Friday, October 21, 2016

The Times They Are A-Changing: Autumn Poems

Melinda Palacio

Last week was great because Bob Dylan was blowing in cyberspace. Congratulations Bob on winning the Nobel literature prize. This week may be all about nasty women and bad hombres. So, I bring you some excellent Autumn poems by Patricia Spears Jones (you may have read Linda Rodriguez's review of ALucent Fire), Gina Ferrara ( and Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo. These are poems you will want to savor, read aloud, then read them all over again. Enjoy and refill your cup as many times as you'd like.


He was filled with beauty, so filled he could not stop the shadows
from their walk around his horn, blasting cobwebs in the Fillmore's

Somewhere dawn makes up for the night before, but he is floating
Dead in the water. And yet, my lover tells me, he saw him

As did others. It could have been the acid. Or fragmented
His reed ancestral. This perilous knowledge. The band went home,

shivering. A girl threw roses in the water. Carnations, daisies. And
            bright red sashes.
Like ones the Chinese use for funeral banners. A drummer intoned

From the Orient. Police wrote up the news. Years later, my lover told
Friends would hear the whisper, then a tone, full throttle from the

Ghosts on Second Avenue, jazzmen in the falling stars.
If you catch one, your hands will glitter.

A Lucent Fire. Poems by Patricia Spears Jones

All Saints' Day
Patricia Spears Jones

Diamanda Galas screams sings
rage upon love
as winter forms
drop by cooling drop.

And earlier in that year, spring in the Blue Ridge—
pastures and hills bejeweled
with violets, dogwoods, the Judas Tree—
softens the bitter taste
of recipes for worming, for worry,
for the death of masters, overseers,
the uniformed patriarchs of a history
astonished by defeat. The burned mansions and
moth-ridden grief comes back to haunt lanes
to the left and right, a clear divide

between the Black side and the white,
On All Saints' Day, a wind resurrected
as dervish, spiraling dry, sharp leaves

righteous fuel for bonfires.
Honorable music to comfort the dead.

In New York, hear Patricia Spears Jones and Christopher Stackhouse, Tuesday November 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm. Free to Dia members, $10 general admission, $6 admission for students and seniors. Grab tickets while you can. 
Readings in Contemporary Poetry
Dia: Chelsea
535 West 22nd Street 5th Floor New York City
212 989 5566

Gina Ferrara

When the medics strapped
you on the stretcher,
the bones of my knees and shins
pressed against Neruda's earth—
the acacia's offerings,
the cicada's hum,
a pair of fish
ascending from the abyss,
the accolades of tangled morning glories,
the solitary crow followed
by a triptych of magpies.
None of the sonnets
roused or woke you.
Your silent tongue and slack lips
extinguished the light of novas
and unstrung lanterns.

*From Gina Ferrara's Amber Porch Light

Ladder to the Moon
Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Ladder to the Moon, Georgia O’Keeffe

                                                              Ghost Ranch, O’Keeffe’s
                                                              sprite spirit rises

                                                         like the waif of moon
                                                         over Perdenal’s inky, cut top.

                                                    It’s an aquamarine night
                                               when I catch her climb wooden rails

                                             to the sky. Her frail arms
                                             evoke twigs, but her eyes

                                         ignite like the stars.
                                        I want her to invite me up,

                                    but she doesn’t.
                                    I want her to teach me how,

                                but she won’t.
                             I kick red rocks across the land

                        and keep a look out
                        for my own blond ladder to blaze.

*This poem was first published in Malpais Review.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo's Posada

Don't miss Xochitl-Julisa's Book Release Party, Saturday October 29 at 7pm at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition

By Reyna Grande

            Age Range: 10 - 14 years
            Grade Level: 5 - 9
            Hardcover: 336 pages
            Publisher: Aladdin
            Language: English
            ISBN-10: 1481463713
            ISBN-13: 978-1481463713

Award-winning author Reyna Grande shares her compelling experience of crossing borders and cultures in this middle grade adaptation of her “compelling…unvarnished, resonant” (BookPage) memoir, The Distance Between Us.

When her parents make the dangerous and illegal trek across the Mexican border in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced to live with their stern grandmother, as they wait for their parents to build the foundation of a new life.

But when things don’t go quite as planned, Reyna finds herself preparing for her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years: her long-absent father. Both funny and heartbreaking, The Distance Between Us beautifully captures the struggle that Reyna and her siblings endured while trying to assimilate to a different culture, language, and family life in El Otro Lado (The Other Side).

Bring Christmas Cheer to a Child in Need!

Message from Reyna Grande:

This December I'm going to Iguala to hold my annual Christmas Toy Giveaway. Christmas is a special time of the year in many countries, and here in Iguala, where 70% of the population lives in poverty, children now more than ever need those special times full of joy and happiness.  For the past two years, with help from family and friends, old and new, I was able to buy over 700 toys! This year I hope to buy just as many, or more if possible. The Christmas Toy Giveaway is something the children have been looking forward to all year and I will not disappoint them! 

The children in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero in Southern Mexico are living in a place full of poverty, violence, and instability. Ever since September 2014, when 43 college students were forcibly disappeared in my hometown, things have gone from bad to worse. Since then, about 120 mass graves have been found around my hometown. Many more people have been killed or disappeared. Cartel gangs have been fighting for control of the area. Iguala is surrounded by poppy fields to supply the huge demand for heroin in the US. This is the place that the children in my hometown live in. 

Despite this, life in Iguala continues, and children there do the best they can to not just survive, but to thrive. There's so much more I wish I could do for my hometown, but for now, I'm happy to bring some smiles to the children and let them know we care.
Please help me make this Christmas a special joyful time for the children in Iguala, Guerrero! Together we can make a difference. Donate today and tell your friends!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Gruesome Murders Grotesque Padres. Arias launches Wetback. ChimMaya at 11.

Review: Maria Nieto. The Water of Life Remains in the Dead. Mountain View, CA: Floricanto Press, 2016. ISBN 9781888205596

Michael Sedano

When a reader picks up a book one of the first impulses is to riffle the pages for a sense of layout and design. That’s what initially put me off reading Maria Nieto’s edge-of-the-seat murder novel, The Water of Life Remains in the Dead. It seems the publishers, Floricanto and Berkeley Press, used a generous amount of white space and a large font, giving me the impression the novel had a YA reader in mind.


The Water of Life Remains in the Dead presents a seriously adult plot about murder, sex with babies, clerical corruption, rotten people. It’s a novel populated with stomach-turning characters and a concluding irony about the passage of time.

It’s 1970. The story opens in mid-action with a truckload of mutilated bodies and an LA Times reporter having survived a murderous LAPD detective. The detective had been running a child sex ring, the reporter and her friends have barely escaped his clutches, and the murderer an apparent suicide.

Alejandra Marisol is the Times investigator whose instincts tell her there’s more to the crimes, that the mystery doesn’t begin and end with the dead pig.

Marisol is hot for the Chicano coroner, Armand Gomez, and he’s hot for her. They will consummate their heat, thought mostly off-stage. A sick tía, eagerly helpful sidekicks, an inexplicably hostile detective, and one good cop, round out the cast of allies.

The title becomes an irony as the action wraps. The coroner’s prima, Olivia, is a Caltech researcher experimenting with DNA as forensic evidence. “We are what we drink,” Olivia explains. Olivia analyzes bone and teeth from the dead guys, noting the water we drink contains a pair of isotopes of oxygen. Measuring the ratios and comparing those to geographic distribution can point to the places the dead were raised and where they’ve lived recently. “So you see, as sure as a rock turns to dust, the water of life remains in the dead.”

Because it’s 1970, the arch criminal in the novel’s final pages laughs in Marisol’s face. DNA evidence isn’t allowed in court. The water of life remains in the dead and the dead remain with no justice. Of course, today DNA evidence frees wrongfully convicted people with some regularity.

But that’s at the end. As the plot thickens Nieto raises holy hell involving high-level Catholic church honchos, including the Cardinal, whom the author christens McCrudden in a nod to Cardinal McIntyre, and his trusted financial adviser, Monsignor Crowe, who should eat some. Sex, baby stealing, imputed perversion, and real estate fraud circle around the cassocks.

The Water of Life Remains in the Dead is a Los Angeles book, where the city’s landmarks play useful roles in advancing the story or developing atmosphere. A dinner from Rocky’s Shrimp Boat coaxes the remembered feel of greasy wax paper mixed with the aroma of breaded seafood. Nieto crafts a nice homage to Acosta’s Revolt of the Cockroach People in her description of the Christmas eve mass at St. Basil’s church that opens Zeta’s novel. The opulence of the Biltmore hotel provides the background of a climactic confrontation with McCrudden and Crowe, where they cop out to sins of the flesh but excuse them away, leaving the detective-reporter frustrated and defeated. And taken captive.

Tracking the clerical clues leads Alejandra to a white-suited land developer whose presence in the film Water & Power--set in the same era--looms with the same kind of menace Nieto gives the tycoon. Sadly, the Richard Montoya film is little-known so perhaps the parallel is less homage and more this reader’s memory. But, like the film, this book deserves attention for its devotion to the city of La, and its unyielding perspective on corruption over Chavez Ravine.

That the action moves along swiftly is as it should be. When Alejandra is tied to a chair and a demon puts his lips to her bloody mouth, the plot comes to a screaming, satisfying climax that readers will laugh at for its ostentatiousness.

That big print that initially misled me into thinking The Water of Life Remains in the Dead a YA read, really is useful to aging eyes. Italicizing Spanish as if it is a foreign language is not at all useful. The story is a wonderful addition to LA literature. The intrepid reporter, Alejandra Marisol, makes an excellent addition to the small roster of Chicanas and Latinas in crime fiction--Gloria Damasco, Romilia Chacón, Inez Leon, Lupe Solano, Ivon Villa.

All in all, The Water of Life Remains in the Dead feels like Maria Nieto has the makings of an extended series of Chicana crime novels in store for readers. Adelante, mujer.

Ron Arias Launches The Wetback and Other Stories

The invitation made a lot of sense. Come to a remote location in the Cahuenga Pass in the mid-afternoon, get home before dark. Motivated perhaps by the fact that Arias travels by public transit, I welcome the sensible timing. Because I don't suffer late hours well, I miss a lot of wonderful events.

Once I get there I welcome the sylvan ambience, the sunny skies, the fabulous hors d’oeuvres--many gluten-free--the scintillating company, and the host’s eye-popping art collection. All in all, a perfect afternoon to launch an author’s capstone fiction collection.

A.P. Gonzalez welcomes guests and introduces the reading
La Bloga will review the collection in a coming column. Today’s take is a foto-ése of the delightful afternoon reading in A.P. Gonzalez and Andrew Potwora’s packed living room.

Intially, my wife and I find patio seating where we join UC Merced’s Manuel M. Martin-Rodriguez and his wife, Virginia. Martin is excited at news UC Merced has launched an ambitious growth project to expand enrollment by 10,000 after 2020.

As it developed, Manuel had written about Arias’ work and is part of today's reading. Manuel and Virginia were houseguests of Joan and Ron Arias, allowing the Ariases to avoid the vagaries of public transit.

Manuel M. Martin-Rodriguez, a Chicano Literature scholar, introduces Ron Arias
For the reading, Arias takes a stool at the closed end of the spacious living room. Light streaming in from the author’s right side creates interesting illumination, particularly when Arias does an encore reading from his manuscript notebook.

Arias’ raspy voice and animated style engage and delight his audience and he holds their rapt attention through a full reading of the nine-page Canine Cool. As Arias reads the story about sculpted clay dogs with attitude, my mind flashes on the seminal Chicano artist Magu’s sculptures of a perro with attitude. It doubles my pleasure when Arias tells the house he was thinking of Magu when he worked on the story, and points me out as someone who knew Magu. Appropriately, Sunday following the Saturday reading was Magu’s 76th birthday. QEPD.

The Wetback and Other Stories marks Arias’ return to fiction after a career in non-fiction reporting from across the globe for People Magazine. The book brings together fourteen previously published stories, along with two new pieces. Arte Publico Press publishes The Wetback and Other Stories. You can order the collection directly from the publisher’s website, as well as have your local brick and mortar bookseller stock copies for you and your friends.

Here’s a podcast of Arias discussing the collection

Joan Arias and J.P. Gonzalez listen

ChimMaya Celebrates Eleventh Year with Blockbuster Exhibition

Say the phrase, “East Los Angeles” and it evokes notions of a heartland of Chicanismo. Few places represent that idea better than ChimMaya Gallery.

La Bloga discovered the gallery in July 2009, when La Bloga-Tuesday observed, “Today, I'm happy to introduce ChimMaya, a spot of entrepreneurial genius located in eastern East Los Angeles. ChimMaya has the distinction of being one of those rare eastside galleries to have gotten some ink from the Los AngelesTimes. Felicidades, ChimMaya.

A vibrant centro cultural, ChimMaya has hosted writers like Ana Castillo, collector Cheech Marin, and politician Richard Alatorre. Fine art, however, remains the gallery's special métier as ChimMaya has grown and enlarged its place in the art world. Along with Avenue 50 Studio, ChimMaya represents the best in Southern California arte.

Entry gallery offers itself, a turn to the left, or onward to three more spaces
Its annual Frida show celebrates the iconic Mexicana with densely packed galleries and encouraging sales. Even after all these years of Frida fandom, serious art collectors as well as people exploring their first acquisitions want a piece of Frida.

But ChimMaya is more than the annual Frida show. Month-in, month-out the gallery brings in work from a solid list of accomplished raza artists. Steven Acevedo, the gallery’s artistic director, has a keen eye for talent and he regularly welcomes emerging artists to display work in one of the four distinct spaces within the gallery.

Be sure to visit ChimMaya on Facebook, or the gallery’s space on the world wide web for a generous sampling of the artists and work displayed at ChimMaya Gallery.

Rick Ortega and Mario Trillo with" Man of Maravilla"(Charcoal and Conte on Paper (20x24)

Walking into ChimMaya presents a world of temptation. Whether to turn left into the small alcove space, linger in the room where Cici Segura Gonzales’ 8 foot codex demands eyes, or continue through into the center gallery then another alcove and the final indoor space.

I head toward the outdoor garden for a drink of ice water when Rick Ortega spots me and gives me an abrazo. We walk together into the final room where Ortega’s pencil drawing of dapper Mario Trillo commands the view. Mario is in the area and I impose on the artist and his subject to pose for a doppelgänger portrait.

In the main salon, a striking portrait of a young woman encircled by multicolored pupae dominates the far wall. I do not know the artist, Ariel Vargassal, but that is quickly remedied and Ariel is happy to talk about his work and pose for a portrait with his portrait.

The main gallery has a comfortable sitting area and people congregate to be near it, and the restrooms. Mario Guerrero and Mario Trillo relax beneath another Ariel Vargassal portrait, a stark white background, a living chambered nautilus, a reclining figure.

Glass artist Jaime Guerrero chats with Joe Bravo. Joe is a grandfather and offers his observations to Jaime, whose daughter at four months has begun crawling. Joe is the innovative tortilla artist, though he’s stepped back from the medium and only recently showed his paintings on a tortilla again.

Jaime Guerrero, new dad. Joe Bravo, experienced grandfather

As I prepare to wrap up my visit—my wife acquired a Frida purse from the ChimMaya boutique—I stop to talk with Ceci Segura-Gonzales. Her eight foot panel features the ancient raices of Mexican history, Olmec head, Toltec stele, and screaming tribal gente converging on a grotesque naked tiny-penised Donald Trump. A jaguar opens its jaws to swallow the cowering Trump, who stands in a pool of his own urine.

Silhouette figures that have leaped off an immigrants-crossing traffic sign to charge across the landscape, summoned to action by a mariachi trumpeter. On the opposite side, the screaming woman from Picasso’s Guernica sends her agonized calls to the skies, another clarion.

Segura tells me she was incredibly angry and started drawing with the Trump figure. She kept drawing and unrolling paper and drawing and unrolling more paper until she had devoted hundreds of hours and realized that framing the piece would be enormously expensive. She takes a deep breath and I understand there is another fifty feet of pent-in anger restrained in her fingers. The piece is titled, The Wall / Codex:"that Mexican thing." Pencil, Ink, Acrylic on Gessoed Paper (3'x8').

ChimMaya Gallery is near Atlantic and Beverly Blvd at 5283 E Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022

Monday, October 17, 2016

Interview of Donna Miscolta

Interview of Donna Miscolta by Xánath Caraza

Donna Miscolta

Xánath Caraza (XC): Who is Donna Miscolta? 

Donna Miscolta(DM): I grew up in National City, CA, previously named Rancho de la Nación by Mexico and before that called El Rancho del Rey by the Spanish, each name reflecting the “owner” of the land. Prior to all that, it was part of the Kumeyaay's ancestral territory. I knew none of this while I was growing up. For one thing, such information was not taught in schools, and even if it had been, my parents were intent on our being American, whatever the origin of the city we lived in. My father was an immigrant from the Philippines. He arrived as a steward in the U.S. Navy after World War II. My mother was born and grew up in San Diego, CA. Her mother was from Mexico, her father from the Philippines.

Freeway Sign by Raymond Yu

I occupy multiple spaces because of my mixed heritage. “Occupy” is a rather assertive term for what I did while growing up, which was more like hovering at the fringes or idling on the sidelines, never really claiming a space or taking a seat or standing my ground. For a long time, I felt like I didn’t belong. It’s this desire to claim space that infiltrates a lot of my fiction.

Part of being a writer is trying to understand who you are and your place in the world, which can be a slow and bewildering process. Though I’ve lived in Seattle since moving here in my early twenties, most of my stories are set in a fictional stand-in for the place where I grew up.

I was very shy as a child and I spent a lot of time observing rather than doing. I needed to translate those observations into something but didn’t know what that something was, so I saved things up, stacked them up inside me until I decided to write them down.

James Baldwin said, “The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.” I think that’s what I’ve tried to do both with my first book, the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced, and my story collection Hola and Goodbye.

XC: As a child, who first introduced you to reading? 

DM: I don’t remember being read to as a child. My parents were too busy. I don’t remember an abundance of books in our lives until I was ten when my parents bought a house and we stopped moving from rental to rental. Before that, I do remember we had stacks of comic books when I was in kindergarten. They were probably my introduction to words and stories, but I never developed a lasting love for comics. I also remember the Dick and Jane books in second grade, when my reading ability was surely impeded by the phonics lessons imposed on us and which completely baffled me. I don’t remember loving books until the third grade. My teacher read to us The Wind in the Willows and Charlotte’s Web. I developed into a fast reader on my own and it became a game to see how many books I could read compared to my older sister. We went to the public library every Saturday after catechism and checked out an armful of books and read until our eyes ached. I think I have to credit my sister for my reading habit. Part of it was competition, but part of it was a shared activity, when we would each sprawl on our beds and read the afternoon away. She read everything. I read mostly fiction.


 XC: How did you first become a writer? 

DM: I remember writing and illustrating a story about a cat when I was in fourth grade. I was very pleased with this story and also with the drawing. I was pretty good at drawing and thought for a very brief time that I might be an artist when I grew up. But what pleased me about the story was that I had created a mood, an action, and what I thought was a surprise ending, though it’s very likely that it was a cliché. But then I didn’t write another story until I took a fiction writing class when I was thirty. I wrote a self-conscious, plotless yawner that strained for the lyrical. It was almost ten years before I tried again when, inspired by the publication of Kathleen Alcalá’s story collection Mrs.Vargas and the Dead Naturalist, I enrolled in a series of writing classes in the University of Washington extension program in 1992. This was the beginning of my writing habit. My first story was published in the Raven Chronicles in Seattle in 1994. It was quite short, but at the time it said what I knew how to say. Many years later, I developed it into a longer story and it won the Lascaux Award for Short Fiction in 2014. It appears in my story collection Hola and Goodbye. Having that first story published made me believe that more of my stories might also eventually be published.

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

DM: There are a number of stories that I love for their intelligently drawn and deeply nuanced characters and sharply focused scenes. Among them are Antonya Nelson’s “Three Wishes,” which also uses humor to heart-rending effect; Mia Alvar’s “In the Country,” whose temporal structure heightens the sense of collapse of both a political regime and a marriage; and Luis Urrea’s “Welcome to the Water Museum,” which shows the multiple levels of tragedy wrought by environmental disaster.

In Urrea’s story, a small town has suffered a drought for so long that the children have had no experience of rain, humidity, mist, or bodies of water. They visit a water museum to learn about this virtually extinct resource. On the bus ride over, young Billy daydreams about his classmate Samantha, an object of desire seemingly as remote as an abundance of water.

“Billy rested his head against the glass and felt his mind fly out all the windows and doors. Felt himself move in and out of the alleyways. Like a great sideways yo-yo in a dream. Like he could walk into a thousand life stories. Like he could think up a whole new world. Like he could go out of himself and keep going and find a house on a beach with ten million miles of ocean in front and sweet cold fog and afternoon rainstorms and Sammy there beside him. This thought both comforted and stung him and made him happy and made him want to cry. How did Pops ever tell Mom he wanted to be her boyfriend? How did you do that? And – second base! Bras? How could a guy ever get up the guts to ask? How did a kiss happen, anyway?”

Later, after Billy and the others have been dazed and terrified by the museum displays of rain – its sound, its various strengths and velocities, the accompanying thunder – Billy asks his mother in the car on the way home, “How do you ask a girl for a kiss?”

His mother answers that you just know when the time is right. “How do you know?” Billy persists. His mother answers, “It’s like the rain. You just know when it’s coming.”

A mother who has known both a first kiss and rain, in her nostalgia unthinkingly gives her son no hope for the future. It’s a marvelous story of innocence, hope, and doom.

XC: What is a day of creative writing like for you?  

DM: I work full-time for a local government agency. I will often scribble notes on a piece of writing I’m working on during my lunch hour. Sometimes, I’ll do the same on the bus ride home. But I always go to my desk every evening after dinner and write something. I’m a slow, easily distracted writer and I’m tired in the evening so the words come slowly. Taking time off from my job for a writing residency is necessary for me to make good progress on a manuscript. When I’m in residency somewhere, the daily routine is much different, of course. I usually start the day with a run, then breakfast while reading a book, then writing until lunch, more writing with a break in the late afternoon for a walk, dinner and then more writing, and then reading before bed. I don’t necessarily write faster at a residency, but long stretches at the laptop allow the words to accumulate. I owe the completion of a draft of a new novel to three different residencies in the last year, starting with Ragdale. I drafted the first third of the novel there in a beautiful room in a historic house with a bewitching prairie in its backyard. That place felt like magic and I have high hopes for this novel that had it start there.

Ragdale Room

XC: When do you know when a text is ready to be read? 

DM: I try to take a story or chapter to the point where I don’t know what else to do with it. Sometimes that can be an early draft, but more often it’s a more developed one. I give it to my writing group. I rely on them to find the holes, the missteps, the murky. Their feedback usually sparks new ways for me to look at the material. In the editing stages with my publisher of Hola and Goodbye, one of the stories just wasn’t working, so I asked my writing group for an emergency review of the story. Always insightful, their comments helped me find my way to a fix.

XC: Could you comment on your life as a cultural activist?

DM: I’ve spent my non-writing career in a county government agency where I have often been the lone person of color in a meeting, on a work team, or at a conference session. In the last year it’s been energizing and inspiring to work on a project wholly apart from my regular work program of environmental education. The county, recognizing the importance of equity and social justice as part of its work both internally and in its services to the public, funded a number of employee-proposed projects – among them the literary project submitted by the team I’m on. Our proposal was to bring writers of color into the workplace to present their work as a catalyst for discussion about race and racism. We put out a call for artists, selected eight, and organized four events. Though I’ve organized other events, the events at work were especially gratifying because it brought together several things that fill my daily life – writing and writers, equity and social justice, and my job as a project manager.

XC: What project/s are you working on at the moment?

DM: I’ve competed the draft of a new novel about a character named Angie Rubio. Two of the chapters have been published, one in The Adirondack Review and one in Crate. The novel traces the knowledge a young Mexican-American girl acquires as she progresses through school. It’s meant to show that what we learn, how we learn and, consequently, how we behave is shaped by where the power lies within a relationship or situation. As Angie searches for her place both within and outside the family, she learns to claim her own power.

I’m also working on the first draft of a novel based on my short story “Strong Girls,” which appears in Hola and Goodbye, and earlier appeared first in Calyx and then in the anthology Memories Flow In Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from CALYX. My novel will take the reader through the travails of two young women who, in a world of eating disorders, plastic surgeries, and gender and racial stereotypes, struggle for and achieve a sense of self, affirm their ties to each other and family, and define their place in the world.

 XC: What advice do you have for other writers?

DM: Here are the things that have helped me:

A writing group – Mine has made me a better writer.

Conferences, workshops, and classes –They’ve helped me build both my craft and my community.

Residencies – They’re important to me for the opportunity to focus on writing and get a lot of words down that would otherwise take months to amass.

Writing schedule – I like the habit of sitting at my desk at a given time each day.

Reading – I’m always reading something. I read for story, but I think at some level my brain is processing craft.

XC: What else would you like to share?

DM: I’d like to give a shout-out to small presses. They’re the reason my books are out in the world. My novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced was published by Signal 8 Press in 2011, and Hola and Goodbye is published by Carolina Wren Press. I encourage readers to choose a book or two from these publishers’ lists to read. Here’s a start: Mulberry by Paulette Boudreaux and A Falling Star by Chantel Acevedo. And here are a couple from other small presses: Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, and the In-Between by Sayantani Dasgupta from Two Sylvias Press and Swarm Theory by Christine Rice from University of Hell Press. Really, there are so many out there to choose from.

Donna Miscolta
 Donna Miscolta’s short story collection Hola and Goodbye was selected by Randall Kenan for the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman and publication by Carolina Wren Press in 2016.  She is also the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including the anthology Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from Calyx. Excerpts from her novel-in-progress The Education of Angie Rubio appear in The Adirondack Review and Crate (now the Santa Ana Review). Find her at