Saturday, December 28, 2013

end, elbow, light

I'm sitting in a cabin in Northwestern Washington state. H and his family are here, his mother rented the cabin for the holidays. The weather is completely different from Southern California. I've been preparing for this week of winter for months. I have warm boots, a coat with a reflective lining, two kinds of gloves, and I've been preparing mentally. Usually I don't like the cold at all but this time, prepared, I don't mind it much. The cabin is warm, the days are slow, filled with tea, reading and mostly quiet conversation.

We're close to the shore, a rocky swoop of beach covered in round stones and the exoskeletons of crabs, broken oyster shells. The wind comes down from the North, icy puffs that numb our faces while we walk. The beach is stuttered with driftwood, everything from small twigs to gnarled trunks, whorled and tangled with salt and seaweed. I'm not used to being this far North, the way the sun's arc is small, the light, when unobscured by the clouds, is at an angle that reminds me somehow of a sad violin. Maybe I'm melodramatic and miss my desert sky of bright blue, the sideways light reflecting off the pale green plants of the scrublands; the green up here is deeper, hungrier.

The end of the year is sometimes melancholic for me, looking back on everything I didn't get to do. This year everything is sweeter, such change and evolution. This has been the year of really getting into practices that ground me and the least few months I've been going deeper in the work that I've been craving for my entire life. I'm grateful. And love, this strange river carrying us places I didn't know I could go; even the rapids are good, the adrenaline and joy of getting through.

The writing has been a challenge this year, definitely. It comes harder but is so much sweeter for the struggle. Three novels, I've been chipping away at three novels. I'm crazy, maybe. But I have so much love for my characters, my flawed beauties navigating a world they don't completely understand. They're my friends at times. There is one character who roars at me when I need it, she has claws and teeth and isn't afraid to use them. And the licking of the wounds, the ones she gave me or ones received elsewhere, is glory; spit sacred.

There was an eclipse last night but the horizon here is small, trees tower, clouds hover. I wanted to see the orange moon but the sky didn't cooperate. Earlier in the evening the sky was willing and the stars and planets orbiting got me in the heart-gut. I once learned a way to look at small clusters of stars or planets without actually looking at them; it's about peripheral vision. If I want to give my attention to a particular star or planet, I look at everything around it, focus on what is brighter, then what I truly want to focus on will appear stronger in my peripheral vision (oh sweet subconscious of the eye!) than it would were I looking directly.

Heading further North tomorrow into Canada for a few days, the New Year, then a solo trek back home while H spends some weeks with family and friends. I'm looking to clean up a bit at this elbow of the season, pull back on the indulgences, indulge more in others. And the writing; calling, asking, singing and singing and singing. Love and joy to all of you this season and all seasons. Stay warm.

Monday, December 2, 2013

at the end of illness, laments and literal blood

I usually juice every day, a big green juice full of kale, spinach, apples, ginger, cucumber, lemon, celery and some sort of berry, usually raspberries. Due to a broken garbage disposal, general laziness and not wanting to deal with the pulp-y mess juicing brings, I stopped juicing a little over a week ago. Four days ago I got sick. I haven't been sick in over a year, not since I started my daily juicing/bone broth/cod liver oil routine. Crazy how removing just one daily medicine kick-dropped my immune system into vulnerability. I'm sitting here, sniffly, with a pile of bloody tissues beside me, as my nose membranes have been subject to so much blowing that the blood vessels have ruptured. Boo. I'm at the end of it but still, yech.

When I'm sick I drop into the lowest mood possible, so I stop talking, since everything that comes out of my mouth is a lament, a woe, an inner weeping for my hopeless and wasted future. I wrap myself in the electric blanket, drink broth, and despair. I stop meditating, which is pretty much a straight shot back into anxiety for me. I stop my other daily practices of mindfulness, the journaling, the little rituals I start and end my day with. The worst part is that I know when I'm sick I'm not the real me, but wounded, moping ego wears her cape on top of illness mountain and screams this is who I am! see me, dying and full of unfulfilled potential and unwritten books! I forgive myself the dramatics, as I am usually only this dramatic when I'm sick.

As for the unwritten books part, that specter haunts like no other. This weekend whilst wrapped in the coils of electric blanket I dipped into a fantasy classic that has been sitting on my shelf for years, unread. The book is just a few years younger than I am. As much as I love epics and fantasy, I am not enamored. Telling telling telling, a little showing. Exposition, exposition. Long monologues of backstory: Why is this happening? Because, young overly trusting naive one with the heart of gold, generations ago when blabby blah broke the tropey trope all the generic archetypes of mythical-heard-it all-before-land fell under the spell of boring masculinity and land ownership (penis) issues and all went to shite. Pass the grog. And you are our only hope for this all white, male dominated world of war and furrowed brows. Buuurp. Let's find you a teacher and kill said teacher before you are fully trained. Maybe I'm an asshole, but really?

Why is writing such a terror sometimes? It isn't that I don't enjoy the process, or the story, but approaching it at times is like approaching a storm, naked and with no protection. I don't know what I'm afraid of.  Failing, maybe, but I'll keep writing whether there is success in it or not. It's my thing. I suppose these is a part of me that is scared of success too, being open to criticism and there is so much internet out there that thrives on being mean, cruel. I am sensitive. But for all this the bigger terror is that I won't finish what I'm writing, that it won't make sense and (also, I'm literally bleeding all over my keyboard right now, my blood is literally dripping off my face onto my hands and the keys, NICE METAPHOR UNIVERSE! SUBTLE!) I'll fail in a way that isn't even stunning, just fizzle out in my own mediocrity.

Thanksgiving was lovely. My married sister spends the holiday with her husband's family and I always miss her. We have such a big, beautiful family. I truly love us. H fit in perfectly. He got to see me in full holiday cooking mode, with a strict schedule: crushing nuts, whipping eggs into meringue, tempering yolks into homemade custard, shocking the beans in ice. I love cooking, I know the end game is a full belly, tongue exhausted from all the flavors. If only I could write the way I cook, messy and covered in raw ingredients that through some mysterious alchemy of guided hand and instructions, turns into something everyone wants to put into their mouth.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

voice as a knife

Working on my contemporary young adult novel for the first time in years. I started this book in 2006 then abandoned it, even thought I've never stopped thinking about it. I'm in it again and am grateful for all the years between the beginning of working on the project and now. My voice is so much better. Not that I don't love the voice I was writing in in 2006 but now my edges are more refined, honed, practiced. It feels more authentic, Im' not trying to write to a particular feeling, or music. I'm making the music as I go.

I went right in at the hard part yesterday, the ugly, messy moment that I had been dreading writing. I didn't trust myself to know if I could be authentic in the emotion. Silly me, I need to trust myself more often. It wasn't easy but I did it. I set up the emotional landscape for everything that will happen next. My sweet, naive protagonist is going to fuck up with her whole heart, which is truly the only way you can fuck up and grow, no? She has such good intentions, pobrecita. I'm borrowing from the emotional landscape I was in at her age, lost, wanting to create something beautiful but lacking the confidence to do so.

Now that I'm heavy into this book I MISS my fantasy novel, hard. I miss creating worlds, magic, getting into the mystery. Grass greener blah blah. I want my animal.

H is crazy busy with homework these days so we spend a lot of time at home. I have learned that I am a procrasti-cleaner. When I don't want to write I will distract myself with cleaning. Yesterday the apartment was pretty clean but I had to find something to clean to so I took apart the stove. Yeah, crazy. And then I scoured it with oven cleaner, a razor blade and a toothbrush. I even took out the burners, soaked them and scraped off all the char I could. Last night H finally got me to write, he shut off our internet connection, took away my cell phone and poured me a big glass of wine. That may be the way to get to get things done. I got this.

Monday, October 28, 2013

writing that terrifies

When I was in high school I had a subscription to Seventeen magazine. In 1996 or 1997 they published a short story, I believe it was the winner of their fiction contest, that blew my mind. It was gorgeous, dark and terrifying. It was about a young woman who had an inappropriate phone relationship with an older man. I can still remember parts of the story, how it swallowed me into the dark place and held me there, allowing me to see the beauty of the monster.

I've been thinking a lot about fear and personal demons, those monsters we dress up in qualities that are considered to be safe, good, clean. I realized that all the stories and writing that I'm drawn to terrify me in some way, they speak to the darkness, awaken something in me. When I was fourteen I fell in love with the work of Sandra Cisneros. I liked House on Mango Street enough but it was her poetry that thrilled me, and her short story collection Woman Hollering Creek. Mango Street was good (and my favorite story in that collection is crazy dark) but WHC and the poetry slew me out of what I thought literature was. I loved her voice, how Cisneros narratively went places that good girls did not go. She gave me permission to desire, the embrace the sides of me that were, until that point, latent, hidden. In a lot of ways, Cisneros shaped who I became in my late teens and early twenties. I was open, willing to surrender. Before Cisneros I read a lot of Anne Rice, and I loved her, but Cisneros was speaking to me, speaking to my experience, validating and uplifting it.

I was wrong a lot of the time in my twenties but I embraced the experience and even more, I loved the stories I was starring in. Ego, yes, but I had to go through it, ride that beast into the fire and I had to come out of it alive and more whole than I could have had I chosen a safe, conventional way of looking at and experiencing the world.

And there were other writers that showed up, Lorna Dee Cervantes and her gorgeous, scathing rage. Yet she was vulnerable too. And she gave herself over to the beauty, the music of the language, slid the knife in in ways that still confound me. Then Demetria Martinez, with Mother Tongue. I wept, I tell you, hard tears all over those pages. All that pain, all that love, I couldn't believe she used the same 26 letters I used to write. That that happened.

I scare myself sometimes, with my own writing. Things come up, come out and I have to sit with the monster, breathing on my neck as it asks for acknowledgement. And vulnerability is the most terrifying place. We have the protections to keep us from wounds, but SO much of the great writing comes from those wounds. What to do. Let go. Release. Allow. Surrender. Easier said than done. Oh process, I love you.

I'm outlining a story right now that I've had percolating for years, based on a conversation I had with a landscaper a few years ago. The story he told me was dark, devastating and utterly creepy. It stuck with me. The other night as I was falling asleep a new character showed up and started talking to me and telling me his story and I realized in that half-asleep state that he belonged in the story about the landscaper. I had to get up and outline it briefly, write down a few notes to let me remember. It is a dark one, and the narrator is deeply flawed and I have to recognize that some of those flaws I'm giving her are akin to my own.

In the contemporary YA novel I'm working on my protagonist has to deal with a lot of the things that I was dealing with as a young woman of color. She falls in love with the work of a writer who changes her life and discovers a secret about the writer that intimately effects her life. I'm trying to embody that feeling, the first time you read something that splits your life into a before and an after. I'm considering spending NaNoWriMo working solely on the contemporary novel, give myself a little break from the fantasy book so that I can go back to it fresh. Welcome fear, when you show up it means I'm doing it right.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

night muse

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep a great line came to me. I briefly considered ignoring it and sleeping, trying to remember it in the morning but I know how that story ends. I pulled out my phone and typed it into the notes. I rolled back over and was sinking into the that half-awake space of color and weight when a character showed up, staring at me from the other side of the fence. I paused on my way to sleep to contemplate this new presence and then he started telling me his story. Again, I pulled out my phone and jotted down a few notes to help me remember him and tried to surrender to the comforter and pillow. But my muse had insomnia. A description of landscape came, poetic and metaphorical, the kind of writing that "uh-huhs" me out of complacency, so I wrote it down. Silly me, wanting to sleep when the floodgates were open. The whole damn story came then, interweaved with a story I've been incubating for years. All the interconnecting treads, the weave of the narrative, the voice, my slightly fucked up narrator, the wounds, they all showed up. I've learned the hard way not to ignore the inspiration, the muse. She's like luck, illusive and shocking at times. I listen, honor. Again.




Thursday, October 17, 2013

ranchito


A few days back from another trip to Mexico with the crazy, loving familia. It was, as always, intense and beautiful, slightly crazy-making and home. Ten of us were down visiting, roving, eating our fill and more. We spent hours and hours in the sea, floating, getting tossed around by big waves, darkening. We drank. We danced. We were always a little bit sandy and always that peace that comes from being away home.

Sunday night was the village festival. H, my dad, a cousin and I were the only ones who went down for it. Everyone else wanted to enjoy the last night in the hotel. We arrived late, turned the last curve before the village and had to brake as the entire village was before us, the Virgin carried on the shoulders of uncles and strangers, a band blasting out hymns while fireworks exploded up over the crowd. We detoured a dirt road east and made it to my grandmother's house where we downed quick cold beers and headed into the street. We lost grandma's chihuahua and so instead of Virgin gazing we ran the streets looking for the little creep. He was hiding but eventually we found him. We relaxed on the porch, wandered the town a bit, watched the old ladies sit and gossip.

Eventually we headed to an uncle's house. There, under a palm thatched roof we sat at a plastic table and ate small crabs smothered in hot sauce and lime. So much work to eat a crab but satisfying too. My uncle stood at an outdoor fire and boiled pot after pot of shrimp he'd caught. We sat with cousins and uncles and aunts. H impressed everyone by carrying on entire conversations in Spanish. My empty, never-occupied uterus was lamented and mentioned more times than was comfortable. My cousin gave us tales of working on the prison island west of the state, how there are little colonies everywhere of prisoners who live outdoors, eat fruits off of trees but are threatened with death if they wander near enough the ocean to touch it. He cooks for the guards.

All in all it was a good trip. There was bickering, and a few snaps but family vacations do that. Close proximity brings up the old wounds and triggers. I'm more aware these days of what the triggers are and the child that wants to come crying out. I'm better at keeping the calm. I imagine it is the result of experience but mostly the mostly steady meditation practice.

Chatting with cousins we started talking about writing. I told the cousins I'm working on a book and tried to explain a bit about representation of people of color in literature, especially fantasy and what my hopes and intentions are. A cousin asked "Like Narnia, but for us?" Yes. Pero mas.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

little memory interlude

Listening to the Smiths this morning and thinking about Chula Vista, about Jen. The Smiths always remind me of Jen, dead ten years now and my soul sister in music and teenage malaise. We were high school friends, we shared thrift store sweaters and swapped music. When I got my driver's license we drove everywhere, without destination. But we had road and tapes galore. The Smiths, Morrissey, Depeche Mode, Bauhaus. We sang along and shared secrets that I still think about. We spent hours staring into coffee cups, sighing. We confessed our loves to each other, hers I still see every once in a while and I think of everything I know or knew about him; how he had to jump out her window and over a fence. She knew mine, all the weird shames I was beginning to carry. We drifted apart after high school. The last time I saw her she was standing by her car in a parking lot, she had a "Smiths" decal on her back window. We chatted about our friend who'd recently had a baby. We made false promises about getting together. She asked about my dog, who she'd known as a puppy. I told her he was dead, hit by a car driven by a girl on my sister's soccer team. We were awkward. We hugged. The weather that day was exactly how it is today.


Santa Ana winds, almost no water in the air and the body wrinkling into old patterns. This is the time of year for it. The sun is hot hot, the air is cool but dry and spiders are trying to catch the world, leaving webs everywhere; building webs for food or just to watch them collapse into the plants.

At her funeral I sat in grief and anger with all the old friends. Her family had religion and they they were trying to convince us how Jen had come to Jesus at the end, but none of us would buy it. She was our tribe, baby anarchist and feminist, she called people out on their shitty politics. Her family said she had confessed to all the things she had done but we knew she wasn't a confessor, and if there were any stories told they weren't told in hopes of absolution, but that she was shouting out I have done this, known this. She was in half there at the graveyard, ashes torn even in death, between her mother and father.

I remember one night when there was some shit, and all of us were going down. All of the friends, without even consulting each other, banded together to protect her, to keep any knowledge of her part away from her family. We'd seen her bruises. We suffered a little more in our punishments but kept the secret she begged us to hold on to.

I remember how once we were lost and she hailed a police car and got them to drop us off at a school dance where we danced on the tables to Oingo Boingo. I remember riding in the back of our friend's Vanagon, singing "There is Light and it Never Goes Out." I remember her showing me how to pop the seam out of a pair of Dickies so they'd sit lower on the hip. She crashed my car once and we had to borrow money from a friend. We had slumber parties at her house and would listen to the same album over and over again until we fell asleep on the floor.

I'd like to think had she had the chance to grow up our lives would have somehow cycled back together and we'd still be swapping music, keeping tabs on our bad habits, laughing. I miss her.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

all the processes

I did a reading this morning with So Say We All for the international book fair at City College. I read a short essay I wrote about immigration, the story of a young undocumented immigrant from El Salvador. It was about how a friend and I scrambled to help him after he lost his way crossing the mountains East of San Diego and pretty heartbreaking. It was the first reading I've done in a few months. I teared up during the piece, which was new for me. I think the difference was that the auditorium was full of brown folk. The students were mostly black and brown and when I looked up as I was reading, I could see the intensity on their faces. I could have been speaking about their fathers, brothers, I was telling one of their stories and it broke open a part of me that I have been trying to reach. It was a tender thing and I was almost bereft considering the scope of what I want to accomplish as a writer.

After the reading I came home and called an old college professor. I spoke with him for a long while about my novel, and the challenges I'm having. I don't think they're really challenges, but I have given myself a huge assignment. *sigh* And I'm getting there, minor terrors of ego notwithstanding. I spent all day Sunday eyeballs deep in the Popul Vuh.  There are parallels between my fantasy world and Mayan civilizations, but they aren't the same. I read the histories (many corrupted) to place myself in the world then let go to go into the dreaming that drives the stories I'm telling.

I sent out a lot of work this last week. Poems, essays, short stories. The days I don't really write I try to get what I've written out into the world so that when I finally do reach out to an agent or publisher they'll be able to see that I've been published. So much work to being a writer.

Heading to Mexico next week with H and the familia. I haven't been to the ranch in a while and I miss it. I miss the slowness of the days and the food. I miss all the dusty kids tumbling around and the uncles slinging rocks to keep the birds off the corn. I miss the old blue Datsun my Uncle Payin drives and how he honks the horn right at sunrise and I get up to jump in the back and we drive the dirt roads to the cows. I miss how we toss the stripped corn stalks off the back of the truck while my uncle drives slow circles around the fields and the cows follow, hungry and faithful.

It will the first time I've taken a partner down to the ranch. They all still think my pig has gone to mountain. I think the uncles will approve of H, his body is similar to theirs and he is brown brown from the sun. He knows how to sweat and how to spit and drink down a beer contemplatively.

Now, to write some.

Monday, September 30, 2013

muses

One of the incredible things about living with a writer is how much time we spend talking about writing. In the last five weeks the work has gone to a deeper level. I'm not really writing too much these days (in another submission frenzy) but I'm digging deep.

We spent much of yesterday working on individual project in the courtyard of the apartment complex. I was slogging through pretty difficult historical and anthropological texts. I pulled a few gems out and had some things clarified but I'm not writing a historical fiction. I'm being influenced by a particular period in time. The research is fascinating and it often breaks my heart. I'm in the build-up phase before a fertile period, like an underground zit aches below the surface of the face until it emerges and takes over. (Those of you who know, know. Take zinc, it helps.)

I'm stepping carefully back into my meditation practice, I let go of it almost completely this summer. It isn't easy coming back. One of the many benefits of a daily practice is that is keeps things level, allows, and allows for surrender. When I'm off my practice (and I try so hard not to judge myself, but I do) I trip, fall and all the old crap comes up, stuff I know I'm not really dealing with. Old patterns, fears, little triggers. The mind is dangerous that way, holding on to old poisons and letting them loose. I recognize them, acknowledge them and try to move the F on. But humanness is tricky.

My solitude hasn't been affected too much by cohabitation, which was my biggest fear. Luckily H and I both like a lot of time on our own. We retreat to different parts of the apartment and spend hours working on our own. Grad school is a full time job so H is constantly reading and writing and re writing. I read a lot and have been editing like crazy. Tomorrow is the deadline for several places I'm submitting work

.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

the littles

I've been going through work, editing and smoothing out pieces to submit. Crazy how much old writing I have, pieces I wrote as long as ten years ago. I'm sending out one piece in particular that I've loved a long, long time. It's about traveling in my early twenties, the voice is precise to where I was at that time. I love that writing is often a time capsule. But the time capsule aspect also can make me a little crazy. I want to keep the authenticity of the experience, those younger years of drawn out emotion, the heavy sighs, the confusion. There also is a part of me that wants to go back to the writing and take back the edges, cloak the rawness a little but then I fear that I'm masking the authenticity as well.

This morning I had a bit of a rough spot. There was a family dinner last night, cousins were in town and I drank too much wine and was roaring a bit this morning. I drove H to school. He usually takes the bus but I was feeling wah-wah and told him I'd drive him so he could spend an extra hour at home. Enter headache and stomach issues. And hitting every red light on the way to school. Poor H probably would have rather been on the bus than in the car with me as I snapped at traffic and bemoaned everything. On the way back I realized I had to get out of the mood. I made myself appreciate something about every house or person I passed.  It went like this:

Hello house, you're a lovely shade of yellow.

Oh bougainvillea, you are so pink today.

Ah yard, look at all those toys. Your children must be so happy.

Sir, those shoes look comfortable.

Look at you, graceful Palm tree, home to so many birds.

Crow, you fly.

By the time I got home my roar had diminished to a mumble. It was a nice little practice to get me out of myself. I think I'll try it again.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

birds flying out of me

Summer is aching out slowly, the way it does here in Southern California. It gets hotter, the air thickens from the storms further south, insects explode out of their smaller lives to gather and fly. I keep the windows open, fans going and sleep with a sheet just as a reminder of weight because I like a little something on me in the night.

H moved in ten days ago. I am tripping over myself with joy. I feel like every time I open my mouth to speak birds fly out. I went up to Vancouver to pick him up. We spent a lovely week packing, spending time with his friends and family and preparing ourselves for this transition, from long-distance to cohabitation. Funny, to go from visits every couple of months to the intricacies of daily life: sharing a clothes hamper, deciding our meals, figuring out the space we need to offer the other and the space we fit into together. We laugh a lot. We've been working out. I'm impressed by his work ethic, how many hours a day he dedicates himself to writing and his craft. We sit on the balcony in the evening and have long discussions on writing, poetics, the edges we are willing to push ourselves past.

My summer was incredibly busy. I put my novel on hold and rarely even thought about it. A couple of days ago I printed out what I had and sat down and read it. What a strange act, to sit and try to read your own work with a critical eye. I haven't touched the book in a couple of months, it was nice to go back and feel hunger for my characters, their story. I saw where I can strengthen the plot and writing, though that won't be until the next draft. I was scared to look at it but at the end, I was satisfied.

Life is good. Busy. I feel poetry tapping, asking to be let out. I haven't written any poems in months but they're there and wanting out. I'm listening.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

road long, road weary, worth it.

I'm tired but happy in Medford, Oregon. I drove fifteen hours yesterday from Dan Diego to here. I'm more than halfway to Vancouver and will arrive there this evening. I probably pushed myself too hard again but the prospect of seeing my good friend Andy and staying at his place was too good to pass up.

The road was ok, pretty boring most of the way up the 5. When I got to Redding everything changed and the mountains showed up, stunning. I love that part of the drive. I haven't done this drive in six or seven years, and last time was right when the iPhone first came out and I was completely distracted by it when I wasn't driving.

So much going on in me right now. Handing it, loving it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

home, for now

I'm home. It feels good, hard, strange. I'm happy to be here, if only for a week before the next journey. The next one is the big big big one. As soon as I got home I started packing boxes, moving things, figuring out what to let go of, what to give away, throw away, clear.

The road home wasn't easy. It never is. I was so eager to be back that I pushed myself harder than was probably safe or wise. That last night I drove hard, through electrical storms, on winding highways, the only other vehicles on the road were trucks. I kept thinking to myself the next town, I'll stop at the next town. But I kept going, until I was so tired my legs were shaking and my hands were completely sweaty on the steering wheel. I finally pulled over in a little town late at night and rented a room. It was hard to sleep, I had so much road adrenaline in me. I finally slept and woke up too early and again pushed myself too hard to be home in the afternoon. I arrived, rankled and testy. I was frayed and jumpy. I took myself to the Korean Spa and soaked for an hour, trying to release but it didn't work. Now finally, two days later, I've landed back in my body and feel safe again. And I leave in a week.

My family is in transition in many ways these days. I'm a part of it but I'm watching my sisters go through big changes as well. Usually we're super close and spend a ton of time together but these days solitude and contemplation are our cycle. I miss my sisters and can't wait until we're back in each other's lives fully again, present.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

dust and watermelon



I've been at the ranch in Texas for a few days now and am settling into a rhythm. I'm staying at a hotel 15 minutes from the ranch. Every morning I get up, stretch, meditate, go eat my free hotel breakfast (and get odd looks from the other hotel guests, I'm in my painting clothing,) then head out to the ranch. Most of the drive is along a dirt road. Very beautiful, sparse and not at all anything that I'm used to.

The town I'm in is tiny. Everyone knows each other and the people watching is pretty interesting, I'm being watched right back. My friend Kaveri Singh  is here too so we have each other for company. The interior designer we work with is here too. Still, I miss home. I miss my family. I don't mind working out of town, and I definitely don't mind traveling but I miss my daily rituals and I miss being touched. My family hugs.

In the fantasy camp of my mind I though I would work all day then come back to the hotel, go for a swim then spend my evenings writing. HA! I won't swim. The hotel is full of constructions workers. The guys at our job site are super cool but the ones here at the hotel, meh. Last night I went outside to watch an electrical storm that was passing over town and two men were outside smoking and loudly comparing about ways in which they control (read: abuse) their women, (of course they didn't call them women.) One said something about how he "had to punch her in the mouth and threaten to tie her to the bed again." Ugh. No swimming for me. And I'm bone tired when I get back. It is HOT out here and the site is incredibly dusty and full of flies. When I get back to the room I shower, eat and collapse on to the king sized bed and read. I brought some wine and treat myself to a glass, er, hotel paper cup, of it at night. No writing.

The site is actually an interesting place. Everyone who works there is very cool and kind. Yesterday I was chatting with a shy carpenter, we were talking books. A little while later he told me "In a few minutes you should come down to the basement with us" and nodded toward a few other men. I immediately thought oh hell no, go to the basement with a bunch of strange men at an isolated ranch on the middle of nowhere?! The he told me they had a secret watermelon eating club. Every morning they buy a watermelon, put it in the basement freezer and take a break to eat it at 3pm. Only a few are invited. It was hot and so I went. It was pretty damn sublime, sitting in the cool basement while it was close to 100 degrees out, eating ice cold watermelon with a bunch of kind strangers. Little moments like that are golden.

A couple more days here then I head back to Santa Fe for another little job then home.



Monday, July 22, 2013

road landing

Today is my fourth day on the road. I'm in Santa Fe, staying at a really nice hotel near the plaza, one of the oldest hotels in Santa Fe. I'm a block from the plaza and main church. It kind of  reminds me of Mexico, this part of town was definitely built when this part of the world was under the rule of Spain. The first time I was here a year ago a friend told me how magical it was, this little heart of the city. It isn't bad, just not my kind of place. It feels sterile, scrubbed clean for the tourists. Everywhere you walk in this part of the city there are reminders of the history that is acceptable for tourists. I look around and see how much has been hidden away, erased.

I spent most of the weekend with my beautiful friend Andrea Serrano in Albuquerque. She and I met earlier this year and hit it off right away. I stayed at her lovely new home and did some custom painting for her as a housewarming gift. We had a great time and I got to see 'Burque through the eyes of a local and hear the histories from someone whose family has been here for generations. I love spending time with Andrea, we have so much in common in how we approach the world. She is definitely of my tribe.

As much as I love being on the road I miss the peace of being home, the small rituals that anchor my day. So much movement every day, so much newness is hard on the body and mind. I'm not complaining, I love being outside of my comfort zone but there is definitely an adjustment period. I struggle with my meditation while on the road, I struggle with my creative writing. I'm not landed or grounded yet. I head out to Texas later this morning and should be able to get into a routine. I've never spent any time at all in Texas, should be interesting.

I'm so close to Ghost Ranch. I have such a desire to get into the truck and drive out to the holy place, but the next time I return will be with H. That is where it all started between us and I can't go back alone. Driving these same roads is kind of a trip. Everything was different last summer, when I drove out here I was in such a strange but comfortable heart space. I was happy with my life and at peace. Everything has blossomed since then. So much growth in the last year. I am even happier with my life and know even more peace.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

the road, again.

Another year, another road trip. I'm on my way to Texas for work. I should be out there about a week. I have to deliver a bunch of stuff for my father and then do some painting on my own. I was looking at maps and realized I have almost 6000 miles of road trip travel in the next month.

I started yesterday with a truck full of material. I was a little scared about driving an unfamiliar truck but  I was fine. San Diego to Phoenix: nothing too interesting about that section of the drive. Straight road, desert. I love the landscape, how still it is, how the road stretches on and on in front of me. I love getting toward Flagstaff, winding up the road, seeing the landscape change from desert to forest. Once I'm outside of Flagstaff I'm pretty joyous. Then heading East I can't stop singing. The from Flagstaff and into New Mexico is stunning. I love driving. I love the road. 

I decided to get a hotel room last night around the twelve hour, 740 mile mark. I was pretty tired. I pulled into a small town called Grants and rented a room. I went to a bar and grill for dinner and walked into a room full of bikers. It was like that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure when he walks into the biker bar, but not as scary. I was the only person who wasn't a biker, it was pretty obvious in my flow-y pants and flip-flops. Whatever. It was fine. Excellent people watching. Ridiculous people watching.

Today I'll head into Santa Fe to drop-off some material, eat a green chile burrito or four and then head back to Albuquerque to visit a friend.  I head to Texas on Monday, should be interesting and I hope to blog more from there. I've never spent any time in Texas and am curious.




with the loaded truck
 skies outside of Flagstaff
 beauty
 jackal in the clouds
of course

Thursday, July 11, 2013

the distance required

I've been sending out poems, stories and essays for publication. It requires a kind of distance, letting these little loves of mine out into the world. And when I do publish I keep that distance, even though I'm proud and happy to have my work out there. I created them, put in my ideas and images, sat with commas and synonyms, grieved over lost lines but once they're out in the world, they're not mine, they belong to the reader. A strange letting go. Maybe that's the reason I often struggle while sending out my favorite pieces, I don't want to let go. But then I read something in a literary journal that strums all the chords in me and I know I want to be a part of that.

I have one story in particular I've had for years. It IS going out this summer, it is. The way it is currently written there is a bit of an open ending, but I think I have to fix that. I love literary stories that ooze poetry and mysticism, and if they don't end in the traditional narrative arc ending I'm usually okay with that. But I have these two characters that have gone through a hell of a lot and they deserve something. Is a happy ending worth it? After all, it still is an ending.

Another shit thing about submitting work is that I can't focus on my new writing. Submitting work is another energy entirely. I have no problem editing the work I'm sending out, but new work? Forget it. I was on such a good roll with the novel, now I'm treading water back to it, one eye on the work that's going out and a promise to my characters that I haven't forgotten about them.

Summer has been good to me. Just got back from visiting H in Vancouver. Pretty damn perfect. I love his family and friends. I love him. So effn grateful.

I've slipped from my meditation practice the last couple of weeks. Crazy what a difference it makes when I don't take time to go into myself, to that silence. I'm really pretty good about self-care, juicing, sleep, massage, etc. But when I let the meditation falter I'm just not as focused. Getting back to it is always tough, so much mental chatter but when I finally do drop down into that place of silence, presence, everything opens up and it feels like my entire world sighs an exhale.

Friday, June 14, 2013

close encounters of the racist kind

I had an encounter last night that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I went out to dinner with my neighbor Carlos and his friend V. We had a great time, exchanging stories, ideas. We had such a great time we picked up dessert and took it to our local bar to keep up our dialogue. Carlos and V grew up in San Diego too, are Mexican-American and we shared a lot of similar experiences growing up. Last night we had a long conversation about racism especially after what happened to that kid who sang the national anthem the other night. We discussed the movies we grew up with the eighties, how we never saw ourselves except in films that depicted our people/stories in a less-than-positive light.  Overall it was a positive conversation, with a lot of joking thrown in about what we'd like to see in film, books, etc. We were being silly, quoting the most memorable scenes from the films we saw ourselves portrayed in. (And how Lou Diamond Phillips was Mexican to us and the shock we felt when we found out he wasn't. . .)

I've been hanging out at the same bar for over ten years. I'm comfortable there, I know the regulars and bartenders, I feel safe there. There have been moments of tension, privilege, but they happen anywhere. During our conversation last night I walked over to the other side of the bar to ask the bartender something. Seated in from of him were three people I'd never seen before. I was friendly, as I always am. The woman in the group mentioned something about being from Texas. I told her that I'll be in Texas next month for work; she asked where and I said West Texas. She then got a look of disgust on her face, shuddered and said "Oh no, there are so many Mexicans there."

I had one of those Is this real life? moments. I was stunned, I shook my head a little to try to clear my thoughts and said "Well I'm Mexican. . ." She laughed, her friends laughed. One of the men with her said "Yeah just don't make it out to El Paso, that place is completely full of Mexicans."  They all laughed some more. I walked away, feeling sick.

I bummed a cigarette and went out to smoke, trying to shake the disgust, heartbreak. What kind of normal do you have to live to say that, but especially to a brown person? I saw the little group leave immediately after our encounter, I hope they were embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed; but I doubt it. I hadn't reacted in a way that called them out on their racism. I wasn't in that head space. My friends joined me outside, I told them what happened and they were pretty grossed out too. We went home shortly after, I'd lost my social mojo. Crazy how one moment can deflate an evening of joy.

Once home I decided just to go into my feelings to try and decipher the turmoil. I was hurt. I was angry. Mostly I was disappointed. I went back to the conversations I'd been having with Carlos and V about stereotypes, about visibility and other-ness. I sat with it. I tried to go into a place of forgiveness, of acceptance; allowing myself to be hurt and angry but also allowing myself to feel compassion for the people who hurt me. Not easy, there were several other places I wanted to go but I did my best to be compassionate. I didn't succeed but it is called a practice for reason, you have to practice.

I'm reading a non-fictionbook right now wherein the author talks about how he once overheard a conversation in his workplace about how they wouldn't promote him because he was black, that his skin color would harm their platform. The author walked away and started his own successful practice, and a part of his work to get there was going into compassion and forgiveness. Ay, I think I'm not there yet. But I'm trying.

I missed my word count by 200 words yesterday. I'll make up for it today. I'm pretty happy with where I am in the process. I have a friend coming today to stay with me for a week. She's a writer too so we'll give each other plenty of space and I'm sure have lots of conversations about the work. She's working on a novel as well.

Pretty thrilled with this article about Game of Thrones. Yes, yes and yes.




Wednesday, June 12, 2013

switching it up

I had a rough writing day yesterday. Keeping track of the narrative arc, the heart of it can be challenging in a project with a big scope. Yesterday I got a little lost in the work and was frustrated. I know this is all part of the process but yech.

I read a book last night that started off beautifully, great world, characters, an intricate plot but it got heavy-handed in the end; so much was going on that I went numb and lost the emotional attachment I'd built up for the characters. Too much plot, too many sweeping emotional generalizations, I wanted the truth of the beginning and it disappeared. Boo.

This morning I pulled up the first novel I ever started in 2006. I've been looking at it bit by bit the last few months. This morning I uploaded it into Scrivener, did a little editing, outlining. Fuck, this is a good book. It is contemporary young adult so it energizes an entirely different part of my brain than the fantasy novel. I have been daydreaming the plot for a while now. I now know where it will go.  I'm going to continue outlining then turn back to the fantasy novel this afternoon. I think writing in a different voice will help me get back the the voice I've been working in for the last couple of years. Maybe I'm crazy. Any other writers out there working on more than one big project? (Also, none of you ever comment, am I writing to the void?!?!)

I need to get back to my poetry manuscript. Luckily, (and by luckily I mean holy shit am I blessed!) H is all about helping with the manuscript. He constantly offers to send out poems for me, send the whole thing out to contests. Being this supported by a partner, in my writing and every other aspect of my life is very new to me. I don't even know what to do with it. I appreciate and reciprocate.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Latina Writing Speculative Fiction/Fantasy

I am, damn it.

Yesterday H sent me this article on writers of color writing speculative fiction. So damn interesting. Last week I saw a conversation on twitter wherein a writer was asking if any Latinas were writing (and publishing) speculative fiction or fantasy. I don't jump in to these conversations, right now my focus is on writing the best story I can. I don't want to take the energy away from my creative pursuits. But ayyyyyy, I want to jump in and me say ME! I'm writing it! Ego, hungry little focker, wants the attention for something that hasn't yet been birthed.

There are so many things I want to address in my story but not in a hit-you-over-the-head way. I've read too many books that wear their intended issues like merit badges. I love stories where you can taste the complexity without knowing all the ingredients but the flavor knocks you off your feet. (Also, I'm blogging whilst hungry.) Again, trusting myself is key.

I think of a conversation I had a few months ago with Juan Felipe Herrera,  he interviewed a couple of us on what makes a Chicana or Latina writer. We dove in, silly as hell, poking fun at every cliche. We were cracking up, super sarcastic but we were honest about what shows up again and again. We were also honest about what we are not allowed to talk about as Latina writers; where we are still held down by culture. I've thought back to that conversation a lot; there is something there. What, I don't know yet. But I know it was important. In any case, I'm sure it'll show up again, Juan Felipe recorded the interview.

Working within and "creating" myth has been wonderful. The right stuff shows up right on time, and then shit shows up that I immediately recognize as such.  I picked up a couple of books this weekend, a Joseph Campbell book and another one that I am frustrated with. The second one is a spiritual memoir of sorts, but the title caught my eye as it fit perfectly with who my characters are. But going through the book, as lovely as some of the writing was I thought the subtitle should have been In celebration of Patriarchy. No thanks, plenty of that to go around. I'll cuddle up with the Campbell tonight.

My summer is going to be crazy busy. My goal is to get as much writing done as possible, finish polishing some short stories that need to go out on submission and get this draft done. I found out yesterday I'm have to drive to Texas for work in July, right after I get back from Vancouver. I don't know how long I'll be out there but the client is setting me up in a hotel. When I return I have a little bit of solo time before the big Life Event happening in August. Crazy. And yay! And whoa.

Also WHAT THE FUCK GAME OF THRONES! That last scene in the season finale pissed me off. White savior much? Colonial narrative much?  Ugh. Even more confirmation I need to publish my book.  I get goosebumps of rage when I think of that scene.

Friday, June 7, 2013

today and all the days since

A year ago today H and I started our relationship. For the fourth morning in a row, we woke before dawn, met on the desert road as friends and went for a hike to watch the sun rise over Ghost Valley. Sitting on the mesa we discussed the meanings of our names, meditated, and spent most of it in silence. It was one of the most beautiful mornings of my life. That evening we slept out under the stars on the mesa. Grateful. Crazy in love and excited about our future.

I've been working steadily on the novel. Yesterday I was stuck some, trying to figure out how to get from one point to another. I introduced a new set of characters who will be in the rest of the series, they're pretty fucking creepy. I hit my word count and headed off into the night to sit at my favorite bar, drink red wine and read poetry. I was content with what I'd written but still, there was a tickle, little nag that I needed something.

Interlude: I'm crazy about hypnosis. I have been fascinated with the brain and brain science my whole life. Years ago while working through insomnia I started listening to a sleep hypnosis track and it worked. I began experimenting with other hypnosis tracks, methods of self-hypnosis and was hooked. Researching hypnosis and brain science I came across brainwave entrainment research. I started playing around with it and LOVED it. I listen to isochronic tones and binaural beats while I write and I swear it keeps me focused.  Add my steady meditation practice and dream work. . . my mind is a fertile, fertile place.

I've been taking zinc supplements at night and my dreaming has become even more vivid. I slept somewhat early last night and went into crazy heavy but stunningly beautiful dreams. I woke up, did my dream work, went right into meditation and my all of my plot issues resolved themselves. Lined. Right. Up. It took all of my discipline not to jump up and write everything down and I'm glad I didn't, even more came to me.  Overjoyed.

Thinking on cycles, as they are a theme in my work. Last night I realized a long cycle was ending, one based on a physical place I've frequented for years. Funny how a place can become a hinge experiences are latched to. The physical space, the place I have loved is undergoing a transformation as well but I'm grateful it was there when it mattered.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

it comes up

Hello friends! Been a while, no? But when I'm absent here, it means I'm present somewhere else and that somewhere else has been my novel, business and life. I miss blogging and the contemplation/reflection that comes with it. But when I have a certain amount of energy to devote to writing, I'm dedicated to giving that energy to my creative projects.

Life is still wonderful, opening and transforming. Crazy. I wrote a brief email the other day to an old friend. We both spent years really mucking through the shit, emotionally, spiritually, the whole emotional swamp of trial, error error error.  But these days we're both out of it, and we're both thriving. It was lovely to reach out to her and confirm that the years of slogging were worth where we are today.

I had a reading a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco and it was wonderful. I got to spend time with old friends and connect with new people. It made me miss my VONA days. Those VONA weeks happened during some of the harder years of my life and they recharged me, reminded me of why I write, who I am. I find myself wanting to go back but then I remember there are other writers who need that space. I'm in a place where I can write, edit and do a lot of that work myself. So, room for them.

Looking through the draft of my novel the other day made me realize how much of what I've known comes up even when it isn't intentional. My protagonist in this book is, in a sense, losing her religion, her grounding.  I went through the same thing. I'm seeing parallels that weren't planned between her growth and what I had to go through when I was a young adult. Losing your entire belief system, the basis for everything you have ever done, known, believed, is Hard. And I wanted to leave the religion, it made me unhappy. But when we finally broke free I was anchor-less. I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified because the god I had been raised with was no longer there. I had my family but they were all going through the same thing. Couple this religion-leaving with adolescence, cruel junior high, the traumatic (and Tarantino-level bloody) first year of my menses and I was a wreck. 

I love the writing though. I love falling into it each day. It is so much easier this time around because of the months I spent really getting to know my characters, building the world they live in. I've had to plot out so much, especially since I intend for this to be part of a trilogy. (Nerd-tastic!!) I have to have the narrative arc for each book in my head, as well as the narrative arc for the entire series. Yikes. But the more I meditate, contemplate, the more confident I am that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

I'm also pretty in love with my characters, which is a damn good thing because I spend a hell of a lot of time with them. I have the cork board above my desk completely filled up with pictures of them, a map of their world, a relationship chart. Serious writer shit. I love when people come over and come into my office and are fascinated by the cork board. I'm pretty mesmerized by it myself.

So, work, life, love. I'm busy but extraordinarily happy. I really do love my life. Big plans this summer, big changes coming up in the next three months, the next year. If my life was different a year ago, I imagine a year from now will be completely and totally changed. I have a lot of travel on the calendar, lots of work to do here in my home to prepare for the next stage of my life. I welcome it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April update and poems

Long, somewhat rough week. If you're following my daily poems you've probably noticed I've taken a break. Earlier this week I found out one of my cousins died. He was 39. We weren't close but we grew up together, he was the older, wiser cousin and knowing he passed has punched me in the gut. I also am working on a big contract for my business that has me working long hours in the sun and when I get home I shower, eat and fall asleep. This weekend I plan on resting, writing, and grieving with my family at the service for my cousin on Sunday.

In better news, one of my favorite poems "little song for dissatisfaction" has been published at Toe Good Poetry.  I wrote this poem in Paris in 2006. I took the first draft of it to a weekly writing workshop that was held at Shakespeare & Company. It was one of those writerly moments, sitting in the grungy top floor of a famous bookstore in Paris, sharing my work with other writers, looking out the window at Notre Dame cathedral.

Monday, April 8, 2013

love and a little peek backwards

I want to let you know I love my life.  I am so incredibly happy and productive these days. I have days that are tougher than others but over all, joy.

I moved into this apartment five years ago exactly. I was going through some shit. The man I was in love with at the time helped me move in and broke up with me immediately after, in the car, while I was driving. A word to the compassionate: don't do that. Don't break someone's heart while they are driving a beast of metal, oil and fire down the highway at 75 miles an hour. Anyway, I was devastated. Worst break-up ever, the kind that guts, splits your life into a definite before and after. But broken wasn't the worst thing to be, after all. Wounded was the worst shit, making poor decisions based on fear. That too passed. Not without mistakes, not without having to Hulk smash my ideas of who I was, but it passed.

I had afternoon drinks with my mom yesterday. She told me she loves seeing how happy I am. Happiness is a practice, I've realized, and so much of it is based in gratitude. I've heard that over and over through the years but when going through the river of crap and woeful navel-gazing, it doesn't click. Last year on my 33rd birthday I wrote those letters of gratitude on this blog. I kept up the practice of writing down my gratitude privately. It changes everything.

Years ago when I was in the muck, I spoke to someone who told me to keep myself surrounded by the kind of people I wanted to be. I think for many years I was confused. I was drawn to sharp intelligence and wit but with those minds came a ton of cynicism and negativity. Now most of that is out of my life and I can't believe what a difference it makes.

So, I am happy. And running very, very late for work. Good thing I make my own hours.




Thursday, April 4, 2013

poetry month

Hey loves. Life is busy and good, and I am writing. I am once again attempting to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month. I posted all of my poems on this blog a few years back but this year I've decided to post them on another, password protected blog. But you, dear readers, get the password and the link. The blog is  http://poesia2013.tumblr.com/ and the password: poeta   Remember, these are brand new, mostly unedited poems. Some will be better than others. Some will eventually be abandoned. Let me know what you think.

Friday, March 22, 2013

the story of a story and some more

My short story "Birds" was the Friday Flash Fiction winner this week at the Portland Review website.  You can read it here.

Here's the story about this story. Year ago, some local writers were putting together an anthology about sex, and stories about sex, seduction, all that goes with the territory. I wrote "Birds." I had a voice in mind, a character I wanted to portray and I wanted to have a little fun. I sent the story off and then went on with my life. A few months later I got a nasty rejection letter. Not just "your piece isn't right for us" but a pretty eft up critique of the piece, the voice and my writing style in general. I must have really offended the person who rejected me; I imagine the person was a hemp-panty wearer. I ignored it, put the piece in performance rotation. Audiences loved it. I was a finalist at Literary Death Match with the story. It was fun. And now, published. Pretty damn happy. I'd like the mention that I once saw the anthology I originally submitted "Birds" to a few years ago; somebody was using it as a doorstop. No bullshit. No hate. Just an observation.

Life has been good. I was in Tucson a few weeks ago for the Festival of Books. I was on the brilliant "Ban This" panel, live on Book TV on CSPAN.  I wan't nervous to begin with but when were being ushered into the auditorium where the panel was being held I noticed a long line, wrapping around the building. I asked the volunteer leading us to the event "What are all these people waiting for?" The volunteer smiled and said "your panel." I got nervous. I managed to compose myself and think I did okay. But when I asked about the book banning in Arizona I ever-so-eloquently sputtered "It's crap!" 

The weekend in Tucson was wonderful. I made new friends, laughed my ass off and got to spend time with one of my favorite writers. I saw him in the author lounge the first morning of the festival. I had a plan, I was going to go up to him, tell him how much I loved his work and ask him to sign a book of his I had brought with me. I was cool, collected. I went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around I lost my shit and cried "I love you!" Silly fangirl: full force. So it goes. He was gracious and kind and I actually had several nice conversations with him and wife over the weekend.

I've been working on micro memoir pieces every morning. After I meditate I sit down and write one page of memoir. I give myself a topic; childhood friends, high school loves, my Tijuana party days, etc. I write one page, no editing, not stopping, full go. I haven't gone back to look at any of the writing yet but I'm pretty excited to see what I've come up with. I date the files and put them in a folder. I allow complete vulnerability, I go to the scary place. It feels great.

Life is good, busy. H and I have a long vacation planned this summer. I know I shouldn't book vacations during the summer as it is my busiest work season, but when H mentioned wanting to go to Switzerland to visit his sister I had to say hell yeah!

Honing some other short stories these days, trying to get them out. 

Good times. After so many years of crap I am often amazed at how happy I am. And then I get even happier. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.




Sunday, March 3, 2013

tipping, dreaming

I love this time of year. Birds are singing out to each other. The mockingbird comes back. Hummingbirds start showing up on my balcony because the jasmine is blooming. These are the last couple of weeks of winter, the tipping accelerates and everything is starting to unfurl. Dawn come earlier, the sky is a sharper blue, everything is thick with light, glorious. I love spring.

Last night in my dreams I was in the setting my books takes place in. I was wandering around from building to building, checking out the landscape, interacting with the creatures that inhabit the world I'm writing. I happened upon a place that I didn't even know existed in my book, but now that I think of it, it makes perfect sense and adds another layer.

I had a wonderful birthday weekend, surrounded by friends and family. As always, I am awed at how incredibly blessed I was to be born into my incredibly family. Friday night I had a karaoke party with 20 friends and family members. Sunday we had a family bbq. H was in town, I love him.

I had a random, or not so random experience that made my actual birthday one of my best. Years ago I read a book by an author and thought to myself "I'm going to meet her, I know it." On my birthday I had to meet with a new client early in the morning. I was a little cranky, H was leaving that afternoon and I wanted to spend the whole morning alone with him. I drove to the client's house and it was the author I told myself I was going to meet. We had a great conversation, she gave me a signed copy of one of her books. The whole experience made my day.

Working on this book is a slower process than the other one. This one sets everything up, creates the world, puts the events into motion. There are moments I freak out a little. But I love it so I keep going. I remind myself that this is what I'm meant to do. Everything in my life has been leading up to this, creating space for this, preparing my mind for this. I got it. Go.





Friday, February 15, 2013

tapestry, stew, cuckoo bird

I keep discovering parts of the story I'm writing in other stories. Inevitable, I suppose. So much myth is universal, crosses cultures, oceans. Creation mythology, for example.

I think one of the biggest things I have been wrestling with is how to create an authentic fantasy world that is similar enough to this world, without completely mirroring cultural specificities. I don't want to be disrespectful or flippant with belief systems, with sacred ritual, with story. For instance, there is a type of warrior in my story that I wrote into existence over a year ago. A few days ago I was looking around on the internet and I found that very warrior. He was pictured in an article about cultural appropriation. Shit balls. Did I see this warrior somewhere in my past? Did I file him away in my subconscious without realizing it? Should I even worry about this crap?

My writing is also heavily informed by everything I've ever read. No surprise there. I read an interview with an author who has been accused of stealing the work of other writers. He insists he was inspired, and there is also the defense that most fantasy is derivative. A well-published writer friend of mine has encouraged me to steal ideas, make them my own; this writer has even specifically shown me how they "steal" then make the work their own. I struggle with the idea. But even when I don't realize it, I'm stealing/inspired by other work; or weaving a tapestry formed of different threads of story, or a stew.  

I also have a hard time talking about the specifics of the story. Years ago when I was working on my first attempt at a novel, I shared the plot with a writing group. Last year I saw that one of the writers in that group took my idea, wrote his own book, and published it.  Close to the chest it is. I've shared the plot/world/idea with a few people I trust but no more than that. I'm not putting my eggs in someone else's nest.

The next ten days will be awesome. My boyfriend comes into town tomorrow to spend ten days with me for my birthday. I'm pretty damn excited. Ten days in one place. I'm super super looking forward to it, and I know it will be a a little challenging for me. Even when I was in a relationship with someone who lived a half mile away, I would only see him on weekends. I don't think that in the year and a half we were together we ever spent more than five days in a row together. I love my solitude. But I'm not worried. H is incredibly sensitive to my needs and desires. When he's here he allows me plenty of solitude, as he enjoys time for himself as well. Ten days. TEN DAYS! Overjoyed. And he completely supports me in my writing, as I support him in his. Yay!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

seeing myself in story, myth, fantasy

The world I'm writing is the world I needed when I was young, and a place I continue to crave. I was having a conversation the other day with a good friend; we were discussing my current project and he asked me why I'm writing it. I told him that when I was growing up I was completely enamored of story, mythology, fantasy. But when I wanted to retreat into that world, place myself into myth in my imagination as children do, I had to change everything about myself. I had to change the color of my skin, my eyes, my hair, where my family was from.  I couldn't read a book or listen to story and think that's my story, my myth. It always belonged to someone different from me. The underlying message to a child who doesn't see herself in story is you don't exist. Even when I moved past children's literature into middle grade and young adult fiction I didn't see myself. It took me years to realize that that kind of invisibility creates shame, a shadowy self-hatred. And the undoing of that shame and self-hatred is a long process that often involves a lot of anger. I'm just coming out of it.

Yesterday I read this article. Even more confirmation that what I'm doing is necessary. I also realize I need support in doing this. I am writing genre. I'm writing an imagined place fit together with various influences and sometimes I'm terrified of criticism.


Before bed each night I'm reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. What a glorious, thick, heady book to get lost in, and found in. I read with pencil in hand, underlining, writing notes to myself in the margins, putting exclamation points next to passages that rip me open. Passages like this:

Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the  problems and solutions are directly valid for all mankind.

Passages like this fuel me when I'm feeling low about my work. What I'm doing is necessary. Placing myself into myth for all mankind. I'm not feeling particularly low about my work these days but sometimes the scope of what I'm trying to create is daunting. I have to remind myself, and allow myself to be reminded by outside sources and influences, that this path of artist and creator has been mine since before I could articulate it. And I have to continue to honor it.

 I've created a vision board of sorts above my desk. I've printed out pictures of my characters, or what I imagine my characters to look like. They are pretty damn beautiful. Gorgeous in fact. They don't necessarily fit into contemporary ideas of beauty, but they are beautiful to me; they convey strength and grace. They're fierce, each a warrior in their own way. Beautiful brown people. I don't just see their faces above my desk, they're the faces of my family, of the people I work with, strangers on the street who look like me. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

so much, so much, enough

Life has been good. I've been busy, and happy, with enough time for rest and contemplation.  January is usually a slow month for me, in work, in living but things picked up this year. I still have had time to contemplate, reset, plan.

Good news abounds in all areas of my life. I've been invited to be on a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books. I'll be on the panel for the anthology I was published in last year, Ban This! Anthology of Xican@ Literature.  I will be on the panel with Luis Urrea, one of my favorite writers, and SJ Rivera, publisher of the anthology. Gustavo Arellano will moderate.

In May I will be one of two featured writers at Lunada, full moon literary lounge in San Francisco at Galeria de la Raza.

The novel writing is interesting. The second book in the trilogy is heavy (in a good way) in my mind. And I love it. The characters are in me, the plot is in me, the world is alive. Funnily, this second book may be the first book and the book I have completed may be the second book.

And, there are other wonderful happenings. Nothing I can talk about yet but holy wow.

Work is blowing up. I am so incredibly to have a job I really love. I am so grateful to work in a non-traditional field. There have been times that I questioned my choices, but I decided to stick with it. There were hards years, there were times I was down on myself for not going into a more traditional field. But damn, I'm happy.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

serpents, snakes, little venomous mouths

This last month I've been dreaming of serpents, snakes. I was walking through a field of high grasses when two long snakes leapt out, each biting me on the wrist. I felt the poison enter my body to the rhythm of my heart beating but my body took it in, I was joyous. I was driving, the steering wheel in my hand turn into serpents, winding their way up my arms. I carried two blinded snakes, their eyes bandaged, I pitied them. Last night I was walking home, my novel in my hand when I came across a burlap sack on the road, filled with hatchling rattlesnakes. I made the bag my bed, I lay down in the road and let the snakes curl around me. One snake tried to be playful, it bit my novel and the book began to swell up, it turned gold, disappeared.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Album Review: Carla Morrison "Dejenmer Llorar"

Had a brief email exchange about this album with a friend, I quickly wrote this review to send him and he wrote back and suggested I post it on my blog. Here it is:



Listening to this album makes me wish it was around in 2002, when I  was a 23 year old Fridaphile Chicana, my hair in braids, marching every protest, falling in love with brown boys who proudly wore scruffy goatees, Che obsessions and soccer shoes. The songs are young in their emotional truths, saccharine sweet at times. In my imagination I am listening to this album while making out Gael Garcial Bernal before he started doing Gillette commercials. It makes me want to time travel back to the days of obsessive innocence, when everything I wrote down was meaningful, in italics. What I'm trying to say is that this album reminds of being young, which is very different from what I am now: "still" young. It reminds me how fucking fast time goes by, how the years become a skin thickening against vulnerablity. This album peels that skin back a little, lets in those old feelings I keep forgetting to remember.

epiphany, engaging spirit, work

My morning ritual is specific. I wake up, put water to boil for coffee and immediately come into my office to write down my dreams. I'm a vivid dreamer, I go to the same "world" each night. Over the years I've gotten to know the place rather well, down to the parking garage where I sometimes park my car. After I write down my dreams I write a page in another journal, usually I start with whatever I'm grateful for and then into whatever else is on my mind. I grind the coffee beans and start my coffee in the french press. Then I read poetry. Rumi, Rilke, Gibran, I always choose a poet who uplifts, reminds me what is essential. I meditate. I do all this before checking email, internet, anything. I find when I start my day with silence and poetry they fit better.

Yesterday I had a hellish editing day. I sat with the same page for hours. It was a teeth-pulling writing day. I finally gave up around sunset and retreated to eating unhealthy snacks and internet wormholes.

This morning I went into my meditation after having reread for the 70 millionth time a passage from The Prophet. This morning I read the passage On Work. The phrase Work is love made visible was stuck in me, interrupting my usual mantra. Finally, I settled into the place I love to get to in meditation, the floating, the color eruptions, the silence and then it blossomed, the big "duh!" or epiphany.

Write like the poet you are. Boom.

I think I've danced around this idea before. I've been a poet for years, working almost exclusively in poetry, publishing poetry, writing hundreds of poems. That voice is one I've worked and worked on, honed, sharpened. My love made visible. I've exacted my language until it satisfied me. And somewhere in my crazy-brain, when I sat down to work on this novel, I ignored that language, I put the poetry away. No wonder I'm struggling! I'm attempting to write in an entirely new voice. I think back to the short stories I've written that I love the most, The Half-Wife, Blood, Days of Sainthood, and they were all written in my poetry voice.

This means more work. *sigh* I'm okay with that. Making my love visible. So it is.

Speaking of languages, read this gorgeous piece by Louise Erdrich Two Languages in the Mind, One in the Heart. Something like that, yes, yes.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

the January slowing

January is always a little strange for me. Work always slows down to an almost standstill and I find myself freaking out a little, wondering if I chose the wrong career. I have remind myself that January is always a slow month. The work will pick up again. I'm really good at what I do. I love my job. I love that I have slow periods that allow me to concentrate on my writing. I love that I can work all day, interact with no one, listen to audio books and come home inspired to write. I have a few bids out, work that is coming my way and invoices out for work completed. And it is still early in the month.

One of my favorite things to paint these days are electrical outlet plates. My clients usually have big, beautiful kitchens and powder rooms with tile or marble back splashes. The outlets and switch plates stick out. I come in and make them disappear. It isn't a big money maker but I enjoy the detail work, layers upon layers. I get to use my tiny brushes. I learned from another faux finish painter years ago but just started doing the work a couple of years ago.




Yesterday a designer gave me a project that is waaaay different than anything I've ever done but I'm excited to do it. Big, bold, crazy color. I won't do the work for months yet but still, it'll be fun.

Solitary days. Much editing. Staying in as much as possible to avoid the flu plague. 6 days until my gorgeous, brilliant, romantic boyfriend is in town. Pretty sure I won't get much editing done while he's here and why would I?



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

savage simplicities

My editing experiment yesterday was fruitful. I suffered through it at times but new practices often contain suffering. I took a dance class last weekend that had my thighs suffering for days but I'm going back because despite the pain, I loved it.

My editing took hours. I was distracted several times by the internet. I was also distracted by an old book I found at the swap meet last summer, An Encyclooaedia of Occultism. What a strange book. When I first opened it I went directly to the passage about Mexico. The section begins : Occult science among the ancient Mexicans may be said to have been in that stage between savage simplicities of medicine men and the more sophisticated magical practices of the mediaeval sorcerer.  Ah yes, savage simplicities, well aware of those; complicated astronomical calculations, feats of architecture that can barely be replicated today, the motherfucking invention of zero. . . Savages.

This morning during my meditation I saw a scene I really wanted to jump up and write down, but I was meditating, so I didn't. It was a scene involving the parents of my protagonist. It was beautiful, I felt the ache of it, the pull of the characters toward each other despite circumstances that said no. But my book isn't about them, not really. They're story is peripheral. I struggle. I wrote out maybe fifty pages of their story during my planning out stages, of the the events that lead up to where my book starts. I'm kind of obsessed with the parents, the place they live, their challenges. Oh Lizz. Focus. This brain, fertile indeed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

the brave

This morning when I signed into Facebook I received a shock. A friend of mine, a rather close friend who I knew to be single, posted a picture of himself kissing a woman, with the caption Spoiler alert: I got married. Jaw dropped, awed, confused, I sent him a message then we talked on the phone. Done. Married. After a three week whirlwind courtship. There was no doubt in his voice, no fear. He was full of love, amazement at the women he had fallen in love with. There are naysayers, there will always be naysayers. I told him I was happy for him, and I am. I told him I was proud of him for taking a risk, for doing what felt right. I thought about him all morning. What a crazy brave thing to do.

Today I'm experimenting with a different kind of editing. We'll see. I'm trying my best to be brave and not give into the fear voice, the one that mentions all the things that can go wrong, all the ways there are to fail. But failure isn't a terrible thing. I loved this Brene Brown TED talk on Shame. I watched it this weekend and it was pretty damn inspiring. I keep reminding myself that failure isn't the worst thing in the world. Not trying is worse. And bravery is supposed to be action in spite of fear.

I called my mom to tell her about my friend getting marriage and she said That's wonderful! Don't elope. Ha! Even if I eloped I don't think a wedding could be avoided. Too much family.

So many dreams of swimming these days. Dreams of communing with underwater mammals. Lolling against the largesse and warmth of a wet velvet sea lion. Dreams of learning how to angle my body to ride tidal waves safely in to shore. Dreams of curling up in a current of heat while the waters around me shifted into stained glass.

Now, to write.

Monday, January 7, 2013

voice, consistency, body


Going through my manuscript this weekend I had to keep reminding myself this is a draft, this is a draft. There are parts wherein the voice I intend to use sings out, is complete on the page; and there are parts where it falls completely flat. Ugh. But again, this is a draft. I have to remember not to be too hard on myself and to just do the work. I was also rereading one of my favorite books this weekend, Ahab's Wife. The voice the author uses in her writing slays, kills, is ridiculously gorgeous. Do not compare, Lizz, do not compare.

Yesterday morning I went down to my childhood home for breakfast with my parents. I had fresh oranges and pomegranates from their trees. I am so incredibly blessed to have my parents still living in the home I was born and grew up in. Going home each weekend to spend time with them is beautiful. Eating oranges off their trees as I've been doing my entire life. I remember my dad planting the pomegranate tree when I was younger and I remember looking at the scraggy thing and being skeptical it would ever give fruit. Now the tree is taller than the house and each year bends over under the weight of all the ripe fruit. Patience. Appreciation.

I've been hearing a lot of talk these days about the flu. I had several long conversations about this this weekend with various family members. An aunt who works for the county told me she had to get it, the county said there were no exemptions this year for religious or other beliefs.  My sister, who is super organic and anti-medicine is getting the flu shot, which blew my mind. But she suffers from really bad asthma. My dad, a diabetic, is getting it. I refuse, as does my mom. I've never had the flu. I'm pretty healthy these days. I am a miserable sick person, when I'm sick, but I have a lot of misgivings about having a virus, albeit a dead one, injected into my body.