Waiheke artist Katy Soljak celebrates the release of her new novella with an exhibition that combines prose, painting and song
Due out in November 2022, Katy Soljak’s illustrated novella It’s a Long Ride to Texas, Baby draws on her own remarkable life experiences and showcases her variety of artistic talents: prose, visual art, songwriting, and performance. The book contains many of her paintings and she has also composed and performed accompanying songs. ‘Denton’ and ‘Heaven’, will be available for download from Spotify and iTunes.
Set in Mexico and West Texas in the 1970s, It’s a Long Ride to Texas, Baby is the story of Gala, a young Kiwi woman, who is fleeing a relationship. With her guitar and daughter in tow, she leaves LA and takes the bus to Texas. Three days later she arrives at midnight with only a few dollars in her pocket and a single phone number of someone who might be able to help her.
Artist Kelley Diener says: “This is a colourful read from beginning to end. I grew up in San Diego on the border of Mexico during the 70s and I related to young Gala’s crazy adventure of crossing the border into the unpredictable Mexican Frontier.
“The paintings incorporated into It’s a Long Ride to Texas, Baby highlight Katy’s integrated approach to story writing. She delivers up the story visually as well as effectively, weaving Gala’s heartfelt blues lyrics to tie it up this package with a bow.”
Activist and writer Susi Newborn says: “For those of us who lived through the 1970s, this novella is a fun romp down memory lane with colourful characters, fast cars, sex on the run, mouth-watering food and the occasional poignant moment – all set against the backdrop of the Mexican landscape. The dialogue is lively, funny and authentic.”
It’s a Long Ride to Texas, Baby is partly based on Soljak’s own experiences. In the late 1980s she moved to California where she studied creative writing at Long Beach Community College. She then became involved with the Long Beach poetry scene, reading poetry on trains and in laundromats with the Carma Bums.
Soljak performed regularly in the 1990s in Los Angeles and Long Beach, was a featured poet at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach, and was published in On Target, Pearl and Brainchild. She collaborated with musicians such as Paul Barrere( Little Feat) Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits Band) and recorded her album Sex 4 Sale with SPOT (Black Flag) in 1993.
Auckland blues lovers will remember Soljak from the popular blues revue Ladies Sing the Blues alongside dynamic blues mamas Hattie St. John, Mahia Blackmore, Truda Chadwick and Maria Monet. This show played sold-out Auckland venues from 1984 and headlined at the Sheraton International Jazz-Blues Festival in 1986. An example of Soljak’s performance is online at https://youtu.be/5oKTVD31p50
Soljak began writing short stories when she retired from teaching in 2008. They have variously been read on the radio and published in literary journals. She still performs songs and poetry at ‘The Song and Poetry Thing’ on Waiheke Island where she now lives. Her debut short story collection, My First Real Pash and Other Stories, was published by Lasavia Publishing in 2021.
Soljak takes her stage name from her great-grandmother, Miriam Bridelia Soljak (1879–1971), the celebrated feminist and communist activist of the early twentieth century. Her entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, written by Dorothy Page, says “A New Zealander through and through, [Miriam] asserted her nationality and championed the cause of urban Māori and working-class women fearlessly and with total commitment.”
It’s a Long Ride to Texas, Baby will be launched on 4 November 2022 at an exhibition of the paintings featured in the book at which Soljak will perform the songs she has written for this work. The exhibition runs until 11 December.
Katy Soljak is available for interview and review copies are available. Please contact publicist Elizabeth Heritage on firstname.lastname@example.org or 022 652 3981.