The Oracle Says…

Feliz 2019! I hope your new year is off to a grand start. Before it ambles any farther, here is a little update from my corner. 

With 2017 concluding in a CT-Scan that released me from cancer treatment, I deemed 2018 “The Year of Resurrection.” I am so grateful to share that resuming my book tour for All the Agents and Saints did, in fact, revive me from the fog of chemotherapy. Picking up where my last post left off, here are a few highlights from the last six months of the tour:

* Teaching a workshop of brilliant Latinx essayists at Macondo, a foundation that supports socially engaged writers of color.

Macondo was founded by our madrina of Chicana literature, Sandra Cisneros, who hosted a farewell pachanga none of us will soon forget. 

* Moderating a panel for PEN America about family separations at the border. Held at the Texas Book Festival, it featured three of our top immigration reporters: Ginger Thompson of ProPublica, Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas Morning News, and Lomi Kriel of the Houston Chronicle. 

* Giving the …

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Count On Me

I am so proud to announce the release of COUNT ON ME: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, by the amazing Latina networking organization Las Comadres. Editor Adriana Lopez gathered some top-notch Latina writers–including Esmeralda Santiago, Lorraine Lopez, Sofia Quintero, Reyna Grande, Michelle Herrera Mulligan, and our beloved compadre Luis Alberto Urrea–and asked them to write a tribute to their closest friend (or comadre). The result is a deeply moving anthology of a dozen essays that officially goes on sale September 4!

Here is a taste of my own contribution to the anthology, “Road Sisters.”

We were hungry, we were tired, and we were lost. Daphne was in the driver’s seat; I was navigating (and failing). We had been driving for three hours by that point, searching for Chilchinbito – a village so tiny, it didn’t appear on our Arizona atlas. We had been told that the Cowboy family might host us for the night, but they had no phone to confirm this. And so, we were relying on faith, blind faith. Faith …

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A Sort of Homecoming

I’m happy to announce that The Florida Review has just published the first chapter of my thesis/next book. It’s called “A Sort of Homecoming” and here’s a little taste:

I am so starved for company, even a dead man’s would do.

Stamping on my boots, I follow a trail leading into a desert jungle thick with yucca and mesquite. Rain is so scant in this swath of South Texas, trees grow out instead of up, fusing together like brush. In some patches, you can’t see but two feet beyond. But it’s noisy here—gloriously noisy. Beetles munch through mounds of deer dung. Orange-bellied orioles and dust-colored sparrows twitter from treetops while flocks of chachalacas cluck about. My boots trample footprints, paw prints, hoof prints.

A chain link fence appears up ahead, enclosing acres of cleared land. The ranch hands call it Cowboy Cemetery. I pace among the graves, peering at the sunken stones. In the olden days, families carved the names of their departed into planks of wood and thrust them into the …

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Labor Day Update

Hope y’all are having a peaceful and relaxing Labor Day weekend. The sun is shining out my window, but as of 5:15 p.m. Sunday, I have yet to greet it: there’s too crazy much to do! Some updates I’d love to share with you:

* Travelers’ Tales just sent me a box full of the latest translation of 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, from Korea. I can’t believe how thick it is–nearly double the heft of the original. Too bad I can’t read a word… though the layout/design/photography is terrific. Here’s the cover:

Que fun, no?

* The Believer has bought my profile of master frescoist Frederico Vigil! I met this extraordinary artist last May, when I was teaching at the National Latino Writers Conference at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, and was so blown away by his latest work–a 4,000 square foot fresco detailing 3,000 years of Latino history–I interviewed him on the spot. I returned to Albuquerque last October for the grand opening of the fresco, …

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Midsummer Bliss

Is it me, or is this summer blazing by at hyper-speed? Since I last wrote, I’ve been to San Francisco; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Syracuse, New York; Dallas; and Houston, plus Corpitos at every point in between. Craziness! Some of the highlights:

* hiking through Tennessee Valley and then downing a bottle of wine, a bag of cherries, and a block of lavender goat cheese on Paradise Beach with Marcy Gordon

* bonding with Lavinia Spalding, editor of Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, over dim-sum at Yank Sing (which serves the yummiest jiaozi this side of the Pacific)

* wandering the winding streets of San Francisco, chai-and-chocolate-milk in hand, with Lea Aschkensas

* biking across Elk Refuge and beholding the Grand Teton

* meeting one of my literary heroes, Cristina Garcia, at the Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference and then devouring her latest novel, The Lady Matador’s Hotel, in a day-long gulp

* meeting another literary hero, Ben Fountain, at a barbecue in Dallas and then re-reading and re-falling for Brief Encounters with Che Guevara 

* road-tripping …

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Intro to Travel Writing

I’m psyched to announce that I’ll be teaching an 8-week, online Intro to Travel Writing class with Media Bistro, from June 7 – August 2. Here’s the skinny, from their website:

Travel the world and get paid for it? Yes, it’s true! Whether a long weekend in Mendocino or a long walk across Nepal, there’s a market out there for your stories, and a proven path that successful travel writers follow. In this course, you’ll learn how to grow your freelance writing career by mastering one of its most adaptable, engaging genres: travel.

Travel writing is a conduit to many parallel genres, from food to art, politics to technology, and the skills and experience you’ll gain covering travel can be applied to all your writings. In week one, we’ll fully assess the travel writing market (magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, websites, blogs, and more) and set individual writing agendas for the duration of class. In following weeks we’ll reveal the inner workings of the field, showing how travel editors think and what they want from their writers. We’ll diagram the many different …

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48 Hours in Singapore

Apologies for the silence: February was one of the most manic months I’ve had in ages. Not only am I teaching two classes this semester, but I am also taking two classes, so traveling has become quite the juggling act. Two weeks ago, I did one of my craziest trips ever: flew 24 hours to Singapore, stayed 48 hours, and then flew 24 hours back. Between the jetlag and the uber-futuristic architecture, it felt a bit like time-traveling!

So what inspired this journey? A travel writing conference sponsored by the beautiful people at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. Sixteen scholars and authors from Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, England, and Iowa (!) gathered to discuss the state of travel letters from a variety of lenses and perspectives. Topics included everything from a Bakhtinian reading of nineteenth century women’s writings about Italy to war diaries by Japanese conscripts in the Russo-Japanese War. I gave my first-ever academic paper (well… an essay with a lot of footnotes) called …

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AWP 2011 Recap

Just returned from a manic 48 hours at the “largest literary gathering in North America,” otherwise known as the AWP Conference. Every year, some 8,000 writers, MFA students, and publishers swarm a major metropolitan city and hold hundreds of readings, panels, book signings, and discussions. I was super psyched about speaking on two panels this year, but Snowmaggedon intervened. Iowa City got pummeled with snow drifts and all flights were canceled for two days, meaning I missed my first panel (on Memoir & Latinidad). I finally made it to Washington D.C. around 2:30 a.m. on Friday–and had to moderate a “Women on Wanderlust” panel at 10:30! But grogginess wore off as soon as I met my co-panelists, the lovely Alison Stein Wellner, Johanna Gohmann, and Elisabeth Eaves (all contributors to Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010). Some 200 women–and an ebullient man–showed up to pay homage to the glories of the open road.

Aside from that, the conference’s highlight was catching a performance by Sapphire, author of the novel Push

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Ode to New York City

Feliz New Year, everyone! I’ve just returned from 66 hours in my favorite city on the planet — NYC — which I spent with six of my closest friends. It was the first time I’d been back since my rather disastrous exit a year and a half ago…

I first moved to Brooklyn two weeks after 9/11 and stayed until December 2004, when I left for Mexico to research Mexican Enough. After spending the 2005-2006 academic year at Princeton, I realized the road was wide open. I had lined up some speaking gigs and residencies in the year ahead, but there wasn’t enough income to live anyplace in between — certainly not in the Northeast, anyway. So I took a vow of nomadism and stuffed three-quarters of my belongings into a U-Haul storage facility in Chelsea (Manhattan). It stayed there THREE YEARS, at $100 a month! I knew it was ridiculous to pay so much rent for a few (well, 20) boxes of clothes, photos, books, and mismatched cutlery (plus some errant furniture I’d swiped off the streets …

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