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Author Chat with Michele Serros

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Transcript of Live Chat
April 23rd, 2004

NYPL: We're chatting this morning with Michele Serros, award-winning poet and commentator for National Public Radio (Morning Edition, Weekend All Things Considered). Serros' collection of fiction, How to be a Chicana Role Model: A Novel, (Riverhead Books) was published in July 2000, and instantly reached the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Michele spent 2002 living in Los Angeles and writing for the ABC television sitcom, The George Lopez Show. It's great to have you here! We'll be starting in just a few minutes...

NYPL: Welcome, Michele!

muchamichele: Thank you!

NYPL: How did you get started as a writer?

muchamichele: Do you mean as a "professional published" writer?

NYPL: Yes, as a pro....

muchamichele: I definitely had to become more focused with my editing and writing. I started to write daily and took the risk of finally submitting stories to magazines and anthologies.

NYPL: I've never been to Lollapalooza ... what's a "Road Poet" ?

muchamichele: For Lollapalooza '94, the producers decided to select 12 poets, nationally. We went on the road with the whole crew! Tour buses, five star hotels and pizza....every night!

DaCronix75: hey why are poems so confusing?

muchamichele: Some poems are, huh? I still don't get some of them on the subway. Sometimes I think poets are writing riddles, not poems!

NYPL: Did you have a favorite book as a kid?

muchamichele: Definitely "Are you There God, It's Me Margaret" by Judy Blume. Have you ever read it?

A321Princess: Hello! What kind of poems do you write?

muchamichele: Not confusing ones, that's for sure! I write mostly about my background...South Cali Chicana...being a brown girl....y mas!

pieluva91: do you always critisize your poetry?????

muchamichele: I do self critique...it's helps me get better...hopefully.

NYPL: What do you think about how Latinos are represented in the mass media? Is it improving?

muchamichele: Oh God! I would say little by little this is LITTLE improvement. I saw how far we (Latinos) have to go as far as being repped by the mass media....when I was a writer on the George Lopez Show. It was a bit disheartening.

Fiona: Are you writing any new poetry books?

muchamichele: I am working a teen novel. As another book about being married to a "rock star." MY ex hubby was in Queens of the Stone Age.

Krystal : How do you write your poems, do you have a process or just write what your feeling ?-

muchamichele: I usually write after something bothers me. I usually get a stomach ache and I NEED to write it down! I grew up in a household where girls just DIDN'T express emotion...it was unladylike.

shadyrabit7: are u spanish

muchamichele: No, I'm Mexican American. Fourth generation. I grew up in Southern California.

pieluva91: what genre do u like to read????

muchamichele: I really like fiction, I love reading about people who have overcome obstacles.

DaCronix75: i got another question how come some poems repeat?

muchamichele: Repeat like the same line over and over again? Sometimes a poet wants to emphasize intensity. Or they (the poet) gets paid by the word and they want more money! hahaha..J/k

NYPL: You were a writer on The George Lopez Show, right? What's it really like behind the scenes on a hit TV show? Fun... or stress...?

muchamichele: Long hours, lots of coffee and lots of heavy food! To be honest, we (the other 11 writers and I) didn't really "write." We came up with jokes and then a producer would cut and paste our ideas into stories. NOT my favorite means of creating!

A321Princess: Have you ever read any of Shel Silverstein's poems?

muchamichele: Not his poems, I did read The Giving Tree. Oh, I loved it!

Amy: what influenced you to write poems?

muchamichele: The stomachaches that got too intense. Writing poetry was/is a means of therapy, escape, an outlet that was much needed as a young girl.

darla: Are the things that pressure you to write the same in NYC and Cali? Do you find things to make you mad in NYC?

muchamichele: Oh yeah, being a woman of color...yes. People seems to have the same negative stereotypes about us. BUT, I have to say, New Yorkers are much more up front...I love that. Makes me know what I am dealing with.

NYPL: I read somewhere that you as a teen you wrote Judy Blume and that she actually wrote back. Is that true? What did she say to you?

muchamichele: Oh yes, my parents were going through a divorce and she was the only person I felt would understand what I was going through. She advised me to keep a journal to express my feelings and I did just that. I went out with my mother and bought a spiral notebook at Rite Aid!

NYPL: What's your favorite book you've read this year?

muchamichele: I really enjoyed The Frank Zappa Autobiography. Do you know who he is?

NYPL: Do you still have that notebook that you got at Rite Aid?

muchamichele: Oh yes, I have all my notebooks and journals from age 11. I have one when I am 15 and grounded and the whole notebook is full of mean poems about my mother! I always see how some of my insecurities as a young girl still haven't changed much as a woman. I still dislike my nose and wonder if cute boys think I'm funny and cute!

darla: Do you always write for young people? Is that your favorite audience?

muchamichele: Not particularly...my second book is for a bit "older" audience.

punk: whats yr favorite kind of poetry?

muchamichele: I'm not a big fan of love poems, I like any poems that use natural, raw language and that you can tell the poet is taking a risk of "exposing" her/himself. I find that very courageous.

DaCronix75: hey how old r u??

muchamichele: I'm thirty eight. But my new braces, that I just got this week...well I can pass for 13. j/k

sarine_hotbot.com: I looooooooooooooooooooove your poems, they are the best i've ever read! what was your favorite?

muchamichele: I think I live Tag Bangers Last Can. I like that it's short, but says alot in just a few lines.

NYPL: I know some of your poems talk about speaking Spanish or not being able to. Is that still an important issue for you?

muchamichele: Always. I don't speak Spanish very well and when I try, the majority of people get on my case, rather than being helpful. They think just because I am brown I should speak it well. They don't understand how many parents (and schools) didnt want or allow kids to speak Spanish and that's a heavy bag to carry when you are finally trying to learn.

NYPL: You just moved to NYC from LA... what do you like about it here... and what do you miss....

muchamichele: I don't miss LA, but I do miss California. I love to surf and I love Mexican food. Does anyone know of some GOOD taquerias? Oh, what I love about NY is the variety of cultures. Also the men here are ....men!

Loonymaddy: Are poems sometimes exsagerated

muchamichele: Oh yeah, that's the "storyteller" in me. I don't think I could ever write for a newspaper and "stick to the facts."

DaCronix75: lol kool are you married or looking for that someone special?

muchamichele: I'm no longer married...but I'm not "looking" either....but I have to say...my new braces are quite the magnet! hahaha

DaCronix75: te gusta poemas de el primavera?

muchamichele: Si! Pero, verano mas!

sarine_hotbot.com: Have you ever read "Farie Wars" or "Cirque du freak"?

muchamichele: No, what are they about? Sound goth!

NYPL: What was it like to see your very first book published and in your hands?

muchamichele: Oh, very exciting, but scary. I knew strangers were going to have my feelings in their hands! Also, I found some typos! That was the worst...after having it published!

greg: Okay, we have to ask... do yr. braces hurt?

muchamichele: Nope!

Jaricanbiatch2: ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth ::teeth

muchamichele: Okay, let's talk about feet, feet, feet!

Amy: Why do you like poetry?

muchamichele: I think it's very accessible, also being so busy it's nice to be able to pick up a poetry book and read short little pieces, that say alot...one at a time.

christina: about how many poems have you written?

muchamichele: I've written alot of poems, a lot of unpublished poems too! I have notebooks full of "bad stuff" that I wouldn't want anyone to see!

NYPL: Can you pick ten words to describe yourself?

muchamichele: brown, medium, over sensitive, insensitive, over eater, boy crazy, family orientated, napper, reality TV freak, shoe lover.

NYPL: Do you consider yourself an activist? Is your poetry activism?

muchamichele: Absolutely! I'm not one to always speak up so loudly or quickly...for me, poetry gets my opinions across in a way that I am more comfortable and articulate with.

pieluva91: do u think that u self critique yourself 2 much

muchamichele: Yeah, even when I do the dishes. "Oh, that plate could be MUCH cleaner!" j.k

greg: What inspires you?

muchamichele: Sexy librarians

kristy: Are you working on any poems right now?

muchamichele: No, I'm working on a book of fiction. But I always scribble poems on occasion.

NYPL: If you had one wish, what would it be?

muchamichele: That the NYPL provided breakfast.

NYPL: Has any big time personality or someone you respect asked you to write a poem for them? Do you take requests?

muchamichele: I've read with Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, also Alfred Molina. Let's see, I've had some famous people request first editions of my poetry book, but I let them fight over it on eBay. hahaha

NYPL: Michele, we're running out of time. Is there anything else you'd like to say?

muchamichele: yes, no one came through with my request for a Mexican taco truck recommendation...I am deeply disappointed.
:(
Looks like a McGriddle for me!

NYPL: Michele... this was a lot of fun. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Don't forget to visit Michele's website at http://www.muchamichele.com