Writing

How an Instagram Challenge Improved My Writing Life

The battle proved long but victorious.

She Writes Press came up with a challenge for writers at the end of April and I thought, ‘why not.’ This seemed to be an easy way to post on social media and see what other people experienced in their writing life.

Scanning my feed on Instagram is quick because I don’t follow a bunch of people, after weeding out those men who post 101 selfie pics. Some guys use Instagram and FaceBook like online dating sites. Not interested.

But back to the topic and the 31-Day Challenge:

WhySheWrites Challenge

The questions lent themselves to introspection, figuring out how to show an answer, and exposing some of the more challenging parts of the writing life.

Here are a few of my Instagram responses.

Share the reason you write:

Growing up, I didn’t read any books with Latina characters who reflected my experiences until I was in college. Those books were few and far between, written mostly by men.

So when I began recording my words (about ten years ago), I found myself writing about loss, abandonment, and other challenges encountered by women and girls to amplify their strength and resilience. In doing so, I increased my own.

 

Why I write? alvaradofrazier.com

Share a photo of your writing space:

My grand-kitty Heidi Ho lets me know when she thinks I’m staying too long at my laptop. She has a routine: jump on my chair, leap to my desk, and if I’m still typing she wedges herself behind my computer where she glares and meows until I shut it and pay attention to her; which means taking her outside in the garden to stalk lizards.

She helps me balance my writing day.

 

Share your writing space.

 

What is the first/worse job you’ve ever had:

My first job and my worse job involve strawberries. I grew up in and live in the strawberry capital of the nation. Mom made us work in the strawberry fields, para que sepas (so you’ll know). We had accompanied her on weekends to pick walnuts before but picking strawberries at age 11 or 12 was harder. Walnut trees had shade. The strawberry fields went on forever, the heat blasting your back, the hot dirt. I lasted two days.

My worse job was working in the strawberry packing house on the graveyard shift the summer before college. I was not well treated by older women. As far as they were concerned, I took a job away from a mother, but that was the only decent paying two-month job I could find at seventeen.

I sorted strawberries on a conveyor belt while standing for eight hours. The cold water running through the belt splashed with each rotten or damaged strawberry I flicked into the dirty reservoir. The best fruit went to Japan, and the rest were sorted by better, good, average, and jam.

Overhead fluorescent lights beamed down, making the warehouse seem otherworldly at three in the morning. Strawberry and dirt odors lingered on my body the entire day and in my sleep.

What is your first and your worse job?

 

Women writers who inspire you:

There are so many, so I listed the ones who authored the books I buy/borrow. Usually, I have three or more books written by the same author.

 

Share one line from your own writing:

She was sober enough to remember that liquor and men were a bad combination, but drunk enough to think she could drive.

I’m glad I took the challenge, and in the process, I found out more about my own writing life and what informs my writing.

Finding several like-minded people, who run the spectrum of age, life experience, and writing backgrounds, was a plus and illustrated how the ‘social’ in social media work.

Over on the right hand column I list my Instagram and Twitter account links if you’d like to visit my sites or follow me so I can follow you.

Thanks for reading.

Healing, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, Writing

Heartbreak, Love Potions and Curanderas

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it-Toni Morrison

Writing, especially novels is a long hard road. Sometimes people ask, “Are you finished yet?” “What’s happening with that story you told me about?”

Oh, that story. Well, three years later I’m finished with the Young Adult manuscript and I believe I’m ready for the next step: finding a literary agent or publisher to bring the novel to fruition.

The book is about an eighteen-year-old young woman named Maya who suffers from a heartbreak that is so bad that she, an honors student, ditches school and finds a job selling herbs and potions in a botanica (Botánica Sirena) opened by two curanderas.

Maya’s newfound knowledge of curanderismo (the art of healing) intrigues her but proves disastrous when her novice love potion backfires leaving her ex-boyfriend in love with her mother and her nana’s 75-year-old boyfriend in love with her. 

Her divorced parents are furious with Maya’s behavior as it disrupts the plan they had for her life: valedictorian, university, and a career in politics.

So Maya needs to make things right again but her novice potion is not something the local curanderas can help her with so off to Oaxaca she goes to meet with the Gran Curandera who might be able to help her with an antidote. The trip leads Maya to a journey of self-discovery.

But what is a curandera?

Curanderismo is a healing art and curanderas/os are healers in the Latin American world. For centuries, the Mexican culture has had curanderasSome cultures call these people shamans, or medicine men or women. Some people call them, incorrectly, witches.

Curandera practicing her healing

 

A curandera/o uses herbs, ointments, and cleansings to cure illness. They also conduct spiritual healings. Sage, sweetgrass, and copal are used to cleanse a house, a room, or a person of evil spirits and negative energy. 

A spiritual cleansing, limpia, and is often used by bunching together selected herbs into a small hand broom. This is whacked across the entire body and removes negative energy. After this, an egg is held above the head, moved around the body, and cracked open into a container which the curandera inspects.

Why an egg? It is believed that an egg has the natural ability to absorb energies around it. Finally, water is spit on the person. I know, sounds strange but this is what happens and there are some variances to the ritual dependent on what the client needs.

The Latin American community believes the curandera has a spiritual calling to heal and they are often descendants of other curanderas.

mayan, healer, maya
Margarita, Mayan Healer

The photo above shows a Mayan healer in Mexico. In the U.S and my experience, the curanderas were usually grandmothers wearing aprons or elderly men in work clothes who conducted their ritual healings in their home or garage. Now they are more likely to work in a botanica which sells candles, oils, herbs, and other items such as amulets.

Using the services of a healer involves a small fee or a barter. This is probably why most Mexicans and Mexican Americans used a curandera. Either a doctor visit was too expensive, wasn’t available, or the doctor dismissed an ailment. 

When I was a kid, most mothers knew of a local curandera. When a mother thought her baby was ill a visit to the curandera would be in order; the likely culprit was mal ojo (the evil eye).

In some countries like El Salvador the infant would be given a red bracelet to ward off mal ojo; in Mexico, the curandera passes an egg over the baby’s head and body.

Herbal remedies from curanderas were brought to the U.S (many were in the Southwest before it was part of the US) and these cures were passed on for generations.

When we were kids my mother didn’t take us to a curandera but she used Vicks Vaporub for fevers and colds. If we vomited or had a stomach ache we drank 7-Up or any other lemon-lime soda. There was a special tea for stomachaches and periods, a rice water mixture for diarrhea, and a few dozen more for colds, coughs, and other illnesses.

The use of candles and ointments are also part of curanderismo. In our house, there was always some candle burning for some ailment, loss, or protection.

The subject of curanderismo is one that has fascinated me so much I had to write a novel featuring curanderas. The story also has alibrejes (spirit animals) and other magic realism elements. Take a look at my storyboard for this novel.

The blue Jaguar is a spirit animal in the novel

And curanderas are just the tip of the iceberg of Mexican healers. There are also specialists for massage and herbs. But that is for another post.

There are websites such as Erika Buenaflor who can give you more information on curanderismo as well as other healing practices. She is a modern day curandera. I wish I had known about her site three years ago when I started my writing project but better late than never.

 

 

Disclaimer: This post is not suggesting you use a curandera in lieu of a medical practitioner; that is your own decision.

 

 

 

Creativity, Inky Girl, New Year intentions, Writing

Make This a Great Year Without Obsessive Resolutions

Happy New Year to all of you!

I’ve spent a little time reading inspiring blog posts this morning and found a few that supported my view of New Year resolutions.

Most of these have to do with writing but I’m sure the advice works in different areas of one’s life.

First, the post from author K.L Krane who writes “New Resolution for 2019: No Resolutions.” She details her exhausting reading and writing goals for 2018 (which left me way tired) and compares this to a new perspective. Check out her blog post.

This drawing from the talented Debbie Ridpath Ohi illustrates what many of us writers do to ourselves. The wisdom given by historical fantasy novelist Juliet Marillier is well said.

From Comics for Writers by Debbie Ohi

In 2018, author K. E. Garland began a new way to create resolutions. She resolved to remember five concepts.

After formulating what she intended to focus on she typed out the ideas on paper and stuck them to her mirror where she’d recite them daily.

Wow, simple, doable, and placed in an area she knew she’d be every morning and evening. I like her idea and am planning to adopt her method and post on my mirror and on my laptop.

Myself? I’m a fan of focus words and intentions. More about that process here.

Whatever you resolve, intend, or conceptualize for yourself this year, believe in your process and I hope you have many happy adventures.

https://www.amazon.com/PALABRITAS-Fall2018-Ruben-Reyes-Jr/dp/1790492963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544741026&sr=1-1&keywords=palabritas
Latino Literature, Writing

Building A Writing Portfolio One Story at a Time

https://www.amazon.com/PALABRITAS-Fall2018-Ruben-Reyes-Jr/dp/1790492963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544741026&sr=1-1&keywords=palabritas
An Anthology of Poetry and Prose, Harvard College Press

Once in a while, one of my mom’s stories gets a hold of me and begs to be written. A few months ago, she told me of an experience she had. She saw spirits.

I wrote a blog post about it, but her story was more than seeing ghosts.  It’s what the story meant to her which begged for a longer look.

The idea of life and death, the spirit realm, and Mexican culture inspired me to create a short story about Mom’s experience.

An example of an ofrenda for Dia De Los Muertos

A couple of months ago I read about a call for submissions for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry entries from a debuting literary magazine, Palabritas out of Harvard. There was no submission fee and the post said that an editor would assist in the rewrites. What did I have to lose, except another ‘no’ response? And from Harvard!

One of my writing goals is to submit stories for publication, once a year. My main goal is to submit my manuscripts. To date, my manuscripts have been ‘liked’ but not ‘loved’ enough for a lit agent to take a risk of offering their representation. 

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell

So, submitting short stories are something I do to develop my writing skills and to keep up my motivation. Published short stories add to my writing portfolio and that’s a good thing. To date, I’ve had three short stories published.

Short stories are a good way to write within a framework of an established work count, learn how to trim the fat and I do love receiving free feedback from an editor.

I took a chance and rewrote the blog post about Mom seeing ghosts and developed it into a short story.  Lucky was born.

On the day I posted, on a couple of Facebook groups I belong too, about how bad I felt from rejections of my manuscript,  along came an acceptance letter for Lucky.

The letter pulled me out of the doldrums and reinvigorated me. The editor requested revisions (twice) and the story was accepted. Last week the anthology was published. 

Yes, my story published, in a book, very nicely formatted and with a cover as you can see up there at the top. 

I’m so excited to be in this anthology alongside excellent poets and writers. It is these events that keep me going-and writing- for the long haul.

One of these days, one of my novels will be published. And I’ll celebrate and take a picture of that cover too.