Monday Earworm: Duran Duran

I just got back last night from what’s probably my favorite writing conference, DFWCon, held annually in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Today has been a long and lovely day of sending my manuscript off to agents who requested it during my pitch sessions. (Yay! Let’s hope that goes well!)

The first time my friend Sarah and I went to DFWCon together, we had a particularly entertaining time singing along to this song on the drive back to Houston, so for nostalgia’s sake, please enjoy this Duran Duran video.

And like many music videos of its era, it will probably cause you to think about how much social consciousness has evolved in the decades since it came out. And that’s probably a good thing.

Feel free to share your reflections in the comments section below.

National Poetry Month — Day 27

This past weekend I attended DFWCon, a writing conference in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s the fourth year I’ve attended, and while I’ve been to several other writing conferences, I think DFWCon, so far, is my favorite. There are a number of reasons why, but that would be another post.

One thing the con had this year — which is unusual for non-academic writing conferences, I think — was POETRY. Yay! One of the poet presenters there this year was Joaquín Zihuatanejo, a really impressive spoken-word artist and rather good workshop/class leader.

One feature the con offered this year was a Heroes and Villains competition. Essentially, a bunch of people took the Heroes session, which was a character development class to collectively come up with a hero. At the same time, a bunch of other people took the Villains session, which was a character development class to collectively — you guessed it — invent a villain. Then two slam poets took all those character notes, and overnight, they each composed a poem to go with one of those characters. An illustrator also came up with artistic visual renderings of these proposed characters.

The following is the poem that went with the villain character, and it was delivered beautifully at the Sunday lunch keynote program by its author.




Villain Hell


A villanelle


My father’s arms were replaced by orphanage walls
Dropped on cold steps draped in my mother’s sweater
The six pound eight ounce embodiment of the heroic fall

My mission in life, to grow stalwart and tall
A child who turned her back on heroic things because I knew better
My mother’s embrace was replaced by orphanage walls

The bigger children attacked me once in a bathroom stall
Forced their heads in toilets, I grew angrier while they grew wetter
A six-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

They dropped the gauntlet I answered the call
Dropped me without so much as a letter
The heroes that were my parents were replaced by orphanage walls

A revenge filled adolescent I grew to live for the brawl
Mastered the art of deadly traps, I was a real go getter
The sixteen-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

When I trap the heroes under my heel, I listen for their caterwauls
My cape, nothing more than an unassuming sweater
If I kill one hero, I’ve killed them all, replaced them all with orphanage walls
The bloodshot, crazy eyed, 30 year—No, 29-year old embodiment of the heroic fall




Joaquín was the winner of the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, besting 77 poets representing cities all over North America, France, Japan, and Australia. The following year Joaquín was the poet chosen to represent the U.S. at the 2009 European World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris, France, a competition that he won besting 15 poets from 15 different nations, making him the number one ranked slam poet in the world on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years Joaquín has given performances in Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, Austria, and the Island of Reunion off the coast of South Africa. He was the winner of the Institute for Creativity, Consciousness, and Community Artist in Residence Award by the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spent the better part of the summer writing and teaching in 2014. Joaquin was also recently a featured performer at the Lincoln Center La Casita Literary Festival in New York City, and while there was invited by NPR to be interviewed for two upcoming series, Historias and The National Teacher’s Initiative. A featured poet at the Glastonbury Music and Arts Festival in 2015, he is currently a second year MFA student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joaquín’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Yellow Medicine Review, Más Tequila Review, and Learn Then Burn, among others. His latest collection of poems and short fiction, Fight or Flight, is due out this summer by CoolSpeak Book Publishing. Joaquín currently lives just north of his hometown of Dallas, Texas, with his wife and two daughters. He has two passions in his life: his wife, Aída, and poetry, always in that order.

A Reason for the Silence and Some Things To Look Forward To

So, I began this year with full intentions of posting to this blog more often, and clearly that hasn’t happened. All I have to say for myself is that I’ve been busy writing and editing stories and poems. My latest collection of poems, PLAYING HOUSE, will hopefully be out later this year. I’ve begun a new (as yet untitled) novel. I’ll have another novel ready to go out on submission as soon as I do a little more clean-up editing. I have a short story set in the same world as FINIS. in the editing stage, too. Plus I haven’t quit my job teaching. So, yeah, it’s been a busy few months.

And I’m gearing up for DFWCon again, which happens in late April this year. This is one of my favorite conferences to go to. You might remember I wrote a piece on it for the WriteSpace blog a while back. It begins thus:



If you want to read the rest of that post — and of course, why wouldn’t you? (wink, wink) — click here. The full post has a lot more detail about the conference.

And if you want to attend this year’s DFWCon, which happens this year on April 23-24, click here or see the Eventbrite widget on the sidebar menu.


An article I’ve just had published…

Hello there! Today an article I wrote about DFWCon, a writers’ conference I’ve attended the last few years, was published on the WriteSpace blog. Check it out by clicking here.

DFWCon happens next year in late April, but WriteSpace is hosting their own writers’ conference here in Houston in February, and it will be unique because instead of focusing on agents, it will focus on journal and literary magazines. I’m looking forward to it!

Happy Thanksgiving.

In Which I’m Interviewed About Writing…

One of the writers I met this month at DFWCon, Laura Gokey, asked me to do an interview on her blog about writing, and I was happy to oblige!

Thanks, Laura, for the opportunity.

You can find my interview by clicking here.

Also look around on her site at the fun stuff, including some YA book reviews and descriptions of her own interesting fiction projects.


DFWCon 2014 Debrief

At this year’s DFW Writers’ Conference, Donald Maass spoke eloquently about “the 21st Century Novel,” citing interesting statistics about what sustains a good long run on the NYT Bestseller List these days. The upshot is that books with staying power, books that last not just two or three or eight weeks on the list but which stay there for months and even years – the blockbuster books – are not just “commercial fiction,” and they’re not the hardcovers. The trade paperbacks, the literary fiction, are selling at blockbuster levels. And there’s an emerging label in the industry we should take note of: “literary/commercial fiction.”


Maass stated what many of us already know intuitively: there are two elements of literary fiction which make books of all genres a success, and those are Continue reading “DFWCon 2014 Debrief”

Querying at the DFWCon Gong Show and Living to Tell the Tale

It was the last hour of the conference. All weekend, writers and agents and editors and industry professionals of all kinds had been networking, learning, teaching, finding polite and impersonal rejection, or feeling gratified that their ideas had merit. And now, all the people who were left had situated themselves in the ballroom for The Gong Show. Continue reading “Querying at the DFWCon Gong Show and Living to Tell the Tale”