In 1989, The Taos News asked residents to predict what Taos would be like 20 years into the future. Nearly three decades later, I asked them how it all turned out—and what they now hope for in the years to come. What emerges is a startling portrait of a community’s transformation over the years, and a new vision of what may be on the way.
Within certain storytelling genres (such as fiction & screenwriting), there lurks an essential element that is often difficult to pin down. That element is narrative architecture, the structure of the story that — like the steel frame of a building — works to justify a plotline, and most critically, a character’s decision-making within that context. A self-supporting narrative architecture is a positive feedback loop that is capable of resisting an earthquake of scrutiny; a flimsy narrative architecture will collapse like a house of straw in a tornado.
On March 29, 2018, I gave a 90-minute professional development workshop on “Narrative Architecture” to Writing Center fellows at Princeton University. By using examples as varied as Portlandia, Vertigo, and Macbeth, we analyzed the plot and character dynamics intrinsic to narrative architecture, progressing from a single scene to a sequence of scenes. These examples helped us answer the following critical questions:
What events must happen for a character to make a critical decision? How can you arrange these events to make that character’s decision justified?
With a deeper understanding of narrative architecture, we practiced analyzing a student fiction story and brainstorming how a Writing Center tutor might be able to give productive suggestions to a student attempting to write an engaging, efficient, and airtight story.
The main ideas of this workshop are currently being adapted to an essay format for future publication. Many thanks to the Princeton Writing Program for inviting me to give the workshop, and to the enthusiastic fellows who participated.
Last week, my Medium post, “The Last Jedi’s snark problem” was featured as a “Staff pick” on the Medium homepage, after which it garnered a lot of traffic on the publishing site.
In a further honor, Medium editors subsequently selected the essay to be read out loud and recorded for an audio version, featuring the voice of professional actor. Should you have the time or interest, it’s quite the listen!
If you are a Medium payingmember, you can listen to the audio version on the article page. Unfortunately, unless you sign up for a Medium subscription, you won’t be able to listen to it. But never fear — you can always still read the article the old-fashioned way!
Every year, The Taos News publishes a series of special issues about Northern New Mexico’s history, art, and culture named ‘Tradiciones.’ The final issue honors people who have been nominated as “Unsung Heroes” of the community, including a “Citizen of the Year.”
I had the privilege of interviewing and profiling two of these “Unsung Heroes” this past summer, Claire Coté and Juan Abeyta. In very different ways, these two citizens of Taos County have contributed a great deal of their time and vision to their respective communities.
In “Bridging Art + Education: Questa’s Claire Coté inspires ‘awe’,” read about Claire Coté, an environmental arts advocate and educator based in Questa, New Mexico. While Coté is involved in an impressive array of community projects, her chief initiative has been the annual NeoRio event, which brings artists and participants to the dramatic landscape of the area known as ‘Wild Rivers,’ which is within Río Grande del Norte National Monument. There, in view of the Río Grande Gorge, the participants enjoy a community arts education experience unlike any other. Read the article here.
In “Risking Life and Limb: Volunteer firefighter and logger Juan Abeyta,” learn about Juan Abeyta, who has fought fires for 44 years in his native Peñasco, New Mexico. Aside from lobbying the county to build a fire station (which, after construction, was named after him), Abeyta has also enjoyed a long, dangerous career in logging. These days, he guides first responders down the the treacherous and byzantine roads in Carson National Forest, whenever he gets the call. Read the article here.
These two profiles are also available online through the ISSUU PDF viewer. (For Coté, refer to pages 30-33; for Abeyta, refer to pages 34-38). Special thanks to Katherine Egli, Karin Eberhardt, Scott Gerdes and Staci Matlock for publishing these stories and your help throughout the process. (Post featured image a photograph by Katharine Egli, courtesyThe Taos News.)
New Mexico is known for its Pueblo Revival architecture—rounded walls, Adobe finishes, and vigas (logs used as beams). The colorful town plazas built in this style evoke the Spanish colonial epoch and the heritage of Pueblo Native American architecture; they attract tourists and capture the imagination of those who witness them.
Yet the Pueblo Revival architectural style is a relatively recent invention, one that gained popularity in the early decades of the 20th century. It was also a design movement that was in many ways the work of one man: an architect named John Gaw Meem, who designed much of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque during his long career. It’s a story that also features famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolf Schindler, and it’s an article published in the Raices (Roots) issue of The Taos News’ annual Tradiciones publication, which celebrates the culture and history of the Taos area.
Read the article (“Southwestern fantasy: John Gaw Meem, Frank Lloyd Wright and the emergence of Pueblo Revival architecture in New Mexico”) on page 14 of the ISSUU version of the publication, embedded in the webpage below or available online at this link. Many thanks to Special Sections Editor Scott Gerdes, designer Karin Eberhardt, and photographer Katherine Egli that helped see this article to print.
This week, one of my stories in The Taos News, about one of the largest residential developments in Taos County since the Great Recession, was picked up by The Taos News’ sister newspaper, The Santa Fe New Mexican. Read the story in Santa Fe’s largest newspaper here.
Last month, I had the chance to visit two spectacular Ancestral Pueblo (formerly known as Anasazi) ruin complexes—Aztec Ruins and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Northern New Mexico. I chronicled my experience visiting the two parks and the town of Aztec, New Mexico in this week’s travel section of The Taos News. You can read about the stunning vistas, ruins, and locales in my feature story, “A trip around ‘Ancestral Circle’: Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the big empty in between,” available on The Taos News website.