Tenacious Talent

Publisher Caitlin Gannon, 26, Knows How To Get Things Done.
By Margaret Regan 

Southwestern Women: New Voices, A Collection of Poems and Short Stories, edited by Caitlin L. Gannon (Javelina Press). Paper, $12.95.

CAITLIN GANNON, YOU realize almost right away, is a person who gets things done. At first you might be fooled by the quiet demeanor and a voice so soft that you have to get her to repeat herself from time to time, but you wouldn't be fooled for long. Not when you learn what she's accomplished so far in her 26 years.

For starters, Gannon has founded her own publishing company, Javelina Press, and recently brought out its first publication, Southwestern Women: New Voices, a collection of fiction and poetry by mostly new authors, whose work Gannon solicited, selected and edited all by herself. She wrote the book's scholarly introductory essay and compiled its extensive bibliography. Right now she's doing a self-taught crash course in marketing and distribution, meanwhile still holding down her day job as a computer data analyst. And before her days as CEO of her own business, the Santa Fe native dipped into a doctoral program at Atlanta's Emory University, and before that earned an M.A. in German from the University of Arizona.

Then there's that little matter of seeing the Berlin Wall go down.

"German has always been a passion of mine...It's a great language," Gannon explained recently during a working lunch downtown. She did a junior year abroad in Bonn in 1989, a year of wild ferment in Germany, during which, among other things, East Germany collapsed and the Berlin Wall was pulled down by jubilant mobs. "It was really fun to see the world changing."

More to the point, perhaps, Gannon's time in Germany brought her circuitously back to her current passion of Southwest women's writing. Though all of Germany was caught up in political and cultural turmoil, she found that the more things changed outside the university in Bonn, the more they stayed the same inside. Gannon had only male professors, who taught what she calls "canon-centered courses," a polite term for classes that bypassed women authors, and who made her realize that "not everybody in the world is interested in what women have to say."

The outside study groups popular among German students, however, were a different story.

"I took my first feminist literature course there. It was fabulous. Over there they don't have women's studies, but we had a study group that found great feminist classics. And we read French feminist literary theory. (The experience) changed my thinking a lot."

Gannon carried her new enthusiasm for women's writing through grad school at the UA, where she studied German women writers of the Weimar period, and on into the PhD program at Emory. But when she started researching Catholicism and women along the Southwest border, she was surprised to find so little published on the topic.

"I was excited about writing about my homeland but I didn't find much information," she remembered. "That made me even more interested."

So interested, in fact, that she ultimately founded Javelina Press. Gannon decided to leave the academy and begin publishing women's writing herself. And though it was hard to leave the university setting, where she'd spent so many years and talked so much about women's work, she's found her new work is a continuation of the old.

"It's interesting to put all these things into practice," she said. "It's like being on the other end of the same conversation."

Gannon got about 100 entries for New Voices, from women who responded to her call for work "by women writers of the Southwest that dealt with anything related to women and culture, with gender and identity in the borderlands. I didn't define 'Southwest.'...It means a culture as well as a place. It's an idea. To some people it means California and Texas," as well as everything in between.

Working alone, Gannon whittled the entries down to 32 pieces by 30 authors (nine are from Tucson or southern Arizona), trying to make sure the works went well together. She did the typesetting herself, relied on her mother for the cover, a cousin for book design, and spent $3,000 of her own money for a print run of 1,200 paperback copies.

None of the work in New Voices has ever been published before, but a handful of the writers, including Tucson's Rita Garitano, author of the novel Rainy Day Man, are already established. Garitano also contributed to Walking the Twilight, a Northland Press anthology of Southwest women writers. (That book differs from her own, Gannon said, because it includes much work that was already published elsewhere.) Garitano's short story "The Good Daughter," an excerpt from her forthcoming novel Speedway Boulevard, is one of the finest pieces in Gannon's collection. It investigates the gap between a university-educated Hispanic woman and her traditional mother. In it the daughter washes her mother's hair, but even this intimate act doesn't bring them the closeness that the daughter longs for.

Some of Gannon's favorites include the Navajo writer Laura Tohe's fictionalized account of her father's old age and Susan San Miguel's "Papá Sits Outside," a story Gannon rates as "a really good picture of a traditional Hispanic family...I liked it because it not only talks about growing up in South Texas as an Hispanic, but also about the universal experience of leaving home."

For now, Gannon is busy setting up readings, getting the book into stores and doing whatever else she can to promote it and, possibly, earn back the $4,000 it's cost her. Down the road, though, she might do a sequel, and maybe, just maybe, quit that day job. When you talk to this confident young woman you don't doubt that she'll get it all done. After all, she's chosen as her company motto the sturdy javelina.

"Javelinas are my favorite. They remind me of women in the Southwest: They're tenacious."

Four authors collected in Southwestern Women: New Voices--Rita Garitano, J.M. Kore Salvato, Susan Chamberlin Quick and Maria-Elena Wakamatsu--will give a reading and booksigning from 7 to 8:30 p.m. next Friday, May 9, at The Book Mark, 5001 E. Speedway. For more information, call 881-6350.

A second reading/booksiging is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. For more information, call 792-3715. TW

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