Friday, March 10, 2017

Banner Day on the Eve of My Tahiti Trip and IWD2017 with Ana Castillo

Melinda Palacio

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Ana Castillo, Melinda Palacio, and Mary Rose Ortega

Sometimes a day leading up to a big trip is worth leaving any last minute packing details behind. Yesterday, International Women's Day 2017, was one such day. Friends who have known me most of my life, Mary Rose and Teresa (Little Teri), came to visit me in Santa Barbara from Los Angeles. Mary Rose was my late mother's best friend and she often makes a point of seeing me when we happen to be in the same city (she tends to travel almost as much as I do). Mary Rose and Little Teri were in search of hearing Ana Castillo present her latest book, the memoir Black Dove/Paloma Negra, a road trip to Santa Barbara and spending the day with me was, as they say in New Orleans, Lagniappe, or a little something extra.

Throughout the day, Little Teri kept asking if I was all packed. Short of getting my nails done for trip, I was. In fact, I've been packed for several weeks. It's not everyday one gets the opportunity to travel to the South Pacific. Now that I'm on the airbus, I can think of a thing or two I may have forgotten. But back to Wednesday. We picked up my friend Sojourner at UCSB and made our way to the Isla Vista Theater, a large movie theatre that doubles as a lecture hall for UCSB in a pinch. Thanks to Aida Hurtado and the UCSB Chicano Studies Department, they accommodated Ana Castillo and all of her fans within and outside of the university at the lecture hall, where there were plenty of seats. Mary Rose mentioned that she tried to catch Ana at an earlier reading in the San Fernando Valley, but the seats had been sold out.

We arrived early because Mary Rose and Little Teri didn't want to miss seeing Ana on her California tour, before she headed further south to San Diego. The two friends have been fans of Castillo since they first heard her read in 1993, during the author's promotion for her novel, So Far From God.
Ana Castillo before her UCSB presentation

They came up to Santa Barbara on a gorgeous day that just so happened to be International Women's Day. We may not have gone to a march, but we were four women in attendance to hear a Chicana Feminist author and poet. Castillo describes herself as a poet first; and with descriptions of her mother's hands as 'Soft hands like crushed orchids,' it was a pleasure to hear the poetry in Castillo's work through her deep voice and veil of long hair.
Ana Castillo at the Isla Vista Theater
Ana Castillo not only read from her latest book, Black Dove: Mamá, Mi'jo, and Me, but she regaled us with readings from her epic poem turned novel or novel in verse, Water Color Women/Opaque Men and her open letter to the current President of the United States. The letter was filled with irony and ire. In the near future, I'd like to reprint the entire letter here on La Bloga.

The Word bench holds copies of Isla Vista's literary magazine.

As is customary, Castillo ended with questions, signing of books, and photos. Department Chair, Aida Hurtado ended the Q & A with the popular question, What advice might you give to students who want to become writers. Castillo's advice was to check your intentions, make sure you love literature and love to read, but, most important of all, write, write and rewrite. "The magic is in the revision," she said. "Do not treat early writing so precious." She described her process as sometimes needing to step away from the computer to mull over a phrase in her head. "I'm constantly thinking of a better, clearer word," she said. " With most author presentations, the Q & A is an opportunity to go off script and veer from the prepared readings. There was a tender moment when one of the students thanked Castillo for writing about her experience with her son's incarceration and family history of depression, the centerpiece of Black Dove/Paloma Negra.

If you missed Castillo's appearances in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, there's still more California tour dates, including a workshop for writers in Sacramento, April 2. See Ana Castillo's website for more information.

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