Sunday, October 24, 2010


October has been a literary feast for me and for many of my friends and colleagues who also happen to be authors. Here's the lineup of places I've been this month, plus some writers with whom I had the pleasure of appearing and who were great to talk to:

                                OCTOBER 2:  DUARTE (CA) FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS

Set in a beautiful senior residential complex, we were among tall pine trees, winding paths, and green patches of grass that define the parklike boundaries of the complex. Approximately 75 authors participated, but only about 7 are Hispanic. Two of us--my son, Victor Cass, and I--spoke on a panel. Our topic was "Mystery and Fiction." 

The following Latinos were participants in this well-regarded festival:
  • Alex Moreno Areyan, author of Images of America: Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles (Arcadia Publishing, 2010):  Through hundreds of archival photos and meticulous narrative, the book chronicles 100 years of contributions by Mexican-Americans  to the development of L.A., including iconic U.S. Congressman Edward R. Roybal. Alex also participated in the prestigious 13th Annual Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival (see below).
  • Victor Cass, author of Telenovela (Outskirts Press, 2009);  Love, Death, & Other War Stories (iUniverse, 2005); and Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000 (Herff-Jones, 2000):  Victor's newest book, Telenovela, is a fast-paced, engrossing romantic comedy/drama in which two beautiful daughters of immigrants form a deep friendship that withstands romantic troubles with a mutual love interest.
  • Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the memoir, Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran-American's Experience (Hamilton Books, 2009):  Randy's book details his hardships in violence-torn El Salvador and his rise to a better life when he emigrated to America as an adolescent, though he first had to survive life in a gang-torn section of Los Angeles. His journey is filled with political insights and courage.
  • Vanessa Libertad Garcia, author of The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive (Fiat Libertad Co., 2009): Vanessa's book details the angst of young, gay Latinas and Latinos in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the 2008 American presidential election campaign. She alternates between poetry and prose vignettes to capture her characters' desperation, romantic interludes, and realizations about life.
  • Roberta Martinez, author of Images of America: Latinos in Pasadena (Arcadia Publishing, 2009):  From the early unheralded pioneers, men and women, who helped found Pasadena, to the various leaders and community activists who helped shape Pasadena into the world-class city it is today, Roberta teaches us some modern history that is often ignored in local classrooms.
  • Philip Victor (Philip Victor Colon), author of Jaguar Spirit ; Soul Assassin; and other graphic novels (Aerosol Press: 2004, for these two):  A Puerto-Rican American writer from East L.A., Philip is an award-winning comic book writer who also produces and publishes his novels. His creations are based on Mayan mythology, are bilingual, and are appropriate for readers of all ages.
I'm the seventh Latino author at the Duarte Festival. My book, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories (Outskirts Press, 2009), has been positively reviewed by various Latina/o authors. It is a compilation of 12 short stories set  mostly in Texas, California, and Chicago. You can learn more about it on my author website at, which includes its title story in its entirety, as well as samples of my other publications.

Victor Cass

Vanessa Libertad Garcia

Below: Randy Ertll & Roberta Martinez (l-r)

                                   LOS ANGELES LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL

 On the weekend of October 9 & 10, the campus of California State University, Los Angeles, became the stage for the largest gathering of Latina/o published authors in the history of the United States. Over 120 authors from all over America came together to serve on panel discussions, solo presentations, and booth displays of their books. Previously described on this site, the festival was a huge success with strongly established pioneer Hispanic authors, emerging writers, and everyone in between sharing their collective experiences and creativity with thousands of attendees that represented the spectrum of multicultural, multigenerational America. There were readings, signings, and Q&A's galore! Indeed, this was the literary feast of the year.

 Here are some photos of participating authors:

Working hard and having fun!

Award-winning nonfiction author,
Laura Contreras-Rowe (r)

I served as moderator on a panel with the following
engaging authors, from l-r:
David Bueno-Hill, Vanessa Libertad Garcia,
Manny Pacheco, & Ed Rodriguez 

I felt very honored to meet Chuy Ramirez, Texas author of Strawberry Fields,
a very thoughtful, poignant novel about a family of migrant workers
whose children rise above their poverty and come to understand
the dichotomies of their bi-cultural world.
    Here are the wonderful women of Teatro Chicana:
A Collective Memoir & Selected Plays--
(l-r) Felicitas Nunez, Delia Rodriguez, &
Laura Garcia with me, their fan!
(Felicitas, Laura, & Sandra Gutierrez, not shown,
were the editors of the book.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                           *                *                 *
One of the highlights of this year's Latino Books & Family Festival was the presentation of the First Annual "Latino Books into Movies Awards," an exciting new venture. Two or three books were chosen in several different movie categories (Action & Adventure; Animation; Comedy; Documentary; Drama; Kids & Family; Romantic Comedy; and Suspense & Mystery). Professionals in the entertainment industry served as judges and selected winners and runners-up. Click here to read all about it:
Congratulations to these authors whose works we may someday see on the "big screen."

 All in all, these two author festivals gave our Southern California community ample exposure to some of the greatest literary talents in Latino literature today. I was humbled and honored to have been included in their company and came away inspired and motivated to learn more about my colleagues. Kudos to author Reyna Grande and to Cal State LA Professor Roberto Cantu, Ph.D., for their leadership in organizing and staging the Latino Book & Family Festival, with the collaboration and support of their outstanding team of volunteers, including Latino Literacy leader, Jim Sullivan.