Sunday, December 13, 2015

Las Lunas Locas

Olga García Echeverría

Hay lunas que se ocultan. Hay lunas llenas y brillantes. Hay lunas que se despedazan poco a poquito, broken moons that become slivers of silver or dangling half domes en el cielo. And then, there are the other moons--Las Lunas Locas, a womyn's writing collective orbiting the literary mundo en Los Angeles. These Lunas are escritoras who gather weekly at Here & Now, an alternative and holistic healing art studio in El Sereno. These moon womyn have been meeting for the past year and they are branching out beyond writing and workshopping.

But who exactly are these escritoras lunáticas of the eastside and what are they so crazy about? The two founders and facilitators of Las Lunas Locas, Karineh Mahdessian and Sophia Rivera, are sharing with us a bit about their group and their creative mission and vision.

Welcome Karineh and Sophia! First and foremost who are Las Lunas Locas?

Lunas, as we have come to be known lovingly, are fierce self-identifying womyn. They come from all walks of life and are interested in exploring their relationship to words and writing. These womyn are mothers, daughters, artists, activists, healers, students, teachers, community members.

What motivated you to start this weekly writing group for women in El Sereno?

Karineh: I had been part of In the Words of Womyn which is an all womyn writing circle out of Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center and Bookstore and had wanted to create something similar closer to home. When I met Sophia at a workshop that Mujeres de Maiz had hosted, I mentioned to her about my writing circle. It was too long of a commute and it sparked an idea to co-create a space on the “eastside.” When Here and Now opened up, I asked Iris De Anda if we could hold our circle there. We wanted a space that was safe and closed. As a way of preserving the group's sacredness, we did not want Lunas to meet at a coffee shop. There is a lot of personal sharing that takes place at the circle each Monday night and we wanted to maintain its safety.

Sophia: When I moved back to California after making a difficult decision to leave grad school, I was desperately searching for community and a way to heal from the painful transition of returning home. It was at that point where I met Karineh at the Mujeres de Maiz writing workshops. It was so healing for me to be surrounded by other womyn writing, creating and communing. I think I might have said aloud to Karineh, “I wish there was something like this all the time,” and it grew from there. She told me about In the Words of Womyn and I knew I wanted to be a part of a womyn’s writing circle, it was just a matter of distance. A few months after our conversation, we met up again, came up with a name and description, and sent the call out. A year later, Las Lunas Locas has been an integral part of my survival and healing process. There is an incredible power that comes from womyn gathering; I swear, it’s magic when we come together to write.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of what an evening with Las Lunas Locas looks like?

Every Monday night, we meet at Here & Now and it feels more like a gathering of friends and family. We check in, share community events, we write for thirteen minutes, no more and no less, and we share. There is feedback, discussion, sometimes tears, sometimes lots of laughter, hugs and photos happen after.

So, are Las Lunas Locas really locas? How did your nombre lunático come about?

We knew we wanted to name ourselves that which spoke to us, the moon is the most feminine of it all. And womyn often tend to be thought of as “crazy” and “emotional.” In this capacity, we wanted to celebrate all things that are often misjudged and ridiculed. The naming of Las Lunas Locas allows for embracing all that is wonderful and challenging about being a womyn in a patriarchal and misogynistic society.

Las Lunas Locas Selfie

You had your one year anniversary in July. Felicidades! In this first year of Las Lunas Locas what have been the biggest rewards?

We are blessed that Lunas continues to grow and expand each week. The biggest reward has been seeing womyn connect and share and own all of themselves. Womyn connect instantly. I joke when I say that Lunas is my gang, but when I think about it, it really is. We support instantly and unconditionally. Lunas has become so much more than just womyn gathering to write. We laugh together. We cry together. We rely on each other. We seek advice and share our challenges.

Are there any restrictions regarding who can attend Las Lunas Locas?

From the beginning of Las Lunas Locas we wanted to create a safe and brave space for womyn to come together and write, to be heard, and to gather as a community of womyn, whether folks considered themselves writers or not, for this reason our circle is for adult womyn and womyn identified individuals.

Las Lunas Locas with Sandra Cisneros

I saw a group of you recently at the Sandra Cisneros reading in Long Beach and I also heard you are having a retreat. From group activities to public readings, it sounds like you are moving well beyond a writing group that focuses merely on the page. Can you speak to this aspect of your group and why you feel it's important?

We have truly become a community, a clicka of sorts! And this happened so organically, because when you are on the margins, you tend to find people who are on the margins right there with you. In coming together to write, and to share we have also become a support system for one another. We show up for one another – be it support for a reading, encouraging Lunas to submit their work, offering a meal or hugs for folks having a rough time, checking-in, sharing a job opportunity, even changing a Luna’s tire! You name it, we do what we can to be there for one another beyond the circle. We believe that this is vital – not only for us as womyn writing but as womyn supporting womyn.

Where are the Las Lunas Locas going next?

We are planning for the next year of Luna adventures. In March we’ll be featuring at Voz Tinta at Alley Cat Books in San Francisco at the invitation of San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia. We are in the midst of organizing a weekend retreat in the spring, an anthology and release party in the summer, and possibly a road trip across the southwest to share the Lunas Locas love.

Gracias, Sophia and Karineh! May the Lunas Locas love shine on. If you are in LA, you can check out Las Lunas Locas today from 2:00-4:00 at Avenue 50 in Highland Park as part of La Palabra reading series.

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