Back in 2015 I published my book "The Fluid Chicano" with Slough Press in the Rio Grande Valley. It was my first extensive collection of poetry put into book form. I've been a writer all my life, I suppose. Even before I knew I was one. There is a photo of me when I was a child, maybe about 2 years old, in which I'm in my grandma's backyard with my siblings playing while holding a notebook in my armpit. I believe Native Americans had it right to believe that whatever object a child instinctively chooses marks his or her destiny. I chose the blank page onto which I would write all kinds of things. I've written a lot of poetry, short stories, essays, copywriting, ghost writing, novellas, newspaper articles, blog posts, you name it. But since the pandemic hit just a couple of years ago, my writing genie went missing. I've been on a severe writer's block. Which is why, a few days ago, I was taken by surprise by a good friend of mine, Pedro Garcia, who has recently been reading my poetry book, The Fluid Chicano.
Pedro contacted me with the surprise that he had recorded a spoken word performance of a few of my poems from that collection. This news brought back a whole different mindset and memories from the time that I was putting together the poems and the whole manuscript for publication. Some of them are social and political commentary, as would be expected. But a whole lot of the poems are of a personal nature. Themes of love and loss are prevalent, which is why I felt I had boarded on a rollercoaster ride when I heard Pedro's recordings. Not only because of the content, which I wrote from personal experience, but by the dramatization of the verses. It reminded me that poetry, (like music, art, literature, and all artistic creations) is better appreciated and understood even by the author when someone else reveals what that work of art inspires in them, and how it inspires or instructs their interpretation and perspective on the piece.
Thanks to Pedro Garcia for this great gift of dramatization of some of my poetic creations accompanied by thematic music in the background. I went ahead and put them together in a video with some images. They are truly a great rendition by an outstanding performer and professional artist and actor. Check out the poetry dramatizations I call, "The Pedro Files".
IN THIS INTERVIEW FOR ARTE REALIZZATA I SPEAK TO UZOMAH UGWU ABOUT MY PUBLISHING GOALS AND THE MISSION FOR THE RAVING PRESS
Gabriel Hugo is a Chicano author, poet, promoter, and actor from the Rio Grande Valley area. He is the founder of the publishing The Raving Press. I got to ask him why he writes, some of the important lessons he has learned about writing, and the hopes he has from his latest book.
UZOMAH: How do you use writing to create imagery?
GABRIEL: I use descriptive text mixed with analogy and metaphor to create vivid imagery and meaning. As a reader, I do not like it when an author goes out of their way to describe a setting. So, I make it a point to use this technique mostly when describing something unique or meaningful in the story.
U: Who are some of your favorite writers from Latin America and Mexico?
G: Gabriel Garcia Marquez is my favorite writer from Latin America. His monumental book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is a must-read for anyone and everyone in my view. It is the kind of writing that deserves to be translated a thousand times.
U: What are some important lessons and techniques that you have learned as a writer that have improved your writing?
G: The most important lesson that I have learned to improve my writing is respect for the urgency of the story that wants to be told, versus the ritual and romanticism of the act of writing. I know many writers who still buy physical journals with fancy embroidery and custom pens. They have this concept of being a writer that seems to be rooted in the idea of being “a writer”. This is what I mean about romanticizing the act of writing. To me, that takes away a lot of the inspiration that comes with writing. The best stuff is lost because you are trying to play the role of the writer with his pen and paper—the world be damned! Meanwhile, if you were to grab the tools that facilitate the capture of the inspiration, like a laptop or a voice recorder, you could get so much more work done without losing any of the raw inspiration that comes to you in the moment. A lot of times, if you don’t capture it then and there, it’s gone forever.
U: How are authors, poets, and painters similar in how they portray emotions and even capture a scene?
G: Authors, poets, and painters are all artists and creators. Their respective trades differ only in the end-product phase: a novel, a poetry manuscript, a painting. But the inspiration comes from the same source, which is an unknown force that coexists with the individual’s life experiences. Like a spirit. So, when the inspired piece comes to the artist, he or she captures it, and the emotions and scenery reflect partly the spirit’s vision and the artist’s experiences and training.
U: Why do you write?
G: For me, writing has always been intended for a higher purpose other than commercial success. Everyone wants to get paid, of course. I am no exception. But I understand that payment is an exceedingly small reward that expires when I leave this earth. And no one will ever care how much money I made from my works of literature. But if one of my poems, short stories, or novellas can impact one person to the degree that it leads to some change in their life, I know that I will live on, because they will remember what I gave them, and they will share that with others.
U: How can Latinos use the art of writing to rewrite the narrative about them?
G: Latinos have gotten an awfully bad deal in the annals of history. So much of that narrative is controlled by non-Latinos. Writing offers a way for us to change this reality. We start by writing our histories. Notice I did not say “rewriting”. It would be impossible for us to re-write something we never had a hand in. So, we write our history to reflect the best of ourselves and our forebearers and exclude the negative portrayals depicted in all the history books. As Dr. Jago Cooper, archaeologist and Curator of the Americas at the British Museum said, “History is the stories we tell ourselves.” Who in the world speaks of themselves in the worst terms? Only people who have a low self-image. For the longest time, we have been taught to think in such terms. Through writing, we can change that.
U: Can you talk about the hopes of your book and what you want readers to get from it?
G: My book, “Tenochtitlan Must Fall” is the retelling of the fall of the Aztec empire from the point of view of the indigenous Mexican people. This story is my first full-fledged effort to enact the goals that I mentioned above to change the versions of our history so we can change the versions of our future. It is the first installment in a book series entitled “The X Series”.
U: How is writing a tool to better express yourself and the issues you face?
G: Writing has always provided the best way to deal with issues on a personal and societal level. So much of our problems could be solved if people just sat down to write what is pressing on them. I believe all the worries that one has from money trouble to relationships and social issues, can be “coded” into whatever program you want to run, to use computer terminology. I have a background in psychology and therapy. In my training practicum and internship, I practiced Writing Therapy in which I would have my patients write down their problems, observations, feelings, and thought process when dealing with all of it. I noted how effective it was in helping people create the kind of results they wanted to see in their lives. I have also used this in my own personal life and can attest to its effectiveness.
U: Can you describe the influence that reading other writers has had on you? Why is reading other artists important when first starting to find one's voice as a writer?
G: In my opinion, it is especially important that writers first start their journey by being avid readers. In fact, it is quite impossible to become an effective writer if you do not first start by sampling the works of those who have come before you. For me, some of my biggest influences have come from a source that perhaps would not be considered influential in the making of a good storyteller. That source is the New Testament in the Christian bible. Some might think that this means that I am a Christian writer or spiritual writer. But to date, I have not written anything resembling a Christian book or piece of poetry. But the parables of Jesus were so inspiring and clarifying to me at a time in my life when I was experiencing great existential angst, that I realized for the first time the true power of writing. Jesus is perhaps the greatest, most influential being to have ever existed on Earth. But had it not been for the writings telling the story of his life, no one would truly know the power and meaning of his life and his words. I knew then that if I could only tap into the art of writing to a small degree like the writers of the bible, (and consequently many other books by great authors like Garcia Marquez and Jack Kerouac and others), I would be able to wield some of the magic of creation that is writing.
U: Can you speak of the importance of having a publishing imprint such as Raving Press for highlighting Chicanos and other minorities in literature?
G: Literature and all writing that has ever been set down in print acquire a certain degree of authenticity and authority by simply being in print, (and of course, nowadays also in electronic format). I am certain that every single author out there felt the same way when they were starting as I did, which was to feel like I was reading an inarguable truth when I read books by renowned authors. Sometimes the older the book, the stronger the case for its authenticity. But the problem early on in my life was that all the authors that I was exposed to were mostly white men. I don't remember reading a single author whose name or face looked even remotely like me. It wasn't until I graduated high school and went on to college that I started really discovering Latin American authors, Mexican writers, and Spanish sources. And the more I became enthralled by reading, the deeper I went into the vortex of "minority" voices that were out there but have always been completely ignored by mainstream society and educational systems. And only after I started my journey as a writer myself did I discover the power of publishing in and of itself. Over the years, through The Raving Press, I have helped give opportunities to authors and artists of all backgrounds and from across the world to showcase their talents and, more importantly, their voices which are rooted in their marginalized experiences. The only thing missing for small, independent presses such as The Raving Press are funds. The talent is there. The desire to be heard is there. The willingness to work is there. The need for marginalized voices to be part of the discussion is most evident now in this time of great social change.
U: What would be the type of role you would like to see yourself play where it's an authentic portrayal of being a Chicano?
G: I think that an authentic portrayal of "being a Chicano" is being fluid. In my view, the Chicano identity was born out of the inability to neither conform to nor fit in with the majority, mainstream, anglo identity in the United States. This prompted our communities to search our surroundings and our histories to find roots that could better inform our sense of self in the world. Chicanismo was a product of an era, a time in our collective history. But unlike the pyramids of Giza built of solid stone in the dessert seemingly defying time and the elements in an attempt to live forever unchanged, the Chicano identity was built like the pyramids of Tenochtitlan, over swampy grounds that constantly shift and change the shape of the surface; always in deconstruction and renewal...always changing. Through my own writings, and through the efforts of The Raving Press and other endeavors, I seek to provide that platform on which Chicanos, other minorities, and enlightened people of all backgrounds can come together to combine ideas and ideals that will help bring forth the future we deserve: a spiritual, mental, and cultural evolution that can transcend the limitations of our present day. It is a monumental goal to aspire to achieve, but I believe it is the only way that we can ensure the perpetuation of the human story.
CLICK HERE for more information about Arte Realizzata or to read other interviews.
For me, publishing involves a lot of face to face interactions, both as a publisher of other people's work and as an author of new literary work. The terrible disruption to our plans has had a great cost both creatively and economically. But hopefully, soon we will wake up from the long, dark nightmare.
Today, I am inviting you to a talk which covers why I think that it is so important for people to explore writing for themselves, not just as readers, but as creatives.
The premise of my talk is that the written word creates destiny.
I truly believe this. It is why I am a publisher today. It is why I write stories and poetry. It is why I write this letter to you from time to time. My goal is not to pester or overwhelm you with promotion and marketing. It's to transmit "THE MESSAGE" of the power of the written word.
So join me tonight at 6 pm Central time as I deliver a virtual talk for the South Texas College's Mexican American Studies department. Below is the link to join. Only 300 spaces are available, so don't hesitate to click the link and secure your spot.
I hope to be checking in with you again soon with upcoming projects. In the meantime, be safe out there, and God bless you.
You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Nov 17, 2020 06:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
In this video I go a bit outside of the channel's range of topics to address an important development in our society that has been long over due: transitioning fully into the 21st century.
Our schools are the primary example of the measures the coronavirus has forced us to take, as far as coping and adjusting to our new realities of social distancing, quarantine, and continued education from home. We are finally making a real push toward making full use of technologies that have been available to us for years, like the internet.
Now we lean heavily on that, and perhaps develop even greater means of achieving our societal needs in a dangerous world.
Being under quarantine, shelter-at-home, lock down, are just a few ways most people are looking at their situation. But we don't have to define things in that way. We all have the capacity to use our imagination to re-frame our reality to fit a more positive outlook. This helps us maintain a positive mind set and is healthier than simply trying to power through a perceived (and in this case real) forced seclusion. The mind is more powerful than we think. But, if you happen to need some extra help in imagining a reality other than the one you feel stuck in, no worries. I got you covered!
Watch my video below and I will explain. :)
Even when I was a drinker, I never had any major issues or event cancellations due to Corona! Are you kidding me? If anything, Corona made sure people came to the gig in the first place! Especially if it was free.
Ah, but of course, we are not talking about our friendly Corona beer. We're talking about Coronavirus. It is because of the panic and fear that it has spurred that events like mine, which was scheduled for March 22, 2020 will have to be postponed probably until the summer or until further notice.
An edited version of my event invite :(
Read Once Upon A Bad Hombre while you are waiting out the pandemic scare.
CLICK HERE to get the paperback.
Once Upon A Bad Hombre (Kindle edition) - CLICK HERE
Found Poems Journal (Paperback) - CLICK HERE
I hope you all are safe out there. Take care of each other and yourselves. Our abuelos and abuelas seem to be the most vulnerable. Let's get informed and prepared to face this with determination, faith, and intelligence. For starters, here is a brief look at the virus and tips for safety from the CDC:
Luckily it wasn't la calaca, la desnutrida, la guera huesuda, the grim reaper, that is. It was my friend and fellow actress, poet, purveyor of awesomeness in the RGV, Wendy Lara. I met Wendy years ago through cultural/literary events where she performed as Frida in full disguise. She nails it every time. We also worked on a small production by my short-lived acting/theater troupe "Mirco Teatro RPM". We did a variety show in which she, along with several other actresses and myself played skits and conducted something like a Sabado Gigante production live for an audience of older folks and little kids. I still have some footage somewhere. The point is that our friendship goes way back years.
You start to box people into expected roles when you meet them and know what they do. You don't have it at the forefront of the mind that, like yourself, others are capable of changing and evolving. Even if only on the surface level. Wendy, for example, to me was just a great actress and live performer. I never imagined that she was also a writer/poet. It happens a lot, though. I know this. I've seen it before. Since I have been publishing starting in 1998, I've discovered that a lot of people are actually deep thinkers, philosophers, and artists at heart, but shy as hell. So many just write their poems, short stories, and thoughts in journals or what not and store them away never to be seen by anyone. I know how that goes. I used to be one of those people.
I remember I never wanted to call myself a writer when I was in my 20's because I thought it was such a prestigious title, that to just take it and run with it like a name tag on my lapel would somehow be sacrilegious. Now I still think that being a "writer" or more so an "author" is prestigious and lofty, but not unattainable. As a matter of fact, I believe that MOST people are poets, most are also philosophers, some are writers and artists, and some are rare geniuses that can do it all and shine.
Wendy might be one of those geniuses who can do it all, but she would never claim that. But I can assure you that, having worked with her, I know she is a tremendous actor. And now that I have actually heard her read her poetry, I can attest to the fact that she is a tremendous poet. Watch for her. She is working on a manuscript for some time in the future. I think it's going to be pretty good.
You can follow Wendy on Facebook on her page @teatrerawendylara
Fun Times as a Theater Troupe
Got just three pics here from this past Friday's participation at the FESTIBA event in Edinburg, Tx. One is of myself, and the other two is two authors and me.
Ordinarily, I would post these photos to my social media accounts without much fanfare, such as writing a whole blog post about it. But when you get locked out of one of your main social media accounts, the one which you invested so much time in updating with new profile pics and such, only to be ignored by the handlers of said social media outfit when you ask, beg, plead, and scream for their help, you realize that you had been going about this whole thing wrong from the get go.
That's the lesson I took from this experience. Never again will I invest great quantities of my time and effort in updating a website that I have no control over when something goes wrong. My friends and supporters who follow what I do will have no problem, I'm sure, coming here to see what's new.
Of course, I'll share the post links to social media, but people will need to click to come see the updates. Social media will work for me, not the other way around. :)
And with that said, below are some pics of myself, me with Kathleen Carlson, (a great poet originally from Aruba), and me with mi tocayo Gabriel Gonzalez Nunez (another great poet originally from Uruguay).
You can check out Gabriel Gonzalez Nunez's blog if you CLICK HERE.
Kathleen doesn't have a blog page yet, but she will soon.
Y me falto Wendy Lara, una gran poeta y actriz a quien admiro mucho.
Nobody benefits more from the efforts of a reviewer to read a book and post his or her take on it than...other potential readers. You may have thought that I would say that the author benefits most. And maybe it's equal. But I say the reader him or herself is the one who gains more at that point because a reviewer informs a reader's preferences, touching upon topics which might either make you decide to read a book or completely ignore it.
Of course, the author also benefits greatly because the more opinions about the book are out there floating around informing others about the work the better. It's the act of having a third person (not the author or publisher) giving an honest opinion or take on a newly released book that is invaluable for both the reader of the book and its author. And for those very reasons I would like to thank the most prominent reviewer in the Rio Grande Valley, Raul Martinez, Jr. (pictured above) for his great work in putting the word out about local and regional authors and their works of literature.
I am honored to have gotten such a review as you will read below. I mean, putting my book up there in the realm of storytelling the likes of Quentin Tarantino is beyond humbling and encouraging. I happen to love every movie by that director. In fact, this book started off as a movie script. If you get your own copy and read it, you will see how it flows like a movie. You can see the different scenarios and characters very clearly. But enough about my awesomeness as a writer of fiction, read the review and get the book! :)
Ps. If you leave me even a one sentence review on Amazon it would help others who want to know about my book and it would help me know what you thought of it...so thanks for that!
Review by Raul Martinez, Jr.
"#OnceUponABadHombre by #GabrielHugo, is a bit over 100 pgs -- more a novella. The ending left me unsure if a sequel is intended; if not, then it emphasizes the NOIR feel to this story (reminding me of the ominous conclusion to one novel by Brian Allen Carr). The title hints at present-day xenophobia taken to its extreme here, in a type of dystopian horror... w/ a shade of Quentin Tarantino.
In fact, that director's style is reflected by a couple of bizarre scenarios, e.g. when one character acts like a vigilante, only to suddenly exude sympathy. My only critique is toward the notion of Catholic clergy willing to bless penitents w/ ashes not strictly from burnt palm leaves -- but I willingly suspended my disbelief, due to the tale's unusual circumstances. I got a kick out of the over-the-top host of the "Ancient Aliens"-type TV show."
Ever been locked out of your Facebook account because of the Two-Factor Authentification feature? I have. I'm on my third straight day with no access. It's kind of my fault because when I changed phone numbers I didn't go back to the settings to change my Two-Factor Authentification phone number to the current one. Buuuut, it's kind of also Facebook's fault for not automatically updating my Two-Factor phone number when I changed my Contact info on my profile. I didn't know you had to go and do that separately...I guess.
So in the meantime, here I am living in the early 2000's, you know, when all you had was your website and email to reach out to others. Of course, I am also on Twitter (btw, you can follow me @GabrielHugoSanz). I'm also on Tumblr (https://www.tumblr.com/blog/gabrielhugoauthor). And I got an Instagram account, too! (https://www.instagram.com/gabrielh.hugo/).
I am asking you, my dear reader, friend, colleague, well-wisher, to please help me get my message out. To all my friends on FB who my be wondering where I am, since not only is my profile unavailable, but also my author page, I will come back soon! But that's not the message. As many of you know already, recently I published my most recent dystopian fiction book "Once Upon A Bad Hombre" and was going to start promoting it. The largest part of the promotional campaign was going to be through FB because that is where most of my activity and connections are. But since I am unable to at the moment, please help me spread the word.
Below you will see a widget of my book on Amazon. Please click the "Share" button so that others can see that it is now available on Kindle and Paperback. Or you could simply share this blog post and encourage your contacts to check out my book.
Thank you all so much for your friendship and your help. I will be holding a book signing/launch in March and I want you ALL to be there so I can return the love. I will have free books, free coffee, and cookies. Plus, I will be inviting many other authors and we will be holding a round table discussion of sorts, and I want your input as well. Thanks again! Here is the widget to share: