Manuel Muñoz visits Rose O’Neill Literary House, shares writing advice

By Grace Apostol

News Co-Editor

The Rose O’Neill Literary House hosted author Manuel Muñoz on Monday, Nov. 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. 

The email sent out by Associate Professor of English and Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House Dr. James Allen Hall described Muñoz as “the author of a novel and two other collections of short stories. He’s won prestigious awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, and two O. Henry Awards.”

The email also shared comments by authors Sandra Cisneros and Colin Barrett.

“Sandra Cisneros calls Muñoz ‘a great American writer who sees with his heart.’ Colin Barrett describes the stories in ‘The Consequences’ as being ‘like a porch light at midnight…they strike a circle of stark dreamlike clarity around their characters, even as the darkness gathers in’,” the email said. 

The talk began with Associate Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Dr. Roy Kesey greeting guests and introducing Muñoz. The talk was translated live by ASL interpreters Lynn and Stephenie.

“The Literary House Series is beyond delighted to host a reading by one of our favorite authors this evening, the novelist and short story writer Manuel Muñoz,” Dr. Kesey said. “We’ve invited Muñoz here not because of his accomplishments and honors, but because he’s built these stories and put them into the world where we can experience them.”

After Dr. Kesey finished his address to the audience, Muñoz took the stand to begin the discussion of his novel “The Consequences,” which was published in October of 2022.

“I come from a place where people don’t really write about a lot,” he said. “I grew up in California Central Valley and I always like to put out my arm as an example if you recognize California. I’m in the elbow… that long skinny valley beginning in the middle of the state feeds a good part of the country.”

According to Muñoz’s website, he is a “a native of Dinuba, California, and a first-generation college student.” Manuel graduated from Harvard University and received his Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing at Cornell University.  

Muñoz went on to discuss how people in his family and people in the Central Valley Community pick these crops to help feed the nation. 

“I worked in the fields until I was in about sixth grade,” he said. “Mostly in grapes, sometimes packing peaches, nectarines, plums, but my older siblings did everything from tomatoes to cotton. My dad did oranges, just all sorts of things.”

Muñoz’s novel tells different stories that center on Mexican and Mexican American farmworkers in California’s Central Valley. In the short story “The Reason is Because” in “The Consequences” that Muñoz read for the talk, the main character Nela, living in the Central Valley, gave birth in high school and was left to navigate life after becoming a mother to a child as a teenager. 

“Judging by the cars coming back coated with the fine dust of the fields,” Muñoz said, reading from his book, “people were finding jobs that might pay under the table to keep an apartment like theirs was scrutiny.” 

After the reading from “The Consequences,” Muñoz took questions from the audience. 

The first question came from an audience member asking the author to discuss his revision process with this book.

“It was a rare instance where I looked backwards,” Muñoz said. 

Another asked for advice on writing short stories. 

“I really do believe that stories are an act of compression,” Muñoz said. “Meaning you have to make them like a diamond, and really hone in and try to make things as simple and direct as possible so that you can see movement.” 

After the question and answer portion, the talk wrapped up. Audience members were encouraged to purchase Muñoz’s book and have him sign it.

Those interested can find Muñoz’s book, “The Consequences,” at Bookshop, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

Photo by Grace Apostol 

Photo Caption: Manuel Munoz reads a selection of material to the WC community from his newly published book, “The Consequences.”

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