Monday, December 22, 2008

Illuminations: Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience

In 2006 I had the privilege of seeing two pieces of mine selected for the anthology
Illuminations: Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience, edited by Mark L. Tompkins and Jennifer McMahon and published by Celestial Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press. Contributors much better-known than myself include Julia Cameron, Helene Cardona, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the experiences covered encompass finding, exploring, practicing and leaving a range of faiths.

Intended to raise both awareness and funds for projects involving interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding, this book has unfortunately not yet reached the audience it deserves and has not yet covered its expenses. Having received only one-time payment for my work in 2006, I will earn no proceeds from future sales of Illuminations and can now promote the book on its merits. As most days' news reminds us--whether from Iraq, India and Pakistan, or the United States--we can use more understanding, or at least tolerance, among people of different faiths as well as with those who adhere to none.

The editors have noted "Illuminations is available from any of the major online book retailers, and is available at a discount in quantities of 10 or more from the publisher. For discount information a special email has been set up:"

They further state "Organizations can benefit from using Illuminations in a number of ways:
Illuminations can be used in their education programs; special discounts are available for this purpose. Illuminations can be used for fundraising by offering it as a gift book to their network. Groups can earn $9.00 to $10.00 per book sold, depending on quantity and terms. Illuminations can be used for gifts to their members or as an incentive for joining or renewing."

The web site (, if links are causing a problem) includes sample work as well as reviews. Even if you can't get a copy in time for the holiday(s) you celebrate, the book will remain timely.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mariachi Roundup

After his whirlwind trip to San Antonio, where he was unharmed by either unseasonably cold weather or the chupacabra, Gustavo kept his sombrero on and managed a successful week.

Last night I learned that the Tucson Citizen (free, registration required) has listed The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo as the first pick in a story entitled "Bilingual Books for Children Just in Time for the Holiday Season."

Two other positive reviews have appeared on specialized sites, one on on and another on the modestly named yet very well-written site Mary's Blog. In addition, M. Tretiakova has written a very positive customer review on the page of the bilingual edition.

As if that weren't enough, I have learned that the newest country for online sales is Colombia, at

One theme emerging from the reviews is that boys are particularly taking to this book. For a variety of reasons it can be hard to get boys interested in books, so I am glad to help.

A couple of other non-Mariachi items should be coming up in the days ahead, including one that I am not yet at liberty to discuss . . .

Monday, December 8, 2008

New Poems Online at

I am briefly breaking a streak of Mariachi-related news to announce that two of my poems, "General Apology" and "Detox," appear in Issue 22 of Ducts, which has been publishing for 10 calendar years. In web or dog years, that is something like a century. Poetry editor Amy Lemmon, a fine poet herself, has also selected work by poets include Denise Duhamel, Moira Egan, Dimitris Lyacos and Carly Sachs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Live from San Antonio, Parte Dos!

Today's reading at Borders at the Quarry in San Antonio went very well, thanks to booksellers Joanna and Angel and a wonderful audience of both adults and children.

I also had the opportunity to speak to adults and children at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium.

Pictures from both events will appear in this very blog, and we'll see what comes of being in the audience for tonight's performance by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Live from San Antonio!

I am writing this dispatch from the business center of the historic St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio.

At the San Antonio Civic Center this morning I had the opportunity to speak to several hundred students ranging in age from early grade school to college level about the value of higher education and about The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo. I also gave away a hardcover of each version (bilingual, Spanish and English) as prizes for answering mariachi trivia questions.

The rest of today will include a bit of tourism and watching student competitions this evening, not to mention taking advantage of the local cuisine.

On Saturday, December 6 I will spend the morning getting reading for my reading at Borders at the Quarry.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Two More Mariachi Countries

As I get ready for tonight's debut reading (discussed in the post below) and my reading at the San Antonio Mariachi Festival, I have two more countries where online sellers are offering The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo.

Readers in Estonia can purchase copies through Krisostomus, and readers in Hungary can order at Prospero in Budapest.

Tonight should be fun, and pictures may follow, possibly involving sombreros and serapes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Washington, DC and World Debut Reading of The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo

It is going to be an exciting and exhausting week.

On Wednesday, December 3, at 7 p.m., I will be giving my first-ever reading of The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo, along with a talk and a reading of family-friendly selections of my poetry at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, Sixth Street and Maine Avenue, Southwest, near the Waterfront/Southeastern University Metro stop on the Green Line. More detailed directions are available here. Admission is free/gratis, but donations to the church will be accepted.

Following the reading I will be signing both Mariachi and my second collection of poems, Settling for Beauty. Only a limited number of copies of Mariachi will be available for sale on-site, so please feel free to bring a copy of any version for signing.

The event is noted in the Washington Post and in the December issue of Capitol-area community publication Hill Rag.

The day after this debut reading or, to take the Spanish phrase, el gran estreno, I will be flying out for my reading at the San Antonio Mariachi Festival.

More to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Latest Mariachi Review

Some reviewers have unique rating systems.

Friend and blogger Judy Turner Williamson, wife of my friend the novelist and critic Eric Miles Williamson, reports the latest assessment from her two-year-old son:

Turner wanted his little sombrero down off the rack. He put it on his head, then ran around saying " 'Achi in the WORLD!" It took me a minute to realize he was pretending to be little Gustavo. Just now he climbed on my lap and saw the picture of your book, said "Achi Achi Achi in the world" and kissed the picture.

You have one little fan in South Texas!

Moments like that are why we write for children.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo is now available in Belgium through Flemish-language bookselling site

Thank you, Belgium.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

Since being interviewed is not a normal part of my life, having one interview online is improbable enough, but having a second interview in less than a week is stranger still. But true.

If you would like to see some of my views on poetry, you may wish to check out the online wing of If Poetry Journal.

Thanks for taking a look.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Mariachi Country

The list of countries where online sellers are offering The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo has grown by one.

An online search earlier this week revealed that Gustavo can now be found in Singapore at OpenTrolley Bookstore.

I had never thought of Singapore as a hotbed of mariachi interest, but then again I've never been to Singapore.

It's a surprising world out there.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tour de Blog

This week I have been generously invited to be guest writer and interview subject on the blog of Portland writer Dave Jarecki, whose previous guests have included John Morrison and Bruce Weigl.

The interview is here.

Thanks for taking a look.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gustavo's Virtual World Tour

Once upon a time ZZ Top proclaimed "I'm bad, I'm nationwide."

In these days of globalization and the Internet we're all nationwide, and worldwide for that matter. Badness, however you define it, comes separately.

With all this in mind, I've listed below places other than the United States where online sellers are offering The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo.

If I have missed any countries, please let me know.

The list:



Czech Republic





Hong Kong





New Zealand


Republic of China (Taiwan)

Republic of Korea

Republic of South Africa


United Kingdom

Monday, November 10, 2008

If Poetry Journal Call for Submissions

Since my work has appeared in Issue 1 of If Poetry Journal and is forthcoming shortly in Issue 2, I am pleased to note that If is now complementing its print life with an online presence. Editor Don Ilich is a man of taste, if not yet wealth. His own poetry has appeared in well-regarded publications including The Iowa Review and Fourteen Hills, and he has studied with instructors including Mark Doty and the late David Foster Wallace. Don is circulating a manuscript or two, and it is only a matter of time until you will be able to buy his books.

The call for submissions goes like this:

If Poetry Journal now has an online component to its print journal. It is seeking poems to publish, 2 or 3 a week, along with reviews of poetry collections and interviews with writers. To submit, please send 3-5 poems (in the e-mail, no attachments) to editor Don Illich at Please say in the e-mail that this work is for the online journal. What we like: poetry influenced and inspired by writers such as Thomas Lux, Jennifer Knox, Tony Hoagland, Sandra Beasley, Dean Young, Frank O'Hara, Jeffrey McDaniel, Denise Duhamel, and Billy Collins. Obviously, no payment but the esteem of eyeballs everywhere.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

San Antonio Mariachi Festival

It's official.

My reading at the San Antonio Mariachi Festival is set for Borders at the Quarry in San Antonio on December 6 at 2 p.m. I look forward to seeing a great many parents and niños of all ages and backgrounds at this event.

Above are images of the postcard being sent out to promote the festival. The back includes the schedule of events, which on the night of December 6 culminates with a concert by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, the original Best Mariachi in the World, established more than 100 years ago.

Approximately twenty thousand people are expected to attend the festival, including one thousand aspiring and professional musicians. Gustavo and I are only a small part of all this, but we are a small part of something great.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Mariachi Review

So far, so good.

Gustavo is making his way in the world quite nicely.

The newest review, and also a very positive review, is on The Reading Tub, which includes a "Little Kid Reaction" of "Our daughter picked this out of a pile."

I believe that makes her a focus group of one. Thank you, young lady.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo

One month and two days ago, my first children's book, The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo, was released in bilingual, Spanish and English editions. In the parlance of publishing, it "dropped."

Several pages of the book and some preliminary sketches appear on the blog of young and abundantly gifted illustrator Dani Jones.

Life has been a little different since October 1. I have accepted an invitation to read at the San Antonio Mariachi Festival in December, and I plan to start DC-area events shortly. Watch this space for updates.

The reviews so far have been positive. Publishers Weekly affiliate Críticas has given Mariachi a starred review. In an interview with Raven Tree Press publisher Dawn Jeffers, writer Noël Baca Castex says the staff of Críticas has "fallen in love" with the book. A second positive review appears in a roundup in Washington Parent.
The most recent good news came on Saturday, November 1, when I learned that Mariachi has been selected as November's "Libro del Mes" by Latin Baby Book Club. Every few days I also learn that a library has added a copy to its holdings.
Not surprisingly, I believe that every home in the Americas and many in the rest of the world should own a copy of one or more editions of Mariachi. Fortunately, The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo can be ordered through all major online sellers and through bookstores. The competition for shelf space at bookstores is fierce, to put it mildly, but if enough people start asking for a book things can change.
In upcoming posts I'll note some of the countries where online sellers are offering Mariachi, and I'll do my best to explain how someone named Smith takes on this subject. There are reasons.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Now I Don't Where to Begin"

Elvis Costello--quoted above--has a point.

I can start by saying that the world does not desperately need another blog. Who would disagree? I am reminded of Rilke's statement that the beauty of silence is such that one must have a good reason to break it. The same could be said for white space.

With this in mind, I won't be posting updates on what I had for lunch, nor will I be posting rants on my political, social and environmental views, of which I have plenty.

This blog will be about what I write, or try to write, what I manage to publish, and where I'm reading or where my work is getting reviewed. I'll try to be succinct about all of these topics.

I write poetry, essays and reviews, crime fiction and literary fiction, and more recently work for children. My one-act play "Dig" has been published and produced, and there will be more news on that as time goes on. My second collection of poetry, Settling for Beauty, was published in 2005, and my first children's book, The Best Mariachi in the World/El Mejor Mariachi del Mundo, was published on October 1. The reviews so far have been good.

There will be more when there's more to say. Thanks for taking a look.