Saturday, October 12, 2013

Part II--Road Trips, the Brooklyn Book Festival, the Hudson Valley Writers Center, and Wichita Public Library

In Part I, I told of our trip to reach NYC in time for Brooklyn Book Festival events and our thrill-filled ride to the venue for my great panel, “Six Degrees of Separation."

After my panel and signing, were completed, Ben and I wandered outside to see the vendors—over 200 gathered on the plaza outside the Brooklyn Borough Hall. Along the way, we ran into friends and fellow Macondistas, Erasmo Guerra and Ron Drummond. Since we only had a short time for lunch before I was scheduled for a reading at the Las Comadres/La Casa Azul Bookstore booth, we hit a nearby coffee shop for lunch. While we were eating and catching up with Erasmo and Ron, Sergio Troncoso appeared. Sergio is a dear friend, and we were scheduled to read at the Hudson Valley Writers Center that evening. He’d generously offered to drive Ben and me to Sleepy Hollow where the center’s located. So it was lovely to meet him for lunch.

Soon enough, we headed back to the huge square full of vendors’ booths where both Sergio and I were to read at the Las Comadres/La Casa Azul Bookstore booth. The festival was so full of attendees (over 45,000) that, at times, it was hard to move around freely, but eventually we got to our destination. This reading had been organized by two dynamic women who are doing wonderful things for Latino literature—Nora Comstock of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and Aurora Anaya-Cerda of La Casa Azul Bookstore. They had collected a terrific group of writers to read—Carlos Andrés Gómez, Tim Z. Hernandez, Lulu Delacre, Sergio, and me. Also gathered there were supporters of Las Comadres, La Casa Azul, and us individual writers, plus the amazing writer and activist, Rich Villar. It was a delight to see Rich again, since the last time we’d met had been at AWP in Boston in March. 

As Nora played emcee, many other festival attendees stopped and gathered around to hear the reading, which Carlos Andrés Gómez kicked off with a brief discussion about his memoir, Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood, and a warm poem about his grandmother. I had not been familiar with his work, but I’ve been blown away by him. Watch this video made of one of his poems to see how powerful his work is. 

Lulu Delacre was next. Lulu is not only a talented writer but a truly gifted painter. Her bilingual books for children are illustrated with her own lush paintings and are absolutely gorgeous. She’s part of the rise in gorgeous bilingual books for children that’s taking place in the U.S. today. When my own children were young, it was nearly impossible to find books like these. Now, parents, grandparents, and teachers have wonderful options like Lulu’s books to give to their children and students.
I spoke a little about my latest book, Every Broken Trust, and noticed that the crowd around our reading kept growing. Next up was Tim Z. Hernandez, who’s researched and written about Bea Franco, “the Mexican girl” in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Tim’s book, Mañana Means Heaven, tells the story of her life including but beyond her relationship with Kerouac and paints an evocative portrait of the world in which she lived. Tim’s research on this book was meticulous, and he read to us Franco’s moving final letter to Kerouac.

Our reading ended with Sergio Troncoso speaking briefly about his latest book, Our Lost Border, which he co-edited with Sarah Cortez. (See the account of our reading below for a link to a video of Sergio reading from this book.) Afterward, we all stayed to sign books and take photos with fans and friends. There continued to be crowds at the booth, looking at the many books La Casa Azul Bookstore had on display and available for sale. This bookstore is a real treasure in New York City with its heavy community involvement, its wide range of programming, and its strong support of writers and readers.

Soon enough, Sergio, Ben, and I headed for the subway and the ride into Manhattan to Lincoln Center to meet his delightful wife, Laura, and head out of the city. It’s a beautiful ride down the Hudson River Valley, and Sergio and Laura pointed out key places and explained some background about them as we drove.

Sleepy Hollow, New York, is a lovely village that reminds me of small river towns around Kansas City. The Hudson Valley Writers Center is located in Philipse Manor, a historic train station that was rescued from complete dilapidation and restored to beauty to become once more a functioning train station, as well as the home of the Hudson Valley Writers Center. HVWC offers a wide range of literary programming and an impressive list of workshops, and its physical location looks over railroad tracks directly into the magnificent Hudson River. I was fortunate enough to meet Margo Stever, the poet who led the arduous battle to create the Hudson Valley Writers Center and give it this current beautiful home.

The interesting thing about reading at HVWC is that trains are still pulling in and out of the station in the background as you read. It sounds disruptive, but it actually was not. It added a bit of idiosyncratic charm to the evening. I had been asked to read poetry, which was a treat for me since I’m usually expected to read or talk about my novels right now. The audience was very engaged and receptive. 

After my reading, Sergio gave a powerful talk and reading from the book of essays he recently co-edited with Sarah Cortez, Our Lost Border. This is a link to a video of a similat talk and reading Sergio gave to a school several weeks later. Though the two readings might sound disparate, they actually meshed well. After Sergio finished reading, we answered questions and had a passionate discussion with the audience for some time before we finished up with a book signing.

Then, Sergio and Laura took us out to dinner at a lovely restaurant with wonderful Mediterranean food in nearby Tarrytown called Chiboust where we sat and ate, talked, and drank until we closed the place down. What a lovely evening with such congenial and personable hosts!  At the end of the evening, seeing how exhausted everyone was, Sergio dropped Laura off at their apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and drove Ben and me all the way back to our hotel in Brooklyn, causing him another long drive back to his garage and walk to his apartment back in Manhattan. Kindness personified.

 Monday morning, Ben drove us out of Brooklyn and Manhattan, discovering an interesting phenomenon. Coming into Manhattan, the charge for the Holland Tunnel is $13.00. Driving back out of Manhattan, there is no charge. They really would rather you didn’t come into the city, it seems. We took the same road back west because any other route would add so many miles and hours to our travels. But we encountered more of the frustrating delays on the Pennsylvania turnpike, and once off, we could not find a hotel or motel for the night. They were all full of construction workers for all the road construction going on. We learned that they were running three shifts on the road construction, and most of the men (and some women) working were from out of town, the majority from Texas. It grew later and later as we drove, desperate for a place for the night and worn to a frazzle, until finally one hotel had one deluxe suite (at a much higher cost than we would have chosen to pay) still available. I snatched it up, and as we headed to the room to unpack the car, we passed two more families pulling up to try to find a room in the dark. We drove sixteen hours the next day to finally reach our home, and I could hardly walk when we got in.

After a day and a half of recuperation, we set out again for events in Kansas, culminating in a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the Wichita, KS, Public Library. I love to do events at libraries. Librarians are my heroes and have been since I was a child hiding out among the books from my dysfunctional home. It’s always so much fun to meet and talk with not only the librarians but with the regular patrons and supporters of the library.

Once back, it was time for the national teleconference with Las Comadres National Latino Book Club. I was fortunate enough to have Every Broken Trust selected as the September book for the NLBC to read, and gatherings all around the country had been reading and discussing it. I had met the leader of the New York City group at the Brooklyn Book Festival—that group had live-tweeted their meeting and discussion, which was great fun. Nora Comstock, the incredible founder and CEO of Las Comadres, interviewed me for the teleconference with intelligent and insightful questions. Some of the hundreds of Las Comadres who were listening had asked questions, and Nora asked those of me, as well. Anyone who despairs of what’s happening to reading in America and who believes that no one reads anymore—or not for anything but the crudest escape—should listen to the Comadres and the perceptive, thoughtful questions they asked of me. They’ll post the tape of the interview to their website at when they have it ready. (I don’t believe it’s up yet.)

I had a wonderful time in my travels, but I’m oh so glad to be back home. I have a book to write, but I have to put it on hold since my copy edits just came in for Every Hidden Fear, the third Skeet Bannion novel. Time is absolutely whizzing past. But now, I settle into the boring life of a writer who’s not on the road, a life of writing, revising, writing, revising, and not much else. Hurray!

NOTE: Blogger is not letting me comment on my some reason, so if you don't get an immediate reply to your comment, that's why. I'm working on it, but unfortunately Blogger isn't.

Coming later this week, a 2-part Literary Mystery Novelists blog featuring Julia Spencer-Fleming and her forthcoming book, Through the Evil Days


  1. Linda, thank you for posting the video of Carlos Andrés Gómez. So powerful and his reading is such that you cannot miss a word—it just moves right through you. I have to get a piece of his work to read more.

  2. Wow, you were really busy! Loved the photos. By the way, Sarah Cortez is a friend of mine.

  3. So much fun to be an armchair traveler with you and Ben! And glad to know you're working on another wonderful Skeet Bannion book!