How do you get published? What’s a query letter? How do you get an agent or a manager? Should you get an agent or a manager? All these questions and more will be answered for writers—both beginning and experienced—during the ninth annual Latino Writers’ Conference, held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center May 19 through 21. Internationally successful authors, editors and agents will present workshops and lectures. Participants are guaranteed one-on-one meeting time with the professionals. “The mission of the conference is to encourage Latinos to publish their work,” says Carlos Vásquez, the history and literary arts director at NHCC, “and to bring to them other Latino writers that are now successful.”
The NHCC created the conference to amend what the institution viewed as poor representation of Latino writers in major publishing houses, and even smaller, independent presses. The answer was to empower writers with knowledge about how to get their work published, and to create networking possibilities where they could get advice from experts. Aspiring authors of all ages come from all over the country to participate.
This year the workshops are more specialized than in conferences past. The focus is not on teaching attendees the basics of how to write, but instructing them on the finer details and the mechanics of what to do after a manuscript is finished. “A lot of people get rejected,” Vásquez says, “not because they don’t have talent or their writing isn’t good. They don’t know the process, they don’t know the steps.” The guest artists include award-winning poet and educator Francisco Alarcón, who will teach “El Poder de la Poesía: Poetry for Two Languages.” Monica Brown, the author of more than half a dozen bilingual books for children, will teach “Writing for Children.” One of the original three blogueros of the Latino literary website La Bloga, Michael Sedano, will lead the workshop “Presenting Your Work.” All the participants will have their work read and critiqued by the guests. “You know, you get feedback from a Pulitzer Prize-winner,” Vásquez says. “That will do something to you.”
The mission of the conference is to encourage Latinos to publish their work.
Carlos Våsquez, NHCC history and literary arts director
The NHCC provides conference scholarships for students who are enrolled in writing programs at New Mexico’s two- and four-year colleges and universities. There are also a limited number of scholarships for local, nonstudent writers who can’t afford the registration. Workshops and panels are open only to registrants, except the May 19 poetry reading by Alurista, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry and founder of the Chicano Studies Department at San Diego State University. Alurista’s reading is free and open to the public.
Even though the conference starts Thursday, Vásquez says it’s not too late to register. He encourages would-be participants to contact the NHCC. “We’re pretty flexible,” he says. “If they’re serious about it, we will find a way to accommodate them.”