Riberas Authors’ 2nd WEDNESDAY series presents the area’s best in books, visual art, and musical performances to the public. Each month celebrates a different author, visual artist, and musician in a the garden setting of the Lake Chapala Society’s South Campus (map here). Hear local authors read from their work, and learn about the experiences which have influenced it.
Check out this month’s program…
LITERATURE Judy King | Echoes From The Wall
Plenty of villagers along the Ribera have at one time or another lived and worked in the States, or have family – including children and grandchildren – born in the U.S.
Many now returned to Mexico were the victims of joblessness spawned by the 2008 recession, and others of U.S. immigration law enforcement. Some of their stories are among those which appear in Judy King’s just-released work Echoes from the Wall: Real Stories of Mexican Migrant.
In Echoes, the author has built upon her collection of oral histories to animate a deep dive into the cultural, economic, and legal context of Mexican migration. It’s a revealing, nothing-but-the-facts account of U.S. immigration law, processes, and enforcement presented from a rare viewpoint and written in straightforward prose that reflects King’s experience as a journalist. A long-time resident of Mexico, Judy’s exploration of the immigration issue reflects a sensitivity to the Mexican experience which often escapes foreign journalists.
Barbara Bickmore lived and wrote in Ajijic from 1990 to 1997. She recalled writing her first story at the age of seven, but fifty-four years would pass before her dream deferred would reveal itself in a frenetic burst of writing creativity.
Born and raised on Long Island, Bickmore exhibited an interest in literature and theater from childhood and grew up to become a teacher. She married, and her career was later interrupted for several years following the births of her three children.
Divorced after 16 years of marriage, Bickmore took a sabbatical from teaching in order to complete her Masters degree, then moved with her children to Oregon in 1973. When her attempts at farming and shopkeeping failed, she returned to teaching until her employer declined to renew her contract in 1985.
The now unemployed Bickmore was invited to China by a daughter who was at the time working as an English language instructor in Xian. During the visit mother and daughter befriended a South African couple. The experience led Bickmore to later choose both China and South Africa as settings for some of her books.
Upon her return to the States, Bickmore completed her first novel, East of the Sun, which was published in 1988 when she was aged 61.
She came to Ajijic in 1990 following publication of her second novel, The Moon Below, and stayed for 7 years.
During her time in Ajijic she completed five books, including:
The Back of Beyond (1994)
Deep in the Heart (1996)
Beyond the Promise (1997)
While none of her books were set in Mexico, Bickmore was clearly enamored of the Lake Chapala area, writing of it:
I lived for 7 magical years in a little Mexican village, Ajijic, high in the mountains south of Guadalajara on the edge of Lake Chapala. They were the happiest years of my life.
She returned to Oregon in 1998, where she continued to write and where she remained until her death at age 87.
The themes of Bickmore’s books are expressions of her personal morality, and she considered her work a form of political activism:
I am against war. I am for a woman’s right to reproductive choice. I believe women should have the same choices, and chances, men do. I am against racism. I believe education can make for better informed choices and can expand one’s view of the world and make for a limitless horizon. I believe friendship is one of the most important things in life and that love is the single most important ingredient. I believe in kindness and that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
One of the amazing and wonderful, almost unbelievable, things about writing is that people read what I think and feel and perhaps I even influence a few. I’d like to be like my heroines, each of whom makes a difference in their worlds. They look out beyond themselves to help others and hopefully make the world a better place.
Bickmore’s books were at least as popular abroad as in the U.S., and her work has been translated into 16 languages.
Read more about Barbara Bickmore and browse her books here on Amazon.
Read more about the Lake Chapala area’s rich literary legacy here.
Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.
Many among Lake Chapala’s colony of English language writers connected with their muses only after retiring in Mexico.
Judy King, though, is one of a handful who have lived and worked in Mexico for much of their adult lives. It’s no surprise, then, that much of her written work shares knowledge and experience gleaned from nearly thirty years of life as an expat.
Her first book, Living at Lake Chapala (find it here on Amazon), is a popular handbook for those making the cultural transition.
Judy bring to her books a craftsmanship honed during her career as a journalist. Her articles have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. She also published the widely read e-zine Mexico Insights for twelve years and served as Editor-in-Chief at the Lake Chapala Review.
Her work is featured in Head For Mexico: The Renegade Guide (here on Amazon).
She is also one of several local contributors to the award-winning anthology Mexico: Sunlight & Shadows (here on Amazon).
Judy is currently working on a new book scheduled for release early in 2019.
Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.
American poet Harold Witter Bynner (1881-1968), divided his time between homes in Chapala and Taos, New Mexico for nearly 30 years, and had the distinction of introducing both D.H. Lawrence and Tennessee Williams to the Lake Chapala area. Williams had visited Mexico before Bynner hosted him in 1947, but Lawrence’s trip in 1923 was his first of three visits, and the Englishman might never have come to Mexico had not he and Bynner met quite by happenstance in Taos.
Lawrence and his wife Frieda had left England in 1919 for a self-imposed exile that the Englishman called his “savage pilgrimage”. Their intended destination was Taos, New Mexico, but their route was quite circuitous, beginning with almost two years of travel through Italy. Malta, Germany, and Austria. They left Europe early in 1922 and arrived in Taos late that year by way of Ceylon and Australia.
Bynner, having met a Chinese professor with whom he had begun collaborating on the translation of T’ang Dynasty poems, had traveled to China during 1920-21 to study its literature and culture. Upon his return to the U.S. he embarked on an extensive lecture tour which brought him to Santa Fe, New Mexico in February 1922. Exhausted and ill, he canceled the rest of his tour and remained there.
Taos had first come to the attention of the Eastern artistic establishment in 1898 when Harpers Weekly published an article illustrated with work by artist Ernest Blumenschein, who had arrived in Taos while touring the U.S. and decided to stay. Within a few years other American and European-born artists joined them. Lawrence had often discussed the idea of setting up a utopian community with several of his friends, and in a 1915 note wrote:
“I want to gather together about twenty souls and sail away from this world of war and squalor and found a little colony where there shall be no money but a sort of communism as far as necessaries of life go, and some real decency… a place where one can live simply, apart from this civilization with a few other people who are also at peace and happy and live, and understand and be free…”
Many artists were drawn to Taos by Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy heiress from Buffalo, New York. She had hosted art salons in Florence, Italy, and Manhattan before settling in Taos in 1917, where she married her third husband and carried on her salon tradition. Luhan hosted artists, writers, and other luminaries including Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz in Taos. Even D. H. Lawrence painted while in Taos, and his work is on display at La Fonda Hotel on the Taos Plaza, signed with the pseudonym “Lorenzo”.
Artist Dorothy Brett arrived in Taos with D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda in 1924, sowing the seeds of a conflict that fully bloomed upon Lawrence’s death in 1930. Luhan, Brett, and Lawrence’s wife Frieda each considered themselves in some way Lawrence’s true muse, and argued over the disposition of Lawrence’s ashes. To prevent Mabel from stealing and scattering them, Frieda had them mixed with concrete and formed into a block which remains to this day on the D. H. Lawrence Ranch above Taos.
Luhan’s salons continued, and in the years following Lawrence’s death her guests included Carl Sandburg, Willa Cather, Igor Stravinsky, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, Aldous Huxley, and Thornton Wilder.
Following WWI, a new generation of writers and artists arrived in Taos to turn the page on the town’s artistic heritage, but Lawrence’s works The Plumed Serpent and Mornings In Mexico arguably owe their existence to his Taos connection and friendship with Witter Bynner.
Today, as the Lake Chapala area is poised to celebrate the centennial of Lawrence’s first visit, dozens of writers who call it home carry on the literary tradition.
Browse the Authors Gallery and find links to their bios and reviews of their work here.
Read more here about Lake Chapala’s long-standing literary tradition.
John Thomas Dodds is a student of life whose unending fascination with his subject is distilled in in fifteen Amazon-published works. Most are poetic, but Dodds has lately ventured into fiction and has even written books for children.
The themes of Dodds’ poetry are universal and expressed with a simplicity that invites readers of every genre to follow him on shared journeys. He captures the simple joy of being, and the peace of forgiveness and forgetfulness. His works are richly introspective, and his self-reflection brooks no boundaries.
Relationships between couples play prominently across John’s work. From the most romantic of poetry to meditations on growing old together (Aging Beautifully In Light Of You), he reaffirms the power of lifelong love.
John’s first novel, A Long Way From Nowhere, is set in Dallas, Texas during the social turbulence of the 1960’s. It draws upon his own life as a young man, and affords a provocative view of America’s identity crisis seen through eyes of a young Canadian as he sheds the last of his youthful innocence.
Dodds’s background as a teacher steps into the foreground in his two works crafted for children: A Sneaky Twitch of an Itch (illustrated), and A Journey Home.
Learn more about John, and find links to his work and reviews on Amazon Books here.
Discover dozens of Lakeside authors and scores of their Amazon books here.
Everything about Georg Rauch’s life seems improbable. It was improbable that a young, partly Jewish Austrian boy should have escaped the Holocaust, much less been mustered into the Wehrmacht. Improbable that he should have survived combat on the Eastern front, internment in a Russian POW camp, or the illness which he contracted while in captivity.
The only thing not improbable about Georg Rauch was that his towering talent would one day overshadow his tortuous past to make him a world-reknowned artist. Or that his autobiography – which has sold over 70,000 copies – would one day attract almost as much interest as his art.
Georg Rauch passed away in 2006, but his artistic legacy shines even more brightly than his storied life, and thanks to the efforts of his wife Phyllis a new generation is discovering both his art and his story.
Learn more about Georg, and find links to his work and reviews on Amazon Books here.
Don’t miss the exhibition of Georg’s art at Jocotopec’s Casa de Cultura (map here) from Sept. 8-28, 2018.
Learn more about dozens of Lakeside authors and scores of their Amazon books Amazon here.
Actually, Margaret is not just a poetic talent, but also an accomplished short story writer.
Her poetry appears in the company of similarly gifted authors between the covers of several anthologies, including works by Lakeside’s Not Yet Dead Poets. Both her poetry and short stories appear in a collection by a group of Lakeside female authors, and she’s also a frequent and popular performer at local poetry readings.
Margaret is also the literary executor for the late Jim Tipton’s poetic works.
Read more about Margaret, and find links to her work and reviews on Amazon here.
Writers have probably been sharing company and debating ideas since Gutenberg invented moveable type, more recently in the salons and bookstores of 1920’s Paris, and post-WWII in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village and San Francisco’s North Beach. These days, etailers like Amazon Books afford readers access to the work of authors so scattered around the globe that they’re unlikely ever to meet each other except online.
There remains, though, a community of writers who still embrace the value of living and working among each other. They’re to be found in a string of villages along the shores of Mexico’s Lake Chapala, drawn by the same pull which has attracted English language writers and poets to the area for nearly a century. The continuing stream of newly arriving writers leaves no doubt that its appeal is stronger now than ever before.
Today, readers can choose from nearly 100 Amazon titles by more than 30 authors who have learned to their delight that the Riberas de Chapala – the shores of Lake Chapala – can coax even the most reluctant muse into fruitful inspiration.
These book authors, though, are just the tip of the iceberg. The work of scores more – including, poets, short storytellers, essayists, memoirists, and humorists – appear often in anthologies and in the area’s English language periodicals. In fact, it’s hard to pass a day here without sighting one or more – writers going about their daily affairs on along cobblestone streets.
They work from homes scattered around a picturesque, mile-high lake nestled among the mountains of western Mexico. The area boasts a unique micro-climate known for sun-bathed winters and a welcome absence of steamy, subtropical summers.
And while the seclusion which many writers crave is not hard to come by, these wordsmiths frequently come together for readings, workshops, and the area’s annual writer’s conference. Experienced writers often coach aspiring writers, and it’s not uncommon to see a budding author grow from apprentice to journeyman to maestro under the influence of expert coaching.
The world of publishing has been turned on its head in the past couple of decades, but it seems a fair bet that writers – regardless of changes imposed by technology – will continue congregating here over the next 100 years as they have in the first.
Read more about this area’s rich literary tradition on these related posts:
Janice Kimball has lived at least three lives. The first was as a mother and wife. The second is as an award-winning artist and talented textiles designer. And the third – which often vies with the second – is as a writer with a very distinctive voice.
Kimball’s book Three in a Cage is an uplifting story that tackles the real meaning of family, and – except for the “translated” musings of a talking parrot – is at its heart a true account set on the shores of Lake Chapala. The author calls her style “creative non-fiction”.
The tale revolves around an eclectic trio of roomates. Jani is the owner of a Mexican art studio, where she lives with native weaver Francisco and a chatty parrot named Max Bird. The story soon unfolds to reveal that they came together through happenstance, and that all three had tragic pasts.
Jani was once a self-described stalker’s wife, a woman who constantly feared for the safety of her children at their father’s hands. Her nightmares condemned her to a lifetime of insomnia and branded her with what later came to be known as post-traumatic stress.
Francisco, smuggled across the border at age fourteen to seek wages sufficient to help support his twelve younger siblings and mother back in Mexico, fell into tragic circumstances which left him a wandering, virtual amnesiac for years.
Max, an unusually articulate and insightful parrot, was kidnapped as a fledgling by poachers to be sold illegally. He has a crippled foot and clipped wings.
Together, these three attempt to build a new shared life on the ruins of their “ lost identities.” As they comfort each other and build a mutual trust, their wounds begin to heal and they become bound to each other as tightly as any family of shared blood. The route to their new lives, however, is sometimes circuitous.
This is an allegorical tale about an escape from the confines of traditional thinking which enables this earthbound trio to “fly without wings.” It’s a book to which ‘children’ aged 8 to 80 can connect equally, and its lesson is one that benefits well from Kimball’s retelling.