Summer Arts pick: Armen Bacon and Mark Arax in a Fresno State public reading

I envy the Summer Arts students of Armen Bacon and Mark Arax. I know firsthand their passion for words. Their course, “Writing from Life: Creative Ways to Tell Your Stories,” teaches “how to make memories into memoirs, ideas into essays, and life into literature.”

There’s a strong Fresno connection here, of course, when it comes to Bacon and Arax, who will offer a public reading at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at the John Wright Theatre. Both are prominent names on the local literary scene.

Bacon will read essay excerpts from her debut memoir, “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss, and Unlikely Friendship,” and her newest work, “Daring to Breathe.” She also was a longtime columnist for the Fresno Bee. In my favorite columns of hers, I admired her compassion, empathy and ability to navigate that sometimes fuzzy border between the personal and the public.

As for Arax — who was a longtime reporter for the Los Angeles Times — the best word I can find to describe his prose is that he makes you feel ensconced in whatever subject he’s writing about. I’m currently submerged in his latest, “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California.” It’s the kind of book that can forever change your attitude toward a place, particularly if you live in it; as I drove back to Fresno from the Bay Area the other day, I found myself gaping at the gargantuan ways humans (and particularly politicians and farmers) have altered my environment. (Also, my relationship with almonds has gotten more complicated, and I will likely think of Arax every time I walk past the new Resnick Student Union building at Fresno State. Which will be a lot of times, considering it’s next to my office.)

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As for those lucky students of Bacon and Arax, you’ll have a chance to hear their work at the second set of Student Showcases for Summer Arts. (The “Writing from Life” showcase is 2 p.m. Saturday.)

Here’s a list of all the showcases. Admission is free:



4 p.m. – ​Dance and Identity with Urban Bush Women Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre, Speech Arts Building
7:30 p.m. – ​Creating Digital Worlds in Game Engines​ for Film, ​Virtual Production, and Entertainment – Speech Arts 172 (TV Studio)​, Speech Arts Building. (This showcase involves interactivity, standing, and moving from station to station. Audience members will be escorted into the studio in small groups in intervals beginning at 7:30 p.m.)


11 a.m. – ​Off the Wall: Alternative Print Methods and Forms and ​Master Painting Class Student Showcases – John Wright Theatre, Speech Arts Building

2 p.m. – Writing from Life: Creative Ways to Tell Your Stories Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre, Speech Arts Building

4 p.m. – Hollywood Swashbuckling & the Art of Victorian Swordplay Student Showcase – John Wright Theatre, Speech Arts Building

7:30 p.m. – From Bomba to Timba: ​Afro-Caribbean Jazz in the 21st Century – Concert Hall, Music Building

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Tamara Carter

    Love your columns but wish we had had a little more notice on this event.
    (Bacon; Arax)


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