Writers’ League of Texas recently interviewed Publisher and Editor of Cenizo Journal, Dallas Baxter. As the 2012 Summer Writing Retreat approaches, our anticipation grows for West Texas purple mountains and muse-like scenery of the Trans Pecos area. This interview with Dallas only adds to our yearning for the summer getaway, to write in the wild west. As we will discuss in the interview, Cenizo partnered with poet Scott Wiggerman, faculty for 2012 Summer Writing Retreat, to discuss last years Alpine adventure in the upcoming journal. A thank you to Dallas and Cenizo Journal!
Writers League Of Texas – Please tell our Scribe readers about the literary journal, Cenizo? What does each issue feature, how often annually does the journal issue, what type of writers are typically featured?
Dallas Baxter – Well, as our mission statement says: Cenizo Journal is a quarterly journal dedicated to chronicling the history and people of Far West Texas through the work of writers, artists, poets and photographers. So that tells you a lot. We have regular features on people who live here “Voices of the Big Bend” in which Jim Glendinning, a transplanted but very Big Bend Scot interviews three diverse folks from the Trans Pecos; our Trivia Quiz is Charlie Angell’s quiz on aspects of the area – could be geology, movies, plants, historic villains – always about the Trans Pecos; Bob Miles comments on Historical Commission markers in the area with tidbits and back story that the markers may not mention. We always feature poetry because this is just a place that inspires poetry. We try to be sure that our stories are not “news” so that at any time the reader can pick up any issue and be informed, not feel “oh, I missed that event” or “this piece is dated.” Content varies although I do try to be sure that all the geographical areas of the Trans Pecos are represented in each issue – most of the time that works. I’d like to say that we typically feature “good writers.” We’ve used stories by journalists, novelists, historians, beginners, students from Sul Ross, naturalists, scientists, poets, geologists, teachers – well, a pretty wide range. Usually the writers who just send us work are poets. If writers of longer pieces have an idea, I ask them to pitch it to me rather than just working on a huge piece that doesn’t fit us. We have had the privilege of running lots of first time writers who write well and interestingly, as well as writers who have books behind them and just like to tackle a subject. This place is very special and challenges people to try to capture and communicate the magic.
WLT – How much does ‘place’ influence the content of Cenizo? For those who retreat to Alpine with WLT on our Summer Retreat 2012, how do you think the West Texas ‘muse of place’ will affect their writing?
DB – Ah! The perfect segue! I think the place is what Cenizo is all about. Most of our writers live or have lived here, or they’ve been captured by the place after a visit and feel moved to write about it. All of our advertising is from here – some people have told me they read the ads first and then the content – that’s a great plus for our advertisers. And while I am mentioning them, from the very first issue, our advertisers have paid for every bit of the magazine. So this is a community effort – they give me money and I tell the story and let readers know who is bringing them the magazine. There’s not a lot of money out here, so I am especially grateful to and proud of our advertisers for recognizing the importance of the magazine and each helping to make it possible. As for the muse – well, how can I tell? I tend to think that people who come out here expect to be affected and so they’re open to “it” – whatever the special thing is that will touch them.
WLT – Why did Cenizo chose to feature poet Scott Wiggerman, and his class from last years retreat? How did this come to being?
DB – I am a big believer in the possibility of our area hosting a workshop like the Iowa Writers or the Middlebury summer writers’ program. I’d love to see Sul Ross step into the host role of bringing poets and writers and artists and composers out here for the summer and putting us on the map as THE place to be in the summer for creative energies to flow. So I’m thrilled that the Writer’s League of Texas has stepped out to lead the parade on that score. Scott and I started to talk about how we could do a story that would not only let people know about the workshop but would encourage them to be part of it. He came up with the story and it’s not only a unique exercise for the participants but for those of us who see the subjects of the poems every day, a whole new way of seeing – which is what I think art is, whatever the medium. I’m not sure that local folks won’t be the ones to enjoy the poetry the most. But, again, who knows? I like to let things happen as they will, so that people find their own muse.
WLT – What can we expect in the upcoming Cenizo Journal?
DB – Well, for starters, 16 poets, some new, some old hands. A story on public radio in rural areas, a couple of history pieces – Chinati Hot Springs, the Missions Trail, Texas black bears and acorn woodpeckers, geology … I’ll let you discover. And by the way, we’re at Book People in Austin for pick up as well as 150 places in the Big Bend and all along Hwy. 90 from Van Horn to Laredo, and in Midland/Odessa. We’re also subscribable or on line at www.cenizojournal.com. Submission info is in the masthead, and I’m always happy to hear from anyone with a story about the lives and times of the Trans Pecos.
Well WLT members, a call to submission and to a writing retreat! Not bad for a Monday blog post. Happy Writing!