Friday, November 22, 2013

More Reports on the Writing Life

Melinda Palacio

November Morning at Santa Barbara Pier

Fall in Santa Barbara means you might want to keep a poncho nearby in case the temperature dips below seventy. It's warm enough for flip flops, but the touch of wind keeps your feet in long boots.  Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting Magdalena Torres's Chicano Studies 121 class at Santa Barbara City College. This is one of my favorite places to present my work. Professora Torres creates a welcoming atmosphere and makes sure students have questions. What I didn't expect was how enthusiastic her students would be. She had also invited students from Sociology 109: Contemporary Social Problems, to attend. True, the students from Soc 109 get extra credit for attending my presentation, but the students mentioned how much they appreciated hearing literature and meeting an author. Torres encourages the sociology students, who seemed to be experiencing poetry and fiction for the first time, to attend other classes on Ethnic and Chicano Studies the City College. She's an avid believer in learning about social problems through literature.

Chicano Studies 121 at Santa Barbara City College

In my own classes through the MFA program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, I make students read Chicano Literature. It's hard to believe that, in some cases, they are reading Chicano and Latino authors for the first time in their well-read life. In many ways, with the banning of our books and the elimination of Ethnic and Chicano Studies in Tucson, it's not surprising that a student wouldn't have the opportunity to read an author like Luis Urrea until adulthood or graduate school.

Speaking of Luis Alberto Urrea, I was very happy to receive my contributor's copy of the NEA's Big Read Audio Guide for Into the Beautiful North. Earlier this Summer at WWNO's studio in New Orleans, I recorded my interview about the book. The CD features Jo Reed, Cristina Arsuaga, Jeff Biggers, Melinda Palacio, Ilan Stavans, Helen Thorpe, and Luis Urrea.

The NEA's Big Read Audio Guide for Into the Beautiful North
Last month, I received a generous review from a blog, featuring the poetry scene in Boston. I had the chance of attending AWP in Boston earlier this year. Thanks to the chance encounter with the editor, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting was reviewed by Joanne DeSimone Reynolds. It's also thanks to AWP that I received a teaching position through UAM's new online MFA program.

Earlier today, I had a live google hangout with three of my students to discuss their fiction pieces. The video critique is not required and not all the students chose to participate, but the three that did enjoyed the experience and wished we had thought of the great idea earlier in the semester, instead of the last three weeks of the class. Indirectly, it was thanks to Jessica Ceballos for giving me the great idea. She had a google hangout for those who couldn't physically appear at La Palabra's Avenue 50 Studio's Bluebird Reading. This is where a social media app becomes an important literary and teaching tool.

Jessica Ceballos Scheming More Poetry Events
Also, thanks to Jessica Ceballos, I had the pleasure of reading at Beyond Baroque last Sunday, November 17 with Daniel Chacón, author of Hotel Juarez: Stories, Rooms and Loops. (I'll get to hear more from Hotel Juarez, next month in New Orleans, when Daniel Chacón reads with Jonathan Kline at Octavia Books, December 9 at 6pm). The crowd at Beyond Baroque was small, but Chacón and I agree, the energy was great. We had people attend from as far as Ventura. And thanks to the talented open mic readers, such as F.A. Salinas and Beverly Collins, the event was memorable and powerful.

Daniel Shakes Hands with Everyone at Beyond Baroque

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