I first experienced Denise Chávez at a fabulous Port Townsend Writers Conference directed by Cristina Garcia. Although I’m a huge supporter of Centrum and the Port Townsend Writers Conference, and I live only a ferry ride and an hour’s drive away, I have not been able to attend another conference since, as for me, personally, nothing will ever come close to that summer 2011.
Imagine a week in the middle of nowhere (a very beautiful somewhere, but isolated, Fort Warden State Park) in writing workshops all day under Martín Espada and readings every night by the likes of Cristina Garcia, Denise Chávez, and Chris Abani.
When Denise Chávez read from her then in progress memoir, A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture, our tight group of “diverse” writers, many fresh out of the NOVA conference, fell to pieces and were reduced to whoops, and hollering, and tears of laughter; what can best be described as carcajadas and of pride, orgullo.
In my world, as a writer and a Latina who grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a white, white world, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Luckily for us, and everyone else in the nation, we can get pretty close to that experience every year at the Border Book Festival, in Las Cruces, Mexico. Founded by Denise Chávez and Susan Tweit, the festival is now heading into it’s 19th year, and has brought over 8,000 writers, filmmakers, storytellers and multi-genre artists together under the core belief that Art does indeed Heal Lives.
Although I won’t be able to make it this year, next year, the year of Corn/Maize is the year that straggly group of writers from all around the nation who convened on Port Townsend that summer now long ago, will finally hop on that literary bus and ride from Vancouver, B.C. down to Las Cruces picking up poets and writers on our way, and experience this festival, and Denise Chavez, once again.
For the rest of you de buena suerte, you can check it out this year:
“This Journey is ours to explore. We have artists and healers who lead the way for us: filmmaker/writer/director Jesús Treviño, filmmakers Viviana García Besné and Alistair Tremps, poet/potter/filmmaker Nora Naranjo Morse and journalist/writer/filmmaker Rubén Martínez. How blessed we are to have them with us this year as we explore the common denominators that hold us steadfast to the road. Let us not lose sight in the terrible times that light awaits us, just ahead. Don’t lose faith.
Coraje. Courage. Fuerza. Strength. Ánimo. Spirit.
Never forget that you do not walk Alone.”
Border Book Festival @ Casa Camino Real