"Hi, you've reached Tania Katan. If you voted yes on Proposition 102 or yes on Proposition 8, please hang up now. If you voted no on either of these propositions, feel free to leave your name, number, and a message, and I'll get back to you."
One-woman show Tania Katan speaks with enthusiasm on her voice mail -- she speaks with enthusiasm about most things. The 37 year-old author, playwright, performer, and writing instructor manages to take a creative and humorous approach to real-life tough topics like surviving cancer and gay rights, and she's become a brand unto herself over the past two years.
Katan survived a bout with breast cancer when she was 21, but the disease returned a decade later. She'd lost both breasts by the time her memoir, My One Night Stand with Cancer, was published by Alyson Books in 2006. The creative non-fiction book contains colorful characters like Nurse Fred, a hypochondriac with a peculiar phobia (people who lick books) and hilariously warm anecdotes like how she listed "lesbian sex" as her preferred method of birth control on the intake form at the cancer treatment center. Katan's memoir earned the 2006 Judy Graham Award in Nonfiction, the Stonewall Book Award, and was a finalist for a 2006 Lambda Literary Award.
"I think the book was so successful because I was really honest," Katan says. "I really accessed the truth of the situation, plus I used some humor. Humor's a really good way to lead people into stuff, then they realize they're reading about heavy stuff, like life and death and love."
Lately, Katan's been running around promoting and performing her memoir-based, one-woman show, Saving Tania's Privates; contributing regularly to The Advocate, Sports Out Loud, and OurChart.com; and conducting creative writing workshops in Italy through her company, Two Little Wishbones.
But the Valley-based Jewish lesbian juggernaut loves bringing creative conversations back to her own community, too, and this month, she's instructing the "From Ordinary to Extraordinary" creative writing workshop in central Phoenix.
"The workshop is all about exciting and inspiring writing from everyday life," Katan says. "We do writing exercises about everyday things and talk about what makes them magical and special."
But, Katan adds, this is not a workshop for people who desire harsh criticism from their peers. "If you're a masochist, this is not the workshop for you, because we elevate each other," she says.
The workshop takes place Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. A light lunch will be provided each day, and participants are asked to bring "a writing utensil and paper."
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After the workshops -- which include group discussions and critiques -- participants will have the opportunity to perform live readings of their works for family and friends Sunday night.
"We share things throughout the workshop that we're comfortable sharing," Katan says of the live readings, "and having it culminate in a reading where people can invite their family and friends gives them an opportunity to share their work in a comfortable environment. And writing is such a solitary pursuit, so having an audience is a luxury."
The fee for the limited-enrollment, two-day workshop is $125, and participants should register in advance to reserve their spots. For more information, e-mail Tania Katan at info[at]taniakatan.com, or visit www.taniakatan.com.
-- Niki D'Andrea