Author won’t oversimplify Latino experience

Raul Ramos y Sanchez is the author of the critically acclaimed thriller trilogy “Class-H,” set in a near-future U.S. torn by civil war. The first two novels, “America Libre” (published 2009) and “House Divided” (2011), have garnered numerous awards, and Sanchez has been featured on National Public Radio and in USA Today. The third, “Pancho Land,” is just out as an eBook and will be available soon in paperback.

I learned of Raul, though, when he was listed as one of 10 featured authors for this year’s 2013 Ohioana Book Festival (www.ohioana.org), May 10-11 in Columbus. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the other featured authors, which is how I got an early peak at the list.)

A native of Cuba, as a young boy Raul immigrated with his mother to Miami, Fla., in 1961; his father passed away in Cuba shortly after that. In 1968, he moved to the Dayton area with his mother, finishing high school at Fairview, and has been a Midwesterner ever since. He studied at the College of the Dayton Art Institute in its final years, then at Wright State University.

“Then I started getting hired as a graphic designer,” Raul says. “I moved from that to writing headlines for ads, then ad copy and finally doing creative directing for advertising and marketing projects.”

In 1992, he became a founding partner of BRC Marketing, with offices in Centerville and in California.

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“It was while working on several projects and encountering the tendency to want to oversimplify the Latino experience that I decided to start work on developing a documentary about just how diverse that experience really is,” Raul explains.

Raul wasn’t able to get funding for the documentary (although he’d still like to do the project), so he decided to create a fictionalized version of the ideas he’d hoped to explore in the documentary. The result was his “Class H” trilogy.

His publishing story is just as interesting as his personal story. Through the Southern California Writers’ Conference, Raul met his agent. She found it challenging to sell his first novel.

“Publishers weren’t sure what to do with it,” Raul says. “They weren’t sure if my work was ‘Latino’ literature, or science fiction since it’s set in the near future, or a thriller since it also deals with political issues. Plus, the scope of the story I created was so large, that I knew it needed to be a trilogy. Now, how do you categorize that on a bookshelf?”

Eventually, with his agent’s encouragement and blessing, Raul self-published the first novel in the trilogy.

“America Libre” did so well that it was picked up by a traditional publisher, Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books), along with the other books in the trilogy.

Now, Raul is working on a new, stand-alone novel that draws on his memories of growing up in Cuba and Florida, and his transition from one country to another in arguably the most turbulent years of Cuban-U.S. relations.

Raul offers tips for other writers. “Every published writer I know has three attributes in common: persistence, having a skin like a rhino while at the same time learning and growing from helpful criticism, and drawing on a deep inner motivation to write their stories.”

Literary Life news

Thursday, April 11, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Wilberforce University will present its second annual Authors and Publishers Literary Festival with the theme Literature of the African Diaspora. The event, free to the public, will be at Wilberforce University, 1055 N. Bickett Road, Wilberforce. The keynote speaker is renowned educator, poet and author Yvonne Seon (formerly Chappelle); other authors and educators will present as well, along with Wilberforce student performers.

Saturday, April 13, 12:30-5:30 p.m.: The Ohioana Library in Columbus (dedicated to recognizing and encouraging our state’s literary heritage) will launch its 2013 Saturday literary adventure series, “On the Road,” here in Dayton. The first tour event, dubbed “A Poetic Friendship,” celebrates renowned poet Paul Laurence Dunbar as well as his friendship with the Wright brothers.

The tour starts at Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton, at 12:30 (board the tour bus near Culp’s Cafe) and lasts until 5:30 when the bus returns to the park. The tour includes visits to the Dunbar House and the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. Additionally, Dayton’s own Herbert Wood Martin — an accomplished poet, professor emeritus of English at the University of Dayton, and a renowned expert in and interpreter of Dunbar’s work — will perform Dunbar’s work and his own poetry at the new Dunbar House auditorium.

The cost for “A Poetic Friendship” is $45 for Ohioana Library members and $50 for nonmembers. Tour admissions, bus transportation, sight-seeing and the Herbert Woodward Martin reading and performance are included in the price. Make reservations, and find out more about Ohioana’s other upcoming “On the Road” literary adventures, at www.ohioana.org or call (614) 466-3831.

Next Sunday, April 14, 2-3:30 p.m.: Celebrate National Poetry Month by writing your own prose poem at the free Mini-Workshop on Prose Poetry, sponsored by Antioch Writers’ Workshop and held at Books & Co. at The Greene in Beavercreek. This genre, which mixes elements of prose writing and poetry techniques, is rising in popularity. Prose poetry expert Jamey Dunham, published poet and associate professor of English at Sinclair Community College, will lead the session.

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