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Voices of Chicago

Welcome to the Writers Workshop

The Undeniables writers workshop was formed in 1999, inspired by a chapter from the novel VALLEY (Bend Press, 1998), by Mike Daily. Edren Sumagaysay and I had met the previous year in a touring theatre troupe based in Los Angeles, and got to talking about a mutual passion for writing while holed up between shows in a Maryland motel. We had both recently read Mike Daily’s then newly released novel, and wanted to host a writers workshop of our own. The first workshop was held in my apartment on 163rd Street in Gardena, CA, a two-day affair attended by Edren, myself, and five others. The purpose was simple: to better our craft.

Erik Matsunaga

We continued this workshop for the next number of years with weekly meetings in the corner booth of a downtown Los Angeles tavern. Upon my return to Chicago, Edren and I maintained the workshop as a two-man exchange of correspondence until 2007, when we decided to go online and invite others to share in our method. We had one rule: write every day. Surprisingly, we attracted an international community of hundreds of writers who found that adhering to our one rule was much more difficult than it seemed.

We experimented with session lengths and genres and came to a standard formula—write every day in one genre, for two months. A couple years later we decided there was enough material to edit an anthology, and developed The Undeniables into a legal publishing entity. “The Undeniables” refers to our quest for “undeniability” in our writing—a state that dictates one may not like our individual writing styles, our stories, one may not agree with our larger method of doing things, but in the end, nobody can deny the fact that whatever it is we do we do it well and with honest intent. It is a constant struggle.

{who the hell do we think we are}


{who the hell do we think we are}
(The Undeniables, 2009) was our premier publication, containing the writings of ten workshoppers who met a set criteria of having been participants for at least two sessions and/or having written one hundred-twenty posts. Genres represented in this anthology included Poetry, Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novella, and Correspondence. Not long after publication, this book was chosen as coursework at California State University, Northridge.


Since then, we have published four other emerging authors:

signaling

Traci Kato-Kiriyama’s first book of poetry, signaling (The Undeniables, 2010), deals with a “particular time and place in the world for a woman in love with Los Angeles, and the process of digging for the truth underneath our multiple identities.” Traci is a multi-disciplinary artist, educator, and organizer based in Los Angeles who travels extensively giving readings, workshops, and performances. She is the producer and founder of The Tuesday Night Project, a multi-disciplinary arts venue in the Little Tokyo district of Downtown Los Angeles, which focuses on local artists and emerging work from the APIA community and beyond.

Cross-Eyed Stars


Edren Sumagaysay’s first book, Cross-Eyed Stars and Other Stories (The Undeniables, 2010), is “a compilation of short stories, letters, and even shorter stories that tell a larger, ten-year story about video games, friendship, and love.” Edren is a case manager for an anti-gang youth program in Los Angeles. He has toured nationally as a cast member of hereandnow Theatre Company and Zero3, and was the winner of the second annual poetry slam at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture in Los Angeles. He is a co-founder of The Undeniables.

Cherry Colored Broken Pious


Vicky Luu’s first book, Cherry Colored & Broken Pious (The Undeniables, 2010), contains two novellas whose stories concern the roller coaster identity of young Chinese American queer women. Vicky is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Los Angeles. She graduated the University of Southern California with a degree in Film/Television Production and is a co-founder and producer of Pearl Girl Productions, a collaboration of queer and queer-allied Asian women whose mission is to impact social consciousness with positive representations of queer Asians.

Escaping The Rain


Khanh Nguyen’s first novel, Escaping the Rain (The Undeniables, 2011), is a story of three unlikely travel companions united in hopes of accomplishing their one dream, “to see” Tibet—a goal that takes them from high-paced Hong Kong to the quiet rurality of Yunnan Province. Khanh lives and works in San Francisco as a Software Engineer whose every day discipline with The Undeniables resulted in his emergence as a novelist. He currently hosts The Undeniables SF, a Bay Area branch of the workshop with frequent literary meetups and discussions.

All of our thusly published works have been homegrown, written and edited within the structure of The Undeniables writers workshop. As of November 2011, we are four years and twenty-six sessions into our online incarnation, and have welcomed an international community of writers hailing from the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, and England. Our participants have run the gamut from published authors to educators, blue collar to white collar, young to old, all colors, creeds, sexual orientations, those who want to publish to those who simply enjoy getting better, and many who never thought they had any stories worth writing down. Multi-disciplinary artists, organizers, students, professionals, wage workers, stay-at-home moms and dads. Our little group has become a microcosm of the world-at-large, and we want to keep getting better.

Edren Sumagaysay

In an odd turn of circumstance, Mike Daily—whose novel VALLEY inspired us to start this thing—joined the workshop a couple years back. His discipline with the every day across multiple sessions yielded numerous accepted submissions for outside publication. It continues to be our honor to count him as a colleague and friend, a sustained mentor of sorts whose participation brought us full-circle and affirmed our collective pursuit of the undeniable.

Although Edren remains in Los Angeles and I in Chicago, thanks to modern technology we have had the opportunity to grow out of that corner booth and into the shallows of larger literature. And we are still growing. Join us.

The Undeniables Website: theundeniables.org

*This article was originally published in Voices of Chicago, online journal of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.

© 2011 Chicago Japanese American Historical Society

book Erik Matsunaga literature poetry The Undeniables Traci Kato-Kiriyama workshop writers

About this series

The articles in this series were originally published in Voices of Chicago, the online journal of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, which has been a Discover Nikkei Participating Organization since December 2004.

Voices of Chicago is a collection of first-person narratives about the experiences of people of Japanese descent living in Chicago. The community is composed of three waves of immigration, and their descendants: The first, about 300 people, came to Chicago around the time of the Columbian Exposition in 1899. The second, and largest, group is descended from 30,000 who came to Chicago directly from the internment camps after World War II. Called the “ReSettlers,” they created a community built around social service organizations, Buddhist and Christian churches and small businesses. The third, more recent, group are Japanese nationals who came to Chicago, beginning in the 1980s, as artists and students and remained. A fourth, non-immigrant, group are Japanese business executives and their families who live in Chicago for extended periods, sometimes permanently.

Chicago has always been a place where people can re-create themselves, and where diverse ethnic communities live and work together. Voices of Chicago tells the stories of members of each of these four groups, and how they fit into the mosaic of a great city.

Visit the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society website >>