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Memoirist and fiction writer, Nancy Agabian, who teaches creative writing at NYU Gallatin and also leads her own writing group has generously invited me to join the "Blog Hop." Nancy calls blog hopping "an internet, chain mail, Q&A dance." 

Writer, Nancy Agabian

All of the following writers have answered questions about their present book projects:  Nancy Agabian, Gint Aras, Beth Neff, Ryka Aoki, and I.  At the end of my Q&A, I invite you to "blog hop" to the other writers listed to read their answers!  

Amelia M.L. Montes---

Q: What is the working title of your book?
A: The Diabetes Chronicles (a "very" "working" title because I don't think such a title will sell). I'm hoping that a different title will come to me as I continue revising. 

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: During the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I had already been researching Diabetes in my family and that of other immigrant Mexican families--weaving in fictional scenes (imagining the moment various family members were told they had Diabetes) with non-fiction (medical information and medical history having to do with Diabetes). Later, when I was diagnosed, I experienced an entirely new learning curve.  I have observed the disease from "outside" of diagnosis and now from being directly affected by it. The responses I've received when I read excerpts or post mini-sections on my blog tells me that people are interested and hungry for this information because this disease is affecting so many people.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Creative non-fiction: medical information weaved into a one-act play, memoir, journal entries, poetry, newspaper articles, recipes . . .

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A:The Diabetes Chronicles is about a woman's coming to terms with diabetes, a disease created by multiple histories/multiple nations and various people (lovers, relatives, friends) around her who either have it or are affected by it. 

 Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: --represented by an agency

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: The problem in answering this question is that I don't remember when the first draft ended and the second draft began because it's now in so many advanced stages.  Wow--difficult question to answer.  I will guess and say that the first draft lived for about a year--from 2010-2011. 

 Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: Lately I've been reading a number of memoirs that are working with broad societal issues as well as personal.  Kristen Iversen's book, Full Body Burden:  Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats is a good example of the genre.  Her book focuses on the Rocky Flats nuclear site near where she grew up in Colorado.  The families who lived in that area (which included Kristen's family) were not told about the dangers of radiation that were present in the water they played in and drank.  As well, there were secrets in her family too. Iversen is looking at a serious national/global issue while also delving into her own individual family.  This is what I'm doing with "The Diabetes Chronicles."

 Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: Diabetes inspired me to write this book!  I am passionately interested in researching the history of Diabetes, taking classes on Diabetes management, and I'm so glad I formed my own Diabetes Support Book Group with women who are very willing to talk about the disease.  I also have realized that there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I want to help others with this chronic ailment.  People are very interested in finding out how to prevent or manage the disease.

Q: What else about your book might piqué the reader's interest?
A: It's a book about love--learning to love every aspect of yourself, learning to love others despite disease, dysfunctional family histories, and a society that continually places profit over truth which then leads to serious illness in the population. 

I also post excerpts or pieces I may or may not include in the book that work well for a blog post.  Here's a piece I just posted recently:  CLICK HERE

Continue the "Blog Hop" by checking out: 

Nancy Agabian

Gint Aras

Beth Neff

Ryka Aoki


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Dear Readers-- My good friend and colleague, Joy Castro, will be having her launch party and reading from her novel Hell or High Water this Tuesday at 6p.m. at Indigo Bridge Books (701 P Street in the Creamery Building in The Haymarket).  Time: 6p.m.  Date:  Tuesday, July 17, 2012.  If you are in Lincoln, Nebraska-- come join the celebration!

I spent time with Joy Castro last week, interviewing her on the writing of her thriller, how themes of identity and searching for place figure prominently in the novel.  It's a wonderful read and I invite you to click here to read the entire interview we did together, posted today on La Bloga (click here!).

My interview with Joy is also part of one of my chapters on Latina writers who are either writing "from" the Midwest or were born and raised in the Midwest. In Chicana and U.S. Latina scholarship, what is often discussed is identity that is either lost, recovered, or in constant flux of creation/re-creation.  Often the discussions tend toward the theoretical (leaning to Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera).  What I'm doing in this scholarly book is to look much more closely at writers who claim a U.S. Latina identity, to view the complex details of identity which make it such an individualized space (like a thumbprint), and the monumental challenges inherent in creating an identity in a country that seeks to place a packaged identity upon all of us.  

In Hell or High Water, the narrator, Nola Soledad Céspedes, has mere fragments of memory, of her mother's stories, a map of Cuba, and disparate objects from which to cull an identity, from which to understand and make sense of her class standing and her movement in the world with those who come from upper class backgrounds. Included, of course, are the effects of trauma. Joy's expert hand at description, at character development and dialogue make for a compelling novel.  Can't wait to also have her second novel out too (next year!).  

Thank you Joy!  See you all (hopefully) on Tuesday at Indigo Bridge Books!
And don't forget to read the "La Bloga" interview with Joy (Click Here).

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Left to right:  Joy Castro, Linda Rodriguez, Amelia Montes, 
Allison Hedge Coke and Ben Furnish (seated)  -- at Indigo Bridge Bookstore

This weekend was a celebration of Latina and Chicana writing on the Great Plains/Midwest.  At Indigo Bridge Books here in Lincoln, Nebraska, author Linda Rodriguez read from her novel, Every Last Secret and from her book of poetry, Heart Migrations.  She also read poetry from her new manuscript and discussed her writing and publishing journey with Every Last Secret.  
Other Midwest writers were there: Joy Castro was in attendance and she will soon be out with her novel Hell or High Water (pre-order it now!).  And how lucky we were to have Allison Hedge Coke (The Reynolds Chair of Creative Writing at UNKearney) with us.  Allison is a prolific poet, editor, and author of a memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival.  And check out Allison's edited volume of Indigenous poetry:  Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas!  

Dearest Readers-- I am just so happy to have the opportunity to read these works, engage in rigorous discussion regarding craft in novel, non-fiction, and poetry writing. As well, discussions regarding identity, Latinoization, native writing were so energizing.  This weekend went by all too quickly. My two hour interview with Linda was a success and I can't tell you how excited I am to be progressing on Corazon y Tierra:  Latinas Writing on the Midwest.*  

In between our literary readings and discussions, Linda and her partner Ben, Allison and I went to the Nebraska State Capitol for a tour.  Thank you to tour guide Jameson for an excellent information-packed and humorous journey through the capitol. The interior door with the carved wood (below) remains one of my favorites.  Note the otter at the bottom of the right door.  

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We did go up to the 14th floor (thank you Maija Burdic for the reminder!) to see the vista and the rotunda and an extra gift were the peregrine falcons who were calling and quite active while we were there.  They were flying back and forth above their nest just a few feet from us as we stood on the balcony section of the 14th floor.  Such splendor.  


Thank you Linda Rodriguez for your wonderful reading.  You ended with such a poignant poem regarding the importance of understanding oneself from where one emerges.  I am wishing all of you a most wonderful week!  What are you reading these days?   

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Linda Rodriguez and Amelia Montes at the Rotunda, Nebraska State Capitol

*Corazon y Tierra:  Latinas Writing on the Midwest is the title of my critical book on contemporary writing by Latina authors who are writing either about or from the Midwest.  

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Linda Rodriguez, author of Every Last Secret, which won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel award, will be here this coming week along with a number of other novelists, poets, memoirists. Linda Rodriguez will be reading on Saturday, June 16th from 7-8p.m. at Indigo Bridge Books (701 P Street, Creamery Bldg, Haymarket).

Every Last Secret takes place in a small college town outside of Kansas City.  The college newspaper's student editor has been murdered.  Marquitta "Skeet" Bannion is on the case.  Her journey to find the killer leads to unravelling college secrets and her own personal familial struggles. The reviews for Rodriguez' first novel have been stellar:  "Skeet's debut introduces a strong, intelligent woman detective with both a knack for solving crimes and a difficult personal life.  The next episode can't come too soon" (Kirkus Reviews), and "Fans of Nevada Barr and Sara Paretsky will relish Linda Rodriguez's stellar debut.  Her sleuth, Skeet Bannion, is a keeper.  Every Last Secret is a triple crown winner; superb writing, hell for leather plotting and terrific characters" (Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of One Was a Soldier).  

But much before Linda's anticipated reading is The Nebraska Summer Writer's Conference.  
Click HERE to check out the full schedule for this week. So many wonderful writers will be reading from their work and admittance is free to these readings and panels! Tonight, for example, poet and recent Guggenheim winner, Kwame Dawes will be reading new work inspired by the plays of August Wilson (6:30p.m. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Union Auditorium, 2nd floor).  

The title of my blog post today: Every Last Secret:  seeking order out of a mess is actually a line from Rodriguez' novel.  The grandmother says this and it refers not only to the situation in which Skeet finds herself, it is also referring to all of us and our interpersonal struggles with ourselves and with each other.  It is all the more appropriate that "Gran," the elder, says this (and Rodriguez deftly avoids the oft stereotyped grandmother).  Gran also says, "If you're waiting for things to be perfect in life . . . you'll be waiting a long time."  This line reminds me of Sandra Cisneros' story "My Name" from her book, The House on Mango Street.  In that story, the character of Esperanza is explaining the meaning of her name: "In English my name means hope . . . It means sadness, it means waiting."  And then later she compares it to her grandmother who always waited:  "She looked out her window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow."  I've always liked that phrase:  "sit their sadness on an elbow."  Brilliant.  Rodriguez's "Gran" is the opposite of Cisneros' grandmother in "My Name."  Rodriguez's Gran and granddaughter Skeet demonstrate women who are out in the world, who are unafraid to be and to name their vulnerabilities and insecurities which then transform them to self-actualized, powerful women.  Fearless!  Nice to have such strong and ethical characters in novels.  

The Kirkus Reviews definitely have it right:  "The next episode can't come too soon!"

See you at the readings!  Sending you all powerfully positive energies, dear readers!