Happy 2014 to You and Yours!!

2013 has been a year that has changed my life forever. Magical and brutal. I learned far more than I taught. I recieved far more than I gave. For every highlight, many bruises. Each bruise a very real blessing. Looking forward to 2014, I gave myself only two concrete goals: 1) To find a permanent teaching position at a University. 2) Learn to let go. In truth, I worry about making any resolutions at all. This time last year I promised myself I would not fill my plate with so many projects and responsibilities, but looking back I realize how laughable that is. Here is a shortlist of some things I was involved with this past year:

1) Began an effort to raise $10,000 for a memorial headstone, which included letter writing and organizing a benefit concert
2) Released two books
3) Traveled to approximately 17 cities across the U.S. promoting both books
4) Facilitated approximately 22 interviews around the plane crash book project, including one fortunate interview with Pete Seeger (click here for archived blog post on this)
5) Attended Bea Franco’s funeral service only two weeks after she held a copy of Mañana Means Heaven in her hands (click here for archived blog post on this)
6) Met with the Woody Guthrie Center archivist regarding my research around the plane crash
7) Became a mentor for Prescott College’s low res MFA program
8) Wrote two grants to help fund this work (received none)
9) Taught poetry to local teens at Boulder High School
10) Wrote external reviews for three publishers
11) Transferred both of my children to a new school
12) Made a long overdue and vital reconnection with family
13) Found myself constantly asking, “How did I end up here?”

As the new year begins, I have been meditating on this photo. Mostly because it recently re-emerged in our family a few weeks ago. It was taken in the fields of Wyoming in 1974, the year I was born. I am on my father’s back while he and my mother are working. They were only 20 years old at the time. Neither had ever made it past the 9th grade. They were young and scared, but driven by fierce ambition. I like to think that while they were looking forward, into the future, I was there, bound to them, with my eyes on the past. And it only occurs to me now, as I write this, that maybe this is how I “ended up here.”

Peace to you all in this coming year. Let us continue the work of strengthening our ties, through art, dance, poetry, music, and the sharing of stories!

You can contact me at: tzhernandez@yahoo.com

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Interviews in the Interim

I was recently interviewed by a small UK publication called the Beat Scene. The publisher was interested in my research on Bea Franco and so he asked me a few questions, and I believe the article was just published in the latest print issue. If you’re interested in reading the full article, click here. Before you read it though, it might be worth noting that in the last paragraph he had written “So let us hope that this book does make it into print.” While I don’t make it a practice to correct reporters, especially ones who are promoting my work, I’m not exactly sure why he wrote that. Especially since the book, as he states in the very next sentence, will be published this fall. For this reason alone I blackened that line out.

Alice Braga as Terry Franco in the film "On the Road"

Alice Braga as Terry Franco in the film “On the Road”

Also, I’ve recently been approached by a few reporters and other folks who have some interest in Bea Franco’s story as it relates to the Beats. One thing I feel I should make clear is that I am by no means a Beat scholar, nor has this ever been my intention. From the start of this project my focus has been on Bea Franco, her life, her story, and her point of view. I understand that her significance is tethered to Jack Kerouac, however, his side of the matter is out there, and has been for years. Above all else, this has been my only purpose, to get Bea Franco’s life story out into the world. This is precisely what I’m trying to convey in this recent video interview I did with Great Valley Stories as well. Click here if you’d like to see the interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is an Auspicious Month

Today is Sunday, and I am writing this on the occasion of Bea Franco’s 93rd birthday. I would’ve forgotten this entirely had it not been for the fact that just this morning I was putting some final touches on my manuscript, Mañana Means Heaven. Coincidentally, I was working on the Afterword, and it was a scene that took place on her birthday.

I really think Fall is Bea’s season. Consider the following: she was born in the Fall of 1920. Her tryst with Jack happened in Fall of 1947. On the day I first walked up the cold steps of her porch, it was Fall of 2010. My book will hit shelves in Fall of 2013.       

On another note, last week I was at the Boulder Bookstore and I came across the newly released book, The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac, by Joyce Johnson, who was once Kerouac’s girlfriend. I was pleased to read the following excerpt:  

          When it appeared in the Paris Review in 1956, “The Mexican Girl” would change

          Jack’s luck and result in On the Road finally getting published. I wonder how long

          it took for Bea Franco to find out Jack had written about her…

                    The Greyhound bus station in Bakersfield, where Bea and Jack met.

The Fiction of Bea Franco…

I didn’t start out looking to find Bea Franco. When the initial idea came to me, it was to write a fictional account of Bea’s side of the story, the fifteen days she spent with Jack Kerouac from her point of view. I figured it would be a worthwhile attempt, since I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, and my own family knew the labor camps and fields so well. I pictured Bea as my grandmother, Estela Constante Hernandez. The woman I knew who would get up at 4 o’clock each morning to make homemade tortillas and burritos for the family, as they set out for the fields. The same grandmother who used to feed us cigarette ashes as children, claiming it would “clean us out.” A hard scrabble woman with a big heart and calloused hands.

This was the original idea anyway. I began my research by looking for mention of Bea Franco in other books, biographies mostly. I stopped counting after around two dozen. I quickly discovered the information on her was pretty limited, and many were rehashing the same thing. Shortly after, I discovered some of her letters were housed in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection/ Kerouac Archives. This is where my book took off…

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Here is a sampling of only some of the books that mention Bea Franco: 

Kerouac’s American Journey by Paul Maher Jr.

Subterranean Kerouac by Ellis Amburn

Memory Babe by Gerald Nicosia

This is The Beat Generation by James Campbell

Why Kerouac Matters by John Leland

Jack’s Book by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee

Women of the Beat Generation by Brenda Knight

The Beat Face of God by Stephen D. Edington

Manly Love by Bill Morgan and David Stanford

Countering the Counterculture by Manuel Luis Martinez

Kerouac’s Duluoz Legend by James T. Jones

Kerouac: The Definitive Biography by Paul Maher Jr.

Jack Kerouac: A Biography by Michael J. Dittman

Historical Dictionary of the Beat Movement by Paul Varner

Best American Short Stories 1956

Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West by Larry McMurtry

Neal Cassady: Fast Life of a Beat Hero by David Sandison and Graham Vickers

The Voice Is All by Joyce Johnson

On the Road: The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac

Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac by Douglas Brinkley

Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac