Home of the Scorpions – Notes from the Gateway to Death Valley by Ruth Nolan

The first thing I notice when I arrive at the two-room Mojave Cabin on a cold, sunny early January afternoon in tiny, remote Shoshone—a Mojave Desert town 3 hours north of the Inland Empire—is the huge scorpion mounted on the wall next to the front door…..

1-12-15.jpg

It’s a wire scorpion, crafted simply, and in a flash quick as a scorpion’s sting, I know I’m where I need to be. I’m now officially the Writer in Residence for the month of January, 2015 this one café, one gas station town which proudly calls itself the Gateway to Death Valley. And, of course, the mascot of the small, K-12 Death Valley Public School, is the scorpion!

And why does this all matter? It matters greatly to me, because I’m about to write, and hopefully finish, the first draft of a book which takes place largely in the Mojave Desert. I’m here to dig in and find the quiet, space, and scenic inspiration to make major headway writing my memoir about my years fighting wildland fires for the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert District during the late 1980’s, when I was an undergraduate at California State University, San Bernardino.

2-12-15.jpg

I’ve left the comforts of life in urbanized Palm Desert far behind; land of a new Whole Foods gourmet grocery store and a huge Apple store where I can go for all of my iPhone and MacBook Air needs.

After I quickly settled in, I stepped outside to inhale the crisp air and austere sunset. The scorpion seemed to humor me, as I’ve quickly discovered that there’s neither cell phone nor internet service here. There’s no landline phone in my room, either.

3-12-15.jpg

I’m on my own, with a palette of January days stretching ahead of me, waiting for a flash flood of words to spill onto the page, and hopefully while I’m here, page after page will capture the magic and hardships and transformational journeys I took across the storied Mojave landscape in my younger years, working on fire after fire in some of the remotest geographies in the world, which happen to be in the backyard of the sedate Inland Empire and Coachella Valley.

In the year 2015, it’s easy to be seduced by the easy and ubiquitous conveniences and reliance on internet technology, and it seems a little harder each year for me to climb my way back out into the remote Mojave Desert wildlands I grew up in, lived in for most of my adult life, and know so well, like the inside of my soul.

4-12-15.jpg

In fact, I’d argue that the Mojave Desert is part of my soul, a part that never lets me rest, and compels me to a place like this, to slip like a Mojave Green rattlesnake out of the creatively restrictive skin that living in urban environments encases me in, so that I can write the way I really need to write. Here, I can’t spend hours watching Netflix, or checking Facebook, or scrolling through my twitter feed for the latest, repetitive headlines, or playing around on my new iPhone 6. Nope. Here, the rattlesnakes and scorpions and raw cut desert views of mountain and alluvial fan will dominate my view, and demand the attention they deserve.

In fact, I’m writing this in the old west Crowbar Café, the only place open tonight, and I’ve just helped a young, frightened tourist from Brazil, who drove from Las Vegas and got lost in Death Valley after dark on a night where temperatures are forecast to dip far below freezing, and somehow found his way here, guided by the Crowbar’s lights.

5-12-15

He said he lost his way because there was no cell phone service out here, and therefore didn’t have his map app to use. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think the Mojave Desert took over his journey, and forced him to stop, and wander, and, in the end, to really learn to see, before he finds I-15 and returns to the world of built-in answers and predictabilities. He was overjoyed when I told him that as he heads to LA tonight, following the directions I drew on a napkin while sipping turkey soup, that he’ll be able to use his mobile device sometime after he passes through Baker.

As for me, I’ll  head back into the dark desert night soon, and try to find my way back to Mojave Cabin, where I’ll sit with no phone or internet, and undoubtedly stumble and struggle to evoke, with mere words, a world I once traversed so easily, the world of the burning Mojave, where I never relied on an app to save my life, and never thought I’d be mocked by a wire scorpion daring me to write about it all.

In the dark Mojave Desert night, pen and paper in hand, and I’ll wait for the magic and mystery to settle in. I’ll wait for the smoky memories to clear, and I’ll look up to the stars, and I’ll try to find my way to write.

6-12-15.jpg


Story and photos by Ruth Nolan. Copyright (c) 2015 by Ruth Nolan.

For All Those Who Ask, What *is* Inlandia? by Cati Porter

Once again we are approaching that time of year when we give thanks for friends and family, take stock of what we have accomplished, and express appreciation for all those who have made it possible. So, thank you—we are all Inlandia.

A question I get asked regularly is, what is Inlandia? We have now been writing these columns for well over a year, and I don’t think we have ever addressed that directly here. Sure, you can make out who we are by the patchwork of topics covered here; what you see is what Inlandia is and does: many voices, all hailing from Inland Southern California, celebrating the region. But on the heels of what has been a banner week for Inlandia, I thought I would try to explain it in a little more detail.

The Inlandia Institute was established in 2007 as a partnership between the City of Riverside and Heyday, our co-publisher, after the publication of the anthology Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire. The idea was to found a literary and cultural center here in the Inland Empire that focused on the writers and readers of the region. Soon after, Inlandia moved into our own office, incorporating in 2009, and in 2012 Inlandia was granted non-profit status as a 501(c)(3).

Inlandia has five core programs: Children’s Creative Literacy, Adult Literary Professional Development, Publications—both with our co-publisher Heyday as well as a locally-produced independent imprint, Free Public Literary Events, and the Inlandia Literary Laureate. What does this translate to? Just this past year, Inlandia has:

– Served over 2000 children, including at-risk youth through The Women Wonder Writers program of the DA’s office, resulting in a collection of written work and a public reading and discussion; and in programs in Title 1 schools like Fremont Elementary, where we held a book discussion and gave all 200 fifth-graders and sixth-graders a free copy of Gayle Brandeis’ young adult novel, My Life with the Lincolns, thanks to a generous Rotary sponsorship.

– Served over 2400 adults through public outreach events like Celebrate Mount Rubidoux and the Mayor’s Celebration for Arts & Innovation, and by hosting free monthly author events during ArtsWalk at the Riverside Public Library, and writing workshops throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, including a Family Legacy Writing Workshop at the Goeske Senior Center.

– Published: No Easy Way, the story of the integration of Riverside schools, by Arthur L. Littleworth, a chapter integral to Riverside history; Vital Signs by Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado and Tom McGovern, which went on to win an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; and the Orangelandia anthology, which contains the fruit of Riverside’s citrus heritage. And launching this week, a new children’s chapter book, Tia’s Tamale Trouble, by Inlandia author and educator Julianna Maya Cruz.

Inlandia also undertakes special projects from time to time, like “Making Waves in Inlandia,” which chronicles the stories of the women’s environmental movement through oral histories and a very cool interactive component on our website, including a map of all the spaces saved by local environmental activists, and video interviews.

We also have two other interactive features on our website—a map that details the location of every Inland Empire site mentioned in our flagship Inlandia anthology (which, regrettably, is currently out of print—but we are working on a second edition! More about that in a future post). And, just this past week, with the publication of No Easy Way, we launched an interactive timeline, “Time Travel through Riverside’s School Integration History.”

Further, after the first of the year, we will be launching a six-part series of monthly public civic discussion forums featuring esteemed panelists and partner organizations, with the kickoff event at UCR’s Culver Center on January 31, 2015, at 1 pm.

One of the sound bites associated with Inlandia is, “celebrating the region in word, image, and sound.”

Planned projects include a new Adopt-a-School program which will bring literary arts education, taught by professionals in the field, to area schools; a Native American Voices conference at the Dorothy Ramon Center in Banning, featuring and celebrating indigenous peoples; a writing workshop at the Ontario Museum of History and Art celebrating black aviators in February, in honor of Black History Month. Not to mention our usual monthly Arts Walk series at the downtown Riverside Public Library and the free writing workshops held in six different cities throughout the region.

We are supported wholly through the generous donations of our members, supporters, and through grant funding from organizations like the City of Riverside, the Riverside Arts Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and Cal Humanities. But like any arts organization, we are constantly thinking of creative ways we can ensure continued funding while also making it fun for contributors. Last week, we participated in the county-wide Give BIG day of giving, and to all of those who helped us meet our goals, thank you!

We are also currently in the midst of a book fair fundraiser sponsored by Barnes & Noble. If you missed the kickoff event on Saturday November 22, which featured readings by notable locals Larry Eby, Isabel Flores, Stephanie Barbe Hammer, Julianna Cruz, and a flurry of contributors to the Orangelandia anthology, know that you can still participate through the end of the week by shopping online or in store (any Barnes & Noble anywhere, as long as you have Inlandia’s code: 11484482), through Black Friday. So if like most people at this time of year you are beginning to think about holiday gifts, give a gift to Inlandia when you shop at Barnes & Noble this Thanksgiving week.

From all of us at Inlandia, we give thanks for you this week, and every week, throughout the year.

Other Desert Mothers: Ruth Nolan at Riverside Art Museum by Lisa Henry

Tonight, Friday November 7, Salt+Spice will present author, educator, and environmental activist Ruth Nolan, who will launch her latest collection of poetry, Other Desert Mothers, at the Riverside Art Museum. A wine and cheese reception will begin at 6:30pm with the reading set to begin at 7:00pm.

Ruth Nolan knows more than a few things about the desert, and about motherhood. A native of the Inland Empire and a current resident of Palm Desert, Nolan has spent countless hours hiking, camping, writing, parenting, grandparenting and firefighting in the vast, dry landscapes of California’s deserts. Her new collection of poetry, Other Desert Mothers (Old Woman Mountains Press, 2014), is a meditation on her unique desert journey. The book will be released in November and Nolan will celebrate the publication with a reading and reception at Riverside Art Museum Friday November 7 at 6:30pm.

A long-time desert dweller, Nolan has experienced adolescence, motherhood, and now grandmotherhood in and around the Mojave Desert.

“My parents moved us to a very remote area of the Mojave Desert when I was 13, from Rialto, CA.” It was a difficult transition for Nolan. She readily admits, “I was in shock at the vast contrast between the Inland Empire and desert, but instantly smitten and blown away by the beauty and power of the desert. I’ve been pinned down by the desert, both literally and metaphorically, since then.”

As single mother and a professor of English and Creative Writing at College of the Desert, both Nolan’s personal identity and professional career have been forged in the vast and surreal landscape, which she describes as “my #1 geography.” This place is “a sort of complete dreamscape, an altered state that both inspires, elates, and intimidates me. I have only to step into the desert on a hike or start a road trip across its vast, empty roads, and I feel that sense of unbroken dreamscape again.”

Nolan has fully embraced her hometown as rich and fertile ground where she can write, study and teach. An avid desert advocate and conservationist, she lectures widely on literature of the desert, and has taught desert-based writing workshops for the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park. Among her many notable publications are No Place for a Puritan (Heyday Books/Inlandia, 2009), an impressive anthology highlighting the diverse literature of California’s deserts, Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus (Inlandia, 2014) and New California Writing, 2011 (Heyday).

“For me, the Mojave hasn’t been a wasteland; nor, even as it’s been discovered by artists more recently as a highly desirable location for a more refined, esoteric aesthetic. The Mojave Desert is a free-flowing experience of consciousness and geography. It’s a place of life, a place of people—however far apart, a place of sustenance and nurturing and enlightenment.”


Lisa Henry teaches at San Bernardino Valley College and is founder of Salt+Spice, a community-based arts organization.

Bats in the Belfry by Joan Koerper

It’s true. My first encounter with bats actually was in a belfry: the bell tower of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church on Livernois Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. Entry to the tower was forbidden to all but a chosen few. I’d begged my father, who was the organist at the church, to be my partner on an adventure and climb the long, winding staircase of the looming, mysterious bell tower. As an avid reader of mystery stories my nine-year-old imagination ran wild with excitement. Would we find the “secret of the bell tower?” Or the “mystery of the hidden staircase?”

One Saturday in October, Dad granted my wish as part of my birthday present that year. After his long morning of playing daily mass, funerals, and weddings he drove ten miles home to West Bloomfield, fetched me, and we headed back to the church for our rendezvous with the unknown.

The tumbler clicked in the wide, heavy, sculpted, solid wooden door as Dad’s key turned in the lock. Our footfalls echoed off the stairs against the cement walls of the narrow, curving passageway. Higher and higher we ascended. My heartbeat quickened until we reached the first open space with floor to ceiling vertical slits in the exterior walls. Then, mounting even narrower, twisting steps, my heart raced as we reached the steeple and confronted the beauty of the bats, the bells, and the view. It was a dream come true, one of the thrills of my young life.

I wasn’t afraid of the bats in the belfry. My father would never put me in danger. As an educator, he educated me. I knew we wouldn’t be “attacked,” and that it was extremely rare for bats to be rabid. Instead, we were visitors in their home.

I’ve had many other encounters with bats since then: while in Detroit, as an Investigative Police Officer (detective) searching old buildings, attics, and cupolas for young missing children, and working crime scene venues. And in caves I’ve explored across the country. While living in Northern Minnesota, I was introduced to the idea of bat houses. My friends the Kargers, along with other residents, specifically built and positioned houses for bats who were especially welcomed for their role in consuming mosquitoes and other flying insects in summer. Now, living in Wrightwood, I’ve observed a number of homes also providing bat shelters.

In western society in particular, bats get a bad rap. Some say it is because bats are nocturnal, creatures of the night, and part of the “dark side” because they go into damp, dark places, make no noise, and are mysterious. Whatever the reasons, misconceptions and superstitions surround bats, especially in western society, fostering fear, and even panic. Simply put, humans too often fear what we don’t know and are all too ready to declare the unknown as “evil.” Wildly exaggerated rumors, such as the common misconception that bats are rabid, abound. Or that they are some sort of flying rodent, or closely related to rodents, when they are actually more closely related to primates than rodents.

Last week, on October 28, I was standing in the Wrightwood Branch of the San Bernardino County Library, admiring the images and figures of bats hanging from the ceiling as part of the Halloween decorations when I found the book, America’s Neighborhood Bats: Understanding and Learning to Live in Harmony with Them by Merlin D. Tuttle (University of Texas Press) on a Friends of the Library sale shelf. I snatched it up. This beautifully produced book with full color photographs, intended to educate the general public about bats, won the Conservation Education Award by the Wildlife Society. The author, Tuttle, is the founder and science director of Bat Conservation International in Austin, Texas.

Once home, I read it in one sitting. Soon I realized I should have been sipping a margarita or tequila sunrise while reading.

Yep, heads up tequila drinkers! Without bats there would be no tequila! Tuttle reveals, “agave plants, from which tequila is produced, are so dependent on bats for pollination that without them, the probability of successful seed production drops to one three-thousandth of normal.”

In light of the astonishing information I learned about bats, I thought it might be fun to briefly recount a few bat facts here:

  • Bat fossils have been found that are approximately 50 million years old, and today’s bats closely resemble those ancient bats.
  • Bats are mammals: the only flying mammals at that. Bats account for one-quarter of all mammal species. Scientists have placed them in their own group, Chiroptera, which means “hand-wing.”
  • There are nearly a thousand species of bats that come in a fascinating array of appearances.
  • The Bumblebee Bat of Thailand, the world’s smallest mammal, weighs less than a penny, whereas the Flying Foxes of the old-world tropics can have six-feet wing spans.
  • Bats are not blind: many have excellent vision.
  • Bats hunt by echolocation, or emitting high-frequency sounds that bounce back to their ears. This enables them to detect minute objects in complete darkness. Their unique echolocation systems “surpass current scientific understanding and on a watt-per-watt, ounce-per-ounce basis has been estimated to be literally billions of times more efficient than any similar system developed by humans.”
  • Most bats living in temperate zones in the US and Canada mate right before entering hibernation in the fall.
  • Like humans, bats give birth to poorly developed offspring and nurse them from pectoral breasts.
  • Bats can live up to forty years producing only one offspring a year, although few survive more than thirty-four years.
  • They are clean, cuddly and sociable.
  • Seventy percent of bats eat insects, though many tropical species feed on fruit or nectar exclusively. A few are carnivorous, eating small vertebrates: fish, frogs, mice and birds. Of the nearly 1,000 species of bats, only three species are vampire bats and they live only in Latin America.
  • Insect eating bats are essential to keeping night-flying insects in check including beetles, moths and mosquitoes. For example, “the 20 million free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave in Central Texas eat more than 200 tons of insects in a single midsummer night.”
  • Pollination and seed dispersal activities of nectar and fruit eating bats are a key to the survival of the rain forests and entire ecosystems. “Bats may drop up to 95% of the seeds that produce the first ‘pioneer’ plants in a clearing.”
  • In the Pacific Islands and Asia, where the species of bats called Flying Foxes live out in the open in the tree tops, and have wingspans of three to six-feet, they are not feared. Instead they are depicted as heroes in some legends. In China they are held in high esteem as omens of good luck and happiness. And there is much more.

Exploring the secret of the bell tower provided me with my first face-to-face encounter with an even greater mystery….the stunning beauty and intelligence of bats. Through curiosity, fortuitous circumstances, and now a breathtaking book, I have been guided to new learnings. My respect for the vital role these incredibly diverse, beautiful, and gentle animals have in our ecosystem, as well as so many other facets of their physicality and nature, has multiplied and deepened.

It is no coincidence, really, that for most of us bats come to mind at this time of year. The trilogy of All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day have their origins in the ancient Irish and Druid traditional seasonal quarters. October 31 concludes the quarter season of Lughnasadh, Autumn, which is the time of harvest, maturity, physical, and spiritual garnering. Samhain, Winter quarter, runs from November 1 to January 31 and, with the cold weather closing in, it brings the gifts of restoration and renewal. It is a time to celebrate wise elders, and all those whose actions and sacrifices have brought new life.

Considering that bats have been around for fifty million years, live similar life spans as our human ancestors, and that we are all made from the same stardust, it is time for me, and hopefully other humans, to honor and celebrate bats as wise elders whose actions and sacrifices continually bring new life to our earth.

Darkness converges on the final night of this year’s sacred trilogy: All Souls’ Day. The light of the ascending moon glistens on ice covering the watering holes in my front yard where birds bathed and languished just a few days ago. I light the wood stove, a stick of sandalwood incense, and raise my tequila sunrise, or in this case tequila sunset, with a nod, and smile in deep gratitude and admiration: praise to the bats of the past, present, and future. May you continue to thrive, nurturing Mother Earth and her propitious inhabitants.


Notes: All quotes in this piece are directly from Tuttle’s book. Tuttle’s book also has chapters addressing: resolving misconceptions, dealing with unexpected visitors, evicting unwelcome tenants, living in harmony, and getting to know your neighbors. It contains A Beginner’s Key to American Bats as well as Suggested Reading.

I found Tuttle’s book, and the following article in Popular Science, highly readable and transforming.

America’s Neighborhood Bats: Understanding and Learning to Live in Harmony with Them Revised edition by Merlin D. Tuttle. University of Texas Press. 1998. ISBN: 0-292-78148-2

“This Halloween, Celebrate The Beautiful Bat” Popular Science. Source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-10/why-you-should-care-about-bats-beyond-just-halloween

Events this weekend featuring Juan Delgado, Carlos Cortes, and Dia de los Muertos! by Craig Svonkin

First, this year’s Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) Conference will be bookended by sessions featuring Inland Empire creative writers. Taking place downtown at the Riverside Convention Center, three events will feature Inlandia authors:

Friday, October 31, 3:45 pm – 5:15 pm Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado will be presiding over a session of Inlandia poets titled “Creative Writing: Poetic Voices of Inlandia.” This will immediately be followed at 5:15 pm until 6:40 pm by a Creative Artist Spotlight Address by Delgado and Tom McGovern, co-authors of Vital Signs, a collection of poetry and photography about the Inland Empire, with book sales and signing until 7:00 pm.

Then, Sunday, November 2, from 10:45 am – 12:00 pm PAMLA will be offering a seminar, “Inlandia Institute: Celebrating and Memorializing Literary Inlandia,” hosted by Cati Porter and featuring Inlandia authors Laurel and Carlos Cortes (Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time). We will be discussing the value of ‘place’ in writing, and reading and talking about Inlandia.

These PAMLA sessions are open to the public, and all sessions are free to current UCR, RCC, CSUSB, Chaffey, La Sierra, and Cal Baptist students and faculty. For more information, please contact svonkin@netzero.net or visit the website for the full conference schedule: http://www.pamla.org/2014.

Also on Sunday, from 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm, please join us for an Open Mic with Juan Delgado at the Dia de los Muertos Festival at White Park, in the Gazebo, in honor of a loved one who’s passed. Read a poem (your own or another favorite) then place the poem on a joint altar. Attendance is free for the living and the dead.

Then, next Thursday November 6, at 7:00 pm please join us at the Riverside Public Library downtown, upstairs in the main auditorium, ArtsWalk for a reading and discussion with Tyler Stallings and his new book, Aridtopia.

Stay tuned – lots going on in November! More info coming soon.

****

UPDATE: Addendum from the PAMLA Conference with complete details:

The Creative Artist Spotlight Address: Vital Signs with Juan Delgado and Thomas McGovern, will be on Friday, October 31, from 5:15 pm – 6:40 pm (in RCC Exhibit Hall C). Inlandia Literary Laureate, poet Juan Delgado, and award-winning photographer Thomas McGovern (both professors from California State University, San Bernardino), will speak about their collaboration on the beautiful and moving photography/poetry book, Vital Signs, about the Inland Empire region of Southern California, starting with the city of San Bernardino. The Before Columbus Foundation has selected Vital Signs as one of the recipients of the 2014 American Book Awards. Please join us for this special (and free to everyone) event. The Halloween Cash Bar (and Candy Feast) Reception will follow, with good conversation, light snacks, a cash bar, and a Halloween-themed film, all out doors (weather permitting). Feel free to wear a Halloween costume, if you’d like.

Riverside is an interesting place with an interesting history. If you’d like to learn more about the history and architecture of Riverside while getting to stretch your legs and get out of the Riverside Convention Center, please join one of the two Walking Tours of Historic Riverside conducted by Steve Lech, Riverside expert and President of the Riverside Historical Society. These tours (please wear comfortable shoes and be ready for a brisk pace) will leave the Riverside Convention Center on Friday at 2:00 pm and Saturday at 1:45 pm from the Lower Concourse (near the Registration table), and each tour will take 90 minutes.

Another opportunity to learn about Riverside and its culture and history, in connection to a variety of cultural, architectural and historical issues central to California and the West, will be the two back-to-back sessions about the Mission Inn, Riverside’s most famous architectural landmark (built in an eclectic “Mission Revival” style, and a fascinating place to explore (do be sure to visit the Mission Inn during the conference, even if you aren’t staying there). These sessions are titled “The Spirit of California Imprisoned: Summoning the Mission Inn,” and will be held on Friday, October 31, from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm and then from 3:45 pm – 5:15 pm, in RCC Ballroom B.

As you are planning your PAMLA conference schedule, please take a look at some of our Creative Writing sessions and pencil one, two, or all of them into your conference schedule (of course, all of our scholarly writing is creative writing, but you know what we mean):

For example, on Friday, October 31, you could attend:

10:45 am–“Creative Writing: Poetry that May (or May Not) Change Your Life”

2:00 pm–“Creative Writing: Brief Poetry”

3:45 pm–“Creative Writing: Poetic Voices of Inlandia”

And then join us for the Creative Artist Spotlight Address, with local poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern, co-authors of Vital Signs, at 5:15 pm.

On Saturday, November 1, please join us for:

“Four SoCal Writers: Eric, Ara, Joseph, & Joseph” at 10:30 am.

“The Little Short Shorts: Narrative as Commentary,” at 3:30 pm, with songs and short creative fragments, including creative writing by me, PAMLA’s Executive Director, Craig Svonkin.

And then on Sunday, November 2, we will have a special session beginning at 10:45 am, co-sponsored by the Inlandia Institute, focusing on local writers featuring Carlos & Laurel Cortes, and Cati Porter.

The full conference program is up online: http://www.pamla.org/2014/schedule.

Cinema Culturas Film Fest – Stories Matter by Frances J. Vasquez

I cut my front teeth watching Mexican cinema at “el Teatro Azteca” on Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino. As the eldest daughter, it was my good fortune to accompany my mother to the cinema on occasional Sundays. I have fantastic memories of lively musicals, comedies, and intense dramas depicted on the silver screen. Pedro Infante, Mexico’s Clark Gable, was my movie idol. He was handsome and lovable.

He sang popular Mexican tunes like no other: rancheras, boleros, corridos. His characters, his songs spoke to me. Pedro could do no wrong – even when he notoriously portrayed a boracho, or drunkard on screen.

The power of cinema to portray and teach social commentary is boundless. I learned about the injustice of racism at el Azteca. Pedro, the protagonist in the Mexican film, “Angelitos Negros” (little Black angels) helped instill my values about racial diversity. The film title and melancholy theme song were inspired by “Píntame Angelitos Negros,” Andrés Eloy Blanco’s moving poem written in 1946 about the lack of Black angels depicted in church artworks.

The riveting story mattered. It was persuasive. Pedro’s film character taught me the meaning of true love and racial tolerance. I despised his blonde, racist filmic wife for rejecting her own baby because she was a “negrita.” The story moved me at many levels. How terrible! Poor baby. Bad mother. Good father – Pedro loved his daughter unconditionally. By the age of five, before I learned to read, I was forever hooked on Mexican cinema.

I came of age during Mexico’s Golden era of cinema. Stories were the main attraction – compelling storytelling that made us think and reflect on the dramatic plots. We laughed to comic relief in Mexican comedies. Sooner or later, Mexico’s best films made it to el Azteca where captivated audiences viewed the artistry of legendary cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. We were exposed to the gripping writing of Joselito Rodríguez, who scripted the “Angelitos Negros” movie loosely based on Fannie Hurst’s novel, “Imitation of Life.”

A renaissance of superb Latino film offerings is emerging in our region. Cinema Culturas proudly presents the first Latino film festival to the Inland Empire on October 17 – 19, 2014. The festival theme is “Todas las historias cuentan / All Stories Matter.”

The festival will open on Friday, October 17 at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside. It will feature a screening of the acclaimed film “La Jaula de Oro,” which swept the Mexican Ariel Awards, winning in several categories, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay. Although the English title is “The Golden Dream,” the title translates literally to “the cage of gold,” a reflection of the expectations and realities of those who brave the journey north to the US. The film director, Diego Quemada-Diez will be on hand for a discussion and answer questions from the audience.

Before Friday’s feature film, the Symphonie Jeunesse from San Bernardino will perform live accompaniment to a film montage highlighting the history and “Golden era” of cinema in Mexico. Compelling storytelling was the core aesthetic to their cinematic greatness.

My grandmother’s home in rural Mexico featured a huge console radio. No television. In the evenings, storytelling was our family’s favored entertainment. During one of our trips when I was ten years old, the first film story my mother asked me to recount was “Angelitos Negros.” It was a chilly evening, and family members were all gathered together around a wood-burning fire circle. I told the story and everyone engaged in dialogue to discuss the implications, the consequences, and the moral of the story. To be sure, the oral tradition of storytelling was an important part of our family culture. It inspired me to become an avid reader of books. Stories matter. They have the wonderful power to transport us to another time, another place.

Film aficionados have a unique opportunity to view superb, new, award-winning feature films, documentaries, and animated short films in Spanish (with English subtitles) and English. We can view them here in the Inland Empire. Our spirits will surely be uplifted by the stimulating stories depicted and the participatory dialogue with the film makers.

Screenings on Saturday, October 18 will be at the AMC Theaters at the Galleria in Riverside. They will showcase an outstanding selection of feature films, documentaries, and workshops with film makers. Included are films about the contributions of founding Hispanic families of Southern California.

The Sunday, October 19 program at Riverside City College features a FREE family day dedicated to acclaimed Spanish-language animated short films, community workshops, and outstanding selections from this year’s student film competition.

FACTBOX: CINEMA CULTURAS

What: Riverside’s Latino Film Festival

When: October 17 – 19

Where: Fox Performing Arts Center and AMC Theaters, Riverside

Admission: Tickets for opening night are $20, general admission; $25, preferred seating. All films on Saturday are $10, adult admission; $8, students and seniors. Free admission on Sunday.

Information and ticket pricing: www.cinemaculturas.com.


Frances J. Vasquez is native to the Inland region. She has an extensive career in education and public service. Her short stories have been published by MUSE Journal, Inlandia Anthology, and Orangelandia. She serves on the board of the Inlandia Institute.

Talent is Overrated: A Free Five-meeting Fiction Writing Workshop at CSUSB by Cati Porter

Join the Inlandia Institute and Cal State San Bernardino for a free five-meeting fiction writing workshop, “Talent is Overrated.”

Writing isn’t glamorous and it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. With determination and hard work you can become a writer, but you have to choose to be one. Join Andrea Fingerson for a 5-meeting workshop where you will learn how to become a writer. (Note: there will be homework. Please be prepared to commit to the workshop.) The workshop will discuss what it means to be a writer, share strategies that will help you develop the necessary disciple, and review basic fiction techniques and strategies that will help you write a short story or picture book. By the end of this workshop you will have a completed and edited story that is formatted for submission. Writing is in your future. Let Andrea help you get there.

Workshop dates and times:

Sept. 25, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 2, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 16, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 30, 5-6 p.m. (optional meeting)

Nov. 13, 6-9 p.m.

Nov. 20, 6-9 p.m.

All workshops will take place at CSUSB in the Pfau Library, room PL4005A (4th floor).

This workshop is limited to 15 participants. The only requirement is that only people who are sincerely willing to commit the time and effort take one of the places. You will essentially be writing, rewriting, and editing a short story in under two months. If you would like a place in the workshop email jvlong@csusb.edu, and include a phone number that she can reach you with. Reservations will be made on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested, please email today.

Inlandia’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops Set to Begin by Cati Porter

The Inlandia Institute’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops are set to begin. Led by professional writers and writing instructors, each workshop is designed to meet the needs of writers working in all genres at all levels. Currently there are six different workshop locations:

Ontario, led by Charlotte Davidson [*Closed: Full]; Riverside, led by Jo Scott-Coe; Corona, led by Matthew Nadelson; Idyllwild, co-led by Myra Dutton and Jean Waggoner; Palm Springs, led by Alaina Bixon; and San Bernardino, led by Andrea Fingerson.

Each workshop series is approximately 10 weeks long, meeting every other week unless specified. Workshops are free and open to the public but registration is required.

Please RSVP to cati.porter@inlandiainstitute.org. Registration forms will be emailed prior to and/or distributed during the first session.

And, while these workshops are free and open to the public, in order to keep them that way, we do ask that you consider an optional but suggested donation of $25 for the entire series. Information about why this is necessary is included in the registration packet.

 

Dates and times vary by location:

Ontario [*Closed: Full]

 

Led by Charlotte Davidson

6 pm – 8 pm

September 10 & 24, October 8, 22, and November 5

 

Ovitt Family Community Library

215 E C St

Ontario, CA 91764

 

Idyllwild

 

Led jointly by Myra Dutton & Jean Waggoner

2 pm – 4 pm

First Friday of every month

 

Idyllwild Public Library

54401 Village Ctr Dr

Idyllwild, CA 92549

 

Corona

 

Led by Matt Nadelson

7 pm – 8:30 pm

September 9, 23, October, 7, 21, and November 18

 

Corona Public Library

650 S Main St

Corona, CA 92882

 

Riverside

 

Led by Jo Scott-Coe

6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

September 25, October 9, 23, November 6, and 20

 

Riverside Public Library

3581 Mission Inn Ave

Riverside, CA 92501

 

Palm Springs

 

Led by Alaina Bixon

2 pm – 4 pm

October 8, 22, November 5, 19, and December 3

 

Smoke Tree Racquet Club

1655 E Palm Canyon Dr

Palm Springs, CA 92264

 

Free parking, accessible from E Palm Canyon or the Citibank lot on the corner of Sunrise/Hwy 111.

 

San Bernardino

 

Led by Andrea Jill Fingerson

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

September 23, October 7, 21, November 4, and 18

 

Feldheym Library

555 W 6th St

San Bernardino, CA 92410


Alaina Bixon leads writing workshops, including Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Palm Springs, edits books, and reads for the online journal The Whistling Fire. She is working on an article about women at MIT.

Jo Scott-Coe is the author of Teacher at Point Blank. Her essays can be found in Salon, Memoir, TNB, River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, Fourth Genre, and the Los Angeles Times. Jo is currently an associate professor of English at Riverside City College and the faculty editor of MUSE.

Charlotte Davidson received a Masters in English from Syracuse University followed by an MFA in poetry from UC Irvine. Her first book, Fresh Zebra, appeared in 2012. Charlotte leads Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Ontario.

Myra Dutton is the author of Healing Ground: A Visionary Union of Earth and Spirit, which was a 2004 Narcissus Book Award finalist and a 2006 selection for “Ten Books We Love” by Inland Empire Magazine.

Andrea Fingerson has taught preschool, reading, and high school English. Currently, she teaches Child Development classes to teen parents. She received her MFA in Fiction from CSUSB. During that time she was a Fiction Editor for Ghost Town and the high school Outreach Coordinator for The Pacific Review. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently in the process of editing a young adult novel.

Matthew Nadelson teaches writing at Norco College and leads a creative writing workshop at the Corona Public Library (every other Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm) through the Inlandia Institute. He has lived and worked in Riverside County since 1997 (with the exception of a brief stint in San Diego at SDSU, where he earned his MFA in creative writing, from 2002 to 2005). His writing has been featured in more than 20 journals and anthologies, and he was recently featured on the Moon Tide Press website as their “Poet of the Month” for December 2013. His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.

Jean Waggoner, a published fine arts reviewer, poet, essayist and story writer, has taught college English and English as a Second Language in Riverside County for the past thirteen years and co-leads the Idyllwild poetry and creative writing workshops for Inlandia Institute. Jean is an advocate for part time faculty equity and co-author of a book on the part-time professor experience, The Freeway Flier & the Life of the Mind.

* Charlotte Davidson’s workshop is now CLOSED due to maximum enrollment; please check back in winter to see if openings are available or join one of our other upcoming workshops that still have seats. San Bernardino and Corona both have openings.

Cynthia Anderson

The I-10

Born in 1897, a San Bernardino native son,
my grandfather lived to be 100. Late in life,
when we would take him out for a drive,
he would point to some shopping mall
off the I-10 and say, We used to hunt
rabbits there.

When he retired from title insurance,
he had a farm in Cherry Valley,
fruit trees and eggs. Then, in Yucaipa,
he looked after my grandmother
who hung on 22 years after a crippling
stroke, with a will to live she learned
as an only child in Randsburg,
where her father worked for the mines.

Time and again, I would drive down the coast,
pick up the I-10 in Santa Monica,
take it straight through the polluted heart
of L.A. to the hinterlands, find my way
to the Yucaipa house by memory,
never using a map, never thinking
about how much the freeway
had changed the land in its short life.

My grandfather spent his last days
in a convalescent hospital in Riverside.
He remembered when the palm trees
along on Magnolia Drive were planted,
recalled Sunday drives before the first
world war. He and my grandmother are buried
in Desert Lawn, hardly a resting place,
the I-10 a noisy witness to the end
of their lives and the world they knew.


Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—”In the Mojave,” “Desert Dweller,” “Mythic Rockscapes,” and “Shared Visions I” and “Shared Visions II.” She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

Contributor Biographies

Cynthia Anderson is a writer and editor living in Yucca Valley, CA. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she has received poetry awards from the Santa Barbara Arts Council and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Her collaborations with photographer Bill Dahl are published in the book, Shared Visions.

Lee Balan was the first editor and art director for Beyond Baroque Magazine in Venice, CA.  His poems and stories have been featured in several magazines including Phantom Seed, Sun-Runner, and Storylandia. He was the facilitator for the Tenderloin Writer’s Workshop in San Francisco. His background in mental health has been a major influence on his work. Lee has been the featured poet at several events and venues including the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Recently, Lee self published his first novel Alien Journal.

Nancy Scott Campbell has been a desert hiker and resident for more than twenty years.  She has been a mediator, has taught English as a second Language, is a physical therapist,  and is delighted with the workshops of the Inlandia Institute.

With their girls grown and independent, Marcyn Del Clements and her husband, Richard, have more time to pursue their favorite activities: birding, butterfly and dragonfly watching, and fly-fishing. Marcy is published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Appalachia, Eureka Literary Magazine, Flyway, frogpond, Hollins Critic, Literary Review, Lyric, Sijo West, Snowy Egret, Wind, and others.

Mike Cluff is a fulltime English and Creative Writing instructor at Norco College. He has lived steadily in the Highland and Redlands area since 1998. His eighth book of poetry “Casino Evil was published in June 2009 by Petroglyph Books.

Rachelle Cruz is from the Bay Area but currently lives and writes in Riverside, CA.  She has taught creative writing, poetry, and performance to young people in New York City, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Riverside. She hosts “The Blood-Jet Writing Hour” Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. She is an Emerging Voices Fellow and a Kundiman Fellow, she is working towards her first collection of poems.

Sheela Sitaram Free (“Doc Free”) was born in Mumbai, India and has spent equal halves of her life in India and in the United States. Her BA in English Literature and Language, MA in English and American Literature and Language, MA in Hindi, PhD in the Contemporary American Novel-novels of John Updike-and her twenty four years of teaching all across the United States in Universities, colleges, and community colleges reveal her lifelong passion for the power of words, especially in the context of world literature and writing. Her collection of poetry entitled “Of Fractured Clocks, Bones and Windshields was published in February 2009 and nominated for the Association of Asian American Studies as well as the Asian American Workshop awards in 2010. She has been writing for over 20 years, but it was the Inland Empire that inspired and motivated her to publish; she has simply loved being a part of it for 9 years now. It is home to her and she draws a great deal of material from it in her poetry.

Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a clinical psychologist in Claremont, California. She has been writing since she was nine. In another life, she was a German Literature major and read poetry for credit. She has placed poems and photographs in many publications, including Off the Coast, Umbrella, Abyss & Apex, qarrtsiluni, Poemeleon, Lilliput Review, In Posse Review, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. She was nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize. Her first chapbook, Eggs Satori, received an Honorable Mention in Pudding House Publications’ 2010 competition, and will be published in 2011.

Valerie Henderson is an MFA Fiction student at CSUSB. More of her work can be found in The Sand Canyon Review.

Edward Jones is a graduate of UC Riverside’s MFA program and has been published in Faultline, Crate, Mosaic, and Inlandia: A Literary Journey.

Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four poetry collections including “Ghost Nurseries,” a Finishing Line chapbook (2005) and “Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths”, winner of the Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize (2008). Her poems, as well as the occasional short story and personal essay have appeared in many print and online journals including Calyx, Cimarron Review, The American Poetry Journal, Fox Chase Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Natural Bridge, The Hiram Poetry Review, Passager, Poetry International, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, The Women’s Review of Books, and The Pedestal, as well as in a dozen and a half anthologies or text books, including Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (Greenhouse Review Press/Alcatraz Editions, 2008), Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009), and Love over 60: An Anthology of Women’s Poems (Mayapple Press, 2010). She is a lecturer Emerita—after twenty-five years of teaching in the Creative Writing Department at UC Riverside. Her new poetry collection, “Shimmer,” has just been accepted by WordTech Editions.

Associate Fiction Editor Ruth Nolan, a former wildland firefighter and native of San Bernardino and the Mojave Desert, teaches Creative Writing and Literature at College of the Desert in Palm Desert. She is a poet and prose writer with works forthcoming in New California Writing, 2011 (Heyday, 2011) and in Sierra Club Magazine. She is editor of No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday, 2009) and a contributor to Inlandia: A Literary Journey (Heyday, 2006) She has collaborated on two film projects, “Escape to Reality: 24 hrs @ 24 fps” with the UCR-California Museum of Photography (2008), is a writer for a film in progress, Solar Gold: the Killing of Kokopelli (2011), and represents our region’s deserts in the “Nature Dreaming: Rediscovering California’s Landscapes” public radio series sponsored by Santa Clara University and the California Council for the Humanities (2011) She lives in Palm Desert.

Cindy Rinne has lived in the Inland Empire for 29 years. She is an artist and poet. Her poetry includes nature inspiration, parts of overheard conversations, observations on walks, life events, and her response to her own artwork and the works of others.

Except for a short-lived adventure to Long Beach, CA, Heather Rinne has lived in the Inland Empire her entire life. She grew up in San Bernardino and attended college at Cal Poly Pomona where she received a BFA in 2008. She  loved and still loves exploring the art community in the downtown Arts Colony. A fire took her parents’ home, the home where her childhood memories lived, in the fall of 2003. Even with the unexpected chance to move, her parents decided to rebuild on the same lot. Back in the place where she grew up, she makes new memories. She currently works as a Graphic Designer and Photographer out of her home office and dances at a studio in Redlands. She enjoys Redlands because it has a lot of history and is only a short trip to the desert, the city, the mountains, and the ocean.

Ash Russell is an MFA candidate at CSUSB. She has been telling stories since she learned how to speak and writing since she learned to string the alphabet together. She relearns regularly that the magnitude of space is emotionally devastating.

Mae Wagner is firmly rooted in the Inland Empire area and sees Inlandia stories everywhere just waiting to be told. She says, “writing has always been a passion, but was largely relegated to the back burner while she focused on raising a family, earning a living, and going to school.” Over the years, as a longtime Inland Empire resident, she has written for a public relations firm, the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, The Chino Champion newspaper, and had several columns published in the Op-Ed page of the Press-Enterprise when it was locally owned, including a noted investigate journalism series focused on a landmark environmental case involving the Stringfellow Acid Pits in Glen Avon, just west of Riverside. She currently writes a column for her home town paper in Hettinger, North Dakota and is enjoying being a member of the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshops, which she has attended since its opening session in the summer of 2008.

As a child, Rayme Waters spent some time each year at her grandmother’s house in Rancho Mirage and watched the desert cities grow up around it. Rayme’s stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Dzanc Best of the Web and have been published most recently in The Meadowland Review and The Summerset Review.