Short Story #1: First Day

In honor of National Short Story Month, we will be posting some of the stories from the first Along the River anthology.

Up first is “First Day” by Daniel Tyx, which won second prize.

The panic began creeping into my body from the moment I pulled into the gravel parking lot at Josephina Aguilar Elementary School.  Mr. Hernández, the head janitor, was out in a reflective orange vest directing the swarm of pick-ups and 70’s-era gas-guzzlers, herding the students into the gym that served as a holding pen until the day officially began.  The school buses pulled around back, discharging dozens more students.  As I waded through the crush of students into the still-empty hallways, I felt a tension branch up through my chest cavity, into my deltoids and neck, spreading outward until it had reached my hands, which I held clenched to try and make the shaking go away.

I waited, cocooned in the safety of my classroom, for 7:45 to arrive.  I set out the name tents that I’d labored to write in my best cursive; I hadn’t written in cursive since junior high school, but I wanted to set a good example.  When that was done, I adjusted and readjusted the desks to make sure the horseshoe was perfectly symmetrical.  I was so occupied by keeping myself busy that I showed up a minute-and-a-half late to the gym.  The other classes were already walking single-file down the hallway in my direction in total silence.  Every student had their hands locked behind their backs like shackled inmates; later I would learn they were trained to walk that way since kindergarten to keep them from pushing and shoving in line.

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¡Juventud! to Feature Award-Winning Authors

In January 2013, VAO Publishing will release ¡Juventud! Growing up on the Border: Stories and Poetry. Edited by René Saldaña, Jr. (author of The Jumping Tree, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, A Good Long Way) and Erika Garza-Johnson, this YA anthology will feature work by notable authors David Rice, Xavier Garza, Álvaro Rodríguez, Diana López, and others.

VAO Celebrates Poetry #2: No, Trovador

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we will be posting some of the many outstanding poems from Along the River. Here is the poem for which Verónica Sandoval took second prize.

No, Trovador

No, Trovador
I will not let you sing to me about love
I will not be another conquest de guitarra y amores de México
Yo no soy tu Amorcito Corazón
Tu muñeca de cuerda
I will not wait que salga la luna
I do not need your cositas bonitas
Quiero ser como Chavela Vargas
Quiero ser La Negra
Quiero nunca tener que engrasar las ejes de mi carreta
Quiero amar
a mi manera.

-Verónica Sandoval

VAO Celebrates Poetry #1: McAllen Morning

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we will be posting some of the many outstanding poems from Along the River. First up we have the poem for which Richard D. Givens took first prize.


Sunrise in McAllen…
A brochure flutters along the curb
Behind the lone street sweeper
Making the only strip of moisture the day will see.
The colored pamphlet flashes photos of citrus,
Early landmarks, airlines at Miller Field,
Places to dine under a palmed paradise.

Rings of activity yawn with firing burners.
The waft of tortillas spread from the inner core
As pesos for migas are traded in serious Tex-Mex.
Pigeons flap from phone poles to browse the park.

The surrounding commercial district has not yet begun.
Managers and staff will magically appear at their desks
In an hour. Meanwhile, Mexican Yellowheads make noisy
Lime-green circles in an air race around the library.

Farther out, neighborhoods void themselves of children in cars;
A moment’s stop at school, then on to work, wherever.
Through the windshield, receding orchards pass.
Four-wheeled concert halls blare Selena, Reba, Smashing Pumpkins.

At the outer ring, retirees in plaid shorts exit new homes
To fiddle in the garden, or to meet other pensioners for golf.
The driveways are white, the trees are small,
The early air is filled with saws and the smell of pine lumber.

Holding the rings together are streets and phone wires
But more importantly, places to meet and unite in ideas
Of interest to both languages and cultures;
At school, church, the museum, Luby’s, El Posito, H.E.B.,
From North and South to McAllen; only a river divides.

Richard D. Givens

FESTIBA: Jardín del Arte

VAO Publishing will have a table at tomorrow’s Jardín del Arte, a community festival taking place at the Edinburg City Hall from 5 to 10 pm.  This event is part of the annual Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA), created in 2006 to promote an interest and appreciation for reading and early literacy, celebrate and appreciate the arts and humanities, and broaden cultural awareness within the South Texas community.

Drop by if you have a chance: there will be books and t-shirts for sale, as well as information about Valley Artistic Outreach and its mission.

Here’s a photo from the event:

From 3/30/12

Combustible Sinners Launches at Local Museum

The Donna Hooks Fletcher Historical Museum will be hosting its monthly artist reception at the town’s Historical Donna News Building, 129 S. 8th Street, on March 30, from 4:30 to 6 pm.

March’s “Evening of Art” is the latest in an ongoing series of celebrations of exhibits hosted by the museum.  Admission is free, and hors d’oeuvre will be served.

This month’s reception honors the work of author Myra Infante, whose first book is released this month, and Nicol Bowles, an artist whose work is on display at the museum throughout the month of March.

Myra Infante lives and teaches in the Rio Grande Valley. She received her MFA in Creative Writing at The University of Texas Pan American. Myra has traveled with the UTPA Study Abroad program to England, Spain, France, and Italy. She plans to spend her life teaching, writing, and traveling.  Her first book, Combustible Sinners and Other Stories, is being released by VAO Publishing on March 27.  The collection of short fiction brings to life the familiar yet freshly different world of a community of Hispanics in the RGV and northern Mexico.

Nicol Bowles is a resident of Donna. An accomplished photographer, painter and graphic artist, Nicol has had work exhibited at Douglas Clark Studio, the McAllen Library, Peace & Coffee, Roosevelts at 7, and other venues.  She has designed the covers of several books, including Combustible sinners and Other Stories, as well as logos, flyers, web sites and t-shirts for a host of local organizations.  In addition to her work as co-director of the non-profit Valley Artistic Outreach, Nicol is pursuing a degree in graphic design.  She is also director and head editor of the literary magazine Gallery.

For further information, contact Dalia Jiménez or Elvira Tovar at 956-464-9989 or e-mail them at  The exhibit is open to the public during normal museum hours, Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 am to 3 pm each day.

Mexican Bestiary | Bestiario Mexicano

On June 29, VAO Publishing will release Mexican Bestiary | Bestiario Mexicano, an illustrated encyclopedia of legendary creatures from Mexico that will delight both young and old. Featuring fabulous art by co-author Noé Vela, this volume serves as an introduction to the mythology of a great people as well as a tool for enhancing the literacy of language learners. Recommended for young adult readers.

El 29 de junio, el editorial VAO publicará Mexican Bestiary | Bestiario Mexicano, una enciclopedia ilustrada de seres legendarios de México que deleitará a los jóvenes y a los adultos por igual. Con el fabuloso arte de co-autor Noé Vela, este volumen sirve tanto como introducción a la mitología de un gran pueblo como una herramienta para mejorar las habilidades de los que están aprendiendo inglés o español. Se recomienda para lectores jóvenes.

Book Description
Who protects our precious fields of corn? What leaps from the darkness when you least suspect it? Which spirit waits for little kids by rivers and lakes? From the ahuizotl to the xocoyoles—and all the imps, ghosts and witches in between—this illustrated bilingual encyclopedia tells you just what you need to know about the things that go bump in the night in Mexico and the US Southwest.

¿Quién protege nuestras milpas preciosas? ¿Qué cosa salta de la oscuridad cuando menos te lo esperes? ¿Cuál espíritu acecha a los pequeños cerca de los ríos y los lagos? Desde el ahuizotl a los xocoyoles—y demás diablillos, fantasmas y brujas—esta enciclopedia ilustrada bilingüe te dice justo lo que debes saber sobre las cosas que dan miedo en México y en el suroeste de los Estados Unidos.

Book Details
Paperback: 203 pages
Publishing Date: June 30, 2012
Language: English and Spanish
ISBN-10: 0615571190
ISBN-13: 978-0615571195
Product Dimensions:
Shipping Weight:

Book Availability
The enciclopedia will be available through as a trade paperback or an eBook. Additionally, eBook versions will be available through Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBookstore. Mexican Bestiary | Bestiario Mexicano will eventually be available for order at most national bookstores. To preview and purchase online, navigate to the book’s Amazon page by clicking here.

Preface to Donna Hooks Fletcher: Life and Writings

On February 4, VAO Publishing released Donna Hooks Fletcher: Life and Writings, a fascinating glimpse inside a truly unique pioneer woman.  Following is the preface, penned by the editor.

MANY REMARKABLE men and women have made the Río Grande Valley their home over the years: the indigenous Coahuiltecan tribes which hunted and fished along the sacred sliver of water; the Spanish settlers who hoped for glory, gold or God and whose culture flavors our own; and the Americans driven by expansionist vision to push ever farther into the wilderness, risking much.  All of them came to a largely inhospitable region, and over the centuries made it a garden, a monument to humanity’s ability to remake the world.

Donna Hooks Fletcher stands out even among these venerable individuals as bridging their often conflicting visions of the world.  As a divorcée, she flouted the norms of her time.  She was a pioneer and entrepreneur who carved out a piece of the scrub and crafted multiple successful businesses. But she was also a woman of great compassion and charity, who stretched forth a helping hand to others in her community. And like the Native Americans whose lands these were for millennia before us, she felt a great unity with the sacred and sought to teach others to find the divine within themselves and the world.

Within these pages you will discover her voice: clear, unaffected, confident. She faced the world in all its immensity and was not daunted.  We can only hope to do the same.

—David Bowles
21 January, 2012