Thursday, October 7, 2010

And a lovely time was had by all.

Marjorie Agosin, my dear friend and wonderful writer and activist, came and went in a whirl of motion and words. She arrived at the airport Monday afternoon, and we sounded like schoolgirls, hugging and squealing with joy at seeing each other again.

I am always surprised when I see Marjorie again, because in my mind, I remember her as taller. She is tiny, in reality, but she's such a larger-than-life mind and presence that my mind plays the trick on me of remembering her as only slightly shorter than I am.

I had cleared everything else off my calendar for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, in order to drive her around and take care of her and enjoy her company. So, in between all the events and interviews on her itinerary, on the city streets and the highway to and from Lawrence, Kansas, we talked and talked. We talked about mutual friends, about Macondo, about teaching, about how necessary it is to be optimistic and have hope if you are to remain an activist in this world, about our children and husbands (we are both extraordinarily lucky there!), about the Midwest, about Chile, about Kansas City and Wellesley as places to live, about politics, about culture and identity, but above all, always and over and over about writing. I am exhausted from all the events and driving, but so energized for all my writing projects. Talking with Marjorie is like plugging into a battery of creativity!

At her first major event, a talk and reading at the downtown branch of the Kansas City Public Library after a reception featuring Chilean sea bass in honor of Marjorie, we had a full house in the stately Helzberg Auditorium, and Marjorie kept the audience mesmerized. Afterward, the Q&A went on and on until I finally had to cut it off to allow time for book signing and a dinner with the Latino Writers Collective and some of our friends and supporters afterward. The diverse audience drew from various neighborhoods of the greater Kansas City metropolitan area with people from the inner city to some from the wealthiest suburbs. Yet they made an emotional community, drawn together by Marjorie's openness and her stories and poetry. They stayed late, talking with Marjorie and each other afterward and making connections they might never have made otherwise.

The next morning was full of interviews, and then we were off to the University of Kansas in Lawrence. First on the schedule was a discussion with graduate students from creative writing and Spanish/Latin American studies. This was a great group of students with incisive questions and discussion. Marjorie was as generous as she always is and connected some with academics who were doing research in their fields of interest. She even advised a young novelist on how to market his manuscript.

After a lovely dinner with some of the department chairs who made her visit to KU possible, we went to the KU Student Union to another stately room for another mesmerizing talk and reading by Marjorie, followed by more curious questions and a book signing. It was stimulating and great, but tiring--and was followed by the hour-long drive back to KC.

On Wednesday, it was so sad to say good-bye at the airport and know it will be months until we see each other at AWP. But what a gift this visit from one of our time's most gifted and remarkable women was--for all of us!

... And then, straight from the airport to Avila University to take part in a Latino Writers Collective reading. But that's a story for tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday night reading and Saturday workshop--DON'T MISS!

On Friday, September 24 at 7:00 p.m., at The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, Gary Gildner and Christie Hodgen will read from and sign their newest books. This reading will be excellent—two award-winning writers! Bios below. Join us.

On Saturday, September 25, Gary Gildner will present a workshop for fiction and creative nonfiction/memoir writers focused on using the techniques of narrative to best effect. At $20 for TWP members and $30 for non-members, this is a real bargain. Read the bio and workshop description below, and you’ll see why.

These events are co-sponsored by BkMk Press and The Writers Place and were made possible in part by funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Gary Gildner is the author of 21 bookS, including The Second Bridge (a novel), Somewhere Geese Are Flying (new and selected stories), The Warsaw Sparks and My Grandfathers Book (memoirs), and Cleaning a Rainbow (his latest collection of poems). He has received The National Magazine Award for Fiction, Pushcart Prizes in fiction and non-fiction, and the Iowa Poetry Prize. His stories and essays have appeared in New Letters, The Georgia Review, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Southern Review, Grand Street, Antaeus, The Paris Review, and in many anthologies and textbooks.

Workshop by Gary Gildner

Saturday, September 25, 10 AM – 12 PM Body and Soul with Gary Gildner. This workshop is devoted to the writing of fiction and nonfiction and how they can enrich each other in the pursuit and practice of good narrative. For fiction writers who want their inventions to sound and feel real, be entertaining, and matter, and for writers of memoirs and essays who wish to organize their work by borrowing story-telling technique, the workshop will look at the major elements of fiction—character, dialog, exposition, plot—and engage in useful exercises. Bring your work in progress. $30 Nonmembers $20 Members

Christie Hodgen is the author of the novels Elegies for the Brokenhearted and Hello, I Must Be Going, both from W.W. Norton & Co. Her collection of short stories, A Jeweler's Eye for Flaw, won the Associated Writing Programs Award for Short Fiction, and was published by UMASS Press. Her stories have appeared in over a dozen journals and anthologies, and have won two Pushcart Prizes, a grant from the National Endowment for the Art, and the Tobias Woolf Award, among others. She teaches at UMKC.

Honored by the UN and winner of numerous major writing awards, Jewish Chilean activist/writer comes to Kansas City Oct. 4

My dear friend, poet, novelist, memoirist, and human rights activist Marjorie Agosin will speak at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch, 14 W. 10th on Monday, October 4th at 6:30 p.m. (with a reception preceding at 6:00 p.m.)

I’d like to urge you to put this on your calendar and attend. Marjorie is a wonderful, moving speaker. She will be speaking about her life as a writer and activist and as a Jewish Chilean who had to flee Chile as a teenager for life in America.

I’ve listed just a very few of Marjorie’s 30+ published (and many award-winning) books below. She has won awards for poetry, fiction, memoir, and for her scholarly work, which ranges across the fields of women’s studies, Latina literature, Latin American studies, Jewish studies, and human rights. Take a look at Amazon for more (even Amazon doesn’t have all of them).

The Light of Desire: La Luz del Deseo

Of Earth and Sea: A Chilean Memoir

Among the Angels of Memory (a book about her grandmother fleeing the Holocaust for Chile)

Alphabet in My Hands: A Writing Life

Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez

Dear Anne Frank ( a stunning poetic dialogue/response to Anne Frank)

Brujas y algo mas: Witches and Other Things

Always From Somewhere Else (memoir of her father)

Toward the Splendid City

Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras

A Cross and A Star (memoir of her mother’s life as a girl in Chile during World War II)

Circles Of Madness: Mothers Of The Plaza De Mayo

Tapestries Of Hope, Threads Of Love (the life of women under the Pinocet dictatorship)

Of Earth and Sea: A Chilean Memoir just won the International Latino Book Award for biography. The award committee had this to say about the book: "The Chilean coup d'état of 1973 was a watershed event in the history of Chile. It was also a defining moment in the life of writer Marjorie Agosín. This collection of prose vignettes and free verse draws upon her experiences as a child in Chile, an expatriate abroad, and a minority Jew—even in the land she calls home—to create a striking portrait of a life of exile. The tone of the book varies as it lyrically explores the geography of Chile and weaves into it the themes of exile and oppression. At times the words become hymns to the physical beauty of her country, evoking the grandeur of this land extending to the southernmost tip of the world. At times they are intimate and melancholy, exploring personal and familial history through miniature portraits that reveal the pain of being different. Finally the tone becomes angry as she denounces the injustices committed against her friends and against the families of the disappeared during the seventeen-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Combining themes of memory, childhood, minority issues, Judaism, and political oppression, this collection contains some of Agosín’s strongest work. Of Earth and Sea is a poetic autobiography that explores the world of Chile with eyes that see both despair and hope. "

I’ve posted the Library’s announcement with RSVP link below:

Marjorie Agosín - Of Earth and Sea: A Chilean Memoir

Monday, October 4, 2010

6:30pm @ Central Library

RSVP now!

The Chilean coup d'état of 1973 was a watershed event in the history of Chile. It was also a defining moment in the life of writer Marjorie Agosín. In Of Earth and Sea, she draws upon her experiences as a child in Chile, an expatriate abroad, and a minority Jew—even in the land she calls home—to create a striking portrait of a life of exile. Agosín is a professor of Spanish at Wellesley College. Her appearance is co-sponsored by the Latino Writers Collective as part of the Library's observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. The book will be available for sale.

Marjorie will also appear at KU on October 5th at 7:00 p.m. in the Centennial Room of the Kansas Union. This event is co-sponsored by KU’s Departments of English, Spanish and Portuguese, Latin American Studies, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

I hope you’ll take advantage of one of these opportunities to hear and meet one of the remarkable women of our time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fear of Nature

I'm just back from Macondo in San Antonio. It was wonderful to see all my friends, even though I wasn't able to take the workshop I'd planned and signed up for with terrific writer, Carla Trujillo--even though we drove two days to get there, spent the day and gave a seminar, then drove two days to get back.

My plans were changed because I don't want to have an unbroken bluegrass front lawn in my front yard. One whole side of it is native plants, herbs and drought-hardy perennials. In the spring and early summer, it's a riot of flowers--daffodils, tulips, Mayapple, yellow bells, Siberian and bearded iris, peonies, gayfeather, roses, sage, peppermint, fennel, rue, lilies, daylilies--but in mid-summer when the heavy heat and burning sun hit, the herbs get leggy and nothing's blooming but the purple coneflowers and Blackeyed Susans. It's at this time of the year that my neighbors, who cut down trees and shrubs and dug up perennial flowerbeds when they first moved next door in order to have nothing but grass and two hanging pots of plastic flowers, call the city on me for "rank weeds over ten inches tall."

The city usually sends me a warning notice. I call and explain that these are not weeds but native plants and herbs. I agree to trim the most unruly (mugwort and lemon balm) back some, and that's usually it. This year there was no warning notice. Just a summons to court with the threat of arrest if I didn't show--and the option to plead "guilty" and send a fine of $125 and cut down my plants. And so the battle was on.

Unfortunately, court landed in the middle of Macondo week, but Ben and I were still able to keep our commitment to give a seminar on small press publishing and book contests there and to see many of my dear Macondo friends. Before Macondo and now afterward, it's hard work outside in terrible heat. 112 degree heat index, anyone? (San Antonio was a blessed relief in that regard, though it was 102 and 103 degrees when we were there. It's much drier than KC and thus the heat is not as oppressive.)

We are turning one long garden bed into four smaller ones plus a patio. (I'll post photos when we're finished.) We are corralling mugwort, tansy, sage, lemon balm, and costmary with tomato and peony cages. We are putting in ticky-tacky fence bed edgings and paver walkways. We are transplanting a rose, three hybrid daylilies, three bright orange Oriental lilies, five Blackeyed Susans, six native daylilies, eight Stargazer lilies, and twenty Siberian iris to the front beds of the garden. All of this is designed to make it more apparent to the eye of passing yard police that this is a garden, not weeds. (Though how anyone could not see it is a garden right now when about twenty naked ladies, otherwise known as surprise lilies--the native American amaryllis--are glowing pinkly right in the middle of it with tall gladiolas with large white and peach bloom spikes beside them is beyond me!)

I am trying to be non-confrontational. I have been gathering information on how much better these plants are than a lawn, and I have been gathering information and trying to get some testimony from yet another city department that has been trying to persuade everyone in my neighborhood to take out lawn and plant rain gardens just like mine. The city has designated my neighborhood as a pilot project called Target Green, and if everyone does as we have done, the city will be spared the million-dollar cost of installing new storm sewers. I'm willing to make cosmetic changes that cost money and effort (neither Ben nor I are in good shape for heavy garden work right now) if that will make it easier for my neighbors and the city to live with my garden. What I am not willing to do is to rip out my plants and put in bluegrass lawn, which is even worse than concrete since it absorbs little stormwater and requires massive water resources and toxic chemicals to thrive in this climate.

I live in the middle of the big city of the metropolitan area, Kansas City, Missouri. Another friend who lives in one of the Kansas-side suburbs just had his city on his neck over sunflowers he had planted in his front yard. Yes, he had to yank out his sunflowers--the state flower of the state of Kansas. I've been reading in this area now as I do research, and I'm finding that cities and towns all over the country are doing amazing things to people for trying to grow native plants. Some have been thrown in jail. Some have had their gardens clearcut by city contractors and then been charged hundreds of dollars for it. It all seems to fall under the heading of "property values." For some reason, people think a neighbor's yard that's not all lawn lowers the value of their property. Many of these people making these complaints are quite conservative, get-government-out-of-our-lives-type people--except when it comes to their neighbors' yards. Then they want government in front and center dictating to those neighbors that they must conform.

I think it's a control issue, of course--and as my sunflower-loving friend says, "These people don't have enough to do in their lives!". But also this is a symptom of our society's fear of nature and the natural world. This fear is a sickness, I believe, since we are a part of the cycle of nature and the natural world, no matter how we want to pretend we're not. In cutting ourselves off from nature, we are cutting ourselves off from our source, our ground.

So, at any rate, that's all the news from here, except for the wonderful bit that my book, Heart's Migration, is one of three finalists for the Thorpe Menn Award.

Now, back to digging in the earth. Which is good for the soul, if not so great for the back and joints. I go back to court on August 13. I'll post the results here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Catching Up

I'm sorry to have been such a slacker at this blog, but my life took a bit of a detour from normalcy when my husband had a heart attack the evening of Luis Rodriguez's event, April 29. Hospital, 85% blocked artery, discussion whether to do bypass or angioplasty, decision for the latter because of his youth, and recovery--these all sent my life down the rabbit hole for a while.

Ben is still in cardiac rehabilitation, but he's responding very well so far. We feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have celebrated his 49th birthday the other day.

And so, life goes on. I hope to do a better job of posting to the blog now that we're settling into our drastically changed lifestyle and I've pulled back from a bunch of community activities. I've done some reviews of excellent books. As soon as they're out and I can, I'll post some of them here.

Take care, and turn to the people most dear to you and let them know how happy you are that they're in your lives.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Latino Writers Collective Brings Noted Writer and Activist to Kansas City

An Evening with Luis J. Rodriguez

Thursday, April 29, 2010
6:30pm @ Plaza Branch
RSVP now!

The Cuarta Página (Fourth Page) Reading Series will feature renowned writer and activist, Luis J. Rodriguez. Designed to showcase the work of Latino writers and provide role models for local youth, Cuarta Página is coordinated by the Latino Writers Collective.

The series will bring in nationally known poet, memoirist, and fiction writer, Luis J. Rodriguez, at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 29, to the Kansas City Library’s Plaza Branch, 4801 Main., for a reception (before the reading at 6:00 p.m.), reading, and book signing. Luis J. Rodriguez is convinced that a writer can change the world. It was through education and the power of words that Rodriguez made his own way out of poverty and despair in the barrio of East LA, breaking free from years of violence as an active gang member. Achieving success as an award-winning Chicano poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more — until his young son joined a gang himself. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in the bestseller Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., a vivid memoir that explores the motivation of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants. Always Running earned a Carl Sandburg Literary Award and was designated a New York Times Notable Book; it has also been named by the American Library Association as one of the nation’s 100 most censored books. The Los Angeles Times Book Review says, Rodriguez is a relentless truth-teller, an authentic visionary, a man of profound compassion… he never allows us to forget that the rescue of young people is also ‘a spiritual quest.’” He was recently featured on NBC Nightly News as a newsmaker making a difference. (Links to videos below.)

Rodriguez is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently My Nature is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004 (Curbstone Press). His poetry has won a Poetry Center Book Award and a PEN/Josephine Miles Literary Award, among others. His bilingual books for children, America Is Her Name and It Doesn't Have To Be This Way: A Barrio Story, have won several awards including a Patterson Young Adult Book Award and a Parent’s Choice Book Award. He is also the author of Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times and a novel, Music of the Mill. He has also received a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Lannan Fellowship for Poetry, a Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature, a California Arts Council fellowship and several Illinois Arts Council fellowships. He was one of 50 leaders worldwide selected as “Unsung Heroes of Compassion,” presented by the Dalai Lama. Co-founder of Chicago’s Guild Complex, one of the largest literary arts organizations in the Midwest; Rock a Mole (rhymes with guacamole) Productions which produces music and art festivals, CDs and film; Youth Struggling for Survival, a Chicago-based non-profit community group working with gang and non-gang youth, and the small poetry publishing house Tia Chucha Press, part of Tia Chucha's Café & Centro Cultural—a bookstore, coffee shop, art gallery, performance space, and workshop center in Los Angeles, Rodriguez is currently working on a new memoir, titled, A Borrowing of Bones: A Writer's Odyssey through Love, Addictions, Revolution, and Healing due in late 2010/early 2011.

Seating for this event is limited and reservations are required. RSVP now!

The series is co-sponsored by BkMk Press, Guadalupe Centers, Inc., Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Hispanic News, Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission, Letras Latinas, Mattie Rhodes Latino Cultural Arts Division, Park University, Rockhurst University, and The Writers Place. The series is made possible in part by funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Masterminds, AWP in Denver April 7-10, and Other Items

My writing office at Ragdale

National Poetry Month is here, as is the AWP and spring--three of my favorite things. Today's entry is full of random poetry- and AWP-related items.

First of all, a couple of long-promised Ragdale photos (courtesy of Irasema Gonzalez) and a link to Proyecto Latina's site where they have a slideshow of more photos taken during their visit with me at Ragdale and recordings of Diana Pando's interview with me and me reading some of my poems.

Ragdale House as Diana approaches

Now, for National Poetry Month, one of my poems about poetry readings.


He walks in late,

of course,

and sits in the back row

even though he’s on the program.

Coyote wraps a storm

around him like a protective shield,

wears his leather like armor,

stares the woman in business suit

and her partner in high-style casual

into dropping their eyes. Coyote

makes everyone nervous.

Whispers circle the room.

Who asked him to read?

“Must have been some woman,”

one bearded man says, with a sniff.

“A guy would have known better.”

“Probably thinks it’s some kind of slam,”

one professor tells another.

When they call his name,

Coyote stalks to the podium

and growls into the microphone,

while, around the room, the air

burns with after-lightning

ozone and smells of blood

and splintered bones.

---Linda Rodriguez

Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

And a link to some others.

Next is the selection of the Latino Writers Collective as one of The PITCH's four Masterminds of 2010. This identifies us as one of the creative forces of Kansas City (and gives us a chunk of change to keep doing our work--Mil gracias, PITCH!).

Finally, for everyone going to the AWP national conference in Denver, come hear the Latino Writers Collective read at 4:30-5:45 pm in Rooms 102-104, Colorado Convention Center, Street Level on Saturday. And drop by the Scapegoat Press table, Exhibit Hall A, #B13, in the Bookfair any time--especially for my booksigning at 3:00 pm on Thursday, Francisco Aragon's (The Glow of Our Sweat, his wonderful brand-new book!) at 10:00 am on Thursday, and LWC's at 10:00 am on Saturday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Join me at the Guild Complex's Palabra Pura Reading in Chicago, Wednesday, March 17

Jan Peña-Davis

Jennifer Patiño

Lisa Cisneros

Palabra Pura Presents: Linda Rodriguez and short readings by women from Latina Voices
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Reading begins at 7:30PM
Free admission, all ages
Decima Musa, 1901 S. Loomis, Chicago

A short Open Mic will begin the evening.

Linda Rodriguez has published two books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Potpourri Publications) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press). Recipient of the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award from the Macondo Foundation and the Midwest Voices and Visions Award from the Alliance of Artists Communities and the Joyce Foundation, she is vice-president of the Latino Writers Collective, founder of the Kansas City Women Writers Series, and a founding board member of The Writers Place. Rodriguez has published poetry and fiction in numerous journals and anthologies, as well as a cookbook, The “I Don’t Know How to Cook” Book: Mexican. She is currently working on a book of poetry based on teachings from her Cherokee grandmother.

Lisa Cisneros is a senior at Columbia College majoring in Journalism. She enjoys dark humor and tries to present that in her work when appropriate. She knows everybody has a story to tell and she's open to other's opinions and loves to hear what people have to say. She enjoys writing about everyday issues that impact people's lives and aspires to write novels and plays in the future. Her work has been published on

Jennifer Patiño was born and raised in Chicago. Her family is originally from Apaseo El Alto, Mexico. She is a writer of Creative Non-Fiction, specifically poetry and essays. She is currently an Art History major at Columbia College with minors in Latino Studies and Poetry. Her work has been published on

Jan Peña-Davis is a teacher with a special interest in Afro-Cuban folklore. She is currently exploring how Hispanic women of color are perceived in the media. She earned her BA in Secondary Education from Chicago State University, TESL Certificate from UCLA, and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago. An avid reader and writer, Jan won the 2002 Chicago/IL Screenwriting award for her script Shoeshine Guy and has published several short stories and poetry, and occasionally writes commentaries for WBEZ in Chicago. Additionally, Jan is finishing her novel Generation XL. She also is working on an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Her work has been published on

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ragdale-Writers Heaven

This is the bit of virgin prairie to the west of Ragdale House and the Friends and Meadow Studios. It contains deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, squirrels, hawks, owls, and all manner of birds and tiny lives. In the spring, they tell me it's beautiful with blossoms, which I believe because of my own experience with prairie out on the Flint Hills of Kansas. This is also pretty much the view from my studio window as I sit at my lovely BIG desk.

NOTE: All of these photos are courtesy of my friend, Judith Podell. I've taken many, but left the cable to computer at home so posting those will have to wait till I get back home.

This from the front of the Ragdale House, facing east. The circle drive with the lamb sculptures is directly in front of the Ragdale House and there is a small forest of trees blocking Ragdale from the street in Lake Forest where it's located.

This is the view from the top of the Barnhouse after a snow. (Judith's room and studio included the cupola at the top of the Barnhouse during her stay.) That's the Friends Studio in the photo.

This is the Barnhouse to the north of the Ragdale House (which is where I have been staying for the past weeks). We gather in the Barnhouse dining room each night for dinner cooked by our fabulous chef, Linda Williams. It was on my way down the short walk between Ragdale House and the Barnhouse for dinner one night (you see part of it in this photo) just at dark that I came eye to eye with a large stag which then crossed my path about two feet in front of me in bounding leaps and disappeared off into the prairie.

To the left in the photo is the attached office where the dedicated Ragdale staff, Exec. Director, Susan Tillett, Director of Artists, Regin Igloria, Director of Property, Jack Danch, Director of Communications, Leslie Brown, and Office Manager, Liz Isenberg, work at making things easy for residents. As do Housekeeper Marta Quintanilla, and her assistant, David Rodriguez. Lovely, talented professionals, all. The work of all these people has helped me finish edits on a novel and write most of my newest book of poetry during this month's stay!

This is the garden room in Ragdale House, where I usually have my breakfast and lunch while looking out over the prairie to the back of the house. Chef Linda keeps both Ragdale House and the Barnhouse refrigerators stocked with good foods for breakfasts, lunches, and healthy snacks. We all talked about how much healthier we eat at Ragdale than at home.

This is a back view of Ragdale House. You can see the garden room from the other side here. This house is so remarkable. It was built as a summer home near Lake Michigan by the father of the family, Howard Shaw, a Chicago architect who was a contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright. The whole Shaw family was full of artists, men and women--painters, sculptors, writers, weavers, you name it--for generations. The house looks much as it did then, full of art collected by the family on trips to Europe and even more art that they and their friends created. The estate was a summer refuge for many of their Chicago artist friends, including people such as Carl Sandburg. This group of us now in Ragdale, who will be leaving in a few days, is the last group to live in the house for over a year. The Foundation is closing the house down to make substantial necessary renovations. It's on the National Register so it will open up in a year looking just the same--but with new, safe wiring and plumbing and heating and cooling. This is a project the Foundation is needing donations to help fund, so check out the website and give a little to keep this gem available for generations of artists.

I'll post more about my stay with photos of the insides of the house when I get back home. We owe the late Alice Hayes, the member of the family who set up the Ragdale Foundation, and the whole family, for that matter, gratitude for this wonderful gift to artists that they created.

Now, it's about time for me to head over to the Barnhouse for one of Chef Linda's delicious dinners.

Love to all my friends out there!

Friday, January 15, 2010

What I'm Grateful For As the New Year Gets Underway

First of all, I'm grateful for the man I share my life with, my husband Ben. A scholar, an editor, a publisher, all to the highest degree. Also, my best friend and my strongest supporter. And funny and fun. Who could ask for more?

Of course, the fact that he looks 20-30 years younger than he really is has never made me happy, especially when folks ask if he's my son, but I've come to terms with it over the years. I know that skinny neck's going to wrinkle like a turkey's one of these days, and I'll get the last laugh then.

Next are my children. This is my youngest son, who's brilliant and snarky and sweet. I'm just as grateful for my oldest son, who's handsome and smart and generous, and my daughter, who's bright and funny and creative, but their photos are on the dead desktop, not this laptop. (The hard drive survived so I haven't lost them, but I can't access them right now.)

Next comes our Plott hound, Dyson, rescued just before the ax dropped. He's turning out to be a wonderful companion.

But I'm also grateful for the many years we enjoyed the company of our wonderful Shar-pei/husky mix, Mina. She was loyal and loving and brave and protective and the sweetest dog I've ever had, and we'll never forget her.

I'm grateful this year for having the chance to meet and get to know Sandra Cisneros. She came to Kansas City as the highlight of our most successful Latino Writers Collective reading series ever. And then later in the year, I had the chance to spend more time with her at...

Macondo! Another thing I'm so grateful for in my life in 2009. This writers workshop and writing community founded by Sandra is an incredible mix of great talent, huge fun, focused intention, and always compassion, if not outright love. Becoming a member this year was a true privilege. This final shot of Macondo 2009 missed some people, unfortunately, but all these people are incredible, and I'm truly grateful to have gotten to know each of them.

This photo is of my Casa-Hearth-Diaspora writing workshop at Macondo. Led superbly by Ruth Behar and Marjorie Agosín, these multi-talented people worked on each other's manuscripts with such care and caring that it was a great blessing to be in their company. They embodied the Macondo spirit, and they are each precious to me.

(Note: This list is not really in any order because I haven't mastered moving and placing photos in Blogger. In fact, today I can hardly upload them!) This photo is of the Konza Prairie around Manhattan, Kansas.
Last year, I had the opportunity to go back to my old high school in Manhattan (the "Little Apple"), and reconnect with long-lost classmates. I'm grateful for that opportunity and their continuing presence in my life.

Always, always I'm grateful for my Latino Writers Collective familia. Here are a few of us in Chicago at our reading at LatteOnLincoln. Front and center is another person I'm grateful for, Carlos Cumpián, terrific editor, poet, and friend to the Collective and to me.

Of course, another thing I'm thankful for is the publication of my book, Heart's Migration, this past year--and for the very positive receptions it received. Much appreciation to Tia Chucha Press for publishing it and giving me such a beautiful book.

Another thing I am grateful for is receiving the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award from the Macondo Foundation. This award is "for exhibiting exceptional talent, a profound commitment to their chosen form of expression, and dedication to the work of nurturing the creativity of others." That kind of recognition seldom comes around, and when it does, it means so much.

One of the other things I'm thankful for is the Midwest Voices and Visions Award from the Alliance of Artists Communities and the Joyce Foundation. I will start my month at Ragdale in a few weeks, and my creative heart, which has been buried lately under nonprofit and grant business and minus-degree hills of snow, is hungry for that dedicated time to do my own work and connect again with the deep well of intuitive inspiration at my core.

So goodbye to 2009. You were very good to me. I hope 2010 will be even better.

What are you grateful for as the new year gets underway?