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. 

Family, Latino culture, Mothers, Strong Women

Ghosts past and present

Not the spirit Mom saw but close enough. Photo by pixaby.com

 

My mother’s seeing ghosts again.

She hasn’t seen one in over 75 years. So why are they visiting now? And not one but two of them?

These are the questions I’m asking myself as she tells me about the spirits floating in her room, at the foot of her bed, for the past three nights.

On the first night, the spirit is a woman dressed in a flowing white dress. Mom can see the figure is feminine, but she has her face turned to the side, so only her profile is seen. Mom flips the bedcovers over her eyes and begins to pray.

The next night the woman in white appears again. She’s staring at something to the right of the bedroom wall. There’s a figure in a black cloak, hood and all. Mom can’t see a face. She pinches herself to find out if she’s having a nightmare. Nope. She hides under her blankets and prays for them to go away.

“Geez, Mom how did you see all that? You’re legally blind,” I ask.

“I don’t know but I saw them,” she says. “What do you think it means?”

Of course, I don’t want to say the words out loud: ‘it’s the grim reaper.’ Who wants to give their mom that news?

Instead, I suggest she ask them who they are or what do they want or tell them to scram. Mom appears to be thinking about that suggestion, “Hmmm.”

I offer to bring over some sage to burn at the entrance to her room; to ward off evil spirits.

Mom scrunches her lips. “Do you know Becca saw a ghost in my room years ago?”

I can’t remember that but I think my sister used sage for the entire house a few years back.

On the third night, the spirits come again. This time both are side by side in front of her closet doors. The one in the black cloak moves away towards her dresser on the adjoining wall. This time Mom shuffles out of her bed turns on the light, and they disappear.

What to make of these apparitions?

After the questions about whether she was dreaming or not, what did she eat for dinner, and all those questions meant to have her doubt what she saw, she says:

“I know what ghosts look like.”

She’s right.

She’s seen the ghost of her father come to her at a migrant camp when she was eleven years old or so. He appeared, dressed in his work clothes, standing at her feet while she slept on a blanket on the dirt, next to her best friend, Sally. They reported the sighting to her friend’s father.

Sally’s dad said not to be afraid, seeing her dad was a good thing, he was only visiting her at the same camp he used to work at when he was alive. Mom accepted that idea.

Four years later, Mom was ironing in the kitchen and heard her dead mother’s voice call her name. The hanging light bulb above the ironing board swayed. Her mother called for her again.

“I was so scared, I ran out to the porch and wouldn’t go back inside.”

Her friend reassured her that her mother was looking out for her and not to be afraid.

The reassurances about visiting spirits is not unusual in the Mexican culture which has centuries of Mayan and Aztec beliefs about the supernatural world. After all, Day of the Dead celebrates and invites spirits of the departed.

I’ve never seen La Llorona but I’ve heard her wailing.

Ghosts are nothing to fear unless it’s the infamous La Llorona or the Cucuy (because we know what they’re coming for and it’s not pretty).

After the two spirits depart, on the third night, Mom decides to use her holy water from Lourdes. She tells me she sprinkled some drops from the bottle to her doorway, on her closet doors, her dresser and her bed.

Gathering the holy water of Lourdes, France

I can’t believe she still has the holy water since it’s been twenty years since she visited Lourdes, France.

“I’m not ready to go.” She huffs like those spirits better get a grip. Yup, she’s a chingona like that.

There must not be an expiration date for the holy water because Mom hasn’t seen any spirits for a couple of weeks now.