Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Women Who Submit: 2024 Submission Conference

Michael Sedano's La Bloga-Tuesday shares a close-up look at stellar workshops featured in the August 10 "Submission Conference" created by a dynamic association of writers supporting writers, Women Who Submit (link).

This year's Conference theme gives the WWS event an important distinction unique to this Los Angeles writers conference:

Beyond the Writing: Building Community, Advocacy, and a Literary Career

The 8:30 to 6:00 day of literary panels, workshops, and performances takes place at historic Plaza  de la Raza in Lincoln Heights on the second Saturday in August. 

Follow the links to learn the hourly schedule, scan the list of vendors participating in the trade show element of this public event. From the linked page:

The 2024 WWS Submission Conference on Saturday, August 10, 2024 at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights will feature a day of literary panels, workshops, performances, and vendors centering women and nonbinary writers, editors, publishers, community members, and business owners. 

The third in a series, the 2024 conference is the first to be offered in person thanks to a partnership with Plaza de la Raza and a grant from the Latino Community Foundation and California Arts Council. 

Select remote options will be available for those experiencing barriers to attending due to health, finances, travel, family care, and more. 

The Women Who Submit Submission submission conference is a biennial one-day speaker program created by women and nonbinary writers for women and nonbinary writers to empower marginalized voices to submit work for publication and achieve success in publishing and academia.

Click this link to register for the conference.

Audience in 2023 WWS event a

Click this link to register for the conference.

Click this link to register for the conference.

Click this link to register for the conference.

Click this link to register for the conference.

Click this link to register for the conference.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Things We'll Never Know and Never Understand

Some things, like beauty, we'll never understand

     I didn’t see the attempted assassination of Donald Trump live. I heard it on the car radio, an interruption of regular programming. The announcer knew enough to tell listeners the former president’s ear had been grazed by a bullet, but initial reports said he was fine. Of course, the D.J. (I was listening to a rock ‘n roll station) said more information was still coming in. 
     He didn’t need to remind me of J.F.K.’s assassination, when preliminary reports said the president had been shot. Severity? Unknown. There was still hope. Later, news reports said President Kennedy had died. And, here we are, sixty-two years later, after piles of books, documentaries, and movies of the assassination, we still don’t know why Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, maybe R.F.K.’s investigation into the Mafia, maybe Cuba, or even LBJ’s obsession for the presidency. We’ll never know. 
     I’ve chosen not to dig into the attempted assassination of Trump, just what I hear on the news. A twenty-year-old kid (at my age a 20-year-old is a kid) climbed onto a roof of a commercial building 148 yards away from where Trump was speaking, shot several times with an AR-15 (the civilian version of a military M-16), wounded the former president, and, tragically, killed a bystander, a firefighter, we’re told, protecting his family, and left others wounded. 
     One report said the kid’s dad bought him the weapon a few days earlier. Another report said it was the dad’s weapon, and he let the kid use it to go to the shooting range. A few days earlier, the kid had purchased 50 rounds of ammunition. An AR-15, like an M-16, of which I’m more familiar from my days in Vietnam, takes a magazine, a metal container the size of a narrow paperback novel. It’s spring-loaded and holds twenty-rounds, 5.56 mm, able to penetrate a steel helmet at 500 yards (required by the Army). As each round is fired, another round springs upwards, into the chamber and closer to the firing pin. 
     The Colt Company, supposedly, recommended we didn’t fill the magazine to capacity. Better to put in 18 rounds, not so tight, and less chance of the rifle jamming, for which it was famous, many a soldier losing his life because of it. I remember seeing an image of a dead U.S. soldier, in the heat of battle, smoke all around him, his M-16 broken down, and a cleaning rod sticking out one end, notorious for jamming when dirty. News flash! Most jungles are dirty, and muddy. The U.S. military had a rock-solid contract with the Colt Company. 
     Some people said, lucky for the former president, the kid was a bad shot. I agreed the former president was lucky but, respectfully, disagreed the kid was a bad shot. Unless, he was trained, like a soldier, with the AR-15, he was a pretty damn good shot but not very sabe of weapons. Like the M-16, the AR-15 is an assault rifle, and, as our drill instructors had informed us, good for Vietnam, and guerilla warfare, because, chances were, if we made contact, the enemy would be within a hundred meters of our position, a hundred-meters, about the length of a football field, often, separated by dense jungle. We didn’t need to be good shots, just good enough to spray the jungle, single-shot or full-automatic, and kill anybody shooting back at us. 
     I knew some guys, soldiers raised in rural America, hunters, who could pick off a target at one, even two-hundred yards with an M-16. They were rare. Snipers in Vietnam never used an M-16. They chose the heavier, trustier, M-14, with a scope, accurate up to 500 yards. Some chose WWII carbines. Today, it’s high-tech, like the Remington M24, yup, a sure thing. At 200 yards, hitting a target is like a pro hooper making a layup. 
     So, I think to myself, why didn’t this kid, the attempted assassin, take a more accurate hunting rifle or carbine? Maybe he knew the AR-15’s rounds tumble when they hit targets, ripping and tearing everything inside, and upon exiting taking out damn near a body’s entire back. That’s why doctors who operate on patients after a shooting, when an AR-15 is used, especially if children are involved, often say there’s little left to stitch back together. So, maybe the kid figured even if he got close to his target that would be good enough to do the job. 
     To confuse things, politically, reports say the kid was a registered Republican who recently gave $15 to a Democratic political operation. Was he messing with us? It does make for interesting propaganda, for both parties, in today’s America, where each party is ready to pounce on the other. I will say, here, at this point in my brief meandering, I was relieved to hear the shooter wasn’t black, Latino, Muslim, Asian, gay, or in the country illegally, or we might be witnessing an ugly retaliation against the innocent. We (yes, I include myself since I tan deeply in summer), in cities across the country, have already been targeted by those who consider themselves America's gatekeepers, those who believe the myth that the country was meant only for “whites,” and, somehow, they “whites” are not immigrants. Yet even the term "white" is suspect.
     For those who think such a statement lends to some sort of racist bent, let me remind folks, Irish, Scots, Italians, Slavs, even Germans, in the past, weren’t considered “white.” In Europe, and in the colonies, they were “less than,” ripe for serving others, for turning into slaves and indentured servants. Some Europeans considered Irish “black.” The British colonists warned their brethren to stay free of the German (or Prussian) rabble who would do nothing more than taint their pure bloodline. 
     Yet, if one considers the majority of recent violence -- by recent I mean within the past ten years -- specific ethnic and religious groups have been targeted, their neighborhoods, stores, churches, temples, and mosques. Then there are the lone rebels, those who target children in schools, some, emotionally disturbed shooters, often children themselves, taking their hatred out on teachers and students they believe made their lives a living hell, the ones Alex Jones calls “fabricated,” as in none of it ever happened. It was all a hoax, like Sandy Hook, a hoax. 
     What I do believe, though, the attack on the Capital on January 6, exposed many Americans operating in the shadows, the ones who can't be designated as domestic terrorists, those committed to white supremacy or white nationalism, those who don’t think twice about using violence to meet their ends. Nobody knows who they are, until they appear.
     To call a people “vermin” is to equate them with rabid animals. To label them, collectively, as “murders” and “rapists,” is to place targets on their backs. To push conspiracy theories, about child sex plots in pizza parlors, and Jewish space lazars, sets the crazies free. 
     Yes, I know, some argue, like with “love,” all is fair in “politics and war.” The vile language is simply part of the propaganda, whether the person believes it or not. You can say anything to win. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, kind of thinking. 
     Was there something someone said about Mr. Trump, something hateful, wildly hyperbolic, or even poignant that resonated in the head of his possible assassin? We’ll never know. Maybe he just wanted to make a name for himself. So much we’ll never know, not really, like why they executed Jesus, Socrates (though he chose his own poison), Abe Lincoln, JFK, MLK, RFK, or Malcolm X. Yeah, we know what “they” told us, what “they” wanted us to know, thought we could handle, or how our competing religions interpreted in verse, as in Jesus’ case. 
     So many secrets we’ll never know, like why some assassinations fail, why some live and some die? Maybe some just aren't martyr material. Malcolm X might have gotten closest to the truth when he said, after President Kennedy’s assassination, “The chickens have come home to roost.” Another way of putting it, I guess, is "you reap what you sew." Is there some sin deeper in our society that we're missing, that our leaders keep from us?
     What gives me hope is what I’ve experienced, wherever I’ve travelled in this country, and outside of it, are that most Americans, regardless of our differences, are accepting, decent people who want the best for each other, will, sometimes, die for each other, as I saw in combat. That’s something we must hang onto.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Sons of El Rey

By Alex Espinoza 

Publisher: ‎Simon & Schuster 

Language: ‎English

Hardcover: ‎384 pages

ISBN-10: ‎1668032783

ISBN-13: ‎978-1668032787

A timeless, epic novel about a family of luchadores contending with forbidden love and secrets in Mexico City, Los Angeles, and beyond.

Ernesto Vega has lived many lives, from pig farmer to construction worker to famed luchador El Rey Coyote, yet he has always worn a mask. He was discovered by a local lucha libre trainer at a time when luchadores—Mexican wrestlers donning flamboyant masks and capes—were treated as daredevils or rock stars. Ernesto found fame, rapidly gaining name rec­ognition across Mexico, but at great expense, nearly costing him his marriage to his wife Elena.

Years later, in East Los Angeles, his son, Freddy Vega, is struggling to save his father’s gym while Freddy’s own son, Julian, is searching for professional and romantic fulfillment as a Mexican American gay man refusing to be defined by stereotypes.

With alternating perspectives, Ernesto and Elena take you from the ranches of Michoacán to the makeshift colonias of Mexico City. Freddy describes life in the suburban streets of 1980s Los Angeles and the community their family built, as Julian descends deep into our present-day culture of hook-up apps, lucha burlesque shows, and the dark underbelly of West Hollywood. The Sons of El Rey is an intimate portrait of a family wading against time and legacy, yet always choosing the fight.


“One cannot help but be drawn into The Sons of El Rey. Alex Espinoza has drawn rich, fascinating characters and offers a detailed picture of Mexico at a politically turbulent time and Los Angeles at key moments in its recent history. In his novel, lucha libre is not only a cultural phenomenon, it is also a powerful metaphor for masculine power as a mask covering complex feelings of inadequacy. Through the rich family saga he has created, Espinosa also explores various forms of male love: paternal, companionate, and erotic.” —NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

"Full of powerful unfolding revelations, The Sons of El Rey has claimed its title as the great American lucha libre novel."—CAROLYN KELLOGG, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette

“The seamlessly interwoven story lines bring each character to vivid life, and Espinoza shines in the lucha libre scenes... This is a knockout.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Tender and revelatory… Espinoza's prose hits with raw emotional power.” —SHELF AWARENESS

“From rural Mexico to Ajusco, the outskirts of Mexico City to Los Angeles, their stories unfold in surprising ways.” —BOOKLIST

Alex Espinoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in suburban Los Angeles. He is the author of the novels Still Water Saints and The Five Acts of Diego León, as well as a book of nonfiction, Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime. Alex teaches at UC-Riverside where he serves as the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Ten Year Anniversary: That Time of Year

That time of year
Michael Sedano


Ten years ago, July 2014, I met my fate. I died in post-op ICU.


Trouble started two weeks before with sharp abdominal pain that grew over a few days. I followed a doctor's advice to aguantarlo and take a tablet analgesic, call him if it grew worse. Pain grew worse and I aguantared as the weekend begins. Pain drives me to lie in a darkened bedroom delighting at the laughter from kids splashing in the pool. I wanted those to be the last sounds I hear, fever and pain totally overwhelm me. 

Barbara insists I go to the ER. She drags me off the mattress, directing me get in the car. Barbara always knew best.


Peritonitis raged from a perforated colon, the source of that pain. I'm wheeled quickly to an operating room and lights out. I'm fixed.


I come-to in a comfortable room where kind women have settled me into a hospital bed and get me on my feet. The surgeon visits to explain what he's done, and brags to me he cured my diverticulitis by removing two feet of my large intestine. The surgeon feels all heroic that, with a camera and robot knives he’s poked into my insides, he’s redesigned my midsection, cut an organ, added a plastic bag at the waist for waste, and sealing off the rest.

The doc doesn't know he's mucked up. My spleen, an innocent bystander in the process of peritonitis clean-up and sigmoid colectomy with end colostomy, was nicked by a robot knife. 

My post-op ward nurses encourage me to take walks, side-by-side with a stainless steel tree dangling tubes and swaying hanging bags bulging with fluids. 

I take an experimental short sojourn and tolerate the effort. I take a much longer walk and even cross over the bridge between Huntington Hospital’s twin towers to gaze across the city rooftops to the mountains. 

Inside my sinews, where the sun don’t shine, I'm bleeding from a Spleen busy consuming itself, doing its job.


The day after my bridge walkabout, Barbara begins her daily visit making small talk and concerned inquiries. I mumble fatuous responses or not at all. I can't keep my eyes open. I feel myself slump down in the recliner chair I occupy, eyes closed, aware only that I am surrounded by room noise.


"He’s turned grey", or "He’s all grey", Barbara calls with alarm out the door. A pair of rubber-soled shoes squeal as the nurse wheels out the door to pick up a phone. In a minute, strong hands lift me onto a rolling table, strap me down and wheel me at high speed along hallways wheels protest at hard left and hard right turns. The gurney hits aluminum thresholds hard with the front wheels then hitting hard with the rear wheels. Each ka-bump intensifies pain in my belly forcing my eyes open to prove I'm still alive. Ceiling tiles scroll past interrupted by fluorescent fixtures marked by brown waterspots, dead insect shadow, the light too bright but only while I’m directly under.


Into the incredibly bright surgery room someone pushes the gurney. For a moment I grow alert. Dang, there’s a lot of people here. Some of them grab me and pull me onto a tiny hard table. A woman on my right whose masked face doesn't conceal beautiful brown eyes and skin pushes a needle into a tube someone has stuck into my arm. Here it comes, she announces.


The next time I come to is after being sent back from the other side. I wrote about it in La Bloga ten years ago, almost as soon as the big pain had subsided. Here's a link to that column.




I was three days in ICU before I woke momentarily to whisper “burn sage.” Then I woke to a deluxe corner room with the hospital’s best nurses and nurse assistants, people came to visit me and see the dead man for themselves, after 21 days in that bed I got solid food, pooped, and got sent home again. Thanks to the teachers union contract, Blue Shield covered almost every expense.


Science calls my crossing over a “near death experience.” NDE inform a rich body of academic writing and study, I'm not unique. A large majority of researchers offer chemical-based explanations for NDE, that stressed human brains produce psychedelic DMT, the entire NDE is a freak out, a mind trip. There is no ‘there’ there. 


Ni modo, the DMT tipos are wrong. Raza know there's another side because we live with cucui. I've been to The Other Side, so have others. I’d read about NDE back in grad school, dozens of years before I died. There's lot of material on the computer.


People who come back share a variety of profound perceptions about what happened to them. Over time, people realize their NDE brings behavioral consequences. A model of post-NDE behavior called the Life Changes Inventory, says gente show  “increased concern for others, lessened fear of death, increased belief in an afterlife, increased religiosity, and decreased desire for material success and approval of others.” Link to PDF 


Some of these outcomes describe me, but more that anything, for years after, I wanted to know why the heck it happened, to me in particular. Why did I get sent back in 2014? I wondered and marveled. Indeed, it was a gift. Now I know.


The ancestors sent me back in 2014 to take care of Barbara during our life with Alzheimer’s Dementia. We were diagnosed in 2018. She lived until 2023. 

I understand, now, the ancestors knew Barbara would need me to be there for her. It all makes sense. Barbara saved my life two times before I got sent back--dragging me to the ER and noticing I was bleeding to death--so I could give her the best life possible when she had no choice but to depend completely on me, as we promised, all the days of our lives.


There is life after Alzheimer's. I have a new life. The bare ruined choirs will have to wait, I hear the sweet birds sing. 

Monday, July 15, 2024

“Escojo la luz” por Xánath Caraza

“Escojo la luz” por Xánath Caraza


Las lágrimas no dejan ver el mundo. Distorsionadas imágenes. El agua cambia la nitidez por borrosos espectros. La guerra no se ve con claridad, los filtros del agua impiden distinguir los detalles dolorosos. Monstruos en el rabillo del ojo acechan los paisajes perdidos en el glóbulo ocular. Ópticas difusas acompañadas de gemidos suplicantes. Los colores del mundo se expanden en la mente del lector. Escojo la luz.


El mundo


los detalles dolorosos.

En el glóbulo ocular

ópticas difusas

del lector.



Imagen de Lissette Solorzano

de la serie “El gran jardín”, 2021-2024

Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba


Traducido al griego por Natasa Lambrou, Dra. UMU

Ciudad de Atenas, Grecia


Este poema es parte del manuscrito Escojo la luz que ha sido parcialmente apoyado por la Universidad de Missouri-Kansas City y la Facultad de Lenguas y Culturas Mundiales de UMKC.


Διαλέγω το φως από την Σάναθ Καράσα


Ο κόσμος από τα δάκρυα δεν φαίνεται. Εικόνες παραμορφωμένες. Το νερό αλλάζει την ευκρίνεια με φάσματα θολά. Ο πόλεμος δεν φαίνεται καθαρά, τα φίλτρα του νερού μας εμποδίζουν να διακρίνουμε τις οδυνηρές λεπτομέρειες. Τέρατα στη γωνία του ματιού παραφυλάνε  τα τοπία που χάνονται στο βολβό του ματιού. Οπτικές διάχυτες που συνοδεύονται από βογγητά ικεσίας. Τα χρώματα του κόσμου εξαπλώνονται στο μυαλό του αναγνώστη. Διαλέγω το φως.


   Ο κόσμος


τις οδυνηρές λεπτομέρειες.

      Στο βολβό του ματιού

οπτικές διάχυτες

του αναγνώστη.


Εικόνα της Lissette Solorzano

από την σειρά «Ο μεγάλος κήπος», 2021-2024

Λα Αβάνα, Κούβα


Μετάφραση στα Ελληνικά από την Δρ. Νατάσα Λάμπρου

Πόλη των Αθηνών, Ελλάδα
Ιούλιος του 2024


Friday, July 12, 2024

Photo Album: Ramas y Raices

The Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors (CALMA) launched its anthology Ramas y Raices:  The Best of CALMA, on June 29.  The anthology editor, Mario Acevedo, selected twenty-three pieces for the anthology that reflect the diversity and broad talent of the CALMA membership. The launch featured readings by fourteen of the contributors.  The launch was a jubilant affair with poetry, fiction, essays, and opinion pieces flying through the Saturday afternoon, cheered on by the celebrating audience.  It was easy to conclude that CALMA had presented its first Floricanto.  Here are a few photos of the event taken by Victoria Montoya, who also read for her mother Beatrice Apodaca-Montoya.  

Mario Acevedo, Editor

                                                                                        Anita Jepson-Gilbert

Ramon Del Castillo

                                                                                                    José Aguayo

Kimberley Sánchez


                                                                                    Maria A. Ramirez

                                                                                    Ricardo J. Bogaert-Alvarez

Jo Elizabeth Pinto

                                                                                                         Karen D. Gonzales

Elena Guerrero Townsend

                                                    Manuel Ramos

Sorry, no photographs of readers Ricardo LaForeCharlene Garcia Simms.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in the award-winning anthology Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.