Author Series at UCI

Sofia Panuelos | Staff Photographer

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010, a small congregation of chairs sat waiting for the scheduled author series event. By 5 p.m, nearly all the chairs were filled with attentive listeners, all hungry to hear poetry read by some of the finest writers to grace the UCI bookstore.

In attendance were the two featured authors: Kate Gale, a poet and independent publisher, and Kim Dower, who featured her new poetry book that night. Both authors received an introduction by acclaimed novelist T. Jefferson Parker, an award-winning writer and author of “Silent Joe” and “California Girl.”

The night, as expected, was filled with rich poetry. Gale graced the podium with energetic and passionate verses, while Dower calmed the audience with peaceful and down-to-earth cadence.

Kate Gale, the author of “Mating Season,” grew up in a Christian cult and started her writing career by writing journals when she was young. She would bury the journals, a habit that taught her to be willing to let words go and to move on beyond certain words and certain ideas. It was not until college that Gale felt that she had stories to tell. She graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in English, and moved on to earn her master’s.

“I’ve always been willing to let stuff go and write a lot,” Gale said. “You think that football players and dancers just practice a lot. So writers should practice a lot. You figure what’s really good. You figure out what really sings and what is true and what is brutal, and raw, and real. It’s you practicing twirling around on the ice.”

For Gale, writing is about expressing an awareness of the world and how it truly is.

“I think that we need to be willing to scare ourselves and write something,” Gale said. ”Even if you have a fairly nice family and a nice life, if you have been awake in the world, you know what’s been happening in Haiti. You know what’s been happening in Africa. You know what’s been happening in North Korea. You know the world isn’t a safe, happy place. So you should have something real to write about.”

Kim Dower, the featured author of “Air Kissing on Mars,” also began her writing career from an early age. For her, writing began when she was a girl, as a hobby and a pastime. But soon, after enrolling as a freshman at Emerson College, Dower took an introduction to creative writing class with the famous poet Thomax Lux.

“This class changed my life,” Dower said. “The first day, the teacher looked at all of us and he said: ‘you’re all poets.’ He gave us this label, like if you’re on a team and you have a sense of belonging. And so it was like team poetry. He gave us a role and a title. He read us some poems the first day of class, and I had never even heard poetry like that. I knew then, that this was for me.”

Dower went on to get a B.F.A. in Creative Writing, and would later move to Los Angeles where she began her own company for public relations with authors. She soon took a hiatus from poetry but after a while, the writing returned.

“It was never gone,” Dower said. “My son went to college. I knew that things were changing. I represented so many writers that I really felt that I wanted to get in there. The things that they struggle with and I watched them do. And I thought, it’s time I should be doing this too.”

For Dower, poetry is alive and strong in our modern, contemporary culture.

“A lot of people are writing poetry. Poetry is a thriving force on the Internet, “ Dower said. “There are a lot of poets, rap artists and spoken words. I go to writing festivals, and they are packed with people. I think poetry is happening, it’s alive and it’s vibrant in many different ways and in many different forms. My shelves are filled with new books that are coming out. I think there is a lot of great work being done and I think it’s an exciting time to be a writer.”

Dower left some encouraging words for the aspiring poet, or even just the creatively inclined.

“You don’t need paintbrushes,” Dower said, concerning one’s inner poet. “You don’t need paints, you don’t need canvases, you don’t need a stage, you don’t need musical instruments. It’s just your brain and a pen and a piece of paper. And it’s always there. It’s always inside you. It’s always ready when you are.”