FARMINGTON — Small towns have a special place in Kelley Jacquez's heart.

This year, the former Blanco resident published a book of short stories based on people and events in Blacno. Set in the fictional town of El Nido, the book is called "Holding Woman and Other Stories of Acceptable Madness."

"I really felt -- and do feel -- that small towns are amazing," she said.

Jacquez, who now lives in Clatskanie, Ore., remembers being known as "the burrito lady" when, from 1980 to 1988, she ran a small business in Blanco called Kelley's Almost World Famous Burritos.

"I'm fairly certain that every roughneck in San Juan County knew who I was because I pretty much fed every one of them," she said.

In 1988, the oil industry crashed, prompting the unemployment rate to rise and Jacquez to close her business. So the single mother-of-two packed up her sons and moved to California, where she lived with family until she got a job as a truck driver. She drove trucks for three years while attending California State University at Fresno. There, in an English literature class, she started writing stories for class. And she has been writing short stories ever since.

Her short stories have appeared in two anthologies and several literary magazines, but "Holding Woman and Other Stories of Acceptable Madness" is her first published book.

The beginning of the book includes a poem called "Synonyms" by Spanish poet Francisco Brines. In the poem, Brines speculates there may not be an afterlife. The poem ends with, "Call it eternity, or God, or Hell. But don't call it nothing, as if nothing had happened."

That, Jacquez said, is one of the reasons she chose to write about small town life. Even though it may be a small town, she didn't want to treat it as if "nothing had happened."

The title of Jacquez's book comes from the "madness" society accepts, such as war and alcoholism, she explained.

"They're so common that we accept them, and yet, when we think about it, it's madness," Jacquez said.

One of the short stories in the book, "Half A Bubble Off Plumb," describes the character of Jimmy De La Cruz as he "becomes a coward" in the Vietnam War.

"I hate war," Jacquez said. "I think it's a hideous thing to do to our young people around the world."

De La Cruz just wants to go home and doesn't understand what is going on. The war changes him, eventually turning him into an alcoholic who promises each day that he will change tomorrow.

"I was hoping that it would really touch people," Jacquez said.

Jacquez said writing was her way of protesting acceptable madness.

"If enough people read 'How to Create an Accident,' maybe they won't throw their babies around," Jacquez said, referencing one of the short stories about baby Hilario, whose father and uncle tossed him back and forth while his mother, Rosa, watched in horror.

"When baby Hilario flew through the air for the last time, his toothless grin was wide with delight of innocence, his eyes shining with the wonder of weightlessness," Jacquez wrote in the story. "When he fell to the ground, it was not his scream that filled the air of Pump Canyon; it was Rosa's."

While Jacquez now lives in Oregon, she still considers New Mexico home. Jacquez said in small towns like Blanco, there is a feeling that everything that happens affects everybody.

"What happens to you becomes important to the community," she said.

PURCHASE A COPY

“Holding Woman and Other Stories of Acceptable Madness” is available for purchase at Hastings, 3020 E. 20th St., and Sunset Tint, 419 W. Main St., both in Farmington.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.