Friday, October 31, 2008


Marina Tristán, Assistant Director of Arte Público, forwarded the catalog copy for the new anthology of Latino crime fiction, Hit List. I'll reprint it here with the hope that it whets your interest in this collection.

Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery
Edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez
Introduction by Sarah Cortez
Foreword by Ralph E. Rodríguez, Ph.D.
March 31, 2009, 240 pages, $19.95 ISBN-10: 1-55885-543-2 ISBN-13: 978-1-55885-543-4

This first-ever collection of short mystery fiction by Latino authors contains both stylistically and ethnically diverse stories. In Lucha Corpi’s story, Hollow Point at the Synapses, her unique narrator—a bullet—describes the instant before killing a young Peruvian woman: I feel the pull of the hammer. The pressure mounts. I am now in place. The moment is upon me. Swiftly and efficiently, I will do what I must, what I was created for. In an instant, I am off, traveling at a speed reserved only for death.

This groundbreaking anthology of short fiction by Latino mystery writers, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, features an intriguing and unpredictable cast of sleuths, murderers and crime victims. Reflecting the authors’—and society’s—preoccupation with identity, self, and territory, the stories run the gamut of the mystery genre, from traditional to noir, from the private investigator to the police procedural, and even a chick lit mystery.

The Right Profile features a Miami private investigator who goes undercover to prove a deadbeat father can pay child support, and she delights in testifying against him in court. In The Skull of Pancho Villa, someone has stolen the family heirloom and it’s up to Gus Corral to get it back. And in A New York Chicano, a successful bachelor from El Paso—a graduate of NYU working for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan—gets his revenge against a xenophobic newscaster.

Hit List collects for the first time short fiction by many of the Latino authors who have been pioneers in the mystery genre, using it to showcase their unique cultures, neighborhoods and realities. Contributors include award-winning writers such as Carolina García-Aguilera, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Rolando Hinojosa, Manuel Ramos and Sergio Troncoso, as well as emerging writers who deserve more recognition.

Sarah Cortez is a poet, educator, and law enforcement officer. She is the author of a poetry collection, How to Undress a Cop (Arte Público Press, 2000), which won the PEN Texas Literary Award in Poetry, and she edited Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (Piñata Books, 2007), winner of a 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award. She lives and works in Houston, Texas.

Liz Martínez a New York State investigator, has published short stories in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Manhattan Noir (Akashic Books, 2006) and Police Officer’s Quarterly. She lives and works in New York City.

Margaret Atwood, the popular and prolific Canadian writer who won the 2000 Hammett Prize for The Blind Assassin, will receive Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias prize for literature. The prize carries a $66,000 cash award.

Fernando Savater, Spanish author, philosopher and political activist, was named the winner of the Premio Planeta, Spain's most lucrative literary prize, for La Hermandad de la Buena Suerte (The Brotherhood of Good Luck), a detective novel about a missing jockey. The prize carries a cash award of $820,000.

November 12th, 2008 7:00pm in Old Main, University of Colorado, Boulder Campus
The Center of the American West presents its annual Words to Stir the Soul program. The Center's announcement says: On the heels of one of the longest presidential campaigns in history, one that has turned up the heat on this topic, the Center will shift the focus back from positions to people. This special evening will celebrate the literature of immigration, rather than the policies of immigration. Come listen as community members, politicians, public servants, professors, and a host of others read selections from a literature that has played a crucial role in the formation of the narrative of the West.

I'll be reading at this event but I haven't yet picked my selection. There are many good ones to choose from; for example: Reyna Grande's Across A Hundred Mountains, Luis Alberto Urrea's The Devil's Highway, Victor Villaseñor's Rain of Gold - any other suggestions?


I won't make a percentage-of-the-vote prediction; the numbers are all up for grabs, in my opinion. Landslide? Too close for comfort? I do expect Barack Obama to win but I think it will be tight and that Tuesday night will be a very long night. I won't mind, though, if the Republicans win only Alaska and Arizona and the Presidency is settled by 9:00 pm. However, in anticipation that most of us will be up long past our usual bedtimes, here are some diverse suggestions for reading material as you watch the returns. Keeping everything in context, these novels should satisfy any remaining political appetite you may have after almost two years of campaigning and several hours of watching which states end up red or blue.

All The King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
The Manchurian Candidate - Richard Condon
1984 - George Orwell
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Milagro Beanfield War - John Nichols
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

¡Viva Obama!

Click on the screen and get ready to dance.


Hallowe'en Wishes from Michael Sedano

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Politics and the Smaller Story

Gente: The elections loom before us and I'm choosing not to tout a particular book, video, TV program or podcast. Here's what I will say: We are at a crossroads, a profound one, and I'm not sure that collectively we're up to the challenge. As a nation, we are rich beyond belief, yet there is starvation, joblessness, illiteracy and a spiritual poverty so deep that we narcotize ourselves with alcohol, drugs, shopping, and Dancing with the Stars.

And as to what will happen the election, in many ways, I wonder what will trickle down to my world. I have lived through several Democratic and Republican administrations, but this is the first time that I have thought about applying for food stamps, the first time that I have been faced with the choice of taking on more debt or giving up my apartment.

I lost my job six months ago, and am trying like a lot of people to move into another line of work. I am motivated, disciplined, with a good resume and work ethic and after six months I have 2 part-time jobs, making so little money that I still qualify in Illinois for unemployment. I tell myself I'm not alone, that my lifestyle is not indulgent, nor am I lazy, and yet there are days when suiting up and plugging away at it again feels too hard. I do it anyway.

Real change is not one man, no matter how charismatic, no matter how decent or dedicated sitting in the Oval Office. It's when we as a people, say 'Enough' -- it is when we stop traffic, stop business as usual, and refuse to settle for bandaids or crumbs.

I'm sorry this column isn't longer, but right now, I'm tired.

and the winner will be . . .


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Los Bloguitos Is Turning One

Illustrated by Mara Price

Come and celebrate with us a year of cuentos, poemas and cultura. Read and reach for the stars at

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

$29.99 isbn-10/isbn-13:
076362067x / 9780763620677
on sale date:
09/2008 type/format:
Anthology / Hard Cover
age range:
10 yrs and up # of pages/size:
256 / 9 1/4" x 10 1/8"
grade range:
Grade 5 and up

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

Author: National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
Conceived and co-created by the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, this incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, and poetry melds with an equally stunning array of original art to offer a multifaceted look at America's history through the prism of the White House. Starting with a 1792 call for designers to plan a presidential mansion and continuing through the present day, OUR WHITE HOUSE takes in everything from the amusing antics of presidents' children and pets to the drama of the White House ablaze and the specter of war; from the role of immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans to the thoughts and actions of many presidents themselves. These highly engaging writings and illustrations, expressing varied viewpoints and interwoven with key historical events, are a vital resource for family sharing and classroom use -- and a stirring reminder that the story of the White House is the story of every American.

More than one hundred leading authors and illustrators donate their talents in a creative tour de force that is making history.

Author’s comments:
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance is a not-for-profit literacy organization founded in 1997 by Mary Brigid Barrett and composed of award-winning children's authors and illustrators, including M. T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Susan Cooper, Nikki Grimes, Steven Kellogg, David Macaulay, Patricia MacLachlan, Gregory Maguire, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, and Katherine Paterson.

For more information about the NCBLA's goals and activities, visit their website and blog.

La Bloga Politica

Don't forget to vote on November 4th.

Who will get the flag?

My wild guess is:

Obama 50%
McCain 46%
Others 4%.

image from

El Corrido de Obama

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where are you, today?

Michael Sedano

Where are these poets and writers today? Back in 1973, all appeared at El Festival de Flor Y Canto, at the University of Southern California. In 2010, I'd like to see them together again at USC, at Festival de Flor Y Canto 2010

I shot these mug shots at the University of California Riverside, whose library is the only one in California holding an almost-complete set of the rare videos recorded of that first Flor Y Canto. Only Jose Montoya's presentation is absent; that videocassette was lost by UC Davis' library years ago. The videos, with a single exception, exist only on ancient 3/4" U-matic videocassettes. Only Oscar Acosta's performance has been digitized; it's for sale on the DVD of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." See link in Gregg Barrios' guest column. 

Pictured here are: Lynn Romero, Alejandro Murguia, Enrique La Madrid, Pedro Ortiz, Estevan Arrellano, Juan Contreras, Javier Pacheco, Jeronimo Blanco, Jorge Gonzalez, Ron Arias, E.A. Maress, David Gomez, Antonio G. Ortiz, Barbara Hernandez, Jorge Alvarez, Olivia Castellano, Avelardo Valdez, Ponce Javier Ruiz, Teresa Paloma Acosta, Tomas Atencio. 

Not illustrated are writers whom I've already made contact with, as well as Teatro Meztizo, Teatro de los Niños, and Teatro Pequeño, though it'd be tremendous to see those children all grown up, and their mentors.

Also not illustrated are writers who are now dead: Ricardo Sanchez, Tomás Rivera, Marcela Trujillo, Abelardo Delgado, raúlrsalinas, Omar Salinas, Oscar Zeta Acosta. QEPD.

Several of the where-are-they-now names Google-up older-looking folks, apparently writers. The popular internet search engine, however, fails to provide email or other contact information. Hence this La Bloga column. 

If you are among these writers, please contact me for an invitation to the reunion floricanto in 2010. If you know someone with the same name and whose face sure looks like that younger face shown here, please let your friend know about this column and the links to the Call for Artists to the 2010 Festival de Flor Y Canto.

Book Give-Away Update

Great news from publisher Hachette Book Group for La Bloga reader Liana Lopez of Houston Texas! 

Just after the 8-title give-away closed last week, La Bloga received Liana's 100% correct response. Publisher Hachette Book Group extended its generosity to six winners, and mailed this 8-book library to Liana Lopez of Houston, Texas:

Dream in Color By Linda Sánchez , Loretta Sánchez ISBN: 0446508047
Gunmetal Black By Daniel Serrano ISBN: 0446194131
The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters By Lorraine López ISBN: 0446699217
Bless Me, Ultima By Rudolfo Anaya ISBN: 0446675369
Brownsville By Oscar Casares ISBN: 9780316146807
The Hummingbird's Daughter By Luis Urrea ISBN: 0316154520
The General and the Jaguar By Eileen Welsome ISBN: 0316715999
Tomorrow They Will Kiss By Eduardo Santiago ISBN: 0316014125

Congratulations, Liana, and your fellow Hachette/La Bloga Book Give-Away winners:

Tom Miller
Tucson AZ

John Alba Cutler
Evanston IL

Eduardo Pena
Tucson, AZ

Marie Madrid
Denver, CO

Diana Chavez
Littleton, CO

Liana Lopez
Houston, TX

Election Season

As Daniel Olivas notes in Monday's column, La Bloga's blogueras blogueros are posting political columns including our predictions of the winners and weenies. Lucky moi, I get Tuesday election day. See you then. Gracias de antemano for going to the polls and voting, for encouraging your familia to vote. 

La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and any La Bloga item. Click on the Comments counter below. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. If you have a book or arts review, an extended announcement, a response at length to something you've read at La Bloga, by all means, please, join us. Click here for your invitation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Defending New Voices: On the Road with Latinos in Lotusland

Guest essay by Melinda Palacio

At the risk of labeling myself a one-hit wonder, I’ve taken to the road with my less than a thousand word short story in Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press), reading it in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. The little piece has received more play than any other poem or story I’ve written, not to mention my unpublished novel. On August 23, actor Gregg Henry, from Payback, read my story “The Last Time” at Word Theatre and, weeks later, I turned around and read it on television, during the 30 minute segment on David Starkey’s Creative Community Channel. By the time I arrived in San Diego, after having done the LiL panel with Reyna Grande and Sandra Ramos O’Briant in Santa Barbara the week before, I decided to do something different. I read some of my poems instead. However, a woman in the audience shook things up in ways I never imagined. Our audiences for Latinos in Lotusland have been warm and welcoming, made up mostly of friends and family. However, in San Diego, we had a less than friendly questioner.

The audience started off with the usual queries. However, when one woman asked, “how do we find time to write?” -- a standard question to pose to writers -- another woman in the audience wanted to impose her own agenda on the panel of four Latina contributors from Latinos in Lotusland: Helena Viramontes, Reyna Grande, Melinda Palacio, and Jennifer Silva Redmond. We kept our cool in light of what Jennifer calls, the question that wasn’t a question. The comment went something like:

I believe you are either born with the talent to write and if you don't have talent, you should not be writing. I was always told I had talent and I've gotten some things published and I don't think people who don't have a natural ability to write should be writing. There are so many people who claim they want to be writers and can't even formulate a proper sentence. They don't know anything about grammar and they say they want to write and I think they should not be writing if they can't put together a proper sentence.

Helena took the floor first, emphasizing the importance of craft and paying attention to details on the sentence level. Viramontes then stressed the potential to learn, especially when you are from an underserved community, where families don’t have regular access to books in the home and other priviliges that might foster a love for reading and writing. I was especially touched by Helena’s comment that she didn’t grow up with books in the home, other than a set of encyclopedias, because I had a similar experience and, as a child, pored over those torn encyclopedias that were relegated to a closet. I could picture my grandmother putting those books on lay away because she couldn’t say no to the door-to-door salesman, no matter that the books were in a language she couldn’t read.

Jennifer emphasized the importance of discipline, of joining a writing group. “Practice may not make perfect,” Redmond said, “but it helps. If someone has a really great, orginal story to tell, their writing style is less critical -- if they don’t have a really great story to tell, then writing ability is obviously much more important (Which is why interesting people who aren’t great writers can often write compelling memoirs).”

I chimed in and told the audience not to let anyone tell them they can't write, not to believe in naysayers, to tell their stories and not let anyone stop them from achieving their dreams. In my opinion, it’s important to listen to positive voices, to the one voice telling you that you can do it, even if that one voice is your own, especially if that one voice is your own.

The woman in the audience was not satisfied when we didn’t validate her point or start arguing on stage with her. I can’t say which reaction she would prefer, especially when she went on to say something about how 90% of high school grads in the U.S. can’t write a comprehensible sentence. Helena offered the audience a chance to pause and laugh when she said, “Well I personally do not know 90% of students in the U.S. so I couldn’t say.”

We’ll never know why that lady with an upperclass British accent said all that she said. Why she felt it her mission to silence new voices who want to try their luck at writing, who want to find time to tell their stories. As our panel of four Latina authors proved, silencing new voices is not the answer. After the panel, so many people in the audience came up to us and thanked us for encouraging students and community members to follow their dreams.

Aside from the zinger of a comment, the San Diego City Book Fair laid our the royal author carpet and treated us to a two-night stay at the Sheraton, beautiful brochures and t-shirts with our names on it and a well-organized fun festival, the honorarium was generous as well. Gracias San Diego City College for a warm welcome on the Latinos in Lotusland Tour.

[Pictured in descending order: Melinda Palacio, Helena María Viramontes, Jennifer Silva Redmond, Reyna Grande and Sandra Ramos O’Briant.]

◙ We at La Bloga will be doing some political posting leading up to the election next Tuesday. So, on Monday, I will make my predictions on the presidential race and perhaps add a few other thoughts. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres at La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hit List

I can finally announce that a Latino crime fiction anthology is on the way. This idea has been talked about for years, with a few false starts, by writers, readers, publishers, critics. Sarah Cortez and Liz Martinez managed to turn the talk into action. Cortez and Martinez are the editors of a new book that will be released in the spring of 2009. Tentatively titled Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, the book will include stories by new and veteran writers exploring the mystery, detective, and crime fiction genres from a Latino perspective.

Arte Público is the publisher. I don't have a list of the writers featured in the book, but I know that Steven Torres (the Precinct Puerto Rico series and The Concrete Maze) has a story in the anthology and I am fairly certain that Lucha Corpi also has a piece in the collection. I've been told that Ralph E. Rodriguez, who wrote Brown Gumshoes: Detective Fiction and the Search for Chicana/o Identity, will write an introduction for the book. My contribution is a story entitled The Skull of Pancho Villa - it's a killer, as they say in the biz.

If anyone has more details about this book that you would like to share with La Bloga, go ahead and post a comment. We all would appreciate the information. I'll post updates about this book as I learn more, including a definite publication date.

Conversation>Contacto: Artist talk featuring Mexican paper artist, Jorge Rosano.

In collaboration with the Mexican Consulate and the Mexican Cultural Center, renowned Mexican paper artist Jorge Rosano will unveil a one-of-a-kind paper altar as part of the Museo's Día de los Muertos festivities. The event will include a special performance by Fiesta Colorado.

Rosano is widely known for his contemporary 3-D cut-paper sculptures, which are inspired by the Pre-Hispanic Indian tradition of paper cutting. His work reflects on Mexican culture and history and is done spontaneously without the use of preliminary sketches.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
6:30 PM @ the Museo
Members $3, General admission $5
861 Santa Fe Dr, Denver, CO 80204

Back by popular demand… Su Teatro announces Braided Sorrow: The Extension

If you missed this amazing production, you’ll get four more chances to experience it: Thursday 11/6 at 7pm; Friday 11/7 at 8:05pm; Saturday 11/8 at 8:05pm; Sunday 11/9 at 3pm. Don’t miss this final opportunity to see the hottest show of Denver’s fall theater season. $18, $15 students/seniors, groups of 12+ for $12 each. This play won the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize and was selected by the Denver Post as one of the ten plays that must be seen this season. Su Teatro's production is a world premiere of the play by Marisela Treviño Orta.

Don’t miss your last chance to see this incredibly moving story about the missing women of Juárez and the one mysterious figure who knows too much —the play Westword calls “gutsy” —the play the Rocky Mountain News calls “chilling reality and artful imagining” —the play the Denver Post calls “alternately haunting and beautiful” —the play the North Denver Tribune calls “important.”


Press release from UCSC:

A distinguished group of writers, editors, scholars, and publishers will converge on the UCSC campus November 6-8, for a bilingual conference on Latino Literature.

In addition to a series of academic panels, the conference will feature eight noted writers and poets who will read from their works in two evening sessions--Thursday and Friday, November 6 and 7--at the UCSC Humanities Lecture Hall beginning at 7 p.m.

Admission is free and open to the public.

Guest authors and poets appearing at the conference will include:

Daniel Alarcón: award-winning fiction writer and essayist. His most recent novel, Lost City Radio, was named a “Best Book of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times and several other publications; he is also the editor of the Lima-based Etiqueta Negra, a cross-border print/online literary journal.

Héctor Tobar: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the LA Times (and a UCSC alumnus). He is the author of the novel The Tattooed Soldier (Penguin) and the nonfiction book Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States.

Achy Obejas: fiction and poetry writer. She is the author of the short story collection We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, the novels Memory Mambo, and Days of Awe, as well as a new poetry collection. Objeas edited the volume Havana Noir, and is also translating Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer-Prize winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Brenda Cárdenas: Chicago-based Chicana poet and performer. Her most recent chapbook is From the Tongues of Brick and Stone.

Luis Cortés Bargalló: poet and translator based in Baja California. He is co-editor of the two-volume bilingual poetry anthology Connecting Lines/Líneas Conectadas co-sponsored by the NEA and UNAM.

Dagoberto Gilb: acclaimed fiction writer (The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña; Woodcuts of Women; The Flowers), essayist (Gritos), and anthologist (Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature).

Marc David Pinate: poet, playwright, and community activist. He is currently program manager at Galería de la Raza in San Francisco and is the co-founder and front man-poet of Grito Serpentino, a spoken word and music ensemble with a high profile in the slam poetry scene.

Cristina Rivera Garza: one of the leading novelists in Mexico. She is the author of the prizewinning Nadie me verá llorar, translated as No One Will See Me Cry, as well as short story and poetry collections.

Designed to explore the variety and diversity of Latino literature, the conference will also feature a lunch workshop on November 8 with secondary school teachers.

Panel discussions with writers, scholars, and librarians will take place on Friday, Nov. 7, from 9:30 am to 4 pm and on Saturday Nov. 8, from 10 am to 12:30 p.m. at UCSC's Namaste Lounge (Colleges 9 and 10).

For more information and a complete schedule of conference events, go to the Conference web site.

If you haven't had the time to read my short story Fence Busters yet, published by the Rocky Mountain News online and in the paper itself, you can listen to an excellent recording of a reading of the story by Gabriella Cavallero. Go to this web page and click on the Audio button under Additional Media. Ms. Cavallero does a fine job.

Finally, I hear there's a new Latino lifestyle magazine based in Chicago - Café. Everything I know about it is found in this article at the Chicago Reader. ¡Buena suerte!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Palabra Pura: Soul Food Worthy of Support

While his note is geared to Palabra Pura poets, I would ask gente in the Chicago area and elsewhere to read this, give generously, and support what is a seminal Latino poetry venue. Palabra Pura feeds the soul, celebrates our luminaries, makes poetry accessible for our community in a way that no other literary institution does. For more info about who and what Palabra Pura is, read:

October 16, 2008

Dear Lisa:

As a board member of the Guild Complex in Chicago, last year I had the privilege of weighing in on the discussion that produced this re-vamped mission statement:

The Guild Complex, a community-based literary organization, presents and supports diverse, divergent and emerging voices through innovative programs including performances and readings. We look at literary culture and ask, “What’s missing?”

In the Fall of 2005, then board member and current board president Mike Puican answered that question (“What’s missing?”) in the following way: “There are no poetry reading venues in Chicago that deliberately and systematically welcome Latino and Latina poets.” So when Mike called me one morning and asked if I would be interested in helping create a Latino poetry reading series, one of my most enriching professional collaborations began. You know what I am talking about because you are a PALABRA PURA alum. And I am writing to more than thirty
of you—our PALABRA PURA familia!

As the Guild Complex moves forward in planning season four (2009), we are faced, as you can imagine, with growing challenges. We’ve received funding in the past from the Illinois Council on the Humanities and the Joyce Foundation. And yet we have come to understand that in order for this series to have long-term viability, we are going to have to tap individual giving, as well.

And it occurred to me: who better understands and, I hope, appreciates this series than those poets who have read in it? Who better understands that PALABRA PURA aims to promote community between poets, specifically through our pre-reading salon dinners, in addition to providing a Chicago venue for Latino and Latina poets to share their work?

We have ten readings per year where we invite a “visiting poet” from outside Chicago. With me so far? We are asking you to look at it this way: We are asking you to donate $5 to each of those ten visiting poets. 

If you can think about this in terms of giving future Palabra Pura readers $5 each, it will go a long way towards our being able to keep offering honoraria, in addition, of course, to travel and lodging.

And here’s the part I like the most: it’s a model for increasing sustainability. Next year, at the conclusion of season four, we’ll be joined by more PALABRA PURA alums, so that each year your $50 donation will be increased (if we remain faithful) by at least $500. It’s as if we were all forming a living and growing endowment for the future of the series. 

But don’t get me wrong: the annual budget for PALABRA PURA is much much larger than the $1500 or so I hope to raise from all of you. But it is an excellent and meaningful start at being more intentional about tapping individual giving. Also: future potential funders will be impressed if we can say that former participants in the series are among our most faithful supporters.

And finally: your $50 donation buys you an annual membership to the Guild Complex. If you have any questions about what a Guild “membership” means, please ask (this letter is already too long!) And it goes without saying that if the spirit moves you to donate more than $50 please do so since I imagine and understand that there may be personal economies who can’t give as much as $50. It also goes without saying that any amount, however modest, would be greatly

In a nutshell: I am asking you to consider making a tax-deductible donation of $50 towards a program you were a part of and, we trust, was a meaningful experience for you. You can make your donation by writing a check to “The Guild Complex.” Please write in the memo line “Palabra Pura.” Alternatively, you can make the donation online through pay pal by going to the Guild website ( ). We only ask that you let us know if you have gone this route as we would like to keep track of the number of PALABRA PURA alums who have contributed. If you opt to send a check, the mailing address is:

Guild Complex
P.O. Box 478880
Chicago, IL 60647-9998

Again, please feel free to contact me, or Ellen Wadey, the Guild’s Executive Director, if you have any questions.

Thank you so much,


Francisco Aragón
Co-curator, PALABRA PURA
Board member, The Guild Complex


6:00 PM - 9:00 PM,
Tuesday, October 28
Reception and private viewing including guided tours of
La Vida Sin Fin - Day of the Dead 2008
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th St., Chicago
Plus a special program featuring
Jose Cruz, Founder and President of Immigration PAC,
speaking about the immigration issue in the upcoming elections

$30 in advance; $40 at the door
includes reception, private viewing and tours
For advance ticket price, payment by noon, October 27

On-street parking

Please visit the website to RSVP

Featured Event

NALAC Regional Arts Training Workshop
November 14-15, 2008
Los Angeles, CA

at The New LATC
514 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013

HOSTED BY: The New LATC, CONTRA-TIEMPO, Floricanto Dance Theater, Olin Theater Presenters, PALABRA A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art.

The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) will convene a Regional Arts Training Workshop in Los Angeles entitled “Creative Responders: Latino Art in Action Re-Affirming and Transforming the Future.”

The Regional Workshop is a forum for dialogue, professional development and technical assistance for the Latino arts and cultural field. The context of this gathering is focused on empowering Latino artists and arts and cultural organizations through ideas, solutions and strategies for sustainability.

We invite you to join other Latino artists, arts and cultural leaders, organizers, educators and activists in the Los Angeles, area for this rewarding two day meeting that will include presentations, workshops, dialogue, performances and exhibits.

Regional Workshop Tracks include:

• Resource Development and Capacity Building
• Leadership Development and Re-generation
• Establishing Relationships with Funders and Navigating Government Funding
• Arts Toolkit: Marketing Your Work and Reaching New Audiences
• Nuestras Casas: Development of Cultural Facilities
• Transnational Re-Connections: Immigration, Economic Justice & Social Impact
• Comerciantes Culturales: Organizing Communities through Arts Festiva
• Taking Latino Art and Culture into the Classroom
• Creative Responders: Re-Shaping the 21st Century Latino Narrative
• Latino Arts Town Hall Meeting

Made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts; the JPMorgan Chase Foundation; the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; the Ford Foundation;Southwest Airlines; MetLife Foundation; City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; The Center for Cultural Innovation in Los Angeles and individual donors, volunteers and NALAC members.

Los Angeles Host Committee: The New LATC, CONTRA-TIEMPO, Floricanto Dance Theater, Olin Theater Presenters, PALABRA A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art.

Click Here to read the October 2008 e-Boletin and find more information on this and other exciting exhibits, events, funding opportunities, resources and member happenings.

Direct Link:

Join NALAC today at to stay informed of important announcements and opportunities!

Support NALAC!

Click Here to make a secure tax-deductible contribution via Network for Good and help NALAC continue providing valuable programs and services to Latino artists and arts organizations across the country.

1208 Buena Vista Street
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The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) is dedicated to the preservation, development and promotion of the cultural and artistic expressions of the diverse Latino populations of the United States. Through this effort, NALAC is committed to the continuing struggle for the elimination of racism, sexism, ageism and discrimination against gay, lesbian and physically challenged populations. The objective is to recognize and support the varied standards of excellence grounded in the aesthetics and traditions of our root cultures.

NALAC receives generous support from the Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, the MetLife Foundation, Southwest Airlines, Heineken USA, Texas Commission on the Arts, The Tobin Endowment, City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs, Tucson Pima Arts Council, San Antonio Area Foundation, Our Lady of the Lake University, NALAC members, individual donors and volunteers.

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

West Hollywood Book Fair 2008

Authors from Latinos In Lotusland were present at the fair!

Tips in Writing for Children

A Writing Tip from Newbery Honor Novelist Carolyn Coman

As writers, we're prone to hearing voices—sometimes a chorus of them. We strain to hear the true and natural voices of our characters and our narrators. We wait for our deepest unconscious to talk to us in whatever way it does. And at some point in the process, we invite in response from trusted readers—a fellow writer, or teacher, or editor—and their voices help us see where we are with our stories, and where we need to go.

There are also voices that aren't helpful at all, just plenty loud and persistent: the internal censor, the distracter, the voice that's always there with the perfect taunt. You will never write this story; it isn't worth writing anyway; you will never get it published; if you do, it won't be successful and you'll never be able to write the next one. . . . The variations are endless. It's the mean voice that adapts itself perfectly to jiggle our worst, next fear.

Let's listen to the voices that serve our stories. Ask/tell the others to be quiet; and if they won't, then make a deal: we will listen to them after we have sat down at our desks and worked on our stories for a chunk of time. Let's cultivate a discipline that reduces the clatter of voices that undermine what really matters: writing the best stories we possibly can.

Happy Writing!

Carolyn Coman's acclaimed novels for children and young adults include The Big House, Many Stones (National Book Award finalist and a 2001 Michael L. Printz Honor book), Bee and Jacky, What Jamie Saw (National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honor book), and Tell Me Everything. She has taught fiction writing at Harvard Extension, Harvard Summer School, and the Chautauqua Institute. For eight years she was a faculty member of the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program, and she is currently on the faculty of Hamline University's new MFA program.
* * *

A Writing Tip from Picture-Book Author/Illustrator Dominic Catalano

Writing a picture book can be daunting. Having to write to a specific book length, pacing the story in a purposeful and dramatic way to move the reader forward—engaged and anticipating what's next to come—is indeed challenging. And, all this in just thirty-two, that's right, count 'em, thirty-two pages.

Here's an idea: think in scenes, like a movie!

Breaking those thirty-two pages into scenes can help to realize the overall experience of the book. Page 1/scene 1 and pages 2 and 3/scene 2, like the opening credits of a film, can offer visual material, such as illustrations and font styles, that sets the stage, foreshadows, and eases the reader into the opening written text. The next fourteen scenes (all spreads except for the last on page 32), build the story to a climax and, like scenes in a movie, change through shifts in point of view, location, or action.

An illustrator has a distinct advantage here, being trained to think visually. An author, however, brings the delight and power of language to the picture-book mix. When an author writes visually, pacing a story into scenes, an illustrator (who might also be the author—talk about split personalities) can easily follow the flow of the narrative, enhancing and adding to the dramatic, humorous, or aesthetic effect.

Who knows, you might be the next Chris Van Allsburg, whose picture book (think Jumanji, The Polar Express, and the soon-to-be-released Zathura) is the next blockbuster to make it to the silver screen.

Happy Creating!

Dominic Catalano holds an MA in fine arts, an MFA in illustration, and most recently was awarded a PhD in art education from Ohio State University. He is an assistant professor at Bowling Green State University in northwestern Ohio. Dominic has illustrated twenty-five trade and mass-market picture books, four of which he also wrote—Wolf Plays Alone, Frog Went A-Courting, Santa and the Three Bears, and Mr. Basset Plays. His work has also appeared in numerous children's magazines and reading series.

If you'd like to learn more from Dominic, join him for the Visual Art of the Picture Book, a special workshop for illustrators, from November 6-9, 2008. For more information, visit

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A Writing Tip from Children's Editor Paula Morrow

Tight writing is related to focus. There are two aspects involved, which for lack of better terms I'll call close-up and wide-angle. When taking pictures with a camera, you usually use one or the other; but when editing, you need both. Close-up focus is the line-by-line, word-by-word process of trimming out unnecessary words and phrases to streamline each sentence. "Cats are able to hunt at night because of their ability to see in the dark" sixteen words) becomes "Cats can hunt at night because they can see in the dark" (twelve words).

Equally important is wide-angle focus, in which you examine the structure, organization, and development of the entire manuscript. Do you have a clear narrative arc that builds inexorably to a memorable climax and then resolves quickly? How much backstory is actually necessary? How much detail is required, and how much is padding? Could you delete the first paragraph? The first page? Why is material from chapter two repeated in chapter five? Is a whole page of dialog necessary on page three, or is some of the dialog purposeless chitchat that impedes the plot?

When you're tightening a manuscript, read it multiple times. Focus on either the close-up or the wide-angle in each reading—but not both at once.

Happy Streamlining!

Paula Morrow considers her main talent to be editing, although she has written more than two hundred published stories, articles, poems, and activities. Before joining Cricket Magazine Group in the 1980s, she edited publications for the state of Michigan and for NOAA, then owned a desktop-publishing business. As executive editor of Ladybug and Babybug magazines, she also edited titles for Cricket Books and packaged books for McGraw-Hill Children's Publishing and Scholastic Book Clubs. Paula is a regular columnist for the children's writers' magazine Once Upon a Time, a weekly children's book reviewer for newspapers in northern Illinois, and an instructor with the Institute of Children's Literature. She is editor and publisher of the new small press Boxing Day Books.

If you'd like to learn more from Paula, she will be offering Writing Fiction for Children's Magazines for the Highlights Foundation, November 13—16, 2008. For more information, visit

Highlights Foundation, Inc.
814 Court Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
Phone: (570) 251-4500

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review: The Likeness.

NY: Viking/Penguin, 2008.
ISBN 9780670018864

Michael Sedano

Colonialized people flit about the periphery of Tana French's second novel, The Likeness, giving the mystery an interesting subtext that should be appealing to colonized people elsewhere. At the same time, the novel moves in and out of Irish and US cultural references so seamlessly that the gulf between the isolated villagers and worldwide English-language culture grows all the wider, even as it grows smaller for the rest of us. That gulf, plus an interesting premise, give the novel a high degree of readability, despite the author's struggle to get the story started.

Outside Dublin, a dying Irish village still seething resentment after centuries domination by the lords of the now-seedy manor house, shuns the new owner, the last remaining heir bearing the family name. For his part, the heir is more than content to shelter himself and his ersatz family of six within Whitethorn's walls, where the two women and four men fashion their own fantasy world that comes tumbling down around them when one of them winds up dead.

The dead woman is doppelgänger to detective Cassie Maddox. The deadly implications of Cassie's physical resemblance to the dead woman are only part of the story. More troubling--stunning in fact--is the dead woman's theft of Cassie's undercover identity, Lexie Madison. Where's she come from, who was she, why does she look exactly like Cassie?

Taking advantage of the virtual twinship between the victim and the cop, Dublin police insert Cassie as Lexie into the manor house to ferret out the facts and identify a suspect for the stabbing of their roommate. It's a plot rich in psychological torment. Real name, unknown, has been Lexie in her world. Now Cassie, creator of the false Lexie, must assume the dead Lexie's identity, who had been real. But Cassie is her own person, albeit injured from events just prior to the novel.

Author French uses the criss-crossed identity to create a struggle between Detective Cassie, Lexie--or whoever that person was for real--and Cassie/Lexie's conflicted conscience for betraying her best friends. Well, not her best friends, Lexie's best friends. And that wasn't really Lexie. But one, or more, of these BFF murdered the pregnant Lexie, whoever she actually was. And who was the father? This shifting of conscience and consciousness makes for some interesting issues about identity and reality.

French uses the subtext of class and regional struggle to toss a red herring into the crime solving plot, while making a telling point about the dissolution of cultural boundaries. The entire village could be suspects in the murder, except it's the kind of backwater place whose median age grows older by the year as the younger villagers take off for the big city at their earliest opportunity. In fact, only three locals emerge as suspects. The cops haul them in for interrogation. Compounding the locals' xenophobia are the accents of the cops. One suspect challenges the cops with their fancy accents not to think him stupid just because of his local dialect.

When, one night, a vandal hurls a rock through a picture window. Cassie and two of the men race into the darkness in angry bloodlust. Their quarry disappears in familiar territory and the housemates flush him out with challenges to the vandal's manhood, and especially the cultural gap between colonized and master. When one of Lexie's mates laughs in a London accent that a good horsewhipping would cure the bad attitude of the local bumpkins, the local hurls himself out of the darkness into a bloody fistfight with the three adversaries. Was the local the murderer? Will he succeed in burning the place to the ground and sleep in its ashes?

One of the more satisfying elements of this Irish novel is the mutual intelligibility of its English and cultural allusions. There are numerous references to US-based pop culture. In one instance, a couple of cops talking about the inmates of the lockup allude to there being plenty of "mother stabbers and father rapers", a bowlderized line from Arlo Guthrie's 1960's comic protest song, "Alice's Restaurant." (Or perhaps I remember it inaccurately and it's a direct quotation from Guthrie's classic).

Unlike works translated from Spanish into British English, there are few words a United States reader won't ken. For example, in describing the implicit contempt for rural folk seen in how administrators assign local policemen, we come across this description leading with a delightful timesis:

Rathowen station was craptacular. I'd seen plenty like it, dotted around back corners of the country: small stations caught in a vicious circle, getting dissed by the people who hand out funds and by the people who hand out posts and by anyone who can get any other assignment in the universe. Reception was one cracked chair, a poster about bike helmets and a hatch to let Byrne stare vacantly out the door, rhythmically chewing gum. The interview room was apparently also the storeroom: it had a table, two chairs, a filing cabinet--no lock--a help-yourself pile of statement sheets and, for no reason I could figure out, a battered eighties riot shield in one corner. There was yellowing linoleum on the floor and a smashed fly on one wall. No wonder Byrne looked the way he did.

Except for the hatch, the description could as easily capture a substation in southern Colorado or California's central valley. Would this be a "dutch door" or an access window cut into the station's modest portal? Ni modo.

French's prose is more than serviceable. The housemates are Ph. D. students in literature at a Dublin university, so the writer must echo their postgrad ambience through vocabulary and description. But French is at her best when elevating mundane events into moments trapping Cassie in convoluted reverie between the detective's recent disastrous experience and the romance of what could be in her doppelgänger life:

I was buttoned tight and untouchable in my blue dress and that was a sweet sad thing that had happened to some other girl, a long time ago. Rafe was picking up the rhythm and Abby was swaying faster, snapping her fingers: "I could say bella, bella, even say wunderbar, each language only helps me tell you how grand you are. . ." Justin caught me by the waist and spun me off the floor in a great flying circle, his face flushed and laughing close to mine. The wide bare room tossed Abby's voice back and forth as if there were someone harmonizing in every corner and our footsteps rang and echoed till it sounded like the room was full of dancers, the house calling up all the people who had danced here across centuries of spring evenings, gallant girls seeing gallant boys off to war, old men and women straight-backed while outside their world disintegrated and the new one battered at their doors, all of them bruised and all of them laughing, welcoming us into their long lineage.

It's a beautiful image but the opposite of what actually is transpiring. Cassie has insinuated herself into the falsely idyllic homelife, not to become one of their lineage but to rip it apart in murderous violence. And the manor house is not a place of gallantry but the source of hatred and oppression for the local folk.

Yet, in all this power and cultural conflict, Tana French doesn't quite create a compelling novel to spellbind her reader. Five chapters to set up the undercover role are four too many. The denouement when we learn who Lexie really was and the outcome for the housemates is unnecessary. Under the old adage of "leave 'em wanting more," this could have been left as part of the mystery, or grist for the next novel. The Likeness, the publisher says, continues a story thread and characters from the writer's first novel, In the Woods. There's a ton of allusions to events in Cassie's immediate past that filled that first title, so there would be little loss to have omitted these afterthoughts and plugged them into the subsequent Cassie Maddox tale. Let us trust the publisher will spell the author's name correctly in the next blurb--"Tanya" Penguin calls her, perhaps caught in the atmosphere of mixed identities when it invites, "View our feature on Tanya French's The Likeness"--and will exert tighter editorial control for a tauter story that moves much faster through otherwise exciting material. This author deserves it.

Hachette / La Bloga Book Give Away Concludes - 5 Winners

Observing Fiestas Patrias Month, in the US under public law 100-402 "Hispanic Heritage Month", it has been La Bloga's pleasure to offer a delightful collection of these eight Hachette titles to the gente answering questions drawn from a week's columns at La Bloga.

Dream in Color By Linda Sánchez , Loretta Sánchez ISBN: 0446508047
Gunmetal Black
By Daniel Serrano ISBN: 0446194131
The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters
By Lorraine López ISBN: 0446699217
Bless Me, Ultima By Rudolfo Anaya ISBN: 0446675369
By Oscar Casares ISBN: 9780316146807
The Hummingbird's Daughter
By Luis Urrea ISBN: 0316154520
The General and the Jaguar By Eileen Welsome ISBN: 0316715999
Tomorrow They Will Kiss
By Eduardo Santiago ISBN: 0316014125

Our most recent contest winner is Diana Chavez of Littleton, Colorado. Here's a list of all five La Bloga readers to whom Hachette is mailing the collection:

Tom Miller
Tucson AZ

John Alba Cutler
Evanston IL

Eduardo Pena
Tucson, AZ

Marie Madrid
Denver, CO

Diana Chavez
Littleton, CO

I hope the winners will enjoy the work enough to motivate them to do a guest review of one or more of their favorites. Do know that La Bloga welcome, encourages, guest columnists. If you have a review of a good book, a cultural or arts event, an extended response to something you've read here at La Bloga, please share it. Click here to declare your interest in being La Bloga's guest.

Flor Y Canto 2010 Call for Writers

Plans are underway to hold a renewal of the 1973 Festival de Flor Y Canto at the University of Southern California in September 2010. If you were a participant in that first Flor Y Canto, or would like to join the 2010 event, click here for details.

That's the penultimate Tuesday of October. Dia de los Muertos approaches, so you'd better watch out, you'd better not pout, el cucuy is coming to town dressed as La Llorona, a ghostie or a goblin or candy-seeking chupadulces.

See you next week.


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