"Make it real, make it plain, and tell the whole story." Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

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HOUSING WORKS

MAY 4th • MANHATTAN

We met our first resident writer Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on a rainy saturday morning at the iconic Housing Works Bookstore. All of us needed a cup of coffee. Luckily, they have a cafe, and a great one at that– all volunteer run. Located right below busy Houston street in the strangely liminal area between the East Village and Soho, the expansive location transforms used and donated books into one of the more organized and pleasing bookstores in the city. We placed Kelly Jean in the upstairs where there is a vantage of both the street and the bustling bookmongers below. When we realized they couldn’t provide electricity, Kelly Jean improvised beautifully. She is working on a memoir “My Prom was Better Than/Worse Than Yours.” Here are some of her impressions:

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"Make it real, make it plain, and tell the whole story."

Congressman John Lewis presented this as the mission statement for March a graphic novel trilogy that brought the civil rights movement and Lewis's own incredible story to life. When I arrived at Housing Works Bookstore and discovered that my writing perch wasn't within reach of an electrical outlet (the horror... the horror...), I found this March journal in the "For Sale" stacks near the register. What a treasure! I loved sharing the graphic novel with my students and waiting for me in this writing space provided by the 360 residency was a journal that invited me to dream, plan, and fight. I've struggled for years to tell the story of my prom both verbally and on the page. I've quit more times than I like to think about, and I have a lot of work ahead to bring the story of that night into the world. But, now, I have a mantra to silence the siren song of insecurity: make it real. make it plain. tell the whole story! 

Read and out more about her work at http://www.kellyjeanfitzsimmons.com/ 

360 Minutes. One turn of the wheel. The One Day Residency Experiment.

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This is an experiment of time & space. How creativity ripples in the ordinary and how sometimes we just need to have an appointment to show up for ourselves and do the work.

Each month, we’ll have a number of creative residents who we matched with spaces around the city for just 360 minutes. A small container but also a surprisingly generous time to focus.

There are no requirements save one during the time — a post about the process, place or one’s own work. Here is a continuing blog of these reflections, along with some info about the spaces and some of our thoughts. Maybe you’ll be inspired to apply to be a 360 resident yourself or just go somewhere new and set up shop for a day. (If you’d like our little card: “do not disturb. resident in progress.” email us!)

Dhira & Julia
Holes in the Wall Collective

"There are many ways to be an american." Jhon Sanchez. American Legion Post 1291

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AMERICAN LEGION

MAY 4th • CHINATOWN MANHATTAN

We met Jhon in Columbus Park among the older Chinese men and women playing cards and Mah Jong despite the drizzly weather. A writer, Jhon was going to be working on new material. We encouraged him first to take a walk for an hour throughout Chinatown to take in his context before meeting us at the American Legion on Canal St.

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We were warmly greeted by Gabe and Shawn at the Legion post, who showed us around and whisked us a few blocks away through the rain to the Sons of the Legion group, huddled under a tent giving out American flags. Gabe was concerned there wasn’t going to be enough going on at the Legion, but we assured him just the space itself, imbued with all it is, can be the perfect thing for a writer. Here’s Jhon’s post:


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There are many ways to be an American.

I’m writing from the American Legion in Chinatown.  I usually take naps while writing, but here they keep me up. A Chinese woman showed me where the coffee was every time she saw me dozing off. I guess I had to be always ready in the American Legion. I’m very thankful for their hospitality.


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Post Script: A reflection on the flag. This American Legion post was created after WWI like many other American Legions, built after the World Wars. This post, unlike most yet not singularly, holds the rare position of holding space for a legacy of war time veterans once excluded from the very shores it fought for.  A series of acts and treaties were on the books starting in 1882. Colloquially known as the Chinese Exclusion act, each one pertaining to the ethnic exclusion of Chinese laborers and people.  Not until December of ‘43 were 105 Chinese people allowed to enter per year– opening the door for Chinese male immigrants, if they made it in, to fight baring stripes and stars. Not until the abolishment of direct racial barriers (Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952), and later the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, was the National Origins Formula abolished and with it Chinese exclusion.

And if you have not read up on your ninth grade history (or maybe Zinn) in a while, I recommend reading up on this one: the National Origins Formula was an American system of immigration quotas, used between 1921 and 1965, which restricted immigration on the basis of existing proportions of the population. It aimed to reduce the overall number of unskilled immigrants (especially from Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia), to allow families to re-unite, and to prevent immigration from changing the ethnic distribution of the largely Protestant Northwestern European-descended United States population. (Thanks Wikipedia)

Sound Familiar?  1965 was not that long ago.  For me, my parents generation; for many, your own. 

This group holding the American flag… waving a particular pride.  One that I relate to with a different charm– one that bares equally, if not more, a pride of belonging, of being allowed to belong.
- Julia