The Society of the Muse of the Southwest is a community organization in Taos. It’s a local organization for aspiring writers, authors, poets, songwriters, scriptwriters, etc. to not only have an outlet, but to be within a community of people with like interests who can help you excel. Taos is fortunate for this because it is not very often a writer can come across a group of other writers who can critique and encourage their work. Therefore I believe without SOMOS, many local writers would go unknown.
Established in 1983, SOMOS has grown to be a well-respected organization. SOMOS offers many benefits to the community, such as
- Live readings
- Writing workshops
- Writing conferences
- Writing festivals
You can also find great deals on used books.
SOMOS showcases accomplished writers. However what gives them that special pizzazz is that they also include and encourage novice writers. Their goals include nurturing the literary arts, both written and spoken word, and most importantly, they honor cultural diversity in the southwest. Their vision for success is to see community culturally enhanced and enriched through heightened literacy.
To, me SOMOS is two things. As a youth, it was my outlet that led to my discovery of my talents. Had I not stumbled upon my very beloved teacher Mrs. Anne McNaughton, I’d never know today that I could express myself in the best way I know how: my word. As an adult, SOMOS has many awesome perks. Having a membership means you receive newsletters, discounts at events, usage of space as well as hosting your own event on behalf of SOMOS. From Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos, members are informed of writing and submission opportunities.
McNaughton is one of the ten original founders of the organization. Their inspiration for the birth of SOMOS was simply put: “The idea behind SOMOS was to create an event that would enlarge the poetry audience, and pay the poets. Poets were reading their work for free; the founders felt, just like musicians, artists and employees who work hard for their product, these poets should be getting paid too. I don’t believe any poet should read for free. Writers are like any employee out there just trying to raise money to pay their bills.”
New Leadership: Co-directors
On June 1st 2014, SOMOS transitioned with new co-directors, Jan Smith and David Perez, both established local writers.
“I have high hopes for SOMOS with the new leadership,” McNaughton said.
Jan Smith has been a Taos resident for six years. Smith chose to make her move to Taos in search of the muse. She got involved with SOMOS in the summer of ’09 helping in the office, with the weekly book sales, and with events. “The executive director at the time asked me to be the curator for the Winter and Summer Writers Series. Having been in Taos only a year, I was really excited about that,” she said, smiling.
“I primarily write creative nonfiction and fiction.” Smith just completed a full length memoir called Blink Like Crazy. I asked Jan what inspired her to write the book and her response hit it right on the nail for me.
“In reflecting back on some times in my life, especially my years of adolescence, I decided to write a memoir of my life that was sparked by some of these early events, and make meaning out of them.”
Writers write from their wounds. Through challenging experiences and straight life experience, we reflect on what comes at us and transform the meaning, while turning it into written art. Naturally people go through things in life; when it turns into something so creative, the bottom line is that whether you’re a writer, artist, musician, or photographer, those markings tell a story within your craft.
David Perez, born and raised in the south Bronx, NY made his way to Taos 10 years ago. Perez is of Puerto Rican descent. He has two grown children in their 40s and 30s. He has been a copy editor for the Horsefly (in Taos), written for the the Taos News’ Tempo section, and has been involved in the struggle for social justice, against racism and war, for the environment, etc. I consider him a jack of all trades. He believes that writing and acting compliment each other because they both focus on telling a story.
“I consider myself more a storyteller than a writer, because there are many art forms that can tell a story,” Perez said contemplatively.
“Most art starts with the word,” he added.
When I asked David about his experience through journalism, he gave me some great wisdom:
“Hardest part of being a journalist is you have no time for writers block. It can always be better, but you have a deadline. You gotta meet it.” Perez smiled and shifted his thought process, remembering what Hemingway said: “All writers should try journalism as long as you know when to quit, because it teaches you a discipline of deadlines.”
Smith also mentioned the new Youth Programs Coordinator Jacquelyn Cordova, who is very busy working with the schools to initiate writing mentors coming into the schools to mentor in poetry, songwriting, writing for screen and stage, etc. It sounds like SOMOS is expanding their community. I highly encourage any young local writer to participate in any of these opportunities because SOMOS offers a lot of writing resources, support, and encouragement.
Since the change in leadership, the young writers groups are back after a couple years off. Starting soon, middle and high school students can find opportunities such as:
- Weekly writing after school group
- The young writers group
- Young writers salon
The writers salon will be on the first Sunday of every month. Adults, don’t miss out! There will be an adult salon afterwards too. This is an opportunity to write and even read your stuff.
SOMOS is hosting a story slam at the Harwood on Friday October 24th at 7pm as part of the storytelling festival. They are inviting all young writers who want to read their work — contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Inspiring words for writers:
“Good writers read a lot.”
“If you want to be a writer, surround yourself with other artists.”
“If you’re stuck, work on something else.”
“Do not be afraid of falling down, in fact you should expect to fall down, but always get back up and explore your possibilities.”
“Be open to critiquing, and inspiration.”
“Don’t ever compromise your dreams.”