SOMOS Membership, Please Don’t Undermine Your New Director

As many of you know, SOMOS recently acquired a new Executive Director; Kristina Ortez de Jones came on in January when Dori Vinella retired. I’ve been working with SOMOS on and off for the past few years, and was honestly thrilled when Kristina got the position – she’s got exactly the right blend of energy, smarts, and savvy that SOMOS needs if it’s going to be successful in the twenty-first century.

SOMOS is now in its thirtieth year, and it has a long and storied history in our community. However, literary arts is a tricky beast these days, and if SOMOS is going to not only survive but thrive, it’s time for a real change in direction – honoring what came before, while introducing new elements and programs to keep SOMOS relevant and vibrant. Kristina understands this clearly, and is extraordinarily well-suited for the work.

However, instead of rallying around Kristina and showing enthusiasm for a new era in Taos literary arts, it has come to my attention that not a few members of the SOMOS community have not only been unsupportive, they have been outright rude. “Why would you hire someone who doesn’t know anything about literature?” people are asking (not quietly, I might add). “What would Peter Rabbit say about this?” one person even dared to ask (shame on you, I might add).

Sure, Kristina’s background and recent professional experience is in environmental issues. But to those of you who are asking “What does this have to do with writing and literature?”, allow me to remind you all that Dori Vinella, SOMOS’s 15-year past-ED, first came to the position with the following qualification: that she ran Dori’s Cafe, and therefore knew a lot of the writers in town. But no one was banging down the door demanding that she prove her literary credentials to keep her job.

Forgive me, but I know a lot of brilliant writers who would be terrible Executive Directors. Frankly, the primary skill set that the ED of SOMOS – or any small nonprofit, for that matter – needs is not a “background” in the subject matter, but a good organizational mind; ideas for new programs and projects; experience writing grants and managing donations; and a passion for the work. Kristina has all of those things in spades; and for the record, she is also an avid reader, writer, and literature enthusiast, which you would quickly learn if you took the time to visit SOMOS and speak with her.

To those of you who are doing your best to undermine this bright mind who is trying to save your literary organization, I have a few questions: Do you know that SOMOS is limping along on virtually no budget, and that Kristina’s job is currently a scramble to even keep the organization afloat? Why don’t you offer to lend a hand, instead of trying to pull the rug out from under your new director? If you’re so eager to see your literary organization thrive, why haven’t you been down at SOMOS, volunteering and helping to raise money?

Finally, I ask this: Did it occur to you that the SOMOS Board of Directors hired this person from a pool of candidates, and determined her to be the most-qualified – and if you disagree with their decision so strongly, why not approach them directly, rather than publicly and snidely attacking Kristina?

Let me here emphasize that plenty of SOMOS members have been nothing but supportive of Kristina and enthusiastic for the change – people who recognize that SOMOS has become something of an old white people’s club, resistant to change and dare I say progress, and that it’s long past time for some new energy and ideas.

I have to wonder aloud if the naysayers have even taken the time to come down to SOMOS, meet Kristina, and talk with her about her goals and visions for SOMOS. I have, and I have been nothing but impressed and excited. She’s chock-full of ideas, and she could truly turn SOMOS around. This is an opportunity for SOMOS to reinvent itself; to re-invigorate a community who has turned away from their literary organization in frustration or boredom; and to re-emerge as an essential voice in arts and culture in Taos and beyond. It’s beyond me why anyone would get in the way of that.