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Gerardo Mena

Gerardo Mena's Blog


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May 8th, 2011

Posted on May 8, 2011 at 10:42 AM Comments comments (97)
Last night was very bitter sweet.  It was my band's last show ever.  I have very mixed emotions about it.  On one hand, I just don't have the time to commit to playing music out and about.  On the other, I'm going to miss playing with those guys so much.  It's funny to think back about the first day we all met, just jamming on the porch.  Then we got a few songs ready to do an open mic, and then we just kept progressing and playing our own music.  We became so comfortable with each other that some of our best music spawned from random jams.  Playing music in a full band gave me an incredible amount of confidence as a performer.  I'm indebted to the 'fellas for the amazing experiences we've had over the past two and a half years.  It was a hell of a ride.

May 1st, 2011

Posted on May 1, 2011 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (3)
A couple of great things happened recently.  Yesterday, I gave my speech as a guest speaker for the Marine Parents Care Package Project and I met the most amazing, self-less, and kind people that live in my own city.  I had some great conversations with a few military parents and some military veterans that were there.  I absolutely love meeting nice people.  It always motivates me to keep creating.
Then, I got home afterwards and found out that the new issue of Diagram is up, and I'm in it (it's up on the Publications/Events page of my website if you want to check it out).  And then, a few hours pass and I jump online once last time to see an e-mail from an editor saying he loved my work and put it up on his site that day (  This was a very blessed day full of great surprises.
And to show you how great the Marine Parents organization was, here's a pic of the amazing gift they gave me for speaking and playing a few tunes on the guitar:

April 17th, 2011 - Award Banquet

Posted on April 17, 2011 at 3:21 PM Comments comments (0)
I just received my "2011 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Leadership" last night at an awards banquet.  It ended up being a nice event.  I got to rub elbows with the top brass at Mizzou and even received a personal "thank you" from the Chancellor himself, Brady Deaton, for my military service. 
This was a huge deal for veterans on the MU campus as we are finally gaining some recognition for the achievements we have made and the service we have provided for our country. 

April 16th, 2011

Posted on April 16, 2011 at 8:18 AM Comments comments (5)
My New Mexico Poetry Review finally came in the mail and it looks so great.  The cover art is amazing, and I was put next to my mentor, John Nieves, in the issue.  Feels great, and validating, to see my stuff in print.
Also, the organization Marine Parents, did a story on me for their April newsletter, which resulted in several people contacting me on Facebook and telling me their sons had just deployed, and they were excited to see that I was doing so well.  They said they'd share my work with them as soon as they get back.  I hope I can inspire their sons to write and share their own stories.
On another note, the award banquet for the University of Missouri's "2011 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Leadership" is tonight.  I really have no idea what this award means, but I know it's a big step for how veterans are viewed on the MU campus.  This is the first, and definitely not last time, a veteran has won this award.  Wish me luck!  I hope I don't trip on anything.

April 12th, 2011

Posted on April 13, 2011 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (92)
The Nashville Review did such a great job with their feature of my songs.  and their editor was cool enough to say "if you're ever in Nashville, I'll make sure you have a place to play your music."  Wow, what a compliment.  I'm also anxiously awaiting for The New Mexico Poetry Review to release.  They have a picture of the cover up on Facebook, and man oh man, it looks so nice. 
Yesterday I was featured on TogetherWeServed as the "reflection of the day", which resulted in a retired Senior Chief messaging me and telling me how he got into writing and teaching after his Vietnam experience.  That to me, is what this has all been about, getting people to connect and share their stories with the world. 

March 31st, 2011

Posted on March 31, 2011 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (95)
I have some great things to report.  I'm currently being interviewed by the awesome people at Marine Parents, to be featured in a future newsletter so that I can hopefully positively affect other vets returning from war and show them that there are others out there struggling to re-adjust.  Power in numbers, and such.  Then, I found out yesterday that I won the "2011 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Leadership" through the University of Missouri.  Quite an honor that I don't think I deserve, but it's a giant leap in terms of the public opinion of veterans in the Columbia community and on the MU campus.  So yes, I'll accept it. 
I'm eagerly awaiting the publication of the spring issue of The Nashville Review which features a few of my songs and my music video.  I feel blessed to have been chosen by them.  I'm also excited about April because that's when The New Mexico Poetry Review comes out featuring two of my poems.  Also, the Blue Lotus Review will be publishing a song on their site in April.  April will be a very successful month in terms of my career, but I'm afraid it'll be a while after that before anything else happens, which is probably needed, since I have so far to go on this memoir that keeps haunting me.  My goal is not to write a war story, but instead a story of friends that go to war (I might use this line in the preface or something). 
Lastly, and sadly, my band, "Fourth and Conley" will be splitting up after the May 7th show, due to a crucial member getting a big boy job and moving to Chicago in June.  Sad day, but great for him, as he starts climbing the corporate ladder.  That's all for now.  Here comes APRIL!!!!

March 17th, 2011

Posted on March 17, 2011 at 9:41 PM Comments comments (0)
Well, it looks like I'm starting to accomplish my dream of inspiring other people to write.  My buddy Grant, who helps me set-up all my music shows and comes to all my poetry readings and best of all believes in my cause, sent me a few really cool poems he wrote.  Then, I got an e-mail from one of the mothers of a boy who was in one of my sessions during the middle school conference and he was wanting the website to, after I showed them how easy it was to use and how there is an entire page dedicated to young adult writers.  His mom said he was finishing a few poems he wrote about Japan and was looking for pictures for them.  I met so many great young writers at that conference, I hope they all submit their stuff. 
Then, I started a small writing group, mainly to motivate each other to keep submitting our materials, cuz let's face it, writing is a lonely biz, and who doesn't want someone to share a little success with?  So, in this writing group I convinced this amazing non-fiction writer to start putting his work out there and submitting to some journals, and he finally did it.  Then he says "Felt good to send something off.  We'll see what happens."
Then, there was the guy in Afghanistan.  That's right, Afghanistan.  Talk about a random occurrence.  My buddy T.J. went to do his change over with the battalion that was there, and he just casually mentioned his Iraq experience and said, "Yeah, my corpsman out there was Doc Mena, patched me up when I got all burned.  He does poetry now or some shit."  And the guy says, "Tony Mena?  I've heard of him.  He won last year's war poetry contest at Winningwriters."  That just boggles my mind how small this world is.  Anyways, he told T.J. that myself and the second place guy motivated him to submit some poetry to the contest this year.  He said it was nice to see some vets place in the contest.
And lastly, I made my first music video to my song, "I Felt the Earth Spin Today" using some photos and live footage of a few shows and the family.  I sent it to The Nashville Review to go along with the songs they accepted and they took it.  And then the editor was sooooo cool he sent me a response saying that "your music made me cry.  And that's a good thing."
So yeah, my dream of becoming an inspiration to others is slowly beginning to come true.  I have a long ways to go if I want to make a career from writing, but I think I'm on the right track.

March 14th, 2011

Posted on March 14, 2011 at 10:22 AM Comments comments (1)
Well, so much has happened the last few weeks.  I taught at my first conference March 4th.  I got to rock an "Evolution of War Poetry" that got really great feedback by those in attendance at the "Write to Learn' conference.  The best part was, there were a few "I don't like writing, especially poetry" people at the start of the lesson, you know the kind....they begin every writing exercise with a groan :)  Anyways, at the end, I had some of them saying our activity was so fun, they kind of wanted to do it again.  Two of those really cool people even wrote a little poem for me with the help of a few margaritas after the lesson:
Tony, our decorated Vet
In Tan-Tar-A we met
A poem you taught us
You let us cuss
A Corpsman we'll never forget.
Jill & Aunt Sue
I love this poem because:
1.)  Limericks are fun.
2.)  Anything written by people that don't enjoy writing is a success in my book.
Then, just a few days after the conference, I returned home to prepare for my first high school lesson.  So I showed up to Rockbridge High School and rocked a lesson on the "History of the Blues".  It was a very similar experience to the conference, lots of groaning, when they discovered that "Mr. Mena" was going to make them think....and write.  But I saw a lot of eyes light up when I brought out the acoustic guitar and started rocking some live blues music.  So, the best part about this experience was that we all wrote our own original blues verses and a good chunk of the students were brave enough to speak/sing their verses over some background guitar.  This was very rewarding for me, as my personal philosophy of teaching has less to do with how much material you can cram into students, and more to do with how much confidence you can inspire into the students to believe in their own works.
So, lastly, I wrapped up last week by teaching at a Middle School Conference sponsored by the National Writing Project through the University of Missouri.  This was quite an exhausting experience, as the previous two lessons were only an hour a piece, and this day involved three lessons for a total of FOUR HOURS!  As a very energetic personality while teaching it was difficult to keep it up for four hours in a row.  But I discovered there are some AMAZING young writers and I think I inspired a few to submit their work to get it published.  Never too young to start!  I got an e-mail from one of the kids saying "thanks for the lesson" and that he was going to submit his stuff soon.  That was one of the most rewarding moments of my teaching career.
In poetry news, I have some fun stuff coming out in April, so stay tuned!!!!

February 26th, 2011

Posted on February 26, 2011 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (85)
WOW what a week!  Two days ago I received an e-mail from the editor of The Medulla Review and she said she wants to accept four of my poems, and then she went on to say that she connected to my poems as a reader because her dad was in Vietnam and when he returned, he played his guitar passionately also.
That touching and heart-felt response just rocked my world, but gets better.
So then, I meet up with my mentor, John A. Nieves, to discuss where my poetry career is heading and to plan for its future, and blah blah logistics (I bet some of you didn't know there's logistics and planning in a creative field...I hope you just learned something).  So then, out of the blue he says, "Tony, you're fucking doing it man."  That's right, even though we're poets we curse....a lot, because eloquence is something reserved for the pen and page.  Anyways, then he says he's going to be drafting up a proposal for a speaker panel at AWP (an awesome national literary conference, where I first met Brian Turner a few years back), and he wants me to BE A SPEAKER ON HIS PANEL!!!!!!!  What a shock...and such an honor, to be esteemed by a mentor enough to be asked to be a fellow presenter at a national conference.  I'm still reeling from just the thought of this.  Hopefully we'll get accepted and I'll get to rock some faces with my gnarly teaching/speaking skills.
So then, I come home and I check my e-mail like I do thousands of times a day (and usually the inbox is empty), but I get an e-mail from War, Literature, and the Arts out of the Airforce Academy and they're accepting a poem also.  So now I'm sitting here reflecting on how two months in to 2011, a year which I vowed I would crush, and I've already achieved more than I thought I would. 
While far from being done kicking this year square in the pants, I would like to throw out a few "thank yous" because I believe I don't do it enough.
So, I couldn't have done any of this without the love and support of my amazing family and the best group of friends a "dude" could have. They're all a bunch of saints that constantly encourage and support my sorry ass as I chase this dream of making my words matter and my voice heard. 
And lastly, thanks to the big man upstairs for putting great people in my life that I have the pleasure of annoying constantly.

Feb. 22nd - Missouri State Wrestling Championships

Posted on February 22, 2011 at 11:21 AM Comments comments (3)
I'm so happy with how my wrestlers performed last weekend at the Missouri State Wrestling Championships.  J'den took home another first place, Keith Kimbrough placed fifth, and Will Owens placed sixth.  This weekend wrapped up a tough but great season of wrestling for these amazing kids.  I feel blessed and honored to have helped coach them.