Daniel has had things published but is really just a frustrated performer who turned to puppetry as an outlet. He has a Master’s in History and sort of uses it as a freelance journalist. He has lived in all time zones of the lower 48, but San Antonio is where he grew up. Sometimes he misses mountains and dense forests, but the refreshing streams of Central Texas are a more than adequate substitute. If you get close with him, he might even show you his super-secret swim hole. He also likes to cook stewy complex dishes, dance cumbia, and play guitar while singing to the ducks at the park.
Hi Daniel, What part of being a Teaching Artist are you most excited about?
I left classroom teaching after the first summer of the pandemic due to burnout. However, the joy that I had from teaching writing to students never left. I loved encouraging students’ innate creativity and relished watching them gain confidence in their writing abilities. So, overall, I’m very much looking forward to being able to interact with students again and helping them grow as writers. Specifically, I’m looking forward to incorporating puppetry into classes. The students have already responded well to Tacuache and Bandita, a possum and raccoon who live in neighboring trees above a dumpster behind the gas station, whom we used to teach about Dialogue.
And we’re curious…What books are on your nightstand?
Nightstand? A lot of times they actually end up in bed with me…. Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, Lakota Power by Pekka Hamalainen, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Fifth Sun by Camila Townsend (I dig history books.)
How do you start to write something new?
My process has changed over the years. I used to hesitate a lot in order to tap into “the perfect moment” of inspiration. Time spent during the pandemic, however, has helped me to confront this perfectionism that was holding me back. Now, I have kind of an unofficial mantra that, whenever my initial reaction is to run from the task, I remind myself that there will never be perfect circumstances. That what matters most is just DOING it (Nike isn’t wrong), and once I have something down on paper, I can make it sound pretty in later stages. Being a writing teacher has also helped influence me in this way because so much of writing instruction is helping students get over this fear of the blank page. I encourage students to just mark up their page at the beginning with anything that comes to mind to get over that initial fear of the big white abyss staring back at them. Somewhere along the way I realized I needed to practice what I preached. I usually start by hand-writing ideas and leads in a moleskine notebook, and once I’ve hit a vein that feels right, I’ll transfer it to word processing on a computer.
I have kind of an unofficial mantra that, whenever my initial reaction is to run from the task, I remind myself that there will never be perfect circumstances.
What is your biggest inspiration when writing?
I feel a mystical connection with Place, with ancestors that have made it into what it is and passed it along to us, for both better and worse. I love to immerse myself somewhere and feel the stratigraphy of time around me. Just as sedimentary rocks have different layers that correspond with different time periods, places have different layers that denote different times as well. So I love to take all that in and imagine what could have been happening in those different eras. As a city with such a rich history that starts well before Europeans arrived, San Antonio and the wider region evoke such a strong sense of place for me. I am inspired whenever I visit its cypress-lined springs and crystalline streams as well as all the buildings composed of hand-hewn limestone, chisel marks still evident from over a century ago. Here, you can literally touch the past.
What piece of writing have you composed that you are most proud of?
I have published essays and news articles, but fiction will always be my first love. And my ability to have it published still eludes me. I have been working on a story for over a decade that is special to me entitled, “La Saga Picante del Cenzontle”. Inspired by Michael Chabon’s comic book world in The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, I wanted to write a story about a Mexican-American superhero. It has been a very fun thought experiment to come up with El Cenzontle’s special powers and the origin story behind them (and I don’t even really like comic books). It is set in San Antonio and the ranchlands of the South Texas border. Fingers crossed that it gets published someday.
What part of Gemini Ink’s mission resonates with you the most?
I approach teaching writing as teaching a skill, not an academic subject. Skills excite me as a teacher because they are what empower students for life to come. There’s really no substitute for the sense of pride one gets after finally achieving something difficult, and I enjoy being a facilitator of that process. The ability to “bring their stories to life” is such a magical skill. One achieves a sense of self-worth in their identity and the ability to communicate all the complicated things going on in their insides when they learn how to express themselves through writing, to name just a few benefits.
Do you have a website, social media, or any other links to recent writing you’d like to share with us?
I have a website with one of those super long addresses so here it is in shorter format: tinyurl.com/ss8f8hb8
And just for fun…
Who are your favorite music artists?
John Legend, Javier Solis, Bomba Estereo, Mandolin Orange, Old Crow Medicine Show.
What are your favorite binge-watching series’?
Pose, Gentefied, Nailed It, anything that involves the art of cooking or baking.
Tell us something that will surprise us!
I practice Buddhist meditation (which just means I learned meditation from Buddhist teachers) regularly and credit it with transforming my life.