Inprint ends its 2009/2010 Margarett Root Brown Reading Series season tonight with a Cinco de Mayo bang featuring two literary greats from Texas.
The reading series, responsible for bringing four Nobel Prize and 41 Pulitzer Prize winners to Houston, showcases native Houstonian novelist and blogger Gwendolyn Zepeda and National Endowment for the Arts fellow Texan Oscar Casares on the Hubbard Stage of the Alley Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
Hair Balls caught up with the witty, two-time Houston Arts Alliance literary fellowship winner and award-winning poet Gwendolyn Zepeda.
Hair Balls: Tonight, you'll be walking in the footsteps of Latino greats such as Pat Mora, Martin Espada and Ruben Martinez. Not only are you part of such a prestigious reading series but you also get to share the stage with the famously handsome Oscar Casares. What's your history with Inprint?
Gwendolyn Zepeda: I met Executive Director Rich Levy at a Houston Poetry Fest reception for an anthology that included one of my poems a couple of years ago but this is the first year I've officially worked with Inprint. I think they were really interested in me after I read at the Texas Book Festival in October. In February, I had the launch party for my second novel, Lone Star Legend, and Inprint invited me to read at their Poets and Writers Ball. (Inprint's yearly gala where tickets go for $500 each) I thought I did a pretty good job with that (Laughs).
HB: It's been a busy six months for you.
GZ: I'm having the time of my life. Even if I never sell another book, knock on wood, I'm glad I have the opportunity to meet the people I'm meeting right now. I have an irrational fear of networking but now that I know that it's mainly about getting drunk with them, I love it.
HB: The publishing industry has taken a big hit. Mainstream publications are laying off writers in droves but you're still writing and getting book deals. What's your current take on the industry?
GZ: Just in the last 10 years, the publishing industry has changed so much. At first, publishers were looking for Chicken Soup for the Soul- or border-themed stories or books peppered with random Spanglish and 'Latina' in the title...then came something called Alisa Valdes. Writers hate to hear other writers talk this way, but if it weren't for her, there would be a lot of Latina girls who could not sell books. As soon as Dirty Girls Social Club came out, the big houses in New York were acquiring Hispanic editors and asking them to go out and acquire Hispanic writers. Now, I think I'll be able to sell books forever, but the price will just keep getting lower and lower.
HB: What made you think you could get published?
GZ: I always wrote, but it wasn't until I went to U.T. and read Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros, that I was like, oh wait, I'm allowed to be published, too. I just felt like nobody would buy anything from me. I didn't really have a community of writers around me. I was kind of the lone wolf. So f-ing around online on a forum, I pulled an Al Gore and I invented blogs for Latinas. I really did if you think about it.
HB: This is the first time you've officially made that statement in an interview.
GZ: You can see my blog that I've been writing since before it was called a blog....remember online journals? I've researched it and there's a guy that claims he has the longest-running blog ever and he started a month before I did so I'm pretty sure I can make that statement now with a clear conscience. I was the first Latina blogger ever.
HB: When did you start to notice your work gaining a following?
GZ: Television Without Pity is really how I started my writing career. I saw what was out there and thought 'I know I can do something better than that.'
HB: Then came your first book, To the Last Man I Slept With and All the Jerks Just Like Him.
GZ: My first book was originally titled Love and Animals. Nick Kanellos changed the name and I cried when I saw it. I thought, 'All the men are going to think I hate them. But I love my dad, I love my son.' It was tough but now I've been able to represent. People in Sixth Ward, single moms, people with Asian fetishes [Gwendolyn's husband is Asian], half-Mexican, half-whites are saying, well if Gwen can get published, I can too.
BH: Tonight, you'll be reading from your second novel, Lone Star Legend, just released in February, but you already have two more books lined up for this year. What else can your readers look forward to this year?
GZ: Yes, I'm finishing up my third novel. I also blog for the [Houston] Chronicle regularly, I'm the feature for the Poison Pen Reading Series in June, heading for Washington D.C. for the American Librarians' Association conference, I'm always trying to write a kids' book and I have to think about what I'm going to write next. I'm also waiting to hear about a short story, I submitted a story for Sarah Cortez's You Don't Have a Clue anthology. I'm trying to branch out.
Zepeda and Casares will be reading from Lone Star Legend and Amigoland tonight as part of the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series.