Interview With Southwest Writers

As a member of Southwest Writers, I was happy to give this interview about The Corn Whisperer

What is your elevator pitch for The Corn Whisperer?
In the book, written for children 7-10, young Charlie is apprehensive about visiting his grandfather who lives at a pueblo in New Mexico. However, Grandfather Joe is a storyteller. He tells Charlie ancient legends to help him live a better life in today’s world. And, as a result, Charlie and Grandfather Joe develop a close relationship.

When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from it?
A realization that cultural myths and legends hold universal truths that apply to everyday life. In this trio of stories, the lessons are about becoming self-sufficient, accepting and valuing change, and forgiveness.

To read the rest of the interview, visit Southwest Writers.

The Corn Whisperer: Finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards

The Corn Whisperer has been named a finalist in the 2017 New Mexico/Arizona book awards in the following categories:

  • juvenile book
  • parenting/family issues book
  • young readers book

What readers are saying about The Corn Whisperer:

  • “This is a touching story about Charlie and his grandfather, both Native American, who bond after the storyteller, Grandfather Joe tells the boy legends from his childhood. It’s heartwarming to watch the boy grow in love and knowledge as their relationship develops.”  –Jan
  • “The well-researched and authentic stories are an easy read for children. Includes an afterword and sources.” –LWG
  • “Wonderful book that captures the feel of the Southwest and the feel of childhood. Houser brings care and warmth to these native-based stories of life close to nature.” –Robert

Have you read The Corn Whisperer? Add your review to the above on Amazon.


A Tradition Kept for 305 Years

On September 8-10, 2017, the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will honor a promise made over 300 years ago. General Don Diego de Vargas’s skillful negotiations with the Indians in 1692 resulted in an agreement that would allow the colonists to return home to Santa Fe after 12 years in exile. De Vargas gave credit to La Conquistadora, the oldest statue of the Virgin Mary in the United States, for her role in the intercession and promised she would be remembered each year. But the promise wasn’t fulfilled until 1712 when the first City Council of Santa Fe issued the Proclamation of Santa Fe Fiesta. Signed by nine individuals, the Proclamation established the event that honors the colonists’ return to Santa Fe―a tradition that has been kept for 305 years.

Fiesta officially begins at 6:00 a.m. on September 8 at Rosario Chapel, the site where―in 1693―De Vargas and the exiled colonists camped outside the city walls, waiting to enter the city. A mass is held and the mayor of Santa Fe reads from the original 1712 Proclamation, which calls for religious ceremonies, celebration, and thanksgiving to La Conquistadora.

Throughout the weekend, the historic plaza showcases Santa Fe’s rich cultural heritage―an open-air fine arts and craft market, traditional foods, and dances that include Pueblo Indian dances, Mexican folk dances, mariachi dances, and matachine dances.

On the morning of September 10, a solemn procession―carrying an image of La Conquistadora―makes its way from the historic Palace of the Governors to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi where a mass is held.

The fiesta comes to a close on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. at the cathedral with a mass of thanksgiving followed by a candlelight procession. Participants wind their way from the cathedral through downtown streets to the top of the hill where luminarias light the way to the Cross of the Martyrs.

Quarai National Monument

One of my favorite day trips is to the Quarai National Monument. Situated between the Manzano Mountains to the west and endless turquoise skies to the east, Quarai is a quiet, austere reminder of New Mexico’s early history.
Around 1300 AD, prehistoric Pueblo Indians established the village of Quarai next to flowing springs and salt-filled lakebeds only a day’s journey away. They raised corn and other grains along with squash and beans. When Europeans arrived in the late 1500s, they found a thriving village of 600-800 people―an ideal location for Spanish missionaries to settle and convert the Indians. A mission church was built in 1626 alongside a kiva where indigenous people were allowed to practice their own traditions along with the new Christian religion. But over time, a combination of drought, disease, famine, and waring Apaches caused the population to dwindle. And by the late 1670s, the village had been completely deserted.
A weathered, metal marker standing next to the forsaken stone church reads:
. . . for three years no Crops have been harvested. Last year a great many Christian Indians starved, left dead along the roads in the ravines and in their huts. There were towns like Las Humanas where more than 450 starved. Now the same Calamity still prevails, for in the whole kingdom there is not a bushel basket of corn, nor of wheat to be had at any price.
                                                            Friar Juan Bernal, April 1, 1669
Quarai is one of the three Salinas Pueblo Missions managed by the National Park Service. The nearest town is Mountainair, New Mexico. 

Corn Dances

Most of the New Mexico pueblos hold dances throughout the year. There are summer dances and winter dances. There are fall dances and spring dances. But all corn dances speak to the rain because rain mediates between sun and earth―the father and mother of corn.
The schedule for dances at various pueblos is available at the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico,  or the New Mexico Tourism Department.
When visiting a pueblo, be respectful of the community―as if you were entering a stranger’s home.
  • Call ahead to make sure the dances will be open to visitors.
  • At most pueblos, photography is prohibited. Some require a permit.
  • Obey all posted signs.
  • Do not enter a kiva. Do not climb on walls, structures, or ladders.
  • Do not bring alcohol, drugs, firearms, or pets into the pueblo.
  • Silence is mandatory during all tribal dances and ceremonies. Dances are religious ceremonies, not performances. Therefore, applause is not appropriate.
  • Do not enter a home unless you are invited. If food is offered, be gracious and accept the invitation, but do not linger.
  • Limit questions about religion, culture, or traditions. Some information cannot be shared with the public.
  • Do enjoy the experience. You can feel the earth’s vibrations from the dancers’ pounding feet, hear the rhythmic sounds of chanting and drumming, smell the aromas of bread baking in outdoor ovens, and savor stews and tacos.