books, hippies, Taos

Keeping Up With Appearances

The publishing experiment continues with two readings, actually three, in two days. Not as racy, certainly, as Lenora, one of my main characters in Peace, Love, and You Know What, having sex with three guys in two days, but that is fiction. This is real life.

On Thursday, June 30, I was part of the lineup of 50 or so writers who read from their works as part of SOMOS of Taos’ open house in its swanky new headquarters. I was the first, reading from Los Primos y el Pez Mágico — the English part anyway — in the kids’ hour. We had a good crowd of gymnastic campers from next door and even adults.

somos reading June 2016

Reading at the SOMOS of Taos open house. Thank you Bleuzette La Feir for the photo.

Throughout the day, writers of all genres read from their work. That night I was back with the adult fiction writers. I read from a chapter in Peace, Love, and You Know What called The Hard Truth, which is the second in the book.

I had nine minutes. When I prepared, I realize a lot happens in my novel. Since the plot involves college hippie tribes and dirty professors, I wanted to keep it simple and focus on the main characters. I wanted dialogue. The Hard Truth worked.

The next morning I drove across the mesa to KNCE 93.5 FM for David and Carolyn Hinske’s radio show, You Kids Get Off My Lawn. (Don’t let the title fool you into thinking the Hinskes are curmudgeons. They are really sweet.) The station is located in an Airstream trailer, aka the Silver Twinkie, next to Taos Mesa Brewing.

As a journalist for over 30 years, I am usually the one asking questions. This was a change for me. But I was delighted the Hinskes read the novel. (Carolyn made a pitch that it would make a great movie.) And they asked great questions about the book, the writing process, and my former life as the managing editor of a newspaper. I think I gave decent answers.

And I read a bit from Peace, Love, and You Know What. Here was the challenge: as I told David and Carolyn, I not only swear like a sailor and I write like one. The FCC frowns on that. So I printed out a chapter and change a couple of the words so the radio station wouldn’t get into trouble.

That won’t be the case Friday, July 8, when I do a solo reading. Again it will be at the SOMOS office in Taos, from 6-8 p.m.

This time I am going to read sections from chapters to get those who attend through the three-day bash — and then one from a year later to show where this book heads.

My friend Teresa Dovalpage, who grew up in Cuba and knows nothing about hippies, will do a short Q&A. I will have books to sell — $12 each — and sign. And I will be serving brownies, without the magic ingredient, of course. To make it authentic to the book, however, I may even use a Betty Crocker mix.

I am hoping for a raucous good time.

Can’t make it and want your own book in Kindle or paperback? Here’s the link: Peace, Love, and You Know What

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Hank and I were sitting in our front yard after dinner when the light hit the landscape in a rather magical way for several minutes.

books, Taos

Practice, Practice, Practice

I’m a nut about preparation when it comes to speaking in public. When I was the managing editor of a newspaper, I did it frequently — quizzing candidates at political forums and emceeing the paper’s yearly awards event. Then there are the Q&A’s I’ve done in Taos with visiting authors and writers-in-residence.

I do my research and plan my questions. Then I print them on paper in a large font, say 22 or 24. And I practice.

I’m doing two readings for SOMOS on Thursday, June 30. The lit group of Taos is celebrating its new headquarters aka salon with a marathon reading of about 50 authors from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The evening will end with noted author John Nichols.

In the morning, Teresa Dovalpage, my collaborator and translator, and I will read from the first book in our los Primos bilingual series — the one about the magic fish. We’ve done a few of these. Teresa will bring her large, stuffed dog and I have posters of the illustrations my son Ezra did of the cousins (los primos) and their grandfather (abuelo).

I return in the evening for the adult fiction portion of the event. I will read from Peace, Love, and You Know What. Each author will have the floor for 10 minutes.

So what to read? My novel moves awfully fast and a lot happens. So I chose a short chapter, called The Hard Truth. The three-day bash hasn’t started. The characters have pulled three all-nighters in a row for finals. One of them is a few credits shy but is figuring a way to fake his graduation so he doesn’t disappoint his mother. We meet Lenora. There’s lots of dialogue and humor.

My plan is to give the listeners a taste and hopefully entice them to return a week later, July 8, for my solo reading. (Yes, I did write a short intro with big lettering.)

I’ve practiced a few times this week, using the timer on my phone. It’s well under 10 minutes. I think it will work.

Oh, I will be on David Hinske’s radio show on KNCE 93.5 FM on Friday, July 1, at 9:30 a.m. If you’re not in the Taos area, it is live-streamed on

David’s show is called “You Kids Get Off My Lawn.” There’s some irony there since there is no lawn at KNCE. The station, located inside an Airstream, is surrounded by sagebrush and located next to a brewery.

This time the shoe will be on the other foot, as my mother used to say. I have no idea what David will ask me and that’s just fine.

Lastly, here is the link to my novel on Amazon. Thanks readers!  Peace, Love & You Know What

PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the poster for the SOMOS open house June 30.

choke cherry copy
books, environment, Q&A, Taos

Questioning Minds Want to Know

I was charmed when I passed the SOMOS office in Taos yesterday to see a poster on the window promoting my July 8 reading. I am going to read from Peace, Love, and You Know What, answer questions posed by my friend, Teresa, and hopefully sell some books.

I told Teresa I don’t want to know the questions ahead of time. That would take the fun — and a little bit of the fright — out of it.

This is a big switch for me. I’m the one who usually asks the questions, and I will be doing it again Wednesday, June 22, with Priscilla Solis Ybarra.


Estella and Aldo Leopold

Priscilla is the first of this year’s Aldo and Estella Leopold Foundation’s “Mi Casita” writers in residence. She is staying for a month at the cabin where Aldo Leopold, one of the great voices for the environment, and his wife, Estella Luna Otero Bergere Leopold, stayed when he worked for the Carson National Forest. The home, their first, is located in Tres Piedras outside Taos.

Interestingly Priscilla’s research focuses on Estella and her impact on the writings of her husband, notably A Sand County Almanac. Her goal is to write a biographical portrait.

The title of her talk is “The Leopolds in the Light of the Lunas and Oteros: Latino/a Legacies in American Environmentalism.”

Priscilla is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of writing the goodlifeNorth Texas, specializing in Chicana/o literature and theory as well as environmental literature and ecocriticism. She recently released a book, Writing the Goodlife: Mexican American Literature and the Environment.

As a member of the committee that selected this year’s writers in residence, Priscilla’s proposal was an easy choice. Certainly I have to believe Estella was more than just “the missus” and that she was a major influence on her husband’s work. Their five children chose careers as environmental scientists and activists.

To prepare for the Q&A, I am reading Priscilla’s book — I am about three-quarters of the way through. I have other material.

I will come up with my list, and I am certain we will open it up to questions from the audience.

From my years as a journalist, I know better than to ask yes or no questions because you will get yes or no answers. There are times when that may be necessary when you want to put somebody on the spot, but I believe open-ended questions are the way to go. My aim is to advance the conversation.

I confess I love doing these Q&A’s. During the past few years, I have done them at various venues with such authors as Valerie Plame (twice), Anne Hillerman, and the former fugitive Katharine Anne Powers. I also interviewed last year’s Mi Casita fellows.

I met Priscilla at a musical event this week. I assured her it would be a fun experience. From what I’ve learned so far, I believe those who come to the program will enjoy listening to what she has to stay.

Here is the info: Wednesday, June 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Harwood Museum of Art. And it’s free.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A little levity, at least for me, at the Taos Farmers Market. No, I am not the Joan who makes choke cherry jelly. I am going to have to buy a jar one day.

AND ABOUT PEACE, LOVE, AND YOU KNOW WHAT: As I wrote in my last post, I am over the moon, as they say, with the paperback release of my novel a few days ago. Here’s the link if you are interested Peace Love and You Know What on Amazon



It’s Alive! Peace, Love & You Know What in Paperback

There’s nothing like a book in hand. That’s the way I felt when I got the proof of Peace, Love, and You Know What in the mail. Now it’s your turn.

The novel’s out in paperback. Just now.

Yes, I am big into digital. When I was a newspaper editor, I worked on the computer for many hours. I write my fiction that way. I keep up with friends and the news online.

I even own a Kindle.

But after all that screen action, I like looking at ink on paper. I like touching it.

I’m not alone. I have heard from people asking when they can buy the paperback version.

I hope you feel the same way, too.

You can purchase Peace, Love, and You Know What on Amazon. Here’s the link: Peace, Love & You Know What on Amazon

I’m keeping the price at $11.95, which is not a large profit margin for me, but I want people to buy the book and recommend that others do the same. Besides I am not a known name — yet I hope — in the literary world.

(And if you like reading it, I hope you wouldn’t mind giving it a review on Amazon. Thanks if you do.)

After the proof arrived early last week, I read it four times. In the process I found problems that needed to be fixed — missing words, inconsistent word usage, and a couple of other things — that I somehow missed in the umpteenth times I read the book before.

It was a relief, however, that I enjoyed the book each time I read it. I even laughed at parts.

Yesterday morning, Michelle Gutierrez, the book’s designer, uploaded the book to CreateSpace for paperback. (We will also be updating the electronic version very soon.)

She emailed me, “thanks for bringing me on this journey :)”

I smiled.

This project has been a learning experience s for the both of us — she about design, me about process and promotion. Today I got the A-OK the updated version met CreateSpace’s specs.

Michelle and I are going out to lunch to celebrate next week after the copies I ordered arrive. And, yes, we will be talking about more projects for the very near future.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the proof copy plunked on top of books from my library.

books, Taos

The Write Stuff: Two books about life

Here is my book review column, The Write Stuff, which appeared in the June 9 fiber edition of Tempo, the arts and entertainment section of The Taos News. Every two weeks I review books that have a connection to New Mexico.

This column takes on recent releases that reflect on two lives: one is a collection of autobiographical stories written by a beloved local doctor; the other is a noted author’s account of a boy growing up in New Mexico.

A Life Well Worn: A Collection of Personal Stories

Memoirs can be a tricky genre. A no-holds-barred telling may be satisfying for the author, but unfair to those who appear in the book. Others may not have such an interesting life after all.

But that’s not the case with the late Dr. Larry Schreiber, who tempers his observations with humor and kindness as he shares stories from his life, which includes over 40 years as a physician and humanitarian.

Schreiber is also the father of 14 children, including 10 who were adopted from around the world. He co-founded Child-Rite, which for 20 years placed 240 children with special needs in New Mexican homes at no cost to the families. (His first contact with children who have special needs is when he volunteers as a teenager at the Cerebral Palsy Center in New York.)

After interning in Albuquerque, Schreiber remains in New Mexico to work in medically under-served areas, where patients are so poor, they barter for care.

“Wood wasn’t all I traded for. Without trading I wouldn’t have a barn (OB and tubal ligation), a chicken coop and goat pen (delivery of a baby), or fencing throughout my fields (pneumonia and gall bladder attack). I even traded medical care for house cleaning. How else do you keep a house clean with 13 children? Trading felt good. It worked.”

He writes about finding love with his second wife, poet Cathy Strisik.

He takes readers on hiking treks in the mountains. Of one adventure in Nepal, he writes, “Looking up the ice wall at 19,000 feet, I realized two things: my heart couldn’t go any faster, and I couldn’t go any slower.”

We also learn how he deals with the effects of Parkinson’s disease, likely caused by his exposure to pesticides while working in a hospital in Cambodia.

His writer’s voice is likable. I imagine a twinkle in his eye as he recalls his experiences and the people he knew.

There is humor — one story about what an elderly patient in a hospital calls him made me laugh out loud. Then, there is sorrow — his grief over the loss of one of his sons.

But such is the case, indeed, in a life well worn.

Of course, with Schreiber’s death Jan. 18 the book is a bittersweet reminder of his profound value here and elsewhere. He died as he wished, at his San Cristobal home with his family beside him and a view of Lobo Peak through the picture window. The book was completed shortly before his death.

“A Life Well Worn,” published by Nighthawk Press, is available in paperback.

Schreiber’s children will read from their father’s memoir at an event Saturday (June 11), 6-8 p.m. at the Harwood Museum. Strisik will introduce the evening, which will include a video of Schreiber reading one of his pieces.


The Sorrows of Young Alfonso

Rudolfo Anaya is a celebrated New Mexican author with an impressive body of work, including “Bless me, Ultima,” published in 1972. In his latest, Anaya writes about Alfonso, who at his birth was told by a
curandera, “The world is full of sorrow.”

Anaya chooses the format of the anonymous letter writer, presumably an old man, who tells Alfonso’s story to a person identified as “K.” The curandera’s prophecy comes true via an accident involving a train that leaves the boy handicapped. Later, he attends a university and emerges as a writer.

As Alfonso grows and changes, so does New Mexico.

“Now the prayers are being forgotten. This generation doesn’t pray like we did We spent hours on our knees. We had plenty to pray for. The war had taken the village boys; the Depression came, and with it the dust storms of the Dust Bowl. The way of living was changing from Spanish to English. There were new bosses and only menial work for the Mexicanos. The town banker spoke only English. Try getting a loan.”

Fans of Anaya and his writing style will undoubtedly enjoy this book. For others, reading “The Sorrows of Young Alfonso” may seem like dancing a slow waltz and wondering when the song will end. However, be prepared for a delightful dip toward the end.

“The Sorrows of Young Alfonso,” published by University of Oklahoma Press, is available in hard cover.