Books · Writing & Writers

When did this start?

Pic Unrelated

It might have been a mistake when fellow writer Ronnie Garza let it slip that I was a “staple” in the local poetry community. Otherwise, I’m just being humble. I don’t believe anyone would agree with either or. I managed to go from hiding in the shadows to leaving them to returning to them in only a span of five years. It’s a feat that I don’t think anyone has managed before, at least not in my world. It started when René Saldaña, Jr. introduced me to Amado Balderas in April of 2005. Had it not been for that single moment, I don’t think I would have stumbled into the Nueva Onda Poet’s Cafe, or taken stage. Which would have led me to not have the balls to run for president of the local chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. I wouldn’t have taken over the poetry group, renamed The Nameless Poetry Group, during Amado’s absence. I wouldn’t have met great writers like Richard Sanchez or Dr. Anne Estevis. Nor would I have met Amalia Ortiz, Dagoberto Gilb and Richard Yañez – also great writers, but not local ones. El Senor and I wouldn’t have been friends and X-Cell One Would have just been a cell phone store to me, rather than the moniker of Donovan Maldonado. I wouldn’t have had the balls to approach the Pan American with the article for the cafe, which would have led me to never meeting David Robledo for a job with The Paper of South Texas, discarding my chances of ever meeting Reverend Adam Zuniga. I wouldn’t have made such great friends and acquaintances like the Abbies, Mike, everyone from EMO. Which means, I wouldn’t have heard of Mike’s bookstore and I wouldn’t have been one of his outstanding customers. And if it wasn’t for that fateful night in April, I wouldn’t have been even considered a staple of anything because I would be unknown and the name Guillermo Corona would just be on some roster. To say this started with Amado, however, is giving one man too much credit. Credit that is easily spread throughout every English teacher who believed in me. To my grandfather, whose tales inspired me to read and write. To my mother who fed and still continues to feed my addiction every birthday and Christmas by buying me books, notepads and whatnot. To the friends who held me up when life was getting me down. How do I get to every single person who has inspired me, supported me, pushed me toward some greater state of being, of thinking, of writing? And to ponder why I want to return to college is silly. I only would I like to work hard to get my work published some day, I’d like to be that first domino to fall setting off a great chain of events in other people’s lives. Is that so hard to understand?

Books · Doldrums

It was featured in today’s newspaper

 

So I booked a hotel room...

 

I used to call this place the happier parts of hell; like Mexico, we’re so far from Heaven. Last night Jyg had a dream that I was a clone – or clone-like. She dreamt there was three of me – the child, the teenager and the adult. We were on the run and we ran into Miranda at some store. Miranda and I hugged for longer than I’d ever allow another human to touch me. Longer than I’d ever let Miranda hug me. I don’t know if it was awkward, but I imagine it was. No matter, dreams are just that. Moving on.

Finished reading the Christianity chapter in God Is Not One by Stephen Prothero. It’s a boring history about a boring religion founded on blood and will end in blood. It had good moments in history, Pentecostalism being one of its many perks. I don’t think I’ll spend too much time on Confucianism because it’s a topic I’m more interested in – not to mention, I consider it a philosophy and not a religion but to each his own, I suppose.

I don’t mean to take a total shit on Christianity, mind you. I think it’s just an overrated religion compiled of overly zealous bigots who aim on destruction by fulling self-prophecies such as the war in the Middle East. Of course, not all Christians are narrow-minded nimrods, just the ones that hate me.

I veered off topic. I wanted to talk about something else. Specifically someone else. Another time, I suppose. I’ll write about you again. Until now, I’ll shall leave your memory in peace.

Doldrums

Error 404

I don't know whether to be sorry or just laugh

Someone is searching for René Saldaña, Jr. Rather, they’re searching for “informatoin” on his “workes.” I suspect Gollum is up to no good, and thinks René possesses the one ring. I know,  lame Lord of the Rings joke but I’m the king of lame.

I managed to write a rough draft for that personal statement one must attach to his grad school application. I must figure out how to clean and shorten it up, then hunt for three references who are willing to lie write recommendation letters for me. I have three people in mind, but I’m uncertain if two of them are willing. I’ll need to come up with two others just in case.

Moving on, I’m hunkering down again with some tea (not at the moment, but in the near future) to write a story or poem or something. I haven’t been writing much – serious writing, that is. Maybe a nonfiction piece for a change to spruce things up. Who knows. I surely don’t know. There are stories that I’ve held back because I’ve been too apathetic to write – read: depressed. The only cure for this depression is to suck it up and say fuck it to everything else. I’m going to stop dragging myself down with depressing thoughts – let’s just hope the dreams ease up, as well.

Anyway, I’m going to find a place to read without waking Jyg. I’ll probably wind up in the study. Adios.

Books · Writing & Writers

Storyteller & the Storytellers

My desk looks nothing like this

It’s a little pretentious of me to call myself a writer, which is why I usually note that I’m a reader who happens to write. Though, doesn’t that define a writer? Anyone who states they are a writer but don’t like reading is a poseur and should be stripped for their pen and paper immediately. Writers read to learn, to understand the trade, to better themselves. They draft countless times before they’re ready. Those who hate reading are probably cursed with Jack Kerouac‘s “first draft, best draft” idealism. Well, I got news for them: You’re no Jack Kerouac.

If anything, I think of myself as a storyteller. Not only because I’m in love with dying arts – except journalism, but that’s because you all brought it upon yourselves for filling up columns with bullshit – but because of the first storyteller I met, my grandfather. The name Guillermo Pequeño wouldn’t ring any bells unless you lived in Donna, Texas back in the sixties, during the year he was responsible for growing the first bale of cotton. He was a hardworking man who taught me that it was important to believe in what you did and work hard for what you have.

Like most grandfathers, mine stated he met Poncho Villa – whether he sought him out or rode with him depends on what version of the story you heard. But the one that stuck with me was the story of the man without a face, which I’ve adapted into a Lovecraftian tale a few years ago. My grandfather didn’t write any of his tales down, and I was too young to even think of memorizing all of them.

If anything, my grandfather is responsible for my obsession with books. While I never saw him once pick up a book in his life, during the short years that I knew him – and from my recollection, the only book in the house was an over sized, Spanish-translated Bible that acted more like a living room center piece and a set of outdated encyclopedias written in English – his storytelling led me to the world of literature. Starting off like many kids do, I read everything in popular culture. I hid away in these fictional world to hide from the ugly – later, when I matured, the worlds I’d turn to would start looking more like the one I left behind. Whenever I write something – well, something serious, anyway – it’s his voice that I seek within my mind. It’s a fading memory. I can still trace his features in my head, the rough five-o’clock shadow of his face, his worker hands when shook would only offer a tight grip that you tried to get away from. But his voice, I cannot remember unless I shut out all other thoughts.

Even now as I’m typing this, I imagine the hulk of his body standing behind me. Eyes scanning the screen of a computer, wondering why I’m doing this. “It’s because of you,” I’ll say.

I officially became an English major eight years ago when I entered college, but I believe I was one before that – excuse the grammatical errors here, I rarely even check my blogs, these are just streams of consciousness to get the muck out and the gears turning. Like any young romantic, I was churning out poems ever since I could remember. They were bad, of course; although they garnered a lot of attention from the female population – heaven knows why as nothing amounted from their love for whatever I spewed out.

My focus in my college days was American literature – preferably contemporary, but you don’t get to have it your way, even in college – and creative writing. At the beginning, there was only one creative writing course – not class, course – taught by a few professors. Originally, I wanted to take my only class with José Skinner but wound up taking it with René Saldaña, Jr. instead. Not that René wasn’t as good as Skinner, I just liked the way Skinner taught, having taken American Novel with him the semester before.

In Saldaña’s class, I called upon my grandfather to help me write the more serious tales like “David,” which was published a year later in UTPA‘s literary magazine, Gallery, in which I was an honorary mention. In the tale “When Rain Means Death,” I mixed my knowledge of pop culture with that of my grandfather’s voice, creating what I know now as my own voice.

That following summer, I enrolled in the Creative Writing Institute that UTPA held – still does as far as I know – where the guest writer was a man named Richard Yañez. “Reading Nietzsche Naked” was the piece I worked on, though it was called “Teeth,” or something like that then. With the help of both instructors/mentors and a class of would-be writers, I managed to capture my own voice and use it with force.

The English department added more creative writing courses, which I signed up for, by the end of my college career. I took them with José Skinner and Emmy Perez. They taught me what they could, and I adhered to what made sense to me. I make use of my knowledge when I do write, which is rare these days.

I joined several poetry/short story circles in the area, even started one as people turned to me for the next move. I’ve been called a staple in the poetry community by one fellow writer, though the modest side of me states there are far more important people out there who are overlooked and ignored, whose thunder was stolen by others who mimicked them, stole their ideas. I’ve made friends and I’ve made enemies. And I’ve even gone into hiding, waiting to make my next move in the creative community. They’ll do just fine without me, and they’ll greet me when I do resurface again, with new material and thoughts.

And I think one of my many reasons for wanting to join an MFA program – be it the one offered at UTPA or any other college that would have me – is the need to have others hear my stories, and the urge to aid others find their voices. I may become a writer one day, or I may become an agent, an editor (Krist forbid!) or I might head into the publishing world. For now, I am content on being a storyteller.

Doldrums

For What It’s Worth

Some heroes were writers...

…Others were those  responsible for my upbringing.

It takes a village to raise a kid was pretty much the mentality my family held. Grandparents and a single mother, aunts and uncles – these are the people who provided me with the books I loved, the rides to school, the encouragement to follow through my dreams. And while they each play an essential role to the person I would become, I cannot acknowledge them all in one post. It might take several posts – each of their own – to fully show my appreciation.

At an early age, my father walked out of my life. This included the typical “special appearances” throughout my life in some half-assed attempt to be part of it. The only father figures I had were my grandfathers. My maternal grandfather, from which I take my name, tended the fields, pulling his family throughout the state in the means of work. You may not know the name Guillermo Pequeño, but back in the 60’s he was responsible for growing one of the first bales of cotton for the city of Donna, TXMeanwhile, my paternal grandfather opened the Corona Shoe Repair shop, which still operates to this day, under the management of my uncle. I bear both their names and heed to their message of hard work, work that means something.

Both male figures in my life were taken from me three years apart. I was in the third grade when my maternal grandfather and in the sixth grade, my paternal grandfather suffered a fatal stroke. I sought paternal figures in my teachers, in the heroes of the books I loved so dearly. And in the women that continued to raise me.

My maternal grandmother and my mother are true feminists, despite their not knowing it. And while they both subscribe to old ideas of a woman’s place, they also lived the life of women who knew when it was time to take charge of a situation. Until her death my ninth grade year, my grandmother was devoted to her gardening. She taught me that no matter what life threw at you, you kept going. Even with sutures in her throat, she focused on the only task that kept her busy. She knew no down time other than sleep and moments when her age caught up with her.

My mother, very much like her’s, never knows when to give up. From an abusive husband to raising three sons on her own, she never crumbled under pressure. My mother was very much like a real parent, allowing me to make my mistakes without too many restrictions. She guided me when I needed it, but left matters into my own hands – ever ready in the sidelines to help pick up the pieces if I should ever fall. She supplied the books on my shelf, the paper and notebooks, pens and pencils, typewriters and computer that I need to start my first thoughts. She collected every article I published, every letter I wrote, every magazine that featured my name.

[thought incomplete]