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Words Rise, Over the Skies, Out of Your Breath

¿Que Pasa, Calabasa? -

Thanks for reading up on this blog again. I am a few days over due (like a week) just ignore that. I promise to be on time for the next one - look at it this way - you will get the next blog really close to this one... great stuff, ¿no? 

ON WITH THE TEASE

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So this lovely book - EVERYTHING BEGINS AND ENDS AT THE KENTUCKY CLUB - is Benjamin Alire Sáenz's latest work. I think I mentioned it before in another blog post, but I wanted to get more in depth with it. (MY copy is on its way. One day, I will get it signed by the man, making sure I do not act all geeky or aguitado in front of him and more like a grad student, unless he says "hello, sure I will sign it" or "not a problem, hombre, give me the book", then all bets are off as I will probably pass out. - The guy works at my UTEP - PICKS UP!!!) Saenz's book, won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award - it is the first time any Latino writer has even done so. Its pretty bad ass!!  I for one can't wait to get my hands on it - and hopefully one day, I get to take class with the man. 

Here is bit of a blurb from the news from UTEP's website!!
- Renowned novelists Walter Kirn, Nelly Rosario, and A.J. Verdelle served as judges for the prize, considering more than 350 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the United States in 2012. Submissions came from 130 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. First awarded in 1981, the prize is named for Nobel Prize winning novelist William Faulkner, and Sáenz is the first Hispanic writer to receive it.

“He's one of the most prolific writers I have ever met, sometimes producing two books in one year, like he did this year,” said Saenz’s colleague Associate Professor of Creative Writing Daniel Chacon. “Both of those books have gone on to win amazing prizes and to get positive critical attention.”

In speaking about his experience as co-host of KTEP-FM’s (88.5) “Words on a Wire” radio program with Sáenz, Chacon said, “We have the chance to talk to some of the greatest writers in the country, and together we are able to extract a lot of valuable information and advice from these writers, but the ironic thing is that Ben himself is one of the country's most distinguished writers.”

Judge A.J. Verdelle praised Saenz’s mastery of language.

“In Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, his 20th published book,

Benjamin Alire Sáenz shows how decades working at your craft gives birth to might and mastery ... He presents a rendering of reality that is lush, tender, expansive, inclusive and profound. The author takes stunning care with language — English, Spanish, and the languages of sunlight, daylight, dimlight, night light — twisting and tumbling with the whispered language of the human heart. Sáenz also devotes impressive attention to rendering communities on the borders of the United States and Mexico, on the boundaries of sensual and sexual expression, on the edge of despair, and on the cusp of redemption.”

SO, there you go. Oh yeah, here is one last bit. - 

TEXAS, RISE... TESTIFYING TO SAVE ETHNIC and GENDER STUDIES!!

Ok, so let me catch you up on why I am little late with my bloga duties. I wouldn't have missed it for anything else, really - but sometimes battle plans and actions must happen quick as lightening. Wednesday, the same day as I would plan on working on the blog, also became the day my compadres y comadres in the LIBROTRAFICANTE MOVEMENT traveled to Austin, TX to hear the presenting of HB1938 - the twin to SB1128 - both bills would seek to change up a 1955 law that requires college students to take 6 hours of Texas or U.S. History courses to fulfill the requirement for getting a degree. This new set of bills, if passed would want to see students take courses that meet the requirement so long as the classes were about "a comprehensive course of U.S. or Texas History". The problem:  1) No one, including the creators of the bills have defined what "comprehensive U.S. History" is 2) the creators of the bill - including Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Congressman Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) both Tea Party Republicans have both used a scary report created by a heavy handed Republican group - the National Association of Scholars, named Recasting History: Are Race, Class and Gender Dominating American History?  - with a name like that, and the research results within, it makes comments they make - that they aren't after ethnic studies or cultural relevance in U.S. History, all the more disingenuous. 3) if the bill succeeds, then gateway classes that may lead into women's studies and ethnic studies, may be turned into electives, signifying that their importance would be minimal. Basically, if you want to study history from the perspective that includes African- Americans from Slavery to Civil Rights, then do it, but it wouldn't count for credit to your degree... let that sink in. Riiiiiiight. 

So, the bill was heard on Wednesday- and I have to say Thank you, Mil Gracias, Obrigado to my principal, Diana Del Pilar. I came to her and asked if I could take the afternoon off to go testify against the bill and without batting an eye - "Mendez, you need to go, our kids need you to go". It says a lot about where her priorities are for our school community and her respect for me as an educator. I will forever be in her debt.  - We packed it up from Houston and along with 22 other folks testified on the bill (3 for, 19 against- 2 of which were people Capriglione brought himself and a 20 yr. old kid dressed up as Paul Revere), and it was an amazing moment to be an American. The House Committee on Higher Education eventually figured out that the majority of us came from OUTSIDE of Austin to speak against the bill and they were impressed. - But the work is not done. The bill was left pending - so now, WE must call (yes, this includes you if live in Texas) and let them now that the bill is no good - that they must vote NO on HB1938. Here are the numbers to get a hold of the members - 

Dan Branch - Chair
(512) 463-0367
(512) 322-9935 (fax)

Diane Patrick - Vice Chair
(512) 463-0624
(512) 463-7275 (fax)

Roberto R. Alonzo
(512) 463-0408
(512) 463-1817 (fax)

Travis Clardy
(512) 463-0592
(512) 463-8792 (fax)

Drew Darby
(512) 463-0331
(512) 499-3978 (fax)

Donna Howard
(512) 463-0631
(512) 463-0901 (fax)

Armando "Mando Martinez
(512) 463-0530
(512) 463-0849 (fax)

Jim Murphy
(512) 463-0514
(512) 463-8715 (fax)

John Raney
(512) 463-0698
(512) 463-5109 (fax)

and click here if you want the link to the video of that meeting. - You have to see and hear all the testimony - get popcorn and fast forward to Paul Revere, that guy was a hoot. (Mas Puto) WARNING - the meeting itself lasted from 2pm til 10:00pm - yep, and HB1938 was the last bill to be heard. So we stayed. That's What's Up. 

¡ME VOY A UNA QUIENCEÑERA!

So, 15 years ago, April 22, in 1998, a young Tony Diaz and a few friends started a new venture: let's start highlighting Latino Literature, Latino Poetry and the folks who write it. Let's do it in the party room of Chapultepec Restaurant. Let's talk about "our words" - NUESTRA PALABRA. - and so it went and it is still going. I am proud to say I am a 14 year veteran of the group and I wouldn't trade it for the world. It has given me the opportunity to meet, discuss and argue with some of the best Latino writers in the country and it has helped mold me into the kind of leader, writer and poet I am today. I am forever grateful to Tony and the gang for all the energy, all the diversity of thought and all the bad -assness we bring, from the book tours, to the showcases, from the book festivals to the radio shows, from the literary throw-downs to educational forums, seguimos adelante. Always mas, mucho mas.  - 

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This Sunday, I invite you to join us in Baytown, at the Yepez Vineyard - a Latino owned and operated business as we celebrate our 15 years of Latino Literary work.

HERE ARE THE DETAILS - remember, it is a fundraiser as well (we gotta pay some bills): 

You're invited to the 15th anniversary celebration of Nuestra Palabra "Latinos Having Their Say" on Sunday, April 21 from 3:00-6:00 p.m., at Yepez Vineyard. $50 per person or $80 per couple (any pair a couple) Includes Hors d’oeuvres, dessert & wine. Attire is summer casual. 

RSVP by April 17 to Laura Acosta at lacosta4040@gmail.com or text 832-414-3651.

Pay online-
$50 per person:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=BZYBBQ34DR3WS
$80 per couple: 
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=PUE3SE4WXMJ3L

HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US!!!  
I will be serving as the OFFICIAL NUESTRA PALABRA POETRY BUSKER - that means that you give me a topic, idea or feeling, and I will write you a poem on the spot. 

I'MMA SLAM YOU!!
Ok, so a few weeks back, I took part in amazing poetic process - I served as a judge at a poetry slam- but not any poetry slam - THE POETRY SLAM, the one that decides the next team to serve as the HOUSTON VIP POETRY SLAM TEAM (when I say this, you have to all collective yell "the treatment", right after, trust me it hilarious - get it? VIP, treatment? Shuddup!) Truth be it known, that was an amazing night and I got to see a plethora of amazing performance and slam poetry and create history. SO, I wanted to take the time and include the members here. Right now, I only have a few bios, so what I will do is give you what I have, and then little by little spot light the rest of the team (Rooster, if you read this, give me your bio, duh). 

First up:
DULCIE DAVID - Dulcie “Digh” David is a singer-songwriter, poet and teacher. She is the co-coach for Meta-Four Houston, and teaches Creative Writing to 9th graders at Sam Houston MSTC. A 2008 Teach For America alumni, Digh spends most of her free time trying to convince people that kids need slam poetry in schools. She holds a Bachelors in Arts degree in History and Creative Writing from Texas A&M, Corpus Christi. **** Dulcie is as beautiful as she is smart, witty as she is a bad ass. 

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IN JUST A FEW HOURS -

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If you are in Houston and are looking something booky to do, then head over to the Menil - the HOUSTON INDIE BOOK FEST is pretty neat. Today, I get host a table for NP and show off some of my wifey's poems and art work by Lizbeth Ortiz - here are some details about today:

The Houston Indie Book Festival is hosted by Gulf Coast and the Menil Community Arts Festival through a collaboration with The Menil Collection the Council of Literary Magazines and Presseat Menil Park ( view map).

The 2013 festival will be on Saturday, April 20 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The event  is completely free and open to the public and remains the only one of its kind in the Houston and Austin areas, featuring a variety of nationally-distributed literary journals and small-press books alongside local booksellers, book and magazine publishers, small presses, literary organizations, and writers.

Click HERE, to get more info.  Show up!!!  Let's talk!!!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST - A WAR OF WORDS (KINDA...)

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This is now a tradition - see we have friends - fellow bad ass poets from Baton Rouge who make their way to the Houston Indie Book Fest and since we first met them, we worked on sharing some drinks and some words on a stage - thus the INTERSTATE POETRY SHOWDOWN is a hot minute of fun! This year, reppin' Houston is remarkable poets Stephen Gros and Chris Wise and from Baton Rouge Vincent Cellucci and Chris Shipman. Should be awesome. YOU SHOULD COME BY!! everything starts at 6:30, so get it together... 

With that, I get to close out the blog post, but of course, not with out one last thing: 

THE TEASE - 

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The Writers, The Artists, They Light Up The Sky For You.

What is up, mi gente?!?!
This week so far has been a riot and a half. Lots of work to get done and some amazing art hits the streets of Houston and beyond. Today's blog will capture some of what is in the works for HTX beginning this THURSDAY and the REST OF THE WEEKEND. - and WHAT A WEEKEND!!!  I kid you not, there are too many events to count for this weekend, that I will only be able to highlight three of them - all totally different, but equally important to the Houston Community and the arts in general.  You ready?

LAST BLOG TEASE:

So, this guy (and before you ask - nope, no relation) is an amazing writer. Both Matt and I are included in the latest edition of Huizache and I finally got a chance to meet Matt while in Tucson almost a year ago, for the Librotraficante Caravan. Matt Mendez is fresh new voice in Mexican-American Literature and just as impressive with his words in person.  We already talked and sadly, no familia between us - genetically. But yeah, that's my hermano, holding it down in Tucson, AZ.
    His newest work TWITCHING HEART has just come out and I wanted to highlight his work and talk about the book . . . that WAS the plan, but the book hasn't come in yet!!!  I ordered it and am still waiting for its arrival. Sad face. BUT, no worries. Matt if you read this, I apologize for not being able to salute your work - that just means we get to talk about the book AGAIN, next blog!!  
    What I can do, until I get a hold of the book, is connect you to an official book review, written by none other than SERGIO TRONCOSO. Click here for the link. Then, click on MATT MENDEZ's name to hit up his website.  FInally, get the book. Read the book and support this new addition to Latino Literature. 

TONIGHT!!  TONIGHT!! TONIGHT!!

Yo, you have to try to make this! I know its short notice, but go! (AND then get me a copy of the book!!)  - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has just come out with a new book, OLEANDER GIRL. From what I have heard about the book, it looks to be interesting and a good read. In addition, Chitra is HTX mainstay - so we have to support!! 

SO, tonight, Houston plays host to the grand release of her new work!!  She had the choice to have the release party in NYC, but she chose to do it at home. Mad props to her for that, because it gets people out and about and into new venues - THE ASIAN SOCIETY (TEXAS). The space is relatively new and starting at 7pm, Divakaruni will impress the crowd with excerpts from OLEANDER GIRL. If you can make it, please go and support Asian Literature and the Houston Literary scene.

More details about the book and Divakaruni: 

THOUGH SHE WAS ORPHANED AT BIRTH, the wild and headstrong Korobi Roy has
enjoyed a privileged childhood with her adoring grandparents, spending her first seventeen years sheltered in a beautiful, crumbling old mansion in Kolkata. But despite all that her grandparents have done for her, she is troubled by the silence that surrounds the circumstances of her parents’ death and clings fiercely to her only inheritance from them: the love note she found, years ago, hidden in a book of poetry that had belonged to her mother. As she grows, Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents’, and it seems her wish has finally come true when she meets the charming Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.
   
Shortly after their engagement, however, a sudden heart attack kills Korobi’s grandfather, revealing serious financial problems and a devastating secret about Korobi’s past. Shattered by this discovery and by her grandparents’ betrayal, Korobi decides to undertake a courageous search across post-9/11 America to find her true identity. Her dramatic, often startling journey will ultimately thrust her into the most difficult decision of her life.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the award-winning author of many books, including 
The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, One Amazing Thing and, the soon to be released, Oleander Girl. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times. Born in India, she lives in Houston and teaches in the nationally-ranked Creative Writing program at the University of Houston.

Here are the final details: 

Time: 7pm
Where: Asian Society - 1370 Southmore Blvd. Houston, TX 77004
Contact: 713.496.9901

This is a "ticketed" event, but only means email/ call to reserve a seat as I think space is limited.  Click here to get the event page. 

SWITCHING GEARS - YOU THINKING ABOUT AN MFA?

So occasionally, you will read me brag about certain events or projects I am involved with, and for the next 2 - 3 years, I will refer to my MFA program. GO MINERS!!  

Solidly, one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life. - It is an amazing program filled with genuine individuals who advisor their candidates on what works in their craft in poetry, in fiction, in poetics, in non-fiction and style. The photos above are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the individuals that make the MFA ONLINE program a success. So far, I am a slow schooler - I am only taking one class at a time (cuz that's how I roll!) and it is working out well. The flexibility of each my professors (seen above - Lex Williford, Sasha Pimentel, Jose de Pierola, and Daniel Chacón) has been amazing and yet they push my thinking, and its working. I am stretching my "writing legs" in ways I hadn't in a long time. I am getting a ernest look at where I want to take my writing to. I get to kick myself in ass for the challenges presented, pushing to work on the technique of my writing, in fiction, in poetry and in non- fiction. It's been healthy for me to do this.
     At the same time, I get to work on my MFA from the comfort of my own home and my professors are amazingly "human". I mean that they are fully aware that the candidates are human and have lives and responsibilities, and when the push, they are also understanding if one of us has a sick child, or dealing with a personal matter of some urgency. It's refreshing to hit up my class this semester with Professor Pimentel - "Sasha" as everybody calls her, every Tuesday night at 7pm (my time) on Skype. On her end, she has a classroom full of RESIDENCY MFA CANDIDATES who I get to talk to and workshop poetry with. On my side, I get to chat and message the other 7 ONLINE MFA CANDIDATES as we workshop.  - That's just one way how the program works. It's innovative, its unique, its flexible, its mine and it works.
       So yes, I will try to sell you on the MFA program at UTEP, because for writers like me, working writers, yes, there are programs made to help us create what we create. - A major thank you to Benjamin Alire Saenz and Daniel Chacón for running such an amazing program.  

WITH THAT SAID - 

Check this link out, here
The College of Liberal Arts Honors Program and The Creative Writing Department cordially invite you to attend a UTEP Centennial Lecture

"American Labor: Poetry for Whom There is No Poetry”
Philip Levine, 18th Poet Laureate of the United States

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 5 p.m. Undergraduate Learning Center, Room 106
UTEP Campus

YES, that's right. That's what's up at UTEP for next Tuesday. If you are in EL CHUCO, you need to make this reading.  That's how big the program is - they have world renowned poets visit. Big. 

NOW FOR THE WEEKEND!!

So this what is going on for the weekend here in HOUSTON. My head will explode if I can actually make it to all this, but I will try and you should too!!

So, officially both me and the wifey (Jasminne Méndez) get to perform our poetry on Friday night at this amazing event - 

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Everything actually kicks off tonight at Scott Gertner's at Houston Pavilions, as many of the Salsa artists will slow arrive for the major to-do's this weekend. A major THANK YOU to Ruby Rivera and the TEXAS SALSA CONGRESS for adding the cultural landscape of the HTX!!  Click on the link to see the site for the whole weekend, here

DO YOU LIKE BEAT WRITERS!?!?!?  

Because I do. So you should make it to this - 

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So I have talked about this before and yes, you should make this during the day, this Saturday. Everything kicks off at 3 and lasts 'til 10 at night. Its an amazing day for poetry and art as Stephen Gros, Tanyia Johnson of MAKE.PLAY.SPEAK have worked really hard at putting this show together. Panels, reading, round tables and music abound. So make it out to the ORANGE SHOW and be a part of Houston's 1st Kerouac Fest!! (click on the bolded words to see links)

WOMEN'S HERstory MONTH!!

March is Women's History Month, and so if it wasn't enough that you have two women , Ruby Rivera and Tanyia Johnson organizing events, then get a load of this: 

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CREATIVE WOMEN UNITE - under the direction of Monica Villarreal, is putting together an amazing event at MECA. - Opening night is this FRIDAY and then on SATURDAY, there will be an amazing series of workshops hosted by prominent women from all aspects of art and media.  Click on the link to find out more info, here.  
If you hit them up on Facebook, you will get a full details on the opening reception and the next day's sessions. 

Here are the details: 

Friday  Night - 6 - 7pm (Opening Art Reception) ; 7 - 10 Performance Artist present
Where: MECA - 1900 Kane St., Houston, TX 77007

That's a lot going on. Take your pick and enjoy these Houston streets. 
I hope I get to see you around and if you like the blog, please tell your friends and enemies about it!!  See you next week!! 

NOW for the TEASE . . .

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The Words, Las Palabras, They Flow Past the City Walls.

Hey Gente,

First off, I must apologize that this blog post comes a day late. Yesterday was filled with so much work that I needed to get around that first. A lot can happen in seven days!!  So, let's get started.  

First with the tease:

       From a first hand account, the TEXAS SALSA CONGRESS is an amazing event. My dear friend and fellow artist, Ruby Rivera, knocks it out of the park with this masterful celebration of dance and music. The salsa congress is made up of dance workshops, presentations and special guest performances from salsa dances of all ages and backgrounds from all over the U.S. It is truly a spectacle and sight to see. You can see the schedule for the 4 day event here

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          The most important aspect of this event is how damn good a job Ruby does to include young, growing dancers. They attend in droves from both coasts and eat up all the workshop opportunities and celebrations. The TEXAS SALSA CONGRESS also serves a second purpose (well two actually) (1) to raise scholarship funds for students as they pursue dreams of a college education and (2) a well deserved "hell yeah, I did it" kind of party, is the ONLY FEMALE organizer of a SALSA CONGRESS. It happens no place else, making Houston home to someone very special. If you can make it to the event, please do. You won't regret it!! (PLUS, you might get to see and the wifey perform on Friday night - yep, Ruby and the CONGRESS are fans of poetry!

MEANWHILE, LAST NIGHT . . .

  I would classify what I was a part of last night as "educational advocacy". In simplest terms, a few local Houston Latino leaders and I got together to being planning H.O.M.B.R.E.S. - Helping Our Men thru Brotherhood, Respect, & Education for Success.
The idea is this: 

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3 mentors will share 5 steps they took up the pyramid. They will share the challenges and obstacles they overcame. This will be followed by our youth tellling tell us what they need from us to help them succeed. If we do not tell our young men how to be adult men, then videos, rappers, and movies will.  Every one is welcome who wants to help our men and young men fulfill their great destinies. - Last night's meeting was a solid step forward. I served as scribe and as everyone talked about either their definitions of the issues our young men are facing or their own backgrounds, I was able to translate that into viable topics for discussion for future meetings. We are still in the planning stages, so stay tuned. A major thank you to TONY DIAZ for spearheading the idea!!

THE WEEKEND IS UPON US . . . 

and sometimes, you will get some info of what happens outside of H-TOWN. Peep this: 

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Yes, you read the flyer right, not in H-TOWN, but in El Paso ("el Chuco"), T!!  A buddy of mine, Roberto Santos, MFA graduate from UTEP, college professor, host and damn good poet has served as the organizer for the BARBED WIRE OPEN MIC SERIES (BWOMS) for over 5 years. That show and that art, shows no signs of slowing down. Its a golden night, that last Saturday of the month. The crowd is appreciative, supportive and on point to hear some poetry and music. The artists are humble and dedicated and Roberto, along with his crew are the people that make it happen. I had the pleasure of being a feature a few months back and it was a grand experience. If you want to get more info about this Saturday's event, then log onto your FB account and get more info here. - and straight from Roberto himself: 

"For this month's edition of the BWOMS we are featuring published poet Robin Scofield, and the poems from her latest book, 'Sunflower Cantos' (Her book will be on sale at the event; see below for author bio). 

We will also have a freestyle cypher at 6:30 and the open mic starting at 7. Anyone can perform any type of creative expression. Vendors are welcome and encouraged to join us at no cost. 

**Author Bio: Robin Scofield** - 

A native Texan, Robin Scofield is the author of Sunflower Cantos, from Mouthfeel Press in El Paso, and has written poetry, memoir, and fiction for 44 years. She was awarded an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986. She has had poems appear in Paris Review, Western Humanities Review, Theology Today, Poetry Motel, Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, and Texas Observer. As an experienced editor, she offers manuscript consultations and creative workshops.

She has been a featured reader in several venues, including the El Paso Arts Museum, and she regularly attends The Tumblewords Project, a community-based writing group and is active in regional as well as international literary events, such as the juried San Miguel Poetry Week."

MORE FROM EL PASO 

So I will forever sing the praises from that town! Aside from being an MFA candidate at UTEP (online, too!!), I am totally impressed with the people and places within "El Chuco". There is so much going on that had to make sure to get into it. Here are two examples: 

1) Words On a Wire (yes, click the title) - a radio show hosted by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Daniel Chacón (both MFA -Creative Writing professors at UTEP) that focuses on poetry, fiction, creative writing, memoir writing and more. They conduct interviews with other writers and discuss all things written. Make sure you take a listen. Like their page too. DO THAT HERE

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and 2) THE READER -  an online magazine out of El Paso, Texas. The Literary Muses (8th grade student writers) host various Chicano & Latino guests: poets, novelists, essay, short story, fiction and nonfiction authors, digital and print-media reporters, world-renowned educators and more... Guests visit in person as and via Skype.
Hosted by a prima-hermana Librotraficante there in El Paso, Georgina Cecilia Perez teaches Chicano and Latino Literature to her 8th grade students AND gets them right.
She is doing amazing work, instilling the want of literature and the want of writing to her students. In March, I get to be a part of the program. Truly a blessing!!

So now we bring it back to H-Town!!

If you can make it to no other show, then please join me here:

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CULTURAL LADRONES will take place on Feb. 24th from 8 to 1am. 
The event is for fans of art, music and poetry who are 21 & up. 
Where: - House of Blues ( 1204 Caroline St. 77002 -Foundation Rm.)

If you are interested in tickets for the event, click here.

Please, support the local art scene!! This should be an amazing event.

And now, to close out this blog post, a small teaser... its something I am about to start reading and give you a little review: 

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