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ABOUT

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MY LIFE IN WRITING AND LAw ENFORCEMENT

 

I am deeply proud of being a Houstonian. What is often described as a free-wheeling atmosphere here has produced an “anything goes” attitude – an important component of both the entrepreneurial/economic realm and the artistic realm. The hard-working and civic-minded ethics of my parents, who moved to Houston after my dad’s honorable discharge following World War II, set me up well for whatever would follow my traditional, Catholic schooling of elementary and high school years.


Before age five, I remember being in love with the written word. At that time, my mother was an elementary school teacher and she hand-made my first books, sewing the binding with white thread on her sewing machine. I hadn’t yet entered kindergarten, but how I loved those books with only a few words and large pictures from Life magazine that she had crafted for me.



Congratulations! Sarah Cortez is a winner in NFPW’s National Communications Contest, 2019 for Tired, Hungry, Standing in One Spot for Twelve Hours: Essential Cop Essays, Texas Review Press, 2018
Third in Nonfiction Books for Adult Readers - Biography

 
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I was well into my policing career before I began writing about police work. The first poem about policing was “Rosie Working Plain Clothes” — a humorous piece published in How To Undress A Cop (Arte Publico Press, 2000).  Many of the later poems in that same book touch on death. It is my hope that some of these poems spark understanding in civilians of the incredible paradoxes police officers deal with and work under daily. Law, justice, mercy — they’re all imperfect.  Police officers work with these imperfections every day and night.

In 2013, I released my second book of poetry, Cold Blue Steel (Texas Review Press). It contains 50 lyric poems set in the world of the urban Houston street cop. 

In the patrol car, at scenes of suicides and DOAs, in the overtime reality of aching feet and sweating torsos, you experience with me, the hard realities and unexpected luminosities of doing America's most dangerous job. Tempered by years of police experience, Cold Blue Steel has more pathos and honors the the stunning complexity of trying to do an impossible job.

Through other various careers (e.g. high school teacher, tax accountant, employee benefits consultant) I still carried the dream to be a writer. In the late 1980s I took several courses from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing department. At that point, I was fascinated by the short story and focused on writing in that form. Several pieces were published in literary journals or anthologized.

Shortly thereafter, I left a flourishing corporate career to strap on a gun, wear a badge, and police the streets. Transitioning from Italian high heels and a gleaming high-rise to the interior of a low-bid, threadbare Crown Victoria was exactly what I wanted—and had eagerly anticipated. The price was high—a radical pay cut, a divorce, loss of social status—but not unexpected. It is the best thing I’ve ever done.


In 1992 I began writing poetry. To this day I have no idea what changed the focus of my writing. Every time I sat down to write, poetry came out on the page, not prose.