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.