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Exploring “Tucumcari” with Patrick Parks

Former+ECC+Professor+of+English%2C+Patrick+Parks%2C+talks+about+his+new+novel%2C+Tucumcari.
Former ECC Professor of English, Patrick Parks, talks about his new novel, Tucumcari.

Former ECC Professor of English, Patrick Parks, talks about his new novel, Tucumcari.

Kristen Flojo

Kristen Flojo

Former ECC Professor of English, Patrick Parks, talks about his new novel, Tucumcari.

Eli Anton, Staff Writer

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On Thursday, Oct. 18 Patrick Parks read the first two chapters of his book “Tucumcari” in room H142 as part of the Writers Center’s Reading Series event.

“Tucumcari” is about an old man who lays in bed, thinking about the past and future but never the present. He reminisces on what he has been through and what he wishes to be true.

In the first chapter, the protagonist speaks in broken thoughts and memories about a time he is trying to remember and piece together. He eventually talks about a woman named Audrey who he had met at a casino. She got him to spend his money and get drunk with her. They got married that night and slept in a hotel, but when he woke up, she was gone.

Revisiting this moment over and over again, he wonders about the “what ifs”. What if he could have gone to Tucumcari with her? What if they could have stayed together?

The second chapter starts with him talking about the atomic bombs from WWII, the after-effects of ash, the teaching job he had and the old factory one of his students worked in. At the end of the chapter, he flips back to thinking about Audrey and the happiness he thinks they would have had.

According to Parks, the setting is contemporary and the main character is a guileless, innocent man just sharing who he is.

As for the development of this book, it began in the 90s when Parks had originally started writing a story about two men traveling on the road. There was a point in the writing process that made him scrap nearly the entire script, only leaving the last three lines which became the first three lines of “Tucumcari”. At this point, development was dropped and it was not until 2012, when Parks left his 26-year-long position as an instructor at Elgin Community College, that he picked it back up and wrote it to completion.

Among the crowd of people that came to listen to Parks were Lisa Macaione, a former student of Parks, and Cheryl Cwiklinski, an aspiring author.

“[I enjoyed] his warmth, humor and vast knowledge of reading,” Macaione said. “I liked his interactions with the audience [and how he] bounced back questions.” 

Cwiklinski, on the other hand, was there to learn. Currently, she is working on two books that are both built on true stories about adversity and being an entrepreneur. By contacting ECC’s Writers Center, she was invited to listen to Parks where she was able to ask him about the inner workings of publication and marketing.

In Parks’ case, he self-markets, but he did reveal that it took 20 rejections over the course of four years before a company agreed to edit and publish his book. He says getting rejected is common though and should be expected.

“[ECC] is a good place for people who want to write and not be shy about it,” Parks said.

The next event in the Reading Series will be a Student Poetry Jam on Nov. 28. As of Oct. 31, there are still eight slots left for those who would like to read their pieces aloud. To learn more about it and join, visit the Writers Center.

About the Writer
Eli Anton, Staff Writer

This is Elizabeth's second year on the Observer team. She is studying to have a Masters in Psychology and Bachelors in Art, and hopes to return to the...

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