Justin Hudnall found his motivation to enrich the local literary scene in an unlikely place: ignorant hipsters. Annoyed by others' perception of San Diego as a "cultural wasteland," Hudnall's college days in New York motivated him to come back and start a San Diego organization devoted to the exploration of dangerous subjects through art and humor.
"We can't just make people feel bad with some Sarah McLachlan and dogs," says Hudnall, adding that he believes when people normalize their shortcomings, they often feel empowered. "Everybody knows somebody with depression or anxiety or borderline personality disorder if we all just talked about it."
These days, not only is Hudnall a respected local writer, but he empowers other artists through his literary and performing arts nonprofit, So Say We All. Started in 2009, the organization has grown to include various different literary nights and specialized programs. There's VAMP (visual/audio monologue performance) and Long Story Short, popular once-a-month readings from both established and aspiring writers.
Hudnall admits he didn't expect the readings to take off the way they did. He held the organization's first literary reading in a small multipurpose room usually reserved for AA meetings. He thought only close friends would show up, but the room was packed. The organization now has a KPBS radio show (Incoming), in addition to its publishing and education programs, which target LGBTQ, veterans and other marginalized groups. Hudnall hopes that these programs help others break out of their literary shells. "We have to follow Harvey Milk's formula of just coming out," he says.