Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Upcoming Reading: University of Redlands: Manuel Munoz and Lisa Alvarez

On Thursday March 31st, at the University of Redlands, as part of their Visiting Writers Series, I will be reading and speaking alongside this talented fellow - Manuel Munoz.

Our focus will be our work in Sudden Fiction Latino - but I expect we'll have more to say. For instance, this is what Publisher's Weekly says about Munoz's recently published first novel, What You See in the Dark:

Muñoz, the author of two short story collections (The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue and Zigzagger), uses the second-person voice to draw the reader into his stellar first novel. In 1959, the Director (i.e., Alfred Hitchcock) arrives in Bakersfield, Calif., to film Psycho, along with the Actress (i.e., Janet Leigh), who's struggling to get a handle on the character she will portray. Providing counterpoint to the events surrounding the making of the iconic Hollywood film, including the search for a motel to serve as the exterior of the Bates Motel, is the story of locals Dan Watson and Teresa Garza, whose doomed love affair ends in murder. The author brilliantly presents the Actress's inner thoughts, while he handles the violence with a subtlety worthy of Hitchcock himself. The lyrical prose and sensitive portrayal of the crime's ripple effect in the small community elevate this far beyond the typical noir. 10-city author tour. (Mar.)

I don't know why I get to share the stage with him, but I'm looking forward to it.

This short piece about Munoz appeared back in January on the blog of The Missouri Review:

What Would Manuel Munoz Do?
by Meagan Ciesla

You know, as a young writer, it’s easy to let the sharp pangs of jealousy get the better of you. Especially when you see writers younger than yourself getting short-listed as this year’s best new voice. Or even worse, when you find out that the same writer has never written before, that, essentially, he just wanted to see if he could write a novel, for fun, and it just happened to be a smash hit. After all, up until a year ago, he was studying neuroscience or microbiology and thought he would take up writing as a hobby. And, surprise, surprise, he was pretty ok at it.

Good for him.

The rest of us, though, are secretly hoping that this young writer has a terrible case of halitosis or trouble in the bedroom. Not anything too bad, just something that makes his success seem a little less sweet. I know it’s immature, but imagining he is deeply unhappy or was born with eleven toes really does make us feel better about ourselves.

But seriously, I find these writers a little problematic not only as a writer myself, but as a teacher of writing. I make it a point to instill a sturdy work ethic in my students by telling them that talent is a negligible factor in becoming a writer, and what one really must do above all, is write. I’ve known some talented writers who are incredibly lazy – they want the fame and the glory without putting in the time – and it never works out. Of course, there are the exceptions to this rule. The writers who have managed to get lucky at every turn and have proceeded to have successful careers without wasting much time banging their heads against the computer screen, and I’m happy for them, I really am. Them and their halitosis.

A few years back I had the pleasure of meeting Manuel Munoz when he visited University of Wyoming’s MFA program. He was young and had just published his second book of stories. In other words, I was prepared to give him the hairy eyeball. That is, until he came out with it. I remember him saying his first short story was accepted in Glimmer Train and he thought this whole writing thing was a piece of cake. Then nothing he wrote was published for years, and he started to rethink things. What he did then is what I encourage all of my students to do, which is to work hard. He devoted time each day to writing. He worked a full-time job and used the time it took for him to commute from his apartment to the office to compose sentences in his head. When his friends pestered him to go out on Friday nights he turned them down because he had to write. And it paid off. He wasn’t lucky, he worked hard. His novel comes out this March and is already getting good reviews.

At times when I’m deciding whether to watch another rerun of That 70’s Show or rearrange my sock drawer, I think to myself: What would Manuel Munoz do? He would write, and then do it again the next day. Because after all, there’s plenty of work to do.


So, if you're up for it, head on out to the University of Redlands. Reading begins at 7:30. Somewhere on campus. Free.



Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Oh how I wish I could attend. Teaching that night.

the other L

Daniel Olivas said...

I wish I could be there, too! But at least I've seen both of you in action before. The students are in for a treat.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Fascinating anecdote about Manuel Munoz. Some folks are really "early bloomers," and Manuel was obviously one of them, though it's affirming that he nonetheless works hard daily on his craft/art. Young man on the way up and more up!

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