Monday, June 24, 2013

Why You Should Be a GuerillaReader

Melinda Palacio

Last week, Bronwyn Mauldin sent me a link to Guerilla Reads No. 80, my reading at the Pasadena Lit Fest. I first met Bronwyn four years ago, when she filmed several authors at the Latino Book Author Festival and Cal State Los Angeles in 2008, a year after she started GuerillaReads, an online zine. The generous founder of GuerillaReads answered several questions for La Bloga. Add your name to the GuerillaReads roster and learn how to submit your own videos. It's fun. Look for my GuerillaReads videos 26, 44, and 80.
Bronwyn filming GuerillaReader Abu Zabair. Photo by Melissa Wall

MAP: When and where did you film your first video and what gave you the idea to start filming and what has kept you going all these ? years? 

BM: GuerrillaReads is the online video literary journal. It's 5 years old, and I've just posted our 82nd video. The very first video was of author Cheryl Klein, who helped me launch the site. 

My original idea for GuerrillaReads came from conversations I was having with the Future of Publishing Think Tank. We're a group of independent writers, publishers, booksellers and literary arts organizations who were getting together occasionally to talk about how technology and the economy were making dramatic changes for everyone in the literary world. Rather than wring our hands about those changes as many people were doing back then, we wanted to figure out how we could harness the power of change to benefit literature and grow the literary ecology, especially in Southern California. 

I believe authors need to get out from behind our computers and bring our work to the real world, if we're going to stay relevant. At the same time, we need to be online, since that's where so many people are hanging out. GuerrillaReads is an attempt to bring those two ideas together. Take your work to unexpected places: read aloud in a park, on a bus or from the top of a building. Video that act of literature and share it with the world online.

MAP: What was the most difficult video to film and do you have a favorite?

BM: No favorites! I love all my guerrilla readers equally. 

One of the hardest shoots I've done was a couple of years ago at the West Hollywood Book Fair when the temperature must have topped 100 degrees. It's just too hot to read and too hot to shoot in that kind of weather, but we did it anyway and made some great videos. 

One of my favorite shoots was the GuerrillaReads Video Walk in Highland Park. A group of us met up and walked through the streets, stopping periodically to record each other's guerrilla readings. I really need to do another one of those again soon. Or maybe some of La Bloga's readers can organize a video walk of their own. 

MAP: You have detailed instructions on your website for authors to upload their own videos. Are these instructions based on your own troubleshooting of your videos?

BM: Yes, those instructions are a mix of research and lessons learned the hard way. I've discovered that the most important piece of equipment for video is actually a microphone. Which surprised me, but it actually makes sense, since I want people to hear the words and the sounds of the author's voice. 

GuerrillaReads intentionally has a very DIY aesthetic. I like to think of it as an online 'zine. You don't have to make a video that would win at Cannes. You should make a video that is immediate and real, and lets your writing shine.  

MAP: What is your day job?

BM: I've got a terrific day job as Research and Evaluation Manager at the LA County Arts Commission. I like to think of myself as a cultural worker by day, cultural creator at night and on the weekends. 

MAP: Are you originally from Los Angeles?

BM: No, I've lived in a number of places in the US and traveled to almost 50 countries. Los Angeles is home now. 

MAP: You don't make money off of your video magazine. Why is this such a labor of love? Or do you get donations to maintain your costs?

BM: I don't make any money from GuerrillaReads, except when someone buys a t-shirt. That money goes right back into improving the quality of my equipment. 

For me, this is about promoting and connecting writers, especially the not-yet-famous. There are so many great writers out there writing good, great and fabulous books, I want to help them shine. I also want to get writers comfortable with technology, and help them utilize it to promote themselves. The side benefit is that I get to meet so many writers. 

MAP: What are your goals and dreams for guerrilla reads? Is there anything you'd like to change?

BM: In the long run, I want writers to be out there making more of their own videos and sending them to me. I love meeting writers and shooting their videos, but I can't reach everyone. If you're a writer, pull out your phone or your camera a shoot a quick video of yourself reading. Get a friend to help. You may be surprised how easy it is. 

Then post your video to YouTube or Vimeo and send it to me. I want to see your work! 

MAP: What about your own writing?

BM: I write fiction, and you can find a couple of my short stories on my website ( You can see a couple of my own guerrilla readings on the site. The real challenge is balancing my literary time between GuerrillaReads and doing my own writing. 

MAP: Is there anything else you'd like to tell La Bloga?

BM: If you're nervous about reading your work aloud or being on video, you're in good company. A lot of us writers do our best communicating alone, on a keyboard or with paper and pen. Set aside your worries and give it a try, do a little guerrilla reading and see how it goes. You might actually find the experience liberating. 

If you're a writer who loves to read in front of an audience, then what are you waiting for? Send me your work! 

You might wonder why I am posting on Monday. Daniel wanted to trade and he will be back next week on Monday. Last week was a big week for me with four poems accepted: Three in Blue Lyra and one in the Naugatuck River Review, my GuerillaReads video went online thanks to Bronwyn, my poetry book is mentioned in Cosmopolitan Latina, along with several other winners at the International Latino Book Awards, and Thelma Reyna writes a generous review of How Fire Is a Story, Waiting on Hinchas de Poesia, No. 10.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Melinda and all at La Bloga for sharing. GuerillaReader feels like a "happening" from a by gone day yet so relevant to bring all writers on stage.
Congratulations on all your success and recognition.

Olga said...

Thanks for this, Melinda. What a great idea & opportunity for poets to share their work online.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Melinda, thanks for all this helpful info on Guerrilla Reads. Kudos to Bronwyn for her work. Thanks, also, for the shout-out about my book review (I loved your book) and about HINCHAS DE POESIA, an outstanding, very polished online literary journal edited by the talented Jim Heavily. I hope your readers will spread the word about Jim and Hinchas as well as Bronwyn. Take care, and congrats on the new poems being published!

Katie said...

Thanks, Melinda for the post of Guerilla Reading! Wonderful energy for taking writer to reader to the world! Warm saludos, as always, Katie