Even the name is poetic: “The Society of the Muse of the Southwest” — words that fortuitously lend themselves to an acronym that is Spanish for “we are.” Since its inception in 1983, SOMOS has championed the role of the literary arts in Taos’ rich creative landscape. The group’s live readings, workshops, conferences and festivals have showcased generations of novice writers, as well as renowned literary lions.
SOMOS is celebrating “November Prose Month.” The month’s events so far have included workshops from writers Johanna DeBiase and Sean Murphy, and readings from David Pérez, Andres Vargas. Anita Rodríguez, Steve Fox, Lauren Bjorkman, Estelle Laure and Eileen Wiard.
This weekend, the celebration continues with a slate of readings, workshops and musical collaborations. All events take place at the SOMOS Salon, 108 Civic Plaza Drive. Readings are offered free of charge, with donations welcomed. Workshops are $45, $40 for SOMOS members.
Readings Friday (Nov. 17), 7 p.m.
Writers Phaedra Greenwood and Michele Potter will be reading from their work.
Greenwood is a creative writing teacher, storyteller, videographer and freelance writer who lives and works in Arroyo Hondo. In 1987 she won the Katherine Anne Porter Award for a short story written during a sojourn at Duke University. Other stories have been featured in published anthologies. 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.
Writer-editor Michele Potter has taught American Studies at the University of New Mexico, focusing on the Southwest. She writes about nature, the environment and geopolitics. In addition to her literary and academic accomplishments, Potter has been a ski instructor at Taos Ski Valley for more than 21 years. She is currently working on a full-length memoir about her father.
Workshop Saturday (Nov. 18), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
The SOMOS Salon will host “Read Your Work Out Loud,” a workshop led by writer, editor, actor, radio host and educator David Pérez. Latinostories.com has listed Pérez among its “Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch and Read.” He is the author of two published memoirs, “WOW!” And “WOW! 2.”
“My read-aloud workshops grew out of teaching theater games and improvisation here in Taos,” Pérez said. “In one series of classes, people asked if they could bring in some writing to read, be it a children’s story, monologue, poem, whatever. I then improvised a different way of reading the piece, adding things like a new emotion or gesture, or reading it like you were sitting at a campfire telling a story, or moving chairs around while you read, or jogging on an imaginary treadmill. The discoveries were awesome! I’ve done this workshop for Tupelo Press Poetry Seminars and in classrooms. It’s a great way to have fun and explore. It’s suitable for all genres, including anyone working on a public presentation. All writers have to read their work aloud at some point. Why not seek joy in doing it?”
Readings Saturday (Nov. 18), 7 p.m.
Writers John Biscello and Johanna DeBiase are joined by musician Ashleigh Grycner for a unique presentation.
Brooklyn-born Biscello is a writer, poet, playwright and spoken-word performer. His innovative work has been enlivening Taos’ literary and theater communities ever since he arrived here in 2001. Biscello has published two novels, “Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale” and “Raking the Dust,” and a collection of stories called “Freeze Tag.” He will be reading from “No Man’s Brooklyn,” his new novel in progress.
Biscello said he was looking forward to the collaboration with Grycner and DeBiase. “Ashleigh and I work together at TISA — I’m the drama teacher, she’s the music teacher — and we have done gigs before where she’ll provide a musical component to a literary reading. She was the lead actress in the play I wrote and produced a couple of years back, ‘Werewolves Don’t Waltz.’ We have a really cool and fluid creative working relationship. And I’ve known Johanna for quite some time, we are a fan of each other’s work, and she suggested that we pair up for this reading, as we have some similar magically-realistic and pop-mystical strains in our writing.”
Biscello is currently seeking a publisher for his recently completed novel, “Nocturne Variations.” A book of his adapted classic children’s fables, paired with artwork, will be published by Eclectic Press next spring.
Johanna DeBiase is the author of “Mama & the Hungry Hole,” Number 4 in the Wordcraft Series of Fabulist Novellas. Her short fiction has been published in journals, magazines and websites, and she has been awarded scholarships to the San Miguel Writer’s Conference, Vermont Studio Center and Rensing Center. DeBiase is also a former Curator for the SOMOS Young Writers Program, a certified yoga instructor, vintage clothing boutique owner and mother.
“I wanted to read with John because we share similar artistic and literary sensibilities, dark and surreal,” DeBiase said. “I’m a big fan of his work. I also love Ashleigh’s music, so haunting and ethereal. They are both very talented artists, so it’s an honor to work with them.”
Readings Sunday (Nov. 19) at 5 p.m.
The weekend concludes with readings by 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, in his own description, “numerous articles, several sordid tales, many brilliant observations, a few half-finished novels, various angry letters to the editor, and other scribblings.”
Silver describes himself as “a psychologist by background and training, storyteller by nature, Parkinson’s patient by chance.” After retiring from 45 years of clinical and forensic psychology practice and university teaching, Silver’s focus shifted to creative nonfiction writing. His work has been published in Chokecherries, HOWL, Storied Recipes and Storied Wheels. A collection of his social and political commentaries was published as “Tributes & Tirades: Taos Life and American Politics.” Silver’s latest work, “Keeping On — Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease,” is scheduled for publication in late 2017.