Finding Inspiration in Albuquerque

The beginning of August will mark my first full year in Albuquerque. I’ve enjoyed working on my MFA and exploring this new city I live in. What I’ve seen so far is impressive—Albuquerque is culturally rich and very invested in the arts. Engaging with my local community inspires me to keep working on my writing. Here is an organization and a few artists I find inspiring. Maybe they can inspire you too.


JustWrite is an organization that works with incarcerated individuals and underserved communities in the education sector to create art and healing. Co-founders and facilitators, Carlos Contreras and Diahndra Grill, encourage self-reflection, better life choices, and living more positively through creative expression—journaling, poetry, and performance.

I went to “Upon Release,” a collaborative installation between JustWrite and 516 Arts gallery, a museum-style gallery in downtown ABQ, in April. Several participants who had been released since their participation in the JustWrite program spoke about their experiences, their new lives, and performed some of the poetry they had written. This was seriously the single most inspiring night I’ve spent in Albuquerque so far! Here’s a little sample from an inmate authored poem, “Manifesto”: “In a world full of pain / We chose poetry / And became masters / Of the healing art / Beginning with ourselves / The sickest patients / We wrote out the prescription.”

To learn more about this amazing organization visit:

You can also follow JustWrite, its founders, and 516 Arts on Twitter:

@JustWriteNM, @Diahndra, @soothxsayer, @516ARTS

Carlos Contreras and Time Served:

In addition to co-founding JustWrite, Carlos Contreras is a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion. I’ve seen Carlos perform poems from Time Served several times and recently purchased the book to add it to my summer reading list. So far my favorite is “Veterano Sanctuary,” a tribute to Albuquerque. Time Served was published by West End Press in March 2014.

Check out Carlos’ website here:

Here’s a performance as well:

Tanaya Winder:

I don’t think I’ve met anyone in ABQ who does just one thing. Another talented multi-tasker is Tanaya Winder. Tanaya graduated from the UNM MFA Poetry program. In addition to being a writer, she’s also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of As/Us: A Space for Women in the World. As/Us is a literary journal that seeks to publish great work from emerging and established women. They are particularly interested in work from women of color and Indigenous women. One of my favorite of Tanaya’s poems is “Patrick would never say the word love.” You should listen to it here because Tanaya also sings for part of it:

You can visit her blog here:

And follow her on Twitter:  


Info for As/Us:



Brenna Gomez is the Fiction Editor for Blue Mesa Review. She is currently a second-year MFA student in Fiction at the University of New Mexico.