Inspired by the Words of Others by Loida Casaresby Tony Diaz on 07/08/14
I was working at the Houston Chronicle in 1998, and I heard about the great things going on at Chapultepec Mexican Restaurant with a group called Nuestra Palabra: Latinos Having Their Say. I was intrigued, but it wasn’t until much later after I met Tony Diaz through my job at the Chronicle that I got up the courage to tell him that I was an aspiring writer. He asked me if I had written anything, and I told him that I had been working on a novel. He invited me to read at one of the next events.
By then it was 2002, and he was holding the monthly showcase at Talento Bilingue on Jensen and Navigation. I remember being so nervous that night when I got up in front of the audience to read the words I had written, but I did it somehow, and it felt good. It felt so good I wanted to do it again.
Something else that I remember about that important first time are the women who took the stage with me: Maria Palacios reading from “The Female King,” Diana Lopez reading from her new book “Sofia’s Saints,” and Carolina Monsivais reading from “Somewhere Between Houston and El Paso.” I was in awe of these Latina women who had actually published books.
Over the years that followed I read with NP again, and I was interviewed on the radio show a few times. It was at one of those shows that I met the amazing writer Stephanie Elizondo Griest who had just written “Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana.”
One of the last times I read at a Nuestra Palabra showcase was at MECA: Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts in March of 2004. I remember because I was 8 months pregnant. By that time I had written several chapters of my novel, but they were all in bits and pieces without any real structure. It wasn’t until that reading and when I started my blog in November of 2004 that I was able to get myself organized enough to form a structured outline and to put all the chapters together to form a real novel.
Yes, it’s been twelve years since I first read on a Nuestra Palabra stage, and since I’ve been working on the same novel, but it’s because of Nuestra Palabra that I continued on this journey at all. In those twelve years I started my own blog that I still publish, I blogged for a women’s magazine for quite a few years, and I got the courage to submit my writing to Glimmer Train Press.
Imagine my surprise when my story “The Canal” was a finalist, but I remember it was Tony Diaz who was so excited for me, and he made me feel that it was a really big deal. He has always encouraged me to keep writing with his words and with his invitations to read with NP. His crew, especially Liana Lopez, have also been so encouraging over the years, inviting me to read on the radio program.
Nuestra Palabra has also inspired me in more ways than they can imagine by inviting so much great talent to the stage and to their radio show over the years. I’ll never forget when I heard Victor Villaseñor read at Barnes and Noble in 2004. That was the same year I met Robyn Moreno and Michelle Herrera Mulligan and fell in love with their collection of awesome writing by women, “Border-line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, & Cultural Shifting.” Where else would I be exposed to such awesome talent?
That’s why twelve years later I’m still plugging away, writing my words, editing my now infamous novel and working on the outline to a second novel. Thank you Tony Diaz and thank you Nuestra Palabra for your words of encouragement and for doing what you do year in and year out for our city, our state and now even for our nation. You will go down in history.
Loida Casares was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She has an MA in Communication and a BA in Journalism, with a minor in English, from the University of Houston. She is a writer and blogger at shoegirlcorner.com and has read at Nuestra Palabra, Latinos Having Their Say. She has also appeared on their radio program on KTRU, Radio Pacifica. Her essay was featured on KUHF, Houston Public Radio's "This I Believe" series. She has had an essay published on LiteraryMama.com and her short story "The Canal" was a Glimmer Train Press finalist.