 1oo Years of Carving” and “Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection.”

Who doesn’t love dolls and animals?

Ask yourself: What would Warhol do?

There’s also the “Allan Houser: Tradition to Abstraction” exhibit featuring large sculptures, paintings, drawings and more by “one of the most important artists of the 20th century.”

Art critics could give you lots of reasons to check it out but I just think Houser’s work is cool.

It’s smooth, clean, tranquil. All the things I have a hard time finding at home some days.

If you have a chance, explore a bit of the museum’s “About the Exhibit” section on the “Pop!” portion of their website. You’ll enjoy a mini-tour through the origins and evolution of pop art–which blossomed during the ’60s, a “decade of social change in which questions of identity, civic roles and political authority were paramount.”

Can pop art ever heal a broken heart?

Your teens might think they’re the only ones who wrestle with such issues, but art is your living proof that we all share the questions of the ages. Exhibits such as these can encourage young people to make the creation and enjoyment of art a part of piecing together their own answers–or fashioning their own questions.

Check out the “music playlists” featured on the “Pop!” portion of the Heard Museum website.

“Pop!” curator Diana Pardue favors everything from the Rascals and Jimi Hendrix to Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding.

Pick pop art for playtime

Caesar Chaves, creative director and graphic designer for “Pop!,” says his mix includes everything from David Bowie to Petula Clark–end even added a Miley Cyrus tune for his daughter.

Senior exhibit designer and mannequin dresser for “Pop!,” Melissa Martinez, wins the contest for one name favorites–which include Elvis, Madonna, Nirvana, Aqua and Nelly. (And hey, how cool does that job sound?)

I’m feeling rather inspired to visit with one or more of my young adult children so I can challenge them to develop an apres-viewing playlist that reflects their impressions of the exhibit. No doubt at least one of them will open their set with “Pop Goes the Weasel!”

Even the peace sign has gone pop art!

I’d have a harder time designing a playlist for “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art,” currently on exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.

I’d simply default to searching for a live recording of a Bruce Springsteen concert in Japan and call it a day. Any child from preschool age up could run circles around me when it comes to breadth and depth of knowledge about anime (animation art), manga (comic art) and other popular art forms of Japan.

I suppose that means that I need to visit the exhibit myself just to broaden my own horizons–and to try and keep up. Just so you know, I’m waiting for cell phone technology out of any country that’ll allow me to do everything by voice. I’m so over typing text messages on those teensy little toy-like keypads.

Pop art can make for a pleasing pet

In any event, these exhibits won’t last forever. So hop online to learn more about specific dates/times and costs. During recessionary times, you may not have the ability to shop until you drop. But never fear–I find that it’s equally satisfying to “pop until you drop!”


Note: If you really want to “click to look inside” the pop art books pictured here, you’ll have to visit www.amazon.com or another online book source. To learn more about pop art exhibits in the Valley, check out “Pop Art” by Niki D’Andrea in the July 24-30, 2010 issue of “Phoenix New Times.” Or click here to see an article about a Valley exhibit by an artist whose big brother battled schizophrenia.

Coming up: Fundraisers for Valley arts organizations (feel free to send your info to rakstagemom@gmail.com)

Arming teens with paper and pen

There are plenty of reasons to hit Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Most recently I went with my 19-year-old daughter Jennifer to hear a state legislator and an ASU professor discussing Arizona’s immigration policy with attendees both for and against SB 1070. 

A month or so before I was there with Lizabeth, my soon-to-be 17 year old, to hear Valley actor, director and author Tom Leveen talk about his first “YA” (young adult) novel—titled Party.

Both events were packed, so I’m not surprised that Leveen will be making more appearances at the Indie bookstore

I’m told that Leveen shared a copy of his book with actor James Marsters (known to many as “Spike” in both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff “Angel”) Saturday at Phoenix Comicon, and that the two enjoyed a lingering conversation–which confirms my suspicion that Leveen is both author and marketer extraordinaire.

Leveen is one of several writers and authors presenting writing workshops at Changing Hands Bookstore this summer. The events are geared towards tweens, teens or adults—or sometimes a combination. Most last just an hour or two and cost between $20 and $50 dollars (for a single session or a series). Registration and pre-payment are required. 

First up during June is a teen writing workshop titled “Making Us Believe: Dragons, Spies, & Secret Histories.” Author Mark London will “take readers behind the scenes of his own Danger Boy time travel series, showing young writers (ages 9-14) how he mixes history and storytelling.” June 1 and 2, 2-4pm. 

For four consecutive Mondays, starting June 7, Phoenix New Times copy editor and freelancer Tricia Parker will lead girls in grades 7-12 in a teen writing workshop titled “Fems with Pens.” Participants will “write fiction and nonfiction based on a variety of exercises,” discussing and editing fellow participants’ work “in a creative, supportive environment.” June 7,14, 21 & 28, 5-6:15pm. 

Monday, June 7, will also see the return of Leveen (from 6:30-8pm) for a teen and adult writing workshop called “Using Theatre to Sharpen Dialogue,” during which participants ages 16 and up will discover “how taking an actor/director perspective with fiction can make dialogue come to life.” 

Leveen presents a teen and adult workshop titled “Armed Conflict: Getting to the Backbone of Your Fiction by Taking No Prisoners” from 6:30-8pm on Monday, June 28—and another titled “Publishing Basics” from 6:30-8pm on Monday, July 1. Both are for ages 16+.

Younger writers (ages 8-13) can enjoy a three-part tween writing workshop called “Motion Pictures to Picture Books” with Molly Idle from 4-5:30pm on June 14, 16 and 18. Idle will teach participants about “visual storytelling techniques used in film making” and how they can be used to “create unique and engaging illustrated stories.” 

Another three-part tween writing workshop, titled “Hero Quest,” will take place from 6:30-8pm on June 17, 24 and July 1. J.S. Lewis, co-author of the Grey Griffins series, will teach kids “how to create dynamic characters and striking plot lines using the model of the hero’s journey from Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.”  

Participants ages 10-17 can join Taken by Storm and Sing Me to Sleep author Angela Morrison for a tween & teen writing workshop titled “Write What You Know” on July 27, 28 and 29 from 3-5pm. Morrison will “challenge participants to draw from reality to make characters and scenes live and breath” while working on “poetry, short stories, novel chapters, or any other genre they are interested in.” 

While you’re there, get a copy of the bookstore’s monthly listing of other family-friendly activities, and allow extra time to browse through books (plus impressively diverse magazine offerings) and find unique gift selections for your favorite teachers, friends and family members. (James ordered a birthday gift for Lizabeth from Changing Hands but I’d best not reveal it here until after the big day.)

Visit Changing Hands Bookstore online for workshop details, or call 480-730-0205 to register. In the war of words, no one wants to be unarmed. And you just might find that a few simple trips to Changing Hands can change a whole lot of things in your world.


Note: Writing workshops tailored to moms (of all ages) who write are offered by Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussman Susser (Jewish News of Greater Phoenix). Their next 10-week “Mothers Who Write” workshop begins Sept. 2 (registration opens July 1). For details visit www.motherswhowrite.com.

Coming up: Opportunities to honor our military folks and families year-round, Lessons learned at theater potlucks

Update: Click here to learn about Christopher Hitchens’ discovery as a youth that “words could function as weapons.” His new book, “Hitch-22,” is one of thousands of titles available through Changing Hands Bookstore.

One letter can make a difference

Open your Sunday newspaper—at our house it’s The Arizona Republic and The New York Times—and you’ll find the diverse views of fellow readers who took the time to share their thoughts via a letter to the editor. Their opinions differ from your own in only one significant respect.

They’re in print.

I love the newspapers that tell readers each week what they’ve found in their digital and snail mail in boxes. What are the hot topics? How many people cared enough to write about them? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an arts-related topic make it to the top of the list in a mainstream Arizona publication.

What are we, chopped liver?

You might not notice a single raindrop on your brow—but when a torrent of rain washes over you, it gets your attention. How can we, as everyday arts advocates, turn our pleas for greater support for the arts from dabbled drops here and there to a steady stream of rain?

It’s simple, really. You add your drop, and I’ll add mine.

Why not try your hand at writing one or more letters to the editor? Some will get published, most won’t (it’s a numbers game, pure and simple). But in the process of writing, you’ll clarify and organize your thoughts in ways that might well help you on a host of other fronts.

If you can state your case in a 200 word letter, you’re better prepared to summarize your mission or goals for brochures and other  printed materials, and you’re ready when anyone from a potential donor to a casual acquaintance asks about what you do (and why it matters).

I have a pretty straightforward philosophy of writing. Clear and compelling thinking leads to clear and compelling writing. If you’re an artist or lover of the arts, I suspect your thinker is well intact.

So use it.

No need to fear the pen—use it to do your bidding.

I mention a 200 word letter because that’s the maximum word count noted in letter to the editor guidelines from The Arizona Republic. Additional guidelines are available on their website—and worth a quick review before you take pen to paper.

Plenty of other papers print letters to the editor too, so you can send letters to multiple sources (send a particular letter to just one source so no one is embarrassed by reading it in two places).

Many, such as Phoenix New Times, accept online letter to the editor submissions—just check publication websites for designated submission forms. (Write and save your letter before you paste it into the online form in case of user error that might wipe out all your wisdom.)

I once taught workshops on working with the media to advocates in the health and human services field (their budgets aren’t pretty these days either) and many of the same tips apply, so perhaps you will find them useful…

  • Follow directions. Be sure your letter does not exceed the maximum word count accepted and is submitted to the proper editor (online or via snail mail).
  • Make it relevant. Tie your letter to a recent topic of reader interest (an article on arts in education, dire results of government budget cuts, unique arts program recently featured in the news, the positive economic impact of the arts on communities, etc.).
  • Limit your scope. Focus on a single topic with a strong argument and brief supporting facts from reliable sources. Avoid trying to do too much in a single letter.
  • Offer positive solutions. Letters that point to problems are a dime a dozen. Those that offer solutions are far more interesting and appealing.
  • Proofread carefully. Polished prose get taken more seriously. Have at least one other person go through your letter checking for unclear content, poor grammar or spelling, and words that just don’t need to be there (self-editing is the fine art of learning to let go).

In a world where media comes in lots of shapes and sizes, there’s still a fine art to newspaper publishing. Support the researchers, reporters, writers, editors and publishers in your midst just as you’d want them to support the technical, creative and administrative folks in the arts. (We love our magazine subscribers and other supporters too!)

When you think a publication has gotten it right, tell them so. Tell them early, tell them often. Want to see more stories about the arts? Let them know it matters to you.

There’s more to life than crime sprees, celebrity misadventures and partisan politics (unless, perhaps, it’s all politics). Yet letters to the editor on sports idol shenanigans sadly outweigh letters to the editor about artistic accomplishments and contributions to the community.

I’d argue that a diverse, independent and accessible arts community—and a diverse, independent and accessible media—are essential to democracy both in the short term and the longer view of things.

You’re already expressing yourself through the arts. Why not add writing letters to the editor to your list of creative endeavors? There are many ways for artists to share their voices…


Note: Several arts advocacy organizations offer online tips for writing letters to the editor (as well as sample letters) to help you get started. Look for a list of these, and other arts-related websites, in tomorrow’s post.

Musings on the fine art of writing…

I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer, let alone an artist. But something Tempe fiber artist Sonja Faeroy Saar was gracious enough to share gave me pause the other day. ‘Thank you,’ she commented, ‘for the beautiful writing.’ I’d worked hard to craft a piece capturing the spirit of her son Benjamin on the eve of a Childsplay event benefiting the Benjamin Fund, a free ticket program for Arizona charities and schools that work with children and families who live with disabilities or economic disadvantages.

Sonja made me realize that the pen has just as much power and poise as the paintbrush. For others, I suspect, this comes as no surprise. The magazine’s own Debra Rich Gettleman, the real performing arts expert/artist in our midst, is among many distinguished alumni of a program called Mothers Who Write. I’ve never been brave enough to join them because I rarely think of myself as a creative writer. I’m more of a who, how, what, where, when and why kind of a gal.

But I’m going to experience my first Mothers Who Write reading this weekend at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art—Saturday, November 14th, at 2pm. A lot of people are competing for my time this weekend—the youth theater that needs a newly painted stage (you can have me after the reading), the school that needs to move furniture into a new building (you get me Sunday if the Saturday crew can’t tackle it all), and my youngest daughter’s first memorial service for a friend. The reading will be a stimulating yet soothing experience amidst a week of chaos and commitments.

Mothers Who Write was founded by Amy Silverman and Deborah Sussman Susser, both commentators for KJZZ (the Phoenix affiliate of NPR) in the spring of 2002. Silverman is the managing editor of Phoenix New Times and Susser is the associate editor of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. Both are proud parents living in Tempe. Both are gifted artists. Registration for their next 10-week Mothers Who Write workshop begins January 4th, 2010. Classes start February 25th and space is limited. Visit www.motherswhowrite.com to learn more.

It became clear to me that today was an all-about-writing sort of a day when I opened The Arts section of The New York Times to discover an announcement about “The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” presented by The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The paintbrush and the pen. The alliance invites students in grades 7-12 to submit work in “30 categories of visual art and writing.” New categories this year include Video Games, Persuasive Writing, and Creativity and Citizenship. For more information, visit www.artandwriting.org.

Come to think of it, I did earn a college scholarship for an essay I wrote as an undergraduate. And early in my career with Raising Arizona Kids magazine, I was honored with a National Media Award from the National Mental Health Association for a piece called “Understanding Childhood Mental Illness.” I even earned a couple of awards from the Arizona Press Club for my work with the magazine—for a feature story written about autism and another written about juvenile fire setting. (I always choose the meatier pieces over the fluffier ones.) Still, I’m slow to embrace the “writer” mantle. Perhaps I’ll grow into it one day.

There are plenty of local resources to support us aspiring writers, including the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University in Tempe. Forget the chocolate cake I was salivating over during yesterday’s blog. Today I’m breaking into a sweat reading through the center’s calendar of events. Looks like many of them occur at some of my favorite places in the Valley—Changing Hands Bookstore, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts, the Phoenix Art Museum.

The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU offers writer conferences, opportunities to meet visiting writers, a writer’s studio, a resource center library, an online book club, an online calendar of writing-related events and more. I’m adding a trip to the Piper Center Resource Library, which is open to both the ASU community and members of the larger community, to the top of my ‘fun things for free time’ list!

My last writing encounter occurred Saturday night at a Starbucks in central Phoenix. Somehow I’ve managed to go from serious addict to social drinker. As I sat outside at a small round table rereading my tattered copy of The Social Media Bible, a gentleman at a nearby table stuck up a conversation. He peered up from his laptop to share that he was an Iraqi American working to translate his first novel from Arabic into English. He spoke with more eloquence than I could ever muster about great American novelists and playwrights.

“What do you do,” he asked.

I said, “I’m a writer too.”

Thanks Sonja…


Coming soon: Paul Taylor Dance Company at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Arizona State Thespian Society Festival, Little House on the Prairie comes to ASU Gammage