The objectives listed in the call for applicants to seek the position of literary laureate for Laguna Beach are ambitious.
“It seemed pretty daunting when I first looked at it,” said author Suzanne Redfearn, who along with playwright Lauren Simon, was recently selected by the city’s Arts Commission to fill the post for two years. Each will receive an award of $15,000.
The post was created to serve as an ambassador for Laguna’s literary community and continue the momentum created by the inaugural poet laureate Kate Buckley, said the city’s cultural arts manager Sian Poeschl.
Redfearn and Simon are tasked to lead, coordinate and promote at least six workshops and six readings of their original work, or that of earlier local literary artists. The laureates are also expected to create a festival-style event next April at the Laguna Beach Library to mark National Poetry Month. They must submit written or video content for use on the city’s website, a cultural arts department newsletter and its social media channels. And, they are expected to write one or more commemorative pieces about Laguna Beach.
Redfearn sees the post of laureate as a facilitator to create cohesion among Laguna’s existing literary entities, which include among others, the Third Street Writers, Toastmasters and Laguna Beach Books. She also plans to engage with the school district and public library.
The author of two award-winning novels, Redfearn has a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing and a master’s in architecture. She is also a website designer and will collaborate with Simon to create an online calendar of literary events in Laguna.
Simon is working on a program to create a dialogue between visual and literary arts.
“It’s still in development, but I’ll be sharing news about it soon,” she said in an email. In addition to producing play readings for her Bare Bones Theatre, Simon’s poetry reaped awards for three successive years in Laguna’s annual library poetry contest.
She splits her time between Laguna and Creede, Colo. Its Creede Repertory Theatre commissioned her for a musical play, performed at elementary schools in the southwest. Last year, 24,000 students saw the show. This year the show will tour in Southern California, she said.
Simon holds a master’s degree in dramatic writing and a bachelor’s in politics. At Laguna Playhouse, she taught playwriting and produced shows.
Redfearn also aims to spark literary conversations by starting a community-wide reading program entitled “One Book, One Laguna.” She will seek consensus from a committee to choose a book for the entire town to read and follow up with discussion sessions, scholarly lectures, a visit by the author, exhibits and related arts programming.
A Laguna College of Art and Design creative writing professor, Grant Hier was recently introduced as the inaugural poet for the city of Anaheim. Hier who has master’s degrees in literature and creative writing, and has edited several literary journals is currently developing an MFA in creative writing at LCAD. “Once I found out I was being named as Anaheim’s first poet laureate, I immediately reached out to Kate (Buckley) and sought her advice… what she was able to accomplish in setting up a poet laureate program from scratch, I think, should be inspiring to everyone in the community,” said Hier.
His responsibilities include providing free public workshops, leading community-partnered events and giving at least two public readings of either original works created for the events or past works appropriate to the occasion. He will not receive compensation for his two-year appointment.
Already Hier has visited a high school journalism class, hosted an open mic night of spoken word and song at the public library and solicited artists and arts organizations to brainstorm new projects.
Hier, like Redfearn, sees a role as facilitator in helping promote Anaheim’s arts scene and bring other artists’ work to larger audiences. In addition, he is giving readings from his own newly published book of poetry and he will be a featured reader at the UK Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, England this summer. Hier has also set up an Anaheim poet laureate Facebook page to promote the many community events he’s planning.
Rina Palumbo of Laguna’s Third Street Writers is excited about the opportunity to work with the literary laureates. “I look forward to sharing the members’ work with the public and connecting with other Laguna Beach writers,” she said. “Since it’s often a struggle to secure space for readings and public programs the laureates’ support in finding venues would help writers put our work out there for the community,” said Sara Nuss-Galles, also a Third Street Writer.