Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Countdown Mode

In three days, I'll be boarding a plane headed for Nicaragua. While there, I will be spending most of my time in Granada--The Most Beautiful City in the World.

I'm returning to Nicaragua for another book tour sponsored by Lucha Libro Books, the best bookstore in Nicaragua.

This time around, Troy Fuss, co-owner of Lucha Libro Books, has put together quite a literary affair, bringing together four English-languages writers with regional connections. 

You can read more about it in the post "Another Nicaraguan Book Tour."

The readings and discussions in Granada, San Juan del Sur, and Leon should prove memorable. My fellow writers touch on topics that are bound to arouse strong local sentiments.

One of the things I look forward to is hanging out with Troy again. Somehow it always ends up being a raucous occasion.

Friday can't get here soon enough.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Saint of Santa Fe: Two Reviews Revisited

I have a confession to make. Because I was so engrossed in finishing The Season of Stories, I couldn’t give the release of The Saint of Santa Fe the sendoff it deserved. Regardless, I'm proud of this novel about the life and death of Father Héctor Gallego and I invite readers who’ve enjoyed my other novels to explore this story, as it is close to my heart.

Moreover, to those who’ve already read The Saint of Santa Fe, I beg a favor: please write a review on Amazon. In spite of whatever our feelings are about this massive retailer, the written opinions of readers carry a lot of weight with potential purchasers. Writers depend on your voices too.

Just a few words will suffice. Those of you who respond to this call will have my eternal gratitude.

Also, if you live in Nicaragua, don’t forget that I will be there starting this Saturday. You’ll be able to purchase a copy that I will be thrilled to autograph.

See my blogpost Another Nicaraguan Book Tour for details about my personal appearances.

Now, as an appetizer for you to invest in The Saint of Santa Fe, I will share excerpts from two online reviews.

In January, Eric Jackson of The Panama News expressed these thoughts about The Saint of Santa Fe:

.... Sirias’s portrayal of General Omar Torrijos, however, is bound to raise more hackles. It’s well documented that Torrijos was an alcoholic, but in many circles it’s not considered polite to mention it as this book does (without actually naming the disease). There are plenty of Panamanians who view the dictatorship as the worst thing that ever happened to Panama and Torrijos as something approaching the devil incarnate, but Sirias portrays him as someone more subtle and complex than that. The conflict that plays out in the novel is between a military commander and a priest who both in their own ways would be the liberators of the rural poor, the general in his top-down paternalistic way, the cleric by way of a participatory grass roots democracy.

So, does Silvio Sirias “solve the crime?” Not long after the US invasion that toppled the dictatorship, four men were accused and three convicted in connection with the disappearance of Héctor Gallego. All have maintained silence about what happened to the man, and who gave the order to make that happen. In the public record, those questions remain unanswered. The Saint of Santa Fe, however, is far more assertive about the nature of the man, the situation in which he labored and the passions that he aroused. Yes, it’s a book about this diminutive but extraordinary young priest. But it’s probably more important as a book about who Panamanians are and what we can be.

You can read the entire review in The Panama News.

The Credible Source 
For Latino Literature, Latino Film, & Latino Studies

More recently, Jose B. Gonzalez of LatinoStories.com wrote the following review:

The Saint of Santa Fe by Silvio Sirias is the compelling story of a young priest who has faith in humanity in the early 1970s—at a time when not all of humanity believes in equality and justice.  Readers of this novel might be reminded of Archbishop Romero, whose life was captured in the classic film, Romero, featuring the talented actor, Raul Julia.  However, this novel’s portrayal of Father Hector Gallego is just as much about a priest serving his parish against insurmountable odds in Panama, as it is about the lethal and institutional power of political figures and the dangerous interest groups.

The portrayal of Father Gallego is inspiring without being overly sentimentalized.  And that is in part because as one reads this work, one can’t help but feel that the author has done extensive research.  That is the mark of a powerful novel that is inspired by true events. Not surprisingly, as Sirias explains in his postscript, he conducted extensive interviews and read several publications to compose this emotionally affective work.

As we learn in The Saint of Santa Fe, Father Gallego was responsible for empowering the disenfranchised to the point where they were perceived as threats to those in power. Those who are looking for a Hollywood plot will not find it here. Instead they will be left with what the real-life disappearance provided—an urging for more questions. That honest approach to this novel is another reason why Sirias is able to convincingly capture our imagination.  Sometimes chapters in Latin American history are rife with mysteries, and the author’s tone and style provide a captivating look at one of the darkest and tragic mysteries in Panama’s history.

You can read Jose B. Gonzalez’s at Latino Stories.

And, please remember, your contribution of a review of The Saint of Santa Fe—or any other of my books, for that matter—will be appreciated.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another Nicaraguan Book Tour

I’m blessed to have angels who watch over my literary welfare. Sandra Mariela Peña and Mary Helen Espinosa are two of them, helping me launch my first book tours in Nicaragua.

Then, Troy Fuss, an American ex-pat who is co-owner of Lucha Libro Books in Granada, joined the celestial clan to host a couple of successful readings in my adopted hometown.
Now, Troy has outdone himself. He has organized a Four-Author Mega-Book-Tour of Nicaragua. 

Joining me in this adventure are Joseph Frazier, author of El Salvador Could Be like that; Kenneth Morris, author of Unfinished Revolution: Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s Struggle forLiberation; and Jim Lynch, author of the novel Whores: A Political Saga.

I will be reading from The Saint of Santa Fe.

Our tour of Nicaragua begins Saturday, November 1 in San Juan del Sur at the bookstore and café El Gato Negro.

From there it’s on to Granada for the main event, which will take place on Sunday, November 2.
Lucha Libro Books is the event sponsor, which will be held at the restaurant La Hacienda, starting at 6:30 p.m.

We will  take a day off before heading to the city of León for an event hosted by Búho Books.
This event will be held on Tuesday, November 4 at La Olla Quemada. It starts at 6 p.m. For me, it will be a happy reunion with Marthe Kalleklev—the Norwegian ex-pat who owns Búho Books and who hosted my reading and book-signing in León last year.

It’s always wonderful for me to go back to Nicaragua, especially to see these angels once again.

I invite my friends and all English-language readers who live near any of these events to join us.

I suspect these roundtables, with four highly opinionated writers, will be memorable events.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Other Writer in the House

Back in January, I received an invitation from Jill Cooper to participate in The Yes Book project. Jill, an experienced editor as well as an excellent writer, had boldly embarked on the adventure of launching her own press: Exult Road Publishing. The Yes Book will be Exult Road’s first publication.
I found the prompt—write about the word “Yes”—a supreme challenge. Jill was calling upon writers to produce texts of affirmation, and I fiercely wanted to take part in that. At once, the wheels started spinning in my head. Sadly, they weren’t finding much traction. Every idea that came to mind was quickly discarded for lack of depth and wisdom. And the topic of Yes, in my heart, called out for nothing less than the sagest writing one could muster.

This story, however, comes with a twist. 

Jill also extended an invitation to Erinn, my wife. 

I remember thinking, “That’s very nice of Jill. She wants Erinn to feel included.” 

At that time, I believed that Erinn would be far too busy to contribute to The Yes Book. After all, she is a high school principal and, in addition to that, she’s fully engaged in pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership through the University of Missouri.

Besides, I was the writer in the family.

I assumed Erinn would go on with her busy life and bypass the invitation.

In the meantime, I kept struggling to get a grip on every fleeting strand of inspiration.

Not long after Jill’s call, Erinn shared with me a piece she had written for The Yes Book. She had produce it quietly, without fanfare. (I tend to make a lot of proclamations before, during, and after completing a project.)

Her essay stunned me. It was a heartrending account of a moment—well known to me—in which she regretted not saying yes.

Erinn submitted her work and the editors accepted it immediately.

“I cried in the end,” Jill wrote to her.

In the meantime, as Erinn was basking in the glory of acceptance, I was panicking because the deadline was upon me and I had yet to discover my approach to the topic.

Thankfully, when Balboa Academy’s graduating class of 2014 invited me to be their commencement speaker, I saw the opportunity to offer wise counsel while tackling the theme of “Yes." 

My speech, titled “Say Yes,” will also be included in The Yes Book.
I am proud of my contribution as it represents one of my best moments as a writer. But I’m prouder still of Erinn’s debut as a published author—and in such an uplifting anthology.

It’s fun to have another writer in the house.

The Yes Book goes on sale next month. I urge everyone who wishes to embrace the birth of Exult Road—a publishing venture that seeks writings of light—to pre-order a copy of this wondrous project.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

When English Haunted Me

“I read your composition, and I’m afraid you don’t belong in my class.  In fact, your writing skills are so poor I suggest you explore other options. College may not be in the cards for you.”
The English professor’s words stung, and fiercely.  I had just turned eighteen and had recently returned to California. The previous seven years I had been living in Nicaragua, completely immersed in a Spanish-speaking universe.  English—the language of the first eleven years of my life—had retreated to a dormant part of my brain. 

It would be a few years before my birth language returned to the forefront.
Fortunately, in spite of the instructor’s admonition, I remained in college. His words, however, severely traumatized me. For years, I believed myself incapable of writing clearly in English. 

But I loved to write.  Of that much I was sure.

My teachers in Nicaragua had validated my affection for the written word. They often praised how well I expressed myself in what was, in essence, my second language.

But on that day, as I stood before the professor, English was hiding in the nether-regions of my brain. I was frustrated because I couldn’t produce the correct words to ask him to be patient, to allow time for my birth language to return—which was something I knew would eventually happen.

And, yes, the language of my childhood did return. 

Still, my confidence when writing in English remained low.  I never imagined anyone would take pleasure from something I composed in my “native” tongue. 

Under these circumstances, Spanish, my adopted language, became my creative outlet. During my idle hours, I filled notebooks with poetry—and English was reserved for term papers, reports, and business letters. 

The college instructor’s statement would haunt me for decades.  And although a few years later I ended up writing and editing newsletters for several organizations—professionally, and in English—I felt like an imposter.

Even though I only spent a week in his classroom, I have often thought about my first college English instructor.  Because of his remark, writing in English became an intimidating mountain that I had to struggle to scale.
But at present, when I’m feeling somewhat proud of how far I’ve come, I wonder what he would say.