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“La Cuarentena”

We’re a month into the quarantine here in El Salvador.

I’m holed up in “The Complejo,” the on-campus housing for foreign staff, leaving only to go to the grocery store or a restaurant to order food “para llevar” (to go). I’ve stayed sane by teaching my classes online, finishing my storm-drain survivors book, reading, working out, studying Spanish, taking afternoon walks on the fringes of campus, etc. If I had to be stuck somewhere, I could certainly do worse; the weather is pleasant, the number of confirmed cases is relatively low and we have access to a pool, track and basketball courts.

I hope that this post finds you happy and healthy! Con mucho amor …

A new smile for Billy

You might remember Billy, the Army vet who was featured in the CrowdRise video a few years ago. Thanks, in part, to the money raised by the video, Billy was able to move out of the tunnels and back to Texas, where he reunited with family and got a job. He’s still housed and now has a car and is managing a wedding venue.

The next step in his recovery process is to get a set of permanent teeth. (He currently has dentures.) He feels that permanent teeth would boost his confidence and benefit him personally and professionally.

A dentist has agreed to volunteer much of the labor to give Billy a new smile, and a friend has vowed to match any donation dollar for dollar. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page to try to raise the rest of the money. I am sharing the link to the page (below) and making a donation. I encourage you to do the same.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/billy039s-new-smile

A book recommendation

If you’re looking for a final summer read or a book to carry you into the fall, please consider my friend Moniro Ravanipour’s The Drowned. The book, originally written in Persian and well received in her homeland Iran, has been translated into English (I helped edit that version) and is now available on Amazon.com. What struck me most about the book is its effective use of magical realism and its vivid depiction of the people, customs and myths of a village on the Persian Gulf.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1081589167?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860&fbclid=IwAR0mm1KpK-ft6kEhJWCnU1RLUFIHzOs_hRvm2T_ibXbIgHBJgEE9eUJ71hA

Feedback on your writing?

Looking for fast, honest and professional feedback on your writing: a book, short story, poem, essay, web content, résumé, bio, etc.? If so, let me know. I sent the latest draft of my tunnel-survivors book to the publisher, and school does not start for another month, so I may take on select editing projects to make some extra money.

If you’re interested, please email me the details (what type of work you want feedback on, its length, what you’re looking for editing-wise, your deadline, etc.) and I’ll respond promptly. Gracias!

Job update

And just like that—finger snap!—my two-year contract at Escuela Americana in San Salvador has been fulfilled. Indeed, the time blurred by, in part because I was so busy. Last school year, I had three “preps” (different classes) and I taught five total classes, while also sponsoring EA’s arts magazine. I worked, on average, about 50 hours a week.

In short, the job was challenging and an incredible learning experience, but not sustainable for me.

I will, however, be returning to Escuela Americana in a slightly different capacity. I’ll be teaching two classes and tutoring in the writing center for two or three “blocks,” for a total of 35 hours a week. Hopefully, this will allow me more free time to enjoy beautiful El Salvador, to write, study Spanish, etc.

It’s a one-year contract, so we shall see how it goes. But I’m incredibly excited about the upcoming school year and all of the other prospects and experiences that, no doubt, await. As always, I’ll keep you updated.

Con amor …

The latest issue of Interim

Eight or nine months ago, I posted an excerpt of a poem I was working on—a processing of sorts of my move from Las Vegas to San Salvador—and asked for advice on where I should submit it. The poem was eventually picked up by Interim, an old and respected literary journal based at UNLV, and it’s included in the latest issue. Titled “El Salvador” (or “The Savior”), the poem starts:

The rain broke.

Stars shone like stars.

The same Scorpius

that looked down on me

in the desert?

 

Fixed for millennia.

I migrated, in reverse,

from dawn to dusk.

 

The night—

so black it’s blue—

embraced me with amputated arms. …

 

You can read the rest of the poem, and the latest issue, here:

https://www.interimpoetics.org/

PS- A few of you read various drafts of the poem and provided feedback. Thank you! Also, a special thanks to Interim Editor Claudia Keelan and Assistant Editor Andrew S. Nicholson.

Book update

It took awhile, but I’ve found a home for my book about the people who survived the Las Vegas storm drains.

When I lived in Las Vegas, I wasn’t aware of Central Recovery Press. But my grad-school buddy Dan Hernandez got a job there, and I added CRP to my list of publishers that may be interested in the book project. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d ever contact them; I was confident I could place this book with an agent, or a publisher outside of Vegas. But that proved difficult and tedious, so I reached out to CRP, through Dan, and they were interested in the book. And the more I learned about them—a niche (addiction and recovery) that fits the book, a national distributor, competitive advances, etc.—the more interested I became. Finally, after several weeks of back and forth, I signed the contract.

The hope is that this book, tentatively titled Two Cops and a Cricket: Surviving the Las Vegas Storm Drains, will be published in the next year or so. I also hope that it will raise money and awareness for Shine a Light. (One-fourth of the money I make off the book will go to Shine a Light, and I will encourage CRP to contribute to the program as well).

As always, I will keep you all updated. And thanks again for your support!

A new poem

The Savior

The rain broke.
Stars shone like stars.
The same Scorpius
that looked down on me
in the desert?

Fixed for millennia;
I migrated, in reverse,
from dawn to dusk.

The night embraced me
with amputated arms. …

That’s the beginning of the second draft of a poem I’m working on. I guess the poem is a processing of sorts of my move from Las Vegas to San Salvador. If the next draft turns out well, I may submit it to small and mid-sized literary journals based out West (as they may be interested in the Vegas angle).

If there’s a lit journal you think I should consider, please let me know. (I’m out of the loop on that.) Gracias!

Special Collections update

As some of you may recall, before leaving Las Vegas I donated the notes and memorabilia from my first two books to UNLV’s Special Collections. They’ve sorted through the boxes and made the contents available to the public. Here’s a write-up on the collection, along with a few pics.

https://www.library.unlv.edu/whats_new_in_special_collections/2018/07/collection-highlight-matthew-o%E2%80%99brien-papers-tammi-kim.html