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Two Local Literary Stars to Read at the Sala

By Carole Schor

Before Gerry Helferich began writing non-fiction books, he spent 25 years working as an editor and publisher at various houses in New York City, including Doubleday, Simon and Schuster, and John Wiley. Since then, he has written four critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling books of nonfiction. His latest, about which he will speak on August 13, is entitled Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912. The book has received rave reviews from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Kirkus Reviews said, “This lively account of Theodore Roosevelt’s would-be murder reveals the roiling issues and personalities of that key campaign.  Helferich creates several wonderful character studies…. Outsized personalities within a blistering campaign render this work a rollicking history lesson.” The Wall Street Journal says the book is “immensely readable, entertaining, and disturbing…. the book is hard to put down.”

San Miguel Literary Sala
Gerard Helferich
Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin:
Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912
Carol Merchasin
This is Mexico: Tales of Culture and Other Complications
and Hasta la Vista Donald Trump and Other Gringa Sentiments
Thu, Aug 13, 5pm-7pm
Hotel Posada de la Aldea
Ancha de San Antonio 15
100 pesos; 50 pesos for Literary Sala members
Complimentary wine reception

In his previous books, Helferich wrote about the explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who was an important predecessor to Darwin and extremely famous in his day. He wrote about how cotton farming in Mississippi influenced American history. And in his book Stone of Kings, he wrote the remarkable story of the discovery of jade surface mines in Guatemala, a story that involves a San Miguel family. Early 20th-century anthropologists thought the jade in the plethora of jade masks, ornaments, and jewelry they were finding in the tombs of Maya kings must have come from Burma until Jay and Mary Lou Ridinger found the source of Maya jade in Guatemala.

Helferich says such writers as John McPhee, Truman Capote, Tracy Kidder, Erik Larson, and Laura Hillenbrand, as well as the writers of The New Yorker, which, he says, offers the best selection of nonfiction prose published in the United States, have influenced him. His advice to aspiring San Miguel writers is to “establish a regular schedule, block out a period, preferably every day, and let nothing delay it or cut it short, including a lack of ‘inspiration.’ That’s my own discipline, working from 9am to 12 or 1pm, six days a week.” He continued, ‘A wise man once said, “I write only when I’m inspired—but I make it my business to be inspired every morning at nine o’clock.’”

Helferich spends his time between Yazoo City, Mississippi and here in San Miguel with his wife, Teresa Nicholas, a former Literary Sala reader and the author of Buryin’ Daddy: Putting My Lebanese, Catholic, Southern Baptist Childhood to Rest.

Carol Merchasin calls herself a “recovering lawyer.” She is a trainer, public speaker, and author of a book of essays, This is Mexico: Tales of Culture and Other Complications. She’s been living well in Mexico for almost 10 years and is a keen observer, an experienced researcher, and an enthusiastic student of Mexican culture. Carol has been invited to read from her essays for several events here in town because both she and the essays are enormously entertaining. She is able to describe situations familiar to all of us living here with thoughtful insight and often with a great dose of humor. She shines a discerning and perceptive spotlight on the vast differences between the US and Mexican cultures the magical and mysterious—and sometimes heartrending—workings of everyday life in Mexico, written from the perspective of an American expatriate.

Carol will also present some new material from her solo performance piece entitled, Hasta la Vista Donald Trump and Other Gringa Sentiments, as well as excerpts from her book, This Is Mexico.

This August Sala event is a very special reunion between Carol and Gerry. “I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be reading with Gerry,” says Carol. “The very first time I read at the Literary Sala, at the Works in Progress program, maybe four years ago, I had never read my work before an audience, and I decided I would use it as a test of whether to go forward with my essays or to give it up and go back to being a lawyer—or maybe just retire! I had no idea who he was, but Gerry approached me and encouraged me in such a heartening way that I continued to go forward with my writing.”

Carol, who’s been influenced by Anne Lamott, Laura Fraser, and Anne Patchett, is also an early morning writer. “Yes, I work every day early in the morning. That way, no matter what happens for the rest of the day, I know I have accomplished some writing.”

The San Miguel Writers Conference is extremely grateful to Carol for bringing Alice Walker to the 2015 conference. Alice’s words have comforted Carol and also inspired her writing. Alice told Carol, “Make your art as an offering, and then when you have done the best you can, let it go. It isn’t up to you to manage the response of the world.”

Join us at the Literary Sala on Thursday, August 13, at 5pm at the Hotel La Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15. Admission is 100 pesos or 50 pesos for Literary Sala members, and includes a wine reception.


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