Monday, July 10, 2006


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Mary Castillo is one of the hottest members of the Chica Lit club. She’s one of the authors of the anthology Friday Night Chicas: Sexy Stories from La Noche (St. Martin's Griffin), and is the author of Hot Tamara and In Between Men both published by Avon Trade.

Castillo says that when she was ten, her grandmother all but predicted the future. In the backyard of her parents’ home in National City, California, Castillo imagined she would grow up to be Wonder Woman, or the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director. Castillo says that when she didn’t grow up to look like Linda Carter and then realized she really didn’t like working with people (as a director, one must unfortunately, work with lots and lots of them), she looked back on what her Grandma Margie had said to her: “The best job in the world has to be an author. You can live wherever you want, while wearing what you want, and write stories.”

Ah, the wisdom of abuelitas.

Two screenplays, four manuscripts, 21 rejection letters, and nine years later she sold her first book, Hot Tamara to Avon Trade. A lifelong professional writer, including a stint as a reporter for the LA Times Community News (The “second best job in the world” she notes), Castillo says that she is now “living [my] dream writing sassy comedies for Avon Trade and Latina lit for St. Martins.” She is also writing young adult fiction as well as a mystery series about a cub reporter in a small town. One day, Castillo swears that she will write a great American epic. Castillo lives in Orange County with her husband and The Pugs. She can be reached via her website.

MOUTH WATERING: Denise Chávez’s new book, A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture, is now available from Rio Nuevo. It’s listed on Amazon or you can order through Rio Nuevo or any bookstore. "Tacos are sacred to me," says Chávez, who has set many a fictional scene in a Southwestern restaurant or around a dinner table. And here are her special recipes, including her mother's Tacos a la Delfina ("I swear these tacos are really good cold!") and Granma Lupe's Pasta (not macaroni but a savory mincemeat-like taco filling). Here, too, are tips on shopping, cooking, and serving: "Offer up the meal with gratitude and remember: Tacos are one of life's greatest things!" "Time and love are the essence of all Mexican cooking," Chávez says. Can we disagree? I think not.

IN HONOR OF THE ICEWORKER: Francisco Aragón gives us the history of The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize named after the late author of the powerful Iceworker Sings and Other Poems (Bilingual Press, 1999). Montoya died at the age of 31, succumbing to leukemia before production of his book was completed. The prize announces the most recent winner, The Outer Bands by Gabriel Gomez. Gomez was born and raised in El Paso, spending much of his childhood in Chihuahua with family during summers and holidays. He received his BA in Creative Writing from the College of Santa Fe and an MFA from Saint Mary's College of California. Among his honors are a residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2005 after he evacuated Hurricane Katrina. Most of the poems in The Outer Bands were composed and edited during his time at SFAI. He has taught English at Tulane University and currently teaches at the University of New Orleans. Valerie Martínez was the final judge.

NOTICIAS: I get all kinds of wonderful literary news from readers of La Bloga. Here are some:

◙ Jennifer Silva Redmond says that much of her “action” lately seems to be in the form of speaking, not writing: Southern California Writers Conference, San Diego, March 2006, and Palm Springs, October 2006; a one-week seminar on Latino Short Stories, Rancho La Puerta/Tecate, July 2006; featured speaker, San Diego Writers & Publishers meeting July, 2006. And she’s edited two books: Follow the Sun and California’s Cornerstone.

◙ Melinda Palacio has a poem, “How Fire Is a Story, Waiting,” in the Spring 2006 issue of Border Senses and there is also an interview with Denise Chávez, discussing her new book, A Taco Testimony (see above).

◙ Alejandro Morales, Professor of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California (Irvine) and author of many books including the classic, The Brick People (Arte Público Press), says that his new novel, The Captain of All These Men of Death, will be coming out this year from Bilingual Press. The following is the catalogue description of the novel: “When Roberto Contreras attempts to enlist to fight in World War II, his medical examination reveals he has tuberculosis, and he is committed to a frightful sanatorium. Amid his relapses and recoveries he meets a series of women who have profound effect on his life: a mysterious French doctor, a captivating patient, and a sinister acquaintance from a Los Angeles barrio. Meanwhile, a hospital newsletter delivers articles describing the various ways in which tuberculosis patients have been treated throughout history- cared for humanely or ostracized, alienated, and administered shockingly barbaric medical experimentation and superstitious pagan practices of witchcraft and Satanism in California barrios.”

Morales also sent me copies of his new collection of short stories, Pequeña Nación (Orbis Press). Adam Spires of St. Mary’s University says of this book: “Este volumen corresponde a la edad madura de un hombre que sigue consagrando su vida al examen, al estudio y al ejercicio de plasmar la realidad cotidiana, por más austera que sea, de su tierra natal, Aztlán. En sus páginas, Morales reúne tres cuentos con una intensa coherencia que deriva de la incoherencia radical acarreada por la discriminación y por sus violentos corolarios.”

And more news from Alejandro Morales: UC Irvine's Chicano/Latino Studies Program has just received Departmental status. The newly established Department has an undergraduate major with extensive course offerings and a fast developing graduate program. Visit the program’s website for more information.

SUMMER SEASON OF SHORT PLAYS: Every Friday in July at 8 p.m. ($10 admission) - Sabor Y Cultura along with COFAC (Border Council of Arts and Culture) and Cruazarte (Mexico-USA Bi-National Arts Project) will present a series of short plays by writers and performers from both sides of the border. First play on July 7th: "Sirenas del Corazon,” in Spanish, by Edward Coward, directed by Emmanuel Marquez.

Sabor Y Cultura Café
5625 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(cross streets Wilton Ave. and Western Ave.)
(323) 466-0481

NUEVO CUENTO: Daniel Alarcón, author of War by Candlelight: Stories (HarperCollins), has a new story out in Issue #8 of the literary journal, 580 Split. It’s called “The Prisoner” and is as poetic as it is powerful. The editors describe their journal, which is produced out of Mills College in Oakland, as “a place of risk and possibility” because they “publish innovative and risk-taking fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and art.” My experience so far with this handsomely-produced journal supports the editors’ description. Check out their submissions guidelines and the poetry/fiction contest, too. 580 Split can be found at many Barnes & Noble, Borders, and independent bookstores across the country. Or inquire about subscriptions.

THE HUMMINGBIRD’S MOTHER: The new issue of Literal: Latin American Voices includes an interview with Graciela Limón, Los Angeles native, professor and author of a half dozen books including Song of the Hummingbird and In Search of Bernabé (both from Arte Público Press). She’s interviewed by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Literal is a handsome, bilingual magazine on arts and literature that also publishes poetry and fiction. Produced out of Houston, you can find out about subscriptions (four issues per year) by writing to

AY, WHAT A PRETTY NECK: On July 7, Marta Acosta celebrated the publication of her first novel, the hilarious and snarky Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (Pocket Books). Along with Mario Acevedo and his debut novel, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats (Rayo), Acosta has no qualms about updating the vampire genre with a bit of Chicanismo. More news on both of these books later…

All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!


C.M. Mayo said...

Very nice to read about Jennifer Redmond and Daniel Alarcon's latest.

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