At one time, I imagined that a writers’ conference would involve a bunch of highbrow types dressed in black… peering suspiciously through horn-rimmed glasses… manuscripts clutched to their chests…slinking around from one deadpan lecture to another…
Uh… wrong!!! At the 7th Annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference: Cultural Crossroads of the Americas I have met vibrant creative people wearing very funky glasses, and dressed in colorful multiple layers (it is COLD in San Miguel…) And everyone is most eager to share their work and their knowledge. The workshops, keynotes, break-out sessions and socials have been as varied and interesting as the cast of attendees.
I would have to write pages upon pages to even list the activities that the conference organizers provided for us. I had the chance to meet crime writers, memoirists, poets, novelists, humorists, journalists, travel writers and even erotic literature writers.
At breakfast yesterday morning I spoke with one of the conference’s featured authors, Michael K. Schussler. His adventure (the only word that describes his life in Mexico) began with a train ride from Nogales to Guadalajara… While still an undergrad student at The University of Indiana, he participated in a program at the University of Jalapa, and eventually received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from UCLA
And like so many of us, after his first trip to Mexico… he was hooked .
Michael K. Schuessler is currently a Professor of Humanities at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, where he teaches courses dedicated to Latin American art and literature, pre-Columbian Mexico, and colonial Mexico.
At the writers’ conference he spoke about two U.S. Women and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance: Alma Reed, “La Peregrina” and Frances “Paca” Toor. However he and I and I discussed his book, “Elena Poniatowska: An Intimate Biography” © 2007 The University of Arizona Press. He explained that he used E.P.’s own technique so it would be, “a homage to her in both form and content.”
Elena Poniatowska is Mexico’s premier journalist and writer. Born in France (and a direct descendent of the last king of Poland) Elena Poniatowska moved to Mexico as a young girl. She was educated at a British grade school in Mexico and a Catholic high school in the United States. She speaks English and French as well as Spanish. Her vast collection of published works began in 1954 with the publication of Lilus Kikus, a collection of short stories. And she is still writing today.
Michael Schuessler befriended Elena Poniatowska more than fifteen years ago while he was researching and writing about her aunt Pita Amor. She generously allowed him access to the family archives and albums, and of course he became captivated with her. The biography is available in English and includes 40 photographs and drawings and an annotated bibliography of Poniatowska’s works.
Photos: Michael with Elena, Conference organizer Susan Page, Yours truly with celebrated Mexican author Araceli Ardón, the biography cover, Mérida attendees Marianne, Deanna and “Moi”