News: 10/17/2012  

The Far East : Everything Just As It Is

Almost a year ago, we invited you out to a photo safari in East County as part of a developing project, The Far East.

The project was the brainchild of Mindy Solis, a pal of mine and fellow East County native. Seeing enormous potential in the possibility of creating a forum to tell the stories of our hometown, Solis teamed up with Justin Hudnall of So Say We All and together with a Creative Catalyst grant from the San Diego Foundation, they compiled the first edition of The Far East: Everything Just As It Is.

“The first creative question we had to answer--how do you tell the story of a county?-- is that you don't. You spend the time and create opportunities for people to tell their stories for themselves,” says Hudnall, who has plans to continue the project beyond a first edition with a more historical and journalistic approach.  “What results from all of the individual stories and truths is a cumulative narrative, where no one perspective has dominance or the authority to define for the reader what they should think or believe.”

After a long year and a packed list of collaborators, The Far East: Everything Just As It Is stages its debut tonight at the Lester Bangs Memorial Reading, taking place at Grossmont College. I sat down with Mindy to ask her about the process.

What was the impetus behind The Far East (TFE) and why do you feel East County is worth making an entire book about?

The Far East: Everything Just As It Is, is my attempt to sort of put to rest the idea of creating works based on nostalgia. I spent a lot of time writing poems and stories centered on El Cajon. It was what was familiar: the transients, the unbearable heat, the asphalt, and cement of the city, mingled amongst weeds and bubble gum wads. It was all of these things coexisting, this city failing to bloom into what most people would find beautiful, yet somehow in my eyes, these things became the only things that were worth looking at because they were real. Real pain and suffering, and even joy, realized in a stranger walking down the street, or a teenager shoving a stroller down Main Street.

When I ditched the path to college and opted for creative writing classes at Grossmont instead, I found a whole community of writers like me, spending a great deal of attention to East County. It reverberated in their poems and short stories and left me with a feeling of strange hope. Creating good work out of bad circumstances had a healing power and a power to connect me to other writers. My classmates helped me see that this place affects people in a huge way, that it wasn't only me. They inspired me to collect writing with this place as the theme, and eventually have the opportunity to let it go. I initially saw The Far East taking form in a zine, with just a few authors writing about their experiences in East County and making a cassette tape of music with the authors reading along. Then I got connected with Justin Hudnall who sees things bigger than I do. He helped make the project into something more broad than just a compilation of writing when he applied for the grant that made this publication possible and will in the future look at this place from a different angle.

In what ways have you seen TFE transform over the past year?

The Far East began as an idea for a zine that would be centered on East County. It wasn't going to be just a photocopied zine though, I wanted it to be interactive and include a cassette tape of writers reading their work to music, or even just some strange sound bytes from the local access TV channel I used to watch as a kid. Zines sometimes get this bad rap but I love them. When they are at their best they are these little pockets into peoples heads that don't really have any rules format-wise so they always look interesting. I solicited writers and artists and ended up connecting with Justin Hudnall and he saw The Far East as a much larger project than a zine. We talked about it and decided to partner and things just grew from there. Justin applied for a grant with the San Diego Foundation to create a people's history of East County, ended up winning and opened a lot of doors for us. Now The Far East has a much larger scope than I ever imagined.

This first book, Everything Just As It Is, is a collection of short stories, poems, art, photography, and music. So many people ended up coming out of the woodwork to help out and I am so thankful. My next door neighbor, Amy Krone kindly offered to design the book and did an amazing job. My friend Greg Smaller (of Labs) ended up creating music to some of the pieces which will be included in a CD that will be inside of the book. Theresa and Larry at In to Ink created really neat letterpress covers and packaging for the book. Sydney Brown helped get half of the submissions. It really was a group effort. Meanwhile, Justin and some others have been hard at work this whole year interviewing various residents for a second book which will take a journalistic approach and cover more of an oral history of East County.

What kind of experiences did you have that you didn't predict (or did and still blew your mind)?

Sometimes when I am making something there is this weird sort of urgency that comes into play. Sometimes it naturally just works out okay, the thing gets done, whatever it might be, but that is usually when I am working alone because there is no one to muster over things with.

With The Far East this was definitely the thing I had to deal with most. One drunken night I vented to a friend about how difficult it is to work in a group setting and be opinionated, yet not know exactly how to voice how you are feeling in a way that gets you supported. She gave me this great token of wisdom, the Fear Mantra from the book Dune, and it really changed my perspective and made me believe in myself more. There were a number of times I had to really prove to people that my ideas were good ones and it was really hard on me. I learned it’s best to show concrete examples than talk about ideas.

What will tonight’s event be all about?

The Lester Bangs Memorial Reading is going to be our book release and live reading with audio accompaniment by Labs. Nine of the writers from the book will be reading their pieces set to ambient/drone. Grossmont College puts the reading on annually in memory of the famed writer who once attended Grossmont.

What do you see in the future for The Far East?

I'm not really sure. I've just focused on this book for a year and I'm ready to move forward onto new projects. Hopefully, we can put on at least one more show related to Everything just As It Is and get the book in some stores so it will be readily available.  I know those working on the next book have a lot of work in store for them and my main hope is that whatever comes out of this people feel connected with the work we create in some way.

Interviewed by Angella d’Avignon. For full interview visit:


The Far East: Everything Just As It Is and Lester Bangs Memorial Reading is tonight at 7pm at Grossmont College, Griffin Gate.
Facebook Event.

Photos by Mindy Solis and Matt Lewis, poster by Dusty Dirtweed.

Tags: So Say We All, The Far East, mindy solis, grossmont college

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