September 26, 2012

DAY 12: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

Latino Politics – What affects you?

National, state, local politics, everything, it all affects me. Why wouldn't it? 


Clearly, the presidential election is the big issue this year. I’ve already commented on that. Issues affecting the average citizen also affect me but they some specifically resonate with me as a Latino.

I care about the USDA because I care about food safety. As a former migrant farmworker, I also care about it because the USDA’s policies also affect those who handle and harvest our food. For the same reason I care about the EPA and the chemicals used in farmwork, meatpacking plants, and produce process factories. I care about the economy because many Latinos and other low-income families endure the most of the layoffs, cuts in overtime, and increased workload without pay increases.

Latinos don’t just work for other people, they are the new small business owners who are rebuilding the economy. According to the US Census, the number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million, that’s more than twice the national rate of 18.0 percent from 2002 - 2007.

Other national issues like the DREAM Act affect me. I was fortunate to be born in the United States but I care about education and I care about people. I care about the investment we’re making into these young people who, at the end of the day, aren’t allowed to contribute to our tax base. Those opposed to allowing undocumented students earning a path to citizenship (and paying taxes) can push back all they want, but let me just tell you, it’s gonna happen.


While national immigration issues are playing out, state governments like Arizona can try to enact anti-immigration and anti-Latino laws. The author of the infamous SB1070, is none other than Kansas’ Kris Kobach

Kobach, now the state attorney general, wants to see an Arizona-type law in Kansas. While he has a national reputation as a rabid dog, which he cultivates at the expense of his role as attorney general, in Kansas he’s seen as nothing more than a joke. Kris Kobach is the Fred Phelps of immigration. His current hard-on is perpetuating the myth of voter fraud. What he doesn’t get is that he is the voter fraud.


I care about local politics so much that I ran for a seat on the board of my community college back in 2009. I was frustrated with the policies the board enacted. Funders, through their donations, dictated my schools priorities. And students didn’t have a voice in the decisions ranging from eliminating late enrollment to increasing tuition.

I didn’t win a seat but I learned a lot about the election process. I learned how crucial it is not only for Latinos to vote but for Latinos to be candidates. With only $1,000 and a small crew of volunteers, I earned almost 7,000 votes in a race where only 10,000 guaranteed a win. 

By the way, never run for public office while going to school full time.

Since then, I’ve learned to affect policy without being elected to the office. I use my student status to speak to education issues. I use my writing to communicate information and bridge the effects of policy to real-life. I use my social media presence to support causes and influence decision makers.

I want to say one more thing about the DREAM Act and Dreamers (those young people directly affected by the DREAM Act). I don’t think people realize that Dreamers have a taste for activism and politics. When the DREAM Act is enacted, they won’t just sit back. They’ll want to continue to affect the world around them. They’ll vote. They’ll volunteer for political campaigns, They’ll even run for public office. They’ll be the change they want to see in the world. 

I can’t wait.

DAY 11: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge


There’s no doubt that Latinos love God – especially the ones who don’t go to church. Latinos’ love for God isn’t just spiritual, it’s cultural. How many other ethnic groups name their kids Jesus?

La Virgincita
But more than God, Latinos love the Virgin Mary, or La Virgin. Sure you’ll see a papi with a cross tattooed on his forearm or maybe the face of Jesus on his chest but who gets put on a full back tattoo? La Virgin de Guadalupe, that’s who. She’s on aprons, iPad cases, teddy bears, cowboy boots, watermelons, and, yes, boxer shorts.

Culturally, Latinos love rosaries, those candles with the saints on them. We love old chipped statues of los Santos that remind us of our youth.

I attended Alamo Catholic High School and loved it. Never in my time there did I ever hear that being Gay was bad or that God didn’t love me. It wasn’t until I left school that I learned of the church’s intolerance of the LGBT community.

As a Gay Latino, I love all that religious iconography and religious folk art. It’s beautifully created, comes from the heart and it usually serves up the drama.

I’m particularly fond of this retablo:

"One day I discovered that my boyfriend David fell in love with my brother
and I was offended, felt angry, and disillusioned. But, thanks to St. Michael the Archangel,
I met Jose Antonio and I fell hopelessly in love with him. Now it gives me much joy that
my brother and David love each other so much and are happy as I am. 
I offer this retablo to give thanks to St. Michael."

I didn’t fully leave the Church until my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s not that I was angry with God because my mom had cancer, although I was. I left the church because I saw how my mom suffered.

Her church friends encouraged her to suffer and to offer that pain up to God. I’m not talking about discomfort, I’m talking about gut-wrenching pain. Pain that comes from being eaten alive by tumors. Pain that comes from radiation and chemo treatments that kill healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Pain that no one but God or death can take away. My mother endured needless pain because the Church told her to offer up her pain to God for the conversion of sinners.

Encouraging people to endure pain for God is technique to control people and it’s from the dark ages. You want to convert sinners? Go out and show God’s love by helping the poor, by comforting the sick, by standing up for justice, by educating about the incredible world created for us. Don’t force people to endure suffering.

September 24, 2012

DAY 10: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

Afro Latinos/Latinas in the Media

I scratched the “Afro” portion of this question because although I am part Puerto Rican, I’m not familiar with my island culture. I also think it’s strange to focus on Afro-Latinos for this topic when all the previous topics in this 30-day challenge haven’t asked about a particular segment of the Latino community.

Latinos in the media.

I’m not sure if this means Latinos as the subject of media or Latinos who work in media. What sort of media? Broadcast media? Online? Print? What is the focus of that media? Entertainment? News? Academics? Research?

Since Latino actors are the focus of another topic in the 30-day challenge, I’ll wait until later to discuss Latinos in front of the camera.

I’ve been the subject of media. Heck, I’ve been the media. One thing I’ve learned about the media is that it needs more diversity not just the professional ranks but in the training grounds. I’ve usually been the only Latino in my media classes, on staff in student media, and in my internships.

I wasn’t always the only minority. Sometimes there’d be a Black guy or an Asian girl to keep me company. We’d look at from the corner of our eyes when an editor said something stupid. Most of the time, the majority of student journalists were white. That meant most of the sources for stories were white and the focus of articles came from a default position of a white person’s experience.

I remember attending a few conferences of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to work in their student media projects. When we’d have some down time, the students would talk about the future of media and essentially it came down to this: We have to wait for the dinosaurs to die. And while the conferences left me with new friends and great experiences, I’d leave a bit frustrated because newsroom hires for Hispanics declined as did promotions for Hispanics already in the business. We continued to build our skills and do the work, but inside we all knew that we were simply waiting for the dinosaurs to die.

Then the journalism world started to collapse in on itself. It was the end of media as we knew it. Young Latinos and Latinas I met at journalism conferences abandoned their dream careers for PR jobs – or any job. Professional journalists also left newsrooms (willingly and unwillingly) as slashed budgets translated into fewer staffers. The numbers of Latinos that had made it into the newsroom were continuing to shrink.

Many fault social media for the decline of journalism but that’s not true. Social media simply accelerated it. Social media helped exposed flaws in a very old and very white system. That system is trying to fight back and consolidate its power.

But what old media doesn’t understand is that Latinos are early adapters. Our social media presence is helping redefine media. We aren’t just media consumers -- we’re becoming its content creators.

Now, we can surrender this advantage and let old media continue to sell us its outdated perceptions of who we are and let it dictate our limitations. Or we can be innovative enough to create the content ourselves and sell it to old media or, heck, we can compete against it.

Only then will we truly be Latinos in the media.

September 20, 2012

DAY 5: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

Romney or Obama?

" ... we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life. It's very strange." - Mitt Romney, douchbag


September 19, 2012

DAY 4: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

What Latino Blog I recommend

I certainly recommend this one. However, if you like your blogs updated a little more frequently – like every day – then I suggest the premier Latino literature blog, La Bloga. I call it that because of the caliber of writers that contribute to it and the quality writers that it attracts as readers.

La Bloga

I first heard of La Blog when I attended my first AWP conference in Denver back in 2010. At that time I had no knowledge of Latino literature and I was rather ignorant of today’s latino writers – I kinda still am.

Some La Bloga contributors assume readers know who and what they’re writing about and others like to name drop. But just when I’m about to do a Liz Lemmon eye roll, I read a great post about a place I never thought Latinos would live much less write about. I read a Latino perspective about national writing event. I read about local, regional, and national gatherings of Latino writers and artists.

La Bloga has helped me recognize Latino writers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and, of course, in real life. I’ve also been fortunate to have La Bloga feature some of my work and the work I do with the Latino Writers Collective.

There are other Latino blogs I favor and will eventually populate them on my blogroll. However, there's one stagnant blog I keep hoping that Latino Jesus will resurrect.

350 pound man tries to lose weight

A Latino poet tries to loose weight and blogs his thought and poems. I found it to be an inspirational blog. Here's an example of one of the poetry posts:
by David Campos
Zeros begin to zig-zag the display
while my weight settles
when I step on the scale
and wait for an accurate measure.
I do this every day
with wishful thinking
it’ll read 10lbs lighter
but progress is slow
like the movement of my shadow
when I walk up the mountain
and the strides get shorter
and the breaths get heavier
and the sweat drips heavy
down my face, neck and back.
I thought about making a graph
marking my progress. My goal
like a far off dream. It’s daunting.
My shadow will always weigh the same.
I step onto the scale with fear.
The zeros slowly zig-zag the display
before stopping on its new number
like a declaration of independence.

August 10, 2012


I Just Totally Posted That!!

Annameekee Hesik, author of "The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year" reads a found poem compiled from her students' Facebook statuses for one day. The reading takes place at the Lambda Literary Foundation's 2012 Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices

LLF DAY 6: Double Mitzvah

Awaiting Scholastic Inc Publisher, Arthur A. Levine

The YA cohort finally finished its manuscript critiques! YAY for YA! We enthusiastically turned our attention to our long-awaited writing prompts.

A few days after Lambda notified the us we’d been selected for the retreat, our mentor sent an email asking the YA group to do the following:

ü Read Anne Lamott's book, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life"
ü Bring a 15-25 page manuscript of an unpublished work-in-progress for critique.
ü Bring hard copies of all the other participants’ manuscripts noting (a) strong points, what worked, what kept you reading, etc., and (b) what you think could be improved/strengthened, what would inspire you to read more, etc.
ü Bring a favorite poem about growing up.
  • Bring one photo of you taken during your teen years.
  • Bring a CD with a song that was important to you when you were a teenager.
  • Bring one pad of blank Post-It Notes.
  • Bring a favorite scene (1 page) from either a young adult novel or a novel that inspired you when you were a teen.
Every morning we stared the session with a poem or two. By day 6 we’d burned through all the poems. Today we brought our teen photos. We all agreed my roommate Jef had the best photo. It was his prom photo and it was so horribly bad that it was good. It was out of focus, bad poses, people halfway out of frame, I mean it was classic. It was the kind of bad photo you’d proudly put on the inside of your locker door and know it was totally rad.

In preparing my list of items to bring to the retreat, I forgot about the photo. On the plane, I looked over the list from Alex and remembered I hadn’t selected a photo. When my friend picked me up, we went to his house and I logged onto Facebook to print a photo (any photo) of young Miguel.

Miguel Goes to Prom
My photo, like Jef's, was of my senior prom. I sat at the banquet table (it was a dinner-dance). The guys sat on one side of the table and their dates sat across from them. On my side, all the guys wore white tuxedo shirts. Mine was pink. Across from me, my date was the only one wearing a bow tie and a white dinner jacket. Everyone else in his row had big '80s hair and prom dresses to match.There we sat, two guys at prom, and no one said a word. We took our prom photo together like everyone else. Even then, 25 years ago, it was strange how natural it felt for us to go to prom together. I don’t remember anyone making a big deal out of it. If they did, I never heard about it.

Teen years can be difficult so I was happy most of the group shared their picture and their stories. Some didn’t and I respect that because looking deeper at my picture, I could’ve written some dark stuff. It wasn’t all rainbows and glitter for young Miguel.

August 9, 2012

LLF DAY 5: Rewrites and Rewards

LLF Fellows reading (L-R) Miguel M. Morales, Rachel L. Pepper, AJ Reyes, Nina Packebush, Christina Clover, Bridget Birdsall. Photo courtesy of Rachel L. Pepper

For the past few days the YA group sat for three hours each day for intense manuscript critiques and very little writing. The critique sessions starting to get tiresome. Maybe it was just me. I got feedback on my work earlier in the week. But everyone deserved to get proper feedback and for that feedback to be as fresh as it was on the first day. That’s what I tried to offer. I also took notes on the other critique sessions. Some of it made sense for my manuscript or for my writing in general.

After the usual round of feedback, we worked on a handout from our faculty mentor. It felt good to do some writing and to focus on exercises that allowed me to learn more about the characters I’ve created and the world they inhabit.

After lunch part of the YA group had decided to visit the Getty Museum which was just a few miles away. I really wanted to go but I decided to stay and work on my revisions for the LLF fellows reading that evening. The first part of the week, LLF faculty mentors read their work in a stunning display. Well, it was our turn. This was the first of two days where LLF fellows would read. A few of the YA fellows signed up for the first day taking various spaces in the top 10 slots. I signed up with them just to get it over with and to have the comfort of reading in the company of my cohort. We learned about the reading a few weeks before the retreat so I made sure to bring some of my poems. I’d never read from my manuscript in public and I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

At lunch, I sat at a table with the incredible Jewelle Gomez and she asked me what I planned to read. I know. Let me stop there because you’re probably like, “Wait, wait, wait. Jewelle Gomez talked to you and she asked what you were going to read?”

Uh, yeah. She did. And I think I know why:

August 8, 2012

LLF DAY 4: Twenty Lousy Bucks!

Pointing the way to the future
photo courtesy of  Alysia Angel

By day four, everyone settled into the routine of intense class work, homework, and rewrites. It seemed to me that we were being polite, professional and, well, a bit stiff. The evening program included a publisher’s panel that sorta sucked the energy from the group, energy that had been building over shared meals and classroom discussions.

After the panel, I returned to my residence hall. Deciding to step away from my uncomfortable dorm desk with its rickety chair, I walked down the hall to the dorm lounge. I spread out my work on a table. A few moments later, my roommate, Jef, joined me. We’d developed a friendship and rhythm that doesn’t come easily for me when I meet someone new. It comforted me to know I could still connect that way with another person especially since I’ve spent the last few years making sure no one got particularly close. Jef and I worked quietly in the lounge interrupting the silence with an occasional observation or question then returning our attention to our laptops.

The atmosphere suddenly changed when Christina Clover, the loveliest of Brits and one of the YA participants, stepped into the lounge. She was waiting for another LLF fellow to return to campus with her wine. Christina plopped down on the sofa and asked, “Present company accepted, who would you shag? Who do you fancy?”

Ohhh, she was naughty and inappropriate and we loved it! Since our pinky swear is still in effect, I won’t go into the details of who we dubbed shaggable and/or snoggable. I’ll just say we had terrific fun. Tequila made an appearance, as did Nina’s beer and Christina’s wine. Other members of the YA cohort joinedour inappropriate fun. It’s as if we’d been waiting for this breakthrough, a chance to let our hair down and to finally stop sucking in our guts. We laughed from that authentic place where we were free to be who we were and we were doing it around people who made us feel safe. I’m sure this happened to other LLF fellows across campus. LGBT writers were bonding.

Of course, we also talked about our manuscripts, about writing, about our writing communities. As Nina, Christina’s roommate, was talking about her graphic novel, I realized how easily I could’ve missed all this because of a lousy twenty bucks.

Back in the spring when I looked over the application for the retreat, I frowned at the twenty dollar fee. I mean, clearly, twenty dollars isn't much money but it adds up if you apply for several contests or fellowships. I was still trying to clear my credit card bill from the expense of the AWP conference in Chicago a few months earlier. I knew I wanted to apply to LLF but, twenty dollars, that's my gas utility bill. Twenty dollars is enough to get me to work for month. Twenty dollars is half of my cellphone bill. I mean, I kept thinking of the things I needed to do with twenty bucks. Finally, I had to say to myself, "Dude, it's only twenty dollars. Are you really gonna let twenty bucks keep you from what could be an incredible opportunity?"

That week, I easily cut back on a frivolous expense to cover the application fee. Actually, it was such a frivolous expense that I don’t even remember what it was. Clearly, my apprehension wasn’t because I couldn't spare twenty bucks. It was something else. It was the inner-voice in me that said, “They’re not gonna pick you. You’re just wasting twenty dollars. Sure, you’re talented enough for Kansas City but you can’t compete with people from all over the country. These are educated people, people with published books, people who won’t understand you – they never do.”

But another voice in me said, “You can do this. They will pick you. You know they’re going to pick you. Twenty dollars is nothing! You give twenty dollars to just about anyone who needs it. And let me tell you this, buddy, you need it. This is an investment in yourself. You have to decide if you’re worth twenty dollars. And if you’re not, well, then you’ve got a lot bigger problems than trying to scrape together twenty bucks.”

After our evening of inappropriate fun and bonding, I laid on my noisy concave mattress knowing I’d made the right decision. The twenty dollar application fee and the rest of the money spent on the trip was worth it – and it was only Tuesday.

July 31, 2012

LLF DAY 3: Revisions Are Like Porn

Deeper, Harder, Faster
Writing is like porn: go deeper, harder, faster

Though I haven't finished reviewing the written notes the LLF YA fellows made to their copies of my manuscript, the overriding suggestions during my critique were for me to go deeper, harder, and faster.
Deeper: My character, a migrant farmworker child, wins over the reader early in the story. However, he takes a quick, unexpected, and unexplained turn towards anger that makes him unlikable. Dig deeper to find the true emotion manifesting itself as anger. It's essential to keep the reader rooting for my character otherwise, he's a spoiled brat.
Harder: Going deeper means not only means tapping into the emotional life of the character but it also means raising the stakes. What complication would make it harder my my protagonist to reach his goal, his need? What could make the situation worse? What would happen if he fails to reach his goal?
Faster: Enough with the background at the beginning. Get to some action straight away and show us how the character responds. The reader wants to experience the action along with the character, not to be told about it afterwards through a flashback via the filter of the main character. Show the action but remember to connect the action with emotion.
The group offered insightful and constructive suggestions. I expected that because they're all so talented and accomplished. What I didn't expect was for them to validate my story. I mean, I know it's an important story to tell. Yet each person, at the start of their critique, said the story is valuable. They said it's significant. They said it's a story they want to hear. They want me to finish it. I mean, that just blew me away.

I thought maybe my writer's group would find it interesting and maybe some of the migrant youth I work with would take a look at it. Yet people with little or no connection to the Latino community -- especially the farmwoker community -- said they want to know more about these lives. It makes me ... I don't know ... happy is such a simple word ... but it makes me happy.

Thank you YA fellows for acknowledging farmworker youth.

July 30, 2012

LLF DAY 2: Retreat to Move Forward

The second day, which was the first full day of the retreat, began with my roommate, Jef, taking what I estimate to be a 90 second shower in the morning. Come on, Jef, that's not even enough time for me to snoop though your stuff.

We made our way to the cafeteria for eggs and soysage and good conversation with other Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) fellows.

Once the morning sessions began, Alex Sanchez, our YA (Young Adult) mentor, guided us through some exercises designed to help focus our characters, plot, action, etc. I found these incredibly helpful and reassuring on some of the choices I've made. Then we started the week-long task of reviewing each other's manuscripts. We focused our attention on Annameekee Hesik's The You Know Who Girls: Sophomore Year.

I won't go into the specifics of the feedback participants receive. However, I will say that I took some of  the feedback and applied it to my own manuscript. So, thanks Annameekee for volunteering to go first and for letting me learn from your session.

My manuscript was supposed to be next but we ran out of time (yay!).

I took the afternoon break to clear my mind, reflect on the intense morning session, and think about where I wanted my story to go. I also have this thing about reading in public so I was trying not to freak out too much about having to read 2 pages of my manuscript to the class.

After dinner LLF presented a faculty reading. I took my flipcam to record it but at the last moment I decided to just experience it and not watch it through a tiny digital screen. I'm glad I put the camera away.

The faculty mentors read in reverse alphabetical order starting with our mentor Alex, then Cris Beam, Jewelle Gomez, and Dorothy Allison.

Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to recognize this opportunity to study their reading styles instead of just sitting there with my mouth open. LLF recorded the reading so I won't try to summarize them. When they're uploaded, I'll repost. Just be ready to be amazed.

After the reading came the opportunity for questions. Again, I can't relay all the important information these established and esteemed writers shared. Though, I was able to scrawl a few gems onto my pad.

Jewelle Gomez on mining personal experiences without letting it become traumatic:
Get to the place where the paper cuts you but you don't bleed to death.
on performance readings:
It's about the sound of the words as well as the meaning.
I don't have the exact quote from Dorothy Allison (I hope she forgives me for skewing/slaughtering her words) but she essentially suggested identifying those tragic family stories we've shaped to be funny in order to diminish the tragedy. Go ahead, brush away the humor. Rewrite those stories as the tragedies they are. Absorb them. Then, rewrite those stories again and layer some of the humor back into them.

She also mentioned the Chick-fil-A situation in the LGBT community noting that sometimes rage is the catalyst for writing. However, she was quick to add:
If I'm gonna write out of rage, it's gonna be layered and textured.
That wasn't just a reading -- it was a master class.

I returned to my room where Jef and I worked on homework. As we worked, sometimes talking, sometimes not, I knew I wasn't the same writer I was two days ago. I've changed.

When I worked in HIV education, we based our outreach on a behavioral theory model (I don't remember the name) but one of the stages proposes that when a subject is exposed to HIV prevention information, he or she absorbs the information and is presented with a choice. The subject can dismiss the information or move forward with it. Yet, whatever action the subject takes, the information can't be un-introduced. It's now part of the individual.

That's how I felt at the end of day 2.

My only choice is to move forward with the information the faculty mentors and LLF fellows have unreservedly shared. I mean, I came all this way at great expense. It would be illogical to dismiss their information.

My inner Vulcan agreed.

July 29, 2012

DAY 1: Lambda Literary Foundation Retreat

Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices

After a long day of travel, I arrived in LA for the LLF retreat. I spent the morning with my friend Pat, who I haven't seen in many years. I also met his partner, Tony. I was a bit nervous about meeting up with them because ... well, I don't know why. I just was. 

I feel like I wasn't as engaging as some of the friends they're used to because the truth is that Miguel is probably only good in small doses. Besides, I'd been up since 4:30 AM.

Pat gave me a ride to the American Jewish University where the LLF retreat is being held. 

Being a bit shy, I sort of absorbed the atmosphere and the electricity these queer writers emanated. And of course, when it was time for us to introduce ourselves, I cried. 

I gave my name and said where I'm from but when I got to the next part, that's when my emotions got ahead of my words. I think I said something like, "The reason I'm here is to tell the stories I would have liked to have read when I was young."

Now, that's not particularly emotional and I really didn't even mean to say it. But, you know, I wanted to be as honest as I could. And ... blah ... it all just came out and I cried. I'm going to blame that on sleep deprivation and the stress of not letting any of my dishes or plates touch the table during our group dinner (Kosher kitchen).

July 12, 2012

Venga Renga

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I decided to checked my Facebook page. I don't know why because I'm not the sort of person who has to constantly be checking Facebook or updating my status (well, not anymore).

I had a few of annoying notifications about someone wanting to add me to their calendar app or inviting me to an event that's not even in my part of the country. Then I read a message from someone saying my contribution was "outstanding" and "an important part of Kansas history."

I thought, "Oh crap, what did I do now?"

Then I remembered my contribution to the 2012 Kansas renga must have been posted. The renga "To The Stars Through Difficulty" comes from the state motto: Astra Per Aspera

This project continues celebrating last year's sesquicentennial by inviting 150 poets with Kansas connections share their voices. In a renga, each poem is a conversation with the previous poem.

So please read Dan Pohl's poem before you read mine. Make sure to follow up in a day or so to see how the next poet "converses" with my work.

Here's a few lines from my contribution:
Tender hearts tend the land that belonged to pioneering homesteaders.
Corporate farms hire migrant children who learn to master machetes
rather than their multiplication tables — or their destinies.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the renga's organizer, announced that Mammoth Publications will publish the renga this fall.

May 17, 2012

Who's that Gay Fellow?

That would be me. I'm a Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow!

Last month, I applied for the Lambda Literary Foundation's Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. I'd heard about and was encouraged to apply for the week-long residency program when I attended the AWP conference in Chicago.

LLFWe are pleased to inform you of your acceptance into the 2012 workshop ... More applications this year than in any previous year made the selection process extremely competitive. Congratulations on taking your place among an outstanding field of applicants! 

The emailed message continued, "This year also brought us a challenging economic climate, and we have faced difficult decisions in allocating the available scholarship funds."

I'm so happy that they awarded me a partial scholarship to help cover some of the expenses including tuition. However, I'm responsible for the remaining $650 for room and board. I'm also responsible for travel to the retreat which will take place at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Calif.

Clearly, papa's gotta get some chedda, yo.

In order to help meet expenses, LLF fellows are authorized as fundraisers and may use the foundation's Donor Pages to accept tax-deductible donations.

A few years ago I would have never thought something like this could happen for me. Yet because you believed in me, I believed in myself. I believed I could be a writer. It's all I ever wanted to be.

You may not be in a position to help. I understand that -- really, I do. And I know this is  a strange way to ask for help, but I can't ask for help without saying 'thank you' for what you've already done. So, thank you for a lifetime of encouragement and support.

My Donor Page

To inquire about travel expenses (not included in the Donor Page account),contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

May 5, 2012

5to de Mayo

A few weeks ago, an foreign language instructor at Johnson County Community College reminded me that it's time to dig out my Cinco de Mayo poems since the holiday was approaching. She surprised me by saying that she uses them in her classes.

So here's my love/hate relationship with Cinco de Mayo ...

Sink-O duh My-O 

I hate that the birthdays of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta
are followed by the embarrassment that is
Sink-O duh My-O.

I hate that many young Latinos will mistakenly toast Mexican Independence
four months early
and on the wrong day.

I hate that shirtless frat boys will host Taco and Tequila parties
where they’ll wear giant sombreros and fake mustaches
and that the women will wear Hawaiian leis and bikinis.

I hate that from the weekend before to the weekend after I will avoid Mexican restaurants
as they reduce our cuisine to cheesy combination platters
and jalapeño eating contests.

I hate that when I walk through the grocery store,
someone will ask me what’s the best brand of tortillas
or which salsa is more authentic.

I hate that someone outside my culture will speak Spanish to me and,
when I don’t respond in Spanish,
will lecture me on how I’m losing my heritage.

I hate that teachers beat my parents for speaking Spanish in school.
And now some yahoo will get in my face to tell me I should learn it
for the one day a year it seems we’re allowed to speak it.

I hate that I must smile through this ignorance, because if I don’t,
I’m an Angry Mexican reinforcing yet another stereotype
by which they judge us.

I hate Sink-O duh My-O.

  * * * * * * * * * 

Cinco de Mayo

I love that summer begins when Maracas shake,
guitars strum and trumpets blast
on Cinco de Mayo.

I love that it initiates the emancipated days of summer
like Junteenth, Gay Pride, Fourth of July
and closes with Hispanic Heritage Month which includes the real Mexican Independence Day.

I love the sound of stomping heels
and the ruffling fabric of whirling dresses
as young folklorico dancers fulfill the tradition of siblings and elders.

I love the smell of roasted peppers,
the sizzle of beef
and how the breeze carries chili powder instead of pollen across the fiesta.

I love that booths offer everything from homemade tacos to HIV testing to la Avon
and that everyone understands the celebration comes from the gathering of community
not the authenticity of the products.

I love that Latino kitsch like the paintings of the Matador and the Señorita,
calendars featuring the Aztec warrior carrying the maiden, and wooden puppets
release childhood memories and reveal cultural meaning.

I love the rhythm that flows from Spanish spoken without shame
on the one day a year everyone wishes they were fluent.
El que sabe dos idiomas vale por dos.

I love that instead of apologizing for our accent, our skin, our hair, our shape,
we celebrate, appreciate and validate our existence
despite the revolución’s evolución into the Mexican St. Patrick’s Day.

I love Cinco de Mayo.

Originally published by Present Magazine in 2009 
and  featured on the Facebook page, Poets Against SB1070 in 2011.

May 4, 2012

The Jotos Are Coming!

Last year Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano asked me to contribute to a queer Latino anthology of poetry he was editing.

I was honored. Frankly, I didn't even think he knew who I was. I knew of him because I attended the AWP conference in Denver. As part of a panel, he read one of his poems and all I could think was, "Damn, I wish I had written that."

I wanted to go up to him after the session and introduce myself but ... what was I gonna say?

"I liked your poem. It was good" or "You sure talk pretty."

So when I got his Facebook message last May asking me to contribute to the Joto anthology, I was like "Hey! It's that guy from that panel."

Then I thought, "Oh, he meant to send this to the other Miguel Morales." You see, at the conference, there was another guy named Miguel Morales and he read a poem at an off-site event that was well attended.

The more I thought about it the more I kinda convinced myself that he really did mean to send me the invitation to contribute. Then I started to think of what I could send him and, well, I didn't have anything. That really surprised me because I was sure I had poems about being a gay Latino -- but I didn't.

I took a day or so to figure out what I wanted to say and then worked through the thoughts and images that lived in the back of my mind. I emailed the poems ASAP to Lorenzo because he was on a tight deadline. For some reason, I sent him an email a few days later asking if he received the poems. I didn't want to be pushy but something told me to email him to make sure he go them.

He didn't.

April 21, 2012

NEWS: Carlsen's 2006 Harassment

Portions of this article originally appeared on
The Campus Ledger Online April 21, 2006

Carlsen's unwelcome visits continued into 2006
Female employee says her supervisor knew of Carlsen's visits and still did nothing

by Miguel M. Morales

A new document reveals Teresa Lee, manager, Human Resources, feared the college president, Charles Carlsen, would resume sexually harassing her.

The Ledger obtained a new document describing a visit Carlsen made to Lee's office one month before allegations of unlawful harassment against him became public.

A previous 22-page document described alleged unlawful harassment by the former college president from May to November 2003.

“I am shaking about it”
The new document dated March 14, 2006, states Carlsen came into the Human Resource office where Lee works and sat in her private office until Dorothy Freidrich, then director of Human Resources, interrupted.

"Dorothy came in to say that she had [someone] on the phone and wanted to know if Dr. Carlsen was able to be a part of a conference call," Lee writes in the document. "He made a joke that he didn't like the look in her eye and then said he could.

"He stayed seated in my office after she left ... I thought it odd that he wouldn't just get up and leave."

According to the document, after Carlsen left, Lee spoke to others in her department as she had in 2003.

"I then went out to ask [another emplo
yee] what Carlsen had asked her," she continues. "[The employee] told me that he had asked her about [a Human Resources] issue. She directed him to me as she was now out of the loop.

"I told her, 'Gee, thanks!'"

"I am not sure why he is in my office again. He was in last week as well and I let Dorothy [Friedrich] know. I would think that the man would never set foot in my office again."
Teresa Lee, manager, Human Resources

The employee asked if Carlsen was again in Lee’s office with the door closed.

"I told her that it hadn't stopped Carlsen in the past whether the door was closed or not," Lee writes.

Lee also wrote that she thought this type of behavior from Carlsen ended in 2003 after she confronted him about his unlawful harassment. According to information from a previous document, that was the meeting where Carlsen admitted harassing Lee.

"I am not sure why he is in my office again. He was in last week as well and I let Dorothy know," Lee writes in the new document. "I would think that the man would never set foot in my office again.

"I am a little concerned that he is going to start something again. I haven't been keeping track of his visits but I think I will need to start again ... Now I am shaking abo
ut it."

“Satisfactorily resolved”
April 13, nine days after denying the allegations of unlawful harassment in The Ledger, Carlsen released a statement resolving to take a leave of absence while a third party investigated the allegations. In the statement, Carlsen again denied the allegations.

"I am deeply distressed by reports in our campus newspaper about a personnel issue brought to my attention two and one-half years ago that I was assured had been adequately addressed and satisfactorily resolved at that time," his statement read.

The meeting Carlsen referred to took place Nov. 14, 2003.

The meeting involved Susan Lindahl, vice president of College Relations and Strategic Initiatives; Friedrich, then director of Human Resources, now vice president; Lee; and Carlsen.

Lee's calendar shows a 10 a.m. meeting with Carlsen that day, which corroborates the date in her narrative.

Lee's narrative describes Carlsen as "uncomfortable" during the meeting. He also admitted that he didn't know why he harassed her.

The document also reveals Friedrich said the college would pay Lee's legal fees.

"My legal fees -- Dorothy said after the meeting for me to submit them to her and we would try to get them paid under consulting fees," Lee writes.

In an e-mail to her attorney that day, Lee writes, "While I was meeting with you the powers-that-be-met with him. We all met this morning and he apologized to me and discussed how we could improve the current procedure for handling this type of problem."

Her lawyer responded, "I am pleased that your concerns were recognized as important. I am also pleased, but surprised, that the issue was addressed by JCCC without a formal complaint from you.

"Pat yourself on the back for standing up for yourself, and for handling the situation professionally and with class. Keep a journal of any further incidents, and stay in touch."

Lee took his advice.
In 2004, she documented contacting and meeting with Board of Trustee chair, Elaine Perilla, regarding Carlsen's unlawful harassment. Lee also documented Carlsen's March visit.Exceeding expectations
Trustees, including Perilla, deny knowledge of the alleged sexual harassment.

Lindahl and Friedrich have yet to deny knowledge of the alleged sexual harassment or that they impeded the process by not reporting it.

Lee's performance appraisal forms, or evaluations, from fall 2002 to fall 2005 rate her overall work performance as "exceeding expectations."

Friedrich, who conducted each evaluation, noted in the fall 2003 appraisal, "You have a trusting relationship with many supervisors on campus. They frequently seek your advice on personnel matters. I consider this to be a major strength for you and for the division.

"I respect your advice and value you as a colleague. I genuinely appreciate your commitment to our team."

April 16, 2012

April Showers

They say that spring
brings rebirth
but for many children
it means an abrupt end to
school and

Nourishing rain
brings work
cultivating crops
of corn and
They need tending,
weeding from
young hands.

They say that spring
brings rebirth
but I know that
April showers
migrant flowers.

April 5, 2012

My Queerness

The Writers Place
Now that I'm feeling more comfortable calling myself a writer, it seems the universe is offering opportunities to keep me on my path.

Last month in Chicago, I was encouraged to apply for a national LGBT writers workshop.

I'm going to take part in a reading at the Neon Gallery this fall. Watch for details.

I've also been invited to read at an LGBT event at The Writers Place in June with some of KC metro's most notable queer writers.
  • Kelly Barth
  • Crystal Boson
  • Wayne Courtois
  • Wendy Dow
  • Charles Ferruzza
  • Mark Manning
  • Miguel M. Morales
  • David Wayne Reed
It'll be an evening of visual and literary arts -- memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction and the photography of Andrea Brookhart.

Let me know if you plan to attend so I don't read that poem about you, you know the one ...

Celebrating Voices:
A Celebration of Queerness
7:00 PM, Friday, June 15, 2012
Cost: $3 - $5

The event is sponsored by The Writers Place, the Missouri Arts Council, CAMP Magazine and The Tenth Voice on KKFI 90.1 FM

March 10, 2012

Healing Circle

After the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference where I facilitated a session on the Latino Writers Collective's Migrant Youth Writers Workshop, I traveled to Orlando Florida to visit two of my three sisters.

I attended a meditation session at my sister Mylinda's yoga studio, Altamonte Springs Yoga. In the session, we visualized our energy flow and dismantled energy blocks. As I focused on the energy flow in my arms, I kept thinking of the work we used to do in the fields as migrant farmworkers.

You see, arms and legs are tools. They work until they ache. They blister. They burn. They lift. They push. They sweat. They scar.

Though I've been exploring my past as a farmworker, I thought only my mind kept those memories. I have a clearer understanding of how my past still affects my physical being.

The next day I worked with my sister, Deb, on her Latina Leadership Conference. We took a break to deliver some food to a local food bank. We didn't really know where we were going. She remembered the last time my father visited that he mentioned a local community center. So, off we drove hoping to find it and to ask if they needed food donations.

Well, we couldn't find it. Maybe it was one of those situations where dad mistook a community center for a donut shop. Then a building with the word "farmworker" on it caught my sister's attention. We pulled into the Catholic Diocese's Office for Farmworker Ministry.

The HOPE CommUnity Center
formerly the Office for Farmworker Ministry
Like many Gay Latinos, I have a respect/disrespect relationship with the church. So, I wasn't sure about the "ministry" aspect of this organization. However the farmworker focus meant I could (temporarily) suspend my objections to the church in order to make sure food got to the people who needed it.

I looked at the reception desk with stacks of fliers spread across or taped to the front advertising basic computer skills classes, youth groups, tax help, local medical clinics and I knew this was the right place.

We unloaded my sister's SUV full of food that helped supply the emergency food pantry.

It felt good.

My arms that once worked in the fields now delivered food to those who still do. My hands that held tools -- hell, they were tools -- now write about that life.

We talked to the director to ask how we could establish a relationship with the organization. We're going to sit down with her next week to discuss it.

I know what I'd like to do -- a writer's workshop for the migrant youth.

March 4, 2012

AWP12 Day 4: Migrant Poet

I grabbed my suitcase and started packing for tomorrow's flight out of Chicago. I thought about how long four days seemed when I first arrived and how this final day seemed to pass so quickly. 

Last night the Latino Writers Collective and Proyecto Latina sponsored an After-Hours Salon reading at Columbia College

I read two poems about my parents. The first, Madre de los Campos, is one of my favorites. It describes my experiences working as a migrant farmworker and child laborer. 

The second poem, Sangre de mi Padre, examines my father's work at a meat packing plant. That poem took on a new meaning for me because I'd just learned my father suffered a small stroke hours earlier. My sister said he seemed to be fine but the doctor wanted to keep him overnight to make sure there were no other complications.

Well, I guess everything turned out fine because today as I prepared for the session I was to facilitate, he texted me to ask how long to grill a steak. 

Yeah, just kind of process that for a moment ...

Miguel and Yolanda (Nieves) after the After Hours reading

That brings us to today and the reason I came to this year's Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference -- the Migrant Youth Writers Workshop. 

After the Migrant Youth Writers Workshop session

For those of you who know me, let me just reassure you that I did not cry. No, not this time.

For those of you who don't know me, it's always a struggle for me not to break when I talk about the work we do with migrant youth. As much as I try not to, I usually end up crying. 

I almost did break but I took a deep breath and tried not to let my emotions get ahead of my words. However another panelist did, and that touched me. It also moved the audience. So there were some tears after all, which now I accept as a good thing.

I never thought my life would come back to those days when I was a migrant farmworker. I worked so hard for so many years to banish that part of my life. Yet there I stood at a national writer's conference talking about it, telling writers how they can help -- asking them to help and they responded.

In a strange sort of way, grown up Miguel and little farmworker Miguel are working together helping each other, giving voice to one another, and trying to make a difference in the lives of other migrant youth. I can look back on my life at the time when I really needed help as a migrant kid and I can see that these young people are at that moment in their lives. They need help -- even if that help is just acknowledging their stories.

Miguel talks with a migrant youth/poet at the 2011 writers workshop.

March 3, 2012

AWP12 Day 3: AWP ≠ Staff Development

Yeah, I said it.
People who regularly attend conferences knows never to believe the description of a session that's listed in the program. I mean, that's why one should always select his or her top three picks for each set of concurrent sessions.

I kinda got pissed off today at the AWP conference. I wasn't pissed off at the presenters the did a good job (even though it wasn't the presentation promised in the conference program). 

I started to get upset about how that session, and other sessions I attended, became nothing more than staff development workshops for those in higher ed.

I get it. You teach and you want to improve your skills -- so do I. But, come on, half the crap brought up in these sessions should be addressed during your college's professional development days or, better yet, with HR. 

I've worked at a college for more than 10 years, so I don't wanna hear any of your "Oh it's so hard to get training with budget cuts." You're right. It is hard to get training -- especially for writers who don't have the luxury of earning a living in the field of writing. They paint houses. They work for non-profit organizations. They're administrative assistants. 

I know it's hard out there for an instructor. I see it everyday. But you know what? It's hard out there for all of us. AWP isn't an academic conference on writing. It's a writer's conference that includes includes academics and non-academics. Academics should have sessions focused on their particular area and those sessions should be labeled as such. What I don't like is when a general session on craft gets hijacked by academics who want to turn it into a session about pedagogy, assessment, and all those other higher ed initiatives that college presidents love.

Oh and keep your facacta stories about your department chair or your dean out of these sessions. Go to the bar in the hotel lobby and bitch about your boss like everyone else.

March 1, 2012

AWP12 Day 2: Cinderella

View of Michigan Avenue from penthouse of The Cliff Dwellers the location of the Ragdale Reception

Despite my reclusive nature, I attended several sessions at The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference today. Most were Latino-focused, which was great. The last two times I've attended AWP there were very few. I also attended a session on Queer Writers building loyal audiences. It was informative. I was glad to see the audience had some queers of color. Gender and ethnic diversity on the panelists was good, but let's face it, most Queer/LGBT discussions about community always come back to the Gay white male experience.

Oh another thing happened. But first let me admit my blind ignorance when it comes to writers. I don't read as much as I should (thank you college for draining the joy of reading out of me). Apparently today I sat by, stood next to, shared jokes with, and rolled my eyes at some noteworthy people.

There was this one dude standing in front of the men's restroom blocking the path. Three guys stood in a line waiting for him to move. I mean, they just stood there. By the way, I should tell you that I had drank a liter of SmartWater during the previous session so I really needed to get in that restroom. So, I said, "Hey, Cinderella, move it. You're blocking the door." He sort of jumped out of the way realizing there was a line.

Judging from the reaction of those three guys who were waiting in line, I might as well have told Santa to go #!&* himself.

Don't get me wrong, Cinderella didn't seem particularly snooty or appear like he was above it all. I don't even know if he was a famous writer. Maybe he was just a guy who needed a place to stand in a crowded hallway and unfortunately, it was in front of the restroom. What makes it weird for me is that there were three guys, I'm guessing they were students, who were practically willing to pee their pants rather than ask Cinderella to move.

Why did I call him Cinderella? I don't know. It's the first thing that came to mind.

Anyway, I also attended two receptions, was asked to submit work to a literary journal, and was offered the opportunity to read at an off-site event tomorrow. I had to turn it down because I'm reading with the Latino Writers Collective and Proyecto Latina at an After Hours Salon that happens the at the same time. bummer.

AWP12 Day 1: Pre-game

My presenter bio in the AWP conference program, pretty sweet!
I don't care how sophisticated and above it all you are, when you see your name in print you can't help but go all Steve Martin in The Jerk -- THE NEW PHONE BOOK'S HERE!!! THE NEW PHONE BOOK'S HERE!!

I didn't do much today other than register for the conference and walk to CVS through what I assume is Chicago's equivalent of a sandstorm. I did what I usually do on conference arrival day (of whatever conference I happen to be attending): I trek over to the CVS, Walgreens or whatever the nearest thing is called, and buy provisions:

  • 1 gallon of water - I ain't paying $7 for a bottle of water in my hotel room
  • Diet Cherry 7up - I gotta have diet something and they don't make diet M&Ms
  • M&Ms - a small bag of peanut M&Ms, one for each day I'm at the conference.
  • Chips - because you have to have a little crunch, right?
  • Advil Liquid Gels (or the off brand equivalent) because schlepping around that luggage and an overstuffed conference bag makes me feel as old as I am.
  • A postcard - I send myself a postcard every time I travel. It's something I started a long time ago. I write a fresh memory on it during my travel. It's nice to get home and see a postcard among all those bills.
On my way back to the hotel I usually stop by a Subway or some inexpensive eating place to get a quick and easy dinner. After a long day of travel where I'm not just around people but I'm pushed up against them in airplane seats, shuttle bus seats, waiting in lines, TSA screenings, baggage claim, and conference registration lines, I need to hide in my room to spend what will probably be my only evening where I can enjoy my own space and silence.

I relax and spend the evening getting used to the weird channel arrangement on the hotel TV. WHAT?! You can have 6 ESPN channels but don't carry Comedy Central?! Can I really survive the packed conference days without The Daily Show and Colbert Report? Thank God for you, internets. To its credit, this hotel offers the free WiFis.

Oh I forgot, if the CVS doesn't sell liquor, I find a place where I can get an inexpensive bottle of wine which I usually drink out of a coffee cup as I mark up the conference program trying to decide which sessions to attended the next day.

Just looking at this day of sessions tells me that tomorrow (actually today) will be a full day with a few after hours events I want to attend.

February 27, 2012

¡Viva la Evolución!

I created The Latino Reporter blog in 2004 to help me focus on journalism.  When I began immersing myself into the world of nut graphs, column inches, and inverted pyramids, this blog helped me understand journalism's particular style of writing. I learned many lessons but the most important: listen to my writer's voice.

While exploring journalism as a student, I uncovered a scandal that toppled my college president. I earned several national and state awards including the First Amendment award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

I could (and just might) write a book on how journalism changed my life and my campus. 

In the last few years as I shifted my brand from The Latino Reporter to TrustMiguel, my writing skills expanded (as has my waistline). It took time but I'm as comfortable writing poetry and fiction as I am a writing a news story or an editorial -- and I'm just as proud. 

Since I'm still learning about this new non-journalism world, it only seems right to resurrect this blog to help me process once again. Like an old college buddy, it only took moments to reconnect but it's clear that we've both changed. The challenge is not to stay mired in the past but to build on it.

The Latino Reporter is now The Latino Writer, part of the TrustMiguel brand. I'll tell you more about that later ...