Monday, November 30, 2009

Latina/o Writers Today Are Sharing Their Talents Through Their Websites, Blogs, or e-Zines...Check Them Out!

The more I educate myself about Latina/o writers in the United States today, the more I realize that most of them are making their voices heard in the most accessible medium in the world: the internet. Famous American Hispanic authors as well as up-and-coming writers have established websites, write regular blogs, or contribute to the regular blogs of others. Included in the mix are Latina/o writers of the journalistic mold who write about other writers.

I'm an example of three of these categories: (1) Though I've recently published a book (The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories), I'm an emerging author (I first published in the 1970's and 1980's then stopped publishing until recently while I worked on my career). (2) I contribute to the Powerful Latinas blog, which I'll tell more about in just a minute. (3) In this blog, American Latina/o Writers Today, I take the pleasure of writing about other writers.

This use of the internet as a publishing outlet is an exciting scene and offers the general public many avenues for enjoying the thoughts and creativities of Latina/o writers. It also gives exposure to the authors, which is often hard to obtain in today's competitive society. Here are some of the websites and blogs you should check out.

Author's Websites

A prime example is that of famed author, Sandra Cisneros. Go to learn about where she gets her inspirations for her writing. It's fascinating. You can also learn about her works and any upcoming book readings. Sandra is one of the most highly-honored Latina authors in America today, starting with her novel, House on Mango Street. She was born in Chicago and presently teaches in San Antonio, Texas.

Another author with a fascinating website is Patricia Mora at She's an award-winning author of children's books and of poetry. In 1995, she published the poetry book, Agua Santa Holy Water.

A third example of a good author website to visit is Gary Soto was born in Fresno, California, and has written 11 books of poems, as well as the acclaimed novel, Jesse. In 1993, Gary edited the outstanding collection of other Latinos' short stories called Pieces of the Heart.

Some Outstanding Blogs

I'll talk about two of them today: Powerful Latinas and La Bloga. Their links, respectively, are

Powerful Latinas was started by an attorney, Aurelia E. Flores, in 2007 to compile and publish stories about prominent Latinas and how they overcame obstacles in order to succeed. Aurelia invites a number of bloggers to contribute articles on diverse topics to her blog and also interviews high profile Latinas. This blog is lively, fresh, and up-to-date with advice, book recommendations, and introspective writings on selected topics. Check it out!

La Bloga includes reviews of books written by Hispanic authors today. One of the reviewers is the well-known author previously profiled in this blog, American Latina/o Writers Today, Daniel Olivas. La Bloga is considered one of the top Hispanic blogs in America today.

Internet Magazines (e-Zines) Are Also Making Their Mark!

One of the most helpful to Latina/o writers is Latinidad: Latino Writers by Marcela Landres, an editor who wrote the e-book, How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You, which is available through her website, Marcela has been consulting privately with authors for many years, providing editing assistance and advice, and has helped them get published. She especially focuses on Latina/o authors, which is the mission of Latinidad. The prominent magazine, Writer's Digest, named Marcela's site "one of the best 101 websites for writers."

A relatively new e-zine is Latin Connection, created and edited by Wayne Zamora, working out of South Carolina. He first started out with a bilingual Hispanic outreach newsletter for the community but went to the digital format in recent years. It's a fulltime, family-run enterprise, with his daughter playing a prominent editorial/photographer role as well. Wayne describes Latin Connection as an "educational entertainment family magazine" that spotlights the various realms of Chicano culture and achievements, such as in music, modeling, acting, and writing. He also gives recognition to military heroes, currently serving and veterans ("We have over 1 million Hispanics in the military," he says). His e-zine is chock-full of photos, and he covers people  and events from throughout the nation. He has contacts in the Midwest and the West as well as on the East Coast. His e-zine is growing.

One writer he has recently profiled is Edna Campos Graven-Horst, an award-winning author of 6 children's books who recently moved back to her native San Antonio, Texas. Edna's biographical profiles of prominent Latinas/os have been published in Latin Connections. In addition, the early-Texas historical accounts of historian Dan Arellano have also been published in Wayne's e-zine. Learn more about these acclaimed Texas authors at their websites. Edna's is Dan's website is Wayne, like Marcela, is helping give recognition to Latina/o writers and to foster their recognition in today's literary scene.

Looking to the Future...

May our American Hispanic writers continue showcasing their writing talents on the internet in these various venues! All the recognition they can get is necessary and helpful. We as a collective group, however, need to support these writers and their continuing efforts by doing more than reading their websites, blogs, and e-zines. We also need to purchase their books, attend their public readings/signings whenever we can, subscribe to their e-zines, and, most important of all, spread the word about them!

We care about the role of Latina/o writers in the tapestry of American literature. Our caring must always be translated into direct action to help them become fully integrated into the fabric of our nation's literary heritage.

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My new book, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories, is available through your favorite bookstore, at, or Also, you can read the full text of my book's title story on my blog,

Monday, October 19, 2009

I live in Pasadena, a beautiful mid-sized city in Southern California known for the world-famous Rose Bowl and Rose Parade, among many other landmarks and claims to fame. We also have the Jet Propulsion Lab, a critical part of our nation's space program, along with Cal Tech, one of the top scientific universities in the U.S., on a par with MIT. Pasadena has world-class museums and art galleries, the mansion where the TV Batman show was shot years ago, historic homes built by famed architects Frank Lloyd Wright and the Greene and Greene Brothers of Craftsman Bungalow fame. Pasadena is a beautiful cultural gem we're proud of!

Another thing Pasadena has that we Latina/o authors in this city are very proud of is a little core group of authors who have recently published books. (The famed police novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, lived in Pasadena, and the classic cowboy writer, Zane Grey, lived next to our city). Here are some of these authors and their books published this calendar year:

Roberta published Latinos in Pasadena, part of the nationwide photographic, historical book series called Images of America, issued by Arcadia Publishing. As the back cover of her book states, Roberta's ties to Pasadena are substantial. She is much more besides a writer. She is well-known as a community activist, historian, lecturer, city commissioner, television producer, arts trustee, and advisor for the Pasadena Historical Museum and local school district. In her book, Roberta culled archival photos, newspaper articles, academic research papers, a local history project completed for Pasadena in 1995, and countless oral anecdotes and privately-owned vintage photo collections. She wove all her findings into a beautiful little book that traces "the legacies of Mexican-Americans and other Latino men and women who often worked for Pasadena's rich and famous...for generations."

Each photo is accompanied with historical explanations that help readers understand the impact of Latinos in Pasadena's evolution. Early Pasadena Latino settlers were mostly migrants and immigrants, but Pasadena is now about one-fourth Latino, and Roberta's book explores "the complexity of community and individual identity" that has led to the Latino presence being felt and respected in high levels across our city today, from the superintendent of schools, to school board members, city council members, prominent professionals, and others in leadership roles.

Roberta has left open the possibility of writing and publishing additional volumes in the near future, since "there still is so much more to be shared." We wish her much success!

Randy, like Roberta, has made a name for himself in Pasadena, Calfornia, not just for his writing, but for his community activism and leadership. His book, Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience, was published by Hamilton Books, an affiliate of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. This is a memoir in which Randy details his personal evolution in America. Born in the U.S., Randy was deported with his undocumented mother to El Salvador when he was a baby. He witnessed much turmoil and violence in El Salvador and eventually was able to return to the U.S. as a young boy. He lived in volatile South Central Los Angeles, where numerous friends and schoolmates were caught up in gang violence and ended up dead, imprisoned, homeless, unemployed, or desperately struggling to make a meaningful life. Through much personal initiative, studiousness, family supportiveness, and help from mentors, Randy achieved academic success, stability, and greater hopes of living the American dream.

Randy's book not only traces his growth into the community leader and successful social activist he has become, it throws a spotlight on many social injustices that plagued our society in recent decades and that continue to create barriers to equality of opportunity for many people living and working in America, primarily immigrant families. Randy contends that elected leaders, along with dedicated community organizations, must work to erase these injustices and build hope in all people.

Victor, born in Kingsville, Texas, is nonetheless a "true-blue Pasadenan." Like Roberta and Randy, Vic has devoted most of his adult life to serving our his case, as a police officer, exhibiting fine artist, arts activist, and community volunteer as well as a writer. In 2009, Vic published his third book, a romantic, sexy novel called Telenovela, issued by Outskirts Press. This fast-paced, engaging novel is a story within a story, so to speak. The main plot is set entirely in Pasadena, but occasional flashbacks take us to Mexico. The "telenovela" of the title is actually a Mexican soap opera that some of the book's characters watch occasionally and that, ironically, parallels the events that the main characters are actually experiencing. The book alternates at times between the plot of the telenovela and the events involving the book's characters, so that the melodrama of the former underscores the drama of the latter. It's an interesting, engaging dynamic!

The book's main characters are two beautiful, intelligent young Latina women who are first-generation Americans. The parents of Miriya emigrated from Argentina, and Lorena's parents came from Mexico. Unbeknownst to these protagonists, they have fallen in love with the same man, a situation that threatens the budding, genuine friendship between the two women. There are plenty of romantic scenes in the book to compete with a racy modern movie, but there are also scenes of sadness and pathos, rib-tickling humor, and down-to-earth authenticity in how modern Latinas balance careers, cultures, and their own evolving identities.

Victor has written two other books: Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000, issued by Herff Jones in 1999; and Love, Death, and Other War Stories, published by iUniverse in 2005. The first book was commissioned by the city, and the second book was inspired by Victor's police experiences in Pasadena. He is currently working on his fourth book, which he hopes to complete before 2009 ends.

Stay tuned. In the meantime, support these outstanding three I've introduced you to. Their books are all available through your local bookstores, or at, among other online venues. These authors make our pride in Pasadena even stronger, with their contributions to the reputation Pasadena already has as a culturally, artistically rich city.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I've recently had an opportunity to learn more about two contemporary Hispanic authors, both of whom live in California, and who are attaining quite a bit of renown not only for their writing, but for their good work in their professional careers outside of writing for publication. Their names are Rose Castillo Guilbault and Daniel Olivas. Let me introduce you to them.

I have never met them personally, but I've communicated with them via email and have learned more about them from internet postings about their work. As I mention in a previous posting, I recently published a book, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories, which is a collection of 12 new short stories I've written. (See my "weRead" website at, and for more information about my book.) Before going to press, Rose and Daniel gave me some feedback about my writing, and I included their blurbs in my book. I appreciate their support of my efforts.

Rose's memoir, Farmworker's Daughter: Growing Up Mexican in America, describes her life from the age of 5, when she moved with her mother to Salinas Valley in California. Rose faced difficult challenges in school, but she fell in love with the English language and excelled in writing from an early age. She earned a Bachelor's degree in journalism, a Master's degree in writing, and became a successful journalist, also becoming the first Hispanic columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1990s. She spent 20 years in broadcasting, including TV work at CBS and ABC.

Rose won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Programming as a journalist. She has since left journalism for an executive position, serving as Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Publishing for CSAA, which is the Northern California/Utah/Nevada division of the AAA. What a role model Rose Guilbault is! Read about a recent talk she gave at a Distinguished Speaker Series at

Daniel Olivas is another high-achieving Latino author today. He has received outstanding reviews for his last book, Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, which was published in 2008. The book encompasses 60 years of Latina/o writings from some of the top authors in our state. Daniel has written 5 other books. When he is not writing for publication, he is a very busy California state attorney. He has also written for various print media, including The Los Angeles Times. Daniel Olivas is another outstanding Latino author who enriches the tapestry of American literature! Visit his webpage on and read his Monday blogs on La Bloga, at

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Family of Writers...Mine!

It's been a while since I've posted a blog here. Let's catch up with some news. Since my last post, I've been fostering and nurturing a particular family of American Latino writers...mine!

My son, Victor Cass, has just published his third book, a novel issued a few months ago called Telenovela. It's set in Pasadena, California, our hometown, and deals with the love lives of two beautiful, young professional Latinas who are first-generation Americans. Miriya and Lorena's immigrant backgrounds could not be more different, yet their similarities help forge a strong bond of friendship and loyalty between the two women. Their love lives are so different from one another, but fate has a way of making paths cross in more ways than we'd like. The book is fast-paced, rich with dialogue and cultural realism, and can be read in two sittings for many people. Check it out on It's getting rave reviews and will put a smile on your face!

I'll talk some more about Vic's other books in another blog. For now, go online and see what this young, handsome Latino (am I a biased mom?) does in his busy life: as a Pasadena police officer, an exhibiting fine artist, a community pillar, and a very busy writer. He's working on his fourth book now.

Who's the second writer in my family? My daughter, Dr. Christine Reyna-Demes, a professor at De Paul University in Chicago. She's a scholar and has had numerous research articles in Social Psychology published in academic journals over the past decade or so. In her teenage years, she also wrote soulful, intense songs and poetry. Her job requires her to "publish or perish," so her keyboard will be warm for many years to come!

I'm the third writer in the family. Though I've been fortunate to have short stories, essays, other nonfiction, and poems published in newspapers, journals, and books throughout the years, I've also just published a book, my first. It's a collection of new stories and is called The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories. It will be out in early summer this year. When it's published, I'll tell you more about it. In the meantime, please hold good thoughts for its success, along with Vic's book.

The title story in my new book was just published in a wonderful academic/literary journal called Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Volume 8: Spring 2009). The editors of the journal--Dr. Tiffany Ana Lopez, a professor at University of California, Riverside, and Dr. Karen Mary Davalos, a professor at Loyola Marymount University in California--are themselves well-regarded Latina authors as well as academicians. (Dr. Lopez edited the excellent anthology, Growing Up Chicana/o, in 1993 and its influence is still felt today.) Their support and nurturance of Latina/o authors is tremendous!

My dream is that someday my son, daughter, and I will collaborate on a book. I have three ideas in mind, and I feel that any of them would be a welcome addition to our American literary world. The book would be nonfiction, with a social/historical bent. Its focus would be people: their dynamics, relationships, successes and failures. Why not? People are the most important element of this world.

This blog focuses on Americans who happen to be Latinos and who happen to be writers who are contributing to the literary landscape in our nation. Please pardon my immodesty in writing about my own family this time around, but I do feel satisfaction and joy in the fact that the three of us--Vic, Chriss, and I--share this great love of the written word, and that we have a genuine desire to share our ideas, feelings, experiences, and knowledge with others in the hope that we might bring a smile or chuckle, a flash of insight and understanding, or a bit of new knowledge to the lives of our fellow human beings.