Here I am, my second to last night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We made this journey last Tuesday and arrived in time for the National Latino Writers Conference, which was a lot of fun. I felt blessed to be in a workshop with Rudolfo Anaya, brilliant writer of Bless Me, Ultima and many other stories (Tortuga, etc). He was a lot of fun, as were the other workshop participants. Most everyone was a writer/professor and I have to say it's inspiring to see that model in action. People are teaching classes full time and writing. I always ask, thanks to P.H. and her example: do you grade or write, first? Needless to say there was an entire spectrum of responses, all very interesting.
I think some of the highlights for me were: the workshop with Rudolfo Anaya, Levi Romero's reading of his poem Gavilan from the collection In the Gathering of Silence; Monica Brown's reading of her children's book My name is/Me Llamo Celia about la diva Celia Cruz; Denise Chavez's performance of her Taco Stories (which completely resonated with Laurie Carlos' performance "The Cooking Show" earlier this year); Rosa Beltran's platica on the interactions between the reader and the protagonists on the page; talking with Luis Urrea about the love of writing, and man: profound insights into the balance of our spirits; reading and listening to the work of so many brilliant Latino/Chicano writers.
By the way, I started crying at two points this weekend. And that's a big deal. I don't cry easily - only when I'm profoundly moved. The first was because of the poem Gavilan and the second was in talking with Denise Chavez - when she mentioned a piece she's working on about sorting through beans, which was really about how we as women pass on hope (at least it was for me). She'll have to say more on it, but let's just say that art is powerful.
Thanks to the suggestion of one of the participants - also a Lara (thanks M.!), I got to think about the books that move me/inspire me...that I love. So I thought I would produce a short list of authors who I love, and whose work moves me or profoundly affects my thinking about my own writing.
Here we go.
Louise Erdrich (both her fiction and poetry)
Octavia Butler (We miss you, Octavia...the Parables are amazing)
Ursula K LeGuin
Zora Neale Hurston (of course)
Ben Okri, Ben Okri, Ben Okri
Leslie Marmon Silko (Almanac of the Dead is one of my favorite books of all time)
Jorge Luis Borges
Rosario Ferre (Vecindarios Excentricos)
Ana Castillo (Watermelon Woman/Opaque Men is currently turning me out...I'm on my third reading of it as I try to unpack all of her references)
Audre Lorde (Zami: A Biomythography as well as her poetry)
Mario Vargas Llosa
Isabel Allende (Eva Luna is a book I pick up at different points in my life to read as if for the first time)
Gloria Naylor (Mama Day)
Sharon Bridgforth (Love/Conjure Blues)
Umberto Eco (when I'm feeling in the mood for mysteries involving conspiracies)
Orhan Pamuk (My Name is Red, Snow...my copy of My Name is Red - gifted to me - is slowly losing its pages)
Rudolfo Anaya (Bless Me, Ultima)
Renee Gladman (The Journey, The Activist)
Clarice Lispector (The Hour of the Star)
And that's to name a few. Yeah - I would say that these are the people I'm thinking about when I'm writing. The way they use language, images, and structure. Or, just that they tell a good story. I like good stories.