Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

By Juana Medina

Series: Juana & Lucas
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Candlewick
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1536201316
ISBN-13: 978-1536201314

When her mami meets someone new, Juana worries that everything will change in a humorous, heartwarming follow-up to the Pura Belpré Awardwinning Juana & Lucas.

Juanas life is just about perfect. She lives in the beautiful city of Bogotá with her two most favorite people in the world: her mami and her dog, Lucas. Lately, though, things have become a little less perfect. Mami has a new hairdo and a new amigo named Luis with whom she has been spending a LOT of time. He is kind and teaches Juana about things like photography and jazz music, but sometimes Juana cant help wishing things would go back to the way they were before. 

When Mami announces that she and Luis are getting married and that they will all be moving to a new casa, Juana is quite distraught. Lucky for her, though, some things will never change like how much Mami loves her. Based on author-illustrator Juana Medinas own childhood in Colombia, this joyful series is sure to resonate with readers of all ages.


Medina's cartoon-style illustrations done in ink and watercolor are vibrant and full of movement, beautifully capturing the full range of Juana's conflicting emotions as Luis becomes a part of their lives. Juana's big problema will resonate with many readers, who will look forward to hearing more about this spunky Colombian girl's life. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Medinas illustrations are a wonderful addition to Juanas first-person narration, truly bringing her emotions and quirkiness to life. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text but are italicized so that monolingual young readers will get their meaning through context cues. Medinas charming follow-up to her Pura Belpré Awardwinning Juana & Lucas (2016) doesnt disappoint.

Book 1

Juana & Lucas
by Juana Medina

Juana loves many things drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juanas abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planningone that Juana will need to speak English to go onJuana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones the hearts of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Artists Creating Cultural Capital: Güiro II. News 'n Notes.

Workshoppers Fabricating Functional Toys, Artists Creating Guarneri of Güiros
Michael Sedano

Los Angeles’ Plaza de la Raza hosted the year’s third workshop in the Artists Creating Cultural Capital project organized by Amy Inouye and Margaret Garcia. The Saturday event was the second iteration of the “let yourself be sidetracked by your guiro” Güiro-making workshop led by veteran guiro-maker, Michael Sedano.

Amy Inouye works the perforating station. In-process inventory is staged for the jigsaw and grinding operations.

Every December, Plaza de la Raza hosts the annual Frank Romero Holiday Art Sale, a well-trafficked shopping weekend in the colorful lakeside venue in Lincoln Park. Artists Creating Cultural Capital has a table at the 2019 sale and here’s where the “capital” part of the project gets its name. 

The hands-on workshop took artists through an industrial model to mass produce blank guiros suitable for commodity or fine art conversion. Artists who’ve attended a workshop took home a supply of blank timber bamboo guiros they will finish using pyrography, engraving, sculpting, color, with all the creativity of a raza artist exploring a musical herencia.

The December sale will arrive with a good inventory of twenty-dollar guiros to pick and choose. December sale bargain-hunters are sure to find an abundance of superb gift guiros.

Thanks to the Huntington Library, Guiro-making Workshop II provided marvelous materials for talented artists to do art with. Gente with an eye for fine art will take home a personal gift, one's own Guarneri of Guiros.

Salvador Correa and Anthony Correa evaluate an in-process guiro. Amy Inouye and Margaret Garcia jigsaw sound holes.

Timber bamboo is a horticultural wonder. If you plant it, it will grow and grow and grow. San Marino's The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens grows world-class bamboo that, as a guiro-maker, I've long admired. Staff at the ticket window had no idea how I could get some bamboo, but the service-aware workers gave me a name “who might be able to answer” my question.

An exchange of emails, a couple of phone calls, and I was invited to come on down Tuesday, when the gardens close. I met Arturo at the lily pond where Timber Bamboo grows ten, twenty feet tall with 4+ inch diameter canes. "Take your pick," the supervisor invited.

Up at the foliage level branches intertwine and the cut cane becomes a massive chore to extricate. I selected two canes at the periphery of the clump. Arturo chainsawed them and easily dropped them to the ground. “No quieres más?” he wanted to know and yes for sure I wanted mas but ahorita no.

Vandals find bamboo surfaces irresistable. Arturo shrugs off pendejismo but gladly cuts
one of the damaged canes. The artist can incorporate or emend the placas.

“Qúe 'stan haciendo?” the pickup truck driver called. Otro Mexicano doing garden maintenance. I went over and showed him the guiro I’d brought. The driver took the striker and began getting sidetracked by the infectious guiro. I invited him to the workshop but he didn’t show up.

Saturday’s early-rising workshoppers were duly impressed to be working with Huntington wood. I am ever-lastingly grateful for the acquisition experience. It’s the first step of the workshop theory, acquire timber bamboo from a property owner, just knock on the door. 

As Arturo, who’s been with Huntington Library fifteen years, was driving me back to my car, we passed the world’s most gorgeous stand of timber bamboo. It’s showcased at the entrance to the collections. “Sure, next time we can cut some of that,” Arturo said.

Arturo works the cane loose and places it gently next to the other. Dried by nature for
unknown years, the 10-foot lenght of timber bamboo weighs a few pounds.

With raw material in hand, the creating part of Artists Creating Cultural Capital arrived at nine in the morning surrounded by festive vendor booths for a health fair. I set up the assembly line indoors, a last-minute adjustment to an outdoor plan.

With the right tools you can do anything. That’s a motto my Dad taught me, and I live by it. That is never more true than when cutting timber bamboo. Plaza’s man-of-many-means, Gabriel, found a chop saw in Frank Romero’s studio. We separated our Huntington bamboo in minutes. The first workshop, I brought hand-held rotary saws that intimidated the painters, were the wrong tool, and we did not finish the task.

A light-weight drill and a new 1/2" spade bit make fast work of perforation. 

I designed the guiro workshop after an industrial model I used in my days in an automotive window assembly line: artist harvests bamboo, divides into N segments of closed-end tubes; perforates each tube through-and-through with four ½” holes; joins perforations with jigsaw forming sound holes; grinds raspa surface; cut a compatible striker from waste bamboo. Ear test.

The penultimate process is working the unworked bamboo surface to do art. Quick and dirty burning or engraving produces a twenty dollar guiro. Take your time with the same material and create a masterpiece.

This workshop is mass-producing blanks intended to sell for twenty dollars each. We caught a break. The Huntington Library bamboo has quality suitable to fashion Guarneri-level artistic Guiros. I call them “your hundred-dollar guiro” and artists recognize the possibilities in that hollow tube that minimally worked already easily attracts twenty-dollar bills. Just imagine--that's what artists do for a living.

Salvador Correa grinds his raspa. Stu Rapeport jigsaws a green-bamboo blank.
As a corporate safety officer I would have a word with the foreman on this
work station. Never operate power tools without eye and hand protection.

A finished guiro has been sanded smooth, tung oiled, and polished. The fine art ones will come in keepsake packaging with a care & background pamphlet, and a certificate of authenticity. 

At December's sale, the Artists Creating Cultural Capital table will be strewn with twenty-dollar guiros and strikers, first-come first-sidetracked by their own locally acquired renewable resource holiday toy and fully functional musical instrument hand-crafted by local artists. That's a mouthful. 

The hundred-dollar guiros will be displayed, handle with white-gloves and so irrestible, you’ll want all of them. They do make wondrous gifts.

José Lozano teaches drawing at Plaza de la Raza on Saturdays. He was in the space next to our guiro workshop so he took a few bamboo tubes to sharpie pen some designs. Someone good with a Dremel tool or a wood-burning point can follow the lines and create a piece José can sign. Margaret Garcia took one of José's blanks.

José Lozano provided a number of sharpie designs to be Dremel tooled or burned.

Locally acquired…” is a mouthful and it’s important. The ideal result of the project is artists training underemployed or unemployed people to manufacture local alternatives to imported plastic materials, while producing income. With inventory, after that, it's marketing.

Christmas and Hanukkah have turned into blizzards of petrochemical waste, and parents are resisting. Gente seek sensible toys to give a kid. That’s the output of the Artists Creating Cultural Capital project, AKA “The Toy Project.” Garcia and Inouye are bringing artists together to make toys from natural, renewable materials. So far, there’s a wood paletero cart and Saturday’s timber bamboo guiro. Upcoming are a string-pull segmented doll and a Dreamer Butterfly. 

Salvador Correa sidetracked by an in-process güiro.
December's Romero Sale at Plaza de la Raza  will have numerous designs coming out of these workshops. Toys to delight the kids, arte to engage collectors, and of course this year, güiros to let yourself be sidetracked.

Let yourself be sidetracked by your güiro
Carnal let yourself be free
To do your music when your heart pounds
In the melody of your ringing ears

News 'N Notes From the Mailbag
Houston, TX

A big La Bloga ¡Órale! to Leslie Contreras Schwartz, Laureate.

La Bloga friend, el librotraficante Tony Diaz has a literary version of cultural capital ongoing. For information on the Texas happenings, click here.

Chicago, IL

Monday, May 20, 2019

PEN America’s Grants & Fellowships program: Applications now being accepted

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network. PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Its strength is our Membership—a nationwide community of more than 7,200 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters who join with them to carry out PEN America’s mission.

Because PEN America celebrates writers at every stage of their career, the organization takes great pride in its Grants and Fellowships program. As you may know, submissions for the 2020 cycle are currently open. Here are some of the grants and fellowships you may consider:

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant ($2,000-4,000)
Submissions open April 1 to June 1, 2019

The PEN/Heim Translation Fund provides grants to support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or drama that have not previously appeared in English in print or have appeared only in an outdated or otherwise flawed translation.

PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature ($5,000)
Submissions open April 1 to June 1, 2019 
The PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature is awarded to a translator for a book-length work-in-progress translation of Italian narrative prose into English.

Submissions open April 1 to June 1, 2019
The PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History recognizes an in-progress literary work of nonfiction that significantly uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement.

Submissions open April 1 to August 15, 2019
The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship is offered to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction in financial need. Developed to support writers whose work is of high literary caliber, the fellowship assists a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career to complete a book-length work-in-progress.  

If you have any further questions, please reach out to the Literary Awards Team at

Friday, May 17, 2019

Are You Afraid of Six Days of Writing at the Beach?

Melinda Palacio

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference

Santa Barbara

By popular demand, Lida Sideris and I are joining forces to address all your writing needs and fears at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Last year, we taught to an overflowing crowd. It's no surprise that writers have all kinds of fears from fear of failure to fear of success to fear that someone will actually read words that they have written. I'm very excited to bring back this popular workshop. Every year I look forward to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Being an expert in overcoming a variety of fears, including fear of heights and fear of singing in public, I am here to help writers overcome their fear. My teaching partner, Lida, is one of the most pleasant people you'll ever meet, a ray of sunshine you'll be happy to learn from her. Everyone has about a month to clear their calendar and take time to write your book and get it done. Join us for six days of writing in the New York Time's number 3 top destination of 2019: Santa Barbara. As founder Barnaby Conrad used to say, you will not leave the conference as the same person. Transform, write, and Enjoy. June 16-21, 2019.

Santa Barbara Writers Conference

Mike Takeuchi and Jim Alexander looking at all of the exciting workshops offered at the  SBWC

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Masters of War

Voices at War

    I always thought the corruption of its youth a vague notion for Sparta to condemn Socrates to death. Socrates, a beloved philosopher and teacher, took matters into his own hands by ingesting poison and terminating his own life. Completely accurate, maybe not, but it’s generally what most people accept.
     Today’s evangelicals and the homophobic like to argue, as a homosexual, Socrates was corrupting the youth by encouraging homosexuality. We know this is bunk since homosexuality was readily accepted by the elites of Socrates’ day and even among the Romans. So, what was the corruption?
     War has been on my mind, nearly every day since I returned from Vietnam in 1967. In my semi-autobiographical novel, Shifting Loyalties, I attempted to capture some of my experiences and those of my friends, many, like me, who will always carry physical and mental scars, so much more for the families who lost sons during that conflict. Oh, we veterans of Vietnam can pretend everything is fine. We can fool those around us, maybe even ourselves, but it’s there. It’s always there.
     So, it made complete sense to me when I heard a philosophy scholar argue: Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth, in a time when wars lasted fifty to a hundred years, for encouraging Sparta’s youth to holler at the Masters of War, “Hell, no, we won’t go!”
     In his play Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ women characters grew tired of watching the Masters of War send their sons and husbands off to die in enemy lands. But the Masters of War, those “who build the big guns”, are wily, even as they “hide behind desks”. Operating in secrecy, they manipulate the media and the public, who enthusiastically, and patriotically, send their youth off to the slaughter as if it were some major sporting event. After all, there seems to be some great truth in the saying, "Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings." Ultimately, war is profitable, what the Masters have dubbed as our “national interest.”
     So, how did Aristophanes’ mothers and daughters stand up to the Masters of War? They withheld sex, weakened the men, and took over the armories to win their cause.
     Today, the USS Abraham Lincoln and a fleet of American warships are headed towards the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran in the crosshairs. Are the Masters of War at it again?
     We know the Masters of War lied to the American public about every war and conflict since Vietnam, leaving behind a wake of death and destruction, world instability and mountains of debt, ironically, China and the House of Saud hold the biggest IOU's.
     Investigating George W. Bush’s newly created Office of Global Communication, after the invasion of Iraq, reporter James Bamford wrote, “Never before in history…had such an extensive secret network been established to shape the entire world’s perception of a war.”
     That’s right. What really happened leading up to and during the Iraq war was either invented, fraudulently reported, or not reported at all.
     The public never heard how “an Abrams tank plunged off a bridge into the Euphrates River on the west side of Nasiriyah, drowning S. Sgt. Donald May, Lance Cpl. Patrick O’Day, and PFC Francisco Martinez-Flores” (Jon Krakauer, Where Men Win Glory, p. 208.). Or, how “a firefight broke out at the intersection where [Jessica] Lynch’s convoy had made its fateful wrong turn…. In the ensuing confusion, one Marine unit attacked another Marine unit, wounding thirty-seven Americans, some critically…. (Krakauer).
     As soldiers say during war, “Shit happens.”
     However, when the Masters of War manipulate the public with “alternative” truths, that’s an entirely different matter. The Masters of War create heroes, like Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, to stir up public patriotism and zeal for its warriors, when in reality, it is simply men and women following orders and trying to save themselves and their friends in difficult to dire situations often created by their superiors.
     Lynch never picked up rifle and held off enemy soldiers, as reported. Iraqi doctors attended to her injuries and treated her humanely in the hospital after she was, reportedly, captured. Doctors said no one ever considered her a prisoner of war. Even her rescue was a military media ruse used to whip up U.S. hysteria against Iraq.
     Krakauer's exhaustive investigation revealed how former NFL star-turned-ranger Pat Tillman was accidentally killed by his own friends, and not while he was doing anything extraordinarily heroic. The Army invented an elaborate, heroic hoax to hide the truth. Even some of the soldiers who shot Tillman were rumored to have lied about what happened.
     The Army conducted an investigation, only because Tillman’s family demanded it. The Army released a public statement: “…it was merely a coincidence that Army personnel falsified documents, withheld information, and violated regulations ‘up and down the chain of command’…. There was no coverup.”
     In the early 90’s, while teaching a Chicano literature course, I had my students read Charlie Trujillo’s award-winning book Soldados. I remember a Vietnamese-American student commenting, “I never knew Chicanos had fought in Vietnam?”
     I tried to hide my surprise--and dismay. This student was born and educated in the States and had no idea Mexicans had fought in Vietnam?
     How could American education, somewhere down the line, not teach her that the first American pilot captured in Vietnam was Everett Alvarez, a Mexican-American from Salinas, California, and, the last Marine out of Vietnam, and only after insuring he’d gotten everyone into the last choppers during the fall of Saigon--including his fellow Marines--was MSgt John Valdez of San Antonio, Texas?
     If this student thought no Chicano-Latinos had served in Vietnam, how many other Americans thought the same?
     At the time, Charlie’s book was one of the few written by a Chicano who had served in Vietnam. In 1989, Joe Rodriguez had published his well-received Vietnam novel, Oddsplayer, but little else about Chicanos and the Vietnam War existed on bookstore shelves or college libraries.
     Published in 1986, Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavidez’ book, the Three Wars of Roy Benavidez barely made a blip on the literary radar, yet his experiences were some of the most harrowing of any soldier who served in Vietnam, a true hero.
     In mainstream books and movies about Vietnam, Chicanos were often ignored, except for John Leguizamo’s embarrassing role as a prayer-spouting, rosary-carrying Latino in the movie Casualties of War, where the principal scene is soldiers raping a young, Vietnamese woman.
     In U.S. media, it was as if Anglo-Americans and a few token African-Americans carried the bulk of the war on their shoulders. Yet, in Vietnam, wherever I served, I saw Chicanos, African-Americans, and Puerto Ricans in large numbers. I even recall times when Puerto Ricans hung out together because they spoke only Spanish.
     When I first started college in 1970, barely a year out of the Army, I found Omar Salinas’s poetry book, Crazy Gypsy. On page 64, the poem, “Death in Vietnam” leaped out at me. Certain lines stay with me, even to this day: “another sacrifice for America/ a mexican/ his beloved country gives homage/ and mothers sleep in carboard houses,” and the clincher, “the sacrifice is not over.” Today, I think, not by a longshot.
In the War and in Protest
     In 1990, I met Leroi Quintana, whose short poetry book Interrogations gave me some hope that Chicanos would finally tell our side of Vietnam. My book was published in 1995, exploring a group of soldiers before, during, and after the war. Then came George Mariscal’s epic Aztlan in Vietnam a collection of stories, essays, and poems, both about and against the war, but all with Chicano voices, and in 1999 Joseph Ramirez’ A Patriot After All, brought some relief to the literary drought. Alfredo Vea’s powerful God’s Go Begging, a story mainly about a Chicano attorney suffering from the war’s memories moved the genre into the mainstream as Penguin published the novel.
     The burden most of us writers and artists carried was to avoid glamorizing war, especially that war, but to remain true to ourselves and to friends who never returned or who returned never to be the same. To Chicano scholars, I suppose, we were suspect. We had bought into the lie. We had failed to protest the dictates created by the Masters of War.
     Yet to us, we'd followed a long tradition of Chicano warriors, from the beaches in the Pacific Theater to the deserts of North African and the long, fertile fields of Europe. If anyone followed tradition, we did, to our own detriment. So, it is understandable why in in the 1970s and even in the '80s, Chicano faculty would eschew our books, for fear of contaminating impressionable young minds. Kids have the uncanny to ability romanticize--even horror, as we see in the today's video game world.
     Though, finally, the most comprehensive scholarly study into literature of Chicanos in Vietnam did not come from Chicano(a) Studies departments or a Chicano Literature professor but from an intrepid young Spanish scholar working on her Ph.D dissertation at the University of Valladolid, Spain, in 2002, Dr. Berta Delgado Melgosa. Corpus De Novelas Chicanas Sobre La Guerra de Vietnam: Fases De Su Analisis Textual is a groundbreaking study she published as a book: Ni Aguila Ni Serpiente: La Guerra de Vietnam como topico literario en la narrative chicano contemporanea, covered not only Chicano Vietnam novels but various degrees of how Chicano scholars looked at Vietnam from the 1970s forward.
     Many of us who served and wrote about our Vietnam experiences thought, perhaps, naively, that the United States would learn from past mistakes, like the death of 55,000 Americans would be enough, or at the very least, the American public would question any saber-rattling coming from the halls of Washington, from the desks of the Masters of War.
     What we’ve learned, instead, is that the Masters of War in Washington will not send their sons and daughters to fight and die. As long as they can send the working class and the poor to fight our wars, just or unjust, we will continue to turn on the television and watch American warships speeding toward foreign shores as the Masters carefully massage the rationale and whip the American citizenry into a patriotic frenzy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits

Written by Anna Meriano
Illustrated by  Mirelle Ortega

Series: Love Sugar Magic (Book 2)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062498495
ISBN-13: 978-0062498496

The second book in this breakout series that's been called "charming and delectably sweet." (Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of the Brooklyn Brujas series)

Leonora Logroño has finally been introduced to her family’s bakery bruja magic—but that doesn’t mean everything is all sugar and spice. Her special power hasn’t shown up yet, her family still won’t let her perform her own spells, and they now act rude every time Caroline comes by to help Leo with her magic training.

She knows that the family magic should be kept secret, but Caroline is her best friend, and she’s been feeling lonely ever since her mom passed away. Why should Leo have to choose between being a good bruja and a good friend?

In the midst of her confusion, Leo wakes up one morning to a startling sight: her dead grandmother, standing in her room, looking as alive as she ever was. Both Leo and her abuela realize this might mean trouble—especially once they discover that Abuela isn’t the only person in town who has been pulled back to life from the other side.

Spirits are popping up all over town, causing all sorts of trouble! Is this Leo’s fault? And can she reverse the spell before it’s too late?
Anna Meriano’s unforgettable family of brujas returns in a new story featuring a heaping helping of amor, azúcar, and magia.

Book 1

Written by Anna Meriano
Illustrated by  Mirelle Ortega

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.  

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet. And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.