Acclaimed poet and author Alberto Alvaro Rios will talk about hot-topic issues, including immigration and how to use life experiences in writing, during presentations in Conway on April 4-5.

"I am excited to come (to Conway,)" Rios said Friday. "I think we’ll do some important things and talk about issues in a smart way. Who doesn’t want to do that?"

The project is funded, in part, by an Arkansas Humanities Council grant, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Central Arkansas Foundation, according to a news release. Rios’ talks and readings are free and open to the public.

"The aim of this project is to increase an appreciation for the contributions of Hispanics to this country, as well as to instill greater cultural pride among Hispanic youth and the importance of getting a college education," Manny Sepulveda wrote in a letter about the event.

Sepulveda, who was promoting Rios’ event, has been a leader in the local Hispanic community and is helping UCA increase diversity.

Rios, the son of a Mexican father and English mother, grew up in the boarder town of Nogales, Ariz. Rios said he uses his background in his work and describes his heritage as "eclectic."

Rios has published 10 award-winning books of poems, according to a news release. He has three short-story collections that won the first Western States Book Award for Fiction. Rios has an award-winning memoir that he hopes will "raise the awareness about the Mexican-American culture," according to a release.

He is a Regent’s Professor at Arizona State University, and he has taught there since 1982. Rios is the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English at the university.

Rios is featured in more than 300 national and international literary anthologies, according to the release.

Writing is important to Rios, who calls pencils a writer’s "magic wand." Rios hopes to bring Conway writers a new way of thinking about how to write. He said he wants to show how to use life experiences even in different genres.

"I don’t think there’s just one way to write," Rios said.

He also wants to show how writing can help create a bridge between cultures and languages. He wants people to communicate, he said.

"Talking is good, listening is good," Rios said. "We’ve all got something to say to each other. We should be in the business now of listening hard and coming up with good directions for all of us."

People should be willing to help one another — including illegal immigrants, Rios said. Currently, the state is considering legislation that would allow in-state college tuition for students who graduate from an Arkansas high school after attending for at least three years and earn a diploma or GED.

Rios said people should trust that educating each other benefits the entire community.

"We have to respond to each other as human beings," Rios said. "It doesn’t mean it’s easy."

(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at