Denver, Colorado Latino Writers Spotlit in New Anthology by CALMA | Westword

Latino Writers Get the Spotlight in New Anthology by CALMA

"It's us using this opportunity to find writers in need of that support," says Denver author Mario Acevedo. "That's what it's all about."
The Founders of CALMA
The Founders of CALMA Denver North Star
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There's an old inspirational Mexican proverb: Quisieron enterrarnos, pero no sabían que éramos semilla. English translation: They wanted to bury us, but they didn't know that we were seeds.

Such is the philosophy behind the Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors (CALMA), a writer support group dedicated to discovering, supporting and promoting Latino writers and authors across Colorado.

Denver author Mario Acevedo says he wasn't there for the initial cultivation of CALMA back in 2019. "That was a little before my time," Acevedo says. "It was a group of local authors that felt their particular voice needed to be heard, so they formed this group."

Fellow Denver writer Manuel Ramos invited Acevedo to take part, and that led not only to Acevedo's participation, but to his becoming the "Jefe Editor" of its first collected anthology. That book — Ramas y Raíces: The Best of CALMA — will be released at a free launch party starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 29, at Lakewood United Methodist Church, where copies of the debut anthology will be available for purchase.
Ramas y Raíces is a collection of poems, short fiction and essays about familia, love, duty, tragedy and triumph, the search for self, and the never-ending struggle for justice. "The CALMA writers drew from memories that refused to remain buried and forgotten, from recuerdos dating back centuries to others as recent as yesterday. The contributors channeled inspiration filtered through lived experience and fantasy and brought to the page through hard work and a devotion to the written word," explains Acevedo.

"When the group was first meeting," he continues, "we were meeting over Zoom. It was during the pandemic, so everything was online by necessity, but we were still meeting and talking, and the conversation at one point turned to creating an anthology. Since I'd already been the editor of two other anthologies, I started giving my two cents' worth, and one of the founders of the group, the poet Ricardo LaFore, said, 'Mario, you sound like you know what you're doing, so you're in charge,'" Acevedo laughs. "So that's how it all fell into my lap. I remember seeing the look on Manuel Ramos's face. He was like, 'You walked right into that one.'" 

But LaFore was right: A collection like this is in good hands with Acevedo. His previous anthologies have been impressive local successes: Found: Short Stories by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which won the 2017 Colorado Book Award for Anthologies; and Blood and Gasoline: High Octane, High-Velocity Action, featuring Hex Publishing's Josh Viola and Erie author Carter Wilson, among others. 

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The inimitable Denver writer Mario Acevedo.
Mario Acevedo
The event will showcase the collaborating writers included in the collection. "The idea is to bring together as many of the 23 contributors as possible at the event," Acevedo says. "There are actually 24 contributors, the 24th being the artist Stevon Lucero, who passed away in 2022, but his wife allowed us to use one of his paintings for the cover. It's a big honor to have been able to use that image. We'll see how many we can get to show up, do some readings, talk about how the book came together and then sell some books."

Acevedo says that his strategy for this debut collection with CALMA was to work only from solicitations. "I wanted a good representation of our members and the group overall," Acevedo says. "Form, too. Poetry, fiction, essays. This was about spotlighting these voices, not culling through submissions. I had editors from each genre that helped, and we discussed how we'd order the pieces for quite a while. In the end, we went alphabetically, which keeps things fair and allows readers to find who they're looking for pretty easily.

"The anthology looks pretty awesome," Acevedo concludes with a smile. "We want to use it as a sort of CALMA calling card, not only for the individual authors, but for the organization itself. We want the group to grow; we'll have more events, ones that will be able to focus on the writers themselves. And this will help us in our outreach to other writing groups and local schools. We take the 'Mentor' in our name seriously. It's not just a matter of us talking about ourselves and our work; it's us using this opportunity to find writers in need of that support. That's what it's all about."

Ramas y Raíces: The Best of CALMA will debut at a launch party, 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29, Lakewood United Methodist Church, 1390 Brentwood Street, Lakewood. For more information, see the event website.
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