Friday, March 07, 2014

Writing Opportunites. Guest Opinion on Latin America and the U.S. Drug Wars. More AWP

Writing Opportunities

American Short Fiction - At AWP I talked with Rebecca Markovits, one of the Editors at American Short Fiction. She let me know that they are actively looking for fiction from any and all writers, and they would love to have more Latino/a submissions. And they pay. Here's the blurb from their website, which is at this link.

"American Short Fiction has published, and continues to seek, short fiction by some of the finest writers working in contemporary literature, whether they are established, or new or lesser-known authors. In addition to its triannual print magazine, American Short Fiction also publishes stories (under 2000 words) online. Submit here."

University of Hell Press - Also from AWP: "Seeks and promotes artists who are creating irreverent and thought provoking works in quiet corners of their worlds. ... We pride ourselves on being different and irreverent, and we expect your work will embody the same." Open submissions will start in "early spring." Go here for more.

What Books Press - "An imprint of the Glass Table Collective since 2009, What Books Press publishes innovative poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, books that defy categories, genres, and established marketing parameters. What Books covers feature the art of Gronk, a Glass Table member, and reflect the high standards of the books we publish."  What Books normally considers submissions by nomination only. However, it announced an Open Submission period for the month of July 2014. Contact the press for info.


Guest Opinion from Clark Lohr

Latin America and the U.S. Drug Wars

Writing in The New Republic (January 1st, 2014: Is the U.S. the Last Country Still Fighting the Drug War? Uruguay’s new pot law is a big blow to Washington drug policy), Russell Crandall notes that a succinct pro-legalization argument can be found in The Economist: “Making drugs illegal encourages organized crime, clogs the prisons (especially in the Americas), increases corruption everywhere from Mexico to Afghanistan, and ignores the inexorable law of supply and demand.”

It’s not news  to Latin Americans or to many who read El País, or the Guardian, et cetera, that Latin American nations are bowing out of, or blowing off, the longest war in U.S. history, the drug war, declared in June, 1971, by U.S. President Richard Nixon, a war that is used today, in my opinion ( as an Anglo American observer), for the same  general purpose that Honduran and Guatemalan human rights workers and politicians complained about when I toured their countries with the Veterans for Peace (VFP) in the 1980’s: hegemony -- undue influence.

It was Nixon, Russell Crandall writes, who established counter-narcotics campaigns in Southeast Asia and Mexico.
On that same VFP study tour, the Sandinistas spoke  about U.S. hegemony as well, but focused on the Somoza regime and their overthrow of it, mindful, meanwhile, that voting for a Sandinista government was essentially a vote against the U.S. government. Rather a quaint historical footnote I’m making here in 2014 since bucking the U.S. resulted in the Sandinistas going down, either under the guns or the money of the Contras and the United States, which brings us to the Iran-Contra scandal, broken publicly by Senator John Kerry in 1986, wherein it was eventually proven that  U.S. covert operatives helped run cocaine into the U.S. to help fund the Contras -- drugs for guns. Meanwhile, in 1984 and 1986, the U.S. passed additional mandatory sentencing laws, aimed at crack cocaine users (read African-Americans), which were thrown out, in part, in 2010, by the Fair Sentencing Act. 

Although the history of U.S. drug legislation reaches farther back than the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), created in 1930 -- headed, famously, by Harry Anslinger, who established the self-serving fiction that marijuana is a gateway drug -- it is the FBN that ushered the U.S. into the modern phase of a profitable war on drugs, wherein crooks, cops, banks, lawyers, politicians, and even some of the rest of us, can make money, not so much off drugs, but off the fact that drugs are illegal. The FBN produced films linking marijuana use to violent crime, but Reefer Madness, the propaganda film U.S. hipsters love best, was produced by a church group. The racial/ethnic prejudice aspect of U.S. drug legislation has been a thread in the weave since at least the 1850’s (read opium and Chinese immigrants). The Boggs Act, increasing mandatory sentencing, passed in 1951, and aimed principally at marijuana (read Mexicans), is said to have served as a convenient adjunct to the deportation of Mexicans from the U.S.

For nearly four decades, U.S. taxpayers have funded the exportation of the U.S. war on drugs into Latin America. The cost has run into the trillions and the meter is still running. In Mexico, in particular, U.S. funding and U.S. training have only made matters worse. Many examples exist, but the Zetas, founded by Mexican Special Forces troopers trained by the U.S. for the express purpose of busting Mexican drug operations, are perhaps the best example. These guys deserted the Mexican army and set up the most brutal, efficient (and probably the most profitable) drug cartel in Mexico.

In my view of present-day drug war politics, prejudiced, mendaciously ignorant U.S. citizens still cling to their self- righteousness, despising those in their own country for using any kind of drug, and despising Mexico for its tenacious tradition of corrupt and ineffective government.  In my view, federal government drug warriors are clinging to their prestige and their big salaries, rallying the ignorant and the right-wing religionists, and pressuring everyone, from the President on down, to keep funding and fighting the U.S. war on drugs.  To me, these drug war bureaucrats and their legal and law enforcement entourages resemble, collectively, a huge, violent covert operation that won’t be shut down by their nation’s popular will, or by its elected officials.

The truth is, the international illegal drug business is too big to fail and the U.S. demand for drugs has continued to grow. Many Mexicans and many Latinos living in the U.S., particularly the young, see, in narco cultura (see the documentary Narco Cultura, released in 2013, and directed by Shaul Schwartz), as the way up and out, a means of moving financially and socially up the ladder, out of the humiliation of poverty, and into positions of power and respect, just as the more fortunate and cunning U.S. bootleggers quietly diversified into legitimate businesses and came out of Prohibition to live their lives as respected citizens of mainstream society. U.S. citizens only have to look at themselves to see the logic of narco cultura.  Even if a self-styled narco fails to make the transition to the straight world, he can live on in legend. Every American knows about Al Capone, a vicious Prohibition-era gangster who was ultimately dealt with by law enforcement, not for his many murders but for income tax evasion. He did prison time, but was paroled. He died at his home in Palm Island, Florida.

Uruguay’s road to legalization of marijuana began, Russell Crandall notes, in 2009, when three former Latin American presidents came out against the U.S. war on drugs.  In 2011, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, also came out against the war on drugs, along with former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Crandall reports that President Barack Obama “received an unexpected earful from some of his Latin American counterparts” upon arriving at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in April, 2012. Obama responded by acknowledging that the drug war was “a legitimate topic for debate.”

Crandall concludes that “…we…need to think carefully before we condemn every aspect of the drug war, or choose to abandon it altogether...all eyes will be on Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay to see how the baby step of pot legalizations turns out.”

--Clark Lohr is a crime writer living in Tucson, Arizona, a drug war battleground where live ammo is in use. He has written two novels in which the drug wars play a decisive role in the lives of the characters: Devil’s Kitchen, first published in 2010, and The Devil on Eighty-five, published in 2013.


Shots and Comments From This Year's Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

[click on photos for larger image and slide show]

Immediately I noticed two things - the participants were of all ages but youth certainly prevailed (not surprising,) and it was nice to see so many faces of color in the crowd and on panels. As others have noted, the agenda included a good representation of panels and readings relevant to the Latina/o attendees and presenters. The ones I managed to catch were well-attended and I have to say that the speakers exhibited a high quality of expertise and passion for writing.

Checking In On The First Day

Certain highlights stick out, of course. Naturally I enjoyed the events where I was a participant. On Thursday I gave a reading celebrating Arte Público Press along with two other AP authors - Alicia Gaspar de Alba and J.L. Torres, who organized the reading. I felt honored to be in their company as they are excellent writers and their readings genuinely moved the audience. I forgot to take pictures of this panel but later I got a pic of J.L. staffing the booth for the Saranac Review.

J.L. Torres

I also sat on a panel entitled Chicana/o Noir: Murder, Mayhem and Mexican Americans. Must say, we had a good time with this one. My partners in crime were Daniel Olivas (facilitator who put the panel together), Lucha Corpi, Michael Nava, and Sarah Cortez. It had been years since I'd seen Lucha and Michael (Sarah and I did an event in Houston last year, I also saw Daniel last year), so this panel felt like a reunion of sorts. We propped up crime fiction and read short pieces from our work that showcased the diversity and uniqueness of our various books, striking a blow for genre writers everywhere.

Lucha and Carlos at the Con Tinta Reception
Daniel and Sarah Prep for the Panel

I managed to attend events that talked about unsympathetic characters in fiction, Chicano artist Gronk and the Glass Table Collective, William Burroughs, the 25th anniversary of Tia Chucha Press, and the short story collection ¡Arriba Baseball! I heard readings from Richard Blanco and Cristina Garcia as well as several poets representing Tia Chucha, What Books, and others. I thought the panelists tried too hard to deify Burroughs; it would have been great to have Gronk in person at the panel that showcased his work; Blanco is an excellent reader of his poetry; and there were several other panels I wanted to attend but just couldn't fit in.

Speaking of Gronk, one of the gems I discovered at AWP is a book of science fiction poetry illustrated by Gronk for What Books Press. The book, Tomorrow You'll Be One Of Us, written by Chuck Rosenthal and Gail Wronsky, is described as "a humorous tribute to sci-fi movies from the 1950s and early 60s. It is a book of poetry and an art book, with over 70 full-color drawings/paintings by Gronk. Written using surrealist techniques to arrange lines of actual dialogue from the films, the poems are experimental yet eminently readable, asking questions such as, Will anybody ever really know what happened here? The book is published in a limited edition of 300 copies." I have my copy and I'm hoping to get author and artist autographs.

A panel I enjoyed immensely was ¡Arriba Baseball! featuring Kathryn Lane, Thomas de la Cruz, Norma E. Cantú and Robert Moreira, the editor of the collection. The four selections I listened to were all superb. I recommend this collection to one and all, you don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the humanity of the characters and the resonance of the settings in these stories. Other writers in this collection include Dagoberto Gilb, René Saldaña, Jr., David Rice, and Christine Granados.

Xánath Caraza and Robert Moreira

Norma Cantú and Kathryn Lane

Thomas de la Cruz

And here are a couple of random photos of writers just hanging out.

Sergio Troncoso, Jose B. Gonzalez, Francisco Aragon

Juan Luis Guzman

Daniel Chacón

Manuel Ramos, Sarah Cortez, Daniel Olivas

Finally, Flo and the pig, and blue trees.



Daniel A. Olivas said...

wonderful post! It was great seeing everyone at AWP! It was one of the best.

Manuel Ramos said...

Thanks, Daniel. Seattle was a good place to be last week. Great to see you again - hope we have more opportunities this year for La Bloga contributors to gather and socialize.

Teuhtliltzin said...

Great meeting you and others at AWP, Manuel. Thanks for coming out to support Arriba!.
Robert Moreira