By Ricky Garcia
This past Saturday, two authors joined an audience in the historic KiMo Theatre to engage in a casual conversation about their books and their lives. The Albuquerque Public Literacy Foundation and Bookworks presented “A Word With Writers,” which allowed a room full of readers the chance to connect with these two successful authors. Usually I’m the type that will attend concerts and events that are sure to be a party, so this was the first event I’ve ever attended pertaining to literature. But soon after I read the synopsis of the event, I knew there was something special about the concept and that maybe I could learn from these well established writers.
The event started with the one of the authors, Mira Jacob, reading a passage from her book, “The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing.” The story is about an Indian family moving to New Mexico and adapting to the new environment. Mira had tons of enthusiasm as she presented a variety of different characters, using their voices. I loved that about her, and after her reading, I was drawn into the excitement of the passage and suddenly interested in reading her book.
Kirstin Valdez Quade then took the stage to read a passage from her book, “Night at the Fiestas.” The story is about a family that travels around, living in many different places. The story, about struggling to adapt, was similar to “The Sleepwalkers Guide.” I base this from the talk and the reading since I have not read their texts. Kirstin’s reading had the same interaction between characters and gave the readers a look into the heads and thoughts of her characters.
One of the things that I noticed about the authors is their connection to New Mexico. They both included New Mexico in their books and, as a native, I was able to attach visuals to their words during their reading of the passages. Mira brought up Corrales, and I was able to picture myself driving down the single lane road as the trees shadowed my car. Kirstin included ‘Old Man Gloom’ in her text, so I could picture a crowded Santa Fe as people grew excited about burning away their problems.
I also admired Jacob and Quade’s passion for writing. They each put so much effort into a piece of work, and eventually it became reality. The two authors also faced hardships while writing. For Mira, she was juggling a normal job and a family during her writing. The realness she expressed made me think and thus appreciate her work more. Both writers joked about writing too much and having to cut a 2,000-page book down to 300 pages. It’s not easy losing something you’ve been attached to. The struggle with editors also connected the two writers. They said many times that editors would love the idea and concept but hate the actual story. This frustrated them, but they believed in the story so much that finding the right editor to help shape it was worth it in the end.
The women’s onstage charisma was also amazing to watch. They both shared strong admiration for each other that was really neat to see, because usually people act snobby towards someone else’s work, and that was not the case here. The authors would ask each other questions about their processes, inspirations, struggles and writing.
The moderator for the evening, Amanda Sutton from Bookworks, kept the conversation going all evening and effortlessly gave questions that both authors could answer. As the conversation came to an end, the public got a chance to ask questions. The questions asked were broad and evoked the authors to sit and think. The three sat on the stage as “A Word with Writers” title slide displayed as a beautiful backdrop. The historic KiMo is such a wonderful place for the event, because it’s cozy, yet still enough space for a big event.
Consider attending the next “A Word with Writers,” because whether you’ve read the books or not, you’ll gain something from the experience. It’s inspiring and humble to see an author travel away from her current home and attend a talk with another writer. It seems crazy to be paired with your competition, but as these two women connected and share their experiences with one another, their differences evaporated.
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