One breezy, midsummer night in 2018, Viva Tacoland, under a full moon, was taken over by the Macondo Writers Workshop for its Open Mic night. Continuing an annual tradition, writers took the stage one after another to read from freshly printed manuscripts, kept to a strict two-minute time limit by emcee Tony Diaz from Houston, himself a Macondista – as former and current workshop participants are called.

The quality of the readings, in a stream of more than 30 voices, evidenced the value of the Macondo workshop: its writers are professionals, most are published authors or on their way, and as the Open Mic reading took place in the midst of the workshop, the intensity of editing and interchange produced compelling, concise writing.

The Open Mic night presented itself as a ready-made chapbook, an idea I brought to Macondo board member Natalia Treviño. Her fellow board members agreed, and soon, 23 writers were on board to participate. After making space in the busy Rivard Report publishing schedule, the chapbook debuted Aug. 2 and ran through the first week of 2020.

“The whole purpose of our work is for it to be accessible,” said board member Anel Flores. “When you put literature in a place of news, you find a new audience.”

Treviño agreed. “It lines up with the Rivard Report’s interest in serving art-loving audiences and sensitive audiences who are trying to access more information in a non-mainstream manner.”

In the various poems and prose pieces, the social justice emphasis of Macondo writers is evident. Voices represent the various intersections that reflect San Antonio’s longstanding community of writers, reflecting indigenous, immigrant, and American experiences.

“More important than [our writers] being published,” Treviño said, “it’s getting that message out to the community to people who might not have access to art, and whose lives can be saved by art. It’s not just about a fancy publication … but about what is the message in this book, and how can we get that message to the right audience? Books save lives.”

The Viva Macondo digital chapbook will remain available on the Rivard Report website. If you find the content worthy, please consider a donation to the Macondo Writers Workshop to help continue the commitment to fostering unique voices, educating young and developing writers, and presenting compelling work to the public.

“That donation also gives a writer a life-changing chance to work with an author who could be their absolute writing hero,” Treviño said. The 2020 Macondo Writers Workshop will take place in July at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Related: More ‘Viva Macondo’ entries

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...