Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tucson Writer wins 'Author of the Year' Award

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 10:45 PM

Tucson author Shannon Baker was named the 2017 Author of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers  on July 15. This makes Baker a two-time recipient, having been named the 2014 Author of the Year as well.

Baker, author of the Nora Abbott mystery series and Stripped Bare, the first book in the Kate Fox mystery series, said that receiving the award was very special to her.

"I've been a nomad, especially in the last ten years," she said. "I was always an outsider and I never really fit in. So when I joined RMFW, they were kind of a constant for me. They became my substitute for family and community."

She also spoke about her next book, Dark Signal, the second in the Kate Fox series.

"Kate has just been sworn in as county sheriff and she gets a call that there has been a fatality on the train. It's the first case she's ever had as sheriff and it's all new. She kind of has to prove herself."

She said that the book was largely inspired by her husband, Dave Furman, who worked as a train conductor for 42 years.

"When I asked 'how would you kill someone on a train?' it was kind of scary how many ideas he had, right off the top of his head," she laughed.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stories Can Change Our World: How Kore Press Keeps Fighting the Good Fight, Despite the Odds

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 4:31 PM

Kore Press Grrls: Bowden and three participants from Kore's Grrls' Literary Activism Workshop at Cornel West lecture. - COURTESY KORE PRESS
  • Courtesy Kore Press
  • Kore Press Grrls: Bowden and three participants from Kore's Grrls' Literary Activism Workshop at Cornel West lecture.

The mighty Kore Press is a Tucson-based nonprofit independent publishing house and literary justice organization. For 24 years, the press has worked to ensure that marginalized voices: women, people of color, queer and trans folks, have a forum. Founder Lisa Bowden is trying to raise $20,000 for book printing, publishing staff, anthology editorial/artist fees. The Indiegogo campaign has currently raised 13 percent of its goal. Funding for literary endeavors is never easy, and the odds are stacked. Fewer people are reading books for one thing. That, and Bowden and Kore are publishing voices that’d go unheard into the mainstream.

Creating a people-powered publishing house has become the most sustainable route for extending Kore Press. A significant portion of the budget comes from support by the NEA, NEH and associated funding sources. With NEA and NEH funding on the chopping block in Trump’s 2018 budget, here Bowden opens up about what mainstream publishing is missing today and what we can expect for Kore Press' fall season.
  • Courtesy of Kore Press
  • Lisa Bowden.

Kore Press has been running since 1993. What made you want to create this press?

After graduating from the UA and working in the Tucson literary community, I wondered why we weren't exposed to more women writers in school, especially when Tucson is so rich with talent. After working for five years with another press learning printing and binding, and acquiring my own equipment, Karen Falkenstrom, Kore Press co-founder, and I discovered we both wanted to make a feminist/social justice impact with the literary arts, and so, Kore Press was born.

The way people consume media has largely shifted to an online format. What is it like running Kore Press in 2017? How has it adapted?
We publish online as well as in print, and have been growing our digital presence as reading, activist and communications culture has shifted. Digital printing allows us to keep producing books in much smaller runs of our titles, which is more economically feasible for small presses.

What does Kore Press look for in a prospective author?
We are focusing in recent years on writers who are interested in experimental forms, or content, that have potential for social impact. We have done, and plan to continue doing, community programming around certain artists or works to create larger public conversations which engage folks in innovative ways.

What is mainstream publishing missing? Why aren’t marginalized groups able to tell their stories in that forum?
Mainstream publishing is commercially driven, market-driven, so, it's missing a lot in terms of diversity. That is and has always been the strength of small presses—to take risks, work with all kinds of writers and voices.

With the proliferation of social media and personal technology, we have experienced a democratization of "publishing"—anyone with access can tell their story, can have an audience. Mainstream publishing, like mainstream media of all kinds, is largely governed by corporate forces, so you tend to see the same issues of systemic racism, sexism, capitalism—intersecting oppressions—that we see in large institutions and governments.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Libraries Trump Hate

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 9:15 AM

Congressman Raúl Grijalva held a press conference on the morning of April 18, in front of El Pueblo Library to discuss what Trump's proposed budget cuts would mean for the future of libraries. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Congressman Raúl Grijalva held a press conference on the morning of April 18, in front of El Pueblo Library to discuss what Trump's proposed budget cuts would mean for the future of libraries.

When Congressman Raúl Grijalva was a child, libraries were one of the most important things in his life. He discovered newspapers, magazines and Gulliver's Travels.

“It was a place where you could be someone else, experience something as a young kid that was beyond any comprehension of what you would be able to do yourself,” Grijalva said on the morning of April 18, in front of El Pueblo Library.

A group of librarians and library advocates stood behind him, just after National Library Week and in the wake of President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, which would eliminate all federal funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The federal agency manages library grants nationwide, funding many library programs and services.

Trump’s proposed budget, released in March, would cut out 19 federal agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These cuts add up to less than one percent of the federal budget.

On April 6, Grijalva secured 144 lawmakers’ signatures, across party lines, on a letter to Congress, urging against the cuts and requesting over $186 million in funding for library programs.

“It goes against what I believe is a great tradition in this nation—free and public libraries,” Grijalva said to a crowd of about 40 people. He reminded them that while the president can propose budget cuts, without the vote from Congress, they can’t pass.

Pima County Public Library Director Amber Mathewson stood with Grijalva, advocating for federal funding of public libraries. - DANYELLE KHMARA
  • Danyelle Khmara
  • Pima County Public Library Director Amber Mathewson stood with Grijalva, advocating for federal funding of public libraries.

The list of what Pima County libraries have accomplished with the help of federal funding is long. Standing with Grijalva, Pima County Public Library Director Amber Mathewson, brought up a few:

Over the last 3 years, Arizona has received more than $3.1 million for programs that include library services for underserved, rural and tribal communities. For 15 years, there’s been federal funding for the University of Arizona Library School’s Knowledge River Program, supporting future librarians committed to serving Latino and Native American communities.

Mathewson quotes writer Caitlin Moran in saying, “A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival.”

And a life raft may be one of the critical roles libraries play for low-income families today. According to the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of American adults don’t have home access to high-speed internet.

Therefore, libraries become a resource for the unemployed on a job hunt, students needing computer access or a safe place to be after school, seniors searching for community resources, and children learning to read.

“Libraries break down the barriers of age, ethnicity, culture, economic status, language and geography,” said El Pueblo librarian Anna Sanchez.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

RIP, Author and Activist Kathryn Ferguson

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 8:22 AM

Kathryn Ferguson in one of her favorite haunts, the Tumacacori mountains. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB KEE
  • Photo courtesy of Bob Kee
  • Kathryn Ferguson in one of her favorite haunts, the Tumacacori mountains.

Kathryn Ferguson stands in one of her favorite haunts in the Tumacacori mountains, near the Arizona-Mexico line. As a border activist and volunteer with the Samaritans, the Tucson native hiked dangerous desert trails for 13 years, putting out water and food for migrants at risk. She wrote about her experiences in two award-winning books, The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey and Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail, co-authored with Norma A. Price and Ted Park. Also a filmmaker, a dancer and a choreographer, with her own belly-dance troupe and studio, Xanadu, Ferguson died of cancer Sunday night at Peppi’s House hospice in her hometown, after a short illness. She was in her late 60s.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dunbar Was Just The First of Many for this Local Author

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 12:08 PM

Aloma Barnes, author of Dunbar: The Neighborhood, The School, And The People 1940-1965, is a retired nurse. Her book Dunbar is a novel about the beginnings of Tucson and how early segregation took place. A second edition of the book is scheduled for release this month. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Can you talk a little more about the segregation and how it impacted Dunbar's community?
Well, Dunbar wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for the law that separated blacks and whites. The whole thing about having the school in Dunbar was so that blacks could attend. When people migrated there, they selected their homes based on the school—just like any parent would do now. Dunbar's neighborhood then grew up from that school.

What were some reactions you got from publishing Dunbar? Especially those who still live in the community.
If people weren't happy, I told them to pick up a pen and make it better. You throw a stone in a pond and it makes a ripple, is how I look at it. I write very simply and I've been told that people were happy about the book and that it was about time. People who still live there say it's as if "history came alive" and those comments are what make it worth it.

How has Dunbar changed since these segregated times?
It's a small neighborhood. Six blocks long, five blocks wide and used to be a mix of blacks, whites, Hispanics and Indians. But now, it's 98 percent white because of other places in town and because they can afford it. The Dunbar school is still standing but the original has been renovated on Second Street and 11th Avenue. The church is still there too. They're making a museum about Dunbar's history soon. They even have a dance studio and an active barbershop.

What inspired you to write Dunbar?
Well, I’m a retired nurse. I live in the Dunbar neighborhood so it kind of just fell in my lap and it seemed like it was time for a story like this to come. The school reunion happened in 2015 and I had begun my research for the book in 2013.

What did you find difficult about the research?
History of black people, there isn't much of it. I think of it like this, history of caucasian shells are all at the surface of the water but those black shells, you have to dig and dig and dig until you get seaweed-which isn't a shell. It was very difficult but I was talking to contacts from the reunion, finding clips from the library of Civil Rights movement news from back then and the book that Gloria Smith wrote about Dunbar. She's one heck of a researcher. But, I could only go back so far because the archives only started in 1965 so it was as if almost everything before that was lost. I couldn't even find many obituaries.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Huge Congrats to Tucson Writer Francisco Cantú For Snagging a Prestigious Whiting Award for His Forthcoming Memoir!

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 1:51 PM

Writer Francisco Cantú.
  • Writer Francisco Cantú.
Tucson writer Francisco Cantú snagged this week a prestigious 2017 Whiting Award, which includes, beyond the international attention, $50,000. He'll be honored along with nine other recipients in New York City, a ceremony keynoted by Pulitzer Prize winner Siddhartha Mukherjee. Note that past Whiting winners impressively include David Foster Wallace, Jeffrey Eugenides, Denis Johnson, Ocean Vuong, and Deborah Eisenberg. The Whiting Awards was "established by the Whiting Foundation in 1985, remain one of the most esteemed and largest monetary gifts ($50,000) to emerging writers, and are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come."

Cantú, who worked for the United States Border Patrol as an agent form 2008-2012 is a former Fulbright fellow who earned an MFA in nonfiction from the UA. Locally, his work has often appeared in Edible Baja Arizona. His bio says he's a frequent contributor to Guernica and a contributing editor at, where he curates the “El Mirador” series, which collects original nonfiction, translation, and visual art focused on the American west, the borderlands, and Indian country. His writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in South Loop Review, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, Ploughshares, and Orion.

Cantú's much-deserved award is for his forthcoming memoir, The Line Becomes a River (Riverhead Books), out 2018. We down here at TW HQ believe this award is a harbinger of things to come for Cantú. We've read excerpts from The Line Becomes and they are lovely and potent. You can read an excerpt here in the Paris Review.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Zona Politics: Authors Patrick Phillips and Pamela Rotner Sakamoto Discuss Their Books

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:28 PM


On this week's radio edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel, author Phillip Patrick talks about his book author of Blood at the Root, a nonfiction account of a 1912 racial cleansing that took place in Forsyth  County, Georgia. The book has been celebrated as one of the best of 2016 by The New York Times, Boston Globe and many others.

Then author Pamela Rotner Sakamoto discusses Midnight in Broad Daylight, an fascinating account of a Japanese Amercian family caught between two worlds during World War II.

Both authors were in town over the weekend at the Festival of Books.

Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sunday on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Talking Freedom of the Press with Journalists Maureen Dowd, Joe Conason and Evan Thomas

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 1:01 PM

Maureen Dowd
  • Maureen Dowd
I had the honor of moderating a great discussion on freedom of the press under the Trump administration with The New York Times' Maureen Dowd, the National Memo's Joe Conason and longtime political reporter Evan Thomas at the Tucson Festival of Books. If you weren't able to get the festival to see it, you can watch it here on C-SPAN's website. 

You can find some of the other great discussions from the Festival of Books here.

I ran into Brenda Viner, one of the major forces behind the festival, over the weekend and she asked if I had any suggestions to improve Tucson's awesome weekend of celebrating books.  

My only suggestion, which is basically impossible because of the limitations of using the UA campus: Make it longer than two days! There's so much good stuff happening that it's nearly impossible to take it all in on Saturday and Sunday.

Thanks to all the volunteers that make the Tucson Festival of Books possible. In less than a decade, it's become one of Tucson's finest events.

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Staff Pick

Carnival of Illusion: Magic, Mystery & Oooh La La!

This top-rated illusion show is "Revitalizing Magic" by blending an international travel theme with all the charms… More

@ Scottish Rite Grand Parlour Saturdays. Continues through April 14 160 South Scott Ave

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