Saturday, November 20, 2010

Las Bernsteinistas en Austin

In this photo, poet,  translator, and all around hot mama, Liliana Valenzuela, Julia Alvarez, y yo at the Big Read Event held at the Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin, Texas. You can't tell from this photo, but the joint was packed!  Oh—we call ourselves the "Bernsteinistas" because we all have the same agent, Stuart Bernstein. We heart him mucho.  :-)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Uniendo Talentos--A huge success!

Here are a few photos from Uniendos Talentos (a Big Read event) that occurred at Dominican Joe's in Austin. As participant and moderator, I was pleased with how the assembled writers worked together to realize the spirit of the panel: an artistic "jam session," if you will, talking about how we approach our genres from various perspectives.

In this photo: screenwriter MIGUEL ALVAREZ, novelist CRISTINA GARCIA, and singer/songwriter DAVID GARZA.

Me (standing) along with the panelists, after the event.

Cristina was sweet to message me on FaceBook to say how much fun she had. I responded: We should do it again, in another city--perhaps at AWP? Too soon to pull it together for February's conference, but maybe the next?

Isn't Cristina García darling? You won't meet a more generous, gentle spirit. Besides having her on our Big Read panel, I had the pleasure of having dinner with her and interviewing her for a piece that will run in my newspaper, The Austin Chronicle on Thanksgiving (the article should be posted on our website Nov. 25 or 26, 2010). She read from her newest novel, The Lady Matador's Hotel, but did you know that she's also released a new book of poetry this year titled, The Lesser Tragedy of Death? In a word, it's stunning. Deeply personal, heartbreaking, and beautiful, the poems talk about growing up with her troubled brother. Read more about this remarkable book and her other work in my Chronicle piece. I hope I did her justice.

García  has been teaching at the writing program I graduated from at the University of Texas at Austin this semester. If you're in Austin December 2, come hear her read, live and in person! Click here for more information.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Uniendo Talentos--A Writers' Circle at the Big Read

Have you heard of The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts supported project? Austin Community College is hosting local Big Read events, while similar projects occur across the nation over several months. The Big Read includes readings and related events meant to celebrate reading and literacy. This year's featured author is Julia Alvarez (who so kindly and generously blurbed my first book, Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz.)

As a writer, reading and literacy is one of my causes. So, I was thrilled when Dulce Bread and Bookshop owner Teresa Carbajal Ravet asked me to help her assemble a last minute addition to the Big Read line up. And thanks to our fellow comadre Myrna Cabello (who, regrettably, will  not be able to join us this time around),  I think we've assembled a fabulous event: Uniendo Talentos: A Latino Writers Creative Circle. This unusual event will feature a round table discussion with writers from several disciplines. I serve as the moderator, engaging this astonishing group of writers to talk about their work: Novelist Cristina Garcia, Austin-based singer-songwriter David Garza, and up and coming filmmaker, Miguel Alvarez. What will be unusual about this event is that the artists are invited to ask each other questions about their work:
How is a poem like a song?
What is the language of film?
How do we hear words?

Besides the talk, each participant will share a bit of their work. So, all five senses will be covered: the aroma of fresh coffee and the taste of goodies from the host venue, the music of spoken word by Garcia and myself, the sound of music by David Garza, and a short visual treat from Miguel. I'm excited! I hope you are too!

Uniendo Talentos takes place at Dominican Joe's Coffee Shop, a cozy coffee shop at the corner of Riverside and Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. Click here for the details. Hope you can make it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the road & back again

I was honored to be invited to the Hispanic Corporate Women's Institute in Phoenix October 21. Here I am with my comadre panelists Marisel Herrera-Anderson, Reyna Grande, and Lisha Adela García. (I'm standing). Our panel was moderated by La Reyna de Las Comadres para las Americas, Nora Comstock. It was thanks to her that I was invited to attend the Institute to begin with. She prompted our discussion of the writerly life and we fielded questions from the inquisitive and eager audience—all Latinas! This photo is us after the panel in the Las Comadres booth, signing books, answering questions, getting photos taken.

The next day, I returned to Austin after being on the road for three weeks (San Diego, Los Angeles, Tucson, Phoenix). But no time to rest! I had to gear up for the Dulce Bread & Bookshop event, an evening of song and story to celebrate the soft opening of the new bookstore in Dripping Springs, Texas (minutes from Downtown Austin). Teresa Carbajal Ravet is the owner of this unique, independent bookstore featuring a wide array of culturally diverse books. This is me, admiring her small shop. Future plans are to open a larger store in Austin. Where? That's the big question. Teresa is carefully weighing her options and looking for just the right location. In the meantime, you can order from her online! Click here to shop Dulce online.

Next on the calendar: working with Teresa on a Big Read event scheduled November 12. We've organized a "creative circle," where several writers from various disciplines talk about how they approach their work. Musician David Garza, filmmaker Miguel Alvarez, novelist Cristina Garcia, and I will be on hand to chat, sing, read, and show our work. It will be lovely, lively event. More details as they are firmed up.

Right now, I'm tired but glad to be back home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Latino Book & Family Festival, Los Angeles - 2010

I was there! And here's my name tag to prove it. It was a lovely, sunny day on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. I was so pleased to see such a nice turn out, and even more pleased to be among friends, old and new. I got to visit with an old friend who I hadn't seen in 20 years. That was such a treat! I got to meet Reyna Grande (who it looks like I'll see again at the Latina Women's Corporate Conference in Phoenix), and catch up with my fellow Macondistas at the LBFF dinner.

Macondistas represent! Left to right: Liz Gonzalez, me, Amada Perez, Tatiana de la Tierra. We all appeared on or moderated panels. I spoke on the panel, "Through the Looking Glass: Using Your Life to Write Good Fiction."

Chola pose with Edward James Olmos. Not really. I was trying to tell him something when the person taking the picture decided to shoot. Olmos lends his name to the festival, several of which occur around the country. I would really like to get one going in Austin. Heard there's some movement in San Antonio—and it makes sense to have it there. But I think an Austin version would be awesome. On the other hand, I don't need any more distractions from writing. It's a constant battle.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Save the Date! Oct. 23, 2010

A Sweet Evening of Song & Story
Oct. 23, 2010
(time TBA)
Dripping Springs, Texas 
minutes from downtown Austin

See what's cooking at the area's newest book store, specializing in cross cultural and bilingual books. Music by Myrna Cabello, reading by Belinda Acosta & other sweet surprises.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Much Awesomeness at Las Comadres Book Club!

Hello friends and fans! 

It's been a while. I am finally feeling like myself after the arthroscopic surgery this summer. I’m doing better and have graduated to a cane.

One of my first public appearances post-surgery was at the Las Comadres Book Club here in Austin. This is only one of many Comadres’ Book Clubs that meet monthly around the nation. (So much for the stereotype about Latin@s not reading. Who started that ridiculous idea, anyway?) My recent book, Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over was the Las Comadres’ Book Club Selection for September, and the North Austin book club invited me to sit in on their discussion about the book.

The North Austin book club meets monthly at the Borders Bookstore at the Domain shopping center. Honestly, I don't travel up north much but this was well worth the trip. Do you know what it's like to sit with a group of women who read your book and have all kinds of things to say about it? It was amazing! Even their criticism was lively, offered with good humor, mucho cariño, and appreciation. I was truly, truly honored. Making time to read in this media-rich climate takes a special sort of diligence. It’s easy if you’re bibliophiles, as these women are. Listening to each of them talk, it's clear they devour books and are always on the lookout for more. In fact, they came up with three more books I should write based on their response to Sister, Strangers, and Starting Over alone!

I had a great time with these book lovers and am sure to have more fun this Monday (Sept. 27) during the Las Comadres’ Teleconference. As the featured writer for the month, I will be interviewed by Julia Amante, author of Evenings at the Argentine Club. And you can listen in. Go to the Las Comadres website for more information on how to participate in the teleconference.

Below are a few more photos from the evening, thanks to me comadre Liliana Valenzuela. Pictured above are Cynthia Ramos (c) the North Austin book club coordinator. To her left is Rachael Torres, the Las Comadres national book club coordinator. Sorry, I don't recall la comadre's name on the left. Perhaps someone will remind me.

The party's just getting started.

The sign in table. I was told these were the last of the books pre-ordered for book club!

Friday, July 30, 2010

BookPeople, Austin, Texas: July 23, 2010

Note the yummy cupcakes at my elbow. Thanks to all who came out, bought books, and celebrated with me. Mi amiga Myrna Cabello, who sang between reading selections, promises a video clip of the reading. I'll post when it comes in. Oh, and thanks to Perla Cavasos for letting me borrow this pic.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reader Review: Paulet Smart, Austin, Texas

Paulet Smart of The Write Club posted this sweet review of Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over on The Write Club blog. Check it out here.

I have a couple of other reader reviews to post, too. Forgive me. I'm still catching up after the knee surgery. Today, I discovered an entire page of emails I hadn't even opened the last week of June! Which just proves what I've always suspected: I do pretty well with pain, but anesthesia and painkillers—forget it! They make me completely, and utterly useless!

Be well!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Books, Cupcakes & Song

Soooo happy that the lovely and talented Myrna Cabello is joining me on my inaugural reading of Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over. I've known Myrna for years. We lost touch, then (thankfully) found each other again, just as her singing/songwriting career was taking off. I always knew she could sing. I didn't know what a talented songwriter she was. I'm so thrilled she found a song that would work well as an interlude piece during the reading. Short, simple, and lovely. I got goosebumps as I listened to the MP3 she sent me, later asking me, "Is this all right?"

All right? It's amazing!

If you're in Austin, join us at BookPeople as I read a little, Myrna sings a little, and we enjoy amazing cupcakes from Four Pink Dragonflies.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New knee, new book!

It's not how I would have planned it, but I knee surgery last week--just weeks before SISTERS, STRANGERS, AND STARTING OVER is to be released. Have been out of it, but getting better every day.

If you are in the Austin area I hope you will come to the SISTERS reading at BookPeople, July 23 at 7pm.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Damas wins the 2010 Mariposa Prize!

The 12th Annual International Latino Book Awards were awarded May 25, 2010, and Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz was a winner! Damas received the Mariposa Prize, the award given for Best First Book (English), at this year's awards ceremony held during the BookExpo of America convention in New York City.

The kind wishes and congratulations received from fellow writers across the nation has been lovely. But the best thing of all is that the award came from Latino Literacy Now, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy and literary excellence within the Latino community. They created the Latino Book Awards in 1999. In addition, they are behind several Latino Book Festivals that take place in Latino-rich communities across the nation. The next one is in Houston this September.

I wasn’t the only celebrated writer. Colleagues and writers I’ve long admired were also recognized for their work, including: Carmen Tafolla, René Colato Laiñez, Oscar Hijuelos, Marjorie Agosín, Josefina López, Barbara Renaud Gonzalez, Carolina de Robertis, Lucha Corpi, and many others were recognized in over 50 categories.

Congratulations to all the award-winners!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Festival of Texas Writers

After some old-fashioned rabble-rousing, followed by a few days of diplomacy (and flak-catching), I will appear with John Phillip Santos, Barbara Renaud, and Emilio Zamora on a panel featuring Tejano Writers at this event on Saturday, May 8, in Austin, Texas. Long story. I promise to tell the tale when it's over.

In the meantime, click here to get a hint of what happened. It's all good. So far. And if you're in Austin, please come to the Scholtz Garten to get an earful of some hot-damn good writing by some of our best, Tejano writers. In my humble opinion, Santos is brilliant. Barbara Renaud is sublime, and Dr. Zamora is doing that all important work of documenting our history for the future.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Good news to share

Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over, the second book in the Quinceañera Club series (July 2010) has been included in the Recommended Reading List for this year's Children's Day/Books Day, El día de los niños/El día de los libros, April 30, 2010. My book is among the Young Adult titles. The Association of Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association) assembles the list, along with REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking) and the Association of American Publishers Publishing Latino Voices for America Task Force.

While my book was
not originally conceived as a Young Adult novel, I'm honored to be recognized by librarians. They were among the most important people in my early reading and writing life, and I still harbor the idea of going back to school to become a librarian. As if this honor weren't enough, I am equally thrilled to be included with authors like Oscar Hijuelos, Pat Mora, and Carlos Ruiz Safron.

Along with this good news, I received the Latino Books Month Recommended Reading List. That list, I'm pleased to say, includes some friends and colleagues:
Amelia Montes (who wrote the introduction to Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton's Who Would Have Thought It?), and John Phillip Santos. Amelia, John Phillip and I are members of the Macondo Writers' Collective. Other notable writers on the adult list include: Reyna Grande, Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Luis Borges, and Helen Thorpe. All this news is "hot off the press." When an active link to a website is available, I'll be sure to post so you can read both the Día and the Latino Books Month lists in their entirety.

Recognition for Sisters.... came earlier when Las Comadres selected it for their September 2010 book club read. I will also participate in their teleconference, which should be interesting. This newspaper writer is not used to being interviewed. I guess there's a first time for everything!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Check out the photos from the Quinceañera event April 17, 2010

Gloria Espitia, the liaison to the Mexican American community for the Austin History Center and her small crew of volunteers did a lovely job of pulling together many people, with many needs, into one tidy event. Gloria blames me for the event. I say it was all her idea. The one thing we agree on is that expanding the voices of women in the Mexican American Oral History Project in Austin is a must. That's why this event was so important: to spread the word and encourage more women and their families to come forward and tell their stories—quinceañera stories and others.

In this photo, I'm standing next to Teresa Carbajal Ravet's lovely signage for her new venture, Dulce Bread and Bookshop (which I've written about before). So excited for Teresa!!

To look at more photos, click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quinceañeras: A Celebration of Community, Family, Faith, and Symbolism

April 17, 2010 1pm-4:30pm
Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St., Austin, Texas

Gloria Espitia says this was all my idea. I say it was hers. We agree to disagree. My ultimate goal is to expand the oral histories from women in the Mexican American Archive at the Austin History Center (of which Gloria serves as custodian). Having used those archives, I saw that the history of women could stand to be beefed up a bit. So, when Damas... came out, I thought, what a great way to collect some of those stories, kind of like they do on StoryCorps on NPR.

Gloria has done an outstanding job of training volunteer interviewers, as well as pulling together this event, practically single-handed. I will be reading from Damas, sharing the stage with the esteemed Norma Cantú, who will share her research on the quinceañera and other rituals. I am hoping that Dulce Bread and Bookshop will be there to sell books. If not, I'll give you the skinny on site on how to get your very own copy of Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz.

Here's the program, thanks to the Austin History Center flyer:
• Belinda G. Acosta will read from her book Damas, Drama and Ana Ruiz
• Dr. Norma E. Cantu will speak on La Quinceañera: A Chicana/Latina Coming of Age Ritual.
• Fashion show sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Central Texas
• Panel discussion relating to the differences and similarities of quinceañeras in Latin@ cultures
• Oral history interviews conducted with families who have celebrated quinceañeras.

Event is free and open to the public

For more information: contact Gloria Espitia or call (512) 974-7498.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Who shops at indie bookstores? President Obama does

Who shops at indie bookstores? President Obama does

Posted using ShareThis

Oh, this makes me so very, very happy, especially on a day when I decided I was going to go on a book buying spree at my favorite indie bookstore here in Austin, BookPeople. And the fact that Obama was buying books for young people only makes me happier. Speaking of happy, my cockles were warmed when the Noche de Cuentos event I participated in last week had an info table from the Austin Public Library set up. Among the books on display was a copy of DAMAS... Call me a dork, but seeing that little sticker on the spine gave me such a warm feeling, as did the news from one of the young people who saw the book and asked if she could have it. "Yes," the spokesperson behind the table said. "You can check it out at the library!" It's the little things that make it all worth it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In spite of what the New York Times says, my favorite place in Austin for breakfast tacos (and hot damn, good coffee) is Curra's on E. Oltorf. What's yours?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More ¡Ajuas! This time, for Lorraine M. Lopez!!!

My confidant and fellow Macondista LORRAINE M. LOPEZ is among this year's PEN/Faulkner Fiction nominees! I can't tell you how thrilled I am for her. Also nominated are Sherman Alexie for War Dances; Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna; Lorrie Moore for A Gate at the Stairs; and Colson Whitehead for Sag Harbor. When I spoke to Lorraine about her nomination, she was still in a daze... started to veer into that, "I can't believe my luck" talk. There may be some luck involved, but no amount of luck will get crap writing this kind of recognition. Read about Lorraine and her fellow nominees here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A big AJUA! to Vicki Grise of San Anto for winning the Yale Drama Series Award.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Journey of Books

A lovely review of Damas from A Journey of Books. It came out in August but my Google Reader just found it today. I really like the voice of this blogger (and not just because nice things were written). There's a zeal in the voice that I really appreciate. Hope Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over will get some love from this site as well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dulce Bread & Bookshop is LIVE!

Congrats to Teresa Carbajal! She officially launched Dulce Bread & Bookshop for your reading pleasure. Check out her new sight, be a fan, order a book, and more importantly: read!

Friday, January 29, 2010

More surprises...

I just found out Professor Sonia Saldivar-Hull is going to teach Damas... later this spring in one of her English classes at the University of Texas San Antonio. How that came to pass makes me smile. Turns out my friend Javier gave a copy of the book to her, through her husband. Javier works as a freelance operating room nurse—moves from hospital to hospital as doctors' personal surgical assistants. Well, Dr. Hull is one of his doctors! Which just goes to show: it's who you know. Speaking of which, it looks like I may meet one of the producers for Real Women Have Curves next week. Again, another chance encounter. Who knows where that will lead?!

On another note, I've been getting word that Sisters, Strangers, And Starting Over, the second book in the Quinceañera Club series, is available for pre-sale at various online sources. Check it out!

And lastly, I'll be appearing at the Quince Expo here in Austin at the Travis County Expo Center. Yes, you heard that right: the Expo center, meaning they are expecting a humongous turnout! I'll be hanging out at the Girl Scouts of Central Texas and the Austin History Center booth. They are working together to launch the Quinceañera Oral History Project. I'm their unofficial spokesperson—Gloria Espitia of the History Center insists it was all my idea. I insist it was hers. We've agreed to disagree. What we both agree on is the need to capture the stories of Mexican American women in Austin and beyond. Having accessed the Mexican American archives of the Austin History Center in the past, it's clear that the voice of women is present, but not as strong as it should be. We hope to change that with this and other projects in the future.

If you're in Austin and going to the Quince Expo, please come by and say "hello." I have some goodies to give away....maybe you'll be a lucky recipient?

Monday, January 4, 2010