Wednesday, November 30, 2011
You are invited to visit my new website, Caramba! Kids™ (www.carambakids.com), an innovative bilingual educational web-based portal that delivers effective learning tools for pre-school and elementary school aged children.
Caramba! Kids™ includes bilingual music by me (José-Luis Orozco) and educational content co-developed with insight from award winning experts in animation, music, technology and early childhood development.
Caramba! Kids™ includes videos, songs and activities to teach skills to young kids that are crucial for their success in school. It includes user friendly activities directed to educators and parents to use along with the songs. Every activity has been carefully developed and are linked to the newly developed core standards.
To experience the very best in bilingual educational resources for children ages 8 and under, visit Caramba! Kids™ now!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The Gluten-free Chicano is a monthly La Bloga feature, the fourth Tuesday of the month.
The Gluten-free Chicano Browses Hispanoparlandia • Restaurant Ratings
Gluten intolerance creates an incessant quest for more information about the condition and especially products and new recipes suited to a gluten-free diet. The Gluten-free Chicano, as with many a chicana chicano, is happy to be not confined to English-language media. There’s a world of useful information and recipes in hispanoparlante resources.
La Bloga readers with friends or familia who prefer Spanish text will find useful websites in Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, and Mexico. See for yourself; do a search for "celiacos de" and fill in a country name. (Links above).
As in Unitedstatesian gf websites, the sites feature a variety of puro news, advertorials, food lists, blogs, recipes, pop up advertisements, Q&A.
Browsing these is a good way to glean cooking tips. For instance, The Gluten-free Chicano might give this recipe a whirl, linked from Celiacos de Mexico:
Me acaban de pasar una receta de unos panquecitos (muffins, mantecadas, panqueques, o no sé con qué otro nombre los conocen, pero son panecitos de dulce) que yo adapté para hacerlos sin gluten y que les comparto por si los quieren hacer, para su deleite personal.
Recently, a friend tipped The Gluten-free Chicano to Guillermo Osuna Hi’s twice-weekly Noroeste viewpoint column, Puerto Viejo, and Osuna’s piece “La celiaca…” It’s an engaging essay that provides an informative introduction to the worst form of gluten intolerance, celiac disease.
Here’s Osuna Hi’s introduction:
El titulo de la presente colaboración no refiere el sobrenombre de alguna afamada chica porteña de cascos ligeros; tampoco es el mote de algún hijo del arcoíris que de manera notable haya escrito su nombre dentro del variadísimo catálogo de homosexuales mazatlecos de bien ganada fama pública y mucho menos, es el alias de alguna de esas dementes que deambulan por nuestras calles, para vergüenza del sistema y cuyas tristes figuras reflejan la frialdad e indiferencia de las instituciones oficiales de salud.
Nada de eso. La Celiaca es una enfermedad de la que poco escuchamos; de esas que se esconden bajo las faldas de otros síntomas, lo cual, provoca que el organismo afectado sufra graves daños.
Osuna Hi tracks the earliest Western medical diagnosis of gluten allergy to 1st century physician Areteo de Capadocia. Colorful as the opening lines, the column's listing of symptoms comes gently but to the point.
Guillermo Osuna Hi has granted permission to reprint his column, which is linked here via PDF.
Restaurant Ratings In and About SoCal
The Gluten-free Chicano rates eateries in four groups:
- Never Mind, just a salad.
- Bad Dog!
- Right Attitude…
- Please, May I Have Some More?
Please, May I Have Some More?
This month, it’s a pleasure to recognize Dish Restaurant for continued excellence.
734 Foothill Boulevard
La Canada, CA 91011
The waiter immediately recognizes my gf requirements and confirms each selection would be comestible. As usual, I order Cobb salad because the stuff I desire, like the gumbo, is wheat-based.
Despite so many entrées being wheat-based, Dish is the best restaurant in Pasadena for gluten-free eaters who like Cobb salad. The restaurant hires, or trains, staff to ensure a customer’s highest satisfaction. The Gluten-free Chicano eats at Dish even when the restaurant is not running its two-for-one coupon.
• Tam O'Shanter
2980 Los Feliz Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
•Beckham Grill & Bar
77 West Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91103-3682
Dang. Here I was all happy and comfortable at Pasadena’s prime rib theme restaurant Beckham Grill & Bar. The order-taker immediately recognizes I am asking about gluten and takes charge of the order.
I order a slab of meat, steamed veggies, and papas au gratin. My ever-charming companion orders an end cut and the standard wheat-bearing sides. In a while, a server places the plates. Pobre server's eyes widen in surprise when I draw back from the plate in asco. The kitchen has reversed the order.
Never Mind, just a salad.
This is not necessarily a disappointing place. Case in point, Pasadena’s Sizzler.
730 South Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, CA 91101
If you're coming to the parade, this place is a couple blocks north of where the 110 freeway ends and becomes Arroyo Parkway.
Menudo and tortillas de maíz on the weekends. Lots of salad greens and toppings galore. Carnitas and carne molida filling for hardshell tacos. Pasta and of course tons of wheat-based foodstuffs. Still, a salad bar is usually a safe place to eat. This particular Sizzler, however, has one thing that only this particular restaurant in the whole world offers.
It’s the gente, yes, the gente that makes a place just right. This Sizzler hires caring servers, good people who work their nalgas off because that's the right way to do the work. Last week, an incident proved this vividly.
A patron across from me had stopped eating her food and watched intently something to my left. I turned, it was an immigrant busing tables. The patron’s eagle eye was zeroed in on a puddle of water on a chair.
The immigrant hustles. His tub is stacked with dirties. He heaves the burden noiselessly onto the adjacent table. The worker turns to the table with the wet chair and vigorously rubs the formica top shiny. The patron narrows her eyes, a tight smile line pulling at a corner of her mouth.
The busman bends low, pulls out the wet chair and rubs the hell out of that water spot. Then he rubs it again. When he returns the chair to its spot, the patron’s shoulders fall. She had been sure the minimum wage worker wouldn’t care about doing a good job and some unfortunate soul would get a wet ass.
Another immigrant brings plates and bowls. No cheese toast, thank you, ¿pero hay limon?
Alarcón, who is employed at UC Davis, was out of the country when the Chancellor and her cops callously pepper sprayed the camping kids. Francisco asked the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070 to submit Davis and Occupy poems. The moderators select these five. You can start a conversation on a poet or poem by leaving a Comment at the link after the BIOS. Check the box to be notified when others pick up the thread.
people use sprays
to get rid of pests
with the kitchen light
insects eating up
flowers in the garden—
could somebody tell
our university police
students in the sit-in
on the Quad sidewalk
engaged in peaceful protest
and civil disobedience
are not bugs nor vermin
but real human beings—
thank you — now, who is
cleaning this big media mess?
all those responsible could
help by stepping down—
please pass on the mops
red pepper spray stains
on the cement and minds
are so hard to wash off!—
© Francisco X. Alarcón
November 21, 2011
He lives in a place surrounded by asphalt, cement, full of rushing cars,
coffee houses, fancy houses, empty houses. Where seasons shine and hide
in the winter months. Where birds stop on their travel south to the land of the sun
Where blessed rain, oh! blessed rain falls.
Monday, November 28, 2011
A short story by Daniel Olivas
Take it, man. Take it. No, it’s cool. She’s asleep. My Sandy. Sandy Chung. Isn’t she beautiful? So take the picture of us before she wakes up. I’ll leave my sunglasses on because that’s how she likes me. Says I look like a real artist. But she’s the great artist, really. We’re like Rivera and Kahlo. Frida was more immediate, man, totally here with her painting. Powerful, all of her pain right up there for all to see. And Diego Rivera knew it. I know it, too, with my Sandy. She’s the one with the soul. I totally believe it, man.
Where? Up north for this small art festival. I don’t mind bus rides. And Sandy just likes to snooze or sketch the scenery so she doesn’t mind, either. Yeah, right now she’s snoozing but, man, you should’ve seen what she did when we left L.A. But snap the picture first. Now. Cool. Thanks, man. Put the camera in my backpack and I’ll grab Sandy’s sketch pad. Here. Look at this. Can you believe it? She totally captured that dude’s face, his raggedy clothes, the shopping cart. Look! Sandy watched him at the bus station, for like an hour while we waited for our bus. She just stared at him while he went around picking through trash cans, begging for change, being hassled by the security guard. She watched him and, I swear to God, she drew him in her mind first, and then when we got on the bus, she just started sketching what she already had in her brain. Too much, man! Too much!
Me? I don’t draw like her. No. I take these pictures, see, or I have someone like you, someone I don’t know, take a picture with me in it. Then I scan them and manipulate them on my PC. I’ll do that with the picture you took of me and Sandy. I’m going to give it to her. A good-bye gift. What? Well, I’m going to leave her. Decided last week. She doesn’t know it yet. I need to find a right time. Maybe when we get there. I don’t know, man, I don’t know. Need my space, I guess. I’m no good for her anyway. She’d paint and draw way more if she didn’t worry about me. Don’t get me wrong. I totally love my Sandy. She’s everything to me. But I’m dragging her down. Down. It’s best for her, man. If Rivera had left Kahlo, man, Frida would have produced so much more. But she took care of her Diego like he was a baby. No. It’s totally for the best, man. No question in my mind. None whatsoever. That bell has been rung, as my mom used to say.
But isn’t she beautiful, man? My Sandy. I love to watch her sleep. She’s going to love what I do with that picture. Thanks, man. You helped me out big time. You’re cool, man. Cool. So why are you going up north?
LATE-BREAKING LITERARY NEWS:
◙ My review of Héctor Tobar’s novel, The Barbarian Nurseries (FSG), appears in the new issue of High Country News.
◙ Carolyn Kellogg reviews Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel, Queen of America (Little, Brown), for the Los Angeles Times.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
The Other Latin@: Writing Against a Singular Identity begins in Alaska. In the first chapter, “The Long Road Home,” Lisa D. Chávez writes:
“Where I grew up there are glaciers wider than highways, and the aurora swoop and swirl in the winter sky, loops and ribbons of green, blue, and red. Where I grew up winter’s brief sun makes riches of snow—light refracting on ice crystals, making fields of sapphires and diamonds. That lazy sun barely rises in winter, and in summer it can’t stop shining—hours of light and summer frenzy. Where I grew up there are grizzly bears and moose, wolves and salmon . . . Where I grew up, in Alaska, there were not many people like me” (9).
Kudos to editors Blas Falconer and Lorraine M. López for placing Chávez’s piece as the opening to a wonderful collection of Latinas y Latinos writing about growing up in unexpected geographic spaces, or writing against expected and often stereotyped topics: romanticized narrations of ethnic heritage, gangs, the southwest, or cactus. Chávez writes eloquently of the Alaskan environment and of her own struggles to make sense of her heritage in a land and peoples who are literally white. Who would ever think that Chicanas and Chicanos were growing up in Alaska? Other writers in the collection also describe unexplored complicated situations regarding identity. Helena Mesa writes, “But I don’t write about Cuba. I was born in Pittsburgh to Cuban parents.” Blas Falconer explains his Virginia background like this: “I spent most of my childhood in Reston, Virginia, thirty minutes outside of Washington, D.C. My parents’ best friends were just like them—European American husbands with Puerto Rican wives: Terry and Eduvíjise, Tom and Emílse, John and Dominga.” How to make sense of such childhoods? And then there is Joy Castro who was adopted into a Cuban American family who thought they were adopting a Cuban baby. Not until adulthood does Castro find out that her [white] “birth mother had taken buses to Miami for the pregnancy and birth, so no one in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois would know. I wasn’t Latina at all. In one sudden yank of the rug, I felt my family and identity severed from me.” Castro describes a poignant moment that becomes a ten-year journey in coming to terms with identity.
A few years ago, I brought five of my Chicana and Chicano University of Nebraska students to the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) annual conference. I will always remember hearing one of my students tell one student from California that he was from Nebraska.
“No. Really? But you look like a Chicano.”
“I am a Chicano—a Chicano from Nebraska.”
In a few minutes, my students from Nebraska were surrounded by the University of California students asking them how they ever got to Nebraska in the first place. “I was born there,” two of them said repeatedly. “And what is it like?” “Is there Mexican food there?” The Nebraska Chicanos were exceedingly patient and forthcoming with information. I would not have been so patient and yet I was very much like those California students not too many years ago.
Years ago when I told my California friends and family I was leaving California to accept a position at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was met with, “There are no Chicanos there” or “You will be so far away from your culture” or (my favorite) “Nothing lives there—you fly over that section of the U.S., you don’t land there.” Sometimes when I’m riding my bicycle (in Nebraska) past fields of maize, hearing the sounds of roosters or watching a hawk swoop low, or when I go to the small curandera shop just outside of Lincoln, I am reminded of my childhood summers spent in various areas of Coahuila or Guanajuato or Jalisco, Mexico: roosters, hawks, fields of corn. My first year in Nebraska, I would repeatedly tell my students, “so much of this place [emphasis on place] reminds me of Mexico.”
This anthology, then, helps to more fully illustrate the many diverse backgrounds and experiences of Latinas y Latinos. Had this book been available that memorable week at the NACCS conference, I would have made sure those students had a copy of this book. Now they have the chance.
As important in this anthology is the inclusion of our sexual identities. This too is who we are. Erasmo Guerra beautifully and with touching humor turns the telenovela on its head with “Jotonovela” while illustrating the struggles of one Texas raised gay Chicano living in Nueva York. Steve Cordova, also in New York writes: “My gay identification . . . is not a betrayal of one part of myself—my Latino-ness, if you will. It is rather an acceptance of another part of myself—my sexuality, my gayness, my HIV status . . . when it comes to the different parts of my identity, I am not one or the other. I am one and the other” (74).
Falconer and López explain that “[T]his book not only investigates reactions against cultural essentialism. It also seeks to dismantle an absurdly narrow definition of this wide and sprawling collective of individuals by honoring the diversity within this diversity . . .” (6).
My only criticism is that the book is much too slim. When I ordered the book, I really expected it to be a thick anthology replete with so many voices that it would make a definitive point: none of us are a singular identity! However—because of the economy, I am assuming that the decision to keep it a thin volume is due to publishing houses shying away from the more hefty, expensive books and choosing slimmer, more affordable book projects these days. Even so, this book still packs a lot into a slim volume. The writers in this anthology bring home the point that the national narrative which is disseminated via the media, via political agendas, via our corporate markets have consistently packaged and repackaged our brown bodies to create what they think we must consume: one singular Latin@ identity. We are far from any simplistic notion of Latinidad in the United States and this book is a major “first” in shattering stereotypes. I hope this is the first of many more writings “against a singular identity.” Orale Blas Falconer y Lorraine López and all the writers in this anthology. Felicidades! Now, queridas y queridos bloga readers, go get yourself a copy!
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Gratuity: 1. A favor or gift, usually in the form of money, given in return for service. 2. What Americans get showing up early Black Friday.
Nongratuity: 1. What American Latinos and the rest of the 99% get every day from the 1%. 2. A word I made up.
[Some] Occupy updates – [some] gratitude
I at least feel grateful for protestors across the world who created and have sustained all the Occupy's. It's provided real hope during another round of elections that provided little, at least to me. Some of our elected officials have escalated their anti-Occupy actions to the level of Nazi Germany book burnings, while sparing us the expense of the matches.
From an intro to a Rebecca Solnit article comes this:
"On November 15th when the NYPD entered the encampment at Zuccotti Park, a weaponless and peaceable spot filled with sleeping activists and the homeless, they used pepper spray, ripped and tore down everything, and tossed all 4,000 books from the OWS “library” into a dumpster, damaging or mangling most of them. Books couldn’t escape the state’s violence, nor could the library’s tent, bookshelves, chairs, computers, periodicals, and archives. Even librarians were arrested.
"Novelist Salman Rushdie tweeted a perfectly reasonable response to the police action: “Please explain the difference between burning books and throwing thousands in the trash and destroying them.
"It put the Constitution in the dumpster."
Update on Marcela Landres questions – the gratuity
In return for the service of your readership and sending us a question, La Bloga is offering the nonmonetary gratuity of having a Latina professional answer your burning question about publishing your work. See last week's post for details.
This is from Marcela herself concerning that offer: "I just shared the link with my followers on Twitter, etc. and am very much looking forward to seeing the questions. Please forward all the questions after the deadline and I'll do my best to get answers to you in early December."
So far, La Bloga readers want to know, among other things, the size of Hispanic readership for literary novels; about editing for lit mags/journals; whether Latino writers should write about non-Latinos; and the market for Latino characters "dealing with extraordinary circumstances."
Some questions promise to make Marcela's task maybe not as simple as at least I thought they'd be. Keep them coming; our Nov. 30 deadline approaches.
Fracking is a 4-letter word - the nongratuity
Today's nongratuity for the 99% sounds so boringly commercial and technical, but Colorado and other parts of the country will get what Texanos have enjoyed for decades: breathing, drinking and becoming debilitated by energy companies fracking Aztlán and beyond for profit. Colorado had unnaturally frequent earthquakes 50 years ago, until the federal gov't stopped "nuclear fracking" at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and elsewhere that caused the shifting.
People probably have ignored the news, but we'll soon join the rest of the 99% who've suffered it for many years. Living in a major urban area will not necessarily spare you. Depending on your elected officials or gov't will not keep you or your descendants safe. Jumping on a jobs-above-everything-else bandwagon may land you on the road to I-could've-helped-stop-it.
Don't take my word for it.
Learn what fracking is and is already costing us, the 99%. Here or here.
Read how the 1% lobbies away our safety and environment.
Read about the earthquake in your future.
Learn the chemicals soon to homestead your family's bloodstream.
Read how your elected officials won't come to the rescue, neither here nor there.
But also read what the 99% is doing about it in Colorado, in Ohio, New York, Ireland or Wyoming and Los Angeles.
I'm sure there's more going on out there. Just not enough yet. I'll have to do more than add earthquake insurance to my policy; my home is downwind of the fracking madness. Though actually, none of the 99%'s homes may be upwind, nor on the lee side of coming quakes.
Es todo hoy,
Friday, November 25, 2011
This year I have so much to be grateful for, especially that a young woman named Blanca blessed me with enough love and confidence to carry with me after her premature death at age 44. I tell the story of my mother often, especially when discussing my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, something else to be grateful for this year. This is the year when call myself an author and meet with students, book clubs and readers across the country. I couldn’t help but give my main character Isola the characteristic of having lost her mother at about the same age I did. Everything that happens to Isola is fiction as is her estranged relationship with her mother, Marina. Unlike Isola, I was fortunate to have a close relationship with my mother. I didn’t want to write an autobiography and call it a novel. The autobiography might come much later, after I get the stories kicking around in my head out into the world.
The important lesson I’ve learned in the past ten years is to do what I love and to appreciate all life has to offer. This would seem like a manageable, if not easy task. However, when my mother died I spent so many years wallowing in self-pity. Although I took several years to recover from a deep sense of loss and depression, in Ocotillo Dreams, Isola does not have the luxury of time. The events in the novel are compressed in order to keep the action and narrative moving forward. In hindsight, I would’ve taken a page from Michele Serros who learned how to use poetry and writing as a way of upholding her mother’s memory. However, I appreciate and accept that different people don’t learn life’s tough lessons at the same speed.
Whenever I take a chance and accomplish something new, I always think of Blanca. I used to be embarrassed by how proud she was of me. She bragged about me even though I was an average ballet dancer, an average actress, an average daughter. I may have been an above average student, but that was necessary in order to get into UC Berkeley, and then UC Santa Cruz for graduate school in Comparative Literature. Now I do all the bragging myself. Talking about myself and my writing is second nature because I had a great example on how to do it.
Last Tuesday, I spoke to a literature class at Santa Barbara City College. The Chicano Studies course, The Chicana and Other Latina Women in the US, was taught by Magda Torres, an instructor who was instrumental in making sure I participated in next year’s Santa Barbara Women’s Literary Festival, along with Michele Serros. Last Thursday, I met with a Santa Barbara book club at the invitation of Leslie Dinaberg, editor of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine. The praise and support I received last week will fuel me through the holiday season. I am encouraged to work on my new novel, new poems and posts for La Bloga.
Ernest Hogan reminds us what a blessing it is to be published. I sure am grateful for the opportunity to share my work with people far away from me and even more so when someone takes the initiative to make sure I visit their university or book group. I am grateful for my recent publications in PALABRA, Hinchas #5, A Bird As Black as the Sun, and acceptances in Eleven Eleven, Phati’tude Literary Magazine, San Diego Poetry Annual, and The Mas Tequila Review. If you have any questions about how to get published, see Marcela Landres’s offer to answer questions on Rudy’s post last Saturday. Also, the current online issue of Hinchas #5, publishes a review of Ocotillo Dreams by Bojan Louis. Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to call myself an author.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
by Ernest Hogan
This will be going up on Thanksgiving Day. Have a happy one, everybody! And be thankful. Even in hard times, we all have reasons to be thankful.
I’m lucky to be a publishing Latino writer. It hasn’t made me rich or famous, but I’ve been published, people have read my work, and some even said they liked it. A lot of people never get published. For all you struggling Latino writers out there, I recommend talking advantage of former Simon & Shuster editor Marcela Landres’ offer to answer your questions here at La Bloga. I’m hoping it stirs up some lively discourse.
According to the sacred Aztec calendar, we are in the middle of the festival of Panquetzalitzi, the “Lifting of the Banners” when paper banners were hung on houses and in fruit trees in honor of Tezcatlipoca, the trickster/warrior god, and Huitzilopotchtli, the Méxica tribal war god. Prisoners of war and “bathed slaves” were sacrificed. There was also a sacred procession from the Great Pyramid to Tlatelolco, Chapultepec, and Coyoacán, then back to the sacred precinct at Tenochitlán.
And all we have to do is eat turkey.
In Mexico, the turkey is called guajolote. The rest of the Spanish-speaking world uses the word pavo. Guajolote is Nahuatl. A native word for native meat.
In Spanish, carne means both “meat” and “flesh.” Are they not the same substance? What makes them different is all in our minds, the way the Victorians consider “legs” to be indecent and “limbs” proper. To the contrary of the popular slogan, meat is not dead, meat is life.
In Aztec mythology, the current human race was created by mixing blood from Quetzalcoatl’s penis with corn ashes. Corn and human flesh are thought of as the same substance, almost an intuitive suggestion of DNA. There cannot be cannibalism or vegetarianism in the Aztec world, the concepts are interchangeable when you consider the flesh of plants and animals to be the same thing.
Another interesting Spanish word is frontera -- it means both “frontier” and “border.” In American Wild West mythology, a frontier is something that heroes cross so they can settle and bring civilization to the other side, while a border is something only nefarious criminals cross with official permission. A bilingual discussion of border issues can get confusing.
I wonder what the Nahuatl word for “border” is?
Ernest Hogan eats flesh, makes sacrifices, and is thankful to Tezcatlipoca for his literary and artistic successes.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Here are some book trailers for Thanksgivings
Children’s Books for Thanksgiving
Check these wonderful books at your local public library, bookstore or on line.
Gracias, the Thanksgiving turkey by Joy Cowley. Illustrated by Joe Cepeda.
Trouble ensues when Papa gets Miguel a turkey to fatten up for Thanksgiving and Miguel develops an attachment to it.
¿Pavo para la Cena de Gracias? ¡No, gracias! por Alma Flor Ada. Ilustrado por Vivi Escriva.
When the turkey overhears a conversation about how fat and tasty he will be on Thanksgiving, he loses his own appetite. He meets a young spider who sets out to find a way to save the turkey.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
November 22, 1963
I overslept that morning, skipping Zoology 1A. Freshman year ambiente in Sequoia Hall, Casitas dorms overlooking the Goleta swamp, was hazardous to early morning class attendance. Radio news blared down the hallway, the disquieting narrative slowly intruding on the dream. Dallas. Kennedy. Kennedy. Kennedy has been shot.
I stride two doors down to the day room where Walter Cronkite reports soberly on the color t.v. Shot... sped away...the hospital. No news.
The professor walks into the Chemistry 1A lecture hall, sets down his briefcase, looks up at the seated amphitheatre, asks, "Is he dead yet?" and begins the day's lecture on Boyle's law, or whatever.
When the class exits onto the plaza, its thorny coral trees blaze their red blossoms or should have, and drip spent blossoms on the shoulders of sobbing coeds who lean onto one another's shoulders for comfort. Kennedy is dead. Ask not...the bell tolls for Camelot.
Half my dorm flunked out that first semester. Some joined right away; we heard others had been drafted to go off to JFK's war in Vietnam. My roommate flew helicopters. I wonder about Kaufman, Sterling, Tony the debater who was so eager to go.
There is no “right way” to deliver a reading. Standing, seated, mic’d, big auditorium, at the dinner table, video, all manner of settings and audiences influence the writer’s decisions on what to read and how to present the words.
Martín Espada is the undisputed master at reading his own stuff.
Generally, a reader will elect from three likely models to fashion a reading:
Delivery to fit the purpose. The comfortable, “safe” choice that risks little and asks little of the performer. Anyone is ready to do this at the drop of a hat. Some writers are eloquent by nature. Most audiences deserve a higher level of effort.
Delivery to fit the text. A considered, analytic reading. The reader is animated yet restrained, especially when the text has subtle drama or requires minimal coloration. Here is Ron Arias reading in a measured, reportorial voice. Arias manages animated nostalgia within the boundaries of a restrained interpretation:
Select your best stuff. How long is ten minutes? Start with five pages. Think of your audience. People want to be entertained. Audiences enjoy vicarious experience, novelty, quality, and are prepared to buy a book today, if that’s the host’s purpose and you have something to sell.
In the ten minutes allowed, your audience will gain a sense of who you are as a person, as well as evaluate the worthwhileness of your art. People start out well disposed to enjoy you and your presentation, so a prepared reading reinforces their favorable attitudes.
A poorly presented reading, on the other hand, commits an unforgiveable sin: depriving gente of ten minutes of their lives they’ll never get back. This redounds on your host and future invitations.
Naturally, you want your words to be meaningful. If the words are exciting, you want people excited, if the words are sentimental you want people empathetic, if the words are argumentative you want them to sit up and take notice! Read like that.
|Helen Viramontes gestures at the lectern.|
Follow a simple practice plan. Visualize the entire event from the moment you take the spotlight until you sit down. Include preliminary remarks in your ten minute plan and practice them, too.
Work with a coach as you plan the reading, record video and evaluate three practice readings. A spouse or partner's an excellent coach as this person won't shower you with praise but will work with you to make your presentation effective.
Practice makes dull if you overdo it. A reading needs to feel fresh to the listener. A three-step practice routine provides all the information a writer needs to put on a satisfying reading.
Video tells the truth. Don’t make television, just point and shoot at a wide angle. Read all the way through, no stopping for flubs or ringing phones. Treat it as an artifact.
Follow playbacks reading along with the printed text. Mark your slips and phrases that deserve emphasis. It’s OK to add or change a word, or omit something from the text, if that makes oral expression smoother. Many writers discover reading aloud helps edit a piece.
Plan on twice the amount of time to review as to record. If you can, get two recordings on one day, let it rest, then do the third practice reading another day.
Have a listening agenda, aural and visual. You are looking for skill first, elements to enhance and repeat. Focus on a handful of key considerations.
Vocal variety and pauses are a reader’s principal tools to add texture to strings of words. Some readers use vocalics to supplant “he said, she said” tags. Pauses make words and phrases stand out. In general, most readers profit from slowing down between words, longer spaces at sentence and paragraph periods. Be mindful of the ephemeral nature of speech. Audiences battle distractions and give the reader maybe half their attention. A measured pace often provides a more comfortable listening environment.
Articulation, the clarity with which your mouth forms sounds and your body exhales them, improves when speakers slow down. When you do not have a mic and need to project, speed can diminish intelligibility, especially when you strain to be heard.
Avoid self-correction. When your tongue slips keep on going. Listeners want to hear what’s next, and don’t give a hoot about an occasional flub. Force yourself to get through the entire reading and do not start over.
Poets have the grace of meter to guide performance and engage audiences. Prose writers, too, look to establish rhythms and vocal patterns of their own. Used to help differentiate characters by giving them a voice, separate narrative from thought, reflect a stylistic or rhetorical flourish, vocal variety and articulation deserve lots of attention. Some forms of poetry, like Tolteka's, become celebrations of timing and meter:
Gesture and movement are the physical tools a reader applies to enhance the presentation. If using a hand-held or wireless mic, the reader is free to walk, to deliver themselves whole body to the audience and their words. Microphones and lecterns tend to make people plant their feet and hide behind that hunk of wood. In such a setting, eye contact and hand gestures will be one's only resources. A reader who stands to the side gives the audience something new to look at while allowing the speaker to convert some of that nervous energy to movement.
If you get to move, move on an important transition in the text. Your audience will derive keen satisfaction when movement conforms to story.
Beware distracting movement. Bring gestures up chest- or shoulder-high, and close to your body. Grand sweeping gestures work for appropriate text. Pounding on a lectern rarely wins points. Convert that energy to vocalics and gesture. When wardrobe or coif malfunctions occur mid-reading, make the best of it. Watch Xanath Caraza-de-Holland deal with an unruly wave, using it to emphasize the meter of her poetry:
Eye contact is a reader’s most available gesture, and highly desireable. As you evaluate the text, plan places where you will look out at the listeners and make eye contact. Audiences grown accustomed to a reader's typical glance-and-nod technique appreciate your style as well as your eye contact. Manage the physical text to allow visual interaction--a smile, a sly glance, a direct gaze. Books, typed pages, computers, phone screens each offer individual delivery opportunities.
If you spot photographers in the audience, make eye contact with the lens. Hold it for a moment to allow a good portrait.
|Eddy Bello-Sandoval uses the book more like a prop, she knows the piece so well.|
Now you have a plan. The next time you read that text, you’ll be onstage. It'll be different than any reading you've practiced with its own virtues, and the planned ones, too. Have a plan, work the plan. The formula of a successful reading.
A few extraneous issues.
My voice is awful. Your speaking voice contains your writing but does not define it. When you hear yourself in a recording, that voice is what audiences hear conveying your words. That's what you sound like. And if it's video, that's what you look like.
Stagefright, aka Communication Apprehension. There isn’t a public speaker in the world who doesn’t get excited just before taking the floor. That adrenaline surge is a good thing, that’s your body telling you all is in readiness to deliver an effective reading. The best way to control “stage fright” is to come prepared.
Good Models. As a consumer of spoken word art you’re exposed to various styles and skills. When you find a presenter to admire, imitate them. See how a technique works for you, does it feel good? Recite someone else's work, do an hommage, share how you hear another poet's voice.
Appearance. Wear comfortable shoes. There’s an old saying that’s true, “you can’t orate worth a dang if your feet hurt.” Plan for distractions. If you jangle or rustle, maybe you can use sound effects in your reading. Cameras generally dislike plaids, fine checks, or all-white. Solid colors work well. Many people are allergic to scents as well as bad breath so dress accordingly.
Be experimental. This goes with imitation but also in what you read to people. Put together a programmed reading, a literary showcase of your work. Work on new readings, have something “in the can” to keep your appearances fresh for yourself. Put your work on video.
Find opportunities to read aloud. If you are employed in a team setting, you’re likely expected to deliver reports. Adopt an oral style, become comfortable and aware of your expressive capacity. A wonderful way to loosen up a reader’s reticence is reading to children. Kids want you to make funny noises and do singsong stuff you’d never do in a reading. Maybe not ever do in a reading. Maybe try just one or two hoots and toot-toots in a reading.
Saturday on La Bloga: "How Editors Think" Author Marcela Landres in Q&A
Click here to read Rudy Garcia’s piece on former Simon & Shuster editor Marcela Landres who has agreed to answer questions from La Bloga readers about anything having to do with getting their stories, books or novels published. If you’re an aspiring writer, you must check this out!
On-Line Floricanto Penultimate Tuesday of 2011's Only November
The Chancellor at UC Davis said she supported her UCD police before she said she doesn't support her UCD armed forces. When Francisco Alarcón launched the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070, the enemy was over there, in Arizona. How frustrating to see the enemy also sits in the Chancellor's Office at Francisco's own UC Davis. My sympathies to the UCD familia for what has befallen them.
This week, Alarcón and the group's co-moderators submit five Before-Davis responses to what Arizona has come to represent for America and the world over. This week's artists include: Raul Sanchez, Joe Navarro, Claudia D. Hernández, Nancy Aidé González, Francisco X Alarcón. José Hernández Díaz, translator.
"Brown Angels at Work" by Raul Sanchez
Brown Angels at Work
By Raul Sanchez
Brown Angels at Work was inspired by Nancy Aidé González poem
'La Virgen de las Calles' also appearing in this edition.
They are everywhere
we see them mowing lawns
raking, blowing leaves
dangling from buildings tall
washing windows painting
roofing houses, cooking
serving smiling, parking cars
picking fruits and vegetables
breaking their backs
selling flowers, fruits
on freeway ramps
attending church, going to school
these angels don’t fly,
they walk the same brown earth
like you and I sowing seeds
of prosperity deep down
this American soil
moving the economy’s wheels
on the axels of immigrant sweat
Brown Angel Sweat
lately the wheel
has lost momentum
stagnant, stuck in
fear and intimidation.
Only brown angels can push
this wagon up and down
If brown angels could fly,
hover over fertile fields and cities
they would do miracles
on this American land.
A Revolutionary Vato Loco
By Joe Navarro
Are you a veteran?
Yeah, I said
A revolutionary vato loco
A barrio warrior
In the people’s army
Soy veterano de
La lucha contra el
I’m a guerrilla fighter
En las calles de Aztlan
I’m one of the many
I’m a resistor
Refusing to accept
The occupation army
And being treated as a foreigner
On the lands of
Sí, yo soy veterano
De la causa
Struggling for the dignity
Of poor and working class
I’ve waged a war
And have battled for peace
Yo soy veterano
Del movimiento chicano
Y de toda la gente oprimida
I am a veteran freedom fighter
Con todos los soldados
De la gente
© Copyright 1999
By Claudia D. Hernández
a tu cielo
que me claman
Es tu brisa
que me guía
que no anclan
en tu cielo
Con mi pecho
impregno el viento
Que me hechiza
¡Soy Quetzal! (English translation by: José Hernández Díaz)
I know no
It is your breeze
That guides me
That does not
Have tones of
Where we all
La Virgen de Las Calles
By Nancy Aidé González
She stands on the
busy street corner
selling delicate red
and white roses
hugged by baby's -breath
and luminous cellophane
resting in a
She understands the innate
beauty of roses,
their fragrant hope
as they grow slowly
from bud to
as they flush into
She knows of
the prickling sting,
of being an outsider.
She wears a large
sweatshirt with USA
emblazoned in block
print across her chest
but she misses
Mexico and the
small town she was
raised in .
A red and green
rebozo hangs down
upon her head shielding
her from the flugent sun,
a gift from her mother,
a reminder of home.
People stride past her
lost in their own thoughts
hustling to work,
on pressing errands,
wandering down the tangle
of the Los Angeles
She is La Virgen de
waiting with a
full of yearning,
a fountain of
and abounding love.
La Virgen de las Calles
nature of roses,
their need for nettle.
|©Ester Hernandez. "La Virgen de las Calles." Used with permission.|
By Francisco X. Alarcón
In Mesa, Arizona,
even the saguaros
voted SB 1070 creator
Arizona Senate President
Russell Pearce out of office
by pointing to the clear
cloudless desert sky
and telling all voters:
"open your arms and
extend your hands
don't become another
extremist closed hard fist"
November 8, 2010
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
en Mesa, Arizona,
hasta los saguaros
votaron contra Russell Pearce
el creador de la SB 1070 y
Presidente del Senado de Arizona
para así echarlo de su puesto
apuntando al cielo claro
sin nubes del desierto
y diciendo a todos los votantes:
"abran los brazos y extiendan
las manos; no se conviertan en otros
puños duros y cerrados de extremistas"
8 de noviembre de 2011