"A Chance to Have My Say"— Get to Know Playwright/Poet Judith Offer
Member Judith Offer will be our featured reader at our first meeting of the year on Sunday, January 19th. Judith is celebrating her one-year anniversary of being in the California Writers Club! She is an Oakland poet and playwright. 18 of her plays have been professionally produced, most in community theatres in the Bay Area. Her themes are women’s issues, American history, and the various cultural groups that populate Oakland.
Judith has five books of poetry. Recently, she self-published a chapbook called The Grating of America, Poems For a Democracy Ground Down, about the current political situation.
Pictures of plays, copies of some of her poems, and reviews are available at her web site, JudithOffer.com.
How did you become a writer?
In one sense my career is amazing: I had every possible disadvantage to ever writing anything. I was the oldest girl in a family of nine kids, born to parents who didn’t really want a huge family and were angry and resentful. We moved a lot, so I attended seven grammar schools and ended up with a sketchy, confused basic education, no permanent friends, and no long-term other adult support. My high school probably saved me. It was big, well-organized, and had a good teaching staff. And I got to be there for four years. I managed a few close friends and in spite of many home responsibilities, participation in a drama club. My intelligence was recognized to the extent that I made it into the top “track”. And though the teachers of the day mostly tried to ignore the girls, there were two who showed that they thought I had…something special. I made it through college by working as an au pair for room and board and with a state scholarship for tuition. I graduated with no single teacher telling me my writing was good, or suggesting a writing career, in spite of many essays and term papers with good grades. I went off to teach after school, not sure I wanted to; left to work in urban renewal, mostly because I got to work in downtown DC, still wondering what I was “becoming”. All this time, I was writing a few poems every year, which I kept in a small black notebook. In my late twenties I married, and two years later my husband, Stuart Offer, the only person who had seen my notebook, gave me a typewriter for Christmas, “so you can send your poems out.” So in my case, I really was rescued by Prince Charming. When I did send them, a number were quickly taken, and I suddenly knew what I was becoming. There has been a long road since then, and I am far from rich or famous from my writing. But I have been able to develop my gift, and I have seen many of my plays performed and poems published. I have had some killer fun times, directing plays, teaching kids drama, reading in cool places, and meeting all sorts of interesting and wonderful people. I feel like I have become part of the American story…a small part, but a part. I would like to see my plays on bigger, better-known stages, and I would like to get paid real money some day for them. But even if I never do, I feel that I have had at least some chance to “have my say” and to add to the list of women who, thanks to American feminists–such as the suffragists we’re celebrating this year—have made openings for people like me.