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Interview: Rene Saldana

Rene Saldana, Jr.
Online Interview, July 7, 2005.
Interviewed by Nydia I. Benitez

1. What inspired you to start writing?
Two things inspired me to write:  one, God, who gave me the talent to
do so.  I take the talent, then, very seriously as it comes from on
high.  The second, my abuelito Federico Garcia, who himself was a
storyteller of the first rank.  For a bit more on him, you can read
what I say about him in the intro to The Jumping Tree.  He was a cool
man and could tell a fantastic story.  I figured somehow I wanted to
tell stories just as good, but to do it in my own way, in the form of
writing.  So I started.  Oh, maybe a third:  my students at La Joya ISD
and Mission CISD when I taught at the middle and high school levels.  I
told the beginnings of The Jumping Tree to them and they did their own
writing alongside me, so they in part also inspired me to keep writing.

2. Do you identify with any of your characters? Which one? How?
If I had to choose one character who is partly based on me is Rey.  I
don't know that I identify with him because he went his own way once I
let him go, did things differently than I did when I was his age.  And
really, I'd identify with him only because of the semi-autobiographical
thing.  Otherwise, I think there's a part of me in each of my
characters, both good and bad characters, positive and negative.  I do
like Sylvie in the story titled "SylvieSylvieSylvie" in Finding Our
Way.  She's cool, and I like how strong she becomes once she begins to
figure out she is who she is.

3. Whar are your future goals?
I continue to teach at UT-Pan American in Edinburg TX.  I want to keep
doing that, especially focusing on my children's/YA lit class and my
creative writing.  I'm doing some work on the use of culturally
relevant lit in the Latino classrooms that I hope to extend into the
libraries too.  I'm working on a few writing projects.  Random House is
looking at one of my novels and a picture book, Cinco Puntos Press out
of El Paso is considering a collection of leyendas for YA readers, and
I'm beginning work on my next novel and putting some finishing touches
on a collection of short stories.  As for the future:  write, write,
write.  Visit more libraries for more reading.

4. What message do you want Chicano youth to learn from your writings?
If I have to choose one message, it's simple:  don't fall for the
system's trap of who we, Chicanos/as should be.  I'm sick and tired of
Hollywood telling us we've got to be this or that, or all these stupid
state-mandated exam results and other such measuring sticks telling us
we're illiterate.  It's a cliche and it's melodramatic, but it's true,
I think:  We can become anything and anyone we want to become with hard
work, focus, and dedication.  Choose what to do, what you want to be,
no matter that the establishment tells us we can't be that, and study
to be it, work at it.  Get it done.  Like the folks in the UFW have
said it:  Si Se Puede!  Pero con ganas, y adelante!  Orale.

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