A native Houstonian and Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters, Sarah Cortez is the author of an acclaimed poetry collection, How to Undress a Cop, and winner of the PEN Texas literary award in poetry. She has edited Urban Speak: Poetry of the City and Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives, winner of the 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award. She has also edited Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books), and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens, which was short-listed for the 2012 International Latino Book Awards. In 2012, her spiritual memoir, in poetry and prose, entitled Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston was published by Texas Review Press and was hailed by the Houston Chronicle as “a love letter to the city of Houston.” A collection of poetry from the urban street cop’s perspective, Cold Blue Steel, was published in 2013 by Texas Review Press and short-listed for the Writer’s League of Texas Poetry Award. A volume she edited, Our Lost Border: Life Amid the Narco-Violence was also published in 2013 and has won both a Southwest Book Award and International Latino Book Award.
Ms. Cortez was recently named to the 2014-16 Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Roster.
Her writing has appeared in The Sun, Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, The Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, The Texas Review, New Texas, Louisiana Literature, Blue Rock Review, Pennsylvania English, The Midwest Quarterly, and many other publications. Her work is widely anthologized both here and in Europe in collections by Penguin, the Great Books Foundation, and other international publishers.
Ms. Cortez was chosen by then-mayor of Houston, Bill White, to compose and deliver his inaugural poem in 2003. The United Nations tapped Ms. Cortez to compose and deliver a poem for the Eighth Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2009 in New York City. One of her poems was chosen for the national “Poetry in Motion” program, which places poems in city buses, and was featured on placards on METRO buses in August 2002. One of Cortez’s honors was having a poem chosen out of over 6,000 submissions for an Honorable Mention in the 2011 annual poetry contest by Rattle, an internationally prestigious poetry journal.
A dedicated, long-time educator, Ms. Cortez has taught poetry, fiction, and memoir to students ranging from third graders to senior citizens. She taught creative writing for six years at the University of Houston-Central, in addition to teaching throughout the community through Writers in the Schools, The C.G. Jung Center, Inprint, The River Visual and Performing Arts Center, and COH Multi-Service Centers. She is an inspiring and energetic teacher in every genre—poetry, memoir, fiction, and essay. She has served as a Writing Consultant for HISD, working with at-risk teens. She also serves the Harris County Department of Education as a specialist in writing the college essay.
As a poised and polished public speaker, whether teaching, reading poetry, on panels, or in larger venues, Ms. Cortez has chaired presentations at the state and national conventions of the Texas Library Association, the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, Associated Writing Programs Conference, the Texas Book Festival, and Tucson Book Festival and many others.
Ms. Cortez received her bachelor’s degree from Rice University and continued her education to receive two advanced degrees, one from the University of Texas-Austin and one from the University of Houston-Central. Her Police Academy was completed at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Sarah Cortez's website