Summer of Asian American Stories

Dear Humanity,

As we head into the fall season in Chicagoland, I wanted to take one last look back at what an incredible summer it has been for this story-gatherer. Every culture and group has its stories. Now, more than ever, is a time when stories can help human communities uplift, survive in love and honesty, be brave, thrive, and heal. Here were the “Top 5” highlights of my summer. I hope you found rich and profound stories to sustain and nourish you, too:

5. George Takei and Gaman. Resilience. Went to hear Uncle George speak about his time in an American internment camp, taken at 5 years old at gunpoint. Through Japanese American internment, the Civil Rights Movement, Marriage Equality, and Hollywood, Uncle George has expressed an indomitable human spirit, sense of humor, and grace. He has a profound belief in the practice of democracy. Gaman: the Japanese word for enduring the impossible with patience and dignity. Check out the song in his musical, Allegiance.

4. The First Asian American Literature Festival. Traveled to Washington, D.C. for this amazing gathering of Asian American poets, performers, writers, scholars, and lovers of the written and spoken word. Asian Am Lit rang in the corridors, stages, and galleries of the Smithsonian, the Phillips Collection, Dupont Underground, and the (OMG!) Library of Congress. So inspiring: Li Young Lee, Regie Cabico, Sarah Gambito, Gowri K., Gene Oishi, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, Franny Choi, Sejal Sha, Karen Mei Yamashita, and all. Readings, workshops, book vendors, editors, poetry slam, literaoke, pop-up dessert bar. Kudos to the Asian Pacfic American Center  (APAC) of the Smithsonian and Kundiman for creating this space in our nation’s capitol.

3. Sssst! Tagalog Camp. Taught a Tagalog language class for kids. The sense of cultural continuity and the kids’ freshness gave me hope. Reconnected with my dear friend, Elaine, a talented photographer, and we’re revisiting our book project of Filipino American women’s stories.

2. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Daytrip with my friend Scott into the shush of prairie grasses, the search for elusive bison, dizzying butterflies and grasshoppers, golden Alexanders, prairie sunflowers, and purple thistle waving in the wind.

1.The Banyan, Asian American Writers’ Collective Inaugural Celebration. Gathered and organized with local Asian Am writers to read our works and launch Samina Hadi-Tabassum’s book of poetry, Muslim Melancholia. We had an intergenerational audience, ages 4 days old to 70+ and packed the Oak Park Main Library with stories, food, Asian Am visual art, music, and kids’ activities. Worked with Riksha Magazine to share stories that were nakakaaliwuplifting. More to come? Yes, please.

I know, I know. Technically #2 isn’t full of Asian American stories. Or even human stories. But the Flowers and Grasses have their tales to tell, too. The act of getting quiet and listening to their wordless existence brought me peace. From the Flowers to me, may the peace spread to you.


Mary Grace

Donations Drive for the Philippines

HurricaneRelief_flyer_2013_web‘Tis the season of giving. My friends and I in the Oak Park Arts District are organizing a Donation Drive for the Philippines through December 30th. Please consider donating canned goods, tee shirts, first aid kits, blankets, or toiletries to the families devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Drop boxes are located on and around Harrison Street: Buzz Cafe, Magical Minds Studio, Bead in Hand, Val’s Halla Records, Musikgarten of Oak Park, and East Gate Cafe. Spread the word. Thanks, in advance, for your generosity of spirit!

Taleblazers Event – Neophyte Novelist: Open Write-a-thon

Neophyte Novelist 2013






Young authors drop in, play with writing prompts and story games. Light refreshments. This Saturday, November 16th. 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Ages: 7-15. $10.00 At 321B Harrison in the Oak Park Arts District. Join the Holiday Lights fun.

Boo! Taleblazer Halloween Workshops

Spells & Potions Flier 2013-page-001

Last year, my students came up with their own spells and potions and even performed them at the end. The power of imagination is wonderfully fun.

Have an enchanted Halloween! Two October workshops this year. Twice the fun & more dates. Wand-waving & Magical Writing: Spells Workshop (10/19 morning or 10/20 afternoon) and Eye of Newt: Potions Workshop (10/26 morning or 10/27 afternoon). $20.00. Includes writing materials. Ages 8-12. For details and registration, go to:

Happy 40th Birthday, Val’s halla!

Val of Val's halla


Let’s show Val Camilletti how much her family’s business has meant to our community of music aficionados. Did you hang out at Val’s after school? Launch your band from the Val’s halla stage? What awesome music were you introduced to? Did it change your life? Please be specific. Send me a paragraph of your memories from the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s, or 2000’s. Val’s Halla has provided four decades of musical influence and support in Chicagoland. Let’s return the love.  Juiciest stories will be posted to my blog, the OPAD website, and other local e-news sites. All love letters will be forwarded to Val herself to celebrate hallaPalooza the weekend of July 28th  in the Oak Park Arts District.


–          Submit 1 paragraph (3-5 sentences).

–          Include your name, age, occupation/student status/band name, city, & contact info.

–          Date of your memory, especially decade.

–          Plus: 1 extra line of well-wishes or birthday greetings.

–          Subject header: “hallaPalooza”

–          Digital photo if the spirit moves you.

–          By submitting your memory-paragraph and/or photo, you are giving permission to have them published online and on other media to promote & celebrate hallaPalooza.

–          Deadline:  ASAP through 7/27/12.


–          M.G. Bertulfo,

–          (708) 317-TALE

Thanks and rock on!

Taleblazers, creative writing workshops for kids


It has been a fun and busy summer. I taught 4 creative writing classes for kids in the vibrant Oak Park Arts District Summer Camp. It was a joyous time! My favorite moments: Seeing one student gripped by her imagination and shaking from the excitement of the Story that was unfolding on the Page. Helping one young writer realize first drafts can be messy – very liberating. Listening to my five, six, and seven year old students play djembe and xylophone and read a poem full of sound words (onomatopoeia) they had invented. Zimbitty-zimbitty! Boom-boom!

The wild ride continues this fall. From Oct 1 – Nov 19, I’m offering a Taleblazers class called Audacious Authors (Ages 7-11), a facilitated writing group for kids who love writing. Saturdays, 2:15 – 3:45 p.m. Writing games, skits, role-plays, and examples of how professional writers play with and edit their own pieces. Encouragement, fun, and a gentle approach. Kids can come scribble & play with words! It’s a supportive way for young authors to stretch their wings. For more info and to register, go to

Questions? Drop me an email at: Or ring me at: (708) 317-TALE.

With joy,

Mary Grace

(aka Ms. M.G.)