Friday, October 30, 2009


Cinco Puntos is proud that El Paso's Great Southwest Book Fair is bringing three of our authors tomorrow, Halloween Day, to the Downtown Library. Yep, Halloween and the concurrent celebrations for el Dia de los Muertos is a great time for your kids see and hear Joe Hayes telling the story of La Llorona; Xavier Garza sharing his Lucha Libre and Cucuy stories (he might even help you get ready for Christmas by telling the story of Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid!) and Claudia Guadalupe Martinez remembering her own life growing up in Segundo Barrio via her wonderful novel The Smell of Old Lady Perfume. And they are only three of the attractions. Even the incredible Mexican novelist CARLOS FUENTES will be in town.

Make your plans to attend the GREAT SOUTHWEST BOOK FAIR at El Paso's downtown library!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cinco Puntos at the TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL

If you're within driving distance to Austin this weekend (Oct 31-Nov 1), try to get to the 14th Annual Texas Book Festival. It's a trip well worth the effort for book-lovers of all kinds. Held at the State Capital it's one of the great cultural events in Texas. Book lovers of all sorts--writers, readers, collectors, musicians, academics, lots of kids--are wandering around the marble halls, a truly peculiar and glorious exhibition of Texas democracy, considering our legislature's history for monitoring and censoring what school children read. Clay Smith, the Festival's Literary Director, does a bang-up job of bringing a cornucopia of writers to the event. Of course, he brings all of the usual suspects--the best sellers, the Texas (read "red state") favorites, the cookbook writers--but he also makes sure the poets, the short story writers, the unusual and the up and comers are there. We're always satisfied (at least, mostly) and we're difficult customers.

Click here for schedule.

Cinco Puntos, with Johnny Byrd and Bobby Byrd at the cash register, will be in booth 307. Cinco Puntos authors who will be participating are Benjamin Alire Saénz (12:30 Saturday) José Lozano (noon Sunday) and Luis Alberto Urrea 2pm Sunday). Reading Rock Stars, a TBF statewide outreach program, José to perform in public schools earlier in the week. Ben is there to receive the Tomas Rivera Award, and Luis is on a panel of novelists talking about writing about Mexico. Please check the schedule for their events.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Marge Simpson and the Byrds in PLAYBOY: Life is Weird

Yeah, folks, Marge Simpson is on the cover of the November issue of Playboy and inside is an article about El Paso "A Weird Calm at the Edge of the Abyss" in which prominent mention is made about the Byrds and Cinco Puntos. The article is by our friend Luis Alberto Urrea (or here)--novelist, non-fiction writer, poet and now essayist. (Luis, of course, has done several books with CPP--an award winning collection of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky; VATOS, a collaboration of a poem by Luis with photographs by José Galvez; Ghost Sickness, a book of poems; and in February 2010, Luis' first graphic novel Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush with Christopher Cardinale.) The editors at Playboy asked Luis to write about the paradox which is El Paso and our sister city Juarez, Chihuahua. Juarez, such a wonderful vibrant city, is enduring the soul-sickening mayhem of the narcotraficante wars, but El Paso is the third safest city in the U.S. How can this be? Luis, who was born in Tijuana and has lived on the border for much of his life, has written extensively on border issues, especially immigration (please visit his website for links to all the various books). So he came to El Paso and stayed at the home of publishers Lee and Bobby Byrd. So, of course, the Byrds and Cinco Puntos wandered into the article as guides. Co-publisher Bobby Byrd has written on his blog about Luis' visit here and here and here. The Playboy article is available and googlable in the blogosphere in PDF form, but as publishers, we will respect copyright laws and not insert the link here.

But there we are in Playboy. How weird, huh?

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Curse on Columbus

Eve Tal's newest book, Cursing Columbus, is now available. This YA fiction title is the sequel to the successful and well-reviewed Double Crossing (Cinco Puntos, 2005), Eve's first historical novel about Jewish immigrants to New York City in the early years of last century. In Double Crossing, Raizel and her father escape Czarist Russia and take the dangerous journey across Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. They left behind Raizel's mother and brothers. In Cursing Columbus three years have passed since Papa and teenage daughter Raizel immigrated from czarist Russia. They have saved enough money to bring Raizel's mother and brothers to America. Their dream of a better life is about to come true. Or is it? Listen to Raizel:
The dream was always the same: I was back in Russia. My family was sitting around the Sabbath table: Mama, Papa, baby Hannah and my brothers Lemmel and Shloyme. I was telling a story about America—there were gold streets and chickens roosting in trees. Suddenly, Papa and I were on board ship sailing far away. Ahead I saw the Statue of Liberty towering over the harbor of New York, but she raised her hand high above her head to stop us. I looked around for Papa. I was all alone.

Then I woke up and remembered.

Papa and I had arrived at Ellis Island. For three years we had been living on the Lower East Side of New York. Papa worked in a sweat shop earning money to bring over the rest of the family, while I worked after school. I dreamed of the day our family would be together again.

And tomorrow, it would finally happen. Would they love America like I did or would they say “a curse on Columbus” because the New World brought them nothing but trouble and hard work?

"A curse on Columbus" cried the Jewish immigrants in the early 1900’s, cursing the discovery of America which had promised so much and brought them so little. Living in airless tenements on filthy streets in New York’s overcrowded East Side, working from dawn to dark in garment sweat shops while barely making enough money to feed their children, it was no wonder they expressed their rage and despair with that mixture of bitter sarcasm that characterizes Yiddish humor. Eve remembered these curses from her own growing up in Manhatten (she now lives with her husband and children in a kibbutz in Israel).

To help explain the title for her readers--especially her YA audience--, she wrote the short essay below:
I chose Cursing Columbus as the title for my new young adult novel to counterbalance the veneer of idealization and nostalgia enveloping the Lower East Side today. Through the voices of Raizel and Lemmel, the dual protagonists, Cursing Columbus reveals a little known side of the Jewish immigration experience. Raizel dreams of becoming a teacher but must balance her personal ambitions with the needs of her family. Lemmel rejects the family’s expectations and chooses a life of crime in the brutal world of the streets.

Readers of Cursing Columbus will discover that the dilemmas facing Jewish immigrants at the turn of the previous century are similar to the dilemmas facing immigrants today. How much should individuals sacrifice their personal dreams and ambitions for the good of their family? Does the process of becoming an American necessitate the suppression of the religion, customs, language and traditions of one’s community for the sake of a common American denominator? Is the family unit strong enough to withstand the pressures of a new country with its conflicting temptations and demands?

The expression ‘a curse on Columbus’ has been largely forgotten as later generations built a better life for themselves, but the questions it invokes remain valid today."

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Last Book Party? Frankfurt Book Fair 2009

The last book party? In mainstream media the talking heads and the laptopped prognosticators are forecasting gloom and even doom for the publishing industry. Computers and ebooks are being blamed. But publishers, especially the independent publishers who are more agile on the dance floor, are still selling books and adapting to the new technologies and readers are buying books. And life in the publishing world is moving ahead.

And yesterday, in Germany, the Frankfurt Book Fair opened its doors once again. The FBF is the huge international rights fair for the publishing industry. The industry wigs--big and small--wheel and deal buying and selling publication rights for books from publishers in other languages. For publishers, these sales are the gravy, the icing on the cake, the cherry in the coke, the extra cash in the door. Cinco Puntos has never been to the Frankfurt Fair, but we have a rights agent that walks the floor there for us and at the London Book Fair as well. We regularly go to Guadalajara, the biggest rights conference in this hemisphere, and we've gone twice to the Children's Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. They are all madhouses. And they can be daunting, especially for the small guys like us, until we've gone for a few years and learned how to swim among the big fishes.

Harper Magazine published a great article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus in its March 2009 issue about last year's FBF (many kudos to Harper's for keeping this article available online). To give you a taste of the relationship of the act of writing and the writer to the raucous capitalism of the event, please eavesdrop in on a conversation that Gideon Lewis-Kraus had with Michael Pietsch, the publisher of Little Brown. They are discussing the constant drumbeat of doom that surrounds the publishing industry these days but they veer off elsewhere too:
He says that publishing is an industry founded on dissatisfaction. “There is a rich loam of disappointment.” He reconsiders. “It’s an industry built in a rich soil of disappointment.” He ultimately goes with “loam.” One can readily imagine this man actually editing, doing his part to help make those loam/soil calls. “Three out of ten books make money,” he says. He makes sure I understand that this means seven out of ten do not. “Most of the time a book never reaches the standards its writer, editor, and publisher have imagined for it. I tell writers not to come to Frankfurt,” he says. “This is all about the commodification of books. It’s a writer’s version of hell.”

Over the course of the week, I will hear a lot of this sentiment: that the stock should not be shown the abattoir. But the more I’m told that writers are excluded to protect their literary innocence, the more this begins to sound aggressive and suspect. It’s faux-apologetic, and I think its real point is not to deride the seamy flux but to flaunt it. The commerce is not the embarrassment; it is the pride. Writers aren’t invited or welcome because once their manuscripts are in the hands of their agents and their publishers and their foreign-rights reps, they are excused from the process. It is time for the professionals to take over.
Lewis-Kraus is able to capture the madness of the FBF. And it's a true madness, a madness that, if not quite cannibalistic, is indeed carnivorous. And it can be exciting and fun. The problem with all such articles, of course, is that they deal mostly with the big whales and sharks. The writers neglect the little fishes that many times are doing books and making waves that will last much longer and be more important than the stuff greased with the big money. Case in point is Gideon-Kraus' description of HarperStudio, "a boutique imprint" of Harper-Collins. (I doubt if a journalist will ever call Cinco Puntos "a boutique" publisher.) The HarperStudio publisher is Bob Miller (at HC via Hyperion/Disney), and he is the hero of Lewis-Kraus' little fable within the article. Miller, according to many industry wags, is supposed to be the man with the new publisher's business model that will revive the industry.
One idea behind HarperStudio is to break the prisoners’ dilemma of contemporary corporate publishing by doing away with the huge advance: the imprint won’t offer any advances larger than a hundred grand. But any profits will be shared fifty-fifty with the writer. Nobody has any clue whether this will work, but everyone seems hopeful about it, and if Bob Miller shows even a little success there’s a good chance other houses will follow suit. I’ve had two conversations so far in Frankfurt in which he has been called a “hero.”
Trouble with Miller's so-called "heroism" (besides the fact that it's fully funded by corporate bucks) is that our friend Johnny Temple at Akashic Books has been running this model for years. This is exactly his model, an idea which he borrowed from the infamous punk record label Discord. They probably borrowed it from somebody else. In the Indie World--publishing or record making--collaboration is a way of life. Still, Johnny and Discord etc get no credit and kudos. And Akashic does important books--politics, culture, cutting edge fiction and the Akashic Noir Series. Indeed, his noir anthologies featuring various cities and states have become bookstore mainstays. Maybe one of these days mainstream media will catch up to the important work that independent publishers have been doing for years. Even more important, perhaps they will begin to notice that the Indie World (read: small publishers) are nurturing the ideas that will guide publishing into the future.

[Notes: First, a happy disclaimer--Bobby Byrd and John Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press are editing Lone Star Noir for Akashic Books. It will be out Summer of 2010. The nice photo of Johnny T and his books is from the stopsmilingonline website from which is also linked to above.]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Congratulations to Lou Lovelady Sikes! She made this beautiful quilt that narrates with quilted pictures Joe Hayes' signature story The Day It Snowed Tortillas. Lou entered her quilt in a quilting contest in Portales, New Mexico, and she walked away with 1st prize in the Challenge Fabric Category. ¡Felicidades a Lou! Being an exceptionally good quilter, she wants all who read this piece to know that her quilt is for sale.

Hearing about Lou's success with her quilt reminded us about the remarkable history of Joe's story and the book which is its namesake--The Day It Snowed Tortillas, Joe's first book [see note below]. From the beginning of Joe's career this story about how the clever woman fooled her husband by making him think that during one cold night it snowed tortillas--of course she fooled a band of outlaws in the bargain!--was a signature story. When Joe and his friend Joe Mowry of Mariposa Publishing (was it 1984 or 85?) decided to publish a collection of Joe's stories, "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" was the natural title. The book became one of the treasured classics of the American Southwest. Mariposa reprinted it tens of times. I'm sure Mariposa Publishing sold well over a 100,000 of them--many of them to Joe Hayes. Back then, Joe was traveling the backroads of New Mexico to school districts hither and yon where teachers and principals could scrape up $50 to pay him to tell stories to the children. Kids who are now adults with kids and even grandkids still tell Joe about when they first heard his stories. It was important to them, living in rural communities, to hear stories that spoke to their own traditions. In 2003, Cinco Puntos Press bought the rights for The Day It Snowed Tortillas from Mariposa and published a new bilingual edition. Let me tell you: The Day It Snowed Tortillas is what the publishing industry calls an EVERGREEN. It just keeps on selling!

Congratulations to Lou, congratulations to The Day It Snowed Tortillas as it is soon will have its 25th birthday, and of course congratulations to Joe Hayes.

[NOTE: Mariposa Publishing, if I remember correctly, published The Day Is Snowed Tortillas a few months before Cinco Puntos published La Llorona, The Weeping Woman, a bilingual telling of La Llorona that became a nationally recognized cornerstone of bilingual books for children.]

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Bookery Celebrates Joe Hayes (Oct 4, 2009)

The Bookery in the old adobe on historic Mission Trail in the El Paso's Lower Valley hosted 200-plus fans to hear a storytelling by Joe Hayes. A rainy morning turned into a beautiful October Day in time for Joe to begin telling stories. Joe treated his audience with two of his "tall tales" and two in his special bilingual storytelling style. But before Joe told his stories, two groups from Efida Chavez Elementary School in East El Paso made a presentation to celebrate Joe and welcome him back to the Valley. Girl Scout Troop 158 performed their favorite story, "Mariposa, Mariposa," and the Moose Cheerleading Corps made a special cheer for Joe.

Girl Scout Troop 158 from Elfida Chavez Elementary
with Joe Hayes after their performance of
"Mariposa, Mariposa"

"Moose" Cheerleading Corps from Elfida Chavez Elementary
with Joe after their special cheer

Margaret Barber, owner of The Bookery,
with Lee Merrill Byrd, John Byrd and Joe Hayes

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lee and Bobby Youtubing LITERARY EL PASO

Marcia Daudistel has edited LITERARY EL PASO for the TCU Press Series which features the literary traditions of Texas cities. I promise you: El Paso's literary history can stand up to that of any city in Texas. LITERARY EL PASO will include John Rechy, Arturo Islas, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Dagoberto Gilb, Antonio Burciaga, Ricardo Sanchez, Rick DeMarinis, Denise Chavez and many many others. It's a humongous book (600-pages plus)--at $30 cheap for its size--and will be available at the end of this month. Lee contributed a story, "When He Is 37" from her collection My Sister DisappearS and I have two poems, "The Gavachos in the Photograph" (The Price of Doing Business in Mexico) and "One Way for Middle-Aged Persons to Meditate" (Get Some Fuses for the House). Marcia and El Paso Magazine asked us to make youtube short videos as part of the promotion. If you're in the neighborhood, Barnes & Noble on the Westside will be having an event on October 24th, 4pm, celebrating the arrival of the book. Below are the videos. Lee only reads the first section of her story, and I read "The Gavachos in the Photograph." If you're reading this on FACEBOOK, which doesn't download video from Blogger, click here for Lee's performance and here for mine.

By the way, the photograph at the top (also in the video) is by Pedro Rueles Alvarez. Here's the note in the back of the book about the protographs: "Pedro Ruelas Alvarez, a street photographer, took the photograph of Lee and me sitting in the corner booth by the front window of the famous Martino’s Restaurant on Avenida Juárez just on the other side of the 'free bridge.' We were living in Las Cruces at the time, and we had no idea that we would ever move to El Paso. Ruelas, who charged us three dollars for the photograph, is now dead, but many of the waiters--including my favorite, Moisés II, a dead–ringer for Peter Lorre--are still there. They all make exquisite martinis right at your table while you sit and watch." Now Moises II is no longer there, and with the insane violence of the drug wars keeping the paseños away from Juarez, Martino's is hanging on by the slenderest of threads.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Joe Hayes at the Bookery in El Paso, Sunday October 4

Yes, it's a Joe Hayes celebration you won't want to miss! Joe Hayes will be telling stories at the Bookery this Sunday. It's FREE!

The Bookery, of course, is that wonderful bookstore in the old adobe building on El Paso’s Mission Trail. The exact address is 10180 Socorro Rd, El Paso, TX 79927 (see map at the bottom of this post), and for more information you can call Margaret Barber at 915-859-4066. She's one of El Paso's foremost book people and she's been hosting Joe Hayes events at her store over the last 20 years. And this Sunday is no exception. Margaret will pull out the stops for a wing-ding of a celebration. And it's FREE!

At 2:30, Joe will start telling those wonderful stories he’s been famous for all these years. Before and after, you can get him to sign your books. A wonderful chance to bring your kids and grandkids and give them the opportunity to hear one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

If you're a teacher or a librarian, please pass this on to all your students! In the meantime, if you want a little taste of a Joe Hayes story, let's watch him tell one of his classic tall tales, "The Gum-Chewing Rattlesnake"--

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