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100 Creatives 2013: Gwen Zepeda, Houston's First Poet Laureate

Gwendolyn Zepeda at the Housotn Indie Book Fair
Gwendolyn Zepeda at the Housotn Indie Book Fair
Photo by Dat Lam

What She Does Gwendolyn Zepeda is a writer of novels, children's books, blogs and poetry "and whatever else I feel like." She was recently named Houston's very first Poet Laureate.

Zepeda got her start as a blogger and was a founding writer for the early-internet TV recap blog Television Without Pity, where she recapped Ally McBeal, 7th Heaven and other late-'90s shows.

"That was the first time I was ever paid to write," she said.

In 2000, she sold her first book, a collection of short stories called To the Last Man I Slept with and All the Jerks Just Like Him. However, the book wasn't published until 2004.

"At the time, I didn't understand how long it took for a book to get published. I was going through a divorce, [Tropical Storm] Allison -- I just remember it was a really tumultuous time." Because of that, Zepeda said she thought she'd never write a book again.

"But I can't stop. No stopping."

In April, Zepeda was named Houston's first poet laureate, a role she had to be urged several times to apply for.

"I really did not expect to win," she said. "I thought they'd want a 24-hour poet."

Though Zepeda has been writing poetry since childhood, her first book of poetry is scheduled to come out in 2014. It'll be her 10th book.

Her role as poet laureate will last two years. During that time she's expected to write four poems for the city of Houston, as well as participating in community outreach programs.

"I actually haven't read the contract yet," she said. "I think it says 'Don't embarrass the city.'"

Why She Likes It "I don't think I even like it," she said. "Apparently I would just do it anyway. It becomes the easiest and most satisfying way to express yourself. Every book I say I'm gonna quit."

What Inspires Her Writing, for Zepeda, is a lot like therapy.

"Usually, people who I can not figure out immediately. Emotions that I can't easily sort."

"Whenever something upsets me, I Google it. If there are a lot of entries about it, I know I am not alone. But if there are no entries about it, if I work all the way through it, I'll be one of the first people to write about it for other people."

When it comes to her children's books, her kids are an inspiration, in part.

"If you like to read or write, you always remember what book started that for you. If I write a book and a kid actually likes it, that's it. You have them for life. It's a narcissist's dream."

If Not This, Then What? "I can't answer a fantasy question. I would always have a day job and do something creative on the side," she said.

Zepeda is a tech writer for a major corporation and doesn't plan on quitting any time soon, even with several books under her belt. She says the only way for authors to make it rich now is to sell the film rights to their books.

If Not Here, Then Where? Someplace warm, she says.

"Probably either Los Angeles or Honolulu. They're similarly diverse, warm and have enough Asian food. I can't go anywhere cold or I'll die. Like a ginger lily -- that's how I think of myself."

What's Next? In addition to her book of poetry, Zepeda has also been working on a young adult novel.

"The poetry thing is like a fork in the road. Anything can happen."

More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston BalletJustin Garcia, artistBuck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera CenterPatrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana María Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer


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