Authors, Artists and Musicians ‘Creating With Compassion’ to Benefit Sandy Relief Efforts

Hurricane Sandy has given us flooding, wind and most of all, stories — stories of suffering, of triumph and of banding together. It’s this last kind of tale that will come alive on Saturday when some of the region’s storytellers unite.

When JCI food writer and author Laryssa Wirstiuk saw the devastation that Sandy brought to the east coast, she knew she had to do something. While she was not personally affected by the storm, Wirstiuk knew people who were and had seen a good friend, artist Mark Mariano of Fairlawn, suffer greatly after Hurricane Irene last year.

Mariano, who fortunately made it through Sandy this year, teamed up with Wirstiuk to rally local authors, artists and musicians. “I know what some of these people are going through, so I’m more than happy to lend my talents to raise money for those who need it,” he says.

The event evolved from Wirstiuk’s plans to celebrate the recent release of her short story collection The Prescribed Burn. “I was planning on having a book release party for myself around this time because that was my official book release date,” says Wirstiuk. “Then Hurricane Sandy happened and I didn’t want to focus on myself too much and felt drawn to the cause.”

She adds that she and many of the other participants are especially devoted to helping Sandy relief efforts not just because they’re from New Jersey, but also because it’s played an important role in their art. For example, the Jersey Shore as well as Jersey City and its surrounding areas helped inspire many of her short stories and often play an important role in her tales.

Wirstiuk will read from her book at the event, as will other local authors like Debra Devi, Tris McCall and Aaron Starmer. In addition, Devi and Mark O-Matic will perform original songs. Each will be selling books or CDs.

There will also be several vendors selling last-minute holiday gifts like photo transfer woodblocks, greeting cards, comic book art, paper sculptures, illustrated children’s book and more. Participating vendors and artists include Melissa Cacioppo, Paul Castiglia, Joe Endres, Wenye Fang, Sylvia Karcz, Nick Mockoviak, Emily Monus, Seamus Scanlon, Jenny Ramirez and Mariano. A portion of each participant’s sales at the event will go toward the Sandy relief organization of their choice.

Guests will also be able to enjoy mulled cider, three-bean chili, freshly baked corn muffins and other snacks provided by JC-based catering company Bread and Spoon.

Creating With Compassion will be held Saturday, Dec. 15 from 4 pm to 7 pm at Art House Productions, 1 McWilliams Pl.

Image by Mark Mariano

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.