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Weaving tapestries with her words

~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, The College of Arts and Humanities

Good writers pay attention to details. Even when they’re doing something else, they watch to see how some tiny element may fit into a story later. They’re always taking mental notes, listening with their heart and mind, thinking how their own and other’s experiences can fit into a broader narrative.

In July, some friends and I— including Armen Bacon— were out for a girls’ evening. Over a glass of wine, we discussed the fragility of life. I shared a quote from author and actor Stephen Tobolowsky:

“People make the mistake of thinking love is about the bedroom. It’s not. It’s about the emergency room. Love and marriage is who will sit there and wait.”

Armen asked me to send that to her. 

Several weeks later, I saw she had woven that sentiment into a column she wrote, “Summer of Love” (Aug. 21, The Fresno Bee) about her anniversary with her husband Daniel.

That’s what makes Armen’s writing so intimate, so personal, so real.

“Pulling it up from your insides takes time,” she said. “You have to stay at it long enough to be vulnerable, risk making a fool of yourself.”

Armen’s latest book — “My Name is Armen – Outside the Lines (Volume II)”— is launching with a public reception and signing from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, in the Table Mountain Rancheria Reading Room in the Henry Madden Library. The event is hosted by the President’s Office at Fresno State and the College of Arts and Humanities.

Armen has never shied away from hard discussions in her writing. Her first book, “Griefland – An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship,” a memoir co-written with former Fresno State English professor Nancy Miller, dealt with her son’s death 12 years ago. 

“Writing dares me on a daily basis to self-examine, to dig deeper, take risks, and dream big,” Armen said. “It’s like putting a hand-mirror up to my face and challenging everything about myself. Once in a blue moon, it’s a pretty sight but most of the time, it’s layered, complicated, messy. I like to think of it as ‘beautiful chaos.’”

Her second book, “My Name is Armen – A Life in Column Inches” (2014), contained a decade’s worth of the essays on family, friends, love and loss published in The Fresno Bee. She says Volume II, also published by The Press at California State University, Fresno, takes readers outside the margins of everyday life – always circling back, returning home – celebrating the resilience of the human spirit.

“I write very early in the morning and very late at night, when all of my internal critics are asleep. I waste a lot of paper and stream of consciousness write. It’s time consuming but I love the surprises that come with this style. … I drown myself in words. Write without boundaries. That’s in part how the subtitle of Volume II came to be ‘Outside the Lines.’ Writing is about taking chances, daring yourself to tell the truth, experiment and ultimately see beyond the margins of everyday life.”

Armen spent four years sharpening her writing skills in the acclaimed CSU Summer Arts Program, where she studied memoir, poetic prose, narrative nonfiction and flash fiction. Bacon is looking forward to Summer Arts’ return to the Fresno State campus in June 2017.

“My job as a writer is to push into the unknown. Writing is more about what we don’t know – and the true gift is the glimpse a writer gets into the unconscious self. Because it’s there that the real dreams, desires, and passions reside – don’t you think?”

She is keeping her options open about her next project. A collaboration with a photojournalist is in the works. She’d also love to explore playwriting, maybe even turning “Griefland” into a theater piece.

She encourages other to explore their passion, maybe in Summer Arts or some other creative outlet. Whether that passion is writing, dancing, painting or something else: “What are you waiting for?”

“My Name is Armen – Outside the Lines (Volume II)” is available through The Press, by calling 559.278.3056 or emailing press@csufresno.edu. The cost is $20 for paperback.

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