Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Catching Up

Boy, have I been a neglectful blogger! I've been in and out of town and overwhelmed with work and stuff when here. So I need to catch up.

I was shocked, surprised, and thrilled to receive the 2009 Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award from the Macondo Foundation for excellence in writing and nurturing the creativity of others. I will be using the money on a spiritual retreat that I hope will help me finish the book of poetry I'm working on. This award meant that I also was accepted to the Macondo Workshop, and I am so looking forward to that at the end of July! Got my plane tickets and everything. Even joined Facebook so I could get updates, etc. My son was happy that someone had finally dragged me into the 21st century.

Another lovely surprise occurred when I was contacted by my best friend from high school, Jerri Kundiger Garretson. We hadn't heard from each other in over 40 years, but when I was in the final two years of high school, I spent as much or more time at Jerri's house as at my own and her mother was an early role model for me. Our high school class is having a reunion, and by a series of oddities, I'm back in contact and will be attending for the first time. After group emails went out, Jerri emailed me and we spent a lot of one night staying up late, catching each other up on what had gone on in our lives. It turns out she is a writer also and has her own small press, too. And as a final irony, my oldest son Niles just accepted a job near where she lives in Florida. So the chance that we'll get to meet again (even though she can't come to this reunion) is good.

My book launch for Heart's Migration was on May 29 at The Writers Place. Jason Biggers, one of my hermanos from the Latino Writers Collective, played lovely music for it. About 90 people showed up to make a wonderfully receptive audience, and we shoved good energy back and forth to each other, building it all night. And they bought books! Sold 40 that night. It was a terrific evening.

That same day, we had just found out that our first anthology, Primera Pagina: Poetry From the Latino Heartland, had taken 2nd place in the International Latino Book Awards, right after Juan Felipe Herrera's National Book Award-winning title. So Ben brought champagne to toast the Latino Writers Collective's success, as well as my book.

My most recent trip out of town was to Iowa City for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Midwest Book Fair at the University of Iowa. This meant we got to spend time with Joseph, my youngest son (with whom we stayed). The Book Fair was wonderful. Sold books, made connections with lots of people and organizations, even found a new LWC member. If they have it there again next year, we'll definitely go. We had dinner with Stephanie, one of Joseph's friends (with whom he's going to London later this summer), and we made our usual trip to Kalona, a small town near Iowa City that's predominantly Amish and Mennonite. We're addicted to the cinnamon rolls of the Kalona Bakery, and we bought handmade presents at a wonderful crafts store.

I came back to tons of emails, as usual, even though I try to use an out-of-office message when I can't check email daily. While wading through the junk and demands and messages I really wanted, I found a message from the permissions person for The Writers Almanac, saying Garrison Keillor wanted to read two of my poems on the show--"The Sun Grows in Your Smile," June 23, and "Mediation on the Word NEED," June 27. I was almost as speechless for a minute as when I got the phone call from Olivia Doerges, the sweet-voiced director of the Macondo Foundation, to tell me about the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award. I need to find a better response to recognition than just going dumb!

I'm reading briefly from Heart's Migration this Friday at the Lenexa City Hall for Latino Arts Bravissimo! (where my books and the Collective's books have been on display) at 7:30 pm. Then, on Thursday, June 25, I will be reading at The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence for the Big Tent Reading Series with Peter Wright at 7:00 pm. On July 1, I will be reading at the Lawrence Arts Center in Lawrence for the launch of Imagination and Place: An Anthology and the turnover of Kansas poet laureates (from Denise Low-Weso to Carryn-Miriam Goldberg). Come and join me at any or all of these times and places! Should be a lot of fun.

I'm knitting a special shawl on commission, untangling some incredible grant convolutions, writing a new grant, researching an essay for a book on High Plains poets, writing (or should be) several reviews, writing analyses of a novel and two short stories for clients, trying to dig my house out from under its load of chaos, working on book promotion, and--when I can steal a moment--reading the correspondence between Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan (a wonderful Mother's Day gift from my youngest).

My peonies and irises are gone. The roses are almost spent. Missouri primrose, elder, dahlias, zinnias, lilies, daylilies, sage, and petunias are blooming away. I saw a woodpecker and a flicker the other day among our usual flocks of birds. Saw lots of lovely herons on the drive from Iowa. And thus spring moves into summer here in Kansas City.

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