Laverne Cox thinks Zoey Luna rocks and you will too. In this interview, Zoey and her mom, two Downey residents, tell their story of struggle and victory against transphobia, violence against trans people, and how the ACLU and so many other organizations have supported their journey.
Author: Vickie Vertiz
“Faking Business,” a new story up at the JFR
What happens when your arch nemesis shows up at a random Commerce quinceañera in the same Payless platforms? Find out here at The James Franco Review.
Thanks to the staff at The James Franco Review and Kamala Puligandla, the guest editor, for selecting the work. And to Sergio’s Tacos, just because.
The Time is Now: Radical Feminism at Rock Camp in Southeast LA
Excerpts from the KCET Departures’ essay, “The Time is Now for Chicas Rockeras in Southeast L.A.”:
After the “Radical Body Love for Young Riot Grrls” workshop led by facilitator Gloria Lucas, one of the campers said, “I love my body!” Volunteers also said they heard girls say, “I’m not ashamed to be round. No soy gorda.”
Chicas Rockeras is the kind of group that all families, politicians, nonprofits, and teachers should know about and support immediately. Like the Southeast Los Angeles Colectivo, like the Alivio Open Mic, like Communities for a Better Environment, Chicas Rockeras is made up of people from the southeast and their allies who are stepping up and organizing their communities, not waiting for anyone to come and save them.
Rock on Chicas! Visit www.chicasrockerassela.org to support this radical program.
Lost Girl: Tales of Loving and Leaving El Monte
Having narrowly escaped death, what Benita had to say couldn’t wait. The day she found her old journal in a taped-up box in her father’s garage, she hurried home to type up the sweet, unfiltered diary of an El Monte high school girl.
Benita Morgan Bishop self-published “Lost Girl from El Monte,” comprised of diary entries written between 1975 and 1977, just a few weeks after she walked out, unharmed, from a car wreck in 2003. At the same time, her father was in the hospital, dying from complications from a severe fall. In the midst of so much fear and loss, Benita worked on her first book knowing every day was precious.
Benita beautifully captures the raw innocence of her youth in the memoir and its follow up, “Escape from El Monte.” The book covers feature juicy old English typeface, a surfer girl emerging from the ocean, and a photo of Benita as a 1970s pin-up girl in a Bob Mackie bathing suit, posing in front of a shuttered theater.
To read the entire essay, click here.
Topless women in sheer nightgowns, burning chile, and teenage softball girls in love: my new essay is up!
Read the essay, “Kissing,” a chapter from my memoir right now at The Offing.
The essay will also be in print later this year in the anthology, Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, by Trans-Genre Press.
Many thanks to Helen Klonaris, Amir Rabiyah, and Michael Snediker for supporting this work.
A Man in His Backyard: sightseeing in City of Commerce with author Stephen Gutierrez
Vertiz teaches free classes in Boyle Heights, sponsored by the Center Theater Group
HOY Los Angeles newspaper wrote a feature on Vickie Vertiz, detailing her desire to teach creative writing, her upcoming book, and her political roots.
Read the great Sergio Burstein article in Spanish here.
The free workshops will cover nonfiction, play writing, and poetry. The Creative Writing Circles are held at three Boyle Heights libraries from January to June 2015. For more information about The Shop, click here.
Latina Leadership in Bell Gardens, a new KCET essay
“In the parking lot of the Food-4-Less supermarket on the corner of Atlantic and Slauson, two high school students stood near the sliding door entrance registering people to vote. The young women wore jeans and T-shirts (Garcia was probably in a Grateful Dead shirt), their hair gathered loosely into ponytails. Their temples beaded with sweat, both because of the weather and from asking complete strangers to sign state-issued documents.
They spoke to people in Spanish because that’s what they grew up speaking to their parents and neighbors. One of those teenagers was a then-sixteen-year old Assemblymember Garcia, a junior at the time. The other student was me.”
Read the entire essay here about Asm. Garcia’s developing leadership and strategies to work with community to make change.
How Eleven Brothers Made El Pescador a Thriving Set of Family Restaurants
After five presidents and three recessions, El Pescador seafood restaurants are more popular than ever. Read my new essay on immigrant hustle, family lineage, and the multiple dazzling skills of restaurateurs in southeast LA. Gracias!
New Essay on KCET’s Departures
“…now I know what the garden gives.” – Jorge Segura, educator and photographer, Downey, CA
Read a love letter I wrote to urban gardening in southeast Los Angeles here.
“What the garden gives: homegrown food along the Alameda Corridor”
Stay tuned for the next essays on the Bell Art Walk and more!
“Pets”– a cine poem
For those with philandering fathers or a penchant for the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, I offer you a cine poem featured on Luna Luna Magazine. Thank you, Ruben Quesada for the feature and Kenji Liu for the editing.
On KCET’s Departures, “Bell Gardens? That’s Indian town!”: 1980s Pow Wows and Cultural Persistence
My family has lived in Bell Gardens since 1976, but we never drove past a pow wow at a local park. Gatherings that are sometimes open to the public, sometimes sacred ceremonies; they’re hard to miss. Those big and bright gatherings with dozens of pop up tents in green and blue, people of all ages in adornments ready to dance, singers around a drum for hours on end, folks preparing fry bread tacos and others in line to buy them.
But one block from our house is the Indian Revival Church, at the corner of Gage Avenue and Specht Street. I never went inside, though everyone was friendly enough when I passed. I walked next to it a hundred times on my way to the mini market for tortillas and walking to school. Pastor Robert Stewart told me the church was founded in 1956 by Arthur Stoneking and reminded me that many of his parishioners don’t participate in pow wows, of course. The building is located on a busy corner with a tricky crosswalk where cars barrel over the 710 overpass. Click here to read the entire essay.
What You See, What You Take With You, in UCLA’s Parrafo magazine
Along with many talented writers, the awesome Sesshu Foster among them, Vickie published a poem in Parrafo magazine’s Los Angeles issue. Read an excerpt from her poem below and click the link for the whole enchilada.
“What You See, What You Take With You”
AFTER MARISELA NORTE’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF LOS ANGELES
On the Broadway bus with Marisela, her French diamond lips
Composition notebooks and fancy uñas
A chola’s drawn-in dragon eyebrows warn us at the Walmart in Pico
In my skin, Jefitos fade blue on my chest
Donuts and doctors and acrylic tips tiendas y más tiendas
Open a n d c l o s e d closing
There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…
A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey
Because we craved permission to be despondent in English
Desperate for words to hide erections for other boys
behind Trapper Keepers, to document Kotex leaks in our journals
To be maudlin about being untranslatable
To do this in private, in the company of someone with rank
We hunted for you in crates, battled mold and being broke
Scraped pennies from grandparents who collected cans to feed us
We needed to hear your 50s guitar, the key of sorrow
Fans of Juan Gabriel twirl
We shake farsantes, know posers when we see them
You our savior for the disconsolation of being
Mexican and born here or not, our duplexes south of the 60 freeway
No Movement murals cushion a daily gray sky, ninety-nice cent interchanges
To your voice, we work our lives away in UPS trucks, as perfect receptionists, in community college for eight years
You taught me to hate the queen
I already hated the church for making me dirty, we were instant friends
You showed me to want public transit death, as long as we were together
We saved you from the has-been dollar bin
We’re your American Manchester Day Dream, empty tire factories, soot-covered eyelids, cracked front teeth and bleeding lips
We fondled your open shirts and built a country around you
of sidelong glances and glum gladiolus
When you first saw our tight black jeans and creepers,
You caught us like that tiger, recognized our crestfallen brown eyes,
lined in black, our red lips
Knew closely our penchant for racing Chevys down Slauson with no headlights
We were your wistful twins, nostalgic that boy we won’t share
You saw us make love in cemeteries
Gave us trim sideburns, Las Vegas Elvis beats made us jump like beans
We are fatalists by nations on all sides
Death-happy because it constantly raps at our door
In the carcinogenic heart of this Manchester
Our black lungs sing with you
Because every time we listen
It’s our last day, too
<>Originally published in Brooklyn & Boyle Magazine, February 2014, Abel Salas, editor
KCET Communities: “Pioneers of Artistic Revolution: Making Art and Space in Southeast L.A.
As part of an ongoing project about the importance of the 710 corridor in Los Angeles, Vickie Vertiz contributed an article about the arts, teachers, and artists in Southeast Los Angeles, where she grew up. She names a few writers who also document the lives of the people in Southeast L.A., such as Steve Gutierrez’s short stories in Live from Fresno y Los and in Hector Tobar’s book, Translation Nation.
While the 710 freeway is considered the backbone of commerce in Southern California, the Southeast L.A. region is rich with writers, visual artists, amazing public school teachers, and community art activists. Read the article here.
Pets, a video poem
This poem is included in the collection, Swallows.
El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra
As the third installment of the Tropics of Meta series, East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte, in collaboration with the South El Monte Arts Posse, Vickie Vertiz contributed the essay, “El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra.” The project is an anthology about the diverse histories, communities, and cultures of the California cities of El Monte and South El Monte, created by a wide range of scholars, artists, poets, activists and other community members. Visit the project website to read the essay and other entries.
Vertiz Hosts UC Riverside MFA Reading Series
|Join Vickie Vertiz this school year as she hosts UC Riverside’s graduate student reading series. Come hear crisp stories, dangerous poems, and legends about sorrow, robots, and much more.
Featured readers from UCR:
Special guests: Chad Sweeney, and Cal State San Bernardino MFA students: Tristan Acker, K.L. Straight., Elisha Holt, Isaac Escalera, Heather Reyes, Andrea Fingerson and Ryan Garcia.
Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 7:30-9pm, Free event
Mark your calendars for future reading dates:
January 16, 2014
March 7, 2014
May 15, 2014- Second Year Student Final Reading
South El Monte Arts Posse: A Birthday Party Book Release Video
In May of this year, Aimee Suzara and I had a joint book release party in El Monte.
If you couldn’t come to Legg Lake for the carne asada release party, now you can see it thanks to the folks at South El Monte Arts Posse and Henry Pacheco. Gracias and enjoy!
ROAR SHACK- It Takes a Year
Vickie will join the Roar Shack Reading Series in July for their Live Write!
Live Writing is a thrilling feat of writerly improvisation. As you arrive, you get to vote on a prompt. The winning prompt will be revealed to four intrepid authors – two of us and two of you audience types, onstage for all to see! Then the Live Writers will each read their just-written words, and the audience gets to vote! The winner will develop the work into a finished piece to be read at the next show.
A Partnership with
Portuguese Artists Colony
Presents: It Takes a Year
Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 826LA
4 – 5:30 p.m.
Roar Shack is a collective of writers and artists, and over the coming months we’re going to bring you voices. Some of us come from fiction, some from memoir, some from poetry, and from music and performance and just about anything that leaves its own blood on the page. We want to bring you what you may not be getting much of. Won’t you join us?
The next show is July 14, 2013 at 826 LA in Echo Park (http://826la.org/) from 4-5:30 pm.
We dare you to miss this lineup:
Amy Boutell: Amy Boutell’s short stories have appeared in Post Road, New Letters, Nimrod, and Other Voices, and her first novel, The Invention of Violet, was a finalist for the 2012 Pirate’s Alley/Faulkner Society Novel-in-Progress competition. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and has received support from the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, and Summer Literary Seminars. She lives in Santa Barbara and works as an instructor at UCSB’s Writing Lab.
Brittany Michelson: Brittany Michelson’s short fiction and CNF is published in The Whistling Fire, Bartleby Snopes, Flashquake, Effluvia, Sleet Magazine, Speech Bubble Magazine, Backhand Stories, Bat Terrier, Glossolalia Fiction, Every Day Fiction, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, and other online journals. Her short story “The Experiment” was included in Speech Bubble Magazine’s “Best Of” anthology, and her short story “Postpartum” was a Story Of the Month winner in Bartleby Snopes. Print work is published in PoemMemoirStory Magazine, If & When Literary Journal, an anthology by Bona Fide Books, and The Poetry Of Yoga Vol. 2. She is a private homeschool teacher and teaches one college composition class.
Zoe Ruiz interviews our musica guest, Alex Maslansky: Zoë Ruiz is the Saturday Editor for The Rumpus and staff member of FOUND. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Two Serious Ladies, and Trop. Currently she’s working on her interview project “Learn People Better” and curates READINGS, a Los Angeles based reading series. She lives in Los Angeles and when she is not writing, she teaches yoga.
Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo (so-chee who-lisa ber-may-ho) is the creator and curator of Beyond Baroque’s monthly reading series HITCHED, a founding editor of The Splinter Generation, and was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Award. Her work has been published in The Los Angeles Review, PALABRA, CALYX and The Acentos Review, and she is the winner of the 2013 Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange. She received an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. In August 2011, Xochitl-Julisa volunteered with the Tucson-based direct humanitarian aid organization, No More Deaths. Poems from her manuscript, The Mediation for the Lost and Found, are inspired by her time in the Arizona desert. She teaches high school English and drama in Arcadia, CA.
Live Write winner Caitlin Myer: Her short stories have been published in literary magazines such as Joyland, Things That Are True, and upcoming in Eleven Eleven. Her first novel, Hoodoo, was serialized on Fiction365. She is the founder of the San Francisco-based literary reading series Portuguese Artists Colony, and she lives wherever she puts down her suitcase.
Live write guest Vickie Vértiz: Vickie Vértiz was born and raised in southeast Los Angeles. Her writing explores the intersections of feminism, identity, and Latino sub-cultures through everyday beauty. Her writing is widely anthologized, found in publications such as Open the Door, from McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation. Her poetry collection, Swallows was just released by Finishing Line Press. She is a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts degree at UC Riverside.
Sunday, July 14
1714 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
PARKING: There is a large lot behind 826LA and the rest of the businesses on that block. Sunday parking is free!
Swallows Book Release Parties, Bay Area, June 7-9th
Come celebrate the official release of Swallows, my poetry collection just out from Finishing Line Press.
Friday, June 7th
ScholarMatch & McSweeney’s offices, 849 Valencia Street at 19th St., from 7-8 pm
Featuring Maya Chinchilla, Emilie Coulson, Kenji Liu, Aimee Suzara and special guests.
Saturday, June 8
At Aimee Suzara’s Finding the Bones book release
Eastwind Books, 2066 University Ave, Berkeley from 5-7 pm.
Sunday, June 9
At Arisa White’s A Penny Saved book release
Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, from 7:30-9 pm.
The first book release party was on:
Saturday, May 18th from 12 pm- 3 pm at North Legg Lake, hosted by South El Monte Arts Posse, Aimee Suzara, Kenji Liu, and myself for poems about sassy family pets, lucky cereal bits and being broke in college, with cameos from flying girls.
I will also be reading in the San Francisco Bay Area on:
Vértiz Featured on KCET’s Departures
As part of the reading series “LAnguage” at the Last Bookstore
hosted by Mike the PoeT Sonkensen, Vickie Vértiz was featured in an article
on KCET’s “Departures” website.
Vickie is thrilled to be included in such an amazing group of women,
including Gloria Alvarez, Marisa Urrutia Gedney, Rachelle Cruz, Zoe Ruiz,
and many other talented poets.
This month’s “LAnguage” reading is Sunday, March 24, 2013, 5-7 PM.
Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street at 4th Street. A free event.
Other readers at LAnguage include:
Kenji Liu, Armond Kinard,
Michael C. Ford, Joe Gardner
Vickie will be reading from her latest collection of poetry Swallows, and new
material, recently featured on Juan Felipe Herrera’s website, as LoWriter of the Week.
To view the Facebook event, click here.
Video Poem- “Pets”
Kenji Liu directed a video poem for my new poetry book SWALLOWS.
Click here to listen and watch, “Pets.”
Dolores del Rio makes a cameo (and so do some chickens).
The Next Big Thing- Swallows
First I’d like to thank Arisa White for inviting me to be a part of The Next Big Thing, a blog-tagging project for writers who recently published a book. Arisa’s latest collection, A Penny Saved, is a riveting example of her multi-faceted, brilliant poetry.
What is the title of your book?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“I’m named after my sister, a ghost for whom our mother makes birthday cakes
Out of Styrofoam discs, a name I make up another life for
(from “Tocaya,” the first poem in the collection)
What genre does your book fall under?
Swallows is a collection of narrative poems, a short story in each of them.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The poems were written over many years and were not conceived together.
When I organized the poems chronologically (as in, when they occurred in my life), I noticed an arc. I saw an abridged hero’s journey that emerged naturally from the work.
Although the poems are mostly autobiographical, I do take some flights of fancy. As a poetry teacher recently told me, “Poetry is nonfiction,” and so this book is as well.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took ten years to complete the poems, and during that time I took classes with Willie Perdomo, Ruth Forman, and Lorna Dee Cervantes to work on many of the poems you’ll find in the book. I’m still making last minute changes to the manuscript.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In college, I took a class organized by a friend called “Women of Color in the United States.” One assignment was to read excerpts from Loving in the War Years. It was then that I found the words I needed as a Chicana to describe the world around me. In this sense, Swallows began after reading that book. When it first came out (and even today), Cherríe’s writing broke through so many social, cultural, and literary barriers. Cherríe has said that she started to write to save her life; writing from the silences in my own life has also saved me, and the poems in this book come from that place.
Who will publish your book?
The publisher is Finishing Line Press in Kentucky. The book is available for pre-sale here and will arrive in mailboxes in May 2013.
What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
Given that the poems were written over a decade, I did a lot of reading that influenced the writing. Emplumada by Lorna Dee Cervantes stands out because the voice in her poems affirmed the feminism I practiced in my community and in my writing.
Once I was organizing the collection last year for publication, I was further influenced by reading Bring Down the Little Birds by Carmen Gimenez-Smith. This lyric memoir provided a concept that helped arrange my poems into vignettes about enduring grief, remembering being loved by the men in my family, and coming back to myself.
I also have to mention fellow poet Aida Salazar who first turned me on to the VONA writing workshops. Because of her and my writing group with Maya Chinchilla, Aimee Suzara, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Kenji Liu, my writing has grown in leaps and bounds.
And if I’m lucky and my brain grows a garden, I hope to write poems like Arisa White someday.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
The characters in this book include composite versions of my younger brothers, parents, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and my half-sister whom I’ve never met. If I had my way and could go back in time, to play my parents I would ask Lupe Ontiveros and Charles Bronson who would have been ideal, may they rest in piece.
For the part of my brothers, I would wave a magic wand and create tan, Chicano (read: expressive) versions of Keanu Reeves and Paul Dano. For the exes, Jack Black and Eva Longoria (for that is indeed the community service range of dating I have done).
To play a version of me in the book, Melonie Diaz would bring the sass needed to hold it down. Finally, I’d cast an early Jennifer Lopez to be the half-sister I’ve never met; she deserves the benefit of the doubt.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The poems are funny, incisive, and illustrate how a family remembers that forgiveness is a great
healing salve for grief. And even though this family is Mexican, New Wave, and working class in Los Angeles, all families can relate to that journey.
An excerpt from the first poem of the collection, “Tocaya”:
Victoria – I don’t blame you for not staying
It was pure mean-ugly girls through high school
Throbbing lack in college
But grad school made me a carpenter
I have a Master’s Degree in Leaving
Our lineage proud I will always have a job
This is what I know of your face
A pen mark across your feet in yellowed photos
You in a baby carrier, a marigold tablecloth, our turquoise kitchen
waiting for you to run out of breath
The next writers I tag in this project are:
Lisa Marie Rollins
Look for updates about their recent projects next week!
KPFA with Luis Rodriguez and Ching-In Chen, Tuesday, February 11, 2013
Tune in to KPFA 94.1 FM, the Bay Area’s Pacifica station, next Tuesday for “Pinay Poet on Setting the Standard.” Vickie will join award-winning Luis Rodriguez (ALWAYS RUNNING); Lee Herrick (GARDENING SECRETS OF THE DEAD), and Ching-In Chen (THE HEART’S TRAFFIC). They’ll discuss getting their work into the world as writers and cultural workers. They will also read from their most recent publications.
To listen the next day at your convenience, go here or to kpfa.org find “Setting the Standard.”
Reading at Skylight Books, Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:30pm
Join Vickie as she reads from her new book Swallows at Rainbow Gathering 4.
It’s the fourth installment of UC Riverside’s ongoing reading series that invites graduate students from the Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts department to share their work with peers and others. So please, join us for a night of prose and poetry at Skylight Books.
Where: Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, California 90027
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 7:30pm
An Excerpt from the new collection, Swallows
There’s an i and an e at the end of my name
Mom and Dad did not pick the last vowels
But they did have the concept: breathing, baby, girl
Mom says the black nurse who spelled me
White teeth smacking peppermint gum
My name is a reference to Victoria
My other half who left Loveland Street before I did
Victoria, the older sister who never beat me with her left hand
While she curled her hair with her right
I didn’t tag along with her hoochie friends
To watch Purple Rain through our hair-sprayed bangs
Victoria peeked out from her crib at our teeny house and said, Chale girl,
I’ll catch you later. Coughed her baby lungs into dusty dried persimmons
So I could be the oldest sister to our two younger brothers
So I could beat them with one hand and sip
Strawberry milkshake with the other
She died from pneumonia at a general hospital so I could take
Our younger brother to watch Batman with Spanish subtitles
Drag him to Smiths-loving, pimple-skinned parties
I’m named after a ghost for whom our mother makes birthday cakes
Out of Styrofoam discs, lovingly smothered with real pink icing
Plastic ballerinas every one of her 38 birthdays
Neither of us got to be a chola, or a cha-cha, a new-waver
She left me thick glasses in fourth grade
A name for which to make up another life, every day
Don’t fuck it up…
To get your copy of “Tocaya,” order Swallows here.
Swallows Pre-sale: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Pre-order the poetry collection, Swallows, starting December 15, 2012 from Finishing Line Press.
Riverside Youth Opportunity Center Open Mic
Join me as I host the Youth Opportunity Center Open Mic this Friday, December 7, 4-6 PM.
Come witness the artistic talents of some of Riverside’s most gifted young people.
2060 University Avenue, Riverside, California 92507