Author: Sam Quinones

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Introduction to Volume Seven

The stories always get so good. That’s what I love about the storytelling project I began years ago known as Tell Your True Tale. Sometimes it takes a while. Writing, as our motto says, is about rewriting – and editing and more rewriting. But eventually you get to great, unexpected tales – like “Padrino,” which leads this volume by Lena Solis-Aguilera. Lena tells of her relationship with an old man, a Santeria priest, who became like a father to her and her young son. So too is the story by Peggy Adams, about her aunt in Alabama years ago, who was against divorce, but not against her husband leaving. I love working with writers and watching as their pieces take shape, like a photograph back when pictures were developed by film and in chemical baths. These stories, which vary as widely as the authors,were like that. Jian Huang, a Chinese immigrant, writes of her father leaving for the United States and their reuniting a couple years later. Felecia Howell writes of her Japanese mother-in-law, the …

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Introduction to Volume Six

This Tell Your True Tale volume has its beginnings in a new place. The previous five volumes have all grown from workshops at East LA Library, and the friendly confines of the Chicano Resource Center. But we’ve been wanting to include other libraries in our search for new writers and new stories. So this time we went to the cheerfully named Sunkist Library in the La Puente area. I thank Leticia Napoles, adult services librarian at Sunkist Library, for her hospitality in hosting us over the several weeks that we met. As with previous volumes of true stories, this one is packed with amazing tales. Peggy Adams starts the volume with a tale of the day her sister and brother died decades ago, and the aftermath to that tragic day. Gladys Ruacho narrates a visit to her parent’s native Cuba and what she learned when she went there. Monique Quintero remembers her uncle, who was finding ways of overcoming years of trauma. Trace Richardson tells the story of her departed aunt, a rock of love …

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Introduction to Volume 5

The search, the trip, the obsession with finding some knowledge – these themes have provided fodder for wonderful stories through history – from the Odyssey to Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes to Frozen. These themes also wind their way through many of the dozen stories in this latest volume – Volume 5 – of Tell Your True Tale: East Los Angeles. Sylvia Castañeda spent 20 years seeking the disappeared children of her grand-aunt before she found what happened to them – and she tells that story here. Felecia Howell tells of the search for commonality that led her to Liberia as a Peace Corps. Much the same search sent Miguel Roura to Mexico as a college student. Susanna Franek discovered an emerging Los Angeles, from her post as an ad saleswoman for La Opinion newspaper. In sixth grade, a Chinese girl growing up in South L.A., Jian Huang seeks, and finds, a friend, finally. Celia Viramontes tells the tale of a Zacatecan bracero searching for his family’s sustenance in Nebraska. Sarah Alvarado contributes a terrific story …

Introduction to Volume 3

One of the exciting times in the life of a writing-workshop instructor comes in watching the stories of new authors emerge. Usually, this takes discussion, talking about a story possibility. Some stories are obvious; others not so. Often writers aren’t aware that even the tiniest moment can yield a stunning tale. So you wrangle over them, talk them out, parse out their details. Then, usually, a moment occurs when the writer sees the story and all it might be. I love that part of it. Then they throw themselves into the piece. As they write, then rewrite, their stories peek from the shadows and come to life like photographs, slowly adding detail until a full portrait of an event emerges. That moment comes at different times with each writer, as it should. For Jose Nunez, who wrote the story, in this volume, of his trip one night as a kid down the two-block street on which he grew up, it arrived fairly quickly. The trip seemed 20 minutes in his life at first, but as …

Introduction to Volume 2

The story of an almost-blind Czech child and that of an East L.A. boy fascinated with Albert Einstein. A girl running off to Mexico at 16 to marry a man she can’t understand. A gang member painting a mural to his barrio. A bracero coming to save the crops during World War II and a young man helping a friend cross the U.S.-Mexico border. A woman dying alone with her memories and another haunted by spirits. These are the stories you’ll find in this, the second volume produced by eight new authors in my Tell Your True Tale writing workshop at East L.A. public library. The thin volume you hold in your hands grew from an experiment tried in 2013. Daniel Hernandez and I began discussing a speech I had coming up at the Chicano Resource Center, which he directs, at the library. I’d been doing these workshops occasionally over the previous five years. Up to that point, however, all had been connected to a speaking engagement at a high school or college – and …

Introduction to Volume 1

I wouldn’t have blamed Daniel Hernandez for being skeptical. Daniel is the director of the Chicano Resource Center at the East L.A. Library, run by the L.A. County Library system. Over the summer of 2013, he and I were talking about a speech I was to give at his center on my two books of nonfiction stories about Mexico and Mexican migration. But then I veered off topic. How about a writing workshop to go along with it? I’d been giving my workshop, Tell Your True Tale, to classes at high schools and community colleges for a few years by then. I had 50+ stories up on my website (www.samquinones.com). I designed the workshop to demystify writing. I get people writing stories from their own lives, or those of people close to them. I told Daniel I found this an effective way to teach some of the basics of storytelling, of getting people to begin to think like writers while, just as important, getting them energized to write. From there, I said, I focus on …