Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them
by Chrisine Granados
Writer Pat Mora and musician Joe Ely caught the sentiment of the night and drew standing ovations from Texas Institute of Letters members at the 81st Annual Awards Banquet held in El Paso and New Mexico.
The men and women of Texas letters honored and remembered their own on Sat., April 8, 2017, where Texas, New Mexico, and the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, meet at the banquet hall of Ardovino’s Desert Crossing in Sunland Park, New Mexico.
Ely, a 2017 TIL inductee, read a humorous excerpt from his book Reverb. The troubadour also drew a boisterous round of applause from the crowd after singing the Flatlanders song, “Borderless Love.” The current political climate inspired Ely to sing the lyrics, which were spurred by the construction of the border fence in 2008 near Terlingua. The lyrics — “In a borderless love there’s no need for a wall” and “It’s the fearless who love and loveless who fear” received yelps from the crowd. Ely’s three-song set ended with Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever” and got the crowd to its feet.
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HOUSTON — As part of National Poetry Month, Mayor Sylvester Turner last week announced the selections of Deborah Mouton (right) as Houston’s third Poet Laureate and Fareena Arefeen as the city’s second Youth Poet Laureate.
“Houston has so many talented page and performance poets and a strong literary arts community,” said Mayor Turner. “Deborah Mouton has the expertise and passion for poetry that will be invaluable in working with arts groups of all disciplines to take poetry to all of Houston’s neighborhoods. Likewise, Fareena is a tremendous choice for the Youth Poet Laureate, and I am impressed by her commitment to serving the community.”
Mouton was chosen from among Houston’s poetry community through a competitive application and interview process by a panel of local literary arts experts. Her two-year term begins in April 2017 and runs through April 2019. As poet laureate, she will work closely with the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to implement her Community Outreach Project. She will also conduct eight workshops in Houston Public Libraries, create videos and poems to share on social media and mentor the Houston Youth Poet Laureate.
“It’s such an honor to be chosen to serve Houston as the Poet Laureate,” said Mouton. “I can’t wait to work with local artists and citizens to shine light on the unique voices and cultural experiences that this great city has to offer.”
Arefeen, a junior at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), succeeds Andrew White, a graduate of HSPVA and a freshman at New York University who now serves as U.S. Regional Youth Poet Laureate and is in the running to be the National Youth Poet Laureate. Arefeen’s one-year term includes a scholarship, a book publication, and mentorship from Houston’s poet laureate.
The Youth Poet Laureate program is led by the Writers in the Schools with coordination from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the Houston Public Library.
“Young people are capable of all the wisdom and insight of adults. They can develop words that are so powerful they could change the world,” says Robin Reagler, executive director of Writers in the Schools. “With the Youth Poet Laureate program, our wish is to amplify the voices of these young people so they can deliver a powerful message to our community.”
Arefeen draws inspiration from her mother, who works at a gas station and raised her daughter to love the poetry of the Bengali people, whom she regards as “poets at heart.” As Houston Youth Poet Laureate, Arefeen hopes to make the written word more accessible across communities and is especially interested in using public art as a vehicle for poeticexpression and social change.
“There is space for everyone in writing,” says Arefeen. “I would like marginalized groups of people to recognize the validity of their work. I want people to share their words and hear the voices of others around them because poetry is a device of connection.”
Arefeen will participate in several community events throughout Houston, where she will lead youth in contributing to a visual art installation created out of their own poetry. Their poetry will be displayed and later photographed and archived for a gallery opening and reading at the end of her term.
Mouton was ranked second best female poet in the world at the Women of World Poetry Slam and has published and performed poetry since the age of nineteen. On stage, she was a 2015 finalist for the Individual World Poetry Slam and a 2016 finalist for the Texas Grand Slam and has served as a Final Stage Sacrificial Poet for the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Her first full-length album in 2009, The Unfinished Work of a Genius, is a collection of original songs and poems that explore ideas around spirituality and personal growth. Her sophomore album, Beautiful Rebellion (2015), explores more socially themed poems. She holds dual BA degrees from the University of Michigan in English and African-American Studies and a master’s in education from the University of St. Thomas. Mouton currently serves as special programs manager and a writer in residence for Writers in the Schools as well as Slammaster/Coach for the Houston VIP National Poetry Slam Team.
The City of Houston Poet Laureate Program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who represents Houston by creating excitement about the written and spoken word as well as outreach activities, special programs, teaching and their individual works. The role of the Houston Poet Laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words. The previous Houston Poets Laureate include Dr. Robin Davidson and Gwendolyn Zepeda.
(From organization’s press release)
The Texas Mountain Trail Writers group invites both beginning to advanced authors to join them for a one-day retreat at the Indian Lodge in the historicDavis Mountain State Park in scenic Big Bend area, Sat., April 29, 2017. It will mark the group’s twenty-fifth year of hosting the retreat.
Presenters of this year’s retreat are Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington of Lubbock, Texas, editors of Lone Star Literary Life and coauthors of the Paragraph Ranch series of novels. The novels have been praised by readers for realistic characters, authentic West Texas settings, and interesting plots.
Brannon holds graduate degrees in American literature and book history. She has taught creative writing and is widely published. Ellington is a graduate of the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop and founder of Lone Star Literary Life. Both women combine more than five decades of experience in teaching, book publishing, editing, and marketing.
The theme of this year’s retreat is “Write Inspired: Fiction.” In keeping with this theme, the presenters will expose attendees to techniques that will help them to create believable characters, enrich character interactions, enhance dramatic tension, and develop realistic plots. Some practical aspects of marketing, publishing, and editing will also be addressed.
Dr. Brannon and Ms. Ellington will give attendees the opportunity to complete writing exercises that will enhance their understanding of the writing craft. Free workbooks will be provided. In some sessions, participants will be able to join discussions.
Check-in before morning sessions will begin at 8 A.M. A free continental breakfast will be served from 8 A.M. until 9 A.M. Check-in and breakfast will take place in the meeting room below the Black Bear Restaurant. The retreat will start at 9 A.M. and end at 4 P.M. A lunch break is scheduled for 12 noon until 1 P.M. Attendees can eat lunch at the Black Bear Restaurant or drive four miles into Fort Davis to eat at establishments there. After the retreat ends, participants are invited to join other attendees for a 5 P.M. meal at the Black Bear.
The cost of the event is $70 per person. Individuals paying their registration fees will automatically become members of the Texas Mountain Trail Writers. They will be eligible to be published in the TMTW’s annual anthology. Other than the continental breakfast, meals and lodging are not included in the registration fee. Early registration is encouraged because of limited space.
Participants planning to stay overnight at the Indian Lodge can call Texas Parks and Wildlife, Indian Lodge, Fort Davis, Texas. The reservation number is 512-389-8982. Reservations should be made early. Spring is coming, and the rooms are booked quickly.
For other lodging information, contact the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce (www.ftdavis.com or 432-426-3015). This organization has a list of area vacancies (including RV campgrounds).
If you have further questions about the retreat, contact Jackie Siglin, Registrar, at ten.dnebgib@1aksaladekab.
The Half Pint Library program is a book drive hosted each year by Texas-based Half Price Books to collect and distribute children’s books to those in need. Books donated through the program provide an escape from the challenges faced by children, while helping to boost literacy skills outside of school. In many cases, children are getting their first book through the Half Pint Library program. The drive accepts any type of children’s book, including Spanish language books, as long as they are in good condition. The program is celebrating its nineteenth year in 2017 and has collected more than 2 million books for pediatric patients, community centers, special schools and many more children in need.
Studies by the Institute of Education Sciences and related research show significant correlations between children’s access to printed materials in the home and literacy, as well as performance in school. Unfortunately, when money is tight, buying books can’t always be a priority for families struggling to make ends meet. Half Price Books feels that every child deserves a book of their own and is hosting the book drive to benefit local children who may otherwise not have access to books. Simply donating books that a child has outgrown provides the tools to create the leaders of tomorrow.
From April 1 to 30, all Half Price Books locations serve as drop-off sites to collect new and used young children’s books. Half Price Books employees then sort through the books to make sure that children will receive only quality new and gently-used books, and will match each book donated. The “giveaway” events will be scheduled shortly after the conclusion of the drive, and Half Price Books will invite local nonprofit groups to come pick up the books.
Once a date and venue are set, local agencies and media will be contacted to announce that free children’s books donated by the community will be available for pick up at event time. Agencies must arrive with their own transportation to pick up books, and depending on the number of books collected, and number of agencies coming for pick up, boxes may be limited. The books will be an assortment of kid’s books in manageable boxes ready to be loaded.
(Information from organization’s press release and website)
More than 350 speakers and authors will take part in the 2017 Texas Library Association Annual Conference April 19-22 in San Antonio. Kicking off the conference will be New York Times-bestselling author Cory Doctorow, who will deliver the opening general session keynote (Thurs., April 20 8:15 to 9:45 am). Doctorow writes both YA and adult fiction and blogs regularly on a range of issues key to librarians—including technology and DRM—for Boing Boing, the site he cofounded and coedits. He is also a contributing editor at Publishers Weekly. His most recent book, Walkaway, will be published this month by Tor.
NPR contributor, storyteller, and New York Times best-selling author Carmen Agra Deedy will keynote General Session II (Fri., April 21 from 4 to 5 pm). Born in Cuba, Deedy, an ardent supporter of libraries, came to the U.S. as a refugee and has become famous for her poignant, humorous stories and sharp narratives.
Chelsea Clinton will deliver the closing general session keynote Sat., April 22, from 1:30 to 2:10 pm. Clinton will focus on her work across the globe, and on the young people who are making a difference in the world today. Clinton will also answer questions by Sam Houston State University assistant professor Rose Brock and will discuss ways to help children become informed, inspired global citizens. Clinton is the author of It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! (Philomel).
Hundreds of authors will be appearing at TLA and the closing author session (Sat., April 22, 11:45 am to 1:15 pm) will feature mega-bestselling author Veronica Roth. The author of the Divergent series, Roth published her latest book, Carve the Mark (HarperCollins), in January.
The opening author session (Thurs.April 29, 12:15 to 1:30 pm) will feature Greg Iles, author of Mississippi Blood (William Morrow), and Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of the The Shoemaker’s Wife, whose book Kiss Carlo: A Novel (Harper) is forthcoming in June.
The Black Caucus Roundtable Author Luncheon will feature actress and author Bern Nadette Stanis, whose memoir The Last Night recounts her challenges as a young black woman in Hollywood, and her role as a caregiver to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother.
The Children’s Roundtable (Sat., April 22, 8 to 10:15 am) will host Caldecott Medal–winner Kevin Henkes.
The TLA’s Evening with the Authors (Thurs., April 20, 6 to 9:30 pm) will feature a star-studded lineup including Nickolas Butler, Jennifer McMahon, Sara Paretsky, Ruta Sepetys, and Amanda Eyre Ward. And the Texas Association of School Librarians Business Meeting (Thurs., April 20, 3 to 5:15 pm) will host Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies and Leviathan series.
(Information from organization’s website)
AUSTIN—The Long Center for the Performing Arts will host internationally acclaimed author Neil Gaiman at the Long Center stage for one night only, July 6 at 8 pm in Dell Hall.
“I make things up and write them down” is the way Neil Gaiman describes his varied art. Today, as one of the most celebrated, best-selling writers of our time, Gaiman bends genres while reaching audiences of all ages. In this live event, “An Evening with Neil Gaiman,” he will tell stories and read stories, answer questions, and in his own words “amaze, befuddle and generally delight. It will be fun and odd and not like any other evening with Neil Gaiman.”
Gaiman’s best-selling contemporary fantasy novel American Gods took the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, and Locus awards—as did his bestselling young adult story, Coraline. Another children’s novel, The Graveyard Book, is the only work to win both the Newbery (US) and Carnegie (UK) Medals, awarded by librarians for the most prestigious contribution to children’s literature.
Tickets for Neil Gaiman will be available at TheLongCenter.org or by calling (512) 474.LONG (5664); they are also available at the Long Center’s 3M Box Office located at 701 West Riverside Drive at South First Street. For groups of ten or more, call (512) 457-5150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Long Center is an iconic, world-class performing arts center right in the heart of downtown Austin that serves more than 450,000 individuals annually. As “Austin’s Creative Home,” the Long Center hosts the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Austin Opera, and Ballet Austin, and was built “by the community, for the community.”
For more information, please visitor call (512) 474-LONG (5664) for ticket information.
(Information from organization’s press release)
TIL Awards 2017 (continued from column 1)
The other standing ovation came at the end of the TIL program for Mora, the Lon Tinkle for Lifetime Achievement award winner. A montage of all forty-seven of Mora’s books, set to the Mexican standard “El Canelo,” preceded her introduction by TIL member Sergio Troncoso.
“Pat Mora has been at the center of what I would call the renaissance of writers from El Paso, who took their work beyond El Paso, Texas, and beyond Texas to the national literary scene,” said Troncoso, a TIL council member. “She has promoted bilingualism and crossing borders in more ways than one.”
Mora came to the stage and before speaking stopped to welcome and embrace her longtime friend Elroy Bode, who delighted the crowd at the beginning of banquet with a story of Willie Morris. “I feel so grateful to Steve (Davis), Carmen (Tafolla), the board, I can’t say enough,” Mora said. “I decided what I did want to do is spend my four minutes expressing a lot of thanks. Nobody gets up here alone. I owe incredible thanks to my parents who sacrificed so much and didn’t have the opportunities that their four children had. My mom was born here and my dad came when he was three from Chihuahua. My parents had all the talents that we had but they just didn’t have the chance, so thanks to their incredible hard work.”
El Paso was highlighted throughout the two-hour banquet. The night was punctuated by new member readers, award-winner speeches and a video presentation by Marcia Hatfield Daudistel, who edited the TCU Press anthology Literary El Paso.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, who was inducted into the TIL 2009, but declined membership, was introduced by Troncoso before his new member reading.
“Today’s Texas Institute of Letters embraces you, today’s Texas Institute of Letters is honored to have you represent the best of Texas letters,” Troncoso said.
Sáenz told the audience about his love of El Paso and the bicultural environment where he learned to be creative and unashamed. “I have a career because I live in this city. I have a career because the people of this town have taught me everything I know about language and its nuances,” he said. “I’ve learned that the border, though it is considered to be at the edge of the country, is at the heart of the country.”
He thanked Davis for his “gentle and generous presence. He goes around Texas giving white, straight boys a good name.” Sáenz read the poem “Work” from Elegies in Blue about Juárez maquila workers.
In a gripping and emotional speeches, Stephen Harrigan and Skip Hollandsworth accepted the Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for short nonfiction/journalism and the Carr P. Collins Award for best book of nonfiction, respectively. Harrigan, who won for his autobiographical piece, “Off Course,” published in Texas Monthly, said he received over a hundred emails about the journey he took trying to know his father.
Hollandsworth, whose book The Midnight Assassin covered murders in Austin in the 1800s, said, “I am honored for this recognition and moved. There’s nothing I love more than the TIL.”
Daudistel welcomed TIL members gave a walking tour of writers in El Paso with a special emphasis on the Chicano literary history of the border town. “El Paso is delighted to be the host of the Texas Institute of Letters for the first time in eighty-one years,” she said. “We hope you’re not going to wait another eighty-one years to come back.”
The weekend-long event was a mix of old and new Texas letters that entertained and enthralled a membership of over 100 people throughout the weekend in El Paso. The TIL welcomed its fifteen new inductees with receptions and readings. The class of 2017 began its introduction with opening reception and poetry awards ceremony Fri., April 7, 2017, atop the Doubletree-Hilton’s Sky Lounge.
TIL Vice President Carmen Tafolla awarded Bruce Bond’s Gold Bee the Helen C. Smith Award for Best Book of Poetry. Bond read from the book with his back to the Juárez skyline at sunset.
Miriam Bird Greenberg, author of In the Volcano’s Mouth, was awarded the Bob Bush Memorial Award for First Book of Poetry; she read from the selection. Lee Merrill Byrd and Bobby Byrd, owners of Cinco Punto Press in El Paso, read selections from their respective works as new inductees.
On Saturday morning, TIL Secretary Karla K. Morton recognized three children’s book award winners: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee won the H-E-B/Jean Flynn Award for Best Children’s Book Maybe a Fox; Phillippe Diederich won the H-E-B Award for Best Young Adult Book for Playing for the Devil's Fire and Dianna Hutts Aston won the Denton Record-Chronicle Award for Best Children's Picture Book for A Beetle is Shy. Appelt and Diederich read selections from their books as did TIL inductees David Bowles and Elaine Scott.
At the TIL new members’ reception Diana Lopez, a TIL council member, introduced seven new inductees. Celeste Bedford Walker read a powerful excerpt from “Camp Logan” a touring play, based on true events, that won NAACP Play of the Year award in 1994 about the largest mutiny and court-martial in U.S. history from an all-black infantry. She was followed by journalist Cary Clack, who had audience members laughing and crying with his two columns written for the San Antonio Express-News. The first was about Rick Perry’s wisdom in taxing strip clubs to fund education and the second was the writer’s own genealogical ties to slavery and racism in Texas. He was followed by a gripping account of the Juárez femicides by Alicia Gaspar de Alba from her book Desert Blood. Other inductees who read were Elizabeth Harris, Cliff Hudder, Baine Kerr, and C. M. Mayo.
Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction
Winner: Paulette Jiles, News of the World
Finalists: Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs; Dominic Smith, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Nonfiction
Winner: Skip Hollandsworth, The Midnight Assassin
Finalists: Shelley Armitage, Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place; Dan Slater, Wolf Boys
Helen C. Smith Award for Best Book of Poetry
Winner: Bruce Bond, Gold Bee
Finalists: Jonathan Fink, Barbarossa; William Wenthe, God’s Foolishness
Bob Bush Memorial Award for First Book of Poetry
Winner: Miriam Bird Greenberg, In the Volcano’s Mouth
Finalists, Stan Crawford, Resisting Gravity; Chera Hammons, Recycled Explosions
Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction
Winner: Amy Gentry, Good as Gone
Finalists: Paul Pedroza, The Dead Will Rise and Save Us; J. Todd Scott, The Far Empty
Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for Short Nonfiction/Journalism
Winner: Stephen Harrigan, “Off Course,” in Texas Monthly.
Finalists: Debbie Nathan, “What Happened to Sandra Bland?” (The Nation); C. W. Smith, “Faux Haubeaux” (Southwest Review)
Kay Cattarulla Short Story Award
Winner: David Meischen, "Cicada Song," in Salamander
Finalists: Octavio Solis, "The Want" (Huizache); Jerry Whitus, "Restitution" (Ploughshares)
H-E-B/Jean Flynn Award for Best Children’s Book
Winner: Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee, Maybe a Fox
Finalists: Diana López, Nothing Up My Sleeve; David Liss, Rebels
H-E-B Award for Best Young Adult Book
Winner: Phillippe Diederich, Playing for the Devil's Fire
Finalists: Kathryn Ormsbee, Lucky Few; Joe Jiménez, Bloodline
Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book
Winner: Max Krochmal, Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era
Finalists: Glen Sample Ely, The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail, 1858– 1861; Kenneth Hafertepe, The Material Culture of German Texans
Denton Record-Chronicle Award for Best Children's Picture Book
Winner: Dianna Hutts Aston, A Beetle Is Shy
Finalists: Chris Barton, Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions; Nicolás Kanellos, El Torneo de Trabalenguas / The Tongue Twister Tournament
Fred Whitehead Award for Design of a Trade Book
Winner: Kristie Lee, designer, From Tea Cakes to Tamales (Texas A&M University Press) Finalists: Mary Ann Jacob, designer, Explore Texas: A Nature Travel Guide (Texas A&M University Press); Derek George, designer, How to Be a Texan: The Manual (University of Texas Press)
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