Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo 2010

Over twenty years ago, when I lived in Boston, committed to living the writer's life, though stuck in a 9-5 job at a braille press (yes, I learned to read braille, but with my eyes rather than my fingers), I learned the most valuable lesson of my working life: that time is a non-renewable commodity. That I might be able to make up money, but I would never be able to make up time. Thus began my very conscious effort to use whatever time I had to write in the most productive way possible. I think this has been the secret to my productivity, that I no longer take time for granted, that I know each passing day is a day I will never get back, each hour an hour I could have moved forward on my writing. For three years, between 2007-2010, I wasn't able to move forward in my writing very much because I was serving as Chair of the Cesar Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies at UCLA. Not that I wasn't productive, and I took advantage of the time I did have to write three new research articles and edit two new anthologies, and I did actually manage to eke out a brand new short story for an anthology on YA mystery fiction. But there were all these ideas for a new novel swirling around in the back of my brain, haunting and taunting me on a daily basis, that I did not have time to sit down and flesh out in my journal. Usually, they would needle under my eyelids while I was undergoing an acupuncture treatment, although occasionally, they also danced on my dashboard while I sat in L.A. traffic on the 405. It was these brilliant (I thought) but amorphous ideas that I attempted to channel into a NaNoWriMo novel in 2008 and again in 2009. But I never got very far, not even halfway through the 50K challenge, and still, I was content to have been able to write anything at all. This year, I have a sabbatical and that means I finally have time to sit down and really listen to and voyeurize those story-ideas that have been haunting me for three years. Of course, October is a great month to be haunted, and November, with its cooler weather, its occasional gray skies, its gothic possibilities, lends itself well to daily summoning at the computer. And so, I have resolved that this year, 2010, I will finish the 50K challenge, and out of it will emerge a very raw, very rough draft of a YA novel that is at this very moment sitting in lotus at the top of my head.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera

It seems eerily appropriate that my edited book on the murdered women of Juárez is going to be published in November 2010, the centennial anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. How did Juárez go from being a seedbed of revolutionary thinking in 1910 to a killing field of women and girls and a cesspool of narco slaughter one hundred years later? Maybe Porfirio Díaz was right: poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States. But it's more than the crimes of proximity that have affected my hometown (because the El Paso/Juárez border, el Chamizal, to be exact, is literally the place where I was born). It's all of the ways in which this portal to the promised land has been poisoned, exploited, and coerced into losing its soul to Big Business and Big Brother. The deaths--particularly the femicides, which Making a Killing is all about--are the detritus of all this spoilage. The greed at the root of this spoilage is nothing new; it marbled the heart of Porfirio Díaz as much as it worms through the guts of any current-day politician, north or south of the border, whose only interest is to profit at anyone's expense, that is, to "make a killing." Unlike my previous mystery novel on the subject (Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders), this book is a collection of 13 scholarly essays and testimonios that focus exclusively on analyzing this continuous heinous crime wave of gendered violence on the El Paso/Juárez border, and the different forms of activism that have arisen over the last 17 years. Click on the thumbnail picture to see the book's table of contents and introductory essay.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Sabbatical Begins

And now, finally, after a month of house renovations, family visits, and a Vegas birthday vacation filled with bowling and blackjack, my sabbatical after a three-year term as department chair officially begins. As a "broche de oro" to close my chairship, I got the news that UC Systemwide had officially approved our department's M.A./Ph.D. proposal, and this was a fantabulous way to step down, although I know we all have our work cut out for us to get the graduate program off the ground. Still, as Elena our department's long-time administrative specialist said, I helped launch the new future of our department and I feel damn good about it. As to what my sabbatical brings, here's what I'm hoping for: much-needed rest and perhaps even the end of my stress-induced fibromyalgia; more exercise and walks on the beach; completion of a new academic book manuscript; beginning a new novel, and I'm playing with the idea of a YA book; and lots of bowling. Got a personalized bowling ball for my birthday, some spiffy bowling shoes, and a very professional-looking bowling bag to carry it all in (and with my Vegas blackjack winnings, I got Alma the same, and she helped upgrade our bags to rollers with her roulette winnings) and we are looking into lesbian bowling in Los Angeles. I think we found something at Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood. And we continue to look to the stars for signs of one named Azul.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sex y Corazon Symposium @ UCLA

On Friday, February 12, 2010 the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies and Chair Alicia Gaspar de Alba will be hosting a one-day symposium that looks back over the last fifteen years of Chicana/o Studies and examines how Chicana/o queer and feminist scholars have changed the field.

This historical symposium will gather over twenty-five Chicana and Chicano scholars and practitioners whose work intersects race, class, gender and sexuality paradigms within both traditional and interdisciplinary fields. Speakers will also speak to how their scholarship and activism utilizes love as a political strategy for social change.

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Online registration required at

Seating is limited so register today.