Friday, July 29, 2011

An Exciting New Beginning and a Sad Ending

Although I’m enjoying being a full-time writer once again, I’m also dreading the day that school resumes, in less than a week. For the past five years I’ve been tormenting high schoolers, particularly 9th-graders, threatening them in my best Darth Vader imitation, “You will learn to love literature, or else.”

It would be a lie if I said that staying at home—locked up in solitary confinement—is driving me insane. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. Becoming intimate once more with fictional characters I said farewell to, albeit temporarily, has been an exhilarating experience.

Still, come next Wednesday, when the doors of Balboa Academy open for the new school year, I shall miss the zaniness, chaos, and challenges adolescents brought into my life.

And although I'm now embarked on new adventures in writing, I will always be thankful for the many things I learned from Balboa Academy’s high school students during those marvelous five years. Let it surprise no one, then, if, come next Wednesday, my mood tends to lean a bit toward melancholy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dream Mini-Book-Tour

The community of Boquete is a haven for ex-pats from all over the developed world, in particular the United States. An estimated 6,000 Americans have retired there, attracted by the weather and the beauty of the mountains of Chiriqui.

Deb Eisberg, a Boquete resident for several years now, learned about my work and organized two readings and discussions centered on my second novel, Meet Me under the Ceiba. Deb convinced several book clubs to read the work prior to my visit, and as a result the discussions were inspiring. Every writer dreams of having an audience of astute readers who have carefully examined his or her work.

While in Boquete, I also had the opportunity to read from Love Made Visible. The audience response was extremely encouraging as the segments I shared were warmly-received.

I now have an open invitation to return to Boquete, and I shall do so as soon as my next novel is out. I am working diligently now to make that a reality within the next two years.

My experience with the superb readers of Boquete is one I can hardly wait to repeat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Privilege of Being a Teacher

One of the privileges of being a teacher is that not only do you get a chance to inspire, but often students inspire you.

This happened on many occasions throughout my career. I particularly admired students who found the right balance between academics, arts or sports, and yet remained humble and gracious at all times.

A recent example of such a case is Laura Restrepo. You can read about this talented young person in “Standing Tall at the Tee: A Portrait of Laura Restrepo, Golfer,” which appears in my other blog, Tropical Reflections. Just click here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Smiling at a Small Act of Rebellion

As far back as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with religious art. I find the interior of Catholic churches, particularly their use of iconography, spellbinding.

When my family returned to live in Nicaragua, I was placed in an all-boys Catholic school. During my first three years there it was obligatory for students to attend mass every morning. To alleviate the moments of tedium, I’d stare on the religious images and the complex handiwork in the school’s chapel.

Undoubtedly, my fascination with Catholicism continues to this day. In every novel I’ve published so far the Church and its teachings have played important roles.

On a recent trip through the provinces of Coclé, Herrera, and Los Santos—in the Republic of Panamá, where my wife and I live—we stopped to visit several historic church buildings. Our first stop was at the church in Natá. It was built in 1522 and is the oldest church on the American mainland still in use.

We visited several similar churches, and I indulged myself, taking as many photographs as possible of the religious artwork within their walls.

Inside the church of San Atanasio, in Villa de los Santos, I couldn’t resist posing with this portrait of a fork-tongued Spaniard, carved sheepishly by the indigenous artists who performed the labor in these elaborate designs.

Such displays of rebelliousness are common in Colonial Latin American religious artwork, and today they constitute a legacy that’s bound to bring about a smile in even the stodgiest visitor.