Live Oak Reading Series opens students’ minds to new ways of writing

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Written work featured in Vogue, Bomb Magazine and Poets & Writers, along with four fiction books published — a guest speaker for TCU’s Live Oak Reading Series said she accomplished all of this having only taken one English course in college.

Ana Menendez read excerpts from her literary pieces Tuesday evening in Moudy North for TCU students and faculty as a part of the English department’s Live Oak Reading Series. The series hosts six speakers each year to read and discuss their publications.

Menendez read a variety of works ranging from poetry and short stories to excerpts from her novels.

She told students not to be afraid of trying new writing styles, including poetry.

Copies of Menendez's books were sold.
Copies of Menendez’s books were sold at the event.

“I started writing, like a lot of us do, really bad poetry,” Menendez said. “In a way, I haven’t stopped.”

What Menendez may consider “really bad poetry” later led her to a career as a photojournalist in India for the L.A. Times, a columnist for the Miami Herald and an established author.

She said after learning English, she became an avid reader. This gave her the skill set to write, despite her lack of college experience in writing.

Menendez said she only spoke Spanish until she was five years old. Most of her work has been influenced by her heritage as the daughter of Cuban immigrants.

Menendez told Live Oak attendees an account of her first memory at two years old.

She said her mother was teaching her English in the kitchen and explaining how the word hielo means “ice” in Spanish and sounds like the word “yellow” in English. Her mother then pointed out the color.

Menendez said it was experiences such as this that inspired her poetry and writing.

Students responded positively to Menendez’ visit. Sophomore Garrett Gomez said hearing Menendez share the thought process behind her work was helpful because it helped him think about ways he could tell his own stories.

“People think poetry has to be this abstract, confessional piece,” Gomez said. “A lot of poetry is actually just concrete imagery from life experiences. She did such a great job at sharing her narratives this way.”

The final Live Oak reading is March 29. For more information, visit the TCU English Department’s calendar.