2016, Year of Change, Year of Light

Hello Familia, for the past two years I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that have been extremely taxing, to put it mildly. For the few of you who know what I’m referring to, I cannot express enough how grateful I am for your friendship and support through this difficult period. At the end of 2015, I sat down and actually drew out a plan for how to change this in 2016. How I will work toward getting my light back, and re-focusing my mind, heart, and spirit on the things that feed my soul.

The news of the death of poet, Francisco X. Alarcón, struck me as both a tragic loss, and a kind of message. Francisco was/ is a pillar of California’s artist-activist community. I first met him in 1999, while I was working as muralist Juana Alicia’s apprentice in San

FullSizeRender-2

Francisco and Me, 1999

Francisco that year. Francisco and I were both attending a literary festival and happened to be staying at the same hotel. I saw him in the parking lot, and snapped this photo with him. I was 25 years old. Five years later, when my first book, Skin Tax, was published, I read with him and Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol at La Raza Galeria Posada in Sacramento. I’ll never forget his generous blessing that night. He told the audience that as this was my first book, I was now a “new poet-warrior,” and that they should all wish me well in my journey. He then asked the audience to turn to face me, as they chanted something–I can’t remember what it was–but he lit his copal and sage, and I just remember being brought to tears by the whole thing. Every step of my career, I’ve never forgotten this single moment. This offering by one of our greatest “poet warriors.” I think of him today, his spirit and generosity, as I begin to recalibrate my life.

IMG_8166

Rio Vista Bracero Processing Center, Socorro, TX

 

On this note, seems in good timing that I finally finished the manuscript for “All They Will Call You.” Yes, it’s done. I begin shopping it around for a publisher now! There’s been some interest already, but this is a strange and unpredictable business, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  In the meantime, I’m shifting my focus to the documentary. As I’ve posted about in the past, throughout the research I’ve had help documenting the interviews and gathering footage of my “field work,” as I searched for the passengers of the plane crash. I had originally started working on this as

IMG_1366

Filmmaker, Valentin Sandoval at work

a documentary back in 2012, but had a few major setbacks that required me to postpone that aspect of the project. I’ve since began working with a kick ass filmmaker, Valentin Sandoval, and Black Bird Concepts, based here in El Paso, and we already have a teaser we created to help raise funds to finish the project. I’ll post more about this in the weeks to come.

Beyond this, I’m also working on a libretto for my friends Jasmin and Omar, hands down one of central California’s most talented couple. Jasmin is a flamenco dancer, and Omar is a musician-composer-vocalist. This is a collaboration I’ve often dreamed of. Jasmin was once my daughter Rumi’s flamenco teacher. I used to think to myself, how awesome it would be to work with these two artists. Now I get to, and I’m deeply honored.

As I write this, I am starting the Spring semester here at UTEP, and I’m excited to be teaching a graduate course I’ve developed called “Gathering Stories: Turning Research Into Writing.” The students started emailing me a few weeks ago, already asking for the reading materials and expressing their excitement. It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love as a career. I am blessed. We all are. I hope you all find your light this year.

((((( om mani padme hum )))))

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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!!