Friday, May 01, 2009

Wings Press and A Few Notes


The Wings Press website has a paragraph labeled Something Like a Mission Statement:

Wings Press attempts to produce multicultural books, chapbooks, CDs, DVDs and broadsides that, we hope, enlighten the human spirit and enliven the mind. Everyone ever associated with Wings has been or is a writer, and we know well that writing is a transformational art form capable of changing the world, primarily by allowing us to glimpse something of each other's souls. Good writing is innovative, insightful, and interesting. But most of all it is honest. Likewise, Wings Press is committed to treating the planet itself as a partner. Thus the press uses as much recycled material as possible, from the paper on which the books are printed to the boxes in which they are shipped.

Wings Press has been around since 1975. Again, from the website:

Wings Press evolved during the small press movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the founders of Wings Press was Joanie Whitebird, who was active in the formation of COSMEP (Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers). Whitebird was the driving force behind the first truly multicultural anthology of contemporary Texas poetry, Travois, published in 1975 as a cooperative venture between the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and another small Texas publisher, Thorp Springs Press. Wings Press was founded that same year by Joseph F. Lomax (Editor and Publisher) and Joanie Whitebird (Editor) as "an informal association of artists and cultural mythologists dedicated to the preservation of the literature of Texas."

Since then, the press has published an impressive array of authors including: Naomi Shihab Nye, Townes Van Zandt, Virgil Suárez, Cecile Pineda, James Hoggard, Donald Hall, Roberto Rodriguez, Marjorie Agosín, John Howard Griffin, raulrsalinas, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Ana Castillo, and many more.

Wings has many publishing accomplishments to its credit. The press gained national attention (including a full-page story in Publishers Weekly, and significant reviews in newspapers around the country) with the publication of John Howard Griffin's posthumous novel, Street of the Seven Angels. The next year, Wings brought out the definitive edition of Griffin's classic work, Black Like Me, with a foreword by Studs Terkel and several previously unseen historical photographs. The book received starred reviews in trade and library journals. Wings also published Lorna Dee Cervantes' first book in 14 years - DRIVE: The First Quartet. Its best selling poetry title, Carmen Tafolla's Sonnets and Salsa has sold more than 4000 copies. Tafolla also is the author of Wings's first illustrated children's book, Baby Coyote and the Old Woman / El coyotito y la viejita, which went into its third printing in 2005.

Not too bad for a "small" press operating not from one of the coasts but from the heart of San Antonio, Texas, and not from an impressive office building or university complex but straight from the back yard of the current editor and publisher (since 1995), Bryce Milligan. Bryce has achieved almost legendary status among writers, readers, and other publishers, as well as a few musicians, linguists, and antique musical instrument restorers. Here are a few tidbits about this guy:

*In 1985, Milligan co-founded (with Sandra Cisneros) an event which evolved into the San Antonio Inter-American Bookfair.

*No male scholar in this country has done so much for Latina writers as has Bryce Milligan. His support for us — in newspaper articles, book reviews, scholarly articles, community activism and publishing — began thirty years ago. ... I cannot even express to you how far ahead of the curve he was ... . Sandra Cisneros.

*Among other things, he has been a folksinger, a maker of guitars, drums and dulcimers, a carpenter, a rare book bibliographer and appraiser, a college English and creative writing instructor, a poet-in-the-schools, an arts administrator, a book and magazine editor, a book designer, and a publisher. As a writer, he has been a newspaper columnist, a freelance journalist, a scholar, a novelist, a poet, a playwright, and an essayist.

Milligan's latest literary project is a simple little thing, really: a series of novels about Enheduanna, a woman who was the first-known writer in the history of the world. It's a project Milligan prepared for by spending several years learning cuneiform writing and the Sumerian language of 2,300 B.C. Milligan, fluent in Spanish, also reads in several other languages, including Latin, Greek, Welsh, Norse, Anglo Saxon English, Middle English and Old Irish.Listed below are events scheduled for the month of May for new books from Wings Press. If you are in the area, support the writers and the press. All the events are in San Antonio. If you can't make it to San Anto in May (is the Conjunto Festival back? - if so, yet another excellent reason to visit the Alamo City), go to the website and order a book or two.

Bryce is doing work that all of us at La Bloga admire and respect. Keep it up, Bryce.

May 2. Saturday, from 4 to 7 p.m., at StoneMetal Press Printmaking Center & Gallery. A reception and reading for Marian Aitches, winner of the 2009 Whitebird Chapbook Series competition. Marian’s new book, Fishing For Light, is a limited edition -- 500 numbered and signed copies -- printed on linen/recycled paper, with a hand-sewn spine. Only $15. Refreshments, music and poetry.

Marian Aitches fishes for light in rivers, and rivers run through these poems. She fishes back through family history, dream, certitude, and over the south Texas landscape of her childhood. A poet who can write A thousand years away, / I will be the bones / some anthropologist holds / up to the light, amazed / by the music they make will surely have many books beyond this first stunning collection. This is for all readers who want to know the tough sister, the one / who saved the others.
Margaret Randall, author of over 80 books of poetry, photography, and documentary witness. Recipient of the Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett grant for writers victimized by political repression.

May 5. Tuesday, starting at 6 p.m., at The Twig Book Shop. Victoria Garcia-Zapata Klein will read from her new chapbook, Another Water Bug Is Murdered While It Rains In Texas ($10). Victoria is joined by Robert Bonazzi, Bryce Milligan and several other area poets for this post-Poetry Month reading.

In poetry as direct and powerful as it is genuine, Garcia-Zapata Klein continues the tradition she established with Peace in the Corazón, winner of the Poesía Tejana Prize, by serving the reader a savory helping of down-home truth, life and love. The title poem creates direct, hard-to-shake, and oddly parallel images between the voice of an abused, misused woman and the irksome, ever-present Texas cockroach. The poet reminds us that we are a problem / a splinter nagging the crisp weave of / the all powerful American dollar whose most powerful weapon is to read, in order to define and defend ourselves.
Carmen Tafolla, author of Sonnets and Salsa, The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans, and others

May 7. Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m., at The Twig Book Shop. A very special evening with Robert Burns specialist and interpreter Arnold Johnston, author of The Witching Voice: A Novel From the Life of Robert Burns ($18.95). The novel is illustrated with period engravings, and features an extensive glossary of Scottish terms. January 25, 2009, marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Burns, one of the most beloved poets in all of English literature. Arnold Johnston’s The Witching Voice brings to life the crucial years from 1784 to 1788, when Burns rose from poverty and obscurity as an Ayrshire farmer to nationwide acclaim and lionization by the aristocracy of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital and a bastion of the European Enlightenment. Written in the same Scots-English that Burns made so familiar to the world, The Witching Voice is based on extensive research. It pulls no punches, offering a clear picture of the gifts, demons, and shortcomings of this poet who continues to charm us. As Richard Katrovas puts it, The Witching Voice conjures the sexy soul of an angelic rogue.

Here is literary history served up in a surge of life, humor, poetry, and song. Johnston succeeds in giving us a life of Burns that is at once unsentimental and yet deeply felt. He convincingly conveys Burns as a man of his time, while opening up the lyrical beauty and energy of his work in a way wholly accessible to a contemporary reader.
Stuart Dybek, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship; author of I Sailed With Magellan and The Coast of Chicago

Thursday, May 7 at Barnes & Noble, San Pedro at 410. Saint Luke’s Episcopal School Library’s spring bookfair is being held at Barnes & Noble. Carmen Tafolla will read and sign books at 4:30 p.m. Wings Press’s newest poet, Annie Parker, will read from her new chapbook, Remembrance of Rain, at 6 p.m. Ms. Parker, a graduating senior at TMI, was the youngest finalist in the history of the Whitebird Chapbook Series competition, so Wings Press is publishing a special chapbook to recognize this fine young poet.

Be sure to mention the Saint Luke’s Book Fair to the B&N cashier so a percentage of your purchase will benefit the school library.

Attentive to the world around her, Annie Parker somehow prays through her writing. She carries that Whitmanian sense of awe and gratitude for all things around. Like Mary Oliver, Annie’s attention to the natural world is constant; her expression of this is both precise and innovative.
Marian Haddad, author of Somewhere Between Mexico and a River Called Home

May 14. Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Twig Book Shop. Jay Brandon will sign copies of his latest book, Milagro Lane. Many San Antonians will have read a portion of this one when it was serialized several years ago in the San Antonio Express-News. Now in book form for the first time, Milagro Lane features many real persons and real situations, including some scandals too hot to report at the time it first appeared! Former columnist Rick Casey has provided an insightful Foreword. Special thanks to the City of San Antonio, Department of Cultural Affairs, for a grant supporting this publication.

Part mystery, part insider’s guide, Milagro Lane is a wonderful romp through a wonderful city.
Rick Riordan, author of the Tres Navarre mysteries and the Percy Jackson novels for young adults.

In Milagro Lane Jay Brandon does for San Antonio what Raymond Chandler did for Los Angeles: he makes the city the most compellingly authentic character in a book filled to bursting with compellingly authentic characters. Milagro Lane is a page-turner that will keep you up far into the into the wee hours, seduced as much by Brandon’s affectionate and informed portrayal of San Antonio, as by Brandon’s abundant gifts as one of the country’s masters of the mystery.
Sarah Bird, author of How Perfect Is That and Yokota Officers Club

Within Jay Brandon’s Milagro Lane beats the heart—el corazón—of a great city. Sure, the novel is a beguiling mystery that leads down plenty of intriguing blind alleys, a whodunit populated with flesh-and-blood San Antonians and imagined characters real enough to stand up and walk off the page. But Milagro Lane is much more than that. The main character—the conscience of the book— is San Antonio, a South Texas border city with Southern charm that remains a mystery to most of the country and many of its inhabitants. Only someone who grew up in the Alamo City can understand the unique flux of cultures that exists here. Brandon’s observational acuity and quicksilver talent translate those urban rhythms into a cohesive page-turner.
Steve Bennett, Book Editor, San Antonio Express-News

If you value innovative literature and its survival in the 21st century, and if you like living in a city where literature and writers are valued, support your local small presses. Wings Press books are available on line at, on all commercial book outlets like Amazon and B&N, and in most bookstores.



Friday, May 1 at 6:30, a cheese and wine reception, then a reading and signing by Josefina López (Real Women Have Curves) for her semi-autobiographical first novel, Hungry Woman in Paris. Plaza De Libros - Lynwood | (Plaza Mexico) | 11221 Long Beach Blvd., Suite 102 | Lynwood | CA | 90262. Click on this link for a video preview of the book.

I'm pleased to announce that two of my stories are finalists for a Top Hand Award, the annual writing recognition sponsored by the Colorado Authors' League, in the category of Adult Short Fiction. The stories are Fence Busters from the Dozen on Denver series published by the late Rocky Mountain News (the dozen stories are scheduled for a Fall 2009 anthology from Fulcrum); and The 405 is Locked Down, my contribution to Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, edited by Daniel Olivas. This news made me feel good all over.

Speaking of feeling good, check out this video. It's a great musical trip around the world with a message that we all can relate to at one time or another. Click on the link.

We're moving into the months without "r"s - the best. Have fun.


1 comment:

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Manuel, congratulations on the wonderful honors! You make Raza proud!