Photographed by Michael Nicolas Delgado
Susan Hayden, an extroverted introvert does the TribeLA Magazine Acrostic Interview
[hoot_dropcap]Tagline: Give yourself and your work a Tagline and tell us why.[/hoot_dropcap]
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[hoot_dropcap]Rest: How do you spend your time off?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: Never resting! I attend as many live events as I can squeeze into one week, mostly to support friends who are poets, musicians, artists, actors and playwrights.
[hoot_dropcap]Influence: How do you hope to affect your audience?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: I learned the importance of community after experiencing the sudden loss of my husband and creative partner. I learned how to show up for others by being blessed by those who showed up for me. I made a choice — the only choice, to move forward and rebuild. Loss changed me into a community builder, and (outside of my greatest gift, being a mother), I truly live for bringing people together. I feel like it is my responsibility now to help others understand that they can find meaning in their lives again after losing a loved one. A grief specialist I know, Randi Pearlman Wolfson, says that, “Grief needs a voice.” Writing has been a way for me to heal, and to know where I stand with myself. But so has creating and producing my show, Library Girl, now in its 9th year at the Ruskin Group Theatre. This monthly event anchors me, while giving other writers, as well as musicians, a platform and a real listening audience. I feel joyous and purposeful, being able to provide a place for artists to convene and express themselves. My ongoing wish is that the show’s participants, as well as the audience, come away with a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
[hoot_dropcap]Back: If you could go Back and choose a past literary/art/music movement to be a part of, which would you choose?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: Call me cliché, but I’m a 27 rue de Fleurus/Gertrude-Stein kind of woman. I’d take any Saturday night, between 1903-1938.
[hoot_dropcap]Energy: What fires you up and give’s you Energy?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: “Long walks and intimate talks,” as Grace Paley once wrote. I start nearly every day by walking and talking with my treasured friend and confidante, Jesse Welles Nathan, who is the best storyteller I know. The routine of our parallel trail keeps me at once rooted and energized.
[hoot_dropcap]Los Angeles: Where is your favorite place in Los Angeles and where would you take visitors? If you could defend the city in one sentence to someone who doubts it, what would you say?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: Anywhere my son, singer-songwriter Mason Summit, happens to be performing. And also, I love hanging out with my close friends, artist Rhonda Voo and her husband, marketing genius Eric Alan, in Happy New House, the architectural gem they live in. Rhonda makes her incredible art in her studio there, and Eric makes the best home-cooked meals. His specialty is the deconstructed wedge. We sit around and discuss everything from Westwood Village in the 1970s to the disappearance and the impending comeback of Green Goddess dressing. They’re like a second family.
I would take visitors to my favorite haunts near my house in Santa Monica, like McCabe’s Guitar Shop for a weekend concert; Fedora Primo for a new hat; Love Coffee for the best coffee in the area; Lunetta All Day for food.
If you don’t like it, LEAVE! We need more room here, anyway.
[hoot_dropcap]Advice: What is the best Advice you’ve received? What is the best advice you can give?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: Years ago, a teacher of mine at Padua Playwrights, John O’Keefe, told our class to stop waiting for someone to produce our work and to take charge of our own creative lives. These were his words: “Do you feel like you’re missing something because you weren’t invited in by someone else? Do it yourself.” This gave me the courage to create and produce literary events, which I’ve been doing, off and on, since 1989. I would give this exact same advice to anyone who felt disconnected from community and longed for a place to express and connect: Create your own.
[hoot_dropcap]Writing: How long have you been writing and do you have a particular stream of thought that is present in all of your writing?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: I started writing consistently in the late 70s. There was this class in high school called “Awareness In Living” that was a breakthrough and got me thinking in a new way. One of our ongoing assignments was to keep a journal. I found that I couldn’t live without it. That grew into writing poetry, and later, one-act plays, short fiction, essays, and eventually, a novel. I have always been on a quest for “home” and that is the underpinning of everything I write.
[hoot_dropcap]Room: Where is your favorite room to work and why?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: I write in my bedroom, on my bed. It’s my cozy spot.
[hoot_dropcap]Indulgence: What is your favorite Indulgence? Do you cook? What is your specialty meal? What is your favorite restaurant in LA where you indulge yourself?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: Traveling is my favorite indulgence, and has become much more important to me since my husband died. I don’t travel enough, but when I do, I do it right, as in, I can’t control myself from upgrading, which makes it a double-indulgence.
I’m not a main-course cook, don’t have a specialty meal, but I did get The Baking Gene from my Grandma Gertie and I used to be known for my triple-chip cookies. I’d even thought of starting a business selling them, but at some point, my desire to bake fell away. I hope it comes back again, because it made certain people quite content.
My favorite restaurant is Musso & Frank. I could go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and would, except it takes forever to try and get there from Santa Monica. My friend, the amazing poet/publisher Iris Berry, introduced me to The Marilyn Booth, and now I have to sit in it every time I’m there or I’m not happy.
[hoot_dropcap]Time: What is your all-time favorite piece of art that you created and why?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: My play, Tent Show, which I began writing at Padua Playwrights in 1989 from a prompt that writer John Steppling gave our class. That playwriting exercise was intended to get us over ourselves and our own stories, by writing about 2-3 people we’d never met, in a place where we’d never been, and have them talk about big ideas, their values and viewpoints. I found that it freed me. The voices came through in the most natural way and the play kind of wrote itself. It took place in a traveling carnival and was about a love triangle between carnies: a low-budget chanteuse, a magician and a drifter. And I had the honor of seeing it all come to life at The Met Theatre in Los Angeles, starring O-Lan Jones, Tom Bower and Arliss Howard. I remember the actor Seymour Cassel seeing the play and asking me where I was from, and I had to answer, Encino. He was stunned, and wondered out loud how I could have known so much about those characters, that his parents were from the carny world and I’d captured it.
[hoot_dropcap]Energy: How would you describe your energy, style, etc.?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: I’m an extroverted introvert, a shy person who pushes herself out in the world to connect. Sometimes this juxtaposition makes me feel turbulent inside. I definitely worry too much. But I would say, at best, I am enthusiastic, supportive and energetic. My personal style is inspired most by Ali MacGraw, especially during The Getaway years with Steve McQueen: scarves, hats, flowery dresses, tall boots, lots of chokers, necklaces and rings.
[hoot_dropcap]Reflect: Any last words about your writing, future projects and on being a successful writer in Los Angeles?[/hoot_dropcap]
Susan: I’ve been slowly creating a multi-disciplinary theatre piece about grief and healing. It will include story-poems, scenes with actors, live music, recorded music and a slideshow. I’d like to present it for just one night, as a commemoration. I’m also writing more essays these days, which feels right for right now. I’m not as disciplined as I used to be. I’m not writing enough. I hope that changes over time. Success for me means actually doing my work.
Susan Hayden is a poet, playwright, novelist & essayist. For three decades, she has been a fixture in the Los Angeles spoken-word community. Susan writes about being lost and found, about identity and belonging, and about love, grief and healing. Her plays have been produced at The Met Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s LA WinterFest, South Coast Rep’s Nexus Project, Mark Taper Forum’s Other Voices, Ruskin Group Theatre’s CafePlays, etc. Her novel, Cat Stevens Saved My Life, was a Top 100 Finalist in the Inaugural Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award with Penguin Press. Her fiction has appeared in Storie: All Write, The Black Body, and on Jewish.com.
Last year, her story, City of Rocks, a Finalist in the Tara Fellowship for Short Fiction (Heekin Group Foundation) was featured in the online journal, Angels Flight literary west (aflwmag.com). Recently, her work has been published in two anthologies: The bestselling “Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine: Los Angeles in the 1970s” (Rare Bird Lit, Nov. 2016) & “I Might Be The Person You Are Talking To: Short Plays From The Los Angeles Underground” (Padua Playwrights Press, July 2015).
Susan is the Creator/Producer & Curator of the monthly, mixed-genre literary series, Library Girl, now in its 9thyear at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, CA. She donates all proceeds for her show to the Ruskin Theatre. In 2015, she was presented with the Bruria Finkel/Artist In The Community Award by the Santa Monica Arts Commission for her “significant contributions to the energetic discourse within Santa Monica’s arts community.” Hayden’s proudest achievement has been raising her son, singer-songwriter Mason Summit.
You can reach Susan on Instagram: http://instagram.com/librarygirlpresents
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susanelizabethhayden?ref=tn_tnmn
AND upcoming links are here:
Library Girl has two shows in May!
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