The following sketches are taken from a University of New Mexico (UNM) University Press panel discussion entitled Lobo Living Room, held on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019. Six well-known writers sat down to speak with moderator Baker H. Morrow. UNM Press director, Stephen Hull, hosts the event., providing a glimpse into living legends of story.
Before Morrow’s conversation with the panel, Stephen Hull reminded the audience of the importance of university presses, highlighting the necessity to promote scholarship and advance knowledge, the call to represent a diversity of cultural experiences by sharing a common cause with various outlets—libraries, museums, and civic centers—and the need to find good authors, vet, and publish them.
After Hull’s introduction, Morrow moderated a conversation with the following writers: V.B. Price, Jack Loeffler, Jim Kristofic, Anne Hillerman, Anna Nogar, and Elizabeth Hadas, all sages of writing and wisdom. Here’s three to precis, a summary of thought.
Anne Hillerman reminds us of the weight of story; there’s an essence to a narrative; we learn something from stories. In addition to essence, story has an entertainment factor; stores move and challenge us, they inspire. And finally, is the engagement of story, the exchange of ideas and cultural identities communicated through narrative, leading to the need to translate thought and imagination though books and other media. Hillerman tells us about her famous father, New York Best-selling author Tony Hillerman, practical and poised, wanting both to publish his stories and be paid for his stories to support a family of six. The result? The Great Taos Bank Robbery. The Taos Bank Robbery led Tony Hillerman to, later, take his stories to the bank via his Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries, made into a PBS mini-series.
Jack Loeffler buried the infamous Edward Abbey in an unmarked hole in Arizona. Loeffler with some friends tossed the anarchist, environmentalist, and noted author into the back of his truck. And then tucked Abbey into the earth. Loeffler may be the only living person that knows the exact spot of Abbey’s resting place. This alone makes Loeffler interesting, worth listening to. But his thoughts are more profound than just an undertaker. Loeffler states that there’a an integration of habitat and culture, our identity is connected to the land, part of a larger story. We must listen and record various forms of cultural identity, be it music, poetry, or narrative, he reminds us. Loeffler suggests that we listen to each other, because listening leads to understanding. And as a good environmentalist, Loeffler reminds us that cultural diversity and biotic diversity are interlinked; one must respect the other. All this from a man in his 80’s that still wears a bandanna around his neck tied with a bone, and beams with a huge smile beneath a gray beard.
Anna Nogar’s academic life revolves around a nun, Maria Fernandez Coronel—the Blue Nun (Mary of Jesus of Ágreda). According to legend, Maria Fernandez Coronel appears to the faithful throughout the southwest via bi-location, giving advice and showing them Jesus. Maria Fernandez Coronel is a nun of two worlds. Enigmas arise! The Blue Nun died in 1665, but the faithful still learn from her. How can a nun that never left Spain be in New Mexico or Texas? Anna Nogar has spent 20 years tracking down Maria Fernandez Coronel’s story. But Nogar also reminds us that in studying the Blue Nun, story allows people to be in two places at once; stories last a long time, even millennia. Furthermore, Nogar states that story and history are integrated, one is dependent on the other. And finally, stories provide historical riddles to solve, of which the Blue Nun is one among many.