Today we’d like to introduce you to Jasminne Mendez.
Jasminne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started taking my writing and writing life seriously about eleven years ago when I was in the middle of my college studies. While I have always written poetry and memoir, I never considered myself a serious writer until I started going out and participating in slam poetry events, open mics and getting gigs to perform and read at local colleges and universities like UH Central, Downtown, Clear Lake and at various HCC campuses. After a few years of spoken word and slam competitions, I started to explore the publishing world. I began submitting my work to magazines, journals, anthologies etc. and in October 2013 my first multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams was published by Floricanto Press. The book later went on to receive first place in the International Latino Book Awards for Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book. It was one of the happiest moments of my writing career. I am currently working on final edits to my second book, Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays and Poems which will be released this April with Arte Publico Press.
While working on my own personal writing goals, I have also had the opportunity to curate, host and organize literary events with my husband Lupe Mendez. He is the Founder and Executive Director of our organization Tintero Projects: A Readings & Workshop Series. The goal of our organization is to promote and support emerging and established Latinx writers and writers of color in the Houston/Galveston, TX Gulf coast region. We created this organization because we saw that there was a lack of spaces and opportunities for writers of color and we wanted to help create a space that would nurture and support these much-needed voices and stories. Currently we host a monthly open mic at Stages Repertory Theatre every second of the month, we organize quarterly month-long writing workshops at various venues across Houston, and we just launched our new literary podcast Inkwell in collaboration with in print Houston. We love to sponsor and organize literary events for out of town writers as well and we are always on the lookout for new and emerging talent and diverse voices.
Has it been a smooth road?
As far as my own personal writing is concerned, it has not been a smooth road. As a woman of color who uses a lot of Spanish in her writing, I have faced a lot of rejection. Many editors and publishers just don’t “get” my work or feel that it is not accessible to their readers. I do however feel that I handle rejection well and I have not let the naysayers get in the way of trying to achieve my goals. Writing also has not been easy for me because I have spent the last ten years battling multiple chronic illnesses including lupus and scleroderma. Both diseases have often left me bedridden and severely ill. Chronic illness robbed me of my twenties and made it difficult for me to attend writing residencies, literary events and other opportunities that could have jump started my writing career. Now in my early thirties, that my illnesses are finally under control and not as unpredictable I find myself playing catch up for all the time loss. The other difficult part of living with scleroderma is that it has caused a great deal of hand and finger deformities and disabilities, so writing both by pen and paper and even on a computer has proven challenging at times. Luckily, I’ve learned to adapt, and I have a great network of friends and family that are supportive and willing to help when needed.
The main struggles we’ve faced with Tintero Projects has been fundraising and burn out since the organization is run only by Lupe and myself. We want to provide services to the community free of charge or at very minimal cost and while we have been very fortunate to be able to use community spaces without needing to rent them, we often struggle to find individuals or organizations that find value in what we do and seek to honor that with financial contributions. We are currently working with several local organizations such as Inprint and Stages that are extremely supportive and generous and we hope to continue building or network of community support so that one day we can be self-sustaining. We also are hoping to bring on a few volunteers or interns in the coming year to help with social media and promotions, event planning, and daily logistics.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Tintero Projects is a literary organization dedicated to promoting and supporting emerging and established writers of color in the Texas Gulf Coast region. We organize literary events such as readings, open mics, book signings, writing workshops and we host a bi-weekly literary podcast in collaboration with Inprint Houston. We are known for showcasing local and out of town Latinx poets and writers and hope to empower and support the voices and stories of people of color.
As a company, I would say we are most proud of our collaborations with local organizations such as Stages Repertory Theatre, Inprint Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, and 50 Playwrights Project. These organizations have helped spearhead us into the local and national scene as a reputable literary organization and they have provided opportunities for us and our visiting writers to showcase their talents.
I believe we are set apart from other literary organizations because we focus on writers of color and we want to showcase not just established and well-known writers but also emerging and new writers that don’t have as big a platform.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I feel like Houston is a great city for what we do. Most people don’t consider Houston as a “literary hub.” The usually think of NY or Chicago or even LA or Fresno as places for writers and poets. However, because Houston is like a small town in the guise of a big city, I believe that writers can really make a name for themselves here and have a great following. Most writers in town know each other and we’ve become like a family to each other. It helps to have a strong writing community to count on. I believe that other writers and organizations are taking notice of what Tintero Projects is doing because of our focus on Latinx writers and writers of color. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the nation and our organization represents and honors that diversity. The only difficult part about Houston is how spread out it is. It is hard sometimes to get a crowd out to events because people live so far apart and spread out that they don’t want to fight traffic to get somewhere, but that’s why I feel like our new podcast, InkWell, can really help fill in the gap and connect people to what we’re doing from the comfort of their home or car.
- Website: www.tinteroprojects.wordpress.com
- Phone: 2817028235
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TinteroProjects/
- Twitter: @TinteroProject
- Other: https://inprinthouston.org/for-readers/ink-well-a-podcast-by-tintero-projects-inprint/#episodes
Hannah Adair Bonner