Tumblewords Project is a grassroots, not-for-profit weekly series of free writing workshops founded in 1995 with seed money from the New Mexico Arts Division. Originally the workshops met at Concilio Campesino in San Miguel, New Mexico and was called the Mesilla Valley Tumblewords Project. Shortly after the first workshops, I moved to El Paso and began presenting workshops in Segundo Barrio as well, and dropped Mesilla Valley from the name. After a few years of presenting two workshops each week, I ceased the New Mexico series. From the beginning, top writers, musicians, artists, and scholars have presented workshops or participated in our weekly gatherings or our performance events. Presenters have included Denise Chávez, Willivaldo Delgadillo, Amalio Madueño, Nancy Green, Nicholas Matta, Levi Romero, David Romo, Juan Contreras, Patricia González, Roberto Rodríguez, Debbie Nathan, Bobby Byrd, Amit Ghosh, Ray Ramos, Robin Scofield, Gene Keller, Leon de la Rosa, Mónica Gómez, Lawrence Welsh, Rich Yañez, Carmen Seda, Ysella Fulton, Michael C Ford, Keith Wilson, Emmy Pérez, Dr. Emma Pérez, Dr. Yolanda Chávez-Leyba, Sasha Pimental, Gary Brower, Gabriel Gaytán, Hal Marcus, Luís Urrea, Susan Klahr, and so many more. We have featured presenters from throughout the United States, from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York City and Washington, D.C., from throughout Mexico, and from Cuba, Chile, Peru, Jamaica, China, and Hungary.
We have not written grants or received public or private funding since 2001, relying completely on volunteer effort to maintain a national reputation for top notch performance events and workshop presentations. We have also published two anthologies, Mezcla: Art and Writing from the Tumblewords Project. We pass the hat and the donations collected are given the presenter as an honorarium. Despite this lack of financial structure, internationally renowned artists such as Michael C Ford, who was backed up by the three living members of The Doors on his most recent album of spoken word released in June of 2014, and Lawrence Welsh present workshops or performances for us every year.
The focus of the workshops is the practice of writing and reading aloud. There is no membership. Different people come each week, according to their schedule. There are always new participants as well. The experience level of the frequent participants ranges from people who have been published in the Paris Review, others who have books and have presented readings throughout the country, and people who have never written before.
The format involves preliminary announcements, the presenter speaking for maybe ten minutes, writing on the spot, and then going around the room and each participant reading aloud. We like to have three rounds of writing and reading aloud, but depending on the number of participants who show up anyone workshop, there may only be time for two rounds or even one. Presenters are given free range to present however or whatever they want, as long as the primary amount of time is allocated to writing and reading aloud. Some presenters read the works of writers they revere, show slides of their artwork or the art of others, bring in visual art, play or perform music, or read their own work. The participants are free to write in whatever form or on whatever topic they choose, notwithstanding the topic of the presentation.
Please note - new location and new time: we currently meet Saturdays from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at Armijo Branch Library in Downtown El Paso, 620 E. 7th Street, El Paso TX 79901 (915) 212-0369
—Donna J. Snyder, Founder