I’ll be reading an illustrated essay from Christian Charm Workbook my work-in-progress memoir, with local literary luminaries Merna Ann Hecht, Janie Elizabeth Miller, and Liz Shepherd, and special musical guests Kat Eggleston, Charles Reed, and Michael Whitmore this Friday, May 29 at 7:00 PM at the Hastings-Cone Gallery, adjacent to Snapdragon Bakery & Cafe at 17817 Vashon Highway, Vashon Island, WA.
This multi-media project was supported, in part, by an award from 4Culture and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. It is free and open to the public.
(Zacchaeus In the Tree Halloween Costume, 1980)
From the press release:
In the vein of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, Christian Charm Workbook chronicles Rachel Kessler’s experience being raised by Jesus People in 1970s Seattle. From speaking in tongues to discovering riot grrl punk rock feminism to unionizing day care workers, she searches for the communal high, while battling the patriarchy and her own demons. Poet Sierra Nelson describes it as “Boyhood meets Girls with Judy Blume as fairy godmother, plus ecstatic dancing and speaking in tongues.” It is a personal account of adolescent brain science and spirituality: Kessler examines the intersection of religion and puberty, and the way this heightened state of being shapes our perception, drawing on new findings in neuroscience about the teenage brain and old stories of saints and other spiritual seekers who began having visions around the onset of puberty. This book is a meditation on failure, and ultimately, mercy.
Rachel Kessler has been writing and presenting literary performance art based in Seattle and King County for over 17 years. For the first time in her career she is writing about growing up in Seattle and its suburbs. Her family came to the northwest as Klondikers and were active members of the Jewish community in Seattle’s central district. Activists and self-described hippies, her parents converted to their own unique brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Jesus People, cultural radicals who were deeply involved in local 1960s and ‘70s folk and rock music scene. Raising her own kids in low income housing 5 blocks from the hospital she was born in, Kessler founded literary performance art collaborations Typing Explosion and Vis-à-Vis Society, hell-bent on actively engaging audiences in the act of creating poetry.
Her work has appeared in USA Today, Narrative Magazine, The Stranger, Tin House, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, The Open Daybook, Henry Art Gallery, Frye Art Museum, and elsewhere. She has worked as a food critic, houseboy, teacher in homeless shelters and juvenile detention, revolutionary poet-secretary performance artist, and fake scientist. Christian Charm Workbook was recently awarded a Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs CityArtist award and a King County 4Culture grant. A 2008-2014 Writer-in Residence at Seattle Arts & Lectures, Kessler is also a Whiteley Scholar, and served as artist faculty at Centrum, University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories fellow, and guest lecturer at the UW Rome Center.
Merna Ann Hecht, a long time Vashon resident, founded and co-directs the Stories of Arrival Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project at Foster High School in Tukwila. She also teaches creative writing and humanities at the University of WA, Tacoma. As a poet, essayist, teaching artist and storyteller, the focus of her work and writing is on the meeting place between art and social justice.
Janie Elizabeth Miller is a poet & essayist living on a small organic farm on Vashon Island, WA. She won the Grand Prize for the Eco Arts Awards in 2014 & was a finalist for terrain.org’s 2013 poetry contest. Janie directs poetry studies at the University of Washington in Tacoma & teaches at Richard Hugo House. Her work explores the environmental imagination, the artist as activist & ways to use naturalism (the senses & spirit!) to access greater worldhood. Her work can be found at Poecology, terrain.org, CURA, Cimarron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics, Five Fingers Review. She has a chapbook forthcoming from alice blue books.
Vashon resident Liz Shepherd is a Seattle arts administrator, country music deejay for Voice of Vashon and the creator of an imaginary one-woman show called ‘Scarred for Life,’ about her adventures in a 20-year career as the director of two international children’s film festivals.