Letters

Arte Pblico Protests
This is to protest your running Claudia Kolker's totally biased, one-sided attack on Arte Pœblico Press [News, "Family Feud, June 29]. First of all, Ms. Kolker lied to me when she obtained my interview, stating she was "updating" a previous story run by the Houston Press and that there would also be a few questions about the Denise Chavez suit. In fact, all she was after were a few quotes from me to legitimize her original and hidden intent: taking up Chavez's cause to publicly embarrass Arte Pœblico into relinquishing our rights.

Ms. Kolker cited letters from disgruntled authors but never asked for the hundreds of favorable letters from authors, the scores of awards, the hundreds of outstanding reviews, the titles of the many books and literary items which we have sent on to "mainstream presses." In fact, she let herself be duped by the professional actress Ms. Chavez, who is suing for the return of our 50 percent interest (standard in literary publishing contracts) in a book that our press has developed as a standard text in Chicano literature courses. Ms. Chavez has conducted a smear campaign against our press for over two years in hopes that she can force us through slander in the literary community and now on the public record to relinquish the rights because her suit has no legal merit.

The reason we do not relinquish the rights, despite the nuisance of her slander and enlisting a few other malcontents, is that such surrender will show that we cannot defend our contracts and, therefore, the whole Arte Pœblico Press catalog of titles will become subject to a feeding frenzy among New York agents now hungry to obtain rights to books that before we developed them were not even allowed in their front doors. Agent [Susan] Bergholz has been directly involved in attempting to break our contracts and we have letters to prove this and to prove her instigation of Chavez's action.

Arte Pœblico is a triply audited program of the University of Houston -- by outside, state and foundation auditors. All audits and evaluations have always concluded that APP is one of the premier literary organizations in the country. We have had a very rough road during our existence because of lack of finances and resources, lack of space, lack of expertise (and no one willing to train us as outsiders to publishing -- just as Hispanic authors have been kept out). We have suffered from discrimination and lack of support from the press and the reviewing mechanisms. Despite all of those existing barriers, over the last few years we have experienced rapid growth and success. Now just one author has brought a very first suit against us and has encouraged other authors to treat us as a publishing giant. In the world of publishing, our finances and the number of books we publish still make us an insect. Ms. Bergholz knows that; that is why she does not hesitate to interfere with our contracts in hopes of striking gold with books that we have developed.

The second thing Ms. Kolker told me was that you have assigned her to the Hispanic beat. If this hack job is indicative of how she will treat Hispanics and their institutions, I suggest you find someone else. But in your staff listing, I note an absence of Hispanic names. Does this exclusion of Hispanics and their editorial perspective reveal itself in your arrogance and impunity in unfairly attacking one of the nation's most beloved Hispanic cultural institutions? I demand an apology.

Nicolas Kanellos
Houston
Editor's reply: Claudia Kolker indeed told Nicolas Kanellos initially that she was doing an "update" on a previous Press story on Arte Pœblico and that she would be asking questions about the complaints by Denise Chavez. She did not "lie" about her intent. A date was set for an in-person interview at Mr. Kanellos' office, but he failed to keep the appointment (later explaining to Kolker that he was mistaken about the date of the interview). After conducting lengthy interviews with Chavez and her lawyer and reviewing a packet of correspondence Chavez provided from other disgruntled former Arte Pœblico writers, Kolker saw the focus of the story changing and tried to reschedule an interview with Mr. Kanellos. She explicitly informed his secretary that she would be asking questions about the complaints against Arte Pœblico, so that Mr. Kanellos would be prepared to address them. He did so in a phone conversation with Kolker the following morning, and his side was presented thoroughly -- and fairly -- in her story. Finally, if we must engage in a contest of ethnic credentialing, Kolker is half-Mexican. That makes her approximately as "Hispanic" as Mr. Kanellos, who, we hope, isn't holding his breath while awaiting an apology.

Come to Lovely Montrose
Well, thank God, for the last 18 years we've lived in smart Montrose, where diversity is prized, real-estate values are rising rapidly and the Ridley Smiths would be more than welcome [News, "Order, Please," by T.R. Witcher, July 13].

John W. Kellett
Houston

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