Literary Series

Elizabeth Austen – poet, performer, teacher

Elizabeth Austen performs with the Sandbox Radio Collective.  Photo by  John Ulman

Elizabeth Austen performs with the Sandbox Radio Collective. Photo by  John Ulman

Friday, January 9th 
7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Austen speaks with Book City columnist and Langleyite Val Easton on the Michael Nutt Mainstage. 

Saturday, January  10th 
10:30 a.m.

Austen will also offer a two-hour poetry workshop in Zech Hall for up to 20 participants.


Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen returns to Whidbey Island to share her poetry, talk about her new book, Every Dress a Decision.

Easton said she’s very much looking forward to a conversation with Austen.

“I'm excited to have a chance to interview Elizabeth, and hope to encourage her to talk about her life as a working poet,” Easton said. “Where does the inspiration come from? How many jobs do you have to work to write poetry? And what the heck is a poet laureate anyway?”

As the third poet laureate of Washington, Austen said she understands her job is to let Washingtonians know that poetry is available to them. She aims to foster that awareness by visiting all 39 counties of our state to introduce poems and the idea that anyone can benefit from writing poetry. In an interview on KCTS9 with Molly Spurgeon, Austen said that poetry offers us more than something for just weddings and funerals; writing poetry, she said, is a way for us to understand ourselves; a way to deal with the world around us.

In addition to trumpeting the value of getting poetry into our everyday lives, Austen will also introduce audiences to her debut collection of poems, Every Dress a Decision, which was published by Blue Begonia Press in 2011 and was a finalist for the 2012 Washington State Book Award in poetry. The aftermath of her brothers mysterious death forms a subtle narrative spine for the book, around which other pressing questions revolve. In a voice both lyrical and wry, Austens poems delve headlong into the realities and contradictions of 21st century social expectations, desires and identity.

“How can you not admire a poet whose debut poetry collection is titled Every Dress a Decision?” Easton said. “I was delighted and impressed when I heard Elizabeth read in Langley last spring. Turns out she's a Shakespearean trained actor, and brings both her love of poetry and her acting chops to the reading of the work.”

Austen is a Seattle-based poet, performer and teacher. She has also authored two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and Where Currents Meet, part of the 2010 Toadlily Press quartet, Sightline.

For more than a dozen years, she has produced literary programming for KUOW 94.9 public radio, introducing recordings of Pacific Northwest literary events and interviewing local and national poets. She served as the Washington “roadshow” poet for 2007, giving readings and workshops in rural areas around the state. She is the recipient of grants from Artists Trust, 4Culture and the City of Seattle, and is an alumna of Hedgebrook, Artsmith, the Whiteley Center, the Jack Straw Writers Program, and holds an MFA in poetry from Antioch University-Los Angeles.

Austen frequently teaches the art of poetry aloud, believing that: “something magical is possible in a performance that doesn’t happen anywhere else — something electric, immediate, and entirely ephemeral… an exchange between performer and audience that is fluid and a little bit dangerous.”

Admission to the 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9 interview with Val Easton is $15; the 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10 poetry workshop costs $30.

Call the Box Office at 800.638.7631 or 360.221.8268 or  click here to purchase your tickets online.

Find out more about Elizabeth Austen and read some of her poetry.


Whidbey Island journalist Patricia Duff began Patricia Duff Writing Services in 2013. Patricia was the Island Life Editor and arts and entertainment reporter for the South Whidbey Record for six years, followed by almost two years as the start-up editor for the online arts publication, Whidbey Life Magazine.  She has been writing about the island community and its artists for about 9 years. Patricia Duff Writing Services creates effective copy for anyone who needs it, including profiles, features, ads, brochures, press releases and web content.

My Tell-Tale Heart

My Tell-Tale Heart

by Lucy Pearce

As I sit down to write this, I think back on the people I have channeled in plays and how if there wasn’t an instant correlation between me and them, there soon became one. So as I prepare for the dramatic reading of The Tell-Tale Heart and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe for Masters of The Pen at WICA on October 30th I begin to think on this some more. Anyone who knows Tell-Tale Heart will be thinking, “I hope she doesn't have too much in common with that.” For those who don't know it, I wont spoil it for you.

I find myself drawn though to Edgar himself. My eyes pulled like lasers to him enlisting in the army under an assumed name and publishing a collection of poems anonymously. I myself have spent the past three years, in many ways, anonymous. After almost twenty years as an actress I was burnt out, depressed, insecure and then pulled down a seemingly different path. I was convinced that was it for me, I was done with acting. It was a very painful decision but it also felt right. The next three years I followed a new route, often as lost as a GPS on an English country road (as an English person I have compassion for the GPS). My days once filled with learning lines (which to me is really just discovering how they feel) now became full of music. If I wasn't sound-healing for people, I was busy writing music. It was a time of rediscovering a part of me that had been somewhat dormant. I remembered the poet in me, the musician in me and mostly kept it all to myself (my husband and dog had no choice but to hear it). After much self-healing work and moving to South Whidbey Island, a place as chock-full of creative folks as a jar of PNW pickles, I began to feel the pull to share my poetry and music with people. Anyone who knows this beautiful island knows that it is an incredibly supportive space, rooting for each individuals self-expression a daily pastime, with a shot of espresso for fuel of course.

Lucy Pearce and Ensemble in Into the Woods, photo by j shu images

Then this year my heart suddenly decided to partake in the WICA general auditions. I say my heart decided as my mind was busy saying, “erm, yo, you said you’d given up acting” (yes my mind is an Eminem wannabe). So I followed my heart….yep I’m rolling my eyes at that overused term myself, but hey, ho, thats how it was. Just like that I find myself in the role of the Steward in Into The Woods and now here I am readying for this evening with Edgar (eek, what would an evening with Edgar really be like?).

Lucy Pearce as The Steward with Hannah McConnaughey as Lucinda and Ethan Berkley as Cinderella's Prince in Into the Woods, October 2014 - photo by j shu images

I guess my heart knew me much better than my mind did because I am over the moon to be back acting, I have come back into it with many of the same insecurities and impostor syndrome fears as before but these past few years have prepared me to be able to face these insecurities, to slowly peel away the layers of that burning onion. Whereas before I was consumed by them I now feel in a place to take a cold hard look at it all and work with them to replace them with a more empowered space. I am so happy that my journey back into channeling these people of the plays has begun at WICA, I have never felt more supported, respected and embraced than I have here. Working with Gwen Jones (director of Masters of the Pen) is quite honestly a dream. Her first words, “I have only expectations of greatness”. That wording so profoundly different to saying I expect greatness. As many actors do, I thrive in a more collaborative environment with directors and Gwen’s middle name is collaboration (no, not literally). The endlessly generous actor Ethan Berkley will be reading on the night also.

Masters of the Pen: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe directed by Gwen Jones
Thursday, October 30 @ 7:30
Michael Nutt Mainstage, WICA
Tickets: $10

I have been asked what the difference is between a dramatic reading and a regular acting role? The Merriam-Webster description is this: a public reading or recitation of a work of literature (as a poem or play) with an interpretative or dramatic use of the voice and often of gestures. For me though, the only difference is I have the material in front of me in case I am not sure what comes next. Otherwise it’s the same, I am channeling a person that the writer channeled. Our interpretations may be different but our goals may well be the same, to be truthful, to share deeply, to connect profoundly and to forge through the flames of fear.

I hope that Poe is there on the night (if anyone is going to be a ghost, it’s gonna be him), I hope he enjoys it and mostly I hope he enjoys our dance. Our tango together out of anonymity into sharing our authentic divine lights with the world, offering up our Tell-Tale Hearts.  

Lucy Pearce is an Actress, Singer/Songwriter and Poet who lives on Whidbey Island with her husband Sean and pup Billy. When not working creatively she enjoys growing food, walks in the woods and watching way too much TV and film.