Photo by Marco Torres

With Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) now underway, a convenient new calendar courtesy of a local nonprofit dials Houstonians into a host of Latino arts and culture events to celebrate the occasion.

The calendar (find it here) is created and curated by Advocates of a Latino Museum of Cultural and Visual Arts & Archive Complex in Houston, Harris County (ALMAAHH) and is meant to showcase the myriad cultural offerings of the the largest population in Harris County.

Special attention is paid to under-the-radar Latino creators and creations, according to the organization’s board chair, Geraldina Wise. “We want to use this online tool as an opportunity to showcase events with artists you might not otherwise meet,” said Wise.

Users can navigate the calendar via several options, including by type of artistic endeavor, region, date, and more. Those interested can submit requests to include events or activities here.

While the one-stop guide was created specifically for Hispanic Heritage Month, Wise notes that users can visit the guide going forward to support the community.

“We have started with events happening during Hispanic Heritage Month to kick off the calendar,” she said. “But we will continue to add new events and to turn this into the most comprehensive online Latino arts and culture resource for the Greater Houston area.”

Photo by Daniel Ortiz

Outspoken Houston performer lands prestigious national poetry award

The Write Stuff

A local wordsmith has received one of the highest honors a writer can achieve. Outspoken Bean, the noted poet/spoken-word performer/raconteur/renaissance man, has been named the 2022 official Poet Laureate Fellow for Houston, the American Academy of Poets announced.

He will receive $50,000 for the honor, as part of the $1.1 million worth of funding from the Academy awarded to all national fellows to support their respective public poetry programs during their year-long term.

As fans are aware, Emanuelee Outspoken Bean is an acclaimed spoken word artist. He was the first poet to perform on the Houston Ballet stage in the company's production of the popular Play. He also conceptualized and produced Plus Fest: The Everything Plus Poetry Festival. He most recently took the stage for Loveletter, the multi-disciplinary concert hosted and produced by local legend DJ Sun.

During his term as Poet Laureate Fellow, he will complete Space City Mixtape, a spoken-word and creative audio experience of Houston featuring more than 20 tracks from Houstonians telling their stories, the academy notes. Houstonians should look for him at Houston Public Library locations around Houston, as he intends to conduct bi-weekly writing sessions for the next six to eight months in order to capture stories for Space City Mixtape, which will be produced by local producer Russell Guess.

Space City Mixtape is slated to be released next year.

Outspoken Bean joins another Texan to win the honor. Austin resident Cyrus Cassells has been named the 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow for Texas (he'll also receive $50,000 for this work).
Cassells teaches at Texas State University. He's received multiple awards for his work, including a Pushcart Prize, the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
He plans to hold a statewide poetry contest in honor of Juneteenth, inviting students in the sixth through twelfth grades across Texas to submit entries describing what makes the day significant to them.
Ten winners will be selected; they'll receive a travel stipend to the state capital, where the contest will end with a public reading and ceremony at the Neill-Cochran House Museum. The space features Austin's only intact slave cabin and has long served as a venue for African American events and cultural exhibitions.
Judges for the contest include Texas poets Wendy Barker, Jennifer Chang, Amanda Johnston, and Roger Reeves, and Texas historian Martha Hartzog, according to the academy. The contest screeners and judges, along with the top three winners and seven honorable mentions will receive an honorarium, plus copies of Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Reed's book On Juneteenth and Edward Cotham Jr.'s Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration.

Public Poets Laureate have been around since 1919, when the state of Colorado named the first. Fifteen other states named laureates of their own soon after. On the national level, the Library of Congress named Joseph Auslander its first Consultant in Poetry in 1937. This position was renamed the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985.

Ada Limón is the current Poet Laureate Consultation in Poetry and was named to the position last month.

Poets Laureate at every level promote and advocate for poetry, working to not only bring attention to the art form, but also using their platform to bring attention to issues of importance in their communities. The Academy of American Poets is the largest supporter of poets around the U.S. and has donated more than $4.3 million in fellowships to 81 poets since 2019.

The other poets and the communities they represent are Andru Defeye (Sacramento, California); Ashanti Files (Urbana, Illinois); B. K. Fischer (Westchester County, New York); KaNikki Jakarta (Alexandria, Virginia); Ashley M. Jones (Alabama); Holly Karapetkova (Arlington, Virginia); Kealoha (Hawaiʻi); J. Drew Lanham (Edgefield, South Carolina); Julia B. Levine (Davis, California); Matt Mason (Nebraska); Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia); Ray McNiece (Cleveland Heights, Ohio); Huascar Medina (Kansas); Gailmarie Pahmeier (Nevada); Catherine Pierce (Mississippi); Rena Priest (Washington); Lynne Thompson (Los Angeles); Emma Trelles (Santa Barbara, California); Gwen Nell Westerman (Minnesota); and Crystal Wilkinson (Kentucky).

Photo by Marco Grob

Best-selling author Daniel Silva returns to Houston to discuss highly anticipated new book

Gabriel Allon returns

Acclaimed author Daniel Silva's latest thriller, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, has just been released, and if the past is precedent, there's no reason it won't become a New York Times bestseller — like so many others in Silva's Gabriel Allon series.

Yet, there's something different about this particular Gabriel Allon novel, in which the protagonist, the former art restorer turned director of the Israeli intelligence service and assassin, finds himself living quietly with his family in Venice, enjoying retirement and trying to put his violent past behind him. And then, that painting turns up. Is it real or a clever forgery? Can Gabriel figure it out before it ruins his friend's life?

Silva may answer some of those question when he makes highly anticipated appearances in Houston and Dallas this month. He'll be in conversation with Jean Becker, former chief of staff to George H.W. Bush, here at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center on Wednesday, July 27 in an event also produced by Murder by the Book. Fans in Dallas can catch him with Michael Granberry of the Dallas Morning News at the Aaron Family JCC on Monday, July 25.

Both events require tickets ($34; find them here). Importantly, Silva will not sign copies of the new book; each ticket purchase with a pre-signed copy of Portrait.

CultureMap caught up with the best-selling author to talk his new book and being back on the road again, after previous virtual events.

CultureMap: You're back on tour. How excited are you to be traveling again?

Daniel Silva: I'm very excited to do it. We thought about it very carefully and looked at the [COVID] numbers, and put some protocols in place. It in its own weird way though, it's still going to seem sort of virtual in that I can't sit and have a signing. That's the one big component that we'll be missing, those moments with readers, which is a shame, because hat's what I like best.

CM: As a reader, this book felt different. Maybe not so much a transition into something that Gabriel's going do next in his life, but certainly this was Gabriel in a whole different world. Did you think that you were going to get to this kind of a point, when you made your assassin an art restorer and a painter?

DS: Yeah. I actually wanted to get him to this point a long time ago, that the series would be much more art based than it became. My editor at the time really wanted him to be more violent character and to mix it up with these really, really bad, bad guys. I let [Gabriel] get drawn into the global war on terror.

From there, he got drawn into his long-running duel with the Russians and that really changed the, the series. I mean, Moscow Rules [published in 2008] was a very important book for me. This is what I always had in mind for the series as the final act, that I was going to return Gabriel to the art world.

The first thing that I wanted to do with this novel is to just sort of wall it off from Israeli intelligence. He's on his own and. I just enjoyed writing this book so much.

CM: Of course, Gabriel has had capers that involve the art world before now.

DS: Yes, I had books that started in the art world and then branched into, for instance, the Iran nuclear program. But, this one stayed in the art world and I did something that I wanted to do for a very long time.

CM: When we talked last year, we spoke about your love of classical music, which informed what you did in The Cellist. Are you an art lover, too?

DS: I wouldn't have handled [Gabriel] the way I have if I wasn't. Writing the series gave me a sort of an amateur master's degree. I'm fascinated by the business of art and I'm really fascinated by the dirty side of the art business that I've explored in the past.

CM: And that is where Portrait of an Unknown Woman is set.
Yes. There are a lot of very, very, very fine and very reputable art dealers and galleries. But there are a lot of dirty, disreputable art dealers out there, too. And they will sell anything if they think they can make money. That's something that the book explores.

Money has always been at the heart of art, going back to the Renaissance, when rice Italian noblemen would hire artists to paint their portraits or their palazzos. And, of course, there's the relationship between art and the Catholic Church, which hired artists to decorate their churches.

CM: Did it feel different writing this novel, as opposed to the others in the series?

DM: I very deliberately reset character. In the first chapters, his wife won't let him work. She sends him out to explore [Venice]. So, he wanders the city and visits paintings he's restored there. And he is able to let go of these nights of blood and fire and he changes; his physical appearance changes a little bit.

I love the subtle changes that I was able to bring to the character. I love the fact that humor that found its way into the book book totally by accident. I did not realize that it was going to such a rocket journey through the art world.

CM: What should fans expect when they come and see you in conversation in-person after all these virtual visits?

DS: I hope that it's both a relaxing, funny and informative evening. It's gonna be interesting. You know, I literally have not been in public in three years.


Daniel Silva will discuss his new book and career with Jean Baker, former chief of staff to George H.W. Bush, at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center (5601 S Braeswood Blvd.) at 7:30 pm Wednesday, July 27. Tickets are $34; all tickets come with a pre-signed copy of the book. For reservations, visit the event page.

Photo by Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group

Crazy Rich Asians author returns to hometown Houston for bookish Inprint Ball

A crazy rich party

The Inprint Poets & Writers Ball, Houstonian literati and bibliophiles’ favorite gala, returned to in-person celebration with one, crazy, rich night thanks to best-selling author Kevin Kwan. The Crazy Rich Asians novelist, who grew up in Houston along with a special anniversary for Inprint director Rich Levy, made the dazzling evening one to remember.

Chaired by Cullen Geiselman, with help from Host Committee, the Inprint board, advisory board, and Presidents Council, supporters and the 350 guest, the Ball raised more than $442,000 for Inprint’s mission to bring the best writing to Houstonians and its many community activities and support for emerging writers attending University of Houston and Rice University.

For a punily good evening, guests also celebrated and raised a glass to another rich literary tradition, Inprint’s executive director, and award-winning poet in his own right, Rich Levy’s 25 years at the organization.

Inprint supporters were excited to be back in the room together-this year at the Briar Club-for a ball like no other. Along with a headlining literary star as speaker, what makes the Poets & Writers Ball truly unique is its pre-dinner salon readings from up-and-coming writers and poets who have benefitted from Inprint’s support, usually while attending the University of Houston graduate creative writing programs.

This year, the writers giving guests a preview of their next literary obsession were poet and essayist Niki Herd, whose essay “George Floyd and the White Gaze,” was selected as Salon’s “Best of 2020;” poet Justin Jannise author of award winning How to Be Better by Being Worse and fiction writer Isle McElroy author of The Atmospherians, named a Best Book of 2021 by Esquire. All three authors praised Inprint’s support during their time in Houston and stressed how vital those prizes and fellowships had been to their work. Some also recounted how leading Inprint community writing workshops and programs had especially influenced their writing and personal lives.

After a poetic dinner designed by Robert Del Grande, who contributed an actual culinary poem about the inspiration for the meal, it was time to get crazy with Kevin Kwan.

ABC-13 News journalist Melanie Lawson led Kwan on a journey into his life in writing. Born in Singapore, he now calls New York home, but Kwan recalled his formative years growing up in Houston. It was at UH Clear Lake that he wrote a poem the would become the foundation for the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, and that iconic second scene from the film when the family matriarchs gossip during Bible study. Kwan also revealed coming back to Houston to take care of his ill father and listening to his stories of Singapore became a large inspiration for the novels.

At the end of the evening, guests received a very special thank-you gift designed by artists Fiona McGettigan and Alan Krathaus of CORE Design Studio, a handmade limited-edition chapbook based on the opening pages of Kevin Kwan’s latest novel Sex and Vanity, each copy of which was numbered and signed by the author.

Seen having a crazy, literary night were Eloise and Steve Brice, Mary S and Jack Dawson, Kate Dearing and Steve Fowler, Consuelo Duroc-Danner, Brooke and Dan Feather, Sarah Flournoy, Debbie Gary, Judy and Marc Herzstein, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Sabria and Kevin Lewis, Meg Malone, Nancy Powell Moore, Beth Robertson, Lillie Robertson, Sarah Rothenberg and Robert Azencott, Sarah Beth and Paul Seifert, Doreen Stoller and Dan Piette, Liara Tamani and Larry Animashaun, Brad Telford and J. Mark Deaton, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Michelle and Rishi Varma.

Writers Isle McElroy, Niki Herd, Justin Jannise.

Photo by Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group
Writers Isle McElroy, Niki Herd, Justin Jannise.
Photo by Marco Grob

Best-selling author Daniel Silva visits Houstonians' living rooms in new virtual event

a chat with silva

New York Times best-selling spy thriller author Daniel Silva is in conversation with CNN's Dana Bash, and Houstonians can get in on the virtual event.

The Bayou City's Murder By the Book has partnered with the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and the National JCC Literary Consortium for this In Your Living Room Live event, marking the publication of Silva's latest book in the mega-popular Gabriel Allon series, The Cellist.

This virtual event will be held via Zoom on Monday, July 12 at 7 pm. Those who want to take part must purchase a copy of The Cellist from Murder By the Book in person or online, and will receive a link to the discussion.

It promises to be a lively one. Silva's thrillers, with their cosmopolitan international locales, starring spymaster, art restorer and assassin Gabriel Allon have, for two decades, offered readers insight into global intrigue. Plot points feel ripped from the headlines; in some cases, they even precede the deadlines.

"You can't be behind the curve in this genre," he tells CultureMap.

In book after book, Silva has looked ahead across world affairs, and crafted fast-paced, elegant, smart narratives that have not only proven his writing prowess but propelled him to the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller List.

The Cellist sees the return of Gabriel Allon and his team. This time, in tracking down the truth behind the death of a Russian exile, Gabriel uncovers a Russian plot that seeks to undermine Western democracy from within.

Silva has written about Russia and its meddling before in the series. Fans will recognize that The Cellist continues the string of developments seen in Moscow Rules, The Defector, and The Other Woman, among others. Bur those just entering the world of Gabriel Allon need not worry; every book is easily approached on its own. The Cellist explores how Russia uses money as a weapon.

"Money is Russia's greatest weapon," a Russian prisoner tells Gabriel in The Cellist. "A nuclear bomb can only be dropped once. But money can be wielded every day with no fallout and no threat of mutually assured destruction. Russian money is rotting the institutional integrity of the West from within."

"That," says Silva emphatically, "is the nub of the book."

Silva had just about finished writing it when insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

"How could I not write about that?" he asks rhetorically.

The event forced him to not only write an entirely different ending, but forced him to go back and rework the front two-thirds of the novel, causing him "many, many 14, 15-hour days." That's just about double his average writing time.

Like many others, the author spent the pandemic at home. Last summer's release of The Order, the 20th book in the Gabriel Allon series, launched amid a flurry of virtual events, a trend that's continuing this year, as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus Delta variant, vaccinations, and a slow return to normal life.

Silva notes that there was "an enormous audience" for one of the Facebook Live events last year, but he recognizes there's no comparison between that and the few precious minutes he spends talking to fans who turn up to his in-person signings. Still, his discussion with Bash will likely prove interesting viewing, especially given Silva's keen observations of current affairs.

The Cellist also offered Silva the opportunity to drop in something else he's keen on: classical music.

"I love classical music," he says. "I listen to classical music first thing in the morning. I don't really sleep very much, so I listen to classical music much of the night. I am one of those people."

Two of the book's main characters share the author's enthusiasm, with very different approaches and story arcs.

"The initial inspiration some had to do with the musical background of my villain," he explains. "And then, as I pulled the thread and plotted and plotted and plotted, I decided to make that musical background a big, big part of the story."

It afforded him the opportunity to include some of his own favorite pieces into the writing, including Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, which he calls, "one of the most beautiful little pieces," some of Brahms' cello sonatas and pieces by Haydn. Astute readers will see some name drops for some of Silva's favorite real-life musicians and conductors as well.

"And I got to bring back a character I've always wanted to bring back," he relays.

As he gears up for another series of virtual book tours, Silva's looking ahead. He's hopeful that next summer there will be a return to in-person events, possibly coming back to Houston, a city he's visited several times before, both for events the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center and at Murder By the Book.

He's also taking meetings about bringing his books to life on-screen. Previous deals have fallen through, but Silva says he's hopeful about the prospects this time.

So, there's much more to come for Silva, his characters, and his fans. When we spoke, he was already on page 66 of the next novel.

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New Texas-based mental health subscription box plans national launch at SXSW 2023

Speak Now and Hold Your Peace

Mental health apps are so alluring, but once you’ve recorded your two-week streak and things are feeling a little more organized, it can be hard to keep going. It’s hard enough to keep up with journaling and a great bedtime routine, and many lovely self-help tools also lose their effectiveness when the novelty wears off.

A smart company might harness that novelty as its hook — and an easily distracted self-helper won’t fall off the wagon. Like many other companies in the mental health space, Austin-based Speak As One will work on a subscription model, but this one won’t languish, unused on a credit card statement.

The service, which plans to launch during SXSW 2023, delivers boxes of tangible mental health tools, inspiration, games, and even sensory objects that act as a monthly nudge to try something new, and curiosity takes care of the rest.

A sample box included:

  • Stress balls with short inspirational phrases by MindPanda
  • An Emotional First Aid Kit containing advice for situations as they come up, like sleeplessness and feelings of inadequacy
  • Tiny colorful putties at different resistances by Flint Rehab
  • A notebook, and two books: Athlete Mental Health Playbook and 1000 Unique Questions About Me
  • Other small items

It’s more than packing and shipping out a few toys each month. The boxes are curated with help from a licensed therapist, who leaves a personal note along with tips on how to use the items inside and additional resources. There is one type of box right now that aims to “reduce anxiety, increase mindfulness, and promote peace and balance,” but for further customization (for $10 more), the team is working on boxes tailored to first responders, veterans, athletes, and people in “recovery.”

Speak As One emphasizes community stories in its branding outside the delivery box, and uses inspiration from “influencers” (less content creators and more so people who can embody a relatable story) to build the specialty boxes. The company’s YouTube channel shares dozens of interviews with founder Julie Korioth, a former board member for Austin’s SIMS Foundation, a well-respected mental health resource for members of the local music industry.

“With hundreds of millions of people struggling with mental health, and COVID making the issue much worse, society continues to ostracize those who openly discuss mental health issues,” said Korioth in a release. “I founded this company so we can change the way the world sees, discusses, and supports mental health. Our goal is to promote empathy, connectedness, acceptance, and thoughtfulness with an innovative toolkit that caters to specific needs."

In addition to offering a nudge, these boxes could make great care packages for a loved one who is feeling introspective or going through a significant life event. It is possible to buy gift boxes, if presentation is your thing, but it’d be just as easy to repackage a box that comes before the receiver ready to appreciate the items at home.

The cost of one box is manageable at $49.99 (especially considering the retail value of products included, which the sample box far exceed), but for many subscribers this adds up fast. Luckily, there is no pressure to continue a lengthy commitment — subscriptions last between one and six months, so users have plenty of time to reconsider and sit with the items that have already been delivered.

"The goal is to meet our audience at any phase of their mental health journey,” said Korioth. “We’re creating change and a global life-long support system for children and adults dealing with mental health challenges. We simultaneously highlight businesses, the tech community, athletes, and artists doing wonderful work in this space.”

The company plans to partner with corporations to connect with employees and provide boxes to individuals the company chooses, and will turn some content into session albums with sales proceeds dedicated to mental health research.

More information and links to preorder are available at speakasone.com.

Award-winning Christian country star Lauren Daigle to make her RodeoHouston debut in 2023

daigle's debut

As longtime H-Towners know, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo may take place in spring, but rodeo is all year. With that in mind, country music fans can get excited now about a major artist's debut next year.

Christian country star Lauren Daigle will make her RodeoHouston debut on Thursday, March 2, 2023, the rodeo announced. Tickets for her performance go on sale Thursday, December 8 at rodeohouston.com.

One of the most acclaimed and beloved performers in her genre, Daigle boasts two Grammy Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, and four American Music Awards. She scored three No. 1 songs alone with her debut album, How Can It Be (which went platinum): “First,” “O’Lord,” and “Trust in You.”

Her follow-up album, Look Up Child, won her a Grammy, aided in part by the smash single “You Say,” which is currently listed as the longest-running No. 1 song to appear on any weekly Billboard chart.

Far more than specifically a Christian act, Daigle has won a legion of country and crossover fans with her spirited and soulful tones, a passion for charity and giving back, and an authentic connection to her live audience. Not surprisingly, Daigle has 4.7 million monthly listens on Spotify and nearly 3 million subscribers on YouTube.

Expect these tickets to go fast, as Daigle is a star who's shine is only getting brighter with every album, single, and show.

Daigle's news comes after RodeoHouston revealed its highly anticipated Opening Day performer announcement. CultureMap was first to report that Parker McCollum will take the NRG Stadium stage on Tuesday, February 28, 2023.

More entertainers will be announced as next year's event draws near. The 2023 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and all RodeoHouston performances are scheduled for February 28–March 19, 2023 at NRG Park.

Gooey-centered cookie bakery opens in Tanglewood/Briargrove area with oversized treats and more

who wants a cookie

A Cypress-based cookie bakery is ready to open its first retail location in Briargrove. Milk Mustache will open its new location in the former Michael’s Cookie Jar space at 1864 Fountain View Dr.

As CultureMap reported in July, founder Tracy Jones started Milk Mustache by giving away cookies to first responders, drive-by birthday parties, and daycare centers. Eventually, the enthusiastic response prompted her to turn the side hustle into a business by opening a bakery in Cypress.

Over time, she developed her recipe as a hefty, 6-ounce cookie that’s approximately 4 inches in diameter. Similar in approach to New York’s acclaimed Levain Bakery, Milk Mustache cookies have crispy edges and gooey centers.

“We call it ‘baked to perfection’ where it is soft and dense and gooey but it’s not raw,” Jones said in July. “That is the sweet spot.”

At the new location, Milk Mustache will sell 12 flavors of cookies. They include eight of the bakery’s most popular flavors — Campfire Bliss, Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream, Golden Goose, Nutella Dream, Oatmeal Chocolate Walnut, Red Velvet Cream Cheese, and Snickerdoodle — and four features that will rotate weekly.

In addition, Jones is introducing a bar devoted to edible cookie dough with six different flavors available by the pint or scoop. Diners will be able to add any of 10 different toppings to their cookie dough.

Milk Mustache will celebrate its grand opening from 12 pm-5 pm this Saturday and Sunday, December 2 and 3. The first 100 customers on both days will receive one free chocolate chip mini cookie, and an hourly raffle will give away a free 12-pack of cookies. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer's Association of Houston & Southeast Texas on Saturday and Houston Children's Charity on Sunday.

“I am thrilled to be opening Milk Mustache’s first storefront location,” Jones said in a statement. “After opening the cookie factory in 2020, I knew I wanted the next step to be a beautiful, inviting cookie shop people would look forward to visiting, and Tanglewood was a perfect fit. I started baking cookies as a way to bring joy to those around me, and it has been so incredible to see Milk Mustache grow into what it is today.”

Photo by Michael Anthony

The Campfire Bliss has a marshmallow center.