First Times

Posted by Jane Sim in featured | 2 Comments

As I chatted with artist Penny Lanese and writer Malinda Grace, I was reminded of the roles a safe environment and supportive friends have in making a “first time” a positive experience. They shared with me what showing artwork, work-shopping poetry, and having your writing published in a student chapbook for the first time felt like. And then, in honor of Mother’s Day, I had my mom interview me about walking out on my job for the first time. Moms, friends, event organizers – thank you for helping us feel safe when we’re stretching over and falling off.

First Art Walk Ever

A couple weeks ago, Old California Restaurant Row held its first Art Walk. Marilyn Huerta, the organizer, encouraged Penny Lanese to show her work at the event. Penny had never shown her work before publicly and was super nervous. You can even read about her anxiety on her blog post “Not Sketching but Doing?”.

Seeing Penny at the Art Walk all smiling and sunburned, I’d have never guessed that she’d been scared. She was in her element, sharing a booth with two other friends who were selling their work. And I actually mean selling! I spoke to multiple artists at the Art Walk that sold their work for the very first time that day.

Turns out, the art Penny planned to bring with her didn’t arrive in time, so she brought just one original print with her. The positive feedback she received was heartening and she credits Marilyn for making this first time showing her art publicly painless. Not only did Marilyn nudge her several times to participate in the Art Walk, but once Penny was there, Marilyn checked in with her several times to make sure she was comfortable and had everything she needed.

Another important factor in Penny’s confidence at the Art Walk was the companionship of her friends who were selling art at her table with her. Her husband Allen was there to support her too. She recommends the buddy system to anyone who is nervous about sharing their art for the first time. Penny and her friends played off each other well. She was particularly good at chatting people up when they first approached their table.

Penny’s excited to share more of her art at the next Art Walk, but she isn’t looking forward to pricing it. She still feels uncomfortable doing that. She’ll be manning her own table next time, and sell run offs of her digital prints of 5-10 copies max. She feels really strongly that the soul of a work is diminished when it’s overly reproduced. Check out some of her small daily sketches at, and even better, come view her full pieces at the next Art Walk on Sunday, June 3rd at Old California Restaurant Row from 2-5pm.

Malinda Grace Joins the Palomar Poets

On her first day of French class at Palomar College, one of Malinda’s fellow students left class early to set up a booth for a student org event. That was the first Malinda heard of the Palomar Poets, a student poetry club she’s now very involved in. After the traumatic experience of losing the collection of poetry she’d written during a years stay in Hawaii, Malinda was ready to start writing again.

At the first Palomar Poets meeting she attended, the members were passing around and work-shopping poetry to get ready for an upcoming submission deadline. Malinda brought her poem “Call Me into Your Dreams,” and was at first very taken aback by all the red ink left on everyone’s poems, including her own. Reflecting later on the advice she received, she was able revise her poem into something she liked even better, something she describes as more cerebral and less romantic than the original.

The work-shopping experience inspired her poem, “The Spilling,”  a work still in progress. The creative process of work-shopping with other poets gave her an image of picking and choosing nuggets of truth from a pristine garden which is then violently hacked to pieces and it’s delicious fruit chewed. I love that description and can’t wait to read part 2 and 3 of “The Spilling.” 

Next, she had her first experience reading her original version of “The Spilling” aloud at another Palomar Poets meeting. She was crazy nervous about reading in front of these fellow poets that she holds in high esteem, and especially embarrassed by her trembling hands. Everyone was blown away, though, and she received a lot of praise. Later, when she sat down with a fellow poet to really analyze her poem, they found a lot of changes to be made, and that showed her the difference between how a work might be received when heard verses when written.

Unfortunately, her most recent “first” was not a good experience at all. Her poetry submission to Bravura 2012, a Palomar Community College publication, was accepted and published. Her excitement at opening the beautiful publication filled with art work, short stories, and poetry (including her own!), turned to horror when she saw that her poem “Frame Your Message” was somehow printed with the last two lines of her completely different poem “Call Me into Your Dreams.” She feels like both of her poems were marred by that error. Editors, please be careful. Peoples “firsts” are in your hands.

Malinda remains hopeful, planning to submit her work again. Next year, she might write a short story.

First, my mom, Virginia, and I sat down and pretended I just drove up after quitting my job

Why are you here so early? Why do you look upset? What’s going on?

I left my job.

What happened?

I couldn’t keep it together. I was already emotional and negative when I walked into work this morning. Then I read the bad review my boss gave me.

Do you think he was being unfair?

Yeah. I got all ones, even for effort, I was trying. But he’s figured out that I’m not going to be able to close deals and the sooner I leave the better.

Did you see this coming?

Yeah. I wanted to wait until I was fired so I could collect unemployment or, better, try to stick it out three more months and transfer to a different department, but I reached my limit.

I don’t think sales is a good fit for you. You’re too honest at heart.

Well, yeah, and I like just listening to people and talking to them about all their different options. I can’t really direct then down one specific path like I needed to.

Another concern I had for you was the distance.

I missed being home, just in my community. Of course, I missed my kids and Jacob, but also I just hated never being around town.


Then, we loosened up

And now that you’ve been home for a week? How are you doing emotionally now?

Sometimes I think about the job and the frustration and anxiety I had, but when I think about it now I can just let it go. Like I already fled the scene. That feels good.

What’s the next step?

Hopefully I’ll start a temp job soon, I’ll have to.  And I put my resume out to a handful of jobs I found that I’d really like, but I won’t start hearing from them until 3 weeks from now or so. If I hear from them at all. I’m also doing some volunteer and stuff in the meanwhile.

I also want to tell you again that you are more than welcome to come to us for money. I don’t want you getting in debt.

I only have one credit card now and it’s pretty much maxed, so no debt worries, but I’m just going to have to start bringing in an income right away. I’m worried though about having no medical insurance. I don’t know where to go about that.

We can help you with the cost of medication.

I think I need to go to some kind of clinic though and get prescriptions re-written. I dunno. And Vijay needs a physical sometime over the summer before he starts school.

You should call the school district and see what they suggest.

That’s a good idea. I’ll do that.

2 Responses to First Times

  1. Pingback: A Mother’s Day Thought »

  2. Virginia says:

    Enjoyed the blog. Hopefully we’ll be having a conversation soon about another “first”- your first day at a better job. Thank you for sharing!