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Lagniappe: A Little Something Extra

Melinda Palacio -- June 11, 2012

In the past two months, I've had the pleasure of visiting Cal State University Fresno, El Paso Community College, and Cal State University Channel Islands. Most of campuses have invited me to discuss my novel, Ocotillo Dreams. However, I always start off with something I learned to offer in Louisiana, "lagniappe," meaning a little something extra. In my presentations, it means I introduce readers to my poetry and talking about my journey as a writer.

I'm humbled by the positive feedback of my poems and a bit surprised by how hungry students are for poetry. I haven't put my finger on the issue, but I have a feeling that some people are afraid of poetry. I had a friend tell me that he doesn't get poetry and therefore only reads fiction and non-fiction. I don't buy it.

When I sit down to read a novel, I'm looking for the poetry in the prose. The moment in the telling of the story that makes me sigh and read the exquisite sentence over again. Most of us who really love words live for these moments. Maybe, it's just me? Regardless, I'm happy to introduce readers to poetry. The lagniappe for me is when students and readers tell me they are inspired to write their own poetry and fiction. One of the questions I am often asked is: "What came first and what do you prefer, writing novels or poetry?"

Given that so far I've only written one novel, the answer is much easier than the proverbial chicken and egg question. Poetry remains my favorite love (to use El Ray Bradbury's expression, he calls all forms of writing and genres loves).

I love the instant gratification of working on a poem and seeing a finished draft after scribbling words on a blank piece of paper. And yes, I always start with pen and paper. Sometimes the page is not blank. I've written notes on scraps of paper that have become future poems, such as receipts, napkins, and ATM stubs. Similar to things I jot down in the middle of the night, being able to read my writing is not as important as making the note to self and having a tactile reminder. The act of jotting down some words or phrases helps me remember my original intention.

While I love stories, both fiction and non-fiction, I believe it's all about the poetry, the music, and the rhythm of words. I'm especially thrilled when readers of Ocotillo Dreams appreciate the poetry in my prose. I'm currently working on a new novel and I am excited that Tia Chucha Press will publish my first full-length book of poems, How Fire Is A Story, Waiting, (Fall 2012).

On Cinco de Mayo, I had the pleasure of joining Michele Serros, Heidi Durrow, Susan Dunlap, Candacy Taylor, and Karen Tei Yamashita at the 7th Annual Women's Literary Festival at Fess Parker's Double Tree Resort in Santa Barbara.

Toni Margarita Plummer and I will be on the first book panel at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, June 9-14.

News: The Mesilla Cultural Center needs your help. We've reported on the center's librotraficante event, the past Border Book Festivals, and the wonderful center in New Mexico, headed by Denise Chávez. Contact Denise on how you can help the center relocate and keep its doors open: Help the Mesilla Cultural Center.