Friday, August 30, 2013

At-Risk Summer Tour Resumes!

So August was a bit bumpy. Sickness. Work. Life stuff life. Now I'm ready to rock the road again and empower young people to harness their voice through word and/or image.

Remember this is self-funded adventure along with limited Kickstarter support (I'm down to the self part and it's a little bleak). I'll be looking for places to stay in each city. Also, if you have suggestions for at-risk youth in a tour stop or nearby, kick me a message at: atrisksummer@gmail.com

Wanna Support This Creative Revolution? Visit: http://about.me/atrisksummer




Tour Schedule:

9/4 : LOS ANGELES, CA
9/9 : SAN FRANCISCO, CA
9/12 : CHICO, CA
9/19 : NEW ORLEANS, LA
9/23 : LA
9/28 : PHILADELPHIA, PA

10/1 : NORTH CAROLINA
10/4 : PA
10/5 : NJ
10/8 : CHICAGO, IL
10/10: MADISON, WI
10/13 : TBA
10/17 : DETROIT, MI
10/23 : TEXAS Stops
10/26 : Texas Book Festival (Austin)
10/28 : That's A Wrap

WHAT IS AT-RISK SUMMER & FAT ANGIE?
Publishers Weekly Article: http://bit.ly/14aLGsS




Thursday, August 29, 2013

in this moment

the (w)orld

is so much with me that i wanna
s c r e a m

sometimes
i do.

the atrocities and reciprocities
the f*+king media whirlpool spins it all
  sideways

and my mind  

e x p l o d e s .

i just hold onto what i know and what i say to kids today
"you're fine. you're okay."
but they know that i know that
they are at war.

every single time they go to school
they might get shot.
they might get killed.
they might not go home and play XBox or basketball
because someone they know/don't know has a different idea.

i demand they still believe.

believe you me
that they can make the world better.
that they are why the world is better.
that settling for a life that is half will never be full
and full is being able to take risks
dream big
and not wear their heart behind bullet proof glass

but i know i ask a lot.

here is where i begin
again
"you are fine. you are okay."
and i mean it to infinity and beyond
and i know
i know i can't make it better
  the bullying
  the bulls*it name calling
the mom that can't hear or the father that
can't see.
i can't remove them
from the sometime/all-the-time wasteland
that they feel

i . want . to . make ... life different

so i walk in that room
with Group Home kids
 teen moms
 LGBTQ youth
or suburban middle class rejects
and i don't pull out cue cards
or preach some wickety-wack sermon
(i leave that to the "experts")
i am
this : here.
right now.
here.

and i say, "i believe in you. let's make it better now.
in this moment. your words. your v o i c E!"

we find our way.

"and in that moment, i swear we (are) infinite"


CLICK TO HEAR AUTHOR READ POEM


freewrite/poem thing by
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo


* final line: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

 

Taking Advice Before The Final Jaunt

Stories From The Road
August , 2013
**TBP

Big Break!

Stories From The Road
August  , 2013
Post To Be Released



And The Tour Rocks On!

Stories From The Road
August , 2013
**TBP

CIty of Brotherly Love

Stories From The Road
August , 2013
**TBP

The Sickness

Stories From The Road
August , 2013
**TBP

Michigan or Bust!

Stories From The Road
August , 2013
**TBP

Officer, I Can Explain

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Meeting Two Great Gals

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Hannah Rockstar, South Hadley, MA & The Care Center

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP (To Be Posted)


Click Link for NPR Style Radio Story by Annabelle Ford

https://soundcloud.com/annabelleford-1/fat-angie-book-tour




Attleboro, MA

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

The Final Stretch to Cincinnati

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Melting Down In Laramie, WY

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Gender Checking Es No Bueno

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Always Read The Freaking Map

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Liam

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
New Avenues For Youth: Portland, OR



I showed up to Portland, Oregon primarily to do a signing at Powell's Bookstore. Colleague Elly Swartz connected me with New Avenues For Youth while I was recovering from altitude sickness in Chico, CA. When I arrived, a member of the staff was very apologetic. Many of the kids had gone out for a recreation day. Something the program works to insert into an educational and career path program.

"No worries," I said. "One is just as great as a dozen or so."

And I said that having no idea how powerful the one could be.

Liam is the name he writes by, so that's what we'll call him in this blog. He's had more hardship and struggle in 22 years than any one person should. Homelessness, addiction, abandonment, suicide attempts and a host of the horrible dose of misfortune. When I was his age, I had a life seasoned in a few of these descriptors and was mean as they come. I was pissed off at the world. I had zero time for compassion for others. I mean, what had they done to make my life easier, right? Liam though, isn't me at 22 years-old. This guy is a light.

Liam is one man living one life, and it is extraordinary one. During the time that we spent together, I'm not sure who was inspiring who. Here's why.

I entered the facility a bit scattered from traffic, hunger and sleep deprivation. We had, of course, driven from Chico, CA to Portland, OR only hours before I was supposed to be at New Avenues For Youth. We had, of course, been pulled over by a female officer near Ashland, OR, given a warning and stopped at one of the single most frightening rest rooms in America.

Let's just say it had been a long one as nights go.

And now I'm supposed to be "on" and "present" and "here" only I'm everywhere else. But then, there's Liam. He's the guy who is patient, soft spoken and full of l i g h t!

I know, I'm on the light kick in this post. Just hang in with me.

So I settled down and we started talking. Before long, it was like we'd known each other for years. Both of us had a succinct passion for words and poetry. He tells me how he is is writing a biography of his life in poetic form and restricting himself to four words per line. As a poet, I can tell you those words have to be specific and active or the whole thing will be a mauled version of Humpty Dumpty. Naturally, I'm curious as to how he sculpts such a history within extreme poetic restrictions.

He reaches into this tattered brown backpack and emerges with a Moleskin that has a:

HELLO MY NAME IS

sticker with Liam printed in orange marker on the front.

He slides it on the table, and it sits between us before I confirm that I can thumb through it. I sit closer to him and remove the cloth wrap holding it closed.

Liam's word choice is specific. Precise and percussive. The kind where your heart breaks into pieces smaller and smaller per line. I delve into darkness, moments of light, torment, love, searching and a maelstrom of other tangible feelings. He carries the reader into the raw and uncut world of his childhood, teen years and evolution (it isn't finished, of course) into manhood.

I am at a loss for articulate words. I mouth mostly sounds and "how did you do this here?" and feeling the jolt to put pen to page I hadn't felt most of the book tour. His words and energy make me want to spark up the ink and rip across the blankness of my notebook.

And I told him so.

And this guy, he smiles. Gosh, was it a humble thing to see.

And we talked more and more.

We shared our stories of being homeless, thoughts on addiction and coming to the other side. We talked about the America I'd seen in high compression and the one he knew from underpass to bus stop.

We connected.

We listened.

We were exactly one hundred and ninety-nine percent there.

After awhile, I asked if there was anything else he wanted to chat about or do. He said, "You wanna write?"

And I lit up like Christmas on the Fourth of July. Heck yeah, I wanna write. Absolute!

So there we went. Tearing down the page like there are no speed limits. Occasionally, we'd look up at one another and grin. We were high on words and creativity and that is the ultimate juice!

Someone from the program came in and wanted to give me a tour of the facilities. So Liam and I said our good-byes but not before he showed me a poem. It had been published in New Voices For Youth. I wanted that book and his signature more than I had wanted John Updike's in my twenties. Instead he signed one of my FAT ANGIE postcards. Before he left, he handed me his writing.

"I think you'll like it," he said.

His grin infectious.

"Thank you so much," I said to him.

What I would later find out was that Liam was having the worst kinda craptastic day. Somehow in all of the noise of being on the streets and living with so little, he managed to make space for me. He wrote with me. He made me feel seen. He showed up.

I don't know who gave who more inspiration that day. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe what matters is that two people with stories of hardship came together and connected, created stories and showed up.

I thought about Liam a lot on the road to Cincinnati, Ohio and was elated to get a text from New Avenues for Youth. They'd shipped a copy of the book Liam's poem was in, and it was autographed by him.

Thanks, Liam. You changed my life.


What Happens In Route To Orgeon Gets A Blog

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Ellen Hopkins, Reno & Getting Too High

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Chico, CA & The Watsons

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

San Francisco & The Coven

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Cecil Castelluci, Hollywood & Delayed Arrivials

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

Speed Limits, Buzzards & Reviews

Stories From The Road
July , 2013
**TBP

The WiFi was a bust at the Econo Lodge. I'd slept all of four hours. Woke up with a headache and my stomach was doing ten rounds with the spirit of Muhammad Ali. I kicked into my sneakers

Someone gave me a Starbucks gift card even though I don't drink coffee.

Arizona Nostalgia

Stories From The Road
July 9, 2013

I came to Arizona in the mid-90's while attending undergrad at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

First, let's talk obligatory exposition.

I managed to bomb out of a number of other colleges (we'll discuss that in another post), and I finally found a mentor, J. Don Luna, and a calling at A&M-CC. My calling was performance and writing. Don made me into an actress who reacted as opposed to acted. He taught me to be real on stage and in many ways life.  Because of Don and the amaze-tastic Professor Louis Katz, I landed a role in a performance art piece titled 50 Foot Alice In Wonderland that went live in Las Vegas, NV.

Yes, here's where the story wraps around. After the performance in Vegas, I got to hop a bus to Arizona for the day. And once there, something inside shifted.

I. Fell. Head and heels for the terrain. And the food, the smells and all things around that allowed me to dine in delight inside my little big self. In the years that have since passed, I've written stories, screenplays and had more than one post card from the state on my Wall of Thought (picture to come when I find one). It was a state that I grew to love and considered living in someday.

You can imagine my immense disappointment when Tuscon Unified District in Arizona began banning books featuring Mexican Americans as prominent characters. An argument that literature featuring minority exploration was oppressing Caucasian readers.

Here was my reaction at the time.

Driving through Arizona in the here and now, I was reminded of my time working with J. Don Luna and the banning of books that included one of my contemporaries Matt De La Pena. But I let myself drift along the stretches of asphalt highway and blazing waves of heat. I let myself swim in the beauty of saguaro and the mountain landscape -- the blue skies battling against swells of storms that stayed mostly to the side of us. 

A few hundred miles from Flagstaff, Arizona, we had already run through the CD's we bought in Louisiana for the sixth time. I love Bob Seger and Jay-Z but we had been driving. A lot. And radio was a mix of Pop Favorites between drowning out into static and faint tent revival-like preaching. There were stops for gas and gum and occasionally the rest room toilets had been flushed. For whatever reason, the ride from Roswell, NM to Flagstaff, AZ felt a long and hard one.

When we pulled into Flagstaff after 8 + hours, we tried to check-in to the Econo Lodge, but apparently there is more than one within a three mile radius. So ... we piled back into the car and through a series of wrong turns arrived at the right hotel.

I threw a bunch of the gear and clothes and our magic twenty-two can cooler in the room and jetted for a dinner I was more than late-late for. I poured into the booth of a Tex-Mex restaurant. While I was finally sitting still, I felt myself still in motion, so there I went talking with next to zero pause.  Ten minutes or so, I realized I hadn't stopped talking. Consequently, I just had to stop. Breathe. Stop.

Between tortilla chips and excessively spicy salsa (acid reflux hates the spice), I got more centered and could be present in the conversation as opposed to the light speed rate we had been going all day. And I haven't decided yet as I type this from the confines of squeaky bed at the Econo Lodge, but maybe something really great will come of that dinner.

I gotta get some sleep.



















Wednesday, August 28, 2013

If The Aliens Don't Get You ... Fear The Frogs

Stories From The Road
July 8, 2013

We pulled into Roswell, NM last night. Three fourths tank of gas. Exhausted beyond immediate repair (see previous Post for road trauma).

Our greeting in the Little Green Peep's Town?

Every. Hotel. BOOKED!

Well, almost every hotel. The Super 8 with a strategically placed spaceship out front for gawking alien fan seekers had a single double room. The mighty Ford Focus rolled to a dusty stop, and my knees noticeably crackled on exit from the vehicle. As I approached the Main Office, a fellow guest opened the glass door and out hops ... frogs!

Yes, it's beyond late-ish. I'm beyond melted from the running on empty gas fiasco. And now, I have touched down where frogs are leaping along as an eerie omen.

I chalk it up to another day on the road and make my way inside. Careful not to slip on the water spotted floor. Not careful enough.

"I'm cool," I say, in mid-slide.

The clerk has an accent that makes me think India, but who knows. He's a nice enough guy. Smiles through awkward forced politeness. It's late. We're both tired. And there had just been frogs in the lobby (neither one of us acknowledges this formally).

The room rate is all wrong for the one star stay, but I have to get out of the Ford Focus before I stretch my limits of sanity. The clerk and I smile once more. This last one more genuine.

***

The hallway of the Super 8 is a graveyard of television consoles and cheap discount furniture. A murky haze seizes the air. A combination of cigarette smoke and mildew fuse with the green tint of cheap florescent lighting. I am apologetic to the camera person. What else can I say besides "sorry" and "this sucks" and "I'll pre-plan the next stop more carefully."

Although we both know we'll end up in a dive like this sooner rather than later. The lip service acts as a needed filler after our day.

Our room is spacious enough. So much so, that I suspect some of our furniture is decoration for the hall. I flop on the bed and imagine stars where there is bumpy ceiling. I imagine the smell of the Gulf of Mexico as opposed to moth balls and urine.

I imagine that I'm not there but in a room full of kids, and we're writing about this as opposed to me living it for the remainder of the night. But I'm there. At the Super 8. In Roswell, NM. During the BIGGEST celebration of the year (Roswell - a Great Place to Crash) where all the hotels except one is booked. I pass out fully dressed and on top of the bed spread. It's probably better that way.

***

I wake up to light pouring in from the mangled hotel room curtain. For a moment, I think I'm in Cincinnati, Ohio. The reality rushes in quickly, and I gather some spare change and the room key to search for a free Continental Breakfast.

Children play on the hall furniture. Some version of aliens and cowboys (I mean, we are in Roswell). I jog down the tattered carpeted stairs and step into the Sunny Delight knock off juice bar. Coffee that I don't drink and suspect many of the other guests won't either. Everywhere is sugar and more sugar. I scrounge up a piece of wheat toast, a cup of H2O and Raisin Bran. They're out of milk, so I pour water over it.

My camera person has emerged, and we're feeling the weight of travel but maintaining some level of poise. She has encouraged me to review the map and just as I do the T.V. announces a plane crash in San Francisco, CA.

I'm no longer interested in the map as I watch the accident play out on CNN. Sleep deprived and protein defincient, I get lost in the smoke and charred fuselage. When my eyes fall off the television to the guests laughing, chatting and chewing on cheap pastries, I feel a swell of something thick in my throat. Aren't they seeing? Watching? Feeling?

Something in me locks onto the guest who seem to have a defined disregard for the tragedy playing out in High Definition. Had tragedy become so ordinary? And while I knew the answer something was on recycle in my brain.

That was someone's someone on that plane. In every seat.

I look over my shoulder. The clerk who checked me in stands by a woman I decide is his wife. They're watching the T.V. The way someone watches something completely. The clerk looks at me and tries to smile, but the effort escapes the intention. It escapes mine as well and we have one of those brief, cinematic-like moments where we both feel wrung out from loss that becomes featured in Headline News or The New York Times. Wrung out that there is so much hurt in the world.

And here I am in Roswell, NM in route to California to do my small way of plugging what would seem a Titanic like leak in the youth of America, I wonder what the hell am I doing? Am I serious about this endeavor? I got car issues and traffic issues and storm issues and um, yeah, death issues. Here I am surfing on no financial support from the publishing house because that's just the reality of things. Praying that the money raised on Kickstarter ($2,500 dollars short) will be enough to get me at least back to Cincinnati, Ohio. Hoping that my camera person in-training is getting at least half of the footage in focus, so I can show the importance of creative mentors in our communities and I AM taking a risk outside my comfort zone to infinity and beyond times pi. Because I honest believe with all that is within me that a creative mentor can generate impact -- that art saves. That the world can be better. And that maybe the Titanic sized leak can be soldered.

My camera person asks if I'm okay. No, I think. I'm not okay. I'm awake and that's better than okay. That's got potential.
***

We schlep our belongings downstairs, check out at the front desk and once again, I play the packing the car Tetris game. As we pull out of Roswell, NM, I say a prayer for the people on Asiana Airlines flight 214. I extend kindness for those who survived and hope for those who lost someone. Hope that they can not simply survive but live in the wake of such loss. 










Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Into The Dark And No GPS

Stories From The Road
July 7, 2013

The road to hell, I am now convinced, is paved with cracked iPhone/Android screens that have lost signal in the desolate no man's land of West Texas in route to New Mexico.

Commonly Known Fact (Unless You Are Me): When you lose signal, you lose whatever social ap navigator you've so cleverly thought was your stairway to heaven.

Note: You will find yourself in a predicament of life and possible fracking proportions.

Pecos, Texas. The final frontier. Yes, I wrote that because it is the last stop for gas between Texas and Somewhere, New Mexico X miles away.

We had no mace. We had no wasp spray. And it was likely we had no tire iron.

So in the event of being stranded between nowhere and nowhere and with the stereotype of a burly trucker with a questionable dental plan and a fondness for fracking as our only rescue, I felt with absolute certainty that this was the moment of our demise.

No one knew where we were. No one knew where we had planned to stay. We had no signal.

Being the cool and calm cucumber that I am, I internally panicked. Each mile the gas gauge warned that we were coasting on borrowed time. Each mile was a mile of barren wasteland. A tribute to T.S. Elliot or a cleverly crafted Coen Brother's film moment. 

Darkness doused the landscape. Leaving structures for oil rigging called Christmas trees to spark the occasional distant light.

We had gone from 78 miles of gas. To 46 miles. To 28 miles. To what the heck are we gonna do without gas miles. All the while, we began to pass pockets of lines of eighteen wheelers. Their metal bodies stretched along dirt roads. The lights pulsating. Engines purring.

They were mostly like fed a healthy cargo of black gold.

One of those truck drivers was surely going to be the end of us. It would most definitely fit the trajectory of our travel life.

Then on the horizon lights punctuated the evening black. We literally, not dramatically, coasted into the first Loving, NM gas station with 6 miles of fuel in the tank.

A sigh. A deep breath. Lesson most definitely learned.






Thursday, August 1, 2013

NOLA to Texas (Or Monsoon Highway)

Stories From The Road
July 5, 2013

Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" punctuated the 6 A.M. air from a neighbor's window. Remnants of a July 4th cookout swirled around me standing in the middle of the street. A skateboard from Lew's Fickleboards, my Fat Angie hoodie from Linda Sanders and an Adidas bag of this and that hung beside the car tire.





It was travel day.

The Tetris precision of this box of books verses that duffel of clothes began before sunrise. I had hoped to outrun a dense multi-mile storm swirling in from the Gulf of Mexico. Growing up on the Gulf near Corpus Christi, Texas, I knew the kind of sky billow-pile-swell that was around me. That sky had something to say, and I was listening.

Twenty minutes into the back and forth of loading up the car, sweat soaked my shirt. It lined up to sprint from my shoulders to lower back.

Pack cooler.
Arrange snack bag.
Don't crush the generic loaf of bread.

Drip-drop drizzle.

You can imagine my lack of thrilled with the possibility of shifty weather. The Tuscaloosa behemoth was not an out of sight out of mind kind of thing. But we had to get on the road. Storm or not.

I said my good-byes to Margaret who had given my camera person and me a place to stay in Mid-City.  She presented us with spray painted, recycled clipboards for our Image Releases with her righteous signature stencils. 

I said aloha to my dear friend and crushed my body into new kinds of small in the driver's seat. The camera person contorted with a flood of camera, sound gear and a bound book of maps at her side and feet. We needed to be hundreds and hundreds of miles away from New Orleans, LA in a very short amount of time. We needed to make Weatherford, Texas.

The sky had other plans. As I said, it had a lot to say.

A light rain was the prologue to an otherwise dramatic first few chapters of the day's story. Clouds. Low hanging. Questionable circulation. Let's say my tension was high. The rain poured in whipping sheets.

It was fast.
Hard.
(all kinds of wind).
Rain.

At one point, we turtled across a Louisana bridge with dozens of motorists with local plates as well as Texas, Mississippi, Nebraska and Illinois. It doesn't take a Sherlock to make note of such things when your crawling along, hoping for Mother of the Nature to take five on the sky cry.

Did I mention I don't like storms.
I don't like cars.
I don't like traffic.
I don't like any of these things, and this is an absolute certainty.

With the wind and rain at peak wreak havoc, I looked at my right forearm. There it was. The tattoo that was to be a reminder to slow down. To breathe ... love.




So I did ... try.

About an hour and half into this Tom Foolery of weather, we caught what one might call a break. We came out on the other side. We had outrun the monsoon that would flood and roar across Louisiana that day. I thanked the Universe, the Goddess, God, Buddha, (it's important to cover many basis in the wake of a lucky break), and then soared down the highway in blue skies and super stupendous sun all a shine.

Somewhere in the transition from big rain to dry sky, I felt the fear of a repeat of Day One on the road lift. I thought, "Just let go and breathe. Breathe love."