Sunday, November 28, 2010


One of the most exciting things that is happening in our American literary world today is the increasing numbers of Latina bloggers. Many of these bloggers are published authors who utilize their blogs as additional forums for their creativity. In addition to posting a new poem or article, writers often discuss their books and other works, their writing routines, their book tours or speaking engagement calendars, their reviews of other authors' literary creations, and generally take time to show themselves to their public as fully-rounded folks with many interests and passions in addition to writing:  families and pets, authors they idolize, their travels far and wide, etc.  

Through these increasingly sophisticated and numerous blogs, authors are continually rediscovering themselves and sharing these journeys with us. In the pre-internet era, learning about the backgrounds and personalities of authors whose books we read could be challenging. When we found such information, it was often dry and locked in cement, brief and accompanied by faded black and white photos. Now, Latina bloggers (and a goodly number of male Hispanic authors as well!) are putting recognizable, amiable, respectable human faces on their literary selves and showing us the people they are in engaging, dynamic, constantly updated ways. What a delight it is to know the human spirit behind the artistry!

                  Mayra: A "Renaissance Woman" Among Writers

One of my favorites among this relatively new, evolving cadre of Latina writers is Mayra Calvani, a native of Puerto Rico and a longtime New Yorker. As I've read her blogs throughout this year and kept up with her publications, I've come to regard Mayra as the epitome of a “Renaissance Woman” regarding writing. When you think of a versatile writer, you might imagine someone who writes poems as well as novels. Or someone who creates dramas as well as short stories. And so on. Mayra goes beyond this.

She’s been writing since the age of 12, when she began creating paranormal stories. She majored in Creative Writing in college, where her passion for writing solidified, but she never limited herself to one genre of writing. In fact, as she has evolved as an author, so has her predilection for publishing in different genres.  She has written "literary" (as opposed to "commercial") short stories; parody/satire, as exemplified by her novel, Sunstruck; paranormal vampire fiction, represented by her novel, Embraced by the Shadows; nonfiction, focusing on book reviews and culminating in the recent award-winning book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, which Mayra co-authored; and 6 children’s books.

Mayra is most enamored of children’s literature, which she describes thus: “I love writing for children. It’s like walking on a rainbow. A world of color where I can exaggerate and let my imagination run totally wild.” Her latest child’s book is Frederico, the Mouse Violinist, to be published this fall. She has six children’s books scheduled for publication in 2011-2012!  Mayra is also working on a young adult novel and is halfway finished.

Writing books in multiple genres is challenging enough for any author, and one might think that this keeps Mayra too busy for anything else. Not so. She has written over 300 book reviews, author interviews, and articles in the past decade, publishing these in print media as well as online. She reviews for The New York Journal of Books, the National Latino Books Examiner,, and Blogcritics Magazine.

In addition, Mayra maintains her two author websites and writes four blogs (addresses are below). She says: “It’s fun switching from one genre to another depending on my mood. I love it.” A lifelong high achiever, Mayra also speaks four languages: English and Spanish, of course, plus French and some Turkish. She lived in Turkey for a while and is now based in Belgium.

Visit Mayra’s websites at , . Her blogs include http://www.mayra’ , , and . Her book reviews appear most often in . Please drop by her sites and leave her your comments. It will be time well-spent for you!

In future posts here, I'll discuss other bloggers, male and female. Also, keep your eyes out for my upcoming book review of Mike Padilla's rousing, humorous, big-hearted novel, The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina. Take care, check out all these authors' wonderful work, and make literature an eternal part of your and your families' lives!
# # # #

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So much has happened since my last posting. Here are two literary events in which I was honored to participate with fellow authors I've known or recently met. I am always filled with pride and delight when I meet new authors or get to reconnect with literary friends. In these past two events, I did both.

PALABRA Literary Magazine:
Reading in Los Angeles, October 23

Talented author and editor, Elena Minor, introduced Issue 6 of her prestigious publication, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano & Literary Art, 2010. It is packed with poems and stories by 25 Latino authors, including myself and three poets who attended the reading at the REDCAT Lounge at the Walt Disney performing arts complex. At the reading, the poets held us spellbound with their dramatic, heartfelt readings of their poems published in this issue. The talented group were:

     --Manuel Paul Lopez, author of Death of a Mexican and Other Poems. A secondary school teacher and resident of San Diego, CA, Manuel's poems in the magazine are "Brother, Sister," "The Hay Bales," and "How to Live with Rudy."
     --Yago S. Cura, co-author of the book, Odas a Futbolistas (Odes to Soccer Players); and  co-editor of the online literary journal, Hinchas de poesia. His poems have appeared in various prominent literary journals, including Borderlands, The New Orleans Review, and U.S. Latino Review. The poems that were published in PALABRA are "Los Namers" and "Angelinos."
     --Ricardo Lira Acuna, author of two books of poetry and photography:  Under the Influence; and Greetings from Heaven and Hell. A graduate of Stanford and Columbia Universities, Ricardo plans to publish his first novel, Prodigal Son, in the near future. His poem in PALABRA is "Narrow is the Gate."

I was the fourth reader at this event. I read my short story, "Paris," which will also be included in my second book of short stories, recently completed and aimed for publication in 2011. "Paris" is set entirely in my hometown of Pasadena, CA, and takes place in one day, from morning till night, with what some have called a surprise ending. 

All in all, this was a successful event for us all, and I was pleased to meet three more poets. Poets enrich my life...everyone's life! PALABRA Magazine can be ordered online at its website: .

Pasadena Latino Authors:
Social Mixer & Panel Discussion--Pasadena, CA

On November 10, six Latino authors held their first communal public event. Many attendees felt this was a "historic" event for the city, since, to our knowledge, a contingent of six published Latino authors is a first for Pasadena. All the authors, born and raised in the United States, write in English; and five have published at least one book. Collectively, these authors have over 60 years of publication experience. All the authors are also community leaders, holding positions of leadership in Pasadena civic organizations, including city commissions, a city governmental agency, and local non-profits. In addition, the group of authors represents at least three different generations and five different literary genre. The authors are:

     --Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the memoir, Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran-American Experience. Randy is Executive Director of El Centro de Accion Social, a prominent Latino advocacy group. Randy's book has been praised by prominent civic leaders and numerous book reviewers and other authors. His book has been reviewed on this blog as well.
     --Victor Cass, author of three books:  Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000, a nonfiction book; Love, Death, and Other War Stories, his first novel; and Telenovela, his second novel. Victor's third book has also been reviewed on this blog. Victor's academic articles, columns, and opinion essays have appeared in a historical journal and in regional print media for over a decade. He has recently completed a fourth book and plans to publish it in 2011. He is a Pasadena police officer and loves his city: all his books are set in Pasadena.
     --Manuel Contreras, archivist and journalist/editor, who has devoted 20 years to compiling a history of Pasadena via newsletters, advertisements, articles, and other ephemera that trace the city's social evolution since the 1930's. An octogenarian, Manny's historical collections are housed in the Pasadena Central Library, where they serve as reference for many people, young and old. Manny is a former City Commissioner.
     --Sandra Gutierrez, author and co-editor of the award-winning book, Teatro Chicana:  A Collective Memoir & Selected Plays. Sandra's book has been used in university and high school classes throughout the United States since its publication in 2008. She and her co-editors, Laura E. Garcia and Felicitas Nunez, are often in demand as speakers regarding the historic Chicano feminist awakening that their book details. Sandra is active in various civic organizations, including Adelante Mujer Latina.
     --Roberta Martinez, author of Images of America: Latinos in Pasadena. This book has also been reviewed on this blog. Through carefully selected archived and personal-collection photographs and meticulous narration, Roberta captures the contributions that Latinas and Latinos made to the development of Pasadena. An independent historian, Roberta contributed significantly to the greater understanding of California history in general with her book. She is the Director of Latino Heritage in Pasadena and is also a City Commissioner.

I was the sixth Pasadena author at this event. My book, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories, was named a Finalist in the 2010 National Best Books Award by USA Book News. My writing has been published off and on since 1972 in literary journals, textbooks, anthologies, blogs, and regional print media. I also serve as a City Commissioner and Executive Board Member of One Community Think Tank in Pasadena.

The Pasadena Author event was attended by approximately 60 people: young and old, people of various cultural backgrounds, and also by community VIP's. Stay tuned for follow-up events! All the books by these authors are available through and other booksellers.

#     #     #     #