The VONA/Voices Workshop, Founded by Junot Diaz, Relocates to Miami

flickr, CC, Jennifer Yin
Inside a VONA/Voices Workshop class, circa 2008

Writers and literary minds, rejoice! Perhaps one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the country is making a move and taking up a permanent residence at the University of Miami. The Voices of our Nations Arts Foundation, better known as VONA, is relocating from the West Coast to our little southern tip.

The VONA/Voices Workshop, founded by writers Elmaz Binader, Junot Diaz, Victor Diaz, and Diem Jones in 1999, is an annual two-week program where emerging writers-of-color are taught and mentored by peers who have found success within their craft.

See also: Pepe Billete: Memories of My Abuela

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Poet Richard Blanco Speaks About Renewing Relationships With Cuba

Categories: Literary

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Since President Obama announced that the U.S. would begin the process of normalizing relationships with Cuba, there have been many loud voices more than willing to offer opinions. But the cacophonous landscape is often more defined by extreme positions that - for the last few weeks -- have drowned out much-needed nuance. Poet Richard Blanco recently offered a much-needed nuanced response and raised some important questions about the impact of normalization outside the limited realm of politics.

The highly respected Cuban-American poet is likely best known for his reading at President Obama's second inauguration. His most recent book, the memoir The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, reflected on issues central to Blanco's poetry: namely, how and nationality place can mold identity -- both as an artist and a gay man.

See also: Cuban Government Arrests Artist Tania Bruguera

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Joyce Carol Oates on Twitter, Her Writing Process, and Lovely, Dark, Deep

Courtesy of Miami Book Fair International
John Updike described the career of Joyce Carol Oates better than anyone when he said, ". . . if the phrase 'woman of letters' existed, she would be . . . entitled to it." She's written novels, short story collections, nonfiction, novellas, plays, poetry, collections, children's and young adult books, and been awarded too many honors to mention.

An author, poet, avid Twitter user, and teacher, her work as a writer has spanned a remarkable five decades.

Oates will be reading from her latest collection of stories, Lovely, Dark, Deep, at the Miami Book Fair International on Thursday night, so we quizzed the legendary author via email about Twitter, her writing routine, and the details of her memoir.

See also: Six Ways to Geek Out at Miami Book Fair 2014

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The Ten Best Things to Do at Miami Book Fair International

Categories: Lists, Literary

via UM Quidditch on Facebook
It's the most wonderful time of the year for book nerds: Christmas, Mardi Gras, and New Year's Eve rolled into one glorious week to charm and delight South Florida's bibliophiles. The Miami Book Fair International has almost arrived.

But with a massively long schedule of awesome events and only one of you (unless you've perfected cloning, in which case, we salute you), it's tough to decide what literary fetes are most deserving of your precious time.

So, to make life easier, here's our list of the top ten can't-miss book fair events. (Note: We didn't delve too far into the author readings; there are too many of those to pick from and that's a choose-your-own-adventure kind of deal.)

See also: Book Fair 2014 Includes John Waters, Questlove, Ira Glass, and More

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South Florida Theatre Community Honors Passing of Local Actress with Scholarship Fund

Photo by Marlena Skrobe
Laura Ruchala (foreground) with Bree-Anna Obst in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
It was Shakespeare who once said "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." That pronunciation also implies that it boasts both triumphs and tragedies. Bree-Anna Obst can relate to philosophy as well as to the bard that implied it in the first place. Obst, part of the theater department at Miami Children's Museum, lost her friend and fellow thespian Laura Ruchala this past August to a brain aneurysm.

"Laura was a Shakespeare enthusiast, a budding director, and an incredible actress, whose performance career spanned three counties, Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach," Obst recalls. "Laura was determined to keep the Bard alive in South Florida, and so it is my hope that this community can contribute to Laura's dreams and goals, despite her not being here to pursue them herself."

To that end, Obst has organized a cabaret event she's named "A Night For Her: A South Florida Theatre Cabaret Celebrating Laura Ruchala." The event, slated for November 15, will feature members of the South Florida Theatre community as part of a celebration that will help realize Ruchala's dream to share Shakespeare's genius with other actresses and enthusiasts.

See also: Microtheater Brings Spanish Theater Tradition to Miami (Video)

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Miami-Based Reading Queer Awarded Grant by National LGBTQ Task Force

Courtesy of Reading Queer
The litany of gay and lesbian writers is practically endless. From Plato, to Proust, Wilde, Ginsburg, and Capote, there seems to be an inordinate number of gay scribes relative to the number for straight writers. Their mastery of language, coupled with a unique, and non-heteronormative view of the world prompted many to cordon off their work into a distinct literary taxonomy: queer literature.

In August, Miami's Reading Queer festival debuted onto the local literary scene with a smash. It was the first attempt by local organizers to establish the town as a center for queer literature and performance art. The celebration brought together artists from various fields, all hell-bent on gender subversion.

See also: Reading Queer: Literary Festival Explores '80s Gay Cruising Culture

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Miami Poetry Read-Outs To Fight Police Brutality: "It Can Happen to Anyone of Us"

Categories: Culture, Literary

Photo by Sabrina Rodriguez
Protesters show their support for Michael Brown in August in downtown Miami.
Poetry has long been a vehicle for voicing unrest, from the words of Maya Angelou to Nikki Giovanni. A new series, "Poetry for the People" Read-Outs, is using the words of poet-activists like Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton and more to add Miami's voice in the fight for justice for Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was killed by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson. The gatherings, held October 21 and October 28, will feature FIU students and faculty members reading works by renowned poets as well as original works.

A read-out was recently held at FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus, which included a chance to sign the petition, to "establish state-wide task forces to provide community oversight of the Florida Police Departments," which will be sent to Rick Scott. The events at the Modesto Maidique Campus will give students and faculty an even bigger opportunity to air their concerns about current racial issues plaguing the country.

See also: The Spotlight: New Spoken Word Venue Seeks Poets and Performers

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Books & Books To Open New Location at Arsht Center

Categories: Books, Literary

It's a great time to be a book lover in South Florida. Popular literary destination Books & Books will once again expand its reach when it opens another location in the former Sears Tower on the campus of the Adrienne Arsht Center.

The new location, set to open by the end of the year, will house a café open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily with seating for about 100, the Miami Herald reports. The Arsht Center spot is the latest addition to the Books & Books family, which includes outposts in Coral Gables, Miami Beach, and Bal Harbour.

See also: Miami Book Fair International Brings National Book Award Winners, Finalists to Miami

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Free Events This Week in Miami: Writing Workshop, Big Band Tunes, and Champagne

Categories: Art, Literary

Photo by Laine Doss
Stop by Vinos in the Grove for some free champagne. You deserve it.
Football is back with a vengeance (or a misleading win, in the Dolphins' case), and thanks to Sunday Funday, Mondays are dragging more than ever. This whole five-day workweek thing has jumped the shark, wouldn't you say?

We feel your Monday through Friday pain, so here's a list of stuff to occupy you all week, till that blessed off time rolls around again.

See also: PHOTOSTREAM: Share Your Miami Instagrams in Dwntwn Arts Days Project

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Exile Books Pop-Up Premieres Saturday at Locust Projects

Photo by Augusto Mendoza
Amanda Keeley has always found inspiration in artist's books. Now, the 2014 Knights Art Challenge finalist is readying her longtime project, Exile Books, for its Miami debut this weekend at Locust Projects. Exile Books is a traveling pop-up store installation dedicated to selling, supporting, and promoting publications produced by artists.

For the premiere pop-up, Keeley collaborated with New York painter Sarah Crowner, who has created a large installation that references the history of stage and set design, with Keeley sourcing materials about set design, theater, and dance performance for the location. The opening reception on Saturday also will feature the limited-edition monoprint of a theatrical playbill, created by Keeley and Crowner, that will be available for purchase. Books that inspired Crowner, like periodicals from the Art Brut movement, will be part of Exile's selection, in addition to three titles by the artist.

See also: Knights Arts Challenge Finalist Amanda Keeley Plans to Stage Pop-up Bookstores

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