Notes from the Road: "Music of the Mill"

Well, my friends, I’m in Chicago today for a reading at Barbara’s Bookstore near the University of Illinois, Chicago. I’ve already had one radio interview, with another radio show set for today and a Spanish-language newspaper interview. At the Tattered Cover Bookstore reading in Denver, several people who had worked in the Pueblo, CO steel mill, or had family in it, came. They related to my story in “Music of the Mill” about an LA steel mill. They understood the impact of these jobs on their lives and communities, but also when the mills close down and the jobs are no longer there. Several young people showed up who had read “Always Running,” my 1993 memoir of gang life; a few came with their teachers. Again I love their stories of how they wouldn’t read any book until “Always Running,” eventually opening up the possibilities inherent in all books.

Houston came next – and this turned out to be fantastic. Tony Diaz and his crew at Nuestra Palabra, a radio show on KPFT as well as a literary showcase for poets, rappers, storytellers and more, organized a wonderful event at the Multicultural Education/Counseling for the Arts Center on Kane Street. More than 100 people showed up. Several wonderful young poets read before me, a great way to start any presentation.

I also did two presentations at Milby High School in the barrio, to students and later teachers. TV affiliates Fox, ABC and Univision showed up, as well as a Houston Chronicle newspaper reporter; they included individual interviews of myself, students and teachers. I was also on Dean Dalton’s KUHF-FM radio show and an AM business radio show (also broadcast in Dallas) that turned out great. Another interview by a Bravo Houston newspaper writer, and a radio show with Nuestra Palabra on KPFT – that included a talk with Isabel Allende by phone on her new book “Zorro” – made for one of the best media events of any city.

I’m particularly pleased with the attendances of my readings so far – from 30 to 200 people. It’s hard to get people to come out for readings unless you’re one of the “celebrity” writers. I don’t have any issue with these writers – all power to them. But what’s cool for me is the long-time fans and readers of my work who continue to show support for my books (I now have nine books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and the novel). With “Music of the Mill” I’m also connecting to people, families and communities affected by industry and the deindustrialization this country experienced on a large-scale basis in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

This is a story that has not been fully told, particularly in literature. I hope my efforts help fuel more of these stories. The working class writer is one of this country’s greatest legacies. We need more.

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