Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Decade of National Latino Writers Conferences. Banned Books Update. May Penultimate On-Line Floricanto.

Michael Sedano

The NHCC campus is New Mexico's sparkling jewel of arts and cultura.
Click here for a Read! Raza foto gallery.

2012 Premio Aztlán recipient Lucrecia Guerrero for Tree of Sighs

In its tenth year, the National Latino Writers Conference, on the campus of Alburquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center, exceeded my already stratospheric expectations for the 2012 event.

These confident expectations grow out of knowledge that the gente who’ve put together this fabulous event are institutions unto themselves: Carlos Vásquez, Katie Trujillo, Greta Pullen, Gary Romero, Clara Apodaca.

Clara Apodaca and Carlos Vásquez
Results speak for themselves, as the two faculties do. One faculty team comprises publishing professionals; another team, writers.

Rigoberto Gonzáles

This year’s faculty of writers produced workshops around specialty themes. Novel/Memoir/Poetry, Jimmy Santiago Baca; Biography/Newswriting, Kathryn Córdova; Novel/Anthology, Cristina García; Literary Criticism/Book Reviews, Rigoberto González; Novel/Short Fiction, Tim Z. Hernández; Writing for Social Justice, Demetria Martínez; Non-Fiction, Iñigo Moré; Oracy/Presenting Your Work,  La Bloga’s Michael Sedano; Young Adult Fiction, Alisa Valdés-Rodriguez. 

Cristina García

Arte Publico Press’ Nicolás Kanellos delivered the Keynote Speech in which he explored ebook marketing economics while expressing confidence in a strong demand side for Latina Latino publications.

Nicholas Kanellos
Lucrecia Guerrero received the Premio Aztlán for her novel, Tree of Sighs published by Arte Publico Press.

Lucrecia Guerrero's Premio Aztlán certificate
comes framed by fifth-generation Tintero
Jason Younis y Delgado. 

Owing to finances, the bi-annual NHCC Literary Award for career achievement was held in abeyance, placing a damper on the festivities.

Jimmy Santiago Baca, however, corrected any glum attitudes when he took the stage with his son and daughter forming a delightful trio on the podium at the lectern.

Santiago spins a yarn about unrequited love, pinto sentimentality, and the serious power of poetry. It was new to us, but likely familia folklore. Baca’s awesome youngsters bantered with dad while elucidating on dad’s talk.

Forming community with compañeras compañeros in literature through ritual, food, and practical learning from industry insiders makes the NLWC superbly worthwhile. Anyone can put together a conference. The people, yes, the gente are what gives the NLWC its special character. Generous scholarships ensure access for writers from a rich diversity of experiences.

La madrina de La Bloga, Teresa Márquez, with Michael Sedano.
 La Bloga's impetus grows from Márquez' leadership in creating the CHICLE listserv,
the earliest virtual meeting place for gente who love reading.

Dini Karasik, Jennifer Givhan, Raquel Z. Rivera, Andrea Serrano, Cathy Arellano

Vásquez invites incredibly generous publishing industry professionals who lavish their time putting together panels and individual meetings. Meeting with an acquisitions editor, a senior editor, a seasoned writer, occupies the final morning's schedule, with ad hoc consultations across the three day event, catch as catch can.

This year’s NLWC students met with Bilingual Press’ Gary Francisco Keller; Stefanie Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary Agency; Marcela Landres, Agent/Editor; Gary L Brower, Editor Malpaís Review; Toni Margarita Plummer, Editor Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin’s Press;  Clark Whitehorn, University of New Mexico Press; Scott De Herrera, University of Arizona Press; Richard Vargas, Editor.

Editors & Publishers panel includes Scott de Herrera, Toni Plummer, Gary Keller
The panelists welcome all questions and observations.

Panels and one-on-one interviews put students together with literary agents for direct, real world insight to the unforgiving process of submitting for publication and seeking representation.

Every writer I met is fully up to the task. These industry seminars cover details about what each house publishes, how an author submits. Speakers pepper their remarks with hope-inducing anecdotes about wondrous titles that fell into some editor’s lap, simply owing to a writer’s relentless perseverance in locating the “right” publisher. And producing excellent work.

Gary Romero, who directs the NHCC, and Carlos Vásquez, who organizes the conference as Director of Culture and Literary Arts, merit special thanks from the small group who attend NLWC precisely because it’s a small group; 50-60 students.

Gary Romero has the best job in the world.

Romero and Vásquez show the rest of the country--especially that book-banning neighbor to their South--this is how civilization nurtures its culture, through shared expression and good stories. Such value doesn't escape notice, nor prioritization, by effective political leaders. 

Economically, Alburquerque and NHCC pulse with potential to become a hub of cultural tourism. International visitors consider the state "fly-over" country when today international tourism is a growth sector of the nation's economy. New Mexico isn't getting its share, yet opportunity knocks.

This year’s NLWC took on a decidedly international cast with students and faculty from Bolivia and Spain, and a substantial number of Spanish-language U.S. writers. This offers strong evidence of the literary importance this conference increasingly plays in American belles lettres, i.e. America from the tip of Tierra del Fuego to Nunavut.

Andrea Mauk Open Mic

Eraldo Lucero

Vielka Solano

Reading in Spanish

Rosalee Montoya

Dini Karasik

John Montañez

Jimmy Santiago's friend, Leo. NHCC sits on his familia's land.

Another important element is the preponderance of women writers and industry professionals in this tenth year. Among the standard raps on movimiento literature is the background role women writers took. No more.

The warmth of this year’s ambiente glows from the participation of lots of women writers, leaders at the forefront of today's Chicana Chicano Renaissance. There is good power here, among women. After all, the best writers of Chicano literature are Chicanas.

In terms of generosity, gender plays no role. Editors, publishers, agency founders, equally gave as much time and attention to a writer as a roomful of writers. Industry professionals observed no boundaries, encouraging gente to find them during lunch or breaks, or sign up on the appointment lists Greta Pullen organized.

How can a fabulous experience grow better? Generosity has to come first, then a grander vision.

Clearly, the state government intends to allow the NHCC to twist slowly, slowly in the wind. The state sends maintenance money that gives yon NHCC a lean and hungry look. As in previous years, it’s up to Ms. Apodaca and the Foundation to give the center a soul.

Chisme floated around the NLWC that the state spent a million dollars on a consultant to coordinate the governor’s office furniture, but reneged on granting its Centennial Poet a hundred thousand dollars to bring poetry to the schoolchildren of New Mexico. Full disclosure: I don’t remember the consultant’s actual mission so I'm making up something plausible there. I find it disgusting the governor hates New Mexico’s schoolchildren.

When scalawags run the statehouse, gente have to turn to their friends and familia for support. Prior to the conference, Clara Apodaca mailed a letter to current and past faculty reminding them they could sponsor a $300 scholarship, or give any sum to denote appreciation for the NLWC and the process of nurturing our national literature.

Sadly, that lone outbound letter reflects the “magic bullet” theory of public relations, and too much confidence in past faculty.

Neither NHCC nor the foundation can send out the five or seven letters a fundraising campaign must dispatch to be productive—meaning 3-5% answer with money. As a result of too much hope and not enough postage, the conference is not rolling in cash from contributions. Asking former faculty once wasn’t enough. Sin vergüenzas.

Membership at the National Hispanic Cultural Center begins at $50. Mail checks to NHCC Foundation, 1701 4th Street SW, Albuquerque NM 87102. With consistent support from friends of the NLWC, next year if one comes, maybe one maybe two writers more than this year will garner a $300 scholarship. Tan cool.

Individual conferences with agents, editors,
publishers, veterana veterano writers,
afford an emerging author keen insight into the road ahead.

I have a grander vision of a future NLWC that starts with the “I” word: Internationalize the event to reflect the dominant literary languages of America: Portugese, Spanish, and US English.

Somewhere in the world--Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Nicarauga, Mexico--a government arts minister is looking to bring a big splash to their country’s arts and culture stature, and tourism.

A million dollar investment to fly in and house the writers for an International Latino Writers Conference would bring together important and emerging writers of cultural significance. Payoffs to any nation’s international ethos will resound for generations. The return on investment in cultural currency will astound a jealous USIA, whose leadership could as easily pick up the ILWC banner and put on the event in El Lay or DC. In a flash of "me-too" genius, USIA will send caravans of writers throughout hispanoparlantelandia...

Picture a spectacular writers conference and floricanto in Medellín, you’re there. Or holding informal poetry read-arounds on el Malecón instead of the delightful Nativo Hotel lounge; you’re there. Or grafted to Mexico’s Feria del Libro in Guadalajara. Ay, Jalisco, let’s have a floricanto and writers conference that features writers from across America. We’ll all be there, just find the feria for the feria.

Tired, triumphant, heading home.
Visit Read! Raza for a hundred-twentysome fotos from this year's 10th anniversary National Latino Writers Conference. Click here.

Banned Books Update

Arizona continues in its quest to move the notion of "American Democracy" from its old-fashioned 20th Century ethos of fairness and benign neglect to a 21st century rapaciousness signalled at its extreme by Shawna Forde and her cabal of murderers awaiting execution after they shot a little girl point-blank, along with  her family, because the killers hated Mexicans. Así es.

Arizona leadership unmasks itself as incredibly ill-informed. They banned books without reading them. They shut down classes without looking at the skyrocketing test scores and achievement that identified Tucson schools as among the best in the nation. The teachers ripped the books kicking and screaming from the hands of stunned students. "I thought she liked me," one bewildered child lamented.

Rail as we might that Huppenthal and his ilk come off sounding as ignorant as pond scum, theirs continues to be the law of the land. Put that in your militant pipe and stick it. Or so the Huppenthals and Brewers and Arpaios and the phone directory in certain area codes would have it.

Time, and voting provide Arizona's single long-term guaranteed solution to institutionalized hatred. Turn 18, register, tell your friends, vote, get out the vote.

Banned books update:  Yup, they're still banned. Ask the next five people you talk to if they know that. Then remind them Arizona bans these books in their name because the U.S. Constitution says it's ok.

On-Line Floricanto Penultimate in May

“Traficante" by Abel Salas
"Manners" by Samantha Peters Terrell
"Mother Tree / Madre Árbol" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"From the Other Side" by Andrea Mauk
"The Flocks Cloud the Roadway" by José Hernández Díaz

por Abel Salas

for my brother Tony. from Chi-town

Because I am a smuggler
soy traficante, I deal in
illicit phraseology, I speak
in illegal tongues
I trade in mad metaphors
recently released from
straightjacket stifling.
I revel in forgotten
memory colored with
ancient glyphs and told
to me by candle-light
under cover of night
by sage poets and
truthtellers too many
are too blind or too vain
to recognize or uncover
Good morning boys and
girls, can you say Burciaga
or Anaya or Anzaldua?
If they're banning me in
Arizona it's because we're
banned from the beginning
Even baby Brown Berets
in East LA are bereft and
have been denied a
birthright writ in the blood
of prison poets like Salinas,
Sanchez and Jimmy Baca
We are born smugglers
of la palabra, predisposed
to papyrus and now grown
numb in front of television
fiction. Malverde smiles on
us nonetheless. Porque
somos traficantes y mi vicio
siempre sera la letra de la
libertad, la metáfora
desencadenada de un
pueblo equipado, armed
with untold  history and the
books they try to take, we
are the inevitable song and
lyric they will try to silence,
unable to put aside their fear
and hate, dressing it in a
need to enforce the nation's
laws and protect the borders
imposed at the barrel of a gun.
But bullets will never stop the
stampede of lyrical truth or the
blessing of a barrio bard who
took me under wing to show me
words were sacred like the sweat,
that true traficantes know routes
from underground presses to
university halls like the backs of
their tattooed hands, and we
will slang prose and poetry,
newsprint and blog until they
finally and truly reveal themselves
for the fascist, book burners they
are and will always be, knowing
deep down in their true souls that
despite Manifest Destiny, this land
is not theirs and never was.
Soy traficante orgulloso en idiomas
y sonetos, en el olor del la canción
y el canto de las flores, soy voz
y luna como baile entre mi madre
y el futuro de la tierra maya quiche
I traffic in banned books and
felonious turns of phrase, because
this is all I know.

by Samantha Peters Terrell

I'm sorry, 
Please & thank you 
You forgive me 
I'll forgive you 
For people that
have Come and gone 
Wars that have been 
Lost and won Deeds
that have been Done,
We say I'm sorry 
Thank you & please 
I'll forgive you 
You forgive me 
Say goodbye 
Make way for 
What was once-called 
Common courtesy. 

From the Other Side
by Andrea Mauk

You came here
from the other side,
and I have never asked you
how or why. 
You were probably too little 
to remember,
but I can see it
in the gentle wonder of your
liquid center eyes
that you have heard the desert symphony,
the one that only plays under
silver-blue moonlight.
You have heard the cicadas rattle and hum,
felt the crackle of bottle brush 
under your tired and swollen feet.
You shivered when the blazing air
caught the nighttime's chill
as the wind whistled a corrido,
a coyote singing harmony,
the tune that became engraved in your memory,
the same strains that still,
make the hairs on your arms stand on end,
set your heart racing 
and flood your soul with tears.
Tears you carried, your river of history 
and love
drop by drop
from Turicato.
You wouldn't dare approach it,
though the tinkle of 
running water 
like singing bowls
tempted you,
but you knew she might be there,
reaching out for you,
so you kept going,
like your mom had taught you to,
escaping thorny branches
that might be her hungry arms,
and you felt the stars blinking 
tender beams upon your shoulders.
You knew they were the eyes
of your loved ones in the sky
watching over you.
You sensed that from time to time,
you were walking upon
la tierra sagrada,
upon the disintegrated flesh
and chaffed bones
de los que no tienen la buena suerte,
and as little as you were,
you crossed yourself
because you were blessed
with the fortune of making it
to the other side.
With you, you brought 
patience and intelligence,
a love of dogs and horses,
and all the ingredients 
you would need to grow into a
and we here on the other side
should be oh so thankful 
to have you.
But instead, we sometimes
belittle you
when you can't
pronounce a word quite right,
and we don't raise the arm
that blocks the road to opportunity with ease,
and we wonder if you will ever
be able to afford the toll.
You came here
from the other side.
One day I will ask you
how and why.

"the flocks cloud the roadway" 
by José Hernández Díaz

-Michael McClure.


I smoke a cigarette
outside my apartment
window; 1:46 AM.

Tomorrow is trash day
in my barrio. The dogs
are barking AT the man or

woman (it is rude to stare)
who sifts     T   h   r  o  u  g  h    the    trash
cans for recyclables:

5 cents for each beverage container
Less than 24 ounces and
10 cents for each container
24 ounces or greater.

The dogs are barking.
But at the snow.  And it
is may - WIND OF RAIN—

5 cents for each
Beverage container less
Than 24 ounces
And 10 cents for each
Container 24 ounces or

And it is May.


“You have to make it
new,” said my Creative
Writing Professor.

“And you have to write
about what you know,
but for god sake don’t

be sentimental it is
considered a weakness -
A lack of refinement  -

If you will - because
when it comes down
to it you have to sound

very detached and non-
chalant, and maybe every
now and then hint at your

post-modern humanity
with an  easily
accessible/ yet definitively com-

plex metaphor about the
     wind  of  rain."


   and    it    is   MAY:

For each 5 cents container
    Beve era  age  and10
For   ounces  greater or

         A    b u s i n e s s
 selling              cans.

©José Hernández Díaz

“Traficante" by Abel Salas
"Manners" by Samantha Peters Terrell
"Mother Tree / Madre Árbol" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"From the Other Side" by Andrea Mauk
"The Flocks Cloud the Roadway" by José Hernández Díaz

Samantha Peters Terrell is a self-taught poet and publisher of a bi-monthly chapbook entitled "HONESTY" that consists solely of her original work. She regularly posts new material online at www.facebook.com/samantha.peters.terrell

Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She currently calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction, poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality, and her poetry is featured in the 2012 Mujeres de Maiz “‘Zine.” She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has   extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry.

José Hernández Díaz is a first-generation Chicano poet with a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine of UCLA, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, The Packinghouse Review, Revista Contratiempo, Blood Lotus Journal, among others. He has forthcoming publications in HUIZACHE, The Progressive, and in the anthologies, El Norte que Viene, and Tan cerca de EE.UU. (poesía mexicana en la frontera norte). In addition, he is an active moderator of the online group, Poets Responding to SB1070, where he has contributed more than 40 of his own poems. On September 1, 2012, he will host a poetry recital in Los Angeles in support of Ciudad Juárez. This event is part of an international day of reflection on the region organized by Escritores por Ciudad Juárez which will consist of simultaneous poetry recitals in 119 cities, 24 countries, and 4 continents.

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