Olga García Echeverría
When I think about high school, I think big hair, blue eye shadow, headbands and leg warmers.
I think Sylvia Mora, Verónica Diaz, and Sandra Muñoz, my high school posse and partners in carcajada-crime. We had so much fun together. When I think high school, I think Cross Country, Jaime Escalante Math Program, and, of course, I think about the delicious coffee cake served during Nutrition. The memory of that coffee cake is forever warm and fluffy, topped with brown sugar and delectable cinnamon crumbs.
I am not alone in my coffee cake nostalgia. In the last two decades, I’ve come across many who reminisce about this high school treat. It's a collective longing that spans generations and everyone always seems to be looking for the recipe. If you find it, please pass it on! In previous years I’ve had no luck finding the recipe online, but this week I went searching once more and bam! There it was on the LAUSD website. Maybe it's always been there and finding it now is evidence that my Google search skills are finally improving.
The recipe on the LAUSD website is for 18 pieces, using two 9X9 pans. That’s a lot of bread, so I decided to divide the recipe in half. It’s been a long time since my high school calculus days. Back then even tricky fractions were a breeze, but this time as I tried to divide strange measurements like "3/4 cups plus 3 Tbs" by two, I got stumped. I gave up on being precise and opted for my parent’s preferred measurement system: échale un puño, poquito, no tanto, más o menos, hay le atinas.
My first attempt at high school coffee cake was a catastrophe. My guestimations were way off. Also, for reasons I do not wish to disclose, I had to bake the cake in a toaster oven. I don’t have 9X9 pans, so I used a small cast iron pan instead. It was the only one that actually fit in the toaster oven.
Despite the cochinero I made, what stayed in the baking pan long enough to cook was at least decent enough to taste. C+ my girlfriend said later as she ate a couple of the salvaged pieces with rice milk. I knew she was giving me an inflated grade. The taste was definitely high school, but the texture and presentation needed serious improvement.
My second attempt is coming out of the oven as I write this blog. I made several revisions which have made all the difference. For starters, I used a real oven this time and a pan large enough to actually hold the batter. I also didn’t try to divide the recipe in half (what was I thinking?), so I have plenty of coffee cake to eat and share during the next week. Anyone want some?
Here’s the link to the recipe. http://cafe-la.lausd.net/chefs_corner/old_fashioned_coffee_cake
If you have public-high-school-coffee-cake nostalgia or if you're just curious, try it. It's delicious!
|Grade on my second coffee cake = A+|
Upcoming Literary Opportunities
Now that I've gotten the high school coffee cake obsession out of the way, I can go back to obsessing about writing.
One thing I struggle with as a writer is submitting my work to journals or contests. I hardly ever do.
This year I made a New Year's resolution to send out more of my work. Despite being excited about this resolution, going through the Poets & Writers and AWP classifieds has at times felt overwhelming. There are so many contests out there, and there are almost always reading or entry fees which can add up pretty quickly.
For those of us who write in mixed or spoken-broken languages, there's also issues of identity to consider. The publishing world doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's part of the larger, racialized, patriarchal, heteronormalized world we live in. As a codeswitching escritora who loves to mix genres, I'm learning to weed through the classifieds in search of potential "good fits" for my work. It takes a lot of filtering and I usually only end up with one or two possibilities, but the process is teaching me a lot about who's publishing what and about being selective when I submit.
Applying for literary contests is definitely an investment of time and money. The contests are also highly competitive, but regardless of the outcome, it is a great exercise in writing, revising, and organizing a body of work into a manuscript. Plus, I firmly believe that deadlines are good fuel for creative fire. They push us places we may not otherwise go.
I'm following through with my resolution this year, but I'm not doing it blindly. I am only applying to carefully selected contests. Here are a couple of upcoming literary opportunities that I believe are worth their entry fees. If you're not into making coffee cake, try these! The judges for both of these contests are stellar women writers and the sponsoring organizations are pretty cool too. Happy writing and buena suerte!
To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize
(only for women writers)
$1000 and publication of collection by Red Hen Press
Deadline: August 31, 2013 postmark
Page Limit: 48 to 96 pages
Fee: $20 per entry
Announcement Date: December 15, 2013
For more information visit:
This contest will be judged by Tracy K. Smith, whose collection of poetry Life on Mars won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.
Les Figues Press
(NOS: Not Otherwise Specified)
Contest Opens: June 1st
Deadline: September 15th
Accepting poetry, novellas, prose poems, innovative novels, anti-novels, short story collections, lyric essays, hybrids, plays, memoir and all other forms not otherwise specified.
Prize: $1000 + Publication by Les Figues Press
$25 Entry Fee (all entrants receive a Les Figues Book)
For more information visit:
This contest will be judged by Aimee Bender, American novelist and short story writer, known for her surreal plots and characters.
Last but not least, if you're in Los Angeles, today is Lummis Day. The event is free, open to the public and will feature music, poetry, art, dance and much more in the Arroyo Seco community. For more information: http://www.lummisday.org/2013/