Column: New book from San Diego’s So Say We All gives LGBTQ + authors a place to express themselves


As the co-founder and executive director of the San Diego Literary and Arts Association So Say We All, Justin Hudnall knows a good story when he hears one. And sometimes before.

This was the fortunate case of the stories that led to the release of “The Whole Alphabet: The Light and the Dark,” a new collection of true stories from LGBTQ + authors from San Diego and beyond.

Before being a book, the Whole Alphabet was a series of workshops held at a cafe near Balboa Park. And before the participants even started to write, before some of them even knew they could write, Hudnall knew the stories were there. And he knew people would want to hear them.

“Right from the start, one of the big discoveries we had here was that it was a multigenerational crowd. We had 80s and 15-year-olds from High Tech High, ”said Hudnall of those first workshops for members of the LGBTQ + community in San Diego, which So Say We All started in 2018.

“We looked at that and said, ‘That’s kind of a story there. “”

And he was right.

Three years after these early gatherings of future storytellers, So Say We All released “The Whole Alphabet: The Light and the Dark,” a collection of true LGBTQ + stories that offers the kind of full-spectrum representation that So Say We All is. all. about. The launch party takes place Saturday at Art Produce in North Park.

The stories touch on body image struggles, coming out dramas, and first love adventures. Also dizzying hookups, character breaks, and the life-changing perks of letting off steam on stage at the Diversionary Theater.

“We wanted a book that represented the full range of experiences,” said Jennifer D. Corley, program director of So Say We All, who edited the collection with Hudnall and Katie Camacho.

“Some stories are hilarious, some are a wave of sadness, and some of them just have that imagery you never would have thought of. There is a lot of honesty and rawness and things that you have never heard before.

Founded in 2009, So Say We All is dedicated to helping people turn their own raw and honest experiences into stories that can be shared and celebrated.

For the group’s monthly VAMP Storytelling Showcase, writers selected through blind submissions receive one-on-one coaching that helps them turn their five- to 10-minute stories into stage-worthy performance pieces.

Long Story Short’s stripped-down gatherings, which don’t require pre-submissions, give brave souls the chance to step up and share a five-minute unvarnished true story with audiences. Each VAMP and Long Story Short event features a different monthly theme – “Smile! “,” Secret Admirer “,” I don’t even feel bad “- guaranteed to ignite creative and faith-based sparks.

Like the group’s veteran writers’ division, which offers free creative non-fiction writing classes to veterans, active-duty military personnel, and military family members, the Whole Alphabet gives its LGBTQ participants + the tools to turn real experiences into stories and live entertainment. (Live events are optional.)

The Whole Alphabet workshops started out in the usual So Say We All manner, with experienced writers from the community performing stories from past showcases, just to give attendees a feel for how it’s done. Newcomers got some tips on what makes a great story, and they started creating.

“Once we did a few workshops (with the Whole Alphabet), we saw how much interest they got from people who asked us, ‘When’s next? This made us think we needed to do a bigger project. We just opened it and the stories poured in, ”Corley said of the book, which was published by So Say We All Press.

In “The Whole Alphabet: The Light and the Dark”, the 26 authors of the collection deliver furious poems, sad and wise dispatches from the AIDS front, and a two-page tribute to a ferocious pair of high heels in leather. snake. And whether a story is from a writer in San Diego or from points beyond, each is its own unique and brilliant contribution to the great circle of stories that is life.

Pull up a chair, don’t you?

“These stories can be entertaining, they can change conversations and they can save lives,” said Hudnall. “Human beings really need to be heard and understood to lead healthy and functional lives. It is an emotional and physiological necessity. It is not a luxury.

The “The Whole Alphabet” launch party with performances by contributing writers will take place Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Art Produce, 3139 University Ave., North Park. Unvaccinated guests are requested to wear masks during the outdoor event.

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