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Wanted: Brilliant Beginning Writer Willing to Become Famous

February 26, 1988|KIRK JACKSON | Times Staff Writer

David Nava Monreal works as a postman, but he really wants to put his stamp on the literary world. And he just may deliver.

The El Toro resident, 39, has had 19 short stories and 70 poems published in magazines and university literary publications.

Monreal is just one example of a wide range of literary talent that exists in the county, said Robert Boies and Alejandro Morales. And that's why they have formed the Pacific Writers Press, to promote previously undiscovered writers from Southern California and particularly Orange County.

"Orange County is producing a tremendous amount of literature," said Boies, assistant principal at Tustin High School. "A lot of it's getting published and a lot of it isn't, and that's really the key to what we're about."

"It's very difficult to get into the major houses," said Morales, a literature professor in UC Irvine's Department of Spanish and Portuguese, who has published four novels through small publishing companies. "If you don't have an agent, you're practically dead."

Morales and Boies have known each other since 1982. "We met when Alex's son was in my honors history class," Boies recalled. The two eventually discovered they had a mutual interest in promoting literature in the county and formed the company.

Pacific Writers Press' first publication is a book of 11 short stories by Monreal entitled "The New Neighbor and Other Stories." The stories depict Chicano life in California and take place in a wide range of settings, including the beach, inner-city barrios, an Ivy League college and California's central valleys.

"I love California," said Monreal, who is originally from Visalia, about 40 miles south of Fresno. "I'm involved in California, and what I want to do is write in a style that reflects Southern California."

Since 1981, Monreal, who began writing as a child, has had short stories and poetry published in magazines such as the Bilingual Review, Revista Chicano-Riquena, Chiricu and Maize, as well as literary journals published by New Mexico University, Arizona State University and Indiana University. He won UCI's annual Chicano Literary Competition in three different years and in three different categories: short stories, poetry and plays.

"I think (publication of the book) will open up a lot of new avenues for me, and I think people will now take notice of my literary abilities and my literary style," he said.

To date, three area bookstores have ordered small consignments of the books: the UCI Bookstore, Farenheit 451 in Laguna Beach and Courtyard Books in Tustin. Sales at these stores so far have been a bit sluggish.

"It's not unusual for it not to be doing great," said Farenheit 451 owner Lorraine Zimmerman, who said her store has sold none of the five copies it received two weeks ago. "New books take a while, new writers take a while, there's nothing unusual about it."

Jane Conway, one of the owners of Courtyard Books, said her store has sold three of the five copies it received.

"(New books are) something that I think people hear about by word of mouth," she said.

UCI Bookstore general buyer Richard Barca said 3 of 10 books received by that store are still on the shelf.

Boies and Morales said they have persuaded the Bilingual Review Press, a small publishing company affiliated with Arizona State University, to distribute the book. A representative reached at the company could not confirm or deny whether the company would handle the book.

The pair have also approached Arte Publico, a small printing company based at the University of Houston. Company founder and president Nicolas Kanellos said Arte Publico, which specializes in Latino work and has published Monreal's work in its literary magazine, "had not yet made a decision" on whether to list the book in its yearly catalogue, scheduled to come out in April.

"He's not well-known, that's the problem, and there's no reviews," Kanellos said. "What do we put in the catalogue?"

Kanellos, however, said that Monreal's book "looked pretty good" and described him as an overall "quality" writer.

Monreal, meanwhile, has enthusiastically taken up the task of marketing the book himself.

"Quite a few of my customers have bought my book on the route, and they're pretty happy with it," he said, adding that people on his route are "proud to have a postman who's also a writer."

His co-workers have also bought copies, he said.

Last week, Monreal left consignments of six books each at two businesses on his route. Carlo Jarjour, owner of Landmark Liquors on Atlanta Avenue and Newhall Street in Huntington Beach, said two of six books that Monreal brought to his store have been sold. "He's been in the neighborhood for a while, so most everybody recognizes him."

Meanwhile, down the street at Landmark Pharmacy, where the books are advertised with a flyer ("Do you recognize your postman? He's a writer too!"), browsing customers have bought three copies.

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