Where are they now? Author of Breakdancing Boy writes PeaceSmiths

June 27, 2008 at 9:18 pm 1 comment

For the full story of Breakdancing Boy, go here. Received the e-mail below at our peacesmiths at yahoo dot com address. This letter from Angela Cress is a moving tribute to the work of PeaceSmiths and Susan June Blake…

from the PeaceSmiths archives www.peacesmiths.orgDear Sir or Madame,

In November of 1996 I was a sophomore in high school, attending Farmingdale High School. My best friend, Lauren H, and I were searching for an outlet for our creativity and angst, and also for a path to immortal fame. At that time, the internet was not a staple in every home (Lauren had it before I did), and AOL was the only service anyone used. Home computers were used for word processing almost exclusively.

The magazine page you came across is an anachronism; it is so firmly representative of its time. We created Soap and Love Letters, an independently published literary and art magazine, completely by hand. We collected submissions from our friends, and eventually from people across the country, sat cross-legged on my bedroom floor, and created pages reminiscent of collages using only glue sticks and safety scissors. The magazine was unfortunately short-lived. I think we had five issues total. None the less, the magazine was a very important milestone in my creative life. The ‘zine (as independently published teen-magazines were called) also served as the single uncensored creative publication in our town at that time. We sold the magazine for $1 an issue to cover the cost of making the copies. I still remember getting called into the principal’s office for violating school rules by “selling unauthorized merchandize on campus.” We laughed and kept selling it anyway. It was the only rebellion two honor-roll students could muster; a scoff in the face of adults and conventions.
Through publishing the magazine, we made many contacts, mostly teenagers in other communities publishing their own ‘zines. We exchanged copies of the ‘zine with other independent publishers, received demo tapes from unknown garage bands asking us to review them in our magazine, and got subscription requests from distant readers. The magazine made us feel important at a time when little else did. In addition to publishing this magazine, I was also very active in various literary circles near my home town. I attended free creative writing workshops at my local library, read at open mic poetry reading at the local bookstore, and eventually someone at one of these community events introduced me to a Peacesmith’s flyer. I attended the monthly coffeeshop when it was meeting in the church attic. In addition to attending, I was also a featured reader there one month. I read first, followed by another female poet, and then the folk musician Deer Spirit played a set. Many of my friends attended PeaceSmith’s monthly coffee shop during that period as well. Susan also sold copies of our ‘zine at the monthly coffeeshops and was herself an avid reader. Some of our contributors were also regulars at Peacesmith’s.
My reading at PeaceSmith’s was monumental for me. It was the first time I was featured anywhere. I was used to open mic’s, but Susan was the first person to put my name on a flyer and offer me my own time to share my creative work. I read several poems and an excerpt from a short story. Susan’s exuberance was a comfort and inspiration. The following year the ‘zine and my literary exploits fell to the wayside as I joined a rock band, was elected student body vice president, crammed for SATs, and prepared for college. Susan’s influence, however, was pervasive. In college I majored in poetry writing, founded the now officially established literary magazine, minored in women’s studies, and was very politically active. Even now, as a 27-year-old woman, my life reflects Susan’s good works. I teach English and creative arts at a under-served urban high school with a curriculum focus on social justice and social justice education. We work with activist organizations like Make the Road NY. I have been active with the Human Rights club, the QSA, and the policy debate team at the school. I am also the advisor to the school’s first ever literary magazine. I often feel as if Susan and my experiences with PeaceSmith’s largely contributed to who I am today.
Breakdancing boy is a real person. I, the author, am also a real person, as is Lauren H, my coauthor. Breakdancing boy is my piece, and Los Closing was coauthored. I meant what I said in that piece. I wanted to be more like breakdancing boy; a free spirit who did her own thing, regardless of naysayers and sideways glances. I’m happy to say that I am that person now. Perhaps I have become breakdancing girl in a way.
To clear up the story completely, let me explain how I came to know you had found this piece of my history. My friend Janice, whom I don’t see or speak to often enough anymore, was bored at home and “googled” her name to see what might come up. She expected nothing, as she has done this many times in the past. However, since your post is new, she did find something interesting when she searched her name. She found your post, and having ben one of my closest friends, a regular reader and contributor, she knew immediately what the piece of paper was. She sent me the following email entitled “Soap and Love Letters Returns!:
“OH MY GOD!!! I googled my name as a laugh and this came up. your gonna die!!!

Miss you!


So I found you, and so I found that Susan has passed, and so this email was born. I hope that this email successfully explains Breakdancing Boy and does justice to the influence Susan has had on my life. I don’t know how much our ‘zine meant to Susan, but without Susan my life may have been very different. Please email me if you would like. Also, please feel free to share this email and story with anyone else who is curious about that crumpled piece of paper you found with a sweet story on it about someone who wasn’t afraid to be different.
Thank you for a wonderful memory.
Angela Cress
Former Editor of Soap and Love Letters

Entry filed under: Friends, Long Island, Susan Blake. Tags: , , , , , , .

Clearwater Hudson River Revival honors Susan June Blake From the archives: Susan’s smile

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. JoAnn Sescila  |  July 14, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I am Angela’s mother and I just want everyone who reads this to know that if you’ve never met her you are really at a disadvantage! She has always been very special. In fact this started the day she was born and never stopped. Anyone who knows Angela knows they have a true friend that will always giver part of herself in that relationship.
    Before I go on and on about her virtues, let me just tell you how proud she has made me and how enriched my life is having her in it. She writes just as she lives – truthfully, creatively, with honor and love.

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