Writing workshop to teach students to tell own stories

These warriors take the pen over the sword.

As many as 100 high school seniors from the Goliad Independent School District are expected to attend the first Writing Warriors Workshop on Thursday at the University of Houston-Victoria.

During the all-day event, students will meet with authors Christine Granados and Diana Lopez, and attend a lecture by author Tony Diaz as part of the American Book Review Fall Reading Series.

“This is a great way to get students to personally connect with the writing process and encourage them to develop those skills that they will need to succeed,” said Macarena Hernández, coordinator of the workshop and the Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor of the Humanities at UHV.

The authors will teach students how to use their own stories to improve their writing skills, which are vital in the present information age, Hernández said.

“Knowing your past helps you figure out your future,” Lopez said. “I want students to walk away feeling validated, feeling like their experience is a story worth telling.”

All three writers were featured in “Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas-Mexican Literature,” the groundbreaking anthology edited by award-winning author Dagoberto Gilb, who recently joined the UHV faculty as a writer-in-residence and professor of Latino studies. Lopez, Granados and Diaz are all members of the troupe of authors with the same name that travels the state promoting Latino literature and writing among high school students.

The authors also will expose students to literary works that focus on Latino characters, who are often underrepresented in classroom reading and literature in general, Hernández said.

“It’s important that we share literature that is reflective of all Texans,” she said. “Literature is one of the ways we share our experiences. If voices are excluded, we are denying students a major part of the rich story of Texas.”

Lopez is a Corpus Christi native whose short fiction has been featured in Texas Monthly, New Texas, Chicago Quarterly Review and the Sycamore Review. Her second novel, “Confetti Girl,” recently was released by Little Brown. Publisher’s Weekly praised the novel targeted at young readers, saying that it employs “lovely metaphors and realistic dialogue … and displays the power of optimism and innovation during difficult times.”

The book publisher described it as follows: “Apolonia ‘Lina’ Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover and a girl who is just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books (her dad is a bibliophile), she’s having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care about books more than her, why her best friend’s divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year. Like colors in a cascarón, Lina’s life is a rainbow of people, interests and unexpected changes.”

Granados, who was raised in El Paso, is an author, freelance journalist, lecturer at Texas A&M-College Station and mother of two boys. Her anthology, “Brides and Sinners in El Chuco,” was published in 2006 by the University of Arizona Press and went on to win numerous awards. Her stories have been featured in many anthologies, including “Texas Literature: A Case Study,” “Literacy El Paso” and “NPR’s Latino USA.”

A UHV career counselor also will be on hand to show students how good written communication skills are mandatory for many careers, Hernández said.

“This way, students can see how what they are learning in the classroom directly applies to their future success,” she said.

Writing Warriors is part of UHV’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

The workshop is the first of many projects UHV is planning to improve reading and writing skills, and promote higher education in the Hispanic community.

“The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing demographic in the United States but is one of the least represented in higher education,” Hernández said. “Teaching students to love the written word is a great way to encourage students to continue their studies.”

The event is sponsored by UHV’s Letting Education Achieve Dreams (LEAD) initiative and the American Book Review.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342