Update on the Book & Research

Hello Friends,

First, let me apologize for not posting any updates over the past five months. After coming off of my research trip to central Mexico in January of this year, I immediately went to work on the manuscript, fired up by the many stories and beautiful people I met in places like Charco de Pantoja, Jocotepec, Nochistlan, San Julian, Guadalajara, and San Miguel de Allende, and many others. This summer I taught a course at UTEP, moved from one house to another (yet again), and put everything into finishing my manuscript, “All They Will Call You.”

I’m excited to let you know that it is finished, and it is currently in my agent’s hands. Barring a few more tweaks or touch ups, we should be seeking a publisher for it as of late September. As for my feelings about this book…to be perfectly honest, it has turned out to be nothing like I expected, and yet, everything I’ve been working toward since I began pursuing the arts seriously over 20 years ago. Family and friends who have known me since I was a teen, know that at various times in my life I dedicated myself to different art forms. From H.S. through early College I was pursuing the visual arts/ murals vigorously. Since the mid 90’s, when I was doing Spoken Word and Performance Art, I began collaborating with musicians in jazz, rock, classical, hip-hop, and reggae. In the early 2000’s I worked with the state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities in California, where my job was to travel central California and listen to people’s stories. And in these last 11 years, the trajectory of my written work has included poetry, short fiction, historical fiction, playwriting, and oral history.

“All They Will Call You” is a narrative woven of these very elements. Drawn mostly from original recorded testimonies, investigative research, official records, and ephemera, it also includes strong threads of musicology, poetry, historical fiction, and ekphrastic (writing based on a visual element; art or photography). My goal was to make a book that was as close to the multi-media experience of this subject–but in text. No other book I’ve written has allowed me to spread my wings like this one, but also, no other book has been more challenging. I’m equal parts excited and frightened. Which is a good place to be as an artist/ human—a space of total possibility. I look forward to keeping you updated….

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It Calls You Back…

El Paso greetings

To Share With Future Voices

I remember the exact day my intentions turned toward becoming a writer. It was May 18, 1995—the day a beloved uncle was shot and killed by the police. Until that moment my only desire was to be a visual artist. Wasn’t much of a book person. But seeing the way my family responded to this incident, the way they were rendered silent by it, despite the agony and injustice of how he died, is what prompted me to say something, to find the words, in essence, discover my voice. I knew right then that I wanted to master language. And yet, what was initially born from anger, would over a period of more than a decade, become an instrument firmly rooted in love. This transformation would’ve been impossible without the generosity and tutelage of many beautiful people whom I’ve had the privilege of calling my teachers, in the broadest definition. With them in mind, I had hoped to one day have that same impact on students. To share with future voices what my teachers shared with me: the possibilities, the tools, the resilience, the pitfalls, the audacity, the vulnerabilities, the intellect, and stories—all the intricacies of what it takes to become a writer of books, a story gatherer, a witness, an innovator, and a voice.

The Southwest Calling…

Since I was a child my family used to take us on road trips to see our relatives in Deming and Las Cruces, New Mexico, and then all the spaces from El Paso all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Along the way we would stop at towns like Silver City, or Socorro, to see the landmarks of my family’s history: My great-grandparents crumbling adobe house on the border town of Columbus, which is still there, the girl’s home my mother was sent to as a teenager, the desert cemetery where uncle Humberto, only 3 years old when he died, is buried in an unmarked grave, the quiet roadside off the I-10 where my aunt Tilly was killed on her bicycle. These, no doubt, are the early stories that would nurture my love and appreciation for the desert, that broad expanse between New Mexico and Texas that I have come to feel such a kinship with over the years. Never once during these road trips did I imagine I would ever be presented with the opportunity to live here. Much less, that it would be this very terrain where the fruition of a dream, years in the making, would manifest. But as fate would have it, this is exactly the case.

The University of Texas El Paso

It is for these reasons, and numerous others, that I have officially accepted a position as Assistant Professor with the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. A dream long in the making has arrived, and needless to say, my family and I are beside ourselves. To be part of an established legacy of writers, artists and activists who have led the way for generations in this part of the world, and on a team/ faculty of writers whose own work I have admired for so long, is far more than anything I could have hoped for. The position begins this Fall, so my family and I will be moving the shell to El Paso over the summer…but more on that later. For now, I thought I’d share this exciting news with you all.

Here is a small sampling of a few of my esteemed UTEP colleagues!!

Here is a small sampling of a few of the publications by my esteemed UTEP colleagues!!

Finding Bea Franco: Journal Entry #26

August 25, 2009         

Dear Bea,

This is a letter that will likely never get sent. I decided to write to you each time I sit down to work on the book. Like tossing questions at the universe with hopes that just somehow it might answer back. Today I went into the Fresno County Hall of Records and told them I was looking for my great Grandmother’s marriage or death certificate. Either will do, I said casually. I had to wait in this long line for over an hour. The whole time feeling like an imposter. I mean here were people really going for something, a lost bit of something dire, and here I was, on a self-appointed mission. I started thinking I might be going too far with all this. Felt like I was playing some masquerade, only fooling myself. The clerk called me forward and after filling out some papers she had me follow her to a back room. “These are all the old files, anything before 1950 would be here,” she said. She pulled out a book the size of a Cadillac and opened it to the index and began looking for your name. After thirty minutes we agreed it wasn’t there. Probably a good thing, I figured. If we had found something, before releasing the info to me I would’ve had to brandish proof I am related to you. This is what the woman said to me. But then again, if the goods were there I’m sure I would’ve made it happen one way or the other. Last week I was at the Genealogy Department at the Fresno Library. I poked around for a couple of hours, scrutinizing all the Francos listed but none of them had the right details. As I began walking away the woman helping me asked, “Are you sure she isn’t still alive?” I chuckled. “What farmworker do you know lives to the age of 90?” I said.

I’ve been following leads now for over a year, hoping to find your truth, not his or theirs. I finally decided to hire an investigator. A Serbian woman named Adreann, majored in English back in her college days. Told her you were likely dead, but that we should look for Albert or Patsy, who I figure are probably around 70 years old by now. She was impressed by my legwork. Gave me some advice, tips on how to get information. Before we parted ways she added, “In all my years of experience, dead people are easy to find…living people are hard.” This stuck with me days after. This is why I ended up at the County Records office today, armed with the nerve to claim I was your great grandson. There’s so much I want to ask you Bea, far more questions than answers, things I need to know in order for your story to be told as accurately as possible. One letter can’t possibly cover it all, so I’ll continue to write to you. Even if it’s a lost cause and there’s nowhere to send it. That’s all for now. I hope wherever you are, you’re laughing.

Sincerely, T.