Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chicks With Words

So I promised to come back and blog on my experience presenting at NACCS Tejas Foco. I'm back to do just that.

On Saturday morning, I was giddy and nervous. I had prepared some "remarks" about my poems, but as I sat in my car, sweaty palmed, I read them and rolled my eyes. Too academic. I''m too academic. That's my problem. I want to stick my nasty theory into everything. Ugh.

I crumpled up said theoretical remarks and tossed them into the pile of trash that exists in my backseat. Sometimes, the best remarks come straight from ones... well, you can figure out how this goes.

Our panel was in the MAGC building, pretty separate from the rest of the conference. It was on the second floor, at the end of a dark hallway. I'm feeling less enthused about this whole prospect. A toxic mixture of my ugly ego and my pessimism well up. Ugh. This is going to suck. I'm going to be reading my poems to.. myself and two other panelists.

The room was empty. The lights were off. I take a deep breath. Then, I start paging through my poems, jotting down a few general ideas for how I'll frame my work, though I'm really not sure about it all.

Then, things start to look up. I hear an echo of laughter. The door swings open. Mary Ann and Linda come into the room, my two fellow panelists. I smile at them, make some negative remark about our location, and we laugh together. My spirits begin lifting as we chat about nonsense.

About fifteen minutes later, it's time to get started. By now, the large classroom is pretty well filled! An audience? Why yes, we had an audience. Mary Ann introduces us -- we're a panel of women, she simply explains, women who, for some reason or another, get along, who've formed a bond in writing. We're so different, but we each represent a different aspect of womanhood. In my mind, we're taking apart the negative dichotomy (gwah, academic-speak again) -- there's no virgin/whore here -- we're three aspects of feminine strength. Mary Ann, in her infinite wisdom, called us The Goddess (moi), The Worker (Linda), and The Sister (her!). Lovely.

 I talk about my work, about revisionist mythmaking, why I think it's important, how it's a part of everything I write about, and how our panel, Chicks With Words, is a revisionist act in and of itself. "We're reclaiming the term "Chicks" -- a word that might be thought of as dehumanizing, derogatory even, and turning it into a powerful word, filled with the complexities of femininity" I say, somewhat pleased as to how this is all going now.

I share my poems -- my goddess poems! Oh how fun they are to recite :-D  Linda shared her social justice poems. Mary Ann read two beautiful pieces about her life. Somehow, they connected, snapped together.

By the end of the reading, we took questions, mostly which dealt with our writing processes. I added that I'm a writer BECAUSE a community fostered me into one. It's something I believe in, something I'm passionate about.

And then, the best part? We've agreed to keep this good thing going. The three of us are working on creating a reading series, a workshop series, that will function to forge that writing community for women. This is important work, and it all started with three chicks, three chicks with a handful of words and some ambition.

What's next?

On Saturday, I'm teaching a workshop. Following that, we're lined up to read at our local library in observance of International Women's Day.

We've got big plans, us chicks do.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

NACCS 2013 Reflections


I'm coming off an academic high right now.

NACCS 2013 is officially in the books. It was a really great time. Lucky for me, this year, it was at my home institution, UTPA, which meant I was able to take advantage and participate without having to disrupt my teaching!

 My first experience with NACCs this year was probably the best. I was in my classroom yesterday afternoon, erasing the board, cleaning up after my lecture. I'm holding a conversation with a student about her research question while straightening up. Offhanded, I mention that I'm on my way to the conference festivities, and suggest that she take a looksie at one of the panels related to her research on bilingual education.

"Miss..." she says, a smile on her face, "is that the Chicana conference?"

I nod, a little surprised.

"I went to a panel yesterday about grad school," she continues. Grad school?

Now, this kiddo of mine is pretty spectacular. This is the second semester I work with her -- I know, she was crazy enough to take my Comp 2 class! I recently wrote a letter of rec for her to intern this summer in D.C. with our congressman. Anyway, she goes on to explain that the panel was inspiring to her, that it was about why Chicanas need to go to graduate school, to change the landscape and climate of academia. I smiled wide.

If NACCS accomplished absolutely nothing else this year, it did it's job tenfold -- to inspire a young immigrant to continue her education, to broaden her horizon, to realize her goals.

But that wasn't all NACCS accomplished.

Besides mine, I think my favorite panel was one that discussed the importance of the anthology with VAO Publishing, Texas A&M Press, and UT Press. One of the panelists, Dr. Robert Johnson, made a really interesting comment that made a whole lot of sense to me -- that anthologies give an identity to an artistic movement, a definition, a place. The anthologies our humble area produces may not be all that different, some day, from the Modern's anthology, or the Beats. Anthologies DEFINE communities, build them. I never thought of it in this way -- I always just thought of them as a collection of works. Anyway, I was honored to be able to read a poem on that panel, too. It was a little random, but I have a poem coming out in VAO's Juventud! anthology, and the editor, Erika Johnson, asked me to read on the panel as she saw me walk in. Why of course! I exclaimed. I aimlessly walked into the right room, apparently. Thank you, God!

I also attended a poetry reading with Helena Villamontes, which was pretty inspiring as well. It reminded me of the struggle writers have to go through, but that the struggle is what makes us feel alive. She's an amazingly talented writer. I want to work on my novel some more. Ughh so many things I want to do!

Anyway, I'll try to blog again a bit tomorrow about my own panel. I want to add a picture and talk about hopefully the next big thing to happen to the Valley Poetry Scene -- a feminist poetry movement known by no other name than.... CHICKS WITH WORDS.

Friday, February 15, 2013

El Jardin and Other Things


It's Friday night -- an ideal Friday night. It's about 11:30pm here, and I'm stretched out on my sofa in my bathrobe, enjoying the company of the grand ol' green fairy.

So how are you doing, KatieKins?

Great, thanks. :)

So how goes the poeming? Pretty eh. Moreso, I'm engaged in community service lately with my poetry. Today, I read at Jardin del Arte in Edinburg. It was more of an art show than a poetry reading, but what was particularly inspiring to me was the overwhelming sense of community there. Everywhere I looked, there was someone I knew -- a hug to be had. I went alone (Bruno's been having a particularly rough time at work, so he's been MIA a bit), but I didn't FEEL alone. Gwah. I think El Valle is my home. I think it always will be. Gwah. It's a good thing.

If you know me, you know I have big dreams. I tend to think of these "big dreams" happening in "big places" -- you know, outside of the valley. I've lived here my entire adult life. I try to tell myself I've outgrown El Valle, that I need to move on to bigger, better things. It seems, though, that home is what I make of it. Perhaps I underestimate this place. Perhaps I underestimate myself and my ability to create what I need -- a community that nurtures and allows me to grow, a community that shapes me into a better person.

That's another litany of mine, I guess. To stay or not to stay? That is the question.

Other happenings:

Tomorrow I'm meeting up with a couple fellow writers to discuss our upcoming presentation at the National Association of Chicana/Chicano Studies conference. I'm presenting some ideas on Anzaldua -- just inklings I have about her, an interpretation of her work from my own odd feminist perspective, and how it might intersect with what I'm workin' on. See? Wonderful stuff is going on.

I feel overwhelmed with things to do. That's the story of my life. But only because I make it this way.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Struggle to Poem

This perhaps seems to be my constant litany, work vs. creative development. I never imagined it would be this difficult to maintain a writing life and teach, though it seems that many of my coworkers struggle with this, too :-/

I love teaching, I really do. It gives me purpose and joy. I think I love writing more, but I also think I'm a better teacher than I am a writer. I think this is going to be my lifelong struggle, finding balance between the two.

Enough emoness. Actually, my above rant is perhaps the opposite of emoness. It's two conflicting loves. One loves me more, and one I love more. Anyway, I'm glad I have two loves in my life (wait, I have more than that, I'm a multitude of love...)

I'm never going to figure this all out X-D

 Ok, moving on...

I've been trying to get more engaged in community lately. No, that's not true, the community's been trying to get me more engaged in service. I'm just one to leap on opportunities to share the love. So I have a few brewing projects.

First off, I'm going to be giving some free writing workshops to the community coming up. One will be in the very near future, geared towards examining the feminine voice and revisionist mythmaking this month. I'm very excited about sharing my ideas on this with other women, as I think it's an important concept and goal in feminist writing. I'll post more details as they avail.
My second upcoming workshop is, I think, going to be on the poetic line -- metrical considerations y others. I'm excited about that, too, though it's during the summer so I'll have a wee bit more time to prep.

And if that wasn't enough?

This is perhaps the service I'm most excited about. This Saturday, I'm going to be judging a poetry contest at Santa Rosa High! If you know me, then you know just how special this is. My first professional job was teaching 6th grade in Santa Rosa. I learned so much working there, and I've always been grateful that the little school took a chance on little me. You see, I was just twenty years old, bright eyed and bushy tailed for sure. I hadn't a clue how to teach (I didn't even have a license) but I knew I had a heart for it. The principal hired me on the spot, and so began my life as an educator.

So this weekend, I'm going "back home" so to speak. Santa Rosa is a lovely little town here in South Texas. Each grade level consists of no more than 100 kiddos, so I was the only 6th grade reading teacher. I did some finger counting and figured out that my students would now be in 11th and 12th grade, which is precisely the age groups I'm going to be judging. They'll be my old kiddos!

Anyway, I'm excited.