Friday, September 16, 2011

Keeper of the Chicana Codex or Low-Tech Writer Hits the Road

Melinda Palacio

August marked the beginning of the Ocotillo Dreams book tour. I don’t have an agent or a big publishing house to send me on a 30-city book tour, but I’m a determined person of the world with a story to share. My novel is a work of fiction, set during the 1997 INS Sweeps in Chandler, Arizona. The story is made up, but the work reveals its own kind of truth. I’m blogging, traveling, and reading my work to live audiences, radio audiences, poetry audiences and prose audiences. I arrive ready to perform, meaning I’ve undertaken weeks and months ahead of publicity prep work; I’ve told as many people in the are about my reading, informing news and social media outlets, in some cases I am expected to provide my own refreshments and books. I’ve never expected special treatment, but it sure is nice when an organization sends you a kind note and invites you to be there guest, at their expense.

Sure, at times I feel silly wasting gas and money for what seems like a dying technology, the book and the dinosaur fueling it all: the paperback writer. The fact that I do not own a Kindle or e-reader and that I’ve published my novel with a small university press who has little interest in publishing their beautiful books in e-format makes me feel old fashioned. Call me keeper of the Chicana Codex, a person who has yet to buy an e-reader, who schleps around an extra bag for my shoes and books over a long weekend trip. I recently read in the NY Times that the codex (aka book) is more efficient than the even more ancient scroll (aka digital e-reader). If this is so, then maybe I’m not pushing a boulder up a hill.

I press on with my self-made book tour stay the mostly straight course of the stretch of the 10 hwy between Santa Barbara and New Orleans. I do this because of the pleasure of meeting with readers and new friends, of hearing an audience laugh at all the right places when I read a scene aloud.

On August 31, I had a reading and book signing at Changing Hands Books in Tempe, Arizona. Before the reading, I checked to make sure all of my facebook friends in Arizona knew about the reading. I contacted local newspapers to make sure they were announcing my event. I wanted to share my novel with locals who were familiar with the book’s setting and immigration policies. What I wasn’t prepared for were the hate-filled comments elicited by the newspaper announcement of my book signing. I was scared of the people spewing negative dogma about immigrants from Mexico and immigration issues in general. Luis J. Rodriguez told me if any of the hate-filled people show up, you stay focused. Michael Sedano told me to read the heck out of my book. I started telling more friends and they sent wishes of support. Pretty soon, the strangers supporting me outnumbered the negative commentators. I found strength in numbers. As more people sent me their positive energy, I felt more protected. The reading at Changing Hands Book store was wonderful and filled with a crowd of about 60 people who listened to what I had to say and who were eager to read their recently purchased copies of Ocotillo Dreams.

Stella Pope Duarte came with all her friends and fans. She is the recipient of the Alberto Rios Teaching award. I met an entire Chicano Studies class, taught by Professor Hernández. I was especially touched by a man named Alvaro who bought my book even though he cannot read the paperback because he is blind. Alvaro says he will have to wait for a pdf, audio or e-version of the book. He said he enjoyed hearing the excerpt I read and was hooked. I met future writers and a journalism student who hopes to publish her first novel soon. A pleasant visit with Arizonans I hope to meet again. October 6 takes me back to Arizona for the National Hispanic Women’s Conference in Phoenix. One of the organizers, Anna, was in the audience. Arizona, nos vemos.

If you are reading this post this Friday morning, listen to my radio interview on the Julio Martinez show KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and 98.7 FM Santa Barbara. I have two appearances, Saturday September 17. The first will be a book signing at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, 13197- A Gladstone Ave at 12:30 pm and the second will be a book talk at the Autry National Center at 3:30 pm at Griffith Park.

Submit with me… First, offer your grito. !Viva! Next, submit your poems to Hinchas de Poesia.

One of my Panama Poems, “Sin Vergüenza Swagger, was accepted for Hinchas de Poesia’s November issue. You won't know if the editors will accept your work if you don't submit.

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Hinchas will only be accepting submissions through the Submishmash online submission manager.


Ernest Hogan said...

Your self-made book tour is heroic. I've enjoyed following it online. Even though I'm going high tech, I'm glad that an art teacher taught me how to make a brush out of a twig by chewing on it, and dipping it into mud -- it could come in handy.

scribegirl said...

Dear Melinda: What a wonderful hejira of the heart! Your book is great and all my students will be reading it next semester in English A, where we will accomplish investigating that gnarliest of topics: immigration - who's in/who's out. I can't wait to meet you and Andiamo, as we say in the Italian world. Un grito! Meg Withers

Francisco Aragón said...

Great post, Melinda. Good luck!

Olga Garcia said...

Bravo Melinda! I love reading about your do-it-yourself-tour. I published my book a fees ago with two small, independent presses, one of which is no longer in existence, y a mi tambien me toco be a self-promoter and agent. It isn't an easy job, but you reminded me of how rewarding & fun it can be as well. It's truly inspiring to see you out there, driving, connecting, sharing your work with different communities. Adelante!

Unknown said...

You go girl, keep on keeping on. You have the ganas to do what few people do. Hope to see you soon.

Anonymous said...

And ¡VIVA! again.
Warm Saludos,
Katie I.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Melinda, very brave, determined, and inspiring of you! Thanks for sharing these challenges, and for reminding authors of how much marketing is a part of being an author nowadays. But folks with your grit and perseverance, plus talent, make it work! That's you all the way! Congrats and keep it up!

Gail Wronsky said...

Melinda, what a treat it is to read about your journey here in London where I'm missing so much la cultura! don't ever let the bastards get you down, that's my motto. Keep at it, mujer!

Desiree said...

Really delightful