Author to speak Thursday

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By Kirsten Laskey

Writing started out as a money-making venture for Robert Arellano. When he was 6 years old, Arellano’s mother would pay him a $1 for every Shakespeare sonnet he rewrote.

His interest in writing expanded when he was 8 or 9 years old. Arellano remembers writing stories about a little boy, named Jimmy Rocket, who could fly.

What started out as a moneymaking opportunity grew into something Arellano needs to do to feel satisfied. Unless he writes a few hours a week, Arellano said, he doesn’t feel happy.

His writing took another turn when he traveled to Sonora, Mexico, for three months. He went at the invitation of his publisher, who owned a cabin in the Mexican state. At the time Arellano was on sabbatical from his university teaching position and was completing a book. Arellano described living in the cabin as camping under a tin roof. The windows had no glass and the structure was made out of unfired adobe bricks, which meant all kinds of critters could easily enter the cabin.

Despite the rustic conditions, Arellano was introduced to style of writing that greatly influenced his own.

The town where Arellano was staying in, Desemboque, did not have a library but once a week a bookseller would come to town, selling books from the back of his pickup truck.

Arellano discovered the most popular item the bookseller offered were historiteas or graphic novels. Graphic novels, Arellano said, is just a fancy word for adult comic books.

Sometimes they are melodramatic but the stories are addictive, he said.

He explained these stories are popular because they are page-turners and the drawings offer something extra to the readers.

After being exposed to this style of storytelling, Arellano wrote his own graphic novel, which was his fourth novel to be published. The novel, “Death and Desemboque,” takes place “where the desert meets the sea,” he said.

While Arellano wrote the story, he commissioned three friends to illustrate it. William Schaff, Alec Thibudeau and Richard Schuler each took an episode to illustrate. They “poured their hearts into it,” he said.

Los Alamos residents will be able to learn more about the graphic novel and Arellano’s work during the Authors Speak lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mesa Public Library.

This presentation will not just be Arellano reading from his story, but it will provide a full experience for the audience, complete with a computer animated presentation.

“I’m so excited about this,” Arellano said, “(going) to a reader’s town that Los Alamos is. But I think this presentation is really entertaining ee for a broad audience from 16 to 60 years old.”

He added the timing for the lecture is perfect because it is one week before Da de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), which influenced his book.

According to a Mesa Public Library press release, Arellano has taught writing and literature at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Today, he is the Academy Head for Literacy and Cultural Studies at the University of New Mexico in Taos.

Akashic Books publishes his novels “Fast Eddie, King of the Bees” (2001), “Don Dimaio of La Plata” (2004) and “Havana Lunar” (2009).

Soft Skull/Counterpoint published “Dead in Desemboque” (2008). In 1996, writing as Bobby Rabyd, Arellano created the Internet’s first interactive novel, “Sunshine ‘69.”