Jack Straw Productions

Marika Pineda
2006 Jack Straw Writers Program

Marika Pineda was born in the South but was raised in Oregon, with stints in San Diego, Hawaii, and rural Maryland. She grew up in a single-parent family and attended alternative schools (i.e., hippie school) until she dropped out and left home at 15. She studied cello as a child, but gave it up for the banjo. She rejoined her family and the back-to-the-land movement to live on a farm in Oregon. There she learned to build fences, chase elk, till the soil, catch crawdads, raise chickens and bees, and intensively wrote, drew, and played music. Returning to the city at 17, she worked at a diaper service, trained as a carpenter, and became a printer's devil.

After traveling to Tennessee (with banjo) to get reacquainted with her father at the age of 22, she returned to Portland and began studies at community college, going on to earn a B.A. in English at University of Oregon, where she graduated magna cum laude. She spent three years in Chicago, where she managed a trophy shop/calligraphy studio and became an editorial assistant at a small publishing firm.

Photo by Dean Wong
Listen to an excerpt of Marika's reading (MP3)
In 1989 she returned to the west coast and entered the MFA program in creative writing at University of Washington, focusing on the short story form with Lois Hudson as a mentor. While in graduate school she worked at a consulting firm and accidentally became a technical editor. During this time her husband was diagnosed HIV positive.

Under these crushing circumstances she managed to complete her MFA and began working at Microsoft as a technical editor. During part of that time she also taught English composition at North Seattle Community College.

In 1997 she became a widow when her husband died after a long and determined struggle with AIDS. As her mourning period eased, she traveled to Greece, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; began writing poetry in earnest; took up music again; and she left behind a decade of work at Microsoft. She has since remarried, and has worked as an arts administrator with her husband's early music ensemble.

As an amateur naturalist she has hiked hundreds of miles in the Cascades. As an amateur historian she has cranked through miles of microfilm in search of her family roots. Her work has been published in Ambergris, Bellowing Ark, Bloomsbury Review, The Open Bone, The Drifter, KotaPress Anthology 2000, David's Place-An AIDS Experience Journal, and Chrysanthemum (forthcoming). A recently completed historical essay is under review by the Journal of Mississippi History. She helps raise her stepdaughter and a vociferous cairn terrier in a household named The Home for Wayward Muses.

Listen to Marika Pineda's live reading in the 2006 May Reading Series. Click here to hear the program on KUOW.
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