|Melinda in Havana, Cuba|
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, which sometimes falls on my birthday. This year I am not doing much because everyday has been an incredible gift. Last week, I was in Cuba, celebrating my birthday and being a tourist under the auspices of All Rise Church. Traveling to Cuba was somewhat like traveling through time, the cars were old, the buildings ancient, a splendor that time forgot. Ingenuity on the tiny island spanned from making jewelry out cow bones to a musician using the wire on a bicycle brake to restring his guitar.
|The View from Hemingway's house.|
Listening to live music, everywhere, was one of my favorite parts of the trip, along with meeting the people. I have always loved Cuban music and "Maria Cristina," was sort of an early theme song for me because my grandmother would always play the record by Nico Saquito. Also, she never liked my name, Melinda, and instead called me, Maria Cristina. Strangely enough, the song is about a man complaining about his strong-headed woman who always tells him what to do.
|Melinda in a 1956 Pontiac. Why don't they make cars like this anymore?|
It's easy to see why Hemingway fell in love with Cuba. If we didn't have such restrictions, I would certainly visit more often and maybe live there part-time myself. Havana reminded me of New Orleans. I was happy to see there is a movement to restore and preserve the splendor of the buildings, many with marbled staircases and incredible iron work.
|All Play And No Work... hmm|
A little poetry propaganda and promotion was in order. I have the self-promotion act down. Even on vacation in Cuba, I managed to sell a couple of books to Canadian tourists and share my work with a few locals. People that knew my mother, Blanca, can tell you that she was promoting me from the start, preparing me to be comfortable talking about myself. It's ironic because I used to hate it and found it highly embarrassing that strangers would tell me, your mother was bragging about you and she told us all about you. At age nine, I didn't feel accomplished about anything and believed that the things my mother would brag to her friends about were highly exaggerated. But she also taught me how to market and sell products. She belonged to AMAE, the Association of Mexican American Educators, and would have me sell t-shirts and buttons to support a scholarship program for high school graduates. I didn't know it at the time, but she was preparing me for all business side of writing, the marketing and self-promotion that authors must now do for themselves.
And, drum roll please, on Saturday, December 1, Ocotillo Dreams will receive a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. You are invited to the 22nd annual PEN Oakland National Literary Awards, Saturday December 1, 2 PM, at the Oakland Rockridge library, 5366 College Avenue. Admission is free.
|The PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, Saturday, December 1st .|
Finally, the Fire tour continues, actually it hasn't stopped. After Cuba I was on the Pooch Power Hour, wearing my Pocha t-shirt by Lalo Alcarez last Friday. Last Saturday, I read at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque and Tuesday, I had a book signing and reading at Chaucer's in Santa Barbara.
Next week, before heading to the Bay Area, I will visit SBCC's Chicana Literature class on Tuesday, November 27 and a Santa Barbara Book Club, December 4.
Next month, before heading to New Orleans, I have one more book signing in Santa Barbara for First Thursday, Santa Barbara at the Book Den, December 6 at 6pm, where I will be signing copies of How Fire Is a Story, Waiting.
There are a few days left to support Claudia Hernandez's Revolutionary Women Project; I have the honor of being part of her dream to inspire young women.