Out in the Bay: In 'Spell Heaven,' peers on the pier find connection

  • by Eric Jansen
  • Thursday June 23, 2022
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Toni Mirosevich has written "Spell Heaven," a collection of short stories.
Toni Mirosevich has written "Spell Heaven," a collection of short stories.

How do we find human connection and meaning in an increasingly isolated world? Author and poet Toni Mirosevich found peers on the Pacifica pier.

On this week's Out in the Bay Queer Radio + Podcast, Mirosevich reads from her new book, "Spell Heaven and other stories." The collection, set in the fictional town of Seaview, reflects on getting "in with the out crowd" and other ways to find meaning and connection.

Mirosevich dreamt up the pseudonym Seaview for the real town of Pacifica, just down the coast from San Francisco, and "Spell Heaven" mirrors her actual life. Her earlier book, "Queer Streets," is about moving there with her wife 30 years ago, before Pacifica became a lesbian haven of sorts.

The book's narrator, like her, is a retired creative writing professor looking for meaning: "I saw a sign on a post down by the sea one day. It said 'I've lost something. I don't know what it is. Can you help me find it?'"

"And I thought, that's very true to who this narrator is," said Mirosevich. Like many of us, especially in this COVID era, "she's lost some kind of meaning, some kind of connection."

The title of the collection and one of its stories comes from a discarded note scrap Mirosevich found on the Pacifica pier, "obviously written by a child, because it looks like a kid's writing. At the top of the scrap it says, 'Dear God,' and then there are all of these attempts to spell heaven, and they spell heaven wrong every single time."

That started Mirosevich, or as she put it, "the narrator" thinking "about all the ways they spell heaven. You know, you get a new lover. Oh, it's heavenly! Or I have a house ... Sometimes people think status, power, money," she said.

"But what if looking out at the sea is spelling heaven, or, um, looking at you now right now, Eric, is a different way to spell heaven?" she asked.

Over the course of the book's 23 short stories, written over many years, the narrator drops presumptions about others, makes friends out of strangers and rebuilds connections and meaning in her life.

Pacifica has changed too. The town held its first-ever Pride parade June 4. "It was so joyous," said Mirosevich. "All along Palmetto [a main street], someone had chalked at every crosswalk in the sidewalk 'Love Wins.' It was just lovely."

Out in the Bay Queer Radio is a beneficiary of Give OUT Day, a Pride Month fundraiser for LGBTQ nonprofits. Giving via Give OUT Day by June 30 helps Out in the Bay earn bonuses based on the number of donors. Even $10 can help us keep airing and podcasting LGBTQ voices. More info is here.

Hear more from author Toni Mirosevich on this week's Out in the Bay, airing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 23, on KSFP, 102.5 FM San Francisco only; 5 p.m. Friday, June 24, on KALW, 91.7 FM SF Bay Area-wide; and again at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 25, on KSFP. It is always available on Out in the Bay's website.

Eric Jansen is founding host and managing producer of Out in the Bay Queer Radio + Podcast. Learn more and listen here.

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