Southwest Festival of the Written Word

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Three Wise Women panel: Stella, Evangeline, Denise,
Three Wise Women panel: Stella, Evangeline, Denise,

The second Southwest Festival of the Written Word took place the first weekend in October. Even though I’m totally biased as I’m one of the organizers and I launched my novel at the festival, I thought it was a wonderful event.

It took place mainly in downtown Silver City, my hometown, with a few events also held at Western New Mexico University. Thanks to our wonderful sponsors, everything except the Saturday night banquet was free and open to the public.

Some highlights were “Snapshots,” Virus Theater’s interpretation of Bonnie Buckley Maldonado’s poetry. Bonnie was the first Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County (disclaimer: I’m the Chair of the Selection Committee, so I helped choose her) and she did an amazing job getting the word out (yep – shocking pun) about poetry and the literary arts, while writing another collection, The Secret lives of Us Kids. Virus Theater’s performance was based on this collection and was a spectacular mixture of visuals, dance, words and music. Kudos to Teresa Dahl-Bredine, the director, and her merry band of brilliant performers.

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Another highlight was Denise Chávez’s tardeada (afternoon get-together) in a local coffee shop. Her readings from The King and Queen of Comezón (see review here), interspersed with traditional  Mexican songs and snacks, went down a treat. She’s a stellar performer.

And talking of Stella, Stella Pope Duarte delighted everyone with her sessions at the festival, plus an inspiring school visit. She was a positive force wherever she went, and we were lucky to have her for this weekend.

I also enjoyed Daniel Chacón’s talk after the Saturday night banquet. He covered a range of subjects – most memorably, bilingualism and how to write when roofers are drilling away in the distance. You had to be there, and I’m glad I was.

Dan Chacón
Dan Chacón

Some other sessions I enjoyed included the poets Tanaya Winder and Logan Phillips’s readings in Javalina, and the laconic Lee Abbott. Abbott is a superb short story writer who has seen and done it all, published everywhere, lived everywhere (at least in the U.S.), and is the very model of what a writer should be. I even caught him crouched on a sidewalk before his session, puffing on a sneaky cigarette.

It seems incredible that two years’ work – the time it took us to put together the festival – kind of disappears in one weekend. The following Monday, as I stacked tables in the ballroom of the Murray Hotel, a great emptiness washed over me. Twenty-four hours previously, the place had been buzzing with authors and readers and vendors. Now it was an empty room. This has to be a metaphor for something, but I’m not sure what.

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