SOMOS Winter Writers Series wraps for season

'Local Writers Night' to feature three area writers


SOMOS wraps up its 2017 Winter Writers Series with “Local Writers Night” on Wednesday (Feb. 8), 7 p.m., at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive in Taos. Writers who will be reading from their work include Katy Grabel, Brinn Colenda and Rick Haltermann.

Grabel’s memoir, “Girl in a Top Hat,” is an autobiographical account of participating in her father’s magic show as a teenager. Colenda will read from “Chita Quest,” one in a series of political-military thriller novels he has written. Haltermann’s “Curriculum of the Soul” explores spirituality and tools for living well. Grabel and Haltermann are residents of Taos and Colenda lives in Angel Fire.

Grabel is a former newspaper reporter and freelance journalist. A major topic that Grabel explores in her creative writing has been her parents’ career in “professional magic.” Grabel’s parents had their last big traveling magic show in the United States, touring Middle America in the 1950s.

“The signature trick was a floating piano,” Grabel said. “My father’s name is Lee Grabel and it was called the ‘Lee Grabel Show.’ My parents were forced off the road in 1958 because early television had taken away their crowds. My father became a businessman and I was born afterward in 1962. In 1977, when I was 14, he decided to leave his business and make his big comeback to professional magic.”

She said her folks and their crew of five played a tour. “My father had hoped that this tour was to be a gateway to bigger and better bookings. Specifically, he had hoped to land a big Vegas booking and be a Vegas headliner. None of that happened, and after that tour, the big show never traveled again. That tour is what my memoir, ‘Girl in a Top Hat,’ is about. ‘Girl in a Top Hat’ is a literary coming-of-age memoir.”

In her parents’ magic show, Grabel was an assistant. At one point in the show, she jumped out of a large gold top hat, hence the name “Girl in a Top Hat.”

“I loved helping in the magic show,” Grabel recalls. “I was 14 and had never been onstage and was rather stage struck. My parents took me out of the eighth grade for the tour and I thought I was going to be a big star.”

Colenda is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a retired lieutenant colonel. He was staffed around the world from Southeast Asia to Bolivia and served as an instructor pilot with the U.S. Air Force and other air forces. The Bolivian air force awarded him with command pilot wings.

Colenda will be reading from “Chita Quest.” He will also touch on his previous book, “Cochabamba Conspiracy,” and his recently completed third book, “Fire and Flood” (working title). All three books are part of a series, and a fourth is planned. The protagonist in the series is from Taos. Colenda’s third book is set almost entirely in New Mexico and addresses issues of environmental terrorism aimed at watersheds, acequias and dams.

In writing his books, Colenda states, “I draw deeply from my personal experiences and knowledge of how our government agencies [and their people] act and react during crises.”

“All my books have included an element of flying since I was a military pilot and love aviation,” Colenda explains. “I also spent quite a bit of time overseas, which gives me a different perspective from many Americans. My last two assignments were as a military-political officer – one in our embassy in Bolivia, the other in Washington.”

Haltermann is a photographer, sings in the Taos Gospel Choir, hosts “The Jazz Show” on KTAO-FM 101.9, teaches African dance and is director of the Association of Noetic Practitioners. His book, “Curriculum of the Soul,” combines his own writing with poetry, quotations, photography and art images.

“The book is divided into five sections: the tools we are given, suffering, being in the world, spirituality and the last section – which is about nurturing and living a soul life along with a soul-centered view of death,” Haltermann said. “I also emphasize the confluence of the physical, the emotional, the psychological/mental and the spiritual as the place where soul might show up.”

Haltermann said his inspiration for the book came from Charles Olson’s poem, “A Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul,” which Haltermann first read when he was in college.

Admission is free.

For more information, call SOMOS at (575) 758-0081 or visit


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