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Felicidades, Spring Semester News y Mas----

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First-- Felicidades to our Ethnic Studies Graduate T.A., Leslie Martinez.  She received a Graduate Studies Honorable Mention this past week for the excellent work in Ethnic Studies she does. Leslie has been working with us and we've been so pleased to have her contributions to the Ethnic Studies curriculum and especially to the students who benefit for her expertise.  Gracias Leslie!

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Leslie Martinez y Amelia M.L. Montes at Graduate Studies Award Reception

Second:  I am teaching a fabulous group of graduate and undergraduate students in my American Novels class.  We are already deep into discussions of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Dreiser's An American Tragedy, and Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.  In teaching, two theorists of critical pedagogy I follow are educators bell hooks and Paulo Freire who write:

"Engaged pedagogy does not seek simply to empower students.  Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process."  --bell hooks

"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." 
--Paulo Freire


Book list for American Novels class

I look forward to a full and rich semester of discussion!  And in addition to these novels (picture above) students will also be presenting on over 20 other American novels.  Much to consider for this semester!

Third:  A temperate Nebraska January gave way to a February that presented us with the first significant snowstorm of the season--gifting us with a foot of snow.  I took the picture below early as the snow was falling an inch an hour (about 6:30a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4).

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And then later in the day-- the job of digging out:

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And now today (Sunday, Feb. 5) --we have brilliant sun and the sound of melting snow . . .

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I am wishing all of you an excellent second week in February---
More soon . . . 

Here's hoping that all of you dear readers had lovely holidays and a felicitous, peaceful, and smooth entry into the beginnings of 2012. During this time of year, I often hear from students who have either graduated recently or long ago and who I now call friends.  Two friends who I mention here are former students from our English Department at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln:  Lenna Pierce is a gifted musician and singer and Emily Danforth is a gifted writer whose first novel comes out in February.  

I had coffee with Lenna Pierce last week. She had just returned from her cross-country one-woman concert tour:  from Lincoln, Nebraska to New York.  It was intriguing listening to her road stories.  She recounted experiences in bars, dives, and very nice concert venues.  Most interesting to me were her descriptions of the music she heard along the way, the musicians she met--alternative, experimental.  Lenna is in a world far and away from popular culture.  The kind of music she creates with her cello, voice and words, transcends anything that is on the radio or I-Pods right now.  I find it literary, creatively multi-layered, so complex in its lightness. Before Lenna went solo, she performed with Rachel West (who accompanied Lenna's cello with an accordian) and they called their duo, "Das Hoboerotica."  They played various venues here in Lincoln, Nebraska until Rachel decided to pursue other interests.  Now Lenna has broadened her concert card to a number of states between here and New York (inclusive of NY). You don't meet many alternative cello playing singers.  Lenna says the cello, "just feels so right.  You know, it's big and warm but it's dark too.  It's not a simple instrument, but it is a beautiful one." Lenna's music reminds me of the Argentine singer, Juana Molina.  Juana sings in what I call "Rioplatense Spanish transcendency." Rioplatense is the regional Spanish she chooses to use in the writing of her songs.  Listen to her here: (CLICK) and also here: (CLICK). She is in a kind of trance, repeating words, verses, shifting chords that shift the listener, move us into another space. Sometimes I imagine Lenna Pierce playing with Juana Molina. What a collaboration that would be!

If you're in Lincoln, Nebraska tomorrow (Friday, January 6th) you can hear Lenna Pierce at Meadowlark Coffee House at 8p.m. (1624 South Street).  

Emily Danforth received her PhD in creative writing just last May 2011 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  She is now an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College in Providence.  
Her soon-to-be-published book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a coming of age novel and it is riveting, told in gorgeous descriptive prose. 


When I read Emily's words, I am literally there lying on the Montana fields watching those slow moving clouds above me.  She carries you from there to heartbreaking and bittersweet first love, loss, and maturity. The book is already a "starred review" from Kirkus Reviews:  "Rich with detail and emotion, a sophisticated read for teens and adults alike."  Booklist also starred it:  "[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age."  It will be released February 7th.  You can also pre-order from your local bookstore!  

Lately, book publishers have been marketing their books with youtube mini-films.  It's brilliant.  Emily's publisher, Balzer and Bray have come 
out with a sweet, lovely "trailer" so to speak, to whet your appetite.  Here it is: CLICK HERE.

I always wish for our students to find what makes their hearts leap, to pursue a passion-- not to pursue what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope for students to dig deep inside themselves and find their true gifts to develop. Lenna and Emily are passionate about their work.  It shows.  It delights.  We are lucky to have them share their gifts with us.  

And on that note, today I read a wonderful article in the New York Times regarding professors who are taking their lectures "to the bar" or to concert hall venues, or main stages of clubs-- giving lectures for free-- trying out their ideas in public.  This is wonderful.  Here's the article about it entitled:  "Continuing Education, at the Bar."  These are people who wish to reach a different audience from the 8a.m. class.  It's a way to spread the love of learning.  

First I want to thank and also send props to our Macondo Writing Workshop participants: Barbara Renaud, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Veronica Reyes, Juan Guzman, Gabriela Lemmons, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Rene Colato Lainez and the best co-teacher I could ever have, Pat Alderete! and thanks also to Anel Flores (chuparosa for the week) who came to visit for two sessions. Orale Anel!  You all RAWK!

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With every writing workshop, participants often ask, "How can we continue writing?" or they worry about going back to their routines where for them it is a struggle to carve out time to write.  Maybe you are in that same situation.

If you are, I am posting here a link to Laurie Halse Anderson's site:  "Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge."  That's all--just fifteen minutes. Leslea Newman wrote in to Anderson's site and said she's going to use this challenge to write a poem every day for the month of August.  Andale!  

Here are some other writing tips that I have found helpful:  Macondista Beatriz Terrazas and I discussed how we like writing first thing in the morning.  Another Macondista, Joy Castro, does the same thing.  You wake up and have your writing journal, computer, paper right next to your bed or you immediately get to your writing space and take the first hour, two or three to write.  No interruptions--no excuses.  First thing.  As Beatriz says--"then you've got it out and you have the entire day ahead of you and you feel good.  You have success right away!"

I have been taking the morning to write and then the afternoon/evening to edit.  But everyone is different.  Some of you may not be morning writers.  You may be better equipped after the 9 or 10p.m. hour.  Well--do the same, just in reverse!  Orale.  

It's August 1st-- think positive!  Lots of great writing ahead.  This blog is dedicated to my fabulous Macondista writers!  I'm cheering you on Gabriela, Veronica, Laurie Ann, Anel, Barbara, Charles, Juan-Luis, Rene, y Pata!  And all of you writers out there who I do not know--I wish you good writing energies as well.



Honoring Writing, Honoring Our Passions

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Felicidades to my friend and Macondista colleague, Lorraine López--nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for her collection, _Homicide Survivor's Picnic and Other Stories_!  Lorraine's tightly woven stories are about mujeres who are at the end of their wits, who are imperfect, volatile, riding on a thin track of hope. With humor and compassion, Lorraine's keen literary precision dissects human failings, bad behavior, screwball triumph.  She knows how to  reveal the worst in all of us.  Check out Lorraine's other wonderful books:  The Gifted Galbadon Sisters and Call Me Henri

I also want to give a shout out to my lovely film students who are doing a great job in their weekly discussions and writing. Last week, with just minimal preparation, they prepared and performed a strong oral reading of Chicano poet/activist Corky Gonzáles' "Yo Soy Joaquin." Then we saw the film adaptation of the poem (done in 1969).  Their observations of the film version were insightful, fresh.  The discussion became even more in-depth when I added the 23 minute "Yo Soy Chicana" (done ten years later in 1979) by Sylvia Morales.  Morales had received a $5,000 grant while a film student at UCLA.  And with that money, "Yo Soy Chicana" became a reality.  Later, she received $10,000 for a Spanish version of the film.  The students quickly noted the linear, heavily historical aspect to the Morales film while "Yo Soy Joaquin" ascribes to a romantic view with a non-linear presentation. Both are fascinating to connect. 

Next week, we will be reading the play, _Real Women Have Curves_ in preparation for analyzing how plays are translated to film.  My friend and colleague, Joy Castro, will be entering into the conversation as a guest speaker.  She has written on both the play and film version of "Real Women Have Curves"!  Yay for collaborations and literary/film discussions!  
And by the way, if you haven't checked out Joy Castro's website, go GO--click here!  Check out her blog!  

Sending you all, lovely readers, good wishes! And felicidades again to Lorraine López!