Category Archives: memoir

A Virtual Interview with Teresa Palomo Acosta


Friday, December 10, 2021 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

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BookWoman is delighted to present Teresa Palomo Acosta for the launch of her book, Tejanaland: A Writing Life in Four Acts (Texas A&M Press, 2021). Tejanaland collects three decades of Acosta’s work in poems, essays, drama, and children’s story that address the cultural, historical, political, and gender realities that have informed the author from childhood to the present.

Poet, historian, author, and activist Teresa Palomo Acosta grew up in McGregor, Texas, in a home approximately 100 human paces from the railroad tracks. She first learned about music and writing from her maternal grandfather Maximino and her mother Sabina. At 11, she decided to become a writer and spent the next four years cogitating before settling on poetry as her chosen form. Teresa’s degrees in Mexican American Studies from UT Austin and in Journalism from Columbia University reinforced her commitment to depict her Tejanaland life in equal measures of joy and pain.

In addition to Tejanaland, Acosta is the author of the poetry collections In the Season of Change (Eakin Press, 2003), Nile and Other Poems (Red Salmon Press, 1999), and Passing Time (Teresa Palomo Acosta, 1984). Acosta co-authored Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History (University of Texas Press, 2003) with Ruthe Winegarten.

The Interview

CH: First, tell us a little about the term “Tejanaland.” Where did it originate, and how does it resonate with you? Why did you select “Tejanaland” as the title of your book?

TPA: Tejanaland is my name for a powerful world that gave me life. I chose it as the book title because it is an emphatic grito that lays claim to “the land that became Texas,” a common phrase used to denote the present-day State of Texas. Mexican-origin people often possess both indigenous and Spanish-Mexican roots, making us a people who, for many generations, have lived our lives on both sides of the present-day border. Just as importantly, the title is a way to proclaim my creative literary landscape. The title Tejanaland is leaves no doubt that what I write is both deeply rooted in the Central Texas Blacklands, where I grew up, and is connected to all the other geographic landscapes my people occupy in this state.

CH: You’ve said you learned about music and writing from both your mother and your maternal grandfather. What was the role of music and writing in your home life?

TPA: My maternal grandfather Maximino Palomo had been taught to play the violin as a boy. His family, according to the stories I learned, worked and lived on an hacienda. He was apparently meant to become the manager of the hacienda in due time. His future called for him to have “cultured tastes,” which included playing a musical instrument. The 1910 Mexican Revolution changed this trajectory, forcing him to flee with his family across the US-Mexico border. He continued, however, to play violin. He insisted that I practice soprano clarinet every day. I took up the instrument as a sixth grader in my school’s music program. My grandfather had been an actor in traditional Mexican plays, and he would sometimes perform a favorite role for me. My mother had a lovely contralto. She sang at home in Spanish as she did housework.

My mother provided space and quiet for me to write in our home. She would tell visitors, “Teresa is writing, so we must be quiet.” I’m not sure how she surmised that writing was important to me, but she did. In our kitchen, the Velásquez Spanish Dictionary was prominently displayed on a small table. My parents never told me how they obtained the book. But its presence was significant to me. I used the dictionary for my Spanish language classes in high school and later in college. Perhaps its availability was a foretelling that Spanish was a natural occupant of my writing world.

CH: Your bio talks about your early interest in writing, and the decision you made to become a poet. What was it about writing that fascinated you? And what steered you in the direction of poetry?

TPA: As a child, I spent a good deal of time imagining events and places. I would stand on the railroad tracks in front of our home and wonder about what lay in the distance—what people and experiences could be found “out there.” At the same time, the people who surrounded me were my major interests: how they spoke as they visited with my mother, father, and grandfather; the funny jokes and play on words that my father used in describing a friend or a situation; and what my grandfather told me about his life, dramatizing it for me, as needed.

What steered me to poetry is partly what steered many dreamy-eyed teenagers, at least in my memory, to poetry: a desire to write about romance, about being rescued by a “knight in shining armor” and similar themes. As a young girl, I grew deeply intrigued with the way words reveal so much about ourselves and others. Between the ages of 11 and about 16, I simply decided that poetry was my genre. Also, in high school, I participated in poetry interpretation in the University Interscholastic League competition. As a result, I read a great deal of poetry from English and American literature. However, I later learned just how limited American literature was by race and ethnicity, which was the case during my school years. Growing up, I had no Mexican-origin writers to emulate, and poems by or about about Mexicans were unheard at my school. Those poems, in fact, had existed for generations, but they were not taught to me throughout much of my formal education.

Thus, the Mexican American literature I learned was a living being within my home and my community. It was delivered orally to me in stories told at home and in our community. When I was more mature, I decided to make my people’s experiences one of the chief basis of my work. Indeed, my poetry emerged from what I learned or witnessed at home. As a young woman, I asked my parents a great deal about our family’s history. They were happy to tell me what they could. We would take driving trips around McGregor and the surrounding towns. On these journeys, they would relate many experiences and point out specific sites where they had lived, worked, and socialized as young people during the Great Depression. Many of the experiences they related to me made their way into my work—many. I cannot emphasize this enough. I can still hear my parents’ voices as they spoke about our family history in the Central Texas Blacklands. They, along with my maternal grandfather, were my teachers for making the community’s hearth a world—a Tejanaland—about which to write.

CH: I understand that Tejanaland surveys three decades of your work, from poetry to essay to drama to children’s story. How do you see your development as a writer over your career?

TPA: My formal training as a writer began when I enrolled at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. There, I studied with Dr. Travis Looper, who was considered a fearsomely tough professor of Freshman English. He taught us to diagram sentences, in an effort to illustrate to us how words function in relation to one another. After returning to us our first essay for his class, Professor Looper told us that while we “had a lot to say, we didn’t know how to say it.” I was both dismayed at my C- on that essay and elated that his class offered the opportunity to learn how to write persuasively. I had ended up in Professor Looper’s class by asking a pertinent question during fall semester registration. When I arrived at the registration desk, I learned that his composition class was woefully lacking in students. I asked why. A member of the registration staff responded, with a gleam in her eye, that students, if they could, made every effort to avoid Professor Looper’s class because he was “hard.” Great, I thought. I wanted a hard teacher, so I immediately registered to study with Professor Looper. I made sufficient progress in his class to earn a semester grade of A-. At UT Austin, I enrolled in the only creative writing class I’ve ever taken. Dr. Carlota Cárdenas de Dwyer was my professor. I wrote “My Mother Pieced Quilts” as a classroom assignment. Professor Cárdenas de Dwyer and other colleagues of hers were in the process of assembling The United States in Literature, a secondary school literature textbook. She asked me for permission to publish my poem in the textbook and, of course, I agreed to her request. “My Mother Pieced Quilts” has remained the best known of my poems, and continues to appear in several secondary American literature textbooks. For one year, I served as the editor of El Despertador at UT Austin, which was the newspaper of the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO). I loved writing. I knew that I would pursue it in one way or another.

CH: As a writer, what has become more important to you over time? As a young writer, were there things you thought important that seemed less over time?

TPA: Writing directly, using a contemplative or meditative approach has become paramount. As a young writer, I likely tried to please others. However, it’s become more important for me to write about what moves me rather than to try to please an audience. My lyric poetry has, I think, been largely been overlooked by scholars and others who have followed me as a poet addressing political matters. I consider the lyric poems key to my work. In Tejanaland they, some tinged with humor, reign.

CH: I have known about you as a poet and historian for some time, but did not know of your background in journalism. What led you to Columbia University? How did this course of study there shape the direction of your writing life?

TPA: I fashioned myself, incorrectly, a reporter because I am a very curious person and thought that journalism would provide a great platform for exploring the world. So I applied and was accept to the School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City. Studying at Columbia was a tough road for me to traverse. I faced constant challenges in figuring out how to move about the city to complete my assignments. The pace at Columbia was also quite demanding.

Yet, while it may seem odd, I think the study of journalism is a great education for a poet. It certainly was the case for me. I learned how to be quiet and let others talk. I learned to think on my feet, so to speak, and how to quickly devise the main point of a story. Importantly, I gained the ability to rapidly start a piece of writing with a phrase or one sentence—the so-called important “lead” of a newspaper story. Indeed, figuring out the “lead” is also important in writing poetry.

Almost from the first week of my journalism studies, I realized that I was not bound for a reporting career. Yet I am deeply grateful that studying journalism showed me how to explore the lives of people and situations that I thought needed bringing to light in poetry. Many of my poetry subjects live in the American Southwest, with many residing in my family history in McGregor and in my larger community in Texas.

CH: What do you see as the relationship between journalism and history? Tell us a bit about your experience with journalism. How did you become a historian?

TPA: I think journalism and history share a great deal in common. It has been proposed that journalism is the “first” history, as it reports on events as they occur, and history reports on the long aftermath of events. The two fields require keen observation; numerous sources; the ability to listen to others’ opinions, while refraining from judging their perspective; organizing an account of events that entices people to read it. Both rely on using the most intriguing of voices to tell a story. They also require writing precisely, although history allows for the fashioning of a longer narrative. I began to write history when I served for four years as a research associate for the New Handbook of Texas project at the Texas State Historical Association. I was hired to write about the history of Mexican Americans in Texas. My tenure at the Handbook allowed me to learn to use archival records and seek sources beyond the all-important interview that is of high importance in journalism. Before my experience at the NHOT, I would never have imagined myself as capable of writing history.

CH: When I see the term “Tejanaland,” I can’t help but think of Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History (University of Texas Press, 2003), which you authored with Ruthe Winegarten. How did your experience working on that project influence your writing life?

TPA: Writing Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History with Ruthe Winegarten had a deeply personal impact on how to write about women’s lives. What an uplifting journey she and I took in pursing the book. I have an essay in Tejanaland about our collaboration. As to how our work impacted my writing life: The experience confirmed my desire to write about Tejanas who are unknown or little appreciated such as Elena Zamora O’Shea, about whom I write in Tejanaland, or Daria Arredondo Vera, a labor activist in the Rio Grande Valley. In writing Las Tejanas, Ruthe and I went beyond focusing solely on major Tejana figures. Our commitment to depict the lives of extra-ordinary women continues to guide me. I find their stories deeply compelling and in need of an audience. Another outcome of our work was that I pledged myself to write honestly about women.

CH: Looking back on what you’ve learned, what might you tell your young writer self?

TPA: I would definitely tell her to be bold, to experiment with her ideas; to live outside of the United States for some time; to forgive herself for her writing errors; and to begin with anticipation and joy each time she faces the blank page. That blank page is an invitation to preserve human life in words. I would also tell her to be a generous writer, sharing what she knows and learning from others.

A Virtual Interview with Jeanne B. Guy


Book Launch: You’ll Never Find Us by Jeanne B. Guy

Wednesday, August 25, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.

Register to attend via Zoom:

Jeanne B. Guy will read from her riveting new memoir, You’ll Never Find Us: The Story of How My Children Were Stolen From Me and How I Stole Them Back (She Writes Press, 2021).

The Interview

CH: I’m curious about your background as a writer. When did you first begin to be intrigued by the art of storytelling? Growing up, did you imagine yourself becoming a published author? If not, what ignited your interest in pursuing writing?

JBG: Ha! Published author? Nope. I do remember (as a young reader) thinking how fantastic Nancy Drew was and inhaled all those mysteries. And though I was the president of the “Inkpots” writers’ club in high school, I remember nothing (I mean nothing) about the group. There was one teacher, probably in my junior year, who said, “You should keep writing,” but I have no recollection of what I’d written. My loves in high school were drama and music, so I suppose that’s the storytelling link. I went off to college and majored in English Lit, minored in Drama, married, graduated and, what do I do? I went to work as a service rep at the phone company. Makes sense, right?

The world of writing took hold when a mentor encouraged me to consider teaching. So, in the ’90s, about the time Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was published. I started facilitating journal-writing workshops based on Cameron’s book, and later established Jeanne Guy Gatherings. The workshops and gatherings were very successful, some say because of my irreverent humor; I like to think it was my creative teaching style. I created a website and began blogging. The blogs, based on my own faux pas, were to help people rethink their lives. In 2015 I co-authored a book with photographer David Rackley, Seeing Me: A Guide for Reframing the Way You See Yourself Through Reflective Writing.

CH: Tell us a little about your journey to writing You’ll Never Find Us. When did you first begin thinking of writing it? What prompted you to begin that journey?

JBG: I love writing blogs; I did NOT want to write a memoir. After my ex-husband died in 2001, the idea to write the 1977 story of how my children were stolen from me began to percolate, but I wasn’t ready. In 2005, I attended a writers’ retreat conducted by author/teacher Christina Baldwin on Whidbey Island. It was there I wrote a fourteen-page synopsis and was roundly encouraged by Christina and classmates to write the book.

CH: Memoir’s promise to the reader is to elucidate the human condition on a very personal level. What risks did you feel as you began to work on the book? How did those perceived risks influence you as you moved forward?

JBG: Like many other writers, I didn’t feel capable or talented enough (aka imposter syndrome), and the risk of exposing myself as a mediocre writer set in. I also knew by penning the story I risked reliving the pain of the kidnapping and the guilt of my mistakes and decisions.

It also felt way too risky to expose myself and my weaknesses, not to mention exposing others’ shortcomings and weaknesses, even though I changed the names and identifying characteristics of certain individuals. Would I be sued? Speaking my truth about the patriarchy of the times and exposing patriarchal individuals, e.g., psychologist Dr. Bob, was also necessary but extremely risky.

CH: What was your process in writing You’ll Never Find Us? Once you had an initial full-length draft, how long did it take to arrive at its final, publishable form?

JBG: When I write a blog, I’m a start-and-stopper. I throw ideas/words down on the page, then set it aside for a day or two. Write, leave it, re-write, leave it, re-write. Works great for blogs but for the memoir, leaving it for too long had its drawbacks. I therefore do not recommend my backburner writing process for a book of this length, though it proved to be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, by starting and stopping, I lost momentum, and “lost my place” so to speak. Oftentimes it felt like having to start all over again. I remember doing extensive research, only to repeat the process further on down the road, not realizing I’d already done the necessary investigative work during earlier drafts.

On the other hand, the book needed to grow and so did I. The scope broadened over the years as I studied writing at a deeper level and researched the historical elements crucial to the story. It became a creative challenge that required years of workshops, critique groups, mentors, and some therapy. In that sense, it needed a fifteen-year process. Besides, you wouldn’t have liked the first draft. It was about a perfect woman and her evil husband. Those, I am told, are a dime a dozen. I am grateful to my mentors for not allowing me to publish the earlier versions of the book. The book and I needed time to grow.

The first synopsis was written in December, 2005. Fifteen years later it was in the hands of She Writes Press in publishable form. I am glad the book is coming out now as it seems particularly relevant given its major themes, which are timelier than ever: dealing intimately with white supremacy, patriarchy, feminism, and women’s empowerment. But most importantly, parental child stealing.

It also helped that certain characters passed on, increasing my comfort level to speak the truth I needed to speak. And now, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger, and I’d like to get cracking on the next memoir.

CH: You’ve long been involved in the Story Circle Network. How would you describe the influence of a writing community on the development of You’ll Never Find Us?

JBG: I’m a big believer in education, support, encouragement, and handholding. Story Circle Network (SCN) offered all that to me and more. For anyone unfamiliar with Story Circle, it is a non-profit organization, started by award-winning author Susan Albert, supporting women writing and sharing their stories. SCN will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2022. I know the heart and soul of this organization, and they live their mission.

If I have any advice for a writer, it would be to find such a group – don’t go it alone.

CH: We spent time together in 2019 at The Writer’s Hotel conference, where you were working on this book. How did the experience help shape You’ll Never Find Us?

JBG: The Writer’s Hotel (TWH) NYC “Mini MFA,” a unique and comprehensive writing program, was truly a one-of-a-kind conference. Two NY editors read and consulted on my entire manuscript pre-conference. With you as my knowledgeable guide, I was able to navigate the conference, lectures, craft labs, and professor Richard Hoffman’s major daily workshop. TWH was absolutely instrumental in my advancement as a writer. I spent another year rewriting and editing my memoir based on what I learned, and produced a much better book, one that Richard Hoffman agreed to endorse.

CH: It’s often said that we learn to be writers as we write. What did you learn about yourself as you wrote You’ll Never Find Us?

JBG: It’s been fifteen years in the making, so my desire to share the story has evolved over time. Originally, I didn’t care if I had an audience. It was strictly cathartic and I realized I needed to heal. Poet and author Mark Nepo said in The Book of Awakening, “Tragedy stays alive by feeling what’s been done to us, while peace comes alive by living with the result.” As long as I let the story fester inside me, there would be no end to the pain. It would win. But by writing and shedding light on the story, by learning about writing—and myself—over the years, I found peace.

One of the things I learned about myself was the courage I needed was within me. I didn’t consciously summon the courage. It was my job to protect the well-being of my children. My love for them was infinite; the images of their faces in my mind and the ache in my heart became my fuel. How could I not search for them? I had chosen not to be a victim in an abusive relationship; how could I allow them to become victims? I didn’t go searching for courage. The drive came from within me. It wasn’t a choice. You don’t go looking for it—you’re not missing equipment—you have it in you. All of the above applies to me as a person and as a writer as well.

CH: I understand your children have read You’ll Never Find Us. How did they respond on first reading it? Were there any surprises for you in the response?

JBG: I gave them both an advance reader copy several months back and politely suggested they read it before the publication date. My son, Tyger, six at the time of the story, now fifty, called three days later and said, “Sh*t, Mom. I had no idea. No idea of what you’d been through.” I think that was followed with some tears on my part, and loving words from him (probably about what a great mom I am). Megan and now sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Hudson, started reading the book together. We met at a local coffee shop about a week later. Megan wanted to speak but a flood of tears interrupted her mid-sentence. She, too, appreciated the gravity of my life with Klaus, and was glad Haywood had been so supportive. She expressed surprise to have learned much about herself, based on my expressed vulnerabilities.

CH: The story at the core of You’ll Never Find Us took place many years ago. What was at the core of your persistence in getting this story out?

JBG: Once I started, I had to finish. I remember when I received word that my ex-husband had died (2001). I knew I’d find the courage to one day write the story, but at that moment, I was still so filled with suppressed anger, I didn’t start writing until Christina Baldwin urged me to get the story onto the page. She gave me permission to tell my story before I even knew it’s what I needed to do. It was as if writing the memoir birthed my voice.

I don’t remember the timeframe, but I met with a therapist/conference facilitator who realized I had stuffed my anger and needed to acknowledge it. “He f**king stole your kids…let’s be angry before we move on to forgiveness, shall we?” She was fierce for me. Talk about having an angel dropped in your lap.

And then came more support. Critique group members that wouldn’t let me quit, even though there were many days when I wanted to stop; I wanted my life back. It was re-traumatizing going back over and over to write the book. But I was able to rest in the love and support of others, and I grew more accountable to the book day by day.

CH: If you could give advice to the person you were when you started writing You’ll Never Find Us, what would it be?

JBG: The journey you’ll been on, difficult though it may be, will be the foundation for your own personal growth: to learn self-compassion, and to know more gratitude than you can imagine for your community: family, friends, writers, mentors, and Robert, your husband. Don’t shy away from it, keep on keeping on. It’ll be worth the ride and you’re the only one who can tell your story. This is a story of moving from a misguided mindset of subservience and powerlessness to finding that power.

Other women will be inspired to tell their stories for whatever reason—whether it be cathartic or to share it with others in some capacity. Those who have experienced the emotional abuse and gaslighting that you did, will realize they are not crazy; they will discover the importance of taking care of themselves and tap into their own internal courage to handle whatever situation they are in.

A Virtual Interview with David Meischen


Thursday, July 9, 2020  7:15 – 9:00 p.m. — Contact for meeting information.

Feature David Meischen has been honored by a Pushcart Prize for “How to Shoot at Someone Who Outdrew You,” a chapter of his memoir, originally published in The Gettysburg Review and available in Pushcart Prize XLIIAnyone’s Son, David’s debut poetry collection, is new from 3: A Taos Press. A lifelong storyteller, he received the 2017 Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story from the Texas Institute of Letters. Storylandia, Issue 34, currently available, is entirely devoted to David’s fiction: The Distance Between Here and Elsewhere: Three Stories. David has a novel in stories and a short story collection; he is actively seeking an agent and/or publisher for both. He has served as a juror for the Kimmel Harding Nelson center for the arts; in the fall of 2018, he completed a writing residency at Jentel Arts. Co-founder and Managing Editor of Dos Gatos Press, David lives in Albuquerque, NM, with his husband—also his co-publisher and co-editor—Scott Wiggerman.

Cindy Huyser hosts; an open mic follows. Zoom connection info available from

The Interview

CH: When did you start thinking of yourself as a writer. What is your first memory of poetry?

DM: I wanted to be a writer as soon as I knew what writing was. I wanted to write grand romantic novels in the tradition of the biblical epics that dominated movie screens when I was young. I spent years daydreaming one of them, including the title—Weep Not for Me—about Veronica, the woman who handed her veil to Jesus as he carried the cross, so that he might wipe his face. Not a word of this story ever made it onto a page. As for poetry, the first poem that captured my imagination was Longfellow’s “The Wreck of the Hesperus.” Along about fifth grade, I memorized every single stanza—twenty two of them. To this day, some of the lines come back to me.

CH: You’ve had success in a variety of writing genres, including a Pushcart Prize for memoir-in-progress, publication of and awards for a number of short stories, and now this collection of poetry. How would you describe yourself as a writer?

DM: I would not call myself a poet. I find the writing of poems deeply engaging but I would say the same about writing essays, a serious pursuit since my first semester of college English more than fifty years ago. Poetry came later, in my mid-thirties—and fiction in my mid-fifties. What ties them all together—essay, poetry, fiction—is narrative. I am a born storyteller. When I sit down to write, almost without exception, I hear a voice that wants to tell a story. I follow that voice.

CH: Your new full-length poetry collection, Anyone’s Son, is your first. How did this project come together? Over what period of time were these poems written?

DM: In my mid-forties, trying to acknowledge and then embrace myself as a gay man, I found that I was writing poems about identity, about gay identity, about gay experiences. The earliest of the poems in Anyone’s Son was drafted—in rough form—in 1992. About four years ago, I saw that I had enough “identity” poems for a chapbook. And then perhaps a collection. One member of my poetry critique group encouraged me to keep writing poems for this collection. Another read all the poems I thought I wanted to include and helped me see how I might shape them. Andrea Watson, at 3: A Taos Press, twice asked me the difficult questions I needed to re-organize and re-order, to write new poems to fill gaps she could identify for me.

CH: As someone who grew up in rural south Texas at a time when repression of gay expression was the norm, what is it like to have Anyone’s Son out in the world?

DM: Since the release of Anyone’s Son, two straight male friends my age have written to me, praising the collection, and explaining how the poems resonate with their own experiences, their own anxieties over sex, as they came of age. I can’t tell you how affirming it is to hear from these men that at our core we share something. Their testimonials make me feel that I chose the right title: Anyone’s Son.

CH: A few years ago, you left Austin behind for Albuquerque, and it wasn’t long before Dos Gatos Press found another publisher to take on The Texas Poetry Calendar. What’s changed in your literary life since moving to Albuquerque? Do you see changes in your writing because of it?

DM: I moved here with my husband. Think what it means for me, having grown up in remote rural South Texas, decades ago to claim the word husband. New Mexico gave me physical distance—and the perspective that goes with it. It gave me a new landscape. It gave me the space to approach memoir with confidence, to write the difficult poems for Anyone’s Son—to write them without fear. To celebrate myself and my husband.

CH: You’ve landed some residencies in the last few years. What does the residency experience give a writer? How have those experiences shaped your work?

DM: In the past decade I’ve had two residencies at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Institute for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and one at Jentel Arts, near Sheridan, Wyoming. Both offered two invaluable gifts: time and the company of writers and artists who love what they are doing. In the fall of 2015, in Nebraska, City, because I had whole days of uninterrupted time, I sat down one morning and wrote a paragraph about the day I learned of Hank Locklin’s death. This paragraph led me to a childhood memory of washing the family car while country music poured out of my father’s transistor radio, and that memory took me to the dance hall in my home town. Days later, I had a narrative essay of some 5500 words, looping forward and back through time. The magic here was in the time I was given to write—and the infectious enthusiasm of the five young artists in residency with me. I got to read portions of my essay at a monthly event hosted by the Center. And then my good luck compounded. The Gettysburg Review published this piece and nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. The Pushcart folks selected it for Pushcart XLII. I credit the residency.

CH: Tell us a little about the novel in stories you’re circulating, and the short story collection. What drew you to the “novel in stories” form?

DM: In the summer of 1994, I set out to write a short story set in a small town in South Texas. I did not want to get stuck in my own home town of Orange Grove. I wanted the freedom of a fictional town, my own creation. I wanted intimations of drought-tolerant vegetation. The Spanish word nopalito, meaning prickly pear cactus leaf, suggested itself, and Nopalito, Texas was born. As an MFA student a decade later, I found myself returning to Nopalito. At some point, I could see characters and stories coalescing. I wrote more Nopalito stories. I tinkered with groupings, with sequencing. Nopalito: A Novel in Stories has gone through two major revision stages. Currently, it is seeking a publisher.

CH: What are you working on right now?

DM: I have an almost finished memoir. One of the chapters has been especially thorny. It needs a return visit. My fascination with pantoums continues apace. I want to write more of those. Lately, I am examining my fascination with place. I have the beginnings of a chapbook—poems set along the county road where I grew up. I’d like to set up and teach a course via Zoom—Place in Poems—six Saturday sessions exploring how poets do place, how place serves their poems. Stay tuned . . .

CH: What’s the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

DM: The last time I flew, coming up out of San Antonio, I opened Bruce Snider’s Fruit and quite simply disappeared into the poems. The title poem begins with a bowl of peaches in the narrator’s adolescent art class and moves immediately into memories of the class bully, memories of attraction to the class bully. Eight of the poems are titled “Childless,” in which the narrator ponders the biological impossibility of two men bearing a child, no matter how close their relationship. Snider’s language in this collection, his insights, are quite simply revelatory. Put your hands on a copy of Fruit. You will not be disappointed.