Monday, January 23, 2017

Interview of Lucrecia Guerrero


Interview of Lucrecia Guerrero

by Xánath Caraza


Lucrecia Guerrero's short works have appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Antioch Review. She has been anthologized in Fantasmas, Best of the West, and most recently Not Like the Rest of Us. She was one of a collaboration of writers on the drama Finding Home, produced by the Indiana Repertory Theater of Indianapolis. Chasing Shadows, her linked collection of short stories, was published by Chronicle Books. Bilingual Press at Arizona State University published her first novel Tree of Sighs, awarded a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship and the Premio Aztlán Literary Award.  She recently completed a novel, Rosa Linda & Donnie Ray. She teaches Creative Writing part-time at Purdue University's Northwest campus.



Xánath Caraza (XC): As a child, who first introduced you to reading?  Who guided you through your first readings?

Lucrecia Guerrero (LG): My mother used to read to us children when we were children. I can remember at a time when we lived in Ciudad Obregón, where my father had his business office, she would take us to the magazine stand and pick out children’s publications in English that she could read to us.  She also sang to us at bedtime: old English and Irish ballads, that always told sad stories that made us cry—and that we always begged for her to sing again.

          After we moved to Nogales, Arizona, my mom took us kids to the library regularly. Somewhere in junior high or high school, I lost interest in what we read.  I wasn’t relating.  Then, as a teenager I lived, for several months, with my grandmother in Mexico City.  Hector Cabrera Guerrero, cousin that I hadn’t seen since childhood, was shocked at how poorly read I was.  At student at the University, he brought me books from the school’s library.  In the Spanish translation, I read a number of Russian writers, but most importantly, I read Herman Hesse.  After reading the books, we—Hector, his best friend Paco, and I would discuss what I’d read). It was a life-changer. I couldn’t believe that, through a book, I became friends with a middle-aged, German man, whom I would never meet in person.  I wasn’t as alone in this world as I had imagined!



XC: How did you first become a writer?

LG:  I took only one creative writing class as an undergraduate, and my professor was so encouraging that he made me think that maybe I had some talent. Life happened though, and writing was on a back burner.  Even when I did my master’s in was in philology. Still, the seed of being a writer had been planted by Dr. Baker.

          In the 90s, I lived in Ohio near a small city called Yellow Springs that hosts the well-established Antioch Writers’ Workshop. Although I had no manuscript to take, I signed up for the intensive one-week workshop/conference.  I was hooked by the community of writers.  I felt like I’d found home without knowing I was looking for it.  The next year I took a story to be critiqued. It would come in second place in the Dayton newspaper’s fiction contest and was published there.  I believe there were nine hundred entries that year.  That story was “The Girdle,” which would eventually become one in my collection of linked short stories Chasing Shadows.

          Along with attending the Workshop every year, I studied books on reading, and taught myself to write with my short stories.  Although I wanted to write novels, I would have been overwhelmed with the rewriting—and because I am a slow writer!  I began with the stories.  Although I’d lived in the Midwest for years, I found that each story kept winding up on the border.  And so, that first collection is, indeed, set in the fictional twin cities of Mesquite, very similar to the twin cities of Nogales, where I grew up.

          Several of the stories were published, and I met my then agent at the Antioch Workshop, and she suggested I add a few more stories to the ones I had and to link them together by more than location.  I did, and she sold the collection on the first send-out to Chronicle Books.



XC: Do you have any favorite paragraph by other authors? Could you share some lines along with your reflection of what drew you toward that paragraph?

LG: Wow.  My first thought was of passages in The Great Gatsby. I love so much of that book, not the least his haunting descriptions.  For your question, I opened the book at a random page, and came open this: “Sometimes a shadow moved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession of shadows, that rouged and powdered in an invisible glass.” The image is beautiful and the verbs so effective—and then there is that something that, like music, touches the soul is some way that cannot be truly articulated.

          Another book with haunting descriptions is Edith Wharton’s Ethan Fromme.

          I know that some writing instructors will tell you that you should not bring attention to your writing, that it might stop the reader, pull her from the story. I don’t agree. I love it when I’m reading along, and suddenly a passage is so profound or so beautiful, I simply must stop and reread it just for the joy of the language.  If this doesn’t happen for me, I probably won’t remember much about the book.



XC: Could you describe your activities as a writer?

LG: I write in the morning, saving afternoons for revisions. Although I’m not keen on public speaking, I do enjoy teaching writing classes either at university or writing workshops/conferences. My husband Jerry Holt is a writer, professor of English, and an avid reader, so we share a love for things literary.



XC: What projects are you working on now?

LG: I recently completed a novel Rosa Linda & Donnie Ray and am now “shopping” it. So, wish me luck on finding it a good home.  I’m anxious to get started on a new project. Having just completed a novel, I’m now open to shorter works, perhaps a series of stories. I would like it if they start working out into being linked short stories, but we’ll see. 




Sunday, January 22, 2017

AWAKENED!! DESPIERTAS!! The Women's March-- A Photo Essay

"Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world." 
-- Dolores Huerta
Austin, Texas -- photo by Liliana Valenzuela

A day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, millions of people took to the streets to march in peaceful protests in the United States and abroad (London, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Toronto, Montreal, Sydney, Melbourne, etc.).  An estimated 900,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. for this march.  One of the attendees and speakers was America Ferrera who said the following:  "It's been a heart-wrenching time to be a woman and an immigrant in this country -- a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.  But the president is not America.  His cabinet is not America.  Congress is not America. We are America.  We march today for the moral core of this nation against which our new president is waging war.  He would like us to forget the words, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free' and instead take up a credo of hate, fear, and suspicion of one another.  But we are gathered here and across the country and around the world to say, 'Mr. Trump, we refuse.  We reject the demonization of our Muslim brothers and sisters.  We demand an end to the systemic murder and incarceration of our black brothers and sisters.  We will not give up our right to safe and legal abortions.  We will not ask our LGBTQ families to go backwards.  We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance.'"

In Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska (combined), the estimated count was over 15,000 marchers (the assessments range, according to police reports, between 2 and 3,000 in Lincoln, and 12 to 14,000 in Omaha.  But volunteers estimate even more). We gathered at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and marched to the Capitol.  We chanted, walked together in solidarity, listened to various speakers.  I kept hearing people say how uplifting, and hopeful it was to see so many people, that they were committed not just to march today-- but to be active in this struggle in the days, months, and years to come.  ¡Si Se Puede!

The following photo essay documents the marches in Lincoln, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Santa Barbara, California; New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas.   Many thanks to friends, colleagues, and my La Bloga compañeras/compañeros for their photos: Xánath Caraza, Alice Kang; Rhonda Garelick, Lydia Gil, Kendall Hunter, Melinda Palacio, Michael Sedano, and Liliana Valenzuela

FROM LINCOLN, NEBRASKA:

Lincoln, Nebraska Capitol Mall -- Photo by Alice Kang

Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Amelia Montes
Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Amelia Montes

Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Amelia Montes

Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Amelia Montes
Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Amelia Montes

Lincoln, Nebraska -- photo by Amelia Montes
FROM DENVER, COLORADO:
Thank you to Kendall Hunter for this photo--

Denver, Colorado-- photo by Kendall Hunter
Denver is also home to Lydia Gil, one of our La Bloga contributors.  Lydia sent on a number of photos she took as she marched toward the Capitol:

Denver, Colorado -- photo by Lydia Gil
Denver, Colorado-- photo by Lydia Gil
Denver, Colorado -- photo by Lydia Gil
Denver, Colorado -- photo by Lydia Gil
Denver, Colorado -- photo by Lydia Gil
Denver, Colorado -- photo by Lydia Gil
Denver, Colorado -- photo by Lydia Gil
FROM SANTA BARBARA,  CALIFORNIA:  
La Bloga contributor and writer, Melinda Palacio sent on these photos.  In this first photo (below), Melinda is marching and holding the "Poetic Justice" sign.  And in the next picture, she is reading poetry to the crowd.  Gracias, Melinda!  

Santa Barbara, California -- Photo by Melinda Palacio
Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio

Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio

Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio

Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio

Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio

Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio


Santa Barbara, California -- photo by Melinda Palacio
IN NEW YORK CITY, my colleague, Rhonda Garelick took the photos below. Thank you, Rhonda!

New York, New York -- photo by Rhonda Garelick
New York, New York -- photo by Rhonda Garelick
FROM LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA--
La Bloga co-founder and writer, Michael Sedano took these great photos (below).  He wrote:  "A tough photo assignment-- so crowded, there is very limited perspective other than to hold the lens above my head and hope the framing is straight. The march moves up Broadway while another group marches up the 4th street incline."

Los Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano

Loa Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano

Los Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano

Los Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano

Los Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano

Los Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano

Los Angeles, California -- photo by Michael Sedano
FROM KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI -- Thank you to La Bloga writer and poet, Xánath Caraza who took these fabulous photos (below) of the crowds--

Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza
Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza
Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza

Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza
Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza 
Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza
Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza
Kansas City, Missouri -- photo by Xánath Caraza

FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS:  Gracias to writer and translator, Liliana Valenzuela, who took these photos (and the one that began this blog) of a crowded and colorful demonstration!

Austin, Texas -- photo by Liliana Valenzuela
Austin, Texas -- photo by Liliana Valenzuela
"The great social changes in the country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action.  It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today.  The civil rights movement, the labor movement, the women's movement, and the equality movement for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are all manifestations of these rights."  --Dolores Huerta

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Mystery of the Missing Mystery Writers


 
About a week ago I officially became a member of the board of directors of Mystery Writers of America (MWA).  I’ve belonged to this organization since I published my first crime fiction novel back in 1993 – so, I have a lot of years, and dues, invested in MWA.  Occasionally, I attend one of the monthly local chapter meetings (the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America [RMMWA]). Over the years, I’ve participated in RMMWA reading events and presentations. I read the newsletters and watch for the Edgar® Award announcements, on the off-chance I will know one of the finalists.  I’ve never held office locally or nationally, until now.  In other words, I’ve been a loyal member, with base-level activity.

This past weekend I traveled to New York City for a board meeting, which also included a subway trip to the Mysterious Bookshop (the only mystery book store left in NYC), a couple of dinners at Manhattan restaurants with the board and administrative staff, and a four hour orientation on board duties and responsibilities, and the ethical and legal limitations on board members.

View from the airport shuttle on the Queensboro Bridge

 
The main reason I belong to MWA is probably the reason other writers join:  the organization provides a convenient networking forum with other writers and writing professionals, plus it’s an excellent resource for news about the genre, writers, and publishing trends.


Some of the crowd at the Mysterious Bookshop
I belong to other writing organizations, for much the same reason, but the MWA is the only one where I’ve assumed more responsibility than simple membership.  Although I’ve been on the board for only a few days, I think I’ve already learned a few things.

My overall impression that the number of Latinos or Latinas who write crime fiction is small has been reinforced by my time in NYC.  As far as I could tell, I’m the only Latino on the board.  I'm not the first Latino to serve on the board, but there can’t have been very many before me.  The same kind of paucity is found in the overall MWA membership. In the RMMWA I am, again, one of very few. 

I don’t “blame” MWA for this.  Within MWA leadership I think there is a belief  that diversity is a good thing, and nothing would please the leadership more than an increase of membership, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality. I've been told that the theme for this year's Edgar® Award booklet is Inclusion and Representation - that's a good sign.

No, the problem goes deeper – frankly, where are the Latino or Latina mystery, crime fiction, thriller, or detective writers in general?
 
Years ago (2001), I wrote an article about the then state of Latino crime fiction.  I entitled it The Postman and the Mex: From Hard-boiled to Huevos Rancheros in Detective Fiction and I published it in the academic/literary journal Hopscotch. You can find that article here on La Bloga at this link and part two here In the article, I summarized the history of Mexicans, Chicanos and Latinos in crime fiction, and I highlighted the writers who were active in the field at that time, including Rudolfo Anaya, Lucha Corpi, Rolando Hinojosa, Martin Limón, Michael Nava, Ricardo Means Ybarra, Max Martínez, and myself. The article was optimistic.  I declared that Chicano and Chicana writers had made an “evolutionary” leap in the genre; that, basically, we had created a new sub-genre.  The feel of the article was that we (Latinos) had only just begun and that we would change the crime fiction landscape with our work.

Today, I’m not quite so optimistic.  Of the writers listed in the article, only three of us continue to write crime fiction (Limón, Nava, and Ramos).  Anaya, Corpi, and Hinojosa continue to write, but not crime fiction, although these excellent writers could easily return to the genre if they so chose.  Oh, I believe there are more Latinos and Latinas writing in the genre today than when I wrote the article, but still, looking at the vast array of mystery books published every month, the numbers are small.  Only a few names come quickly to mind:  Carmen Amato, Alex Segura, Henry Perez, Mario Acevedo.  Who else is out there?  Contact me if you write crime fiction.

On a more encouraging note,  a few weeks ago, National Public Radio aired the program Latino Noir: Private Eyes And Really Bad Vatos,  which featured five international Latino/Latina writers who delve into noirish tales of crime and deceit. Two of the five writers were U.S. Latinos (Carmen Amato and myself.)

I don’t have a definitive answer as to why this situation exists.  New Latino and Latina writers are introduced every month – a quick look at back issues of La Bloga demonstrates the wide range of writers emerging onto the literary scene almost daily.  And the Latino literary community is a thriving, organic, ambitious body that encompasses all manner of creativity, from poetry to graphic novels.  It appears that Latinos (writers and by logical extension readers) are just not into crime fiction.  Is this really true?

This is not to disparage the current writers who engage in the same crime and detection exercises that I experience daily.  They are good writers with exciting talent.  There simply aren’t that many of us.

These are some of the thoughts lurking within me as I begin my term on MWA’s board.  If you have suggestions for me, advice, names of writers who might be interested in MWA, books I should read, or anything else that you think a board member of MWA should know or be aware of in regards to the Latino reading or writing communities, pass them on to me.  I’ll appreciate hearing from you, and, who knows, maybe at a future board meeting your suggestion will be on the agenda.


Grand Central Station


Later.


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir was published by Arte Público Press in October, 2016


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chicanonautica: Welcome to Arizonaization

by Ernest Hogan


This going up the day before the inauguration. My mother-in-law announced that she is going to wear black. Someone threw a bunch of condoms into the book drop of library where I work. I'm having dreams about cleaning up multi-colored pet turds, and not recognizing my reflection in mirrors. The streets are all torn up. A guy babbling a paranoid stream-of-consciousness got into our backyard, somehow the cacti didn't devour him in the dark, we called the police, but he wandered of before they arrived.


Maybe it all has to do with the gala debut of Trumptopia, or maybe it's just Arizona. Funny, my home state has been the butt of jokes about it being America's laboratory for bad policies. I should know, I've been covering  Arizona for La Bloga since 2010, I've lived here a lot longer. I've even joked about how some factions are trying to make the whole United States of America into one big Arizona, but the joke may be on us, because it looks like it's all coming true.


Look out, America, you've been Arizonaized!


All through Trump's campaign, I kept getting uneasy twinges of déjà vu . . . A businessman running for office . . . a half-baked, self-serving, populist-sounding agenda . . . I heard it all before.

The unsettling reality is that Trump won the presidency, in the kind of campaign that won the governorship of Arizona, not once, but twice. Of course, there were a lot of my fellow Arizonans who thought it was a great idea: “Put a businessman in there! Balance the budget! Hell, start making a profit!” And as bizarre as it sounds, Evan Mecham, and then later Fife Symington became governors of the state of Arizona.


Evan Mecham, millionaire car dealer, was elected in 1986 after four unsuccessful runs. He didn't think Martin Luther King Jr. deserved a holiday, called black children “pickaninnies.” and had many such opinions. After a recall petition, six felony indictments by a grand jury, and impeachment proceedings, he was the first U.S. Governor to be impeached and removed from office in 59 years. Though acquitted of the felony counts, he couldn't win back the governorship when he ran again in 1990, or get in the state Senate in 1992. He died in 2008 of Alzheimer's disease.


J. Fife Symington III, founder of the Symington Company, “a commercial and industrial development firm,” was elected governor in 1991. In 1997 he was convicted of criminal charges that he defrauded lenders as a real estate developer in the eighties. He resigned and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. He then earned a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management. His conviction was overturned in 1999. Later he was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. In 2007 he went public about seeing a UFO in the famous Phoenix Lights incident:


I witnessed a massive delta-shaped, craft silently navigate over Squaw Peak, a mountain range in Phoenix, Arizona.”


So, what clues does it give us as to what will happen in the Arizonaized States of America? Now that Joe Arpaio is no longer sheriff of Maricopa County, will he be made the head of the shiny, new Deportation Force? Will President Donald Trump be impeached, indicted, removed from office, and end up begging for spare rubles in the Kremlin parking lot? Will UFOs appear over Washington D.C., bringing a different kind of alien across a new kind of border?


All I can say is, sorting out the reality from the sci-fi is getting to be a serious chore.


Ernest Hogan has a story with a political agenda in The Jewish Mexican Literary Review. More will soon be available in Latin@ Rising: An Anthology of Latin@ Science Ficiton and Fantasy, Five to the Future (stay tuned for details). He also took part in a round table discussion about Latin American Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror in MithilaReview: A Speculative Arts & Culture Magazine, where you can also read a sample of his novel, HighAztech.