#AWP20 Featured Presenter Q&A with Norma E. CantĂș

AWP | January 2020

Event Title: Macondo and Gemini Ink: A Celebration of the Alebrijes of San Antonio
Description: With a spotlight on the Macondo Writers Workshop, founded by Sandra Cisneros, Gemini Ink presents a literary history that is uniquely San Antonio. This reading features groundbreaking multicultural, Latinx voices who have made significant contributions to contemporary letters. “Multi-instrumentalists” at heart, these Macondistas have produced genre-bending works, and, like the alebrijes of Mexican folk art tradition, walk between worlds of arts, activism, and academia to promote compassion.
Participants: Gregg Barrios, Norma E. Cantú, John Phillip Santos, Luis J. Rodriguez, Liliana Valenzuela
Location: Hemisfair Ballroom C3, Henry B. González Convention Center, Ballroom Level
Date & Time: Saturday, March 7, 3:20 p.m. to 4:35 p.m.


Q: What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP? 
I am looking forward to Helena Maria Viramontes’s Keynote and to the sessions with Latinx writers like my buddies from Kansas City! Also, I love the Bookfair as I get to see what’s new and reconnect with small press editors as well as the big ones! I have a couple of new books, so I am looking forward to book signings and to talking to editors about upcoming projects. I LOVE the university presses....of the small presses, I love: Gival Press, Aunt Lute Books, and the local Aztlan Libre Press. 

Q: What do you remember most about your first AWP? What advice would you give to an AWP first-timer?
I remember the first AWP was in DC and I was in awe of all the writers. Alicia Gaspar de Alba was doing a book signing for Sor Juana’s Second Dream, I believe. I especially remember attending a session on poetry translation. Advice? Be open to attending sessions you might not be all that interested in...you never know! I went to a creative nonfiction session and gained so much—at that point I had been writing mostly poetry and short fiction, but hearing all the wonderful ideas for genre bending affirmed my own inclination which I’d been experimenting with since reading Anzaldúa’s Borderlands.

Q: What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
That’s a tough question—I feel so blessed to have been a part of AWP for more than 20 years now! Of course, that means I have many wonderful memories. Memories of my own participation: I was on a panel with my Latinx writing group from Kansas City—I think it was in Seattle—LOVED it! A panel in Austin got me to go to Puerto Rico—long story! Then I was on a panel of Macondistas talking about spirituality and writing—Wow! I also remember a panel with CantoMundistas talking about poetry and teaching. And I have so many memories of being an audience member....

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
I would recommend in young adult: Acevedo’s The Poet X, Salazar's The Moon Within; in nonfiction: Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees and Forché’s What You Have Heard Is True and Arana’s Silver, Sword, and Stone; fiction: Cásares’s Where We Come From, Orange’s There There, and Fajardo-Anstine’s Sabrina & Corina.

Q: If you’ve been to San Antonio before, what places do you recommend that our attendees should visit?
I live here so I recommend the usual—the Missions, the River Walk, the Sunken Gardens, and the wonderful restaurants.


Norma E. CantĂșNorma E. Cantú, a daughter of the borderlands, lives in San Antonio. She is the Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University in San Antonio and is president of the American Folklore Society. Her novels, Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera and Cabañuelas, incorporate the folklife of Texas and Spain, respectively. She has edited and coedited more than a dozen books, and her most recent publication is a collection of poetry, Meditación Fronteriza: Poems of Love, Life, and Labor.

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