Writer Nan Cuba Receives Reallocated Artist’s Foundation Grant

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A lively conversation fills the air at Gemini Ink, where Nan Cuba has established a community for writers. Photo by Al Rendon.

Courtesy / Al Rendon

Gemini Ink Founder Nan Cuba (left) has received a $15,000 grant from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio.

The Artist Foundation of San Antonio has awarded a $15,000 grant from its 2018 granting cycle to Nan Cuba, a prominent author, journalist, and founder of Gemini Ink, a San Antonio literary center.

The Department of Arts & Culture COSA (City of San Antonio) Grant For Literary Arts originally went to writer and editor Bryce Milligan, who returned the award after allegations of inappropriate conduct surfaced in early May.

Having been ranked among the top 10 percent of applicants in the literary arts category, Cuba already had been a finalist for the new Artist Foundation People’s Choice award. Composer Nathan Felix won that award in February.

The applications of Cuba and fellow literary arts finalist Michelle Mondo were reviewed and scored a second time by judges, said Susan Oliver Heard, chair of the Artist Foundation board, and Cuba emerged the winner.

A press release from the foundation thanked Cuba “for being gracious in her acceptance of this grant and for continuing to create compelling stories for the entire community to enjoy.”

Heard said of Cuba: “She’ll be a great steward for the foundation,” in part for her work as a teacher and mentor to many San Antonio writers.

Cuba previously won recognition for her 2013 novel Body and Bread, including the PEN Southwest Award in Fiction, and a listing as one of “Ten Titles to Pick Up Now” in O, The Oprah Magazine.

In her teaching and work as writer-in-residence at Our Lady of the Lake University, Cuba said she prefers to avoid “the ‘L’ word,” as “literature” can sound too elitist for a form she feels is meant “for everyone.”

She teaches her students, she said, that reading allows identification with characters who might be “very much unlike you. As a result, you make discoveries about the human experience, experiences that are teaching you something new about people you don’t meet in your everyday life.”

Reading can create “empathy and tolerance of a broad understanding of what we all have in common,” she said.

Cuba applied to the Artist Foundation with plans for a second novel, titled He Didn’t Kill Nobody but Mom, about Texas serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Lucas first confessed to thousands of murders, including that of his mother, but eventually recanted all but the one murder referred to in the book’s title. Due to DNA evidence disproving his involvement in the murder that won his conviction, his death sentence was commuted in 1998 by Gov. George W. Bush.

The twisted tale resembles a Coen brothers movie for its absurdity, Cuba said, and her novel echoes that tone.

The grant will help her finish the writing and bring her manuscript to editors for review. “The foundation’s grant has really kicked the process into gear,” Cuba said.

Cuba’s entry in the recent Literary San Antonio anthology, published by TCU Press and edited by Milligan, demonstrates her willingness to directly take on topical issues, even if uncomfortable. The short story, titled Patriotism, deals with a wife’s revelation that her longtime husband supports a side of the political spectrum opposite of her own beliefs.

“What’s left when a person won’t listen?” the story concludes.

5 thoughts on “Writer Nan Cuba Receives Reallocated Artist’s Foundation Grant

  1. Isn’t it odd that writer Cuba receives an award that was initially won by Bryce Milligan? Yet your reporter adds that she wrote a short story for the now-disgraced Milligan’s Literary San Antonio! And wasn’t there another worthy literary arts finalist in the People’s Choice voting who isn’t mentioned nor any reason given why the Artist Foundation didn’t select her instead of Cuba? Did Cuba get more votes than her? If not, then the whole thing was rigged. You’d also think the Artist Foundation would look more closely in selecting a finalist with little if any ties to Milligan. And while Ms. Cuba is the founder of Gemini Ink, her organization has yet to withdraw its lifetime achievement award to Bryce Milligan while Arts Foundations of San Antonio has and given her the award to boot. Inquiring minds want to know why your reporter didn’t delve deeper into what rings as another fluff piece unworthy of the time it takes to read and not up to the level of reporting I expect from the Rivard Report. You need to update your “story” to include this! Thank you.

    • 1. Why would anyone think Nan Cuba winning any literary award is odd. She has won many.

      2. Literary San Antonio is not disgraced. The worth of that organization is not bound up in any one character. The multitude of voices it amplifies are not suddenly rendered silent.

      3. Nan Cuba did not win the People’s Choice Award. The award she won had a criteria, none of which involved vote-getting. Your allegations are prima facie silly.

      4. Whatever deliberations take place about Gemini Ink’s awards, they have nothing to do with Cuba as she left the organization over a decade ago.

      5. “Inquiring minds want to know” was the tagline for the National Enquirer.

      6. I do love the scare quotes on story. “Great” touch.

  2. I read Monica Delgado’s comment with real interest. This sentence catches my particular attention: “You’d also think the Artist Foundation would look more closely in selecting a finalist with little if any ties to Milligan.” My question is: At what point does knowing or befriending someone who has done something wrong – or is accused of doing something wrong – become itself a wrong (guilt) by association?

    We are at a difficult time in our society, where subtleties are lost. I do not want my own condemnations of bad behavior to slide down into mob thinking, much less mob behavior. Let’s all be cautious.

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