Poem featured in Amethyst Review

I’m excited that my poem, Synecdoche, has been published in Amethyst Review.

Check it out here: https://wp.me/p9ebHQ-p5

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Poem: Crystal Lights at Night

Gliding fingers cross paint-stained tables of noir,
Ivory memories at Ikea. Light years ago.
Pouring over books and media to pass time.
Working; the in-between. Trying to prove to
Me. So, I can be there for your own self-mastery.
A real-life retelling of a sophisticated masticated menagerie of our fleeting reality.

Marian Luntz Discusses Latin Wave 10

By Alexander P. Garza

23 APR, 2015

The 10th edition of Latin Wave: New Films from Latin America is less than a week away at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and runs from April 30 – May 3, 2015. I’m very excited to be attending the festival and seeing the Mexican film Güeroswhich is screening on May 3 at 1pm. I got a chance to speak with Marian Luntz to discuss the event, how it got started, and what’s in store at the museum for film fans.

The Beginning of Latin Wave

A little over 10 years ago, the Museum of Fine Arts Film Department was approached by Fundación Proa, an arts organization from Buenos Aires. Together with a company called Tenaris, a Houston-based international energy company, they collaborated with MFAH Films to establish a Latin American film festival in Houston.

Museum of Fine Arts Houston Latin Wave 10 via Twitter @MFAHFilms

Museum of Fine Arts Houston Latin Wave 10 via Twitter @MFAHFilms

Under the leadership of curator Marie Carmen Ramirez, an internationally renowned contemporary art expert, MFAH developed a culturally significant Latin American Art department.

Luntz explains “we continued to actively collect contemporary Latin American Art, organize exhibitions, get involved with research, and collect critical writing about Latin American Art which had never been done before at the museum.”

This initiative has not only been vital to the museum, but has also opened avenues to Latin American artists. “It’s enabling a lot of artists to further their reputation outside their native countries and Latin America” Luntz says.

The first seven years, the films were selected by Monika Wagenberg, but for the past three years, Luntz has been working with film curator and expert Diana Sanchez on Latin Wave’s programming.

The Challenge

Although Luntz and Sanchez have pretty nice jobs of watching and curating films, setting up Latin Wave is not without its challenges. Luntz says “the main challenge is not having room for all the films that we would like to show. In this case we’re showing ten films for the 10th edition.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to get a film for the series because of distribution agreements and negotiations. For example, the documentary Salt of the Earth, about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, just opened at the River Oaks theater which was on the initial list of possible films for Latin Wave. Luntz explains, “but we found out that it was opening commercially, so it wasn’t available to us. I highly recommend that film, by the way.”

Scheduling is another challenge, especially at this time of year. Houston is known for its growing arts community and there are many events vying for people’s time during the summer. College students are burdened with final exams and graduation ceremonies around this time, but the film department has a special incentive for them on the final day of Latin Wave, Sunday May 3rd, when all of the films are free for students with a student ID.

The Rising Wave

The Hispanic population is growing in Houston and now make up more of the city’s demographic than Anglos or African-Americans. But Latin Americans are not the only people visiting Latin Wave. Many of the patrons include filmmakers, artists, other film professionals, and fans of various ethnicities and nationalities.

Attendance has generally risen each year at Latin Wave, and most recently the Thursday Happy Hour has helped kick off the event. “We always aspire to have each year to be better attended than the previous year. The Thursday Happy Hour established by the museum has become very popular and I think this year, it will be a good way to launch the event,” Luntz said.

Manos Sucias

Manos Sucias

On Thursdays, admission to the museum is free, so patrons are free to walk around and visit the museum. The first film, starting at 7 pm, is the Cuban film, Behavior, written and directed by Ernesto Daranas. Manos Sucias, executive produced by Spike Lee, will be the second film and starts at 9 pm. The Manos Sucias screening will feature producer Elena Greenlee as a guest presenter.

The mixologist at the museum will be mixing a specialty drink for Latin Wave, and DJ Son and DJ Gracie Chavez will be providing music.

Festival Highlights

The film festival has garnered regional and national attention and has created loyal fans. People clear their calendar and flock from San Antonio, Austin, and nearby states to catch the new Latin American Films that are usually hard to find anywhere else. This has prompted Luntz and MFAH to offer a Latin Wave Ten Pack Pass that offers 25% off when you buy 10 tickets.

“Plan to come see everything. Some of them screen twice. For the films that only screen once, we may bring that back later in the year. We did that with a film from Venezuela which showed at last year’s Latin Wave called Pelo Malo (Bad Hair),” Luntz says.

Sand Dollars

Sand Dollars

Although Luntz encourages people to come see all of the films, she does note that special guests and speakers will be at certain ones. Some of the guests include Geraldine Chaplin, Isidora Marras, Juán Martín Hsu, and Elena Greenlee. “I have high expectations for Sand Dollars and the Kid with our guest Geraldine Chaplin,” Luntz explains.

One of the films being screened relevant to the thriving foodie culture in Houston is Finding Gaston. Luntz says that “it’s an interesting and appetizing film about a socially-conscious legendary chef from Peru who reaches out and visits the farmers making the food or catching the seafood.”

Güeros

Latin Wave has had its share of Mexican films in previous editions. The festival has featured films such as El Alcalde (The Mayor) a striking documentary about the Mayor of Monterrey, NL fighting corruption, Silent Light, Juan of the Dead, and Miss Bala, who’s star (Stephanie Sigman) will be in the upcoming Bond movie, Spectre.

Güeros

Güeros

There is only one Mexican film being featured during Latin Wave 10 this year, but it’s one that packs a punch. Güeros is nominated for 12 Ariel awards and garnered many others from the film festival circuit. Gael García Bernal also signed on as Associate Producer, which has helped the film make its journey around the circuit and to the Academy Awards in Mexico.

“This is an interesting thing for us, all credit to Diana, we were able to confirm Güeros before it had U.S. distribution and before its U.S. premiere was announced” Luntz says.

Luntz also praised aspects of the film: “I like a film in black and white and it’s interesting to think of a film set in the 90s as a period film, but it is. It’s also a bit of an homage to the French New Wave films, which is always of interest to me. There’s an actress who very much resembles Jean-Luc Godard’s muse Anna Karina who was in a lot of the French New Wave films of the 1960s.”

The Future

The Latin Wave Film Series will run from April 30-May 3, but that doesn’t mean that MFAH Films end. One of the upcoming events includes the Palestine Film Festival which will hold screenings at the Brown Auditorium on May 8 and 9th. You can catch the film revival of 2001: A Space Odyssey on May 22-24, and Song of the Sea, one of Luntz’s personal favorites, on May 10, 17, and 25.

They will also screen the Apu Trilogy, by one of the most important Indian film directors of the 20th century, Satyajit Ray. In June, MFAH Films will jazz up Brown Auditorium with their 3rd edition of Jazz on Film, and in November the department will participate once again in the Houston Cinema Arts Festival.

For tickets and updated information on Latin Wave and other events, please visit their website at https://www.mfah.org/films/.

Food adjectives: writing restaurant copy in Houston

Lunch Meatballs from 51fifteen Restaurant and Lounge.
Lunch Meatballs from 51fifteen Restaurant and Lounge.

Trying to describe that delicious meal you had?

Don’t.

Was it so good, that “juicy”, “moist”, or “oozing” are the only words you can come up with to describe it?

Then please, stop. Now.

Your “juicy moistness” is “oozing” all over the place, and it’s making me want to throw up before I even sit down for dinner. Over the last year and a half I’ve been writing copy for restaurants in Houston, TX. I used and overused words like “delicious”, “good”, and “great” and read major Houston food bloggers using amazing and some questionable adjectives to praise and bash places.

Last year, I came up with a list of food adjectives to avoid and food adjectives to use. Today, I’m going to share these with you, so you can start writing better food descriptions.

Steal

T.S. Eliot, Aaron Sorkin, and many others have been quoted as saying, in some form or fashion, that “great writers steal”. This is also the same reason why they teach “imitation” in many writing classes, such as the Writing and Reading Poetry class at the MIT Open Courseware site.

Although, imitation and “stealing” are part of the writing process, it doesn’t mean that you just copy and paste straight into your final product. Scan the web for your local competitors’ websites and social media profiles. Look at the most successful web presences of that year by restaurants in your area of competition. Mine was Houston, TX. But look in other major cities as well. Keep looking, and don’t be surprised to find that some restaurants will have almost no web presence.

Either bookmark pages or copy and paste great lines of copy in a word document just for reference. This document is not to be used in your final product, it is just a reference guide for you. You should start seeing lines that you wish you had written. These are the ones you want to imitate.

What does good copy look like?

Take Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, for example. This quote is from their About Us page.

“It’s a belief in the steak, not the sizzle. It starts long before the meal hits the plate, before the restaurant doors open, or before the lights go on. It begins with a conviction, a way of doing things that elevates the king of meals to Michael Jordan’s rarified celebrity status. And it’s in everything we do.”

This is an excellent piece of web copy. This lets me know the company’s mission, values, commitment, and makes me hungry at the same time. Let’s look at the adjectives here. The main one is “sizzle”. Keep it. Save the quote for later.

Find something on each website or social media profile you visit. There’s got to be something. Even if it’s just a word or unrelated phrase that you really like. Copy and save it.

What does bad copy look like?

You’ll also find some terrible ones. I don’t about you, but reading “gushing” or “oozing” to describe food is not appetizing to me. Neither does using “food porn” in an article or any other copy. Ever. Some of these are subjective and each writer must make that final decision of what to include in their copy, but if you’re representing a traditional or conservative restaurant group, then you will need to think twice before publishing “Food porn alert: Try our bloody steak. Stick it in your mouth, it’s oozing with juiciness”. Not appetizing.

Sensory marketing

You probably noticed something as you were reading through various restaurant and food copy. You may have been getting cravings. Getting hungry. If the copy is good, it will start to stir some real physical reaction in the reader. You should strive to get your readers wanting to eat by using some the words included in the list below. Words like “good”, “great”, and “awesome” are general positive adjectives, and are not likely to make you hungry. You want to find specific positive adjectives to describe food.

“Premium soft oven-baked triple chocolate cake, with a generous scoop of savory vanilla ice cream, drizzled with creamy caramel” sounds more enticing than “delicious chocolate-caramel cake”. Also, a photo goes along way with sensory marketing, so try to attach a professional photo of the dish. You may have noticed that describing delicious food starts to sound sexual. Often, a dish is described as “sinful” or “tempting”. These are some trigger words, and should be used sparingly and subtly. You don’t want your copy reading like an erotic novel.

The list

So here is the list of food adjectives to use and ones to avoid. Notice that there may be some that can be used for bad or good such as the words “moist” and “crunchy”, which grosses some people out, but can be used in an appetizing piece of copy as well. The best piece of advice I got from my Creative Writing professor in my undergrad was “writing is revising”. Keep editing and revising, and ask others what they think. Take their critique or advice with a grain of salt, and revise again.

What words would you add to this list? Comment below. Don’t forget to sign up for your insider newsletter.

Here is the list of good food adjectives to use:

ambrosial
appetizing
appealing
alluring
attractive
artisan
baked
blended
braised
breaded
caramalized
choice
creamy
crisp(y)
crunchy
crusted
dazzling
delectable
delicious / delish
delightful
dream, dreamy,
drizzled, drizzling
enticing
excellent
fabulous
fine, finest
flavorful
forever braised
fork tender
fresh, freshly, freshest
fresh sliced
full-bodied
gingery
glazed
good / goodness
great
grilled
hand-prepared
homemade
hot
indulgent
interesting
inviting
juicy
lip-smacking
lemony
lovely
luscious
melted
mild-tasting
moist
mouth-watering
nutty, nutlike
oven-roasted
pan-seared
peppery / peppered
piquant
pleasant
refreshing
rich
roasted
robust
satisfying, satisfy, satisfaction
savory
scrumptious
seared
seasonal
seasoned
sinful
slow-roasted
smoky, smoked
special
spicy
sweet
succulent
sugary
sugary sweet
sugary sweet goodness
superb
tangy
tantalizing
tart
tasty
temptation / tempting
tender
toasty
toothsome
traditional
yummy
warm
warm baked
wood-fire grilled
zesty

Here is the list of food adjectives to avoid:

bad
bitter
cheap
cheesy
crunchy
disgusting
fried
funky
greasy
gross
inedible
junk food
lacking flavor
moist
mushy
oily
rancid
revolting
ripe
rubbery
slop
sour
stale
sticky
trashy
old
oozing

Stray

Stray
Abandoned boy
Wandering streets
Untrusting
Violent being
Seduces her
Impregnating
Imprisoning
Drink
Beat
She
Must
Run

#micropoetry

-Alexander P. Garza

Lose

Another life cut short and it will not stop,

Another roller coaster every time I drop, oh,

Can’t get you out of my head.

Well, love isn’t fair and it cost her lungs

To love who she wanted, but we ain’t got no free lunch.

 

Girl, you know you’re gonna lose

Gonna lose.

 

Another runaway daughter for the sake of love,

Another sacrifice song in the mourning sung.

Can’t get him out of her head.

Smoked filled rooms and firefly skies,

Thank God she made amends after their last fight.

 

Girl, you know you’re gonna lose

Gonna lose.

 

Another loss of love in a soundless night,

Another cough or two and her lungs got tight.

Can’t get him out of her head.

Hospital walls and pain medication,

Crumbling lungs will get vindication.

 

Girl, you know you’re gonna lose.

Gonna lose.

 

-by David Alan Garza and Alexander P. Garza