Westwind

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Post by Abigail D. Hernandez

The world of comic books is an expansive universe that holds many characters and imaginative places that is somehow relatable to the reader even though most of its content is fiction. Throughout comic book history, there has been a constant fight to keep this practice alive. For the most part, this has worked thanks to hit movie franchises like The Avengers and The Batman Trilogy. Although most of this success is due to movie and television live adaptations, fans can still have superhero content in their hands by visiting the many comic book stores LA has to offer. Some are unique, others are vintage, and some are just plain fun. These are the top four spots comic book lovers should visit for some good superhero reading time!

Courtesy of Yelp

1. Golden Apple Comics

Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles is the “Comic Shop to the Stars”. Founded in 1979 by Bill and Sharon Liebowitz, it has a rich history as the premier comic book store in Los Angeles. If you are looking for comics and pop culture in L.A., this is the place to visit. They have a wide selection of modern comics, back issues, and exclusive variants in-store and online. Golden Apple also offers a large selection of toys, action figures, statues, trading cards and more.

New books are offered every Wednesday from Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dynamite, Boom, Aftershock, Black Mask and independent publishers. There is also a free pull box service, so you never miss an issue. Customers can pick up comic book issues in-store or have books shipped directly to their door!

Golden Apple is also famous for its creator signing events, with customers lining up around the block to meet famous comic book creators like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Jim Lee.

Courtesy of Yelp

2. Collector’s Paradise

Collector’s Paradise was created in September 1994 when Edward Greenberg and Joseph Zelich bought an existing comic book store called Little Angel’s Comics. For the next few years, the two tried to refocus the business model of the old store and focus more on comic books and customer service.

What sets them apart from other comic book shops is the unbeatable service they provide. All their store staff is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about comic books and are prepared to go out of their way to help you find a specific comic – even if it is out of print! Their graphic novel selection is massive with multiple shelves of the best graphic novels and even collector’s editions. Plus, the store is host to a comic book club where each month a special issue it selected to be read by the club’s comic fanatics.

The best part of going to Collector’s Paradise is the art gallery where they have dedicated a space to display prints and original artwork by famous and popular comic book creators. The store also offers huge discounts to its most loyal members that can get them into exclusive events. From signings to midnight releases to a month-long Free Comic Book event held every year in May, this comic shop’s number one priority is always trying to keep its costumers excited about taking a trip down to a comic book store!

Courtesy of Yelp

3. Secret Headquarters

Secret Headquarters is exactly what you would expect from a Sunset Junction comic book shop: it looks like a posh home library with a section dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky. Although it has a vintage hipster look that attracts more indie comic book readers than its other mainstream store competitors, it’s definitely not an old-school store.

Titles are nicely arranged along the wall and on tables, so you’ll do very little flipping through boxes. The selection features a mix of indie and mainstream titles, as well as a healthy zine section. If you’re not sure what to buy, check out the $2 zines near the cash register. This is where your low-end purchase may result in a new favorite artist.

Have comic books at home that you don’t need anymore? Well then take them down to Secret Headquarters where they will happily buy your old comics. For the most part, they buy Golden Age Comics (1955 or earlier), Pulp magazines, Art books and Vintage comic oddities.

Courtesy of Yelp

4. The Comic Bug

The Comic Bug opened its doors in 2004 in Culver City, Los Angeles and since then it has given comic book lovers a place to get together and talk about the things they love. Events are held monthly, and it becomes a great networking opportunity for creators to meet and exchange ideas as well as the usual fan-centric signings. The store might be small, but it carries a big selection of titles that tend to appeal to any mainstream comic book fan.

One of the store’s main focal point is its exclusive selection of titles dedicated to locally made independent comics. The Comic Bug has always supported small publishing companies that highlight native Los Angeles talent.

With the store’s new interior renovation, they have transformed the store into a cool and local comic book shop that’s great for hanging out either with friends or even alone. They have recently remodeled, adding new space, merchandise, couches and chairs, and music. They’re now selling delicious candy and snacks as well so you can really relax and enjoy your comic. Along with carrying diverse merchandise, the Comic Bug Staff is quite knowledgeable about all things comics. Most importantly of all, they’re super friendly to new comic book beginners!

Comic book lovers have been around for generations and aren’t going away any time soon. In fact, comic book stores have increased in the last few years and new people are becoming fans of comics day by day. The expansive world of superheroes and villains is vast with unique characters and fast-paced narratives that indulge the reader even more than the amazing artwork. Whether a beginner or professional comic reader, all comic nerds can take pride that they are buying from the very best and finest comic book shops in LA!

Post by Tatianna Giron

When one thinks of February approaching, the most common association is the looming date of Valentine’s Day. As we approach the month, it is either met with groans (from the cynics who believe V-Day is a consumerist black-hole) or with cheers (from the romantics who believe V-Day is a consumerist black-hole but rejoice in it). But there are a lot more things to look forward to in February—for example, an amazing plethora of poetry readings. The list below only contains seven of them, but here’s to hoping it will also help you associate the month with more than just roses and chocolates.

Courtesy of Flypoet

1. Flypoet All-Star Spoken Word & Music Showcase

Flypoet runs a monthly showcase that features both performance poets, spoken word artists, performance art, and live music from L.A. Artists. It runs the first Friday of every month. This February’s showcase features renowned spoken word artists such as Ebony Stewart, Louis Conphliction, and Christopher Michael.

Location: 218 S La Brea Ave, Inglewood, CA 90301

Date & Time: Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)

Tickets: $20 at door

For More Info: http://www.flypoet.com/next-show.php

Courtesy of Poetry Foundation

2. Poetry Reading by Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is a poet of the Muscogee (Creek) nation, whose poetry is influenced by First Nation storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice critiques. As a result, her poetry often includes references to indigenous myths and symbols, and centers around the Southwest and Southeast, but also the need for remembrance and transcendence. The 2018 Jean Burden Reading at Cal State LA is honoring Joy Harjo for a poetry reading, Q&A, and book sales/signing.

Location: Golden Eagle Ballroom, California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032

Date & Time: Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. (arrive at 5:30 p.m. for buffet supper)

Tickets: no tickets/reservations needed

For More Info: https://www.pw.org/literary_events/poetry_reading_by_joy_harjo

Courtesy of Poets House

3. Poetry Reading by Ching-In Chen

Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer and multi-genre author of the novel-in-poems The Heart’s Traffic, and most recently, Recombinant. They have been awarded fellowships from Can Serrat, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Norman Mailer Center, and Imagining America. Chen’s poetry has been featured at poetry readings across the country, including Poets Against Rape, Word from the Streets, and APAture Arts Festival: A Window on the Art of Young Asian Pacific Americans. Chen is a senior editor of The Conversant and poetry editor of Texas Review. They currently teach creative writing and world literature at Sam Houston State University.

Location: The Forum, Goldsmith Campus, 9045 Lincoln Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Date & Time: Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

For More Info: https://www.pw.org/literary_events/chingin_chen

Courtesy of Beyond Baroque

 4. An Evening of Spoken Word

Beyond Baroque often hosts readings by talented and inspirational poets, and this reading is no exception. As the flyer states, “Sentenced to 36 years as a juvenile offender, Gonzalo found his poetic voice inside the prison walls. Gonzalo’s poetry is raw and organic from the ground up, revealing the beauty found in the depth of the Dark Time of the Soul. Join us in honoring one man’s journey inside the beast where he ultimately found redemption.”

Location: 681 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA, 90291

Date & Time: Feb. 9 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: RSVP required. Reserve tickets here: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E253261&id=47

For More Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/221864311690944/

Courtesy of Rattle

5. Rattle Poetry Series feat. Brendan Constantine and Rayon Lennon

Rattle is an American poetry magazine based in LA. Every second Sunday Rattle presents a reading featuring poets from the current issue at the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse. This month’s issue features Brendan Constantine and Rayon Lennon.

Brendan Constantine was born in Los Angeles. His collections of poetry include Letters To Guns, Birthday Girl With Possum, and Calamity Joe. Brendan tours regularly, bringing his poetry and workshops to theaters, schools, libraries, correctional facilities, and community centers across the nation. His fourth collection, Dementia, My Darling, was published in the spring of 2016.

Rayon Lennon was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Connecticut, at age 13. He works as a clinical therapist with adolescents struggling with substance use and mental health. His work has been published in Main Street Rag, StepAway Magazine, Folio, African American Review, Connecticut Review, Callaloo, and others. His first book of poems, Barrel Children, is a finalist for the 2017 Connecticut Book Award for best book of poetry.

Location: Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, 1010 Foothill Blvd, La Cañada Flintridge, CA, 91011

Date & Time: Feb. 11, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: not required, free admission

For More Info: https://www.flintridgebooks.com/instore-events/2017/12/13/rattle-poetry-series-1

Courtesy of Antioch University

6. Literary Uprising

Antioch University hosts annual poetry readings. This year features faculty member Victoria Chang, author of the recently released Barbie Chang and The Boss, and MFA Alum Reader Kirsten Imani Kasai, author of the novel, The House of Erzulie, and the series, Ice Song and Tattoo. Also reading are students Danton Stone and Lisa Croce.

They promise wine and soft drinks, appetizers, and books for sale. Free parking passes are available.

Location: Antioch University, 400 Corporate Pointe, Culver City, CA, 90230, Room A1000

Date & Time: Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.

Tickets: Free admission

For More Info: https://www.antioch.edu/los-angeles/event/literary-uprising-4/

Courtesy of Stories BooksandCafe

7. Voices from Leimert Park Redux Anthology

Stories BooksandCafe is a bookstore located in Echo Park that caters to the larger literary community of Los Angeles. They host an array of events, from book release parties, comedy shows, live music, and community meetings. Voices from Leimert Park Redux is a poetry anthology that encapsulates the diverse writings of the Leimert Park area. It features African-American writers and other writers of color embracing new radical voices; one of the vehicles for their voices is this spoken word performance. The poets have been confirmed for this reading, but more details are TBA.  

Location: 1716 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Date & Time: Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: Free admission

For More Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/322309301617627/

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(From left to right): Chiwan Choi, Judeth Oden Choi, Jessica Cabellos, and Peter Wood Source: writlargepress.com

 

Just last week, Chiwan Choi and Jessica Ceballos of Writ Large Press swung by our Westwind staff meeting to discuss the realities of writing and getting published in Los Angeles. Founded in 2007, Writ Large Press is a small press that, like Westwind, publishes exclusively LA residents. They have a total of eight books under their belt, one of which is on pre-order right now.

Both Chiwan and his co-founding partner, Judith Oden Choi, went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Together, they first created the literary journal, Wednesday. They went into the project thinking, “Let’s aim to fail in two years.” This carefree mindset allowed the two editors to do whatever they wanted and take creative liberties.

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Source: writlargepress.com

Through their short-lived, 6-issue experience with Wednesday, they learned how to build a successful team. With this knowledge, Chiwan and Judith co-founded Writ Large Press, later adding Peter Woods and Jessica Ceballos. Though they have, by now, a wealth of experience, the literature and culture in the city is in itself ever-evolving, prompting the team every year to ask themselves, “Who are we, and what do we stand for?” As a result, they are constantly in the process of redefining their mission.

During their discussion with Westwind, both Chiwan and Jessica addressed the challenges of writing and publishing outside of New York. Although LA is a literary metropolis in its own right, it lacks many of the resources available on the east coast. Chiwan said that it is much more difficult to promote the press in such a large, sprawling city, especially one so far from the Big Apple, the U.S.’s capitol of publishing. Our visitors both agreed that their greatest challenges come down to money. “In L.A.,” Chiwan joked, “we’re all fighting for a piece of zero pie.”

As a group of aspiring writers ourselves, we asked Chiwan and Jessica about their own writing. In response, Chiwan and Jessica said that, as professional editors, they actually have very little time to read and write for pleasure. Chiwan said that by the time he gets home after work, he’s so tired of reading that he just doesn’t do much of it anymore. Jessica added, “It’s horrible… I’m trying to work on it.”

When asked about what they like to see in a manuscript, Jessica answered, “Something that’s unique.” It seems simple, but when put into practice, it’s much more difficult. Chiwan elaborated, explaining that he sees editors as “tastemakers”: editors suggest to the audience what to try, and that often means introducing them to new, “unique” tastes and textures.

To get acquainted with these unique tastes and textures, visit Writ Large Press at their website and view their selection of books.

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Source: parisphoto.com

 

The first Saturday of May always seems to be eventful. It is a day where people have bid adieu to their April Showers and are ready to bloom into their own May flowers (or something–probably not). In 2015, on a day when America’s focus was largely dominated by The Kentucky Derby, the new ‘Fight of the Century,’ and a thrilling Game 7, featuring Los Angeles’s own Clippers, the annual celebration of the year’s most celebrated works of photography quietly took place as well.

Every year, Los Angeles’s Paramount Studios hosts the U.S. Paris Photo, one of the world’s most distinguished photography fairs. I had the fortune of being invited by a friend (who had been invited by Janda Wetherington).

The galleries are actually set up and curated within the New York City backlot set, which virtually serves as a museum itself. As both New York native and film enthusiast, this was an eerie but utopic setting for me. The sets were surprisingly accurate simulations of urban New York. The detailed delis, bodegas, and brownstone apartment complexes did a solid job of capturing the hustle and bustle of the city in the summertime. This walk-through exhibition successfully enhanced the overall experience without taking anything away from the exceptional work within the galleries.

Over 80 leading galleries and dealers from 17 different countries world-wide showcased works at this year’s Paris Photo Los Angeles. Famous art dealers, artists, celebrities (including Judd Apatow, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Drew Barrymore), coexisted with relative foreigners to the art world and more pedestrian fans of photography like myself to appreciate one of the most powerful and ubiquitous mediums in the image-based culture of our shared present.

Among the works which stood out most to me were those of the Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Hassan Hajjaj of the Gusford Gallery, and the Taschen Gallery (which exhibited some crazy pictures of the Rolling Stones). All of the exhibitors can be found on the Paris Photo Los Angeles website right here.

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Source: parisphoto.com

 

I really don’t believe that the sports world and the art world need to be so opposed and so separated. On this fateful last first Saturday of May of 2015, I was able to fully enjoy both ends of this cultural spectrum. Perhaps that separation is due to the undeniably exclusive nature of the art world. Events like Paris Photo are for the “cultural elite.” Thanks to my Mom (who is the head of public programs at the Guggenheim–if you’re ever in NY hit me/her up for passes!), I have been to many art fairs, art walks, and art openings, and have always observed the shallowness and superficiality of many of the people who attend such events. They tend to be more about the networking opportunities than the art itself. maybe a bit of an offensive overstatement, I would reword (- Natalie) However, that actually wasn’t the case at Paris Photo. Regardless of whether that was because it was such a special event or because the photography was just that impressive or any number of other reasons, it was refreshing to see people actually observing and discussing the art instead of complimenting each other’s fedoras. The art world may feel exotic and intimidating but you should not let that scare you away. If you get invited to a photo fair, an opening, a premiere, or even if you don’t (which I’m not saying is more likely!), Los Angeles is home to a thriving, diverse art scene that you deserve to be a part of if you are reading this.

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Source: luisjrodriguez.com

 

On Monday, May 18th Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez joined Westwind, UCLA’s literary journal, at the Powell Rotunda for a reading of his work. Joining him on stage was his wife Trini, a poet, and his son Ruben, a fouth-year at UCLA and co-prose editor of Westwind.

Although Rodriguez began his writing career as a poet, he has written in many other genres, including journalism, memoir, fiction, and literary criticism to name a few. He is recognized as a major figure in contemporary Chicano literature. Rodriguez’s best-known work is Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., which received much literary recognition, including the Carl Sandburg Literary Award.

Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Rodriguez as the poet laureate of Los Angeles in October of 2014; Rodriguez will serve a two-year term as official ambassador of L.A.’s vibrant culture, promoting the city’s rich literary community and celebrating the written word.

Since his appointment, Rodriguez has been traversing the city to conduct readings at venues like the Hammer Museum, where he read a poem in Nahuatl (the Aztec language,), the Grand Park Book Fest, the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and The Big Read. He has also read poems in front of the Los Angeles City Council twice, conducted writing workshops with youth for Urban Word, read a poem by Henry Dumas in acknowledgement of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and in Leimert Park commemorated the legacy of the unofficial poet laureate Wanda Coleman, who recently passed away.

Right now, Rodriguez is calling out to Los Angeles poets to submit to an anthology that he is publishing through Tia Chucha Press next year. The deadline is July 2015. Ten poems are requested from each poet, from which Rodriguez will pick one or two for publication. The submission email is TCPress@tiachuha.org

To complement the reading hosted at UCLA, we at Westwind asked Rodriguez to answer some questions about his work as a poet, journalist, social activist, and publisher.

W: Thank you very much for joining Westwind for a reading of your work. It’s even more special because your wife Trini Rodriguez and your son Ruben will be reading their work as well. Have you read your work together as a family before?

 R: This is special. Of course, we’ve done similar things as a family—for example, I did a keynote talk at Ruben’s high school graduation where he also played guitar. My son Ramiro and I have read in Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. And Trini and I have read together before, in particular a couples’ Valentine’s Day reading at the Malibu Poetry Reading Series. But this is a first for us three—I’m moved by this opportunity to share with my wife and son. Everyone in my immediate family are powerful writers. This may seem odd, but they learn being around me how vital it is to have language, to know one’s story, to express powerfully with pen and heart.

W: Talk about your background. How did your experiences shape your outlook on the world? How did it shape your writing?

R: My best-selling memoir, Always Running, covers a period in my teen life when I was in gangs, on heavy drugs, including heroin, and in and out of jails. A circle was completed when Mayor Garcetti presented me as poet laureate in the Central Library. This was the very library I used as a refuge when I was briefly homeless in downtown LA at 15. I finally left the “Crazy Life” by age twenty, holding my first son in my arms, helped by mentors, teachers, and a cause.

All these experiences—including getting politically active; working in a steel mill, foundry, paper mill, chemical refinery, and in construction; having kids; becoming a journalist and poet; working with gang and other troubled youth in the U.S. and other countries; the healing work I do with Native American spiritual practices—informs all my writing.

W: Can you please talk about your work as a journalist?

R: I became a journalist at age 25, first as a writer/photographer for weekly newspapers in East LA, covering murders, mudslides, and car accidents (although I also had a boxing column). I then worked as a daily crime-and-disaster reporter for the San Bernardino Sun when that city had the second-highest murder rate in the country. As a freelancer, I covered uprisings in Mexico, the Contra War in Nicaragua and Honduras, labor battles, as well as the trials and tribulations of Mexican and other Latino immigrants. One piece I did on the plight of the undocumented for the LA Weekly won a Western State’s Journalism award in the early 1980s.

I’ve also written extensively about gang life and solutions, including from all over the U.S, Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In Chicago, I also worked as editor of a weekly political newspaper—which took me around the country covering many fronts of struggle for social justice, against poverty, immigrant rights.

W: You’ve also done extensive activism around literacy awareness in prisons. Did you conduct writing classes, workshops? What were those experiences like?

R: I began doing prison workshops in Chino Prison in 1980, mentored by the leading Chicano poet doing this work at the time, Manuel “Manazar” Gamboa (who was also an ex-prisoner and ex-heroin addict). I’ve been doing these ever since, speaking and reading in San Quentin, Soledad, Folsom, Lancaster, as well as prisons, homeless shelters, migrant camps, Native American reservations, and juvenile facilities around the country. In addition, I’ve visited prisons in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, and England. I generally tell my story, read poetry, and talk about going from trauma to transformation. My workshops are healing circles mostly, but include writing as healing and renewal. Almost always, the prisoners and wards are attentive, respectful and full of poetry.

The only time things got rough was at an Arizona youth facility that rioted soon after my talk (although this had nothing to do with me—tensions had been shimmering for a long time among the Chicano and Native youth wards). I was pepper sprayed that time as guards tried to subdue the inmates and bring back order.

But again, my prison experiences have been the best, even in terrible inhumane prisons in places like El Salvador or Mexico.

W: Talk about Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, and the press you run under the same name. Why did you open this organization? What kind of work do you publish?

R: I began Tia Chucha Press in Chicago in 1989 to publish my first book, “Poems across the Pavement.” A mixed Native American/white artist named Jane Brunette designed the book when we both worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s publishing wing. The book did so well that others came to me to publish their works. Then I also solicited manuscripts of poets I loved—and I’ve been doing this ever since. For more than 25 years now—and Jane has been my only designer.

When Trini, my two youngest boys, and I moved back to LA in 2000 (my oldest son was in prison, and my daughter and her child eventually joined us later). We moved to the northeast San Fernando Valley, the mostly Mexican and Central American section of the Valley where Trini grew up. Unfortunately, the northeast Valley had become culturally barren. A year later, we took out mortgages, credit cards, and royalties from sales of Always Running to create Tia Chucha’s Cultural Center & Bookstore—the only bookstore, art gallery, and decent performance space for 500,000 people. We’ve now been in existence 15 years. For the past 10 years I’ve not had to put my own money in there, although both Trini—who is Interim Executive Director—and myself have never been paid for creating and sustaining this center. It’s our gift to community.

W: Based on your experience, what are some of the challenges in getting published today? Do writers of color face experience additional challenges when it comes to publishing their work? What are some of the challenges publishing as a Latino publisher? What do you look for as a publisher?

R: Writers of color have only recently been recognized, beginning in the 1960s. Yet, despite many wonderful Chicano, Puerto Rican, African American, Native American, and Asian writers, we are still highly marginalized in the publishing world. Tia Chucha Press is now known as one of the leading cross-cultural small presses. But it is hard to compete in a world with corporate publishing houses controlling the market and most distribution and also during the developing shift to digital books. But I still edit and publish books—I believe in the printed book. I believe in the new voices often not wanted by others. This is a business, of course; the bottom line’s important. But we do this for the love of literature, compelling writing, the unheard voices. Yes, many good literature and poetry gets published in the general trade, but for the most part it’s about the blockbusters and popular fare.

Personally, I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful publishers for my books such as Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Seven Stories, Lee & Low, Curbstone, and Open Road Integrated Media. But this is not true for the vast majority of writers of color. It’s a struggle even though people of color have become a quarter of the U.S. population. By 2050 it’s estimated the majority of the population will be from communities of color. As everyone is saying now, we need more diversity in books as well as movies, TV, radio, the Internet, all media. That’s an area I plan to keep remedying as long as I can.

W: What has your experience been in getting published with large publishing houses? What are the advantages about getting a small press to publish your work?

R: The larger publishers have the distribution power. My books with major publishing houses can appear most everywhere. In Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, airports, Staples Stores, and more. Also whatever major media writers can get, it’s usually because of the big publishers and their marketing budgets. You generally need an agent to represent you with these publishers—one that knows the market but also the individual editors.

Although book tours in cities with media appointments are mostly not budgeted for anymore—except for blockbusters—I have made a living reading everywhere: universities, colleges, conference, libraries, schools, even bookstores, as much as I can. My books therefore are constantly being promoted. It’s a natural part of the “hustle” required to be an independent sole proprietor as a writer/lecturer/reader.

As for small presses, you don’t need an agent. You can send to various publishers, especially if you’ve done the homework. There are Literary Marketplace reference books (often in the various genres) you should consult. There are magazines and conferences you should turn to. Once a small publisher shows interest in your work, they also put their heart and soul behind each book. For example, Tia Chucha Press only does two books a year, but we design them beautifully and individually (although there is a Tia Chucha Press “look” that we’ve acquired over the years). We have a distributor among one of the most prestigious university presses, Northwestern University out of Chicago. Small presses don’t sell anywhere near as many books as the big publishers. But each sell is organized for, fought for, and valued.

There are other ways to go—self-publishing, print-on-demand, vanity presses, etc. All can be legitimate. But for me, even with less percentage of each book price for royalties, it’s best to get a long-standing and hardworking publisher behind my books.

W: What advice would you give young writers trying to find their voice and then getting their work out there?

R: The first and most important advice is: “don’t give up.” There is no surefire path to publishing, but you can pretty much make this a plausible fait accompli by getting the writing skills—compelling, powerful, unique (don’t write like anyone else) in the genre or genres you are passionate about. This requires adequate schooling but also ongoing self-study.

Next read many books, all the time, even books you don’t like (figure out why you don’t like them).

Third is write all the time. It’s an artistic practice. Any sportsperson, painter, musician, mechanic… what have you… get better the more they do their craft. Same with writing. Experiment perhaps. Try different forms. Discover new ones.

Writing like any art is an inexhaustible power once you’ve reached deep and draw from your own internal creative reservoir.

W: How important is it for writers to know how the publishing industry works?

R: It’s important to know the ins and outs of any professional field you’re interested in. Writing is a rigorous and demanding career. It’s highly competitive and hard to negotiate. Knowing the markets, the publishing houses, what they publish and don’t (so you don’t waste time sending manuscripts to people who don’t publish what you write), and aspects like agents, contracts, and copyright laws are all necessary. You can go to professional bodies like the Associated Writing and Writing Programs conferences every year (they also have a magazine with jobs listing, writing tips, interviews, and teaching positions in Masters in Fine Arts programs in writing).

I have a lecture agency, a literary agent, and a Hollywood lawyer to help me with all this. They are paid by the work I do, and so far I’ve made a decent living, although it’s a year-by-year proposition (some years are better than others).

The main thing again is your writing. Concentrate on that and then let the world revolve around this. Make time for your art.

Searching for a chance to break out of the campus bubble and find some cultural stimulation? Look no farther than UCLA’s own backyard. The Hammer Museum offers frequent public engagement programs, focusing on the arts and cultural issues, and often supplementing the museum’s current exhibits. Admission and public programs are all 100% free!

ART programs include weekly Lunchtime Art Talks and biweekly guided Exhibition Tours. Tours are led by Hammer student educators and include Art in Conversation tours, using conversation to compare two works of art.


LITERATURE & POETRY programs include Libros Schmibros Book Club meetings and a series of readings from prestigious authors around the country. Recent readings have featured JD McClatchy, Michael Waters, V. Penelope Pelizzon and a celebratory reading of Alice Munro. Coming up in June, the series will host a group of award winning UCLA student poets for a group reading, including Westwind’s very own Tina Lawson.

FILM programs include series of screenings related to current exhibit topics and, a personal favorite, the quarterly Open Projector Night. On Open Projector Night, short film submissions (of all genres) are accepted until the start of the event. Subsequently, each film is screened for two minutes, at which point the audience votes on whether or not to finish watching the film by cheering or booing. The event is emceed by a pair of brother comedians, and always holds the promise of a riotous evening.

Other frequent programs include concerts, performances, lectures, and family activities. Additionally, The Hammer Student Association puts on a series of mixers and parties to encourage student engagement with the arts, and the museum hosts a popular drop-in guided meditation every Thursday afternoon.

The programs are always memorable and definitely worth stopping by. Check out the full calendar of events here.

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