No two writers were alike in content or form, yet they all shared one trait: They engaged both ethos and pathos.
This rang true to the name of the publication that brought them together this past First Friday — Phren-Z (pronounced “frenzy”). The Greek root “phren” refers to the heart and mind, and the Z stands for zine, short for magazine. Unlike what some might cynically expect of a zine, Phren-Z brings together established local writers for a polished professional publication.
Phren-Z’s live launch party at the Museum of Art and History (MAH) in downtown Santa Cruz was an emotional and intellectual experience that showcased a selection of works from the zine’s flagship issue, which launched this past Valentine’s Day.
The event began promptly at 5 p.m. at the MAH, where a predominantly older crowd packed the room. Guests trickling in late found there was only standing room in the crowd of around 70.
Through publishing work by Santa Cruz writers, the grassroots organization Phren-Z helps to enhance writing opportunities for local established and emerging artists.
Writers read their own work during the event. Their content ranged from poetry about angels, to fiction novels about love, to memoirs about first love, to essays about why they write.
The room was filled with laughter as Wallace Baine, an arts and entertainment writer from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, read his laundry list essay, “Why I Write.” The humorous and cynical yet extremely truthful essay began, “I write because painting involves clean-up … I write because sculptors always have bruised and cut-up hands, and stand-up comics rarely get to bed before 3 a.m.” He finished by sentimentally saying “writing is the only truly private art.”
Although Baine pokes fun at writing as a career, in the end it is what he and the other writers of the evening all have in common — a passion for writing.
Karen Tei Yamashita, a current UC Santa Cruz professor of literature and creative writing, read an excerpt from her novel “I-Hotel,” a National Book Award finalist. Poised and eloquent, Yamashita provided the audience with a glimpse into the struggle of the civil rights movement in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
The night ended on a heartfelt note by honoring recently deceased Santa Cruz writer Morton Marcus. His wife, Donna Mekis, read some of her favorite pieces Marcus wrote before he died. Phren-Z did a special “floodlight feature,” which illuminates an event, person or interest of the local literary community. Phren-Z gave away free copies of Marcus’ memoir, “Striking Through the Mask,” provided by the Capitola Book Company and Ow Family Properties.
Attending the Phren-Z event not only reaffirmed my passion for writing, but inspired me to continue to write and to never feel that writing is a lost art you can’t make a career out of. Phren-Z creates a support system for the local writing community. The frequent updates on their website will inspire you to get out your pen and paper and write down your thoughts.