November is Prose Month. To celebrate, the Society of the Muse of the Southwest (SOMOS) is presenting its first celebration of the occasion with nine evenings of prose readings by 20 different writers and three consecutive Saturday workshops on the craft of prose writing and performance. And, it all starts in Taos on Friday (Nov. 3) at the SOMOS Salon, 108 Civic Plaza Drive. All readings are free and open to the public.
The first authors who read from their work Friday (Nov. 3) were Iris Keltz and Sam Richardson. Keltz was raised in New York City with a family that stressed the Jewish narrative of suffering in a 2000-year Diaspora culminating in the Nazi Holocaust. She grew up believing that tiny Israel surrounded by dangerous enemies was greening an empty wasteland in order to create a safe haven for world Jewry. Richardson, aka SAM•U•L, is a Taos-based artist, storyteller and writer. His art is displayed in a number of venues and he is a freelance feature writer for publications in New Mexico and Texas.
The additional authors will read from prose genres including memoir, creative nonfiction, long and short form novels, flash fiction, mystery/thrillers, and short stories, a SOMOS press release states. The three workshops scheduled for the first three Saturdays in November are “Jump Start Your Novel,” taught by Johanna DeBiase; “Secrets of Successful Fiction and Creative Nonfiction,” by Sean Murphy; and “Out Loud! Speak Your Writing to Life” by David Perez.
Preregistration is required for the three workshops. For more information, call (575) 758-0081 or visit somos-taos.org.
Schedule of readings
Saturday (Nov. 4), 7 p.m. Pat Pollard and Scott Jones
After a successful career as a commercial photographer, Pollard relocated to Taos in 1990 and began to experiment with various media to express her own personal vision. The result has been a wide variety of mixed media combining everything from photographic imagery to construction, sculpture and found objects. For the last several years, she has concentrated solely on two-dimensional painting. A writer of poetry and short stories when she was young, Pollard set painting aside to write a memoir, “Long Time Lost,” soon to be published by Nighthawk Press.
Jones is working on his sixth novel in Northern New Mexico, after stints in the Netherlands, Scotland and Norway plus less exotic locations. He’s worked for a power company, grocers, a lumberyard, an energy company (for a very long time), and a winery. Now, he’s on the masthead of the Prague Revue, and launched a novel last year with “Southern Yellow Pine, Jupiter and Gilgamesh, a Novel of Sumeria and Texas.”
Sunday (Nov. 5), 5 p.m. Tiffany Jama and Rick Collignon
Jama’s writing is process-oriented. She found a deep connection to herself upon first journaling in 1991. Writing became her tool for survival, understanding and connection to parts of herself she felt were hidden from view. The blank page and the practice of writing are both terrifying and healing, often revealing bits of wisdom and shadow. Often at war with her own practice, she returns over and over, never betraying herself for long.
Collignon is the author of four novels, “The Journal of Antonio Montoya,” “Perdido” (the first two volumes of his Guadalupe trilogy), “Madewell Brown” and “A Santo in the Image of Cristobal Garcia,” all set in the Southwest. Originally from the Chicago area, he has lived in Northern New Mexico for over 30 years.
Nov. 10, 7 p.m. Lauren Bjorkman, Estelle Laure and Eileen Wiard
Bjorkman is the author of two young adult novels, “Miss Fortune Cookie” (2012, Holt) and “My Invented Life” (2009, Holt). Her short story, “The Shark King,” appeared in an anthology called “The First Time.” When she grew up on a sail boat, she shared the forecastle with her sister and the sail bags. In the end, she managed to survive both seasickness and a personal terror of the ocean. And live to write stories.
Laure is the author of young adult novels “This Raging Light” and “But Then I Came Back.” She says, “I like to write about darkness without discounting the light. I try to write stories I want to read myself, about life and death, family and love, and mostly how we cope with change and danger in our lives, two things we can’t avoid. I also like to write about magic. Always magic. Not necessarily the big, obvious magic, but the little things we could miss if we aren’t paying attention, the little pieces of magic that add sparkle and mystery to every day.”
Wiard came to Taos from Boston on a Helene Wurlitzer Foundation writing residency for two months in the summer of 2002. She fell in love with the high desert and never went back, leaving behind a teaching career that she loved for a life of writing plays, essays, and songs. “Inside Outsiders” is her first work of fiction.
Nov. 11, 7 p.m. Steve Fox and Anita Rodríguez
Fox is a writer, photographer, journalist and teacher. He’s authored two books of nonfiction and chapters in five books on U.S. mass culture and cultures of the Southwest. He wrote and edited for the defunct local publication, Horse Fly, and contributed 120 columns to the New Mexico News Service.
Rodríquez is a painter whose work incorporates Native American ceremonialism, Mexican mysticism and Hispanic folk art. Her book, “Coyota in the Kitchen,” was published by UNM Press in April, 2016. She was born in Taos to a family that has lived here for generations. In all her work, whether as a traditional enjarradora (adobe finisher), writer or painter she mirrors, preserves, interprets and explores the diversity of her worlds.
Nov. 12, 5 p.m. David Pérez and Andres Vargas
Pérez is a writer, editor, actor, radio host, and performance teacher with decades of experiences in the literary and performing arts. He heads Verdad Creative, which offers a full range of writing, editing, and performing services.He is the author of two memoirs, “WOW!” (2011, 11B Press) and “WOW! 2” (2016, Nighthawk Press), both of which chronicle his multi-faceted coming of age.
Vargas is a retired attorney and was a judge for Probate Court from 2006-2014 in Taos. He is working on a full-length memoir about his childhood growing up in New Mexico.
Nov. 17, 7 p.m. Phaedra Greenwood and Michele Potter
Greenwood is a creative writing teacher, storyteller, videographer and freelance writer who worked for five years as a journalist for Tempo magazine of The Taos News. During that stint, she received two first place awards from the New Mexico Press Association for Best Column and Best Review. Her nature memoir, “Beside the Rio Hondo,” was published by Sunstone Press of Santa Fe and chosen as a finalist for the 2008 New Mexico Book Award. Using Outskirts Press, she self-published a travel memoir called “North With the Spring,” about a five-month travel adventure in Europe with her family.
Potter is a writer-editor-teacher and has taught at the University of New Mexico as an Instructor of American Studies focusing on environment and the Southwest and has been a ski instructor at Taos Ski Valley from August 1996 to the present. She writes about nature, the environment and geopolitics. She is working on a full-length memoir about her father.
Nov. 18, 7 p.m. John Biscello, Johanna DeBiase and Ashleigh Grycner (music)
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, Biscello, has called Taos home since 2001. He is the author of the novels “Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale” and “Raking the Dust,” and a collection of stories, “Freeze Tag.” His fiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications. He will be reading excerpts from his novel-in-progress, “No Man’s Brooklyn.”
DeBiase is the author of “Mama & the Hungry Hole.” Originally from New York, her short fiction has been published in numerous journals, magazines and websites. She has also received scholarships to attend the San Miguel Writer’s Conference, Vermont Studio Center and Rensing Center. The rest of the time, she is a certified yoga instructor, vintage clothing boutique owner and mother of one.
Nov. 19, 5 p.m. Jim O’Donnell and Bob Silver
O’Donnell is a freelance journalist, author, and conservation photographer who focuses on climate change adaptation, human migration, and public lands. He is the author of “Notes for the Aurora Society,” as well as numerous articles, a few half-finished novels, various letters to the editor, and other scribblings.
Silver is a psychologist by background and training, storyteller by nature, and Parkinson’s patient by chance. Retired after 45 years of clinical and forensic psychology practice, consulting, and teaching, he is immersed in creative nonfiction writing. Taos is home for him and his wife, abstract painter Dianne Frost. Silver’s work has been published in “Chokecherries,” “HOWL,” “Storied Recipes” and “Storied Wheels” anthologies.
Saturday (Nov. 4), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: “Jump Start Your Novel” with Johanna DeBiase. Fee $45, $40 SOMOS members
Nov. 11, 9-11:30 a.m.: “Secrets of Successful Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Writing” with Sean Murphy. Fee $50, $45 SOMOS members
Nov. 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: “Read Your Work Out Loud” with David Pérez. Fee $45, $40 SOMOS members