Event and Book Release to Showcase Pongo’s Work with Incarcerated Teens Using Writing to Overcome Trauma & Grief
February 13, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – When Seattle author Eli Hastings began volunteering with the Pongo Teen Writing Project he found himself facilitating poetry in King County Juvenile Detention. In their Pongo poetry, the youth wrote about witnessing and experiencing addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and other hurts, at home and in their community.
“What I saw was traumatized kids who were acting out their pain and confusion,” says Hastings. “However, using the Pongo method we’ve been able to help them resolve some of their trauma and move forward, and we’ve done it through compassion and writing.”
In celebration of a new book release by Pongo-founder Richard Gold titled “Writing With At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Writing Method” (forthcoming from Rowman & Littlefield Education) local author, counselor and Pongo leader Eli Hastings will host a two-hour event on Thursday, March 13th at 7 p.m. at Richard Hugo House, located at 1634 11th Ave in Seattle. This free event will explore the power of using writing as a healing tool with personal anecdotes from Pongo, and will feature other renowned local authors for an entertaining, educational and inspiring evening.
Pongo is a nonprofit organization that uses poetry to help youth heal from childhood traumas, such as abuse and neglect. With writing projects inside juvenile detention, the state psychiatric hospital, and other sites, Pongo has helped 7,000 youth over its 18-year history. Pongo and Richard Gold have been recognized by the Microsoft Alumni Foundation, the Mayor’s Office, KING5 TV, and, recently, PBS NewsHour with U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway, among many others.
The participants will share the Pongo Method with interested members of the community and acknowledge the accomplishments of the project at a time when Pongo’s outcomes are putting the organization on the map as a cornerstone of artistic, clinically therapeutic social service models. The event will feature a short documentary film about Pongo, presentations by Eli Hastings and Richard Gold on writing and healing, readings of poetry written by incarcerated youth, a panel with clinical members of the Pongo family, and will be followed by a Q&A.
Gold says he hopes to encourage and support new writing projects nationally that serve suffering youth. “Pongo is ready to share its methods and also share the profound experience of bearing witness to young people who write from the heart,” says Gold.
Earlier this year Hastings was honored by The Seattle Times and KUOW as one of thirteen young artists poised to change the future of arts in the Pacific Northwest. Hastings is a Pongo team leader, volunteer and author of the critically acclaimed memoir, “Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love & Other Trips,” released last year by ECW Press.
The Richard Hugo House is located at 1634 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122. This free event is Thursday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Drinks are available through a cash bar for those 21+.
Eli Hastings has worked as a mentor and team leader for Pongo since 2008. He holds Master’s degrees in creative writing and psychology/family therapy. He is a youth counselor and the author of the acclaimed memoir “Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love & Other Trips.” He was recently featured by The Seattle Times and KUOW as one of “13 for ’13: artists shaping the future of the arts in the northwest.”
Richard Gold founded the Pongo Teen Writing Project, a nonprofit that offers unique therapeutic poetry programs to adolescents who are in jail, homeless, or in other ways leading difficult lives. Pongo has worked with 7,000 teens over 18 years. Before Pongo, Richard was managing editor of Microsoft Press. In 2010, Richard was named a Microsoft Integral Fellow, honored for his work with Pongo, by Bill and Melinda Gates and the Microsoft Alumni Foundation. A book of Richard’s illustrated poetry, “The Odd Puppet Odyssey,” was published in 2003. In this book, the character Pongo is a puppet, like Pinocchio, who struggles awkwardly with becoming human, until he aspires to compassion.
Liz Koontz, MD is a third year psychiatry resident at the University of Washington with particular interests in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy. She was exposed to Pongo during a child psychiatry rotation in medical school, has been a Pongo mentor for the past 2 years, and is currently completing a qualitative study of the effects of Pongo Teen Writing on youth at the state psychiatric hospital.
Shaun Anthony McMichael has been using the Pongo Method since 2007 to facilitate expression and connect with high needs, at-risk and trauma affected youth in residential and small classroom settings. For three years, he was Zine Instructor at University District Youth Center (UDYC)’s The Zine Project, an employment program that pays homeless youth to write and make art; he currently is an instructional assistant in an Emotional Behavioral Disorder classroom for Seattle Public Schools. Shaun’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the following literary magazines: Scissors & Spackle, Crack the Spine, Litro, Subtopian, Avalon and Petrichor Machine.
Adrienne Johanson Bentsen is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, providing psychotherapy to individuals and couples at her Seattle-based private practice. She received an MA in Psychology from Antioch University, Seattle, and a BS in Wildlife Biology with a Creative Writing minor from the University of New Hampshire. She ran the Pongo Teen Poetry Project in Seattle’s Juvenile Detention for 3 years and is currently supporting Pongo at pongoteenwriting.org by coaching poets all over the world through their writing process online.
Michael G. Hickey received a BA from the University of Arizona, 1987, and an MFA from the University of Washington, 1992. He is a tenured writing professor and in 2009 was inaugurated as Seattle’s eighth “Poet Populist.” In 2012, he published a book of poetry and prose, “A Dress Walked By With A Woman Inside” and a novel, “Counterclockwise” by Northchester Press.
Ann Teplick is a Seattle poet, playwright, prose writer, and teaching artist. She writes with youth at Child Study Treatment Center (state psychiatric hospital) through Pongo Teen Writing; at Seattle Children’s Hospital, through Writers in the Schools; and at Coyote Central, an after-school arts program. She recently received funding from Artist Trust and Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs to adapt her young adult novel, “Hey Baby, Wanna Dance?” into a full-length play, with upcoming staged readings in winter and spring of 2014.
Also speaking: Vanessa Hooper and Jack McClellan, MD.
I’m working with Schaffner Press and author Bill Carter to release “Boom, Bust, Boom - A Story About Copper, The Metal That Runs The World” in April 2014. The book is an account of the all-pervasive presence of copper in our lives and its cost on our health, economy, and our environment - with a beautifully interwoven personal discovery that begins after Carter is poisoned by the vegetables grown in his family garden. It’s especially relevant because of current issues impacting Bristol Bay, Rosemont, Boundary Waters, Smith River and more. “Boom, Bust, Boom” is an amazing read that’s received accolades from Luis Alberto Urrea, Sebastian Junger, Jim Harrison, Charles Bowden and many more. Pre-order today: www.boombustboombook.com/
Before I get too far into this blog post I have to make an appeal to not make me any symbol of the cause in which I’m about to write about. I am a die hard agnostic with no affinity to any religion … it’s easier to have more friends and more inclusive relationships this way - and plus - nobody really knows who’s god and nobody has seen anything remarkably heavenly or godly for two-thousand years, right? Except maybe those following Heaven’s Gate or David Koresh or listening to Radiohead … but I digress …
That said, I work with an amazingly talented writer who happens to have been published by a Christian Press and happens to have a bit of a Christian bent in her writing. I loved her book … spirituality and all … and as I reach out to folks on her behalf and am constantly battered down, I have to wonder if there isn’t an anti-Christian sentiment in the literary community? Granted, many non-theists view science and the laws of nature as the laws of the land and tend to scoff at tales of resurrected fishes or walking on water or rising from the dead … and many more literary folks are inclined to be non-theists in general, in my non scientific opinion … but does being agnostic or atheist or whatever else religion automatically disqualify you from enjoying anything with a religious bent? I think not. Further, I think any intellectual could be well-served by reading a bit of spirituality-laced literature. There’s a lot of beauty there. After all, what is the harm in taking a long, hard, look at oneself and the meaning of it all?
This is my take on the feverish debate on the Columbia River Crossing between Portland and Vancouver, inspired from the mornings commute over”Arctic Blast” which snarled traffic and forced me home from work. Never mind the fact that I cannot commute via bus or rail without investing two hours in the morning. Us Vancouverites need to get with the 21st century and do our part to build a larger, cleaner and sustainability oriented bridge with light rail and adequate foot/bicycle passage between our two cities. This old antiquated bridge is hampering growth and quality of life in this city. Unfortunately, the Vancouver citizenry has the foresight of a mole and has rejected such forward-looking measures.
Last night Ben Musholt had his book release party for “Mad Skills” - the world’s largest illustrated exercise encyclopedia. The book is for athletes of any kind that want to supplement their workouts (seriously: baseball, football, volleyball, cheerleading, soccer, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, parkour, cross fit & more)
The event was at Base Camp Brewing Company - one of our local favorites - and topped off a wild week that included interviews at:
Besides being a great city, Portland has great and supportive media willing to help new authors with great ideas. I love living in the Northwest!
Portland author Ben Musholt was interviewed in Portland Monthly (link) this past week, to talk about his new illustrated exercise encyclopedia, “Mad Skills.” The book is perfect for any athlete (or non-athlete) looking to supplement their exercise routine including those into: snowboarding, skiing, parkour, cross fit, soccer, basketball, football & more! For more, check out his book: http://www.madskillsbook.com
*** A sampling of some of the authors I’ve worked with in recent history.
The summer and fall have been the busiest times we’ve had at The Neo Com Group. Last spring I added Alexis Dane, an award-winning PR professional to the team, and we’ve been adding amazing authors to the roster ever since. Here’s a quick rundown on our new talent, please excuse the brevity:
Eli Hastings, who was honored by KUOW in Seattle for being one of 13 young artists poised to change the arts scene in the Pacific Northwest. His new book “Clearly Now, The Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips” is a beautiful elegy about a man who watches his best friend succumb to addiction. Eli uses his life experiences, and transforms that grief into amazing positivity - as evidenced in this recent Huffington Post column.
Don Crawley, an IT professional who is helping those in highly technological fields to become better communicators, thus improving their customer service skills. He has two upcoming events scheduled in Seattle and Portland. The third edition of his book “The Compassionate Geek” comes out November 1st. To learn more about Don, check out this great YouTube video.
Ben Musholt, a physical therapist and former contestant on American Ninja Warrior. He has a new book coming out titled “Mad Skills” which is the world’s largest illustrated exercise encyclopedia. He’s one hell of a good guy, and we’re plotting a book release event at Base Camp Brewing Company in Portland on November 7th.
Shannon Huffman Polson, one of the first female Apache Helicopter Pilots and an amazing writer with an MFA from Seattle Pacific University. Her book “North of Hope” came out earlier this year and is a tragic story centered around a sobering event in her life - when her parents were killed by a grizzly bear in the Alaska bush. It’s also so much more than that - as she weaves through grief, life experience, and traumatic events - she also weaves together a beautiful, relatable story about times of turmoil, and the ways in which people struggle to feel centered. This is the first book I have yelled at in some time. Not out of anger, mind you, but because a character didn’t do what I wanted them to. That is good, folks. She’ll be speaking in Leavenworth next month and sharing her passion for the preservation of wild things. 5% of her book sales go to support the Wilderness League.
Bill Carter, an award-winning filmmaker and author of three memoirs, including the soon-to-be-released paperback edition of “Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story About Copper, The Metal that Runs the World.” Bill is a former humanitarian who had the guts to live in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War where he worked as an aid worker. He teamed up with U2 to create the film “Miss Sarajevo” which is credited with bringing world attention towards ending that conflict. His new book will include a new Epilogue, blurbs from award-winning authors, and an afterward to get people caught up with issues that have passed since the first printing.
I can’t tell you how lucky we feel to be working with such amazing talent, but I can tell you that if you’re a reviewer and would like a review copy of any of these books, please don’t hesitate to ask!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SCHAFFNER PRESS ANNOUNCES ANNUAL LITERARY AWARD
4-Weeks Remaining To Submit Your Music-Related Essay for Chance at $1,000 Prize
(August 2nd, 2013) Portland, OR - The Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature celebrates the life of Nicholas Schaffner, brother of Schaffner Press Publisher Tim Schaffner and poet, musician, biographer, esteemed music critic and author of several books, including THE BEATLES FOREVER, THE BRITISH INVASION, and SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS: The Pink Floyd Odyssey. Nicholas, who devoted his life to music and literature about music, died at the age of thirty-eight.
“This past January 28th, his birthday, he would have turned sixty years old,” says Tim Schaffner. “So, I felt it fitting to celebrate his legacy with an award that pays tribute to his wide-reaching talents and creativity and encourages new writers whose lives and writing have been profoundly influenced by music of one sort or another.”
The Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature will be given to that writer who submits a literary work in the English language, either fiction or narrative non-fiction (ie. memoir or essay collection) that deals in some way with the subject of music (of any genre and period) and its influence.
Manuscripts in the English language between 60-100,000 words will be judged on a first-come first-served basis, and submissions are welcome anytime from May 1 to Sept. 1, 2013. A winner will be selected on Nov. 1, and offered a contract and an advance of $1,000 for the book’s publication in a format or formats to be determined by the publisher. Only works in English are accepted, and entrants must be 18 years or older to apply. Judges to be announced on our website shortly at: www.schaffnerpress.com.
First place winner will receive a contract with Schaffner Press and a $1,000 advance for publication of his/her work as a print and digital release the following year. We offer two ways to apply - online or by mail. A fee of $25 is required for entry. Your manuscript must have a title page that includes your name, address, email address and the full title of the work. Please do not include any personal or biographical information, and please no illustrations.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1. Your manuscript (with title page) in Word.doc or .pdf. The file name should be the title of the work — not an acronym or abbreviation - ie. Gonewiththewind.doc.
2. A PayPal account for entry fee payment.
3. Completed submission form: http://www.schaffnerawards.com
4. A hard copy boxed manuscript (single sided), with title page.
5. Fee of $25 for entry, payable to Schaffner Press: Annual Award, either as a check drawn on a United States bank account, or as a postal money order.
Attn: Award/Schaffner Press
Tucson, AZ 85717
For More Information:
Michael Phillips, Publicist
The Neo Com Group