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.

Book Review, Books, Water sustainability

Author Interview: Florencia Ramirez, How to “Eat Less Water” at the Kitchen Table

 

Florencia Ramirez. Mother, Educator, Activist

 

I’m a reader of all genres of books and post reviews at Goodreads.com, however, I wanted to try an author interview for a book I recently read. (Something new for the new year).

As a long time reader of the blog Eat Less Water and a believer in water scarcity and our impact on the environment, I asked Ms. Ramirez for an interview. She graciously accepted the request.

EAT LESS WATER: The solution to worldwide water shortages is in our kitchens.

 

1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
Before I began writing Eat Less Water, I had a small distribution business of water conservation products for the shower. As I got deeper into the world of water conservation, I sought more information and research on the topic of water scarcity. One of those books was When the Rivers Run Dry. The book introduced me the concept of water footprint and virtual water.
Once I learned food was the most significant user of freshwater in the world, I instantaneously knew if I was to impact greater change, I needed to change my focus from the bathroom to the kitchen.
The idea for the book came in the form of the title. I remember the moment distinctly. My husband was sitting next to me at the time. I said to him, “I am going to write a book about water and food, and it will be called Eat Less Water.” When I said the title out loud, I knew it was to be. Seven years later, I held the completed book in my hands.
Eat Less Water, published by Red Hen Press, can be found on Amazon, Indie Bound, B & N. See links below *.
2. What, if any, literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
One year into writing Eat Less Water, I came across,  A Room of Her Own (AROHO), week-long writers retreat for women at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I immediately completed the application and sent it in before the idea was forgotten. A month later, I learned I was accepted to participate.
The retreat was a turning point.  It was not until that literary pilgrimage in the shadow of the Pedernal mountain that I embodied my identity as a writer. During the retreat, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Marilynne Robinson spoke of the role of writers. She said,

writers must tell the truth as we see it.

She continued that it is the truth that pushes back against fascism. Her words bore deep. I responded with tears. I knew at that moment with absolute certainty that I am a writer. Writing for change is what I was designed to do. I returned on this pilgrimage two more times, to re-inspire and re-charge amongst other creative women.
3. What do your plans for future projects include?
My next book project is called, “In Search of Real Food in American Public Schools.” I found my first public school while on my book tour in NYC. This book, like Eat Less Water, will require, travel, interviews and lots of research.

My hope is to create a blueprint for parents, educators, and students to improve our current food programs within the current school funding and regulations.

And to reimagine a food system that supports small-scale farmers working to grow clean, nutritious food that’s good for our children and the planet. In many ways, it is a continuation of what I started in Eat Less Water.
I’m also working on a smaller project; an “Eating Less Water” coloring book for young children. Each chapter of the “Eat Less Water” book begins with beautiful drawings of the plants and animals featured in the book.  The coloring book will contain these drawings accompanied by a short introduction to water footprints, water conservation of the connection between our food and water.
4. What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?

Expansion.

The process of writing a book is a private act. I form sentences and construct ideas in my mind. During the writing process, I was selective about who I invited in to critique and discuss my pages. The moment the book was published, the ideas no longer belonged to me alone, they now exist in the public realm, that is expanding on a daily basis. This expansion is both exhilarating and uncomfortable.
The book has stretched me to unknown territories, has put me in contact with new people, and tests my willingness to say “yes” to new opportunities. The experience can be uncomfortable at times because it is outside the safety of my solitary writing cocoon. And it requires me to surrender myself to the expansion of my world experience.
What has helped me to embrace this natural transition from writer to author, is the sage advice from a mentor.

“The work is not complete until it is received,”

she told me. I say this in my mind before I set out into a new situation to expand the reach of Eat Less Water.

 

5. What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
I want readers to feel empowered, and to realize the solution to water shortages is in each of our kitchens. Our food pantries represent rivers, aquifers, lakes from every part of the planet. In my pantry, I have rice from Vietnam, chocolate from Ghana, coffee from Guatemala, flour from Kansas, eggs from Ojai, California and lettuce from Oxnard. Each country, state, region deals with water scarcity issues ranging from not having enough-supply, or not having enough “clean” water quality.

Food is the most significant user and polluter of water.

 

If we are to be part of the solution of global water solutions, we must begin with our food choices, supporting farming methods that save water. We are connected to the world’s water with each meal.
drop of water in lake
Photo by Zhang Kaiyv for Unsplash.com
I hope Eat Less Water to be like a pebble tossed into the stillness of water that grows ever-widening circles. More specifically my vision for the book is the following:
  • to reveal the connection between what we eat and the impact on rivers and lakes,
  • to generate more business for farmers dedicated to growing food using farming methods that save our water resources,
  • to inspire policy change at the individual, farm, corporate, and government policy level.

Take a look at this brief book trailer:

 

https://videopress.com/v/8cWedXpR

 

Thank you, Florencia, for an eye-opening and educational interview.

You can find EAT LESS WATER at Amazon, Indie Bound, or Barnes and Nobles

 

(*Disclaimer: I did not receive any affiliate marketing from this post).

 

 

resort at Cozumel, Mexico
Books, Travel, Writing

Writing My Way to the Island of Cozumel

resort at Cozumel, Mexico
Dolphinaris Cozumel Island Mexico, photo by Susanne Davidson, flickr.com

 

I’m feeling optimistic for a better month on this first day of August. Maybe by day 31 it will be a different story, but for today I’ll take optimism.

July was a rough month for a lot of people and for the nation. Some people unplugged, some dug in, some lamented and others did all three. I’m somewhere in between, with a sprinkling of ‘counting my blessings’.  

During the last two weeks, I’ve read numerous blogs and I’m surprised how some writers can put out daily posts. Most of my writing has been confined to revising a work in progress, completing a short story for submission to an anthology, and reworking my query for Brenda Drake’s next #PitchWars2016.* And in between that, organizing our writer’s group retreat for October. I’m exhausted.

My work in progress is about a young woman who works at a botanica, or herb remedy shop, and concocts a ‘love potion’ that goes awry. Parts of the novel take place in Oaxaca, Mexico. I haven’t been there but I’m seriously considering taking a trip, especially after researching the pyramids and the city itself. I’ve added several pins to my Pinterest storyboard.

I’m working feverishly to get through another round of revisions so I can relax on a trip to Cozumel, an island off the Yucatan peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. I love that name, Quintana Roo. I understand that Joan Didion gave her daughter that name.

The sea beckons, although I can’t swim. Maybe they have adult floaties so I can pretend to snorkel at the reefs and see the giant turtles. Or I can sit on the beach with a fish taco and a drink.

I plan to climb the pyramids of Tulum and explore the San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological site, although this particular pyramid looks eerie.

Tulum Pyramid, photo by K. Bauscardt on flickr.com
Tulum Pyramid, photo by K. Bauscardt on flickr.com

For sure, I’ll take the two books I’m reading, “Pierced By The Sun,” by Laura Esquivel. It’s very different than “Like Water For Chocolate.” The other novel is by Helena Maria Viramontes, “Moths and Other Stories.” I’ve read two of the author’s other books and find her writing visceral and engaging. Not anything I’d expect from a Cornell University professor. 

And in the evening, I’ll put on my dressy sandals and dance to the light of the moon (or the overhead lights, whichever comes first).

So after this short post, I’m back to re-writing so that in a couple of weeks I can enjoy this view:

Cozumel sunset, photo by Cristopher Gonzalez
Cozumel sunset, photo by Cristopher Gonzalez

 

*If you’re a writer of Middle Grade to Adult fiction, this pitch opportunity may be for you.

See you at the end of the month. Be well. 

 

 

Encouragement, Inspiration, Writing, Writing blogs, Writing groups

How Writing Goals Are The Secret Ingredient…

pottery figure of women encircled around candle, www.alvaradofrazier.com
Circle of Women Writers-WOmen Who Write, WOWW

 

to becoming a better writer.

Last night I met with my six writing sisters, a creative group of fascinating women who write stories and poems. This was our first meeting of the new year.

In 2015, we left behind numerous rejection letters, rewriting queries until all the cows came home, and some awesome writing conferences.

One of our rituals is to light our ‘writing sisters’ candle before we begin ‘checking in.’ This helps us to focus after all the chit chat and munching that proceeds our work.

During our check in we heard some thrilling news. Toni, one of our members, secured a literary agent to represent her middle-grade book and another member, Florencia, is in ‘talks’ with a publishing house for her creative non-fiction book. You can check out her cool blog here: Eat Less Water

We shared our writing goals, too many to mention, but you may find these 5 Simple Steps showing you how to set up SMART goals.

To make our lives easier, we also came up with a word for the new year. A single word to post near our writing space and journal is a reminder of our individual intentions.

  • Refine,
  • Momentum,
  • Go,
  • Possibilities,
  • Zoom!

Intention creates reality

Our meeting also included planning for one retreat a quarter. We need a day or three to refresh ourselves with hugs, laughter, and writing. This is how we make it through the ups and downs of a writing life entwined with families, jobs, and other responsibilities.

So the secret ingredient to achieving your writing goals and becoming a better writer is no secret. Becoming a better writer is a lot of hard work. You need persistence, resilience, and someone to cheer you on when you want to give up.

If you want to set an intention, you may like Deepak Chopra’s 5 steps to Setting Powerful Intentions.

To help you fulfill your writing goals you can check out this post: Top 100 Writing Blogs for Writers.

Now, give it all you got this year and get those writing goals down on paper and up on your writing space.

Until next time.