The Cultural City: Speakers

Luis Alberto Urrea

Keynote Speaker: Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and award-winning writer. He is a master of language and a gifted storyteller who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.

Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother, Luis grew up in San Diego, California. Like so many great writers, Luis got his start in literature writing poems to impress girls in junior high school. His early heroes were all rock stars, but not being especially musically gifted Luis chose to follow in the steps of his literary role models. A fanatical hunger for reading pushed him over the edge at the age of 13, “I just had to do what my heroes were doing,” he has said.

As a young man Luis served as a relief worker amongst people living in the Tijuana garbage dumps prior to receiving a teaching Fellowship to Harvard University. “The border” has defined his life and colored much of his writing. Regarding this point he once said “the border is simply a metaphor that makes it easier for me to write about the things that separate people all over the world, even when they think there is no fence.”

The author of fourteen books, Luis Urrea has published extensively in many genres and has received many prestigious awards. In 2009 on a bit of a whim he wrote his first-ever mystery short story (“Amapola”) and won nothing less than an Edgar Award. The Devil’s Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His highly acclaimed historical novels; The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America together tell the story of Teresita Urrea, a great aunt who was a healer and Mexican folk hero at the turn of the 20th century. These two books, which involved more that 20 years of research and writing, are an epic work honoring the life of an incredible woman. Collectively The Devil’s Highway, The Humming Bird’s Daughter and his 2008 novel Into the Beautiful North have been chosen by more than thirty different cities and colleges across the country for One Book community reading programs.

Luis Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Aside from his Fellowship at Harvard he has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College, the University of Colorado and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Luis is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He lives with his wife Cinderella (“Cindy”) and their youngest daughter in Naperville, IL.

George Getschow headshot2Moderator: George Getschow

George Getschow, director and writer-in-residence of the nationally acclaimed Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, spent 16 years at The Wall Street Journal as a reporter, editor, bureau chief, and on the Page One Rewrite Desk. At the Journal, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the Robert F. Kennedy Award for “distinguished writing” about the underprivileged. Today, he is a principal lecturer and writing coach for the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, and a writing coach for a number of storytellers in the Southwest. He was recently inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters for his “distinctive literary achievement.” He served as a Pulitzer Prize jurist for feature writing the last two years at Columbia University. He is editor of The Best American Newspaper Narratives, an anthology of the best narratives published by the nation’s daily newspapers each year. He is also editor of Ten Spurs, a collection of the best essays and narratives submitted to the Mayborn’s national writing contest. He is completing a book, Walled Kingdom, for John Macrae Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Co., which grew out of two narratives he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

Vognar headshot2
Dual Keynote: Chris Vognar

Chris Vognar was the 2009 Nieman Arts and Culture Fellow at Harvard University. He is currently Culture Critic for the Dallas Morning News, where he has worked since 1996. Chris co-hosts The Big Screen show on KERA, Dallas’ NPR affiliate. He has taught journalism at Harvard Summer School, film history at the University of Texas at Arlington and arts journalism at Southern Methodist University. He earned his B.A. in English from UC Berkeley. He enjoys playing and watching basketball, reading, and, of course, writing.

teresacolemanwash2Panelist: Teresa Coleman Wash

Teresa Coleman Wash is the Executive Artistic Director and Founder of TeCo Theatrical Productions, an award-winning multicultural theatre that produces a full season of theater performances, jazz concerts, lecture series and arts education programs at the Bishop Arts Theatre.  The organization’s mission is to cultivate a diverse and vibrant arts community while creating sustainable opportunities for local and emerging artists through performances and education. Wash is the recipient of many honors and accolades. She was recently profiled in the Legendary Locals of Oak Cliff and she has received the Trailblazer Award from the National Association for the Study and Performance of African-American Music, Elite News Women of Excellence Award, Radio One & Southwest Airlines State Fair Classic Community Service Award, and the Professional Women’s Association Mabel Meshack White Award, to name a few.  She is Co-Chair for the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce Arts & Culture Committee and the Dallas/Ft. Worth Regional Rep for The Dramatists Guild of America. Teresa is the wife of Al Wash and proud mother of Albert and Alijah.

Jin Ya Huang photo2Panelist: Jin-Ya Huang

Upon arrival to the United States after being raised in Taipei, Taiwan, until the age of 13, Jin-Ya Huang was inspired to remember her experiences as a whole and relate it to her new life. As she struggled with her East-West identity, dealing with social issues of being an immigrant in America, living as a survivor of abuse, and developing as a working Mother/Artist, Huang realized this is the narrative point of view she wanted to address in her work. She found her translation through abstract photography and written words, by which she is able to convey her history with meaning, while making a difference, and project the mission of kindness footprint.