A Celebration of Literature

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Meridith Machen. When I met her, we spent a good amount of time talking about writing. We knew many of the same people, though we had never met. Machen has Ph.D. in English from UNM. She is also the founder of Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe (LVSF), and is the former Assistant Vice President of the Santa Fe Community College. She had many good contacts and ideas to share with me. I’m not sure how she finds time to be the President of the League of Women Voters? She’s a great role model and as it turns out, a wonderful woman to network with.

When I met Dr. Machen, she invited me to an anniversary celebration for the LVSF. That was just in conversation, but after asking for my contact information, she actually contacted me. She suggested I attend a Santa Fe Reads event and then she sent a separate message suggesting I contact an editor she knows to publish my poetry. I was surprised that such a busy woman made time for me. I actually felt honored. She is well known here. Her efforts with regard to education and helping illiterate people change their lives is widely respected.

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••Email from Dr. Machen as she begins expanding my network.••

When I walked in, I immediately saw Dr. Machen and I apologized for being in gym attire. The first words out of her mouth were “did you know that E.A. Mares passed away?” I told her I had heard and that it was very sad. The man with unbelievable talents should have been around longer. It is always a sad time when a poetic soul is lost. E.A. Mares was known as “Tony.” He was a Professor Emeritus of English with UNM. I think the most touching moment of today was when another author (who I really like) read a Mares poem.

The full house was welcomed with a proclamation issued by Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. Today was officially “Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe 30th Anniversary Day!” I was saddened to learn that almost 50% of New Mexico residents are illiterate. What? That was hard to believe, but this group would know the numbers because they are trying to change that.

The event sold out. Luckily, my ticket was on will call. Unfortunately, my boss Anne didn’t make it to the event, but her contribution was still publicly recognized. The other authors who offered readings and thoughts were Sallie Bingham, Natalie Goldberg, Valerie Plame Wilson (the former CIA agent), and John Nichols. The moderator was Mary Charlotte, host of Santa Fe Radio Café. This was an extraordinary panel of people. My two favorites…hands down were Nichols and Goldberg. They were both funny and witty. I discovered that Plame Wilson is still very green in the world of writing, though her career with the CIA is undoubtedly interesting. 

Today I had a well rounded look at how these people became writers. That was the best part of the panel discussion. The words and personalities of Nichols and Goldberg really resonated with me. As writers, they make a real difference out there. Following are a few quotes and thoughts I jotted down today.

“We [writers] are always at work.”
•••John Nichols

“Everything in life is interconnected.”
•••Natalie Goldberg

John Nichols talked about being in remedial reading as child. Now he is a famous author.

John Nichols honored a fellow writer when he talked about the loss of E.A. Mares. Nichols choked up when he read a poem about the death of Tony’s 20 year old daughter. I cried too. It was very touching.

John Nichols called New Mexico a “cultural mezcla.”

John Nichols talked about loving all genres of music and types of writing because Flaubert said a writer “should know everything.”

“First you read to them when they are one, and then two, and then three and four and… well then you just threaten them.”
•••John Nichols (giggling when talking about children reading books in a media saturated world)

Natalie Goldberg talked about the importance of penmanship, how it is disappearing from the curriculum, and teaching penmanship to young people.

Natalie talked about not having books in her house when she was little. She says this contributed to her need to express herself and eventually become a writer.

“Literature will prevail and it will make people hunger for it.”
•••Natalie Goldberg

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